Ontario’s Sol Ruca is the NXT woman up in WWE – San Bernardino Sun


Likes and retweets began lapping upon Sol Ruca’s Twitter feed like waves upon the sun-soaked shores Calyx Hampton could not quit growing up in Southern California.

While no stranger to generating social media buzz, this avalanche of engagement was like no other.

Fourteen seconds would introduce Hampton to a much wider audience.

And, make a fan of one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time.

“(WWE Chief Content Officer) Triple H commented on my first viral video, and I literally didn’t know what to do,” said Hampton, better known to WWE fans as Sol Ruca. “I didn’t even comment back. It’s crazy. I honestly was not expecting that (reaction) at all. (The move) was something different, something most people haven’t seen and is impressive, but I did not think it would take off the way it did.”

The brief clip captures the finale of a Dec. 9 match between Ruca and Valentina Feroz on NXT Level Up.

Halfway through the video, Feroz is dazed on one knee near the corner, Ruca nearby. At this point, Ruca faces the turnbuckle, grabs the top ropes and in one motion, propels her 5-foot-8 frame onto the second rope, catapults herself skyward and flips forward.

On her descent, Ruca latches her arms around Feroz’s head and the two slam into the mat simultaneously.

“OH MY GOODNESS!” an announcer bellows as the crowd roars. “WHAT WAS THAT?”

Ruca then flips Feroz over and grabs her leg for the pin.

So impressive the finishing move was, the clip cuts off before the referee even counts to three.

“Being on social media,” Hampton said in an interview three months later, “I’ve had a few videos blow up like that before, but never on the scale of people actually knowing who I am, knowing my name and watching what I do.”

Twelve months since beginning her journey to WWE superstardom, Hampton is wowing peers, coaches, fans and top executives with a work ethic on par with legends and longtime veterans of the industry.

Social media buzz aside, the golden-haired human highlight reel by way of Ontario is redefining what can be done inside the ring.

One viral clip at a time.

“I want to bring a new level of athleticism and style of wrestling to the women’s division,” Hampton said, “and be someone other athletes can look up to to see there’s so much more out there besides your sport.”

Ontario bred

A perk of growing up in the Inland Empire is being able to surf and snowboard in the same day, something Hampton did repeatedly as a kid enamored with action sports.

A childhood of climbing trees, skateboarding and handstand competitions with her older brother, Coda, foreshadowed the kid’s future as a physical marvel. Hampton fashioned herself after gymnasts Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas, and sought a career that challenged her physically.

Calyx Hampton, seen here during the 2017 Inland Empire Championships, graduated from Western Christian High in Upland. She is now burgeoning WWE superstar Sol Ruca. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Raised in Ontario, Hampton – daughter of musician, songwriter and producer Paul A. Hampton – loved such local spots as Rhino Records, in Claremont until its move to Montclair last summer, and Upland’s Rad Coffee.

She joined Orange County’s Wildfire Gymnastics in 2007 and set out to master every artistic event.

Vault. Bars. Beam. Floor.

Hampton honed her craft away from the spotlight, and though she wasn’t the most flamboyant gymnast or the greatest showman, the do-it-all dynamo won regional and state titles in her age group.

“Calyx always competed well,” recalled Rick Watson, who founded Wildfire Gymnastics with his wife, Wendy, in 2002.

“She could handle the pressure.”

While ascending to the highest levels of club gymnastics, Hampton ran track at Western Christian High School in Upland. She signed with Oregon as a junior in 2016, and earned her first college letter in acrobatics and tumbling two years later.

Taylor Susnara, a fellow gymnast by way of Southern California, was a senior and All-American for the Ducks when Hampton arrived in Eugene, and recently recalled the humble underclassman embracing the weight room like few before her.

Hampton quickly proved invaluable, earning national Freshman of the Week honors in March 2018 after being a part of the highest-scoring toss event in program history. That first year, she contributed to the Ducks’ national championship in the synchronized pyramid, and as an encore, helped Oregon secure the 2019 national title in the open pyramid.

As a junior, Hampton nabbed national Athlete of the Week honors in February 2020 for high marks in an assortment of heats.

Ontario's Calyx Hampton, middle, was an invaluable piece of Oregon's heralded acrobatics and tumbling program during her time in Eugene. (Courtesy of Sam Marshall/Oregon Athletics)
Ontario’s Calyx Hampton, middle, was an invaluable piece of Oregon’s heralded acrobatics and tumbling program during her time in Eugene. (Courtesy of Sam Marshall/Oregon Athletics)

Oregon reached the national semifinals all three of Hampton’s years in green and yellow.

“She’s always been the cool kid on the block,” said Susnara, now the Ducks’ head acrobatics and tumbling coach. “She always kept her cool, kept her head down, grinded every single day. She didn’t have a big ego, but she worked hard and she was there for her teammates when they needed her.

“She had this cool style and swagger about her,” Susnara added. “She was a leader for sure. If Calyx spoke up, people listened because it wasn’t every day she would use her voice.”

‘This is crazy’

Hampton moved to Hawaii after graduating from Oregon, and focused full time on being a social media influencer. She also picked up stunt doubling and chiropracting, having earned her degree in human physiology, to stay active.

Late in 2021, Hampton received a direct message on Instagram gauging her interest in trying out for WWE.

“This is crazy,” she recalled thinking. “This can’t be real.”

Up to that point, Hampton’s scant knowledge of WWE came by way of the young fans she babysat way back when. Outside of megastars such as John Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the 20-something knew little about the world she was entering.

That December, inside WWE’s Orlando-based Performance Center, 50 WWE hopefuls ran through exhaustive cardio and conditional drills, prevailing over fatigue to exhibit their athleticism between the ropes.

“It was the moment I knew this is what I want to do,” Hampton said.

In a field replete with independent wrestlers and former college athletes, Hampton made the cut.

In March 2022, the then-22-year-old became a WWE superstar.

“This is literally all the things I could ever want in one job,” Hampton said a year later. “I fell in love with it.”

With no wrestling background to draw from, Hampton emulated WWE superstars she quickly grew to admire: Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Katana Chance – women who stretch the limits of what can be pulled off in the ring.

Hampton set out to do the same.

“I try to put as much of my background as I can into things,” she said, “and try to do something that still is wrestling and not just a gym routine.”

One of the first orders of business in WWE is selecting a pseudonym, and for her last name, Hampton pitched Ruca for the popular Costa Mesa-based clothing giant RVCA, whose surf style she loves.

Sol, she said, “is just the sun, and I thought it fit my whole vibe.”

Sol Ruca she became.

“I wanted something completely out of the ordinary,” Hampton said. “We’re superstars, so why not go crazy?”

Showtime

While green in the ring heading into her first official match last June, Hampton refused to let her nerves show, no matter how terrified she was.

“I’m still like that,” she allowed, “but every match I get out there, I’m more comfortable, more confident.”

Before debuting as Sol Ruca on WWE’s Tuesday evening show, NXT, Hampton ironed out the nuances of her surfer character in front of small audiences at what are called “house shows.”

These intimate gigs introduce fans to rising talent and give newcomers the chance to get reps in away from television cameras.

“It’s all character based,” Hampton said.

Weeks before her debut on television as Sol Ruca, NXT ran 30-second vignettes during broadcasts hyping Hampton’s arrival.

She debuted Sept. 27, winning in under 4 minutes.

As Ruca, Hampton’s flair is unmistakable, and the personal touches she puts on rudimentary moves showcase her freakish athleticism.

Ontario's Calyx Hampton debuted as Sol Ruca on WWE NXT in September, winning her first televised match in under 4 minutes. (Courtesy of WWE)
Ontario’s Calyx Hampton debuted as Sol Ruca on WWE NXT in September, winning her first televised match in under 4 minutes. (Courtesy of WWE)

A former gymnast herself, Susnara remains impressed, if not entirely shocked, by her former teammate’s ingenuity.

“Calyx even goofing around at Oregon would do random tricks that everyone would say, ‘Where did you learn that?’” she recalled.

At 5-foot-8, Hampton is one of the taller female superstars in NXT, and yet she glides around the ring with style, her golden curls billowing with every change of direction.

Whenever she leaves her feet, there’s no telling how she’ll land or where she’ll pogo to next.

“I’m constantly trying to evolve and better my move set, keep the crowd on their toes,” she said. “I don’t want to go out there and people know exactly what I’m going to do. I want to have some surprise here and there.”

A few months after her debut, Hampton pinned former NXT United Kingdom women’s champion Alba Fyre, her biggest victory to date.

Her Sol Snatcher, meanwhile, the finishing move she debuted back in December, continues to be a crowd favorite, and Hampton, a social media darling by extension.

“Your finish is something that should be unique and impactful and be out of this world,” she said. “It was absolutely terrifying the first time I did it. Still now, since the finisher is such a big deal, it’s nerve-wracking getting up to that point, but now it’s almost like second nature.”



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