WWE star Samoa Joe getting ready to rumble in Saudi Arabia

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This file photo shows Seth and Bray Samoa Joe (R) battle during a WWE show at Zenith Arena in May, 2017 in Lille, France (Philippe Huguen / AFP)
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Samoa Joe says he's fighting fit for the Royal Rumble
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Samoa Joe - he's a winner
Updated 17 April 2018
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WWE star Samoa Joe getting ready to rumble in Saudi Arabia

  • The event marks the start of a 10-year partnership between WWE and the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia
  • WWE's Samoa Joe says he can't wait to get back into the ring

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.


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.