Viral Malaysian hijabi pro wrestler fights with men

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As the only hijabi in pro wrestling in the world, Nor Diana is breaking down barriers and pushing expectations
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Nor Diana Kamarulzaman
Updated 25 July 2019

Viral Malaysian hijabi pro wrestler fights with men

  • She went viral when she became the first ever female Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW) Wrestlecon Champion

KUALA LUMPUR: At first glance, the petite, demure 19-year-old Nor Diana Kamarulzaman may seem like an ordinary Malaysian youth. Donning her pale grey hijab, round-rimmed glasses, and an all-black sports outfit, it would be hard to believe that she is the country’s first hijabi pro wrestler, who fights both men and women in the ring.

She went viral when she became the first ever female Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW) Wrestlecon Champion at MyPW Fightback earlier this month. She fought tooth and nail against four men, unexpectedly triumphing against them.

Professional wrestling is considered performance art combined with wrestling and showmanship, and is a popular form of entertainment in many countries. However, the sport is traditionally dominated by men, while women are depicted as little more than window dressing.

As the only hijabi in pro wrestling in the world, Nor Diana is breaking down barriers and pushing expectations. 

Her signature move involves jumping from the ring with her arms spread wide like a phoenix rising from the ashes, hence the nickname “Phoenix.” Standing at 5 foot 1 inch, her body is agile, leveraging speed and cunning.

The nickname was given to her by her trainer when she first started the sport, and is deeply embedded into her identity and persona. She even bought a phoenix mask and costume from Mexico, and explained that wearing was a source of pride.

“Before, I only wrestled with my mask because it was part of my identity, and I was afraid of societal judgment against me as a hijabi, but I decided to unmask last year in December,” she said. “It felt like a new identity.” 

Her love for the sport is rooted in her childhood, where she credits her younger brother who introduced her to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) video games when she was 14 years old.

“I was hooked on wrestling because we always played the video games, and during weekends we would watch WWE shows on television with our dad,” she added. 

She first joined wrestling professionally when she was still in high school at 16, but she had a reserved personality.

“When I first wrestled I was shy and awkward. Because I wear a hijab and am female, I was afraid that people might treat me differently. But they have been very welcoming,” she said.

As the only female wrestler at her wrestling academy, she trained with other male wrestlers. “We are very close like a family. They never treat me differently just because I am a woman, in fact we do the same training together.”

She told Arab News that wrestling is a different from other sports because of the athleticism and theatrical elements. “I like the characters of pro wrestlers, and the way they tell the story between the fights.

“Some people may think wrestling shows are fake because it is scripted, but the punches and kicks are real. Also, what makes it more interesting is the way wrestlers connect to their fans, as well as the fans rallying behind them.

“Pro wrestling requires wrestlers to do early preparation for matches, they cannot just fight spontaneously like a mixed martial arts fight,” said Nor Diana. “Wrestlers need to be constantly alert and communicate with their opponent. The match is scripted ‘live’ like a stuntman, and it can be fatal if one is not aware of each other’s moves.”

“I receive a lot of positive support from fans, who say I am very brave because I am wearing the headscarf and can wrestle. Women in hijabs are expected to have certain behaviors, and what they can do is limited. Many hijabis are not allowed to do a lot of things.

“Most of the promoters outside Malaysia tend to book female wrestlers who are ‘sexy’ and wear skimpy outfits. I was a bit sidelined because I am hijabi. Since I went viral, I get more bookings. However, I want to be chosen for my talent and not looks.” 

She is currently juggling work and wrestling, although she hopes to become a full-time pro wrestler. Despite the increase in popularity in Southeast Asia, pro wrestling is still considered a small enterprise, with MyPW hosting just four to five shows per year.

Nor Diana wants to slowly build her strength and reputation in wrestling. She draws her inspirations from female professional wrestlers such as Sasha Banks and Tegan Nox.

“I still need to learn a lot more and improve my skills. I need to gain more experience and be exposed to different overseas wrestling shows, and work with other international wrestlers,” she concluded.

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

Updated 13 December 2019

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

  • Day one of the three-day tournament saw Fognini, Monfils, Medvedev and Goffin through to the semi-finals

RIYADH: A new chapter was written today in Saudi Arabia’s sporting history as the first international tennis matches took place as part of the epic month of Diriyah Season.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will certainly go down in history as eight of the world’s best tennis stars met in the Diriyah Arena for the first-ever international tournament played in the Kingdom. 

The event also goes down in tennis history as not only the first in Saudi Arabia, but also one of the first to use Hawk-Eye Live technology. Replacing the need for line judges and providing more accuracy, Hawk-Eye Live sends visual and audio cues to the chair umpire and off-court monitors within a tenth of a second of a ball bouncing, to show faults and out of bounds shots without relying on the naked eye.

The first day as part of a three-day tournament saw all eight players in action in the opening matches. First up on court was Italian and world number 12 Fabio Fognini taking on American John Isner world number 19 and holder of the third fastest serve of all time in Men’s Tennis. Although both players will be written into the Kingdom’s history books, it was Fognini who was the record breaker as he delivered the first international serve and match win ever recorded, 7-6 6-4. 

Speaking after his win, Fabio Fognini said: “I won the first game of the competition, it’s nice. It’s something I will remember for sure and the people will remember as it is the first year we play here. I know they want to do something more [grassroots tennis], especially to improve tennis in this country so I’m happy.”

Commenting after the historic match, John Isner also added: “Very unique to be here and be part of this. I never thought I’d be here playing in Saudi Arabia. Very grateful and happy to be here. The ball kids did great tonight, fantastic job.”

Second up on the Diriyah Arena court was Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the world’s number 16, against Frenchman Gael Monfils the world’s number 10. Monfils took the win in straight sets 6-3 6-3. Monfils rallied the crowd by encouraging them to cheer and danced after some of his winning shots.

“So far it’s great. The offering they have here for us to perform is incredible. The court is one of the best…it’s quite nice. The people are very nice. I feel very good.” said Monfils.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany met in the third match of the evening. Medvedev made light work of Struff to take the win 6-3 6-1 and advance to the semi-finals.

Speaking after his win, Medvedev commented: “Was a great match. It’s never easy like this, after the end of the season, holidays and in the middle of pre-season to know how you are playing at this moment – are you strong or not? Today was a great match, beating Jan so easy is a great achievement because he’s a great player so I am really happy. The atmosphere was also really good and warm.”

In the final match of the night, Belgian’s David Goffin rallied with Lucas Pouille of France. Goffin took the final place in tomorrow night’s semi-finals beating Pouille 6-2 6-4.

After the match, Goffin commented: “Super organisation – the stadium is very nice. First time for me playing in Saudi, it’s a great atmosphere. I think for the people tonight it was something to see, professional tennis matches here. I think it was great for us and them as well. It’s a nice court and stadium – it could be a very nice center court in a big tournament.”

Today’s results will see Fognini of Italy meet Monfils of France in semi-final 1 and Medvedev of Russia will take on Goffin of Belgium on Friday 13th December. The remaining four players will still continue to play as part of the Consolation Bracket. The Diriyah Tennis Cup will conclude with the final on Saturday 14th December.