Geico Employee by Day, Pro Wrestler by Night: Hyan Chases the WWE DreamJuly 5, 2017
Blue lights hit Hyan's shimmery silver tights as she steps through the curtain.
The crowd inside Texas City, Texas' World Gym Arena hoots upon her arrival. She strides under a spotlight to the ring—graceful, radiant, powerful.
Taut muscles line her frame. She is larger than life, a superhero in glittery spandex.
Soon, she is a blur of dropkicks and arm drags.
It is Saturday night, a third of the way into the Reality of Wrestling TV taping in front of around 150 fans. Hyan is the white knight charged with ousting the villain. She is the challenger in a Diamonds Championship match against Kayla Lynn. She is part circus performer, part prizefighter.
Before she steps out to take this role, she's calm until the last second.
"Right before I get out, that's when it all hits me and I get all the butterflies," Hyan told Bleacher Report.
And then she soaks up the electricity of the moment, something she cherishes, something she craves.
"It's the best feeling in the world. It's an addictive feeling. To go out to your music, your crowd at your home promotion," Hyan said. "And I think, 'This is where I belong.' Once you get out there, you're just like, 'This is my element. This is what I do."
Against Lynn, she absorbs a glut of punishment.
Her foe hangs upside down in the corner and chokes her. A German suplex sends Hyan's head and shoulders smashing into the mat.
Trapped in a cross armbreaker, she taps out, her story ending in defeat on this night before fans, clearly unsatisfied with the brevity of the match, chant "We want Hyan! We want Hyan!"
In a matter of hours, she will trade in her ring gear for slacks and a blouse. She will have to revert to being a Geico employee, marching down a management track, not the road to championship glory. She will take phone calls, not suffer suplexes.
In that world, when her fellow insurance agents find out what she does outside of the office, surprise and confusion usually follow.
"Some people don't get it. They ask, 'What weight class are you in?'" Hyan said. "They say, 'I don't see you that way. You seem really nice.'"
You can't blame them. It's not every day that you find out the person you share a cubicle with spends their nights and weekends crashing into the canvas. It's not commonplace to realize your mellow, diplomatic co-worker hungers for the violence and theater born inside a wrestling ring.
But that's the case for the Geico staff at the company's Katy, Texas, office.
They work alongside Hyaneyoung Olvera. They work with a woman who dreams of WWE stardom.
"At Geico, every time you meet a group of people, you have to do your fun facts. Everyone tells me 'Do your fun fact! Do your fun fact!'" Hyan said.
And hers is more interesting than most. She can tell them she's been training to be a pro wrestler since she was in college. She can recount the time she appeared on WWE Raw, tell them about her tryout with pro wrestling's biggest company or share what lessons WWE Hall of Famer Booker T has passed down to her.
The Grind, the Gym
Booker T's name juts out from the World Gym Arena's brick wall in bold, red letters. Muggy Texas air lingers in the packed parking lot.
Inside, rows of folding chairs surround a wrestling ring like a mock audience. Construction equipment beeps in the distance. Wrestling students practice hammerlocks in gym clothes.
This is the home of Booker T's school and independent promotion Reality of Wrestling. This is where Hyan cultivates her dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.
Hyan drives over an hour from Katy to Texas City to get there. She treks from her day job to this arena, racking up hundreds of miles a week. Wrestling training has been as hard on her car as it has been on her body.
"It destroys my gas," she laughed.
It's a journey she's appreciative of, though. Yes, it's hot and humid, and yes, Houston-area traffic can be hellish, but she's doing what she loves. Plus, she has a sense of perspective.
"I used to complain about it when we first moved down here [from Clear Lake to Texas City]. Then I read Daniel Bryan's book, and he talks about Brian Kendrick driving from to San Marcos to San Antonio to train with Shawn Michaels," Hyan said. "I really can't complain. It could be a lot worse."
She was still a University of Houston student when she caught a local wrestling show that sparked a life change. A fantasy camp at Booker T's Reality of Wrestling school and promotion soon followed, and Hyan was hooked.
"I loved it. I need to do this," she told herself during that sampling of the wrestling life.
The 20-year-old squirreled away enough money for wrestling school tuition and was soon getting bruised, sore and drained inside a wrestling ring time and time again.
On this Wednesday night, Booker T shuffled around the building in sandals, jet-lagged from a trip with WWE to Europe. He saw his promotion running smoothly, the setup for the upcoming No Limits show to his liking.
"That's how I like to see it," he said with a satisfied smile.
Hyan, meanwhile, worked with Gino, one of ROW's top stars. As wrestlers of various experience levels worked on hammerlocks and lockups on the padded floor, Gino and Hyan engaged in a mini-match in the ring.
The Latin Heartthrob flipped her onto the canvas, and she returned the favor.
Flesh drummed against the mat. The ring shook and echoed with each crash. The process repeated.
Hyan noted there aren't as many seasoned women as there are men at ROW. So, she often mixes it up with the guys, grinding it out between the ropes with bigger, stronger sparring partners. The roster's males aren't critical enough for her liking at times, though.
"Sometimes, they aren't as straight-forward. They're not harsh enough," Hyan said of the men.
Before and after tangling with the likes of Gino, Hyan and her ROW peers have to pay their dues by way of cleaning the arena floor, setting up the ring and putting out folding chairs. It's the unglamorous side of the wrestling dream. These kinds of chores are a must for everyone.
"If you think you ranked out of it, you'll be humbled," Hyan explained. "No one's exempt."
Hyan has grown to understand this part of the equation over time.
She entered what seemed like a play land of sorts only to find out how grueling it is. Repetition comes before fame. Paydays of $50 come before checks one can live on.
Booker T has seen her realize that. "She's in a better position from a mental perspective knowing it's not going to be easy, not going to be all fun and games all the time. And there's going to be a lot of work," he said.
"Her growth has been good. It could have been a lot better, though. It could have been a lot faster," Booker T said. "She had a couple of bumps in the road as far as not wanting to do the work."
For a good number of independent wrestlers, "work" has a double meaning.
There is the work one puts into pushing past all the dreamers and making it in the big leagues. And there's the work one does to pay the bills, to finance the wrestling half of one's life.
When Hyan heads from one to the other, a transformation occurs. She must slip out of the skin she wears as a Geico employee and step into that of a pro wrestler.
At her day job, she's tactful, quiet, a friendly co-worker. "I'm a pretty reserved person in my normal life. Things just roll off me," she explained.
Then the lights go up at a wrestling show, and she's suddenly a fierce warrior looking to kick people's heads in. She's competitive at work, she admits, but nothing like her wrestler self.
"I like to be the best. And I like people to tell me I'm the best. I'm not show-offy like I am in the ring," Hyan said. "I'm a lot more aggressive in the ring than I am in my normal life."
To make that switch, she has to psych herself up.
"Before I go out, I will look at my opponent and start getting mad at them, for it to come easier for me," Hyan said.
It's not going from a mellow claims adjuster to an action hero of sorts that's the difficult part of her double life; it's the limited supply of time.
Hyan works four 10-hour shifts a week for the insurance company. When she's done and makes the trek across the Houston metropolitan area to the gym, there's usually no one left to work with. And her schedule sometimes forces her to leave wrestling opportunities on the table.
"Wrestling is obviously my dream. It's hard giving it everything I have sometimes. Or having to sacrifice wrestling for work," she said.
"I can't really do Sunday shows. Or do Friday shows like other people can."
Should she get a gig outside of Houston, she has to make sure everything at Geico is accounted for. "I really have to talk to my managers and try to fix it all. I have to really plan ahead to make sure everything's taken care of at work," Hyan said. "My vacation time gets eaten up."
Even so, she is looking to venture farther from home to advance her career.
"I've been making more of an effort to get out of Texas and the South. Texas wrestling is huge, but I'm trying to branch out and make more of a name for myself," she explained.
At times, her worlds have crossed over. Her fellow Geico employees have come to see her perform in the ring. "Everybody thinks it's pretty cool. Everybody's really supportive," she said.
She says, though, they jokingly tell her, 'We only want to go if you win."
When WWE invited her to its marquee TV show last August, that rule didn't apply. Both her Geico teammates and the ROW locker room watched as Hyan dipped her toes in the WWE water.
A Taste of WWE
Nia Jax is the Raw women's division's resident monster. She dwarfs the majority of her competition. Her matches often feature her flinging around rivals as if she's hoisting a garbage bag into a dumpster.
As summer was ending in 2016, WWE booked Jax to beat up a string of tomato cans to highlight her destructive ways.
When Raw came to Houston on August 29, Hyan played one of Jax's victims. But at first, she wasn't sure if she'd get any airtime. As she waited backstage in the catering area, she saw that producers chose a jobber opponent for Braun Strowman. She didn't think the show would feature two of these one-sided matches.
"I guess they're not going to use me. Let me have some catering then," she told herself. "I literally just finished eating some pie when they said, 'We're going to use you. Get in your gear.'"
Hyan donned a red outfit that would look at home in a Mortal Kombat video game, and she stepped out to take her scripted beating. The powerhouse throttled the Houston native. Jax grabbed Hyan by the hair and helicoptered her across the ring.
Jax made quite the impression on the Houstonian. "No one's ever hit me as hard as she did," Hyan recalled.
Playing the enhancement talent that night didn't bother Hyan.
"I knew what it was, what my role was. Booker always says, 'Know your role, play your part and do the best you can in that role.'" She followed her mentor's advice. And he gave her his seal of approval.
"She did everything right in that match," Booker T said.
Punishment at Jax's hands aside, Hyan loved being in front of the massive crowd and being a part of pro wrestling's biggest company. "It's addicting. It's very addicting. I thought, 'I have to do this again,'" she said.
In February, WWE invited her for a tryout at its Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
She instantly took notice of her competition. WWE invited a variety of potential prospects from indy wrestlers like Hyan to fashion models.
"When I first got there, I was super-intimidated by the all the models. They're models...and they're really pretty," Hyan said.
That was until it came time to do wrestling drills. The rolls, the rope-running, the wrestling moves were straight from her training in Houston. The intimidation dissipated.
"This is my house. This is what I do," she told herself.
After a day of weight training and workouts, officials had everyone dart between the ropes again and again until their limbs softened under them. "You're running around every ring, and you're just dying," she remembered.
She felt good about how it all went down. "I didn't leave there with any regrets," she said.
While she was there, officials mentioned the possibility of signing her to be a part of the women's tournament set for July 13 and 14—the inaugural Mae Young Classic.
That would be a career-changer. The recent cruiserweight and United Kingdom tournaments have turned little-known wrestlers into stars. There is no exposure like that offered under the WWE umbrella.
But whether she gets that call or not, she will forge ahead, dreaming big.
Whether it's as part of that tourney, as a prospect in WWE's developmental system or as signee to a group like SHIMMER or Lucha Underground, Hyan is ready to flourish. "I've grown. I've gotten a lot better than where I was. I'm confident in my abilities. I feel like I can hold my own with anybody, regardless of who they are," she said.
Hyan wrestles in an era that is both highly competitive and filled with opportunities for women.
Women's wrestling is soaring. WWE has embraced it in recent years, showcasing its female stars like never before, breaking ground and changing the game as a result.
Booker T sees that up close each week when he does color commentary for Raw.
"I look at the girls on the roster today, and all of them are different in some aspect. But the one thing that's the same about all of them: They can all work like crazy. The performance is all different, but the work is all at a top, top level."
Booker T made it clear Hyan has ample potential, and that she has a unique look that will help her succeed, but he also noted there are no guarantees.
"She can definitely make it to the next level, but it's going to take some work—a lot of work. She has to know it's not going to be an overnight process. That's just not the way it is," Booker T said, "You got to be about the work to be a star."
Booker T should know. Aside from his experience as a WWE world champ, he's helped guide others to the sports entertainment giant. Former NFL defensive lineman Brennan Williams and Ember Moon, both NXT performers, trained with him in Houston.
Hyan strives to be next. She wants badly to return to the Raw stage.
"Something tells me it's going to happen," she said with a smile.
Hyan (@_Hyaneyoung) is an independent wrestler who can regularly be seen at Reality of Wrestling shows in Texas City. Booker T (@BookerT5X) is a WWE Hall of Famer, a commentator for Raw and the founder of ROW.
Cover image courtesy of Beau Brune of Superkick Photography featuring Hyan in action at a Elev8 Pro event.
Ryan Dilbert covers WWE for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.