RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: While inside the WWE ring Samoa Joe, also known as The Destroyer, prefers to let his wrestling do the talking. Outside it he has plenty to say about the upcoming "Greatest Royal Rumble" in Saudi Arabia.
“I’m beyond excited. First and foremost, we get to go and experience new cultures, see them first-hand and up close and coming to Saudi Arabia is a big opportunity for me. I’m very interested to be there, to meet the fans and to see how strong the WWE Universe is there,” said the 127.9kg athlete.
The event marks the start of a 10-year partnership between WWE and the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia. Samoa Joe will compete in an Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match against Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor and The Miz in one of an incredible seven Championship matches at the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
WWE fans will also see John Cena vs Triple H, The Undertaker vs. Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Universal Championship match.
For Samoa Joe the signature event, featuring 50 WWE stars battling it out at the King Abdullah Stadium, it will be a chance to get back to competing after sitting on the sidelines with an injury.
“I’m dying to get back in the ring as I’ve been nursing an injury, so to be in Saudi Arabia and to be able to get all of those months of frustration out, well I’ll definitely be ready to go. It’s a return to the ring for me and it’s a debut for me in a new culture, so that’s two factors that mean I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Speaking of the April 25 event, he added: “It’s incredible, you get this rare opportunity to introduce them to the live experience because that is so much different to the television screen. The energy that’s in the building, the atmosphere, to be there and feel the excitement of the crowd and to see what we do live in person is a very different experience, and it’s one that everyone will enjoy.”
Describing the event as a “fantastic night out,” with “some of the most amazing athletes,” he said there was “no better show in the world,” where people can cheer their favorites and boo those that are not.
While Samoa Joe has competed in Abu Dhabi three times, this will be his first visit to the Kingdom.
“In the US I’ve had the opportunity to grow up around a lot of Arab families and the one thing that always stood out to me is the incredible hospitality, it’s out of this world.
“Anytime I’ve travelled to the Middle East I’ve always experience the very best in hospitality, they are some of the most kind and wonderful people I’ve had the chance to meet and I feel that Saudi Arabia shares those same qualities. I can’t wait to learn and experience things for the first time.
“No matter what your background or where you are from, the one thing we can all respect is when great athletes and great passion leads to great achievements. I think that sport is universally respected around the world.”
Asked what one memory he hoped fans would take away from the show, Samoa Joe said: “For the fans in Saudi Arabia I hope the biggest memory for them is I hope they understand how powerful what we do is, how important it is to bring people together.
“It allows people to take a little bit of a break from the world and just share the joy and be entertained. And I want them not only to have seen us but to recognize they lived a piece of history.”
On the global audience looking into Saudi Arabia for the first time, the WWE star said he agreed with the idea that ‘sport is for all’, an ethos adopted by the General Sports Authority as it works to improve sporting access across the Kingdom.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary that we, the people in the West, do see that the everyday lives of people in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “To see a Saudi family enjoying a night out and being able to see that no matter how much culturally different we might be we are still the same.
“I think it sends a powerful message. It puts a face on people, its puts a face on the region, and it’s a very different face than perhaps the one we are used to seeing through traditional media outlets.
“If we can help a fan in the West look over and say ‘wow, they are not much different from us, they enjoy wrestling as much as we do,’ I think we’ve done a service. It’s my greatest hope that comes out of these efforts.”
Samoa Joe, who will be looking for glory in the ladder match as he climbs for the Intercontinental Championship in Jeddah, said Saudi Arabia was now a serious player in the WWE world.
“This will be what we call a ‘tentpole’ event,” he said. “We talk about grand opportunities to make a statement, I think winning the Greatest Royal Rumble in the history of the Royal Rumbles in Saudi Arabia is probably one of the greatest statements you can make.
“In your career to walk away champion of the Greatest Royal Rumble would be something people will take with them for a lifetime.
“I’m very much looking forward to becoming the Greatest Royal Rumble champion.”
Tickets are available online at WWE.SA, and are also on sale at various retail outlets including the General Sports Authority offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman, Red Sea Mall, Mall of Arabia, Alsalam Mall, and a special WWE/GSA outdoor booth at Jeddah Corniche. Tickets will also be on-sale at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium beginning Wednesday, April 25.