Xia Li talks about being the Protector, her journey to SmackDown, and Sasha Banks' kindness [Exclusive]

The Protector Xia Li is set to make her SmackDown debut this Friday
The Protector Xia Li is set to make her SmackDown debut this Friday
Rick Ucchino

To say Xia Li is excited for her main roster debut this Friday night on SmackDown would be a drastic understatement. Sportskeeda Wrestling had the pleasure of sitting down with Li this week and during that time she expressed a wide array of emotions that cannot accurately be transcribed. Just the thought of finally performing live on FOX gave her goosebumps.

It's been a long wait for Xia Li. The last time we saw her on TV was back in July when she challenged Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT Championship. Not long after, she began working some dark matches for the Blue Brand and was ultimately drafted to SmackDown in early October. Despite being taken in the third round over superstars like Alexa Bliss, Liv Morgan, Sami Zayn and Finn Balor, Li did not debut right away. The wait continued.

In recent weeks WWE began running comic book style vignettes detailing the origin of "The Protector" Xia Li. The story of a young woman who had to step into her father's shoes after his untimely passing. During the three-part short series, we saw young Xia protect her family from a greedy heartless landlord, fight off multiple school yard bullies and defend herself against several would-be armed robbers.

Defender of the vulnerable. Destroyer of oppressors.@XiaWWE arrives this Friday on #SmackDown.

Li portrays the ultimate babyface hero. A woman who defends the vulnerable and prays on oppressors. This is a character that Li says she truly connects with and she's ready for the audience to see the Protector in action.

"This character is my real lifestyle. Also, when I was young, I wanted to be a superhero. And right now, I'm doing this on TV. How magical. My dreams have come true. I'm so happy. I'm very excited about my debut this Friday on SmackDown."

Her SmackDown debut is the culmination of a journey that started back in 2016 when WWE held an open tryout in China. Li was a life-long combat sport athlete but didn't know much about the world of professional wrestling. Only what she saw on TV growing up.

Like millions of wrestling fans around the world, Xia Li was a huge admirer of The Rock. So, when the opportunity came to hit the ropes like the Great One, she jumped at the chance and the coaches saw something in her immediately. Li ended up being one of seven signees to come out of that tryout and the only woman to receive an invite to come to the United States.

What an amazing night, My dream has come true. To be the first Chinese female superstar on WWE main roster. #wwe #smackdown #draft

She officially signed with the company in 2017 and later that year became the first Chinese woman to wrestle in a WWE ring when she competed in the inaugural Mae Young Classic. The next five years were not easy. She uprooted her entire life. She left her family to come to America and chase her dream. After all those years of hard work, after powering through all the emotional and physical struggles, it's finally Xia Li's time to shine.

"Finally, I made it," an emotional Li said holding back tears. "I'm so happy. It's my big day. My family is going to watch me on TV."

Li also said this isn't just a moment for her and her family, but for everyone who helped her along the way. All her friends and coaches backstage will get to see her in the ring on Friday night and share in her happiness.

Xia Li loves her entire WWE family for helping her make it to SmackDown.

Sasha Banks heading to the ring to battle Charlotte in London
Sasha Banks heading to the ring to battle Charlotte in London

Xia Li said there are a lot of people backstage who have helped her over the years and shown her tremendous kindness. One person who went out of their way to make Li feel welcome in WWE was Sasha Banks.

"She's been very friendly with me. Even at the very beginning. I don't speak English very well and she still invited me to her house for a holiday party to celebrate together," Xia Li said. "She's already a top superstar. She's not in my class. So that's why I'm very grateful she can do this for me. She's the best."

Xia Li continued to heap praise on the Boss. As wonderful as Sasha Banks was to her behind the scenes, Li said it was equally joyful to watch the 7-time Women's Champion do her thing in front of the WWE Universe.

"What she does on TV is amazing. She's my idol in wrestling, and I want to be like her."

Xia Li went on to thank several NXT coaches and trainers like Sara Amato, Matt Bloom, Norman Smiley and many others for everything they taught her. She also could not have spoken more highly of her fellow NXT superstars.

"We need to work together, but I can't speak well. So they speak to me in a way to make sure I understand everything. They helped me in the ring and with my real life. Sometimes we need to do something, but because of the language barrier it can be difficult. I'm really grateful for all their help."

It's safe to say that Xia Li will have numerous supporters cheering her on as she makes her big debut, fittingly enough, on the show named after the man she grew up idolizing. As of this writing it has not been announced what Xia will be doing Friday Night, but vultures beware, the Protector has her sights set on you.

Tune into SmackDown this Friday at 8\7pm CT on FOX. If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Rick Ucchino and Sportskeeda Wrestling.

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Edited by Roxanne Smith
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