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World Wrestling Entertainment stages first event in Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority in partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment presented the first ever WWE event in the Middle Eastern Kingdom at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah last Friday (27th April).
Billed as the Greatest Royal Rumble, the event represented another element supporting Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 social and economic reform program and was the first event in a 10-year partnership between WWA and the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority (SAGSA).
The five-hour live pay-per-view event featured 50 WWE ‘superstars’ including John Cena, Triple H, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, The New Day, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Given ongoing restrictions on women’s sport participation in Saudi Arabia, women wrestlers didn’t appear on the card, however, female fans were allowed to attend if accompanied by a male guardian.
Commenting on this, Triple H, WWE’s wrestler-turned-executive, told UK newspaper The Independent that “you can’t dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women’s evolution in the world and what you can’t do is affect change anywhere by staying away from it.”
The event also featured a glitch when a video clip of scantily clad female wrestlers was broadcast during the event – drawing euphoric cheers from men and women in the audience.
The aftermath saw the SAGSA release a swift apology, with a statement advising “we apologise to the viewers and attendees who watched the WWE event held in Jeddah yesterday, for the clips aired of women dressed indecently.”
Such images, it said, were "banned" and would remain so.
The event featured also saw Iranian-American wrestlers the Daivari brothers entered the ring, waving an Iranian flag before he waved the Iranian flag before being dispatched by a gaggle of Saudi wrestlers.
Not appreciating the ‘sport entertainment’ nature of WWE, Ariya Daivari reportedly received death threats for the skit.
Commenting on this on Twitter, Daivari later wrote “during an appearance this past Friday, I portrayed a fictional character and played the role of the antagonist, no different than what other actors would do in a movie or TV show.
“That character does not reflect my personal views and I apologize to anyone that may have been offended by the skit. I have an incredible amount of respect for the great people of Iran and I am very proud of my Iranian heritage.”
Images, from top, show action from the Greatest Royal Rumble: action in the ring, the King Abdullah Sports City venue and young event fans. Courtesy of WWE.
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