WWE’s Roman Reigns hails ‘unbelievable’ Saudi Arabia

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WWE stars meet the press in Jeddah ahead of the Greatest Royal Rumble event on Friday (WWE/General Authority for Sport)
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WWE stars meet the press in Jeddah ahead of the Greatest Royal Rumble event on Friday (WWE/General Authority for Sport)
Updated 26 April 2018
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WWE’s Roman Reigns hails ‘unbelievable’ Saudi Arabia

  • Greatest Royal Rumble event takes place in Jeddah on Friday
  • The event marks the start of a 10-year partnership between WWE and the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: If you believe the hype, including his own, WWE’s Roman Reigns has come to Saudi Arabia to win at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
But ask him about outside of the ring, and his visit to the Kingdom, the athlete says that everyone is winning, from WWE, to its athletes and the new fans they have met here.
“It’s the best feeling to be here in Saudi Arabia. Whenever you go to a new country for the first time and they see you for the first time, it really escalates that excitement, it makes it so special.
“It’s unbelievable coming to Saudi Arabia. We are always trying to break new ground, to move forward, break new ground, we are always trying to do better. I think this is a great example.”
The Greatest Royal Rumble 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 take on Rusev and Brock Lesnar compete against Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Universal Championship match.
“We are trying to show Saudi Arabia to the world, that’s a big thing. We trying to be there for progress, to get better as human beings, to promote equality. Anything you can do on that level, it’s greater than you can do in the ring,” said Roman, at a press conference in Jeddah.
“It’s the best feeling to be here in Saudi Arabia. Whenever you go to a new country for the first time and they see you for the first time, it really escalates that excitement, it makes it so special.
“It’s so gratifying. There’s no real way to describe it, each time I get thrown down, any time I’m in pain, and I get that special energy and emotion back from the ground it makes it so worth it.
“I can’t wait to get to the stadium. When that curtain goes back and you see thousands of fans, when you hear that reaction, that emotion, that’s when you feel like superman.”
The event, which is now sold out, will air live in the Middle East on MBC Action, KSA Sports 1, Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and Abu Dhabi Sports 6, as well as stream live on Dawri Plus.
For WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil his goal is very clear, he’s here to entertain and spread a message that no matter where you are in the world, there are common things that unite us all.
“Our job is to put smiles on people’s faces and those faces are all colors, all religions, all backgrounds. We are entertainers and I feel our company, WWE, does the best job of breaking barriers and going into different situations and making the absolute best from it.
“That absolute best is making sure that every single person that comes to one of our events has a life-changing experience in Saudi Arabia and in Jeddah. This is the first time we are here, it’s the first time a Royal Rumble has had 50 men in the ring, and the first time that every single match is a championship match.
“Where-ever we are in the world we don’t separate by color or creed, we just want to entertain the masses. At the end of the day we all rooted in love and I embrace that, regardless of who you are, what religion you are we are all the same.
“Sports definitely unifies people and WWE have been doing it for years, bringing people from all different backgrounds into arenas and in front of televisions at home.
“The fact this show sold out in a very short space of time goes to show the fanbase is as strong here as it is anywhere else in the world.”


Battle of the bands: Venezuela power struggle turns to music

Updated 8 min 17 sec ago
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Battle of the bands: Venezuela power struggle turns to music

  • The dueling concerts will literally set the stage for a showdown between Venezuela’s beleaguered government and opposition leaders
  • British billionaire Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians

CUCUTA, Colombia: Venezuela’s power struggle is set to become a battle of the bands Friday when musicians demanding President Nicolas Maduro allow in humanitarian aid and those supporting his refusal sing in rival concerts being held at both sides of a border bridge where tons of donated food and medicine are stored.
The dueling concerts will literally set the stage for a showdown between Venezuela’s beleaguered government and opposition leaders who are pledging to draw masses of people to the country’s western border Saturday to try to usher in aid that Maduro has vowed not to accept into the country.
British billionaire Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians including Latin rock star Juanes on one side of the border crossing that Colombian officials have renamed the “Unity Bridge,” while Maduro’s socialist government is promising a three-day festival deemed “Hands Off Venezuela” on the other.
“The eyes of the world will be on Venezuela,” opposition leader David Smolansky said in advance of the concert as he spoke with Venezuelan migrants at a soup kitchen in the border city of Cucuta where the aid is being stored. “We hope that everything that has happened these last few weeks is the beginning of the end.”
As Venezuela’s political turmoil drags on, allies of Juan Guaido, who is being recognized by over 50 nations as the country’s rightful president, are hoping the massive concert and aid push mark a turning point from which a transitional government is consolidated. But Maduro has shown no signs of backing down, and analysts warn that whatever happens over the next two days may not yield a conclusive victory for either side.
“I think one of the government’s aims is to confuse the whole thing, possibly to create some kind of chaos that makes the opposition look bad,” Phil Gunson, a senior analyst with the Crisis Group based in Caracas, said of Maduro’s rival concert. “It’s a propaganda war.”
Branson agreed to back a concert in early February after being approached by Guaido, Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader under house arrest, and others including Colombian entrepreneur Bruno Ocampo, who said the magnate is now so committed to getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela that he will personally stay until Saturday to help ensure that food and medical supplies make it across the border.
Similar to the original 1985 Live Aid concert, which raised funds to relieve the Ethiopian famine, Branson has set a goal to raise $100 million within 60 days.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into at the time,” Ocampo said Thursday. “But in less than 24 hours we are going to witness something historic.”
Friday’s concert won’t be the first time artists have used music to try and simmer tensions at the restive Colombia-Venezuela border. A concert known as Paz Sin Fronteras — Peace Without Borders — was held in 2008 after a diplomatic flare-up that drew Venezuelan troops to the Colombia border. That event was held on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, which 33,000 people now use to enter Colombia each day.
“Throughout history, art has had a big role in fostering change,” said Miguel Mendoza, a Venezuelan musician who will be performing Friday and won a Latin Grammy in 2010 as part of the pop duo Chino & Nacho. “Music, above all, has a magnificent power.”
Six hundred tons of aid, largely donated by the US, has been sitting in a storage facility at what is widely known as the Tienditas International Bridge for two weeks. Even as several million Venezuelans flee and those who remain struggle to find basic goods like food and antibiotics, Maduro denies that a crisis exists. He contends the aid is a ploy by the Trump administration to overthrow his government. The military has placed a large tanker and two containers in the middle of the bridge to block it.
“Trump should worry about the poor in his own country,” Maduro said this week.
Days after Branson launched his concert, Maduro’s government announced that not only would they hold a rival festival but that they would also deliver over 20,000 boxes of food for poor Colombians in Cucuta Friday and Saturday.
The sharp rhetoric from both sides has put many in this border city of 700,000 on edge.
Paola Quintero, an activist for Venezuelan migrants, said that while the concert has had a positive, short-term impact on Cucuta’s economy, many are worried about what might happen Saturday when thousands try to move aid across the border.
“What awaits those who will be on the bridge, trying to get aid through?” she said.
Venezuelans like Rosa Mora, 40, said they were still debating whether to heed the opposition’s call for a mass mobilization at three bridges in the Cucuta area Saturday, fearful that they might be met with resistance by the military.
“I’m terrified of what’s going to happen,” she confided.
Still, when she thinks about her children and a sister with diabetes that has gone untreated for the last year, she leans toward participating.
“It won’t be for me,” she said. “But for our children.”
On Thursday afternoon, organizers on the Colombia side of the border bridge were doing sound checks while in Venezuela a dozen workers sat idly in white plastic chairs chatting and listening to Venezuelan folk music on small speakers.
Riding by the bridge on his bike, college student Frander Duenas said he hoped to sneak into Colombia to see Branson’s Venezuela Aid Live because he’s a fan of the musicians performing. The government’s festival didn’t entice him in the least.
“This concert is for old people,” he said. “No one is going to come here.”