The lights, the crowd, the explosive knock-out moves, the soap opera-style storylines and big guys in tights – it can only be WWE. The upcoming live show will bring some of the biggest names in the sport to these shores, including John Cena, Jack Swagger and Seth Rollins. WWE first brought its brand of high energy wrestling to the UAE in 2012 and since then, fans and enthusiasts have flocked to see the night of smack-downs and take-downs every year.
The WWE NXT championships will showcase up-and-coming wrestling talents and the current champion Sami Zayn, who has a special affiliation with the region. Zayn (whose real name is Rami Sebei) was born in Canada to Syrian parents. We spoke to the champion about his Arabian roots and his future in
What attracted you to WWE?
I think at a very young age it was the theatrics and the spectacle of it all that really spoke to me. Eventually at 17 I got an opportunity to train as a wrestler, and it was very minimal, but it was a foot in the door, so I started locally in Montreal, where I’m from and worked my way up through to signing with the WWE a few years ago. I remember the day my contract came in the mail, that was a huge deal for me. That day still sticks with me and it was an amazing feeling.
You’re the only Arab wrestler in the WWE. Why are there so few and do you feel pressure to represent your roots?
I don’t know why there aren’t many. In NXT, the performance centre, there are some people with some Arab roots, and also WWE is going overseas to look for this. I don’t feel pressure to represent, but I do feel a great sense of pride, because there really hasn’t been this kind of representation for the Arab people before. And, let’s be honest, Arabs aren’t always depicted in the most accurate way. If I can help contribute to a different perspective of how Arabs are viewed then that’s great. I’m not like Captain Arabia or anything like that, I’m just a guy with red hair who happens to be Arabic. I’m in a position to change people’s perspective, even if it’s a few, then that’s bigger than wrestling to me.
How does it feel to be in the UAE with WWE?
Even though I’m Canadian, when I come here or I go to Saudi Arabia, for example, it’s like wrestling in my home town. I feel like I have home team advantage, because these are still my people. There’s a relation between me and a 13-year-old Arab kid in the crowd – he can relate to me in a different way than he can to even John Cena, who’s the biggest star in the company.
Do you maintain a specific diet in the run-up to big shows?
My diet is not that specific, maybe it should be. I’ve always tried to be moderate, because fun and happiness is a weakness of mine, and it’s hard to sacrifice. I’m an Arab, you know, we like tasty food!
Your finishing move is the Helluva Kick. How do you develop a finisher?
The name ‘Helluva kick’ [pronounced Helloova] was kind of a joke because when I was a kid I read the results of a wrestling show and I think it read something like ‘Chris Jericho was defeated with a helluva kick’ and it was written as one word and I didn’t understand. I was like, ‘what’s a “helloova” kick?’ So I told this story to a friend, who’s a wresting commentator, and he thought it was hilarious, so he started naming it the Helluva Kick . The technical name is a Yakuza kick and it always gets a good response.
Some say that 30 is quite mature to start a WWE career. How do you see your career panning out?
There used to be an expression that nobody makes money until after 30, but that changed in the last 15 years with guys like The Rock, and Randy Orton who were 25 when they won the world champs, and that was unheard off before. It takes about 10 years to start really getting it. So I’m 30, and I’m around that point when I’m getting it. I don’t know how long I have in me, but I’m hoping for at least another ten good years.
From Dhs300. February 12-13 7pm. February 14, 5pm. Zayed Sports City,Tennis Stadium, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi. www.ticketmaster.ae
Where to try wrestling in Dubai
If you’re feeling inspired and want to try the grappling sport yourself, check out these martial arts classes where you can learn to smack down like a WWE star.
Dubai Pro Wrestling Academy
In these mixed classes, you’ll learn how to master grappling, take-downs and locks under the guidance of a pro.
Dhs60 per class. Mon and Wed 8.45pm-10.15pm, Sat noon-2pm. The Champions Club, Icon Tower 2, Cluster L, JLT, www.facebook.com/dubaiprowrestling (056 680 4846).
If your kids are shaping up to be future wrestlers, then get them signed up. The classes are for youngsters aged five and up, and teaches the basics of the sport.
Dhs50 per class, Dhs600 per month for members. Sat-Thu 5pm-6pm. Multi Club, Shatha Tower, Dubai Media City, www.multiclub.ae (04 452 3388).
Learn a multitude of martial disciplines from jiu jitsu champion Alex Nacfur at this fitness facility. The classes here combine wrestling with judo, aikido and jiu jitsu.
Dhs2,250, plus Dhs200 one time joining fee, Daily, classes from 7am-9pm. Fit Republik, Dubai Sports City, www.fitrepublik.com (052 742 4555).