M&F has learned of a new partnership that will bolster WWE’s efforts in finding the next larger than life performer from the fields of football, track and field, basketball, cheerleading, and beyond. Now tag-teaming with Exos, a world beating leader for honing human performance, future WWE “NIL” program signees will have the best possible chance of rising to their athletic potential and making it big in the ring with an unrivaled set of resources.

Five potential WWE wrestlers training under the the WWE NIL Program and holding the championship belt
Courtesy of WWE

What is WWE ‘NIL’?

WWE’s NIL program, now in its second year, is a forward-thinking initiative designed to scout and develop future WWE Superstars from the world of college sports and athletics, made possible thanks to a 2021 policy by the NCAA which now allows for college athletes to monetize their own name, image, and likeness. Known simply as “Next In Line,” WWE’s mission is to provide a clear pathway from college athletics to the bright lights of WWE, offering an invaluable opportunity for athletes from diverse sporting backgrounds to follow in the footsteps of icons such as Drew McIntyre or Becky Lynch.

Scouring the world of competitive sports for the next big thing in WWE is a no-brainer when you consider that the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and John Cena were all college football stars before they became legends between the ropes. When athletes are able to harness their elite talents and combine these skills with sizzling charisma, pro wrestling megastars are born. The current WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Bianca Belair is a former college track and field athlete, and the first official signing to NIL was the 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medalist freestyle wrestler, Gable Stevenson. There are now 25 active athletes participating in the program and lacing up boots in the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, FL. Athletes have made the trip to Orlando from 24 different universities. Another notable signee was the recent addition of Gabi Butler, who cheerleading fans will know from the hit Netflix docuseries, “Cheer.” Each talent hopes to graduate the “Next In Line” process and be selected for a WWE developmental contract.

WWE will announce its next class of 15 NIL students in early 2023.

Potential WWE wrestler training at the EXOS training facitility under the WWE NIL Program
Courtesy of WWE

Why is WWE Tag Teaming with Exos?

M&F understands that Exos will provide WWE “Next In Line” athletes with a wealth of resources such as the ability to learn and workout in the many Exos training facilities across the United States. Exos, which has been an established force in athletics for more than 20 years, operates in 26 countries and already supports more than 12,000 game changing athletes. The crop includes more than 1,000 NFL draft picks along with 215 plus Olympians and elite military athletes.

“An industry leader in sports performance, Exos will help enhance our NIL athletes’ experience as they transition from college athletics to WWE,” said James Kimball, WWE Head of Talent Operations and Strategy, speaking exclusively with M&F.

While working with Exos professionals, WWE NIL athletes will also be introduced to the Exos Athlete Experience Program and its many sports science and data partners. The athlete intake process will see participants go through rigorous performance, body composition, nutrition, and physical therapy testing. The baseline developed for the athletes will then enable customized and fully integrated plans to ensure a foundation for optimized training.

“Exos is thrilled to team up with the WWE in an effort to meet its next generation of athletes on their journey in order to ensure success—physically and mentally—and continuity of care,” added Exos CEO Sarah Robb O’Hagan.

How do college athletes join the WWE NIL Program?

Three athletes from the inaugural 2021 NIL class have already joined WWE following their graduation from school, and have started training full-time at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla. In just four months,

Northwestern University football star Joe Spivak has appeared on WWE’s TV show, “NXT Level Up” on Peacock, under the ring name Tank Ledger. This is pillar to WWE’s renewed recruiting strategy which is now fully focused on elite former college athletes. If you are a college athlete dreaming of becoming the next big WWE Superstar, you can visit recruit.wwe.com for information on the application process. The next class will be announced in early 2023.


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