RIYADH: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) returns to Saudi Arabia for the second time this year with the Crown Jewel event in Riyadh on Friday.
The Greatest Royal Rumble show hosted by the Red Sea city of Jeddah in April was the first televised WWE event in the region and a huge success, with 60,000 fans cheering their heroes at the King Abdullah Stadium.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on Wednesday ahead of the championship, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, the WWE champions participating in the mega event, said they had been overwhelmed by the red- carpet welcome in the Saudi capital and expressed their delight at meeting their fans in Riyadh.
Ziggler said: “The fans are really excited to see us, we have a big tournament and the World Cup featuring some of the biggest names in the game. I am looking forward to trying to be the best in the world.”
On what differentiates Saudi fans from other fans, he said: “A lot of times around the world we go places, three, four, five times a year; here we know we have one chance every year to step up our game and make the show fantastic.”
On the return of legendary American professional wrestler Shawn Michaels after being absent from the ring for eight years, Ziggler said: “It’s cool and fantastic. He is coming out of retirement and it is very special to have him in the ring.”
Michaels has been called the greatest performer in the wrestling ring by a number of his peers and also by fans.
On visiting the Kingdom for the event Ziggler said: “The people here have been very accommodating, very nice to us. We did some sightseeing and got out to see the people, the city landmarks, and then we are ready for the big show on Friday.
“In Riyadh, the show is going to be awesome. We have been looking forward to it for a long time — the fact that we have the World Cup tournament “where some superstars are going to fight three different matches in one night to be crowned the best in the world.”
McIntire said that he appreciated the warm welcome they had received: “This is my first time here; people are really excited to see us in the ring. I am looking forward to it.”
McIntire is also delited to see Michaels’ return. “It is really good to see him come back. I was 22 or 23 when he retired, to see him come back to the ring is very exciting, he is a great performer of all time.”
This WWE second global pay-per-view event in Riyadh has proved to be popular with Saudi fans even before the start of the event, with tickets sold out in a few hours.
One of the marquee matches for the event is a first-time encounter as two of the most powerful duos are set to battle when the iconic Brothers of Destruction square off against the rebel duo of D-Generation X.
Although all four competitors have had numerous battles in the past, this is the first time that the two-tag team forces will clash.
Another match on the cards that has garnered a lot of attention is the showdown for the vacant Universal championship, pitting the winner of the 2018 Men’s Money in the Bank, Braun Strowman, against the former longest-reigning champion of the modern era and former UFC heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar.
The match was set to be a triple-threat match but champion Roman Reigns has been forced into retirement due to health issues with leukemia.
The card is also set to have a Best in the World tournament featuring Seth Rollins, the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, the Charismatic Enigma Jeff Hardy, the Master of the 619 and returning legendary Luchador Rey Mysterio, the Miz, Dolph Ziggler, the Viper Randy Orton and last-minute entry Bobby Lashley, who will be taking John Cena’s place in the tournament.
The WWE Crown Jewel event will take place this Friday evening at the King Saud University Stadium.