WWE Super Showdown kicks off in Jeddah

From left, Mojo Rawley, Kofi Kingston, Triple H, Mansour Al-Shehail and Seth Rollins during the press conference on Thursday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 07 June 2019

WWE Super Showdown kicks off in Jeddah

  • WWE makes a return to the Kingdom
  • WWE Champion Kofi Kingston set to face two-time former champion Dolph Ziggler

JEDDAH: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstars are in Jeddah this week, as the General Sports Authority (GSA) hosts the company’s Super Showdown event.

One WWE superstar of Syrian decent, Mojo Rawley, will don traditional Saudi attire for the event, and told Arab News that he picked up his thobe and shomagh (traditional head dress) last time he visited Jeddah.

“It’s a tribute to the Saudi people, my parents met and got engaged in Saudi and my dad’s whole side of the family still lives here. In Riyadh my uncle and my cousins came to the show last time, it was one of the coolest moments in my career to wrestle in front of them,” said Rawley. 

WWE Champion Kofi Kingston, who is set to face two-time former champion Dolph Ziggler, said that he will not underestimate his opponent at all. “Dolph Ziggler and I have had several matches on Raw, Smackdown and Pay-Per-View. We have gone at it quite a bit so I know how good Dolph is, and he is at his prime.”

WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins, who will defend his title against Baron Corbin, said that he always feels humbled in the Kingdom. “The fanbase here is so passionate, it is so humbling to come halfway across the world and have people wearing your t-shirts, chanting your theme song, knowing who you are and being appreciative of the art you perform. It is a cool thing to come across a place where the culture is different from what I am used to, but we all get along so well, because we are all in love with the same thing,” he said.

 

 

Executive vice president of talent and live events, wrestling legend Triple H, said that when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the WWE like to go above and beyond. “These are big events for us. Big stadiums, they are packed, they are sold out and to see the Undertaker and Goldberg for the first time ever along with the biggest Battle Royale ever that will have Saudi’s first signee competing in. Mansoor Al-Shehail is looking forward to representing his country.”

The first Saudi WWE superstar Al-Shehail is living his dream. He told Arab News that one of the low points of his journey to becoming an in-ring competitor was when his family did not take him seriously, and thought he was wasting his time.

“My father, who once said I was play acting and wanted me to go to study and become a doctor, saw me last year, in a ring with 60,000 people from my home country. He said that I looked like I didn’t belong anywhere else in the world than in the ring, and I knew then he understood. I want to give that momentum to any Saudi who wants to be a superstar in the future,” said Al-Shehail.

US champion Samoa Joe said that he noticed the level of appreciation shown by Arab fans. “Coming out and putting on a show is a cool experience — it is always nice to be appreciated. The hospitality is out of this world as it makes you want to go out there and put on a better show,” he told Arab News.

Reigning five-time 24/7 champion R-Truth said this title was more work than any championship he had held. “You have to defend it 24 hours a day. In the morning, mid-day, afternoon, night, evening anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I was ambushed by Jinder Mahal on the tarmac when talking to my wife on my way here.”

The WWE Super Showdown will be held at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Friday at 9 p.m.

 


Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

Updated 09 July 2020

Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

ROME: Preparing to complete a ninth Serie A campaign without winning the Scudetto, AC Milan decided returning to the pinnacle of football required a new approach.

Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation is at the center of it, linking up with Milan to scour the world for sponsors and use concerts and other high-profile events to attract new fans.

And who better to ask about how to end a title drought than the team that just won their league for the first time in 30 years?

“We have been talking to Liverpool,” Milan chief revenue officer Casper Stylsvig told The Associated Press, “because they’ve been through the same path as we are going through now.”

Milan are enduring their longest Serie A drought since the 1980s. Despite beating leader Juventus on Tuesday, even the top four Champions League places are out of reach in this pandemic-delayed season. It’s been seven years since Milan last competed in Europe’s elite competition.

“We’re working very hard to get back to where we should be, and from that perspective, it does help open doors when you have won seven Champions Leagues,” Stylsvig said. 

“Playing European football is top of the agenda. It is our natural habitat and somewhere we should be.”

Only Real Madrid has lifted the European Cup more often than Milan. But that seventh title was won 13 years ago, by beating Liverpool.

Now Liverpool are the lodestar for Milan, which have fallen to 21st in the Deloitte ranking of football’s moneymakers with revenue of €206.3 million  ($234 million) in the last financial year, a third of the income at the newly crowned Premier League champions.

“Four, five years ago, no one considered Liverpool and see where they are now,” Stylsvig said. “They obviously play very attractive football. They are winning, they have a fantastic manager, a fantastic team and now they are following suit from a commercial perspective. It has taken time, but their model seems to work.”

Liverpool have been run for a decade by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group. Milan have also had American ownership for three years since the takeover by the Elliott Management hedge fund.

“We are obviously a global brand,” Stylsvig said in a telephone interview. “I’ve probably been talking too much in the Italian market in the last few years and (the coronavirus) sort of pushed us to think more global again.”

The pandemic that shut down sports produced the first public manifestation of the partnership with Roc Nation when Milan staged a live virtual fundraising concert headlined by Alicia Keys.

“I do think merging sport and entertainment could be the way of engaging new fans,” Stylsvig said. “The world has changed dramatically and we need to follow suit. Roc Nation is helping us, challenging us with that, having someone on the sideline to do that.”

The biggest audiences logging in to watch “From Milan with Love” were from China and the US.

With no games being played during the three-month Serie A shutdown — and crowds still prohibited from matches — Milan have had to find new ways of connecting with its fan base and fulfilling commercial deals.

“It’s been incredibly challenging,” Stylsvig said. “You basically have to rethink the model. So one of the first things we did was focusing much more on a digital space, creating content and trying to be engaging and trying to talk to our partners.”

Further down the line is moving into a new stadium, with plans to rebuild the San Siro it shares with Inter Milan.

“That will change the club,” Stylsvig said. “The revenues are incredibly important but also for the perception of the club.”