JEDDAH: WWE superstars on Friday showed Saudi students how to wrestle with bullying as part of their “Be A Star” campaign.
Around 60 girls and boys, from grades three to nine from Dar Al-Fikr School in Jeddah, got the chance to learn about loneliness and struggles from some of the toughest-looking people in the world.
The students arrived at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and were greeted by a voice that perhaps every WWE fan would recognize in a heartbeat — Mike Rome, the announcer for wrestling bouts.
The superstars sharing their experiences were: Titus O’Neil, Natalya, Drew McIntyre, Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Nikki A.S.H, and Riddle.
Rome welcomed the wrestlers and the students, dividing them into three groups with two superstars each. The team had activities planned but these were not just for fun, they were there to teach children about different things and help them understand bigger themes in life.
The activities included team members introducing themselves and naming something they enjoyed when a ball of yarn was thrown at them. They would then pass it on to another student in the circle while holding on to the thread. By the end of the exercise they were all connected together, despite their different personalities.
After the activities, the WWE stars took turns in sharing their own personal struggles and how to deal with them.
They mentioned cyberbullying, what made them different and how being different was not a bad thing, how to deal with their negative emotions, and what to do if someone else was experiencing problems.
“Especially with cyberbullying, it doesn’t matter if you are in Jeddah or Texas there are people online that are saying and doing mean things,” O’Neil told Arab News. “It is up to us, people with a platform, to teach everyone how to deal with these things, how to manage their emotions.
“I always tell people, ‘Don’t take it personally if they don’t know you personally.’ There are a lot of people that would say stuff about you that is negative but they don’t even know you, they just know the television character, your name, or your social media handle.”
Nicola Glencross, who wrestles under the ring name Nikki A.S.H, shared her story with the students. “I had to deal with a lot of cyberbullying, people hated the mask I wore and the costume. If someone is bullying you there is always something you can do, you can talk to an adult, you can mute them.”
She also explained the psychology of the bully: “People need a response and I don’t give it to them, I am a superhero. I don’t need to deal with that.”
Rome asked who in the crowd was bullied. Some students raised their hands but all of the wrestlers did, showing the children that, despite the massive difference between them and their talent, there were similarities as well.
Natalya, whose real name is Natalie Katherine Neidhart-Wilson, told Arab News: “It’s important for the kids to see that we are all connected, we are really all alike. They may see us on television, and you know WWE is a global company and we are all around the world in 180 different countries and 30 different languages. For the kids to see us and see that they are on TV every week and they are just like us, it’s a very grounding experience for them to realize we are all relatable.”
She said that they had all been through hardships, bullying, and adversity. Another thing that Natalya wanted to help the children with was to regulate their emotions and deal with the problems they may face on their social media so they felt more equipped to combat the issues. “We want them to be able to stand up for themselves, to be strong and positive.”
The children left the venue feeling stronger and more positive than before. And, as for the stars themselves, they were buzzing with excitement for the upcoming event and for being back in Jeddah.
O’Neil said: “Jeddah is the place that made me famous. People here are so nice and kind. Coming here for the first time was a really eye-opening experience for me because you see all those stereotypical things on the news and then you actually come here and it is the exact opposite.”
Natalya said that she was honored to be part of one of the three women’s fights taking place in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a huge honor to be able to do that as a woman in WWE.”