February 23, 2024


WWE NXT performer Kelani Jordan took a different path than most pro wrestlers when she got into the squared circle.

Jordan, whose real name is Lea Mitchell, was a standout gymnast at Michigan State from 2018 to 2022 and took part in WWE’s SummerSlam tryouts in August 2022 once her collegiate career was over. WWE signed her as part of the company’s Next In Line (NIL) program after the tryout.

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Kelani Jordan on the mat

Kelani Jordan puts her opponent in a headlock. (WWE)

Just over a year later, Jordan will compete in the Women’s Iron Survivor Challenge at “NXT Deadline” on Saturday in hopes of becoming the No. 1 contender for the NXT Women’s Championship.

“I got a message about the opportunity to go to the Nashville SummerSlam tryout, and I thought, why not?” she told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “I watched wrestling growing up when I was younger, but then I stopped for a little bit because I was solely focused on gymnastics.

“So, when I got the message, I flew down to Nashville. I did the tryout amongst other elite collegiate athletes and thankfully I was able to get the opportunity to come down to the Performance Center by Triple H himself and I’ve really grown a new profound passion for pro wrestling. Honestly, it’s like my new love – almost the same as gymnastics was.”

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Lea Mitchell waves

Michigan State gymnast Lea Mitchell during the Elevate the Stage Meet on March 8, 2019 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. (Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jordan admitted that she never thought about being in WWE in her wildest dreams, but she feels honored at the same time to be among the superstar performers in the company.

“I never thought that I would even be in the WWE. Even being here is crazy,” she said. “But also being in the PLE after starting only a little over a year ago and having my debut match about 6 or 7 months ago on Level Up, words can’t explain how honored I am to show that, hey, I’m in a major PLE after this amount of time.

“And it just goes to show that the Performance Center has changed. The coaches there can teach elite athletes something that’s so foreign to us and, also, it just goes to show how great the coaching is to prepare me for such a big event.”

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Jordan was one of 14 who signed with WWE last year. She offered advice to other collegiate athletes who may be interested in seeking a different athletic venture other than football, basketball or the like.

“It’s another way to put smiles on people’s faces. It’s another way to challenge yourself outside of athleticism,” she told Fox News Digital. “You have to perform, you have to entertain and it’s just something that’s unique.

Kelani Jordan smiles

Kelani Jordan beats Kiana James to advance to the Iron Survivor Challenge. (WWE)

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“It’s not like anything else that you do. It’s completely different than any other sport and I think that’s what makes it so unique.”



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