DUBAI: John Morrison’s journey to Thursday night’s WWE Super ShowDown in Riyadh has been anything but straightforward.
The Los Angeles native first joined WWE just over 15 years ago, before leaving in 2011 to join the independent wrestling circuit and Mexico’s Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, then returned to the organization in December 2019.
This week, alongside The Miz, he will take on The New Day in the SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match. It will be his first appearance in the Kingdom.
“I’m ridiculously excited to be in Saudi Arabia, but this is the most important match since my return to WWE,” Morrison said.
“Kofi and Big E (The New Day) are no joke. They are individually talented and together they are very dangerous. For The Miz and I to beat them requires 100 percent focus and for us to be on top of our game. That’s what I’m planning on doing.”
Over the last year, Saudi Arabia has hosted two WWE events, Super ShowDown in Jeddah and Crown Jewel in Riyadh. Morrison and his fellow wrestlers are increasingly aware of WWE’s popularity in the Kingdom and across the Middle East.
“An event like Super ShowDown is something that families can go to and really feel the electricity and excitement of WWE,” he said.
“When I was growing up watching WrestleMania and going to see WWE Live events as a kid with my dad and my friends, that’s part of the reason why I fell in love with wrestling and why I do it today. A show like Super ShowDown has the power to capture the imagination of people.”
Looking forward to Thursday, the 40-year-old wrestler points out that preparing for a tag team bout is different to an individual battle.
“The main difference is that there are more people involved so there are more things that could go right or go wrong,” said Morrison.
“The preparation physically is very similar, but mentally there is a lot more strategizing and scheming that The Miz and I need to do.”
With weekly WWE events taking place in America, how exciting is it for the wrestlers to take the shows on the road and perform in different countries?
“Doing shows outside the US is so important. It is why we are called World Wrestling Entertainment,” Morrison said. “It is also a real bonding experience for the roster to travel together. I’m looking forward to spending time with everybody on this trip. The card we have for Super ShowDown is like a WrestleMania card. The people taking part are stars. These are matches you might never even see in the US.”
Having got his big break by winning the third edition of WWE Tough Enough, a reality television series by WWE, Morrison knows how hard it is to compete against aspiring wrestlers.
In June, WWE will hold a talent tryout in Riyadh, and he has a word of advice for the Saudi hopefuls.
“It is an incredible opportunity and the best advice I have for people looking to take part in the tryout is to level yourself up physically and mentally, understand the business in every aspect that you can, and when you get there you’ll have nothing to worry about.”
They already have the perfect role model.
WWE’s first-ever Saudi member, Mansoor, has graduated from being a tryout hopeful in 2018 to winner at the 51-man Battle Royal at the 2019 Super ShowDown in Jeddah last February, and beating wrestling legend Cesaro at Crown Jewel in Riyadh on Oct. 31 to the delight of his hometown crowd.
Morrison himself is looking forward to being inspired by the local audience.
“This is going to be my first time in Saudi Arabia, in front of a Saudi crowd, and I’m beyond excited to experience the country and the people. I want to feel the energy.”