Saudi Arabia will host the WWE in April and take another step forward in the country’s move for social and economic reform, reports Abdul Aziz
Saudi sports chief Turky Alsheikh with the WWE’S Vince McMahon (L) and Triple H.(SPA) Photo – arabnews.com
Given Saudi Arabia’s traditionally conservative attitude towards entertainment, it might seem an unlikely country to host the World Wrestling Entertainment championships. So it will come as a surprise to many that this week Saudi Arabia signed a deal to host ‘The Greatest Royal Rumble’.
The wrestling event will be held at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, on Friday, April 27 and will feature 50 of the sport’s most famous fighters.
Big names like AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, John Cena, Triple H, Roman Reigns, The New Day, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and Shinsuke Nakamura are amongst those who will go head to head at the tournament.
This is the first ever 50-man rumble and expected to be bigger and more spectacular than ever before.
“This is the first ever 50-man rumble and expected to be bigger and more spectacular than ever before”
The deal is part of a ten-year partnership between the Saudi General Sports Authority and the WWE signed this week.
“The Greatest Royal Rumble will be a spectacle of historic proportions,” said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman and CEO. “Our partnership with the Saudi General Sports Authority reflects a long-term commitment to present WWE’s world-class entertainment to a global audience on a grander scale than ever before.”
The partnership is in line with Vision 30, Saudi Arabia’s social and economic reform programme, a government plan aimed at modernising the country. Already it has resulted in radical changes such as allowing women the right to drive and the right to attend events in sports stadiums.
The Saudi General Sports Authority meanwhile has already secured the rights to host the Formula One Grand Prix and the Super World Boxing Cup final this May.
Salem Alnaser, a representative of the Saudi General Sports Authority public relations department pointed out that this is not the first time the country has hosted a WWE event.
“The first WWE tournament was held in Riyadh in 2014 and the last in November 2016,” he said. “But there have also been WWE events in other parts of the Gulf region. The first was held in Kuwait in 1996 with names like The Undertaker and Vader taking part. Similar events have also been held in Abu Dhabi in recent years.”
Although relatively new to the region, the sport is fast gaining popularity. “WWE has a lot of fans in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab Gulf states in general,” said Mr Alnaser. “The tickets have yet to go on sale but they are expected to sell out fast. I think it’s fair to say we’re very excited about the event here in Saudi Arabia.”
And it’s not just adults who are drawn to the sport. “Many kids in Saudi Arabia are fans of the famous wrestler John Cena. They do his famous hand wave which means ‘You cant see me’’,” he added laughing. “I’m sure they are just as excited at this big news.”