A loud, raucous crowd and an official proclamation from the Metropolis of San Diego greeted upstart skilled wrestling promotion AEW to its first present in San Diego.
However the night was much more particular for one wrestler on the present, a former San Diego State Aztec soccer participant who made a triumphant return to the place the place his athletic goals died.
Toa Liona, beneath his actual title Bruce Leaupepe, was a member of the San Diego State Aztecs soccer group in 2011, however a again harm ended his goals of a soccer profession.
On Wednesday evening, he returned for the AEW present at Viejas Enviornment with the tag group Gates of Agony and wrestled in opposition to in style AEW stars Orange Cassidy and Darby Allin.
“It was very surreal,” mentioned Liona, in an interview. “Like a full circle second for me.”
Liona joined the Aztecs soccer group in second week of fall 2011 camp and was anticipated to be one of many group’s defensive tackles. However a again harm compelled him to take a seat out the yr with a medical redshirt and he was by no means in a position to play for the group.
Liona took up weightlifting and have become a private coach. However having his NFL goals ripped away thrust him into melancholy and he was attempting to suppose what to do subsequent and the way to pay the payments when his spouse prompt he strive wrestling, which he had watched rising up.
He educated at a wrestling college in Los Angeles and ultimately made it to AEW. The 6-foot tall, 300-pound Liona and two different wrestlers are the present Six-Man Champions in Ring of Honor, a sister promotion to AEW.
Liona credit the psychological toughness and perspective he developed with the Aztecs for his success within the ring.
“I didn’t have one of the best school expertise, however man, it formed me for the function I’ve in the present day,” he mentioned.
Finally, Liona needs to turn out to be a motivational speaker and share his story with others who could also be going via challenges.
“So many athletes need to make it and after they don’t make it, their complete world crashes on high of them,” he mentioned.
For now, Liona is concentrated on turning into an excellent larger star in professional wrestling and he’s enthusiastic about returning to San Diego for one more AEW present.
That’s prone to occur. Followers have been so loud and passionate response at Wednesday’s present that it prompted AEW President Tony Khan to inform the gang that he couldn’t wait to return to San Diego.
Earlier within the day, AEW additionally obtained a proclamation from San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s workplace declaring Might 31 as “All Elite Wrestling Day” in San Diego.
For Liona, who had household and associates on the present, “It nearly felt like an out of physique expertise.”
He added: “Not solely did I make it, however I made it again to the place I began.”