WWE legend Shaun Michaels responds to tributes of Middle East fans

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WWE legends Shaun Michaels (R) and Triple H. (Courtesy WWE)
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The new documentary series will tell the story of the Undertaker. (Courtesy WWE)
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Updated 06 May 2020

WWE legend Shaun Michaels responds to tributes of Middle East fans

  • WWE Network to also debut new documentary series "Undertaker: The Last Ride"
  • Archives of old matches and major events have been made readily available to stream for viewers who subscribe to WWE Network

DUBAI: While almost all sporting events and competitions have come to a shuddering halt during the coronavirus crisis, the world of professional wrestling has found a way to reinvent itself in lockdown, to the delight of its massive army of followers in the Middle East it seems.

At the start of April, long after football leagues around the world, Formula One races, tennis and golf competitions, not to mention the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020, had been suspended, postponed or cancelled, WWE’s WrestleMania was recorded behind closed doors and streamed around the globe.

In addition, archives of old matches and major events have been made readily available to stream for viewers who subscribe to WWE Network.

And what’s more, the reinvention has given fans in lockdown the chance to interact with their heroes.

Legendary WWE Superstar Shawn Michaels has spoken about the relaunch of the WWE Network in the Middle East, and thanked loyal fans for their tributes to his incredible career.

Michaels was responding to questions from fans in the region who have been tuning into the network in record numbers since the social restrictions were imposed.

“It’s great to have WWE Network back in the Middle East and as I have visited the region, I know full well just how passionate people there are about WWE,” he said.

“They are now able to get together to follow WWE storylines and also take a look back at the awesome library of content – and I would like to say a huge thanks for all the kind things they say about my matches.”

The lockdown brought about by the spread of the COVID-19 virus has given Michaels ample time for reflection on a unique journey in the world of wrestling.

“I can sit down and look back on a very long career and you can have some fun watching my early matches with the Rockers tag team through to my battles with Triple H and the WrestleMania performances.”

Michaels was asked by fans in the Middle East to pick out some favorite opponents.

“Ric Flair is just the greatest and there are so many matches you can watch on the Network and see how good he was for so many years,” he said. “The WrestleMania match when I defeated him and he retired really stands out – there was so much emotion from start to finish.”

Michaels also urged fans to dive into the career of The Undertaker, one of the most beloved wrestlers in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East over the last few decades, who he twice fought at WrestleMania.

The new documentary series will tell the story of the Undertaker. (Courtesy WWE)

As part of the content roll-out on WWE Network, fans across the region can watch a new five-episode series which takes an unprecedented look at Mark Calaway, the man behind the legendary Undertaker, as he prepares for the final chapters of his incredible 30-year WWE career.

Available exclusively on WWE Network, ‘Undertaker: The Last Ride’ will premiere on Monday, May 11, at 5 a.m. Saudi time, immediately after ‘Money in the Bank’, giving subscribers the chance to watch two fantastic shows in quick succession.

In the opening episode of the highly-anticipated show, viewers will get to see Undertaker preparing for what many thought would be his final match, against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33.

Over the course of the five episodes, the show will provide an insight into the pressure Undertaker puts himself under each year, as well as detailing the physical and emotional impact his shock defeat to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 had on him.

As well as hearing from both Calaway and his wife Michelle McCool, the series features first-hand interviews with superstars such as Triple H, Ric Flair, Edge, Shawn Michaels and John Cena, along with both Vince and Stephanie McMahon.

After this week’s premiere, the following four episodes will be released on May 17, May 24, June 14 and June 21 at 5 p.m. UAE time.

Subscribers to WWE Network can access every pay-per-view event, as well as exclusive documentaries, classic matches, iconic interviews and weekly in-ring shows.

A spot in Al-Taawoun club history is just the start for Mitch Duke

Updated 27 October 2020

A spot in Al-Taawoun club history is just the start for Mitch Duke

  • After earning his new club its first-ever spot in the AFC Champion’s League knockout stages, Mitch Duke is looking forward the rest of the season

LONDON: Mitch Duke has only been in Saudi Arabia since August but has already made history. His new club, Al-Taawoun, needed a win against Qatari side Al-Duhail in the final game of the AFC Champions League group stage last month to progress to the knockout phase for the first time ever — and the Australian striker headed home the only goal of the game with four minutes remaining.

It was not only a clear illustration of the 29-year-old’s ability, but the fact that he still managed to have such a decisive effect on the game despite sporting a heavily-bandaged head after an earlier clash revealed a never-say-die spirit that will serve his new team well.

“It was a good way to announce myself, and to play in the AFC Champions League was awesome, especially to play in the western zone for the first time,” said Duke. “We went into that tournament on the back of seven losses in a row and we did well to get to the final 16 for the first time in our history.”

Such fighting spirit was also in evidence last week during the second round of games in the new Saudi Pro League season. During their clash with 2019 champions and 2020 runners-up Al-Nassr, Al-Taawoun midfielder Ryan Al-Mousa was sent off after just 10 minutes. Despite this, they emerged with a 1-0 victory against one of the main title contenders.

“To get a result against Al-Nassr with 10 men from 10 minutes is massive and shows what we are capable of,” said Duke.

It was a very welcome victory for a team that finished third in 2019 but found themselves battling relegation last season, eventually finishing in 12th place, just three points clear of the drop zone.

“(Last season) was a stressful time, with COVID, and they were going downhill,” said Duke. “I was here for the last few games but I couldn’t play so I had to sit in the stands and hope they didn’t lose so I wouldn’t be playing in the second division.”

It remains to be seen how Al-Taawoun will fare in the new campaign. Going from near bottom to the top of the league in a single season is a big ask but there is no shortage of ambition at the club.

“There is always an outside chance of the title but with the big three teams and the investment they have made in their squads, it is going to be difficult,” said Duke. “Qualifying for the AFC Champions League is a realistic target.”

Duke, who spent four years playing in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse, from 2015 to 2018, moved to Saudi Arabia from Western Sydney Wanderers. Not only was he the top striker at his hometown club (who were, as Al-Hilal fans will remember, the 2014 AFC Champions League winners) but also the captain, so his departure was much lamented at home. He is in no doubt, however, that he made the right choice.

“There were a few factors involved in the decision to move,” he said. “There is the financial side of things, as well as making sure that the football is decent. I think Saudi Arabia is the second-best league in Asia, after Japan.

“It is a great test for me, and there are seven foreigners in every team and they bring in some very good players. There is some real quality in the league and they invest in it.”

The growing number of Australian players in the league also makes a difference. They include some big names, such as Rhys Williams at Al-Qadisiyah, Brad Jones at Al-Nassr, Craig Goodwin at Abha and Al-Wehda’s Dmitri Petratos. As a result, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is well aware of what is happening in the league, which could boost Duke’s chance of an international call-up when 2022 World Cup qualifiers resume next year.

“I hope that is the case,” said Duke. “The best thing is to keep playing well for Al-Taawoun and then we will wait and see what happens. As a forward here, I am playing against quality defenders and vice versa. There are also plenty of Saudi national team players in the league, which means that the level is good.”

The lifestyle in a new city and country is taking a little getting used to, he admitted. It has been quite a change and Duke, whose pregnant wife and young son are still living in Australia, is learning to deal with having plenty of free time on his hands, especially as training and games take place in the evenings. He sees this time as a valuable opportunity, however, and is determined make good use of it.

“I have decided to do some studies and prepare for a life after football, do some coaching licenses.” he said. “I have plenty of time on my hands and, mentally, you can go into a bit of a hole with being away from the family and that can creep into your football, so I am to start studying. There is no excuse. I want to use my time here to improve.”

He has already shown that during his time in Saudi Arabia he can also help Al-Taawoun to do the same.