WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
The legendary wrestler John Cena makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career. (Twitter:@WWE)
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Updated 27 June 2022

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
  • June 2022 had been dedicated to the legendary wrestler’s arrival on SmackDown two decades ago

RIYADH: Twenty years on from John Cena’s arrival on SmackDown, the legendary wrestler makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career.

Cena has since those early days become a household name in the WWE, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The WWE had dedicated the month of June 2022 to the performer.

While his return opponent is yet to be announced, the WWE Universe is in for an action-packed edition of the red brand as Cena steps into the ring for a landmark match tonight.

A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship 13 times which is also a record. He is also a five-time US Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank victor, and has headlined many major WWE events, including WrestleMania five times.

His first US title win was in New York’s Madison Square Garden, opening the 20th edition of WrestleMania in 2004, and delivering two “Attitude Adjustments” to the “Big Show” Paul White. That moment solidified his status as a rising attraction for the promotion.

A year later at WrestleMania 21 Cena would challenge John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) for the main event which marked the first world championship win for “The Champ.” His “I Quit” match against the former champion at Judgement Day in 2005 is still considered a classic.

The main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 saw John Cena beat “The Game” Triple H clean in the middle of the ring to retain his title. One year later WrestleMania 23 featured the now dominant WWE champion rise against D-Generation X counterpart and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time — “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels.

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events on the WWE calendar, and Cena has been involved in many epic showdowns in that event, prevailing in 2008 and 2013 as the winner.

Many fans consider Edge to be Cena’s fiercest rival and their feud certainly elevated both men to new heights. Edge memorably cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a wounded Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 for his first WWE Championship win. Edge and Cena’s rivalry saw the two battle over the WWE Championship for the majority of 2006, and over the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. Their matches captivated WWE audiences, and both superstars have an outstanding 27 World Titles between them.

Cena has also crossed paths with Randy Orton numerous times in his career. During the 2000s the two were believed to be the top stars in the WWE. Between their first match in November 2005 and their last match in February of 2017, Cena and Orton faced each other 22 times in televised matches. The record between the two men is 13-7 in favor of Cena.

Cena faced the Rock for the first time at WrestleMania 28 in what was billed as a “Once In A Lifetime” match. The Rock defeated Cena in a 30-minute classic, but a year later Cena shocked the world at WrestleMania 29 by defeating the Rock for the WWE Championship.

Cena is also a winner of the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for 2018.


Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 15 sec ago

Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • The third-place finishes by Saud Al-Bashir and Sultan Al-Zahrani took the Kingdom’s overall medal tally to 23

KONYA: Saud Al-Bashir and Sultan Al-Zahrani on Wednesday claimed two bronze medals for Saudi Arabia in the karate competition at the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey.

The podium finishes took the Kingdom’s overall tally to 23 medals (one gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze).

Al-Bashir took third place in the 60 kg division after defeating the Moroccan Osama Al-Dari 9-4, while Al-Zahrani won the bronze in the 75 kg after beating Nurkhanat Azhikanov of Kazakhstan 2-1.

Saudi’s Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi will launch his participation in the +84 kg division on Thursday, as will his colleague Faraj Al-Nashiri in the -83 kg category.


New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase

New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase
Updated 18 August 2022

New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase

New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase
  • The UIBL will transform the cricket stadium into the region’s first professional diamond-shaped park

DUBAI: The United International Baseball League, the first-ever professional baseball competition created for India, Pakistan and the Middle East, has signed a partnership with Dubai Sports City, which will see Dubai International Stadium as the official venue for the UIBL’s inaugural showcase from Feb. 23 to March 5, 2023.

The venue will play host to nine games and one exhibition featuring four of the league’s initial franchises.

Dubai International Stadium is an anchor of the Dubai Sports City complex, the premier multi-purpose sports development in Dubai. The stadium, which opened in 2009, has hosted several high-profile International Cricket Council and Indian Premier League tournaments, including last year’s IPL final between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders. The venue will also be home to the inaugural season of the International League T20, the UAE’s professional cricket league that begins play in January 2023.

“It’s an honor for our league to begin play in one of the world’s most storied stadiums,” said Kanwal S. Sra, founder, chairman and CEO of the UIBL. “Dubai International Stadium is one of the jewels of the region, and it will be an incredible launchpad for the UIBL as we bring professional baseball to fans across the Middle East and South Asia. We greatly appreciate the support and partnership of Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Sports City, and the entire Dubai International Stadium team.”

A key part of the UIBL’s growth strategy and intellectual property is the league’s process of transforming cricket fields — plentiful across the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East — into baseball diamonds. This includes formulation and transportation of the infield dirt, design and implementation of the fencing, and customization and build-out of the dugouts, bullpens and pitching mound. In addition, the UIBL team is creating first-of-its-kind seating options that will get fans closer than ever to the action.

“In the US, we have baseball fields in nearly every neighborhood,” said Kash Shaikh, president and chief marketing officer of the UIBL. “In India and the Middle East, you can drive thousands of miles without seeing one. While we work at the grassroots level to help expand that infrastructure, we are simultaneously creating our own proprietary process to transform world-class cricket stadiums into hotbeds of professional baseball. And, since we are starting with a blank canvas, we also get to reimagine how fans can experience the game. I’m really excited about the game innovations, fan experiences, and new seating concepts we have in store.”

The UIBL plans to share the stadium designs and new fan seating options — including new premium and corporate seating — in the months ahead. In addition to the UIBL’s innovation plans, Dubai International Stadium is world-famous for its “Ring of Fire” — a special system of 350 floodlights fixed around the circumference of its round roof. The lights minimize the shadows and replace the need for traditional light towers.

“We are honored to host the UIBL at Dubai International Stadium,” said Khalid Al-Zarooni, president of Dubai Sports City. “This event continues our stadium’s tradition of hosting world-class international sporting events. We support the UIBL’s vision to bring baseball to our region, and we’re excited to offer fans across our city — and the world — the chance to experience America’s pastime.”


NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region
Updated 39 min 14 sec ago

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region
  • Saleh Mohamed Al-Geziry, director general of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, talks to Arab News about the two games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena

With the NBA Abu Dhabi Games on Oct. 6 and 8 hosting the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island, Arab News spoke to Saleh Mohamed Al-Geziry, director general of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, about sports tourism, the partnership with the American league, and how it will lead to promoting basketball in the UAE and the region.

Here’s what he had to say:

On the partnership between the NBA and Abu Dhabi:

Our collaboration with the NBA is an exciting next step in our ambitious sports tourism strategy for the emirate, as we work to offer an unbeatable year-round calendar of fantastic sporting events. It’s hard to overstate basketball’s massive global appeal — the NBA is an incredibly popular league with millions of fans around the world, and viewership numbers that keep climbing year on year.

So, it was a natural choice to bring a sporting league of this magnitude to Abu Dhabi — it’s a fantastic opportunity to further raise our destination’s global profile, as the eyes of the basketball world will be firmly focused on the UAE capital this October.

The NBA partnership is ideal for Abu Dhabi; we already have a track record of numerous successful tie-ups with high profile global IPs and the emirate is a destination that prides itself on offering unique and innovative experiences. Now, with the NBA Abu Dhabi Games this October, we can offer some of the world’s biggest basketball superstars facing off in the region for the very first time.

And of course, fans converging in Abu Dhabi for this first-in-the-region event will have a positive impact on airlines, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and shopping malls while creating a great atmosphere.

On the massive response from basketball fans to the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games:

The response has been phenomenal — the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games is a sold-out event, and the anticipation is palpable among NBA fans across the country and the region. None of this is a great surprise to us, as we knew the interest was there, but it is still so gratifying to see the fan engagement and excitement in the lead-up to this ground-breaking sporting event.

The great news for fans in the city is that the action is not just focused on the arena, this is an unmissable week-long celebration of sport, entertainment and culture featuring two historic NBA games, citywide activations, an interactive fanzone and special appearances by NBA legends.

On the different NBA events to take place over the coming years:

Abu Dhabi and the NBA have entered into a multi-year strategic partnership, so we are exploring which activations and events make the most sense for the coming years.

One exciting offshoot of our collaboration that will definitely be taking place annually is the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, launched in February this year. It introduced the NBA and basketball to a whole new generation of 11- to 14-year-olds in Abu Dhabi, who also had the chance to meet and learn from seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry and Olympic gold medalist Clyde Drexler.

On the partnership between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi raising basketball’s profile in the UAE:

The partnership between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi has already begun to contribute directly to the growth of basketball within the region. Take the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, for instance, where more than 450 boys and girls from 30 schools across the emirate participated in its first-ever edition this year — and I have no doubt that we will see participation numbers rising in the future.

Looking to the wider region, this partnership also brings a huge range of activations to the GCC for the first time, including a series of NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness, an NBA 2K League Exhibition event at the annual Middle East Film & Comic Con, and interactive fan events featuring former and current NBA players. Such events will only grow interest in the sport of basketball and we look forward to seeing that development continue in the years ahead.

On how the NBA could develop local talent in the UAE and the region:

Hosting world-class sporting events ensures elite international players visit and inspire the local population, helping to grow interest and motivate young players to hone their talent and follow their dreams. Through its various high-profile events, Abu Dhabi has helped fuel the popularity of multiple sports throughout the region, including motorsports, golf, football, cricket, tennis, and swimming.

Basketball is firmly on that list. An increasing number of Emirati teams are entering international competitions, and more than 220 players from the Middle East recently joined Basketball Without Borders, a program that develops talent outside of the USA. Commonly known as the NBA Academy, this year’s cohort includes five players from the UAE.

What to expect at NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022:

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 is a first for the region, and undoubtedly a special and incredibly exciting time for basketball fans in the UAE and beyond. The sport of basketball is high-octane, with games speeding by at a breakneck pace, and those attending the games in October can expect non-stop action and thrills. I’m sure the audience’s energy will be electric as they cheer on their favorites.

What will make that time extra special are the accompanying activities and interactive fan events, which will provide unmissable opportunities to meet some of the world’s greatest basketball stars. Appearances by current top NBA players, as well as legends of the sport, will ensure that the NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will be an unforgettable experience for basketball fans.

Of course, we hope that fans venture beyond the on-court action and take the time to explore what the emirate has to offer. Visitors can ride the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, soak up the sun on our stunning beaches, take in some culture at Louvre Abu Dhabi, or enjoy alfresco dining experiences at Yas Bay. No matter what they’re looking for, there really is something for every visitor in Abu Dhabi.


Distracted Kyrgios crumbles, Murray falls and Raducanu rolls

Distracted Kyrgios crumbles, Murray falls and Raducanu rolls
Updated 18 August 2022

Distracted Kyrgios crumbles, Murray falls and Raducanu rolls

Distracted Kyrgios crumbles, Murray falls and Raducanu rolls
  • World No. 28 Kyrgios, after a standout summer which included the Washington title this month, could not find his best game in crashing out to 11th seed Fritz after only 50 minutes
  • Women’s 10th seed Emma Raducanu dispatched her second Grand Slam champion in less than 24 hours, crushing Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2

CINCINNATI, US: Nick Kyrgios lost his way amid objections to on-court advertising lights, with the Wimbledon runner-up falling 6-3, 6-2 to American Taylor Fritz at the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters on Wednesday.

The Australian was in complaint mode from the start, lamenting the distraction of flickering LED lights on an advertising board and demanding a fix.

World No. 28 Kyrgios, after a standout summer which included the Washington title this month, could not find his best game in crashing out to 11th seed Fritz after only 50 minutes.

The Aussie had beaten his last five American opponents and stood 15-2 since his surprise Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic.

But after confessing that he is counting the days until he can return home after the US Open, Kyrgios seemed uninterested in the job on court.

Fritz fired a 12th ace to set up match point and won as Kyrgios hit the top of the net with a weak forehand.

“It feels great the way my game is coming together,” Fritz said. “This is the kind of match I need to build confidence.

“A lot of things were clicking today, I felt great.”

Women’s 10th seed Emma Raducanu dispatched her second Grand Slam champion in less than 24 hours, crushing Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2.

The teenager US Open champion claimed the first 10 games before her veteran opponent, a two-time Cincinnati winner with two Australian Open titles, finally captured a game.

But the young Briton, who ousted Serena Williams the night before with another love set, was having nothing of the sort.

Raducanu calmly achieved 5-1 and conquered her nerves two games later by saving two break points and serving it out on her second match point as Azarenka drove a return long after 63 minutes.

The heavy defeat continued bad form at the US Open tuneup for Azaranka, the 2013 and 2020 winner, who won only two games here a year ago in a third-round loss to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.

“I played a great match for sure,” Raducanu said. “To play Vika like that I had to stay focused.

“In the second set I could feel the important moments. I’m pleased with how I dug in and served it out.”

On the men’s side, Andy Murray needed a post-match on-court visit from the trainer after losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on to Cameron Norrie in the second round.

Murray, a two-time Cincinnati champion, needed massage on his right thigh before being able to leave the court after battling for nearly two and three-quarter hours in the last major tuneup for the US Open, which begins Aug. 29.

“At times I felt like I played really well and then at times didn’t. My consistency maybe was not where I’d want it,” Murray said.

“But there was some positive tennis in there at times. I definitely had enough opportunities to win that match.”

After cramping at other events in recent weeks, the 35-year-old Scotsman is concerned about his physical situation.

“It’s a big concern for me. It’s something I need to address and find a solution for,” Murray said. “You need to try and understand what’s going on there.”

World No. 11 Norrie broke open a slow-moving match stalemate with a service break in the penultimate game and converted on his first match point.

“I just played the bigger points a bit better,” Norrie said. “It came down to one or two points.”

Norrie produced 39 winners to 37 for three-time Grand Slam champion Murray, who converted on only two of his 11 break chances and fired nearly 40 unforced errors.

“I was not physical enough at the start of the match,” Norrie said. “I was not executing the way I liked. I was pleased to get through without playing my best.”

Elsewhere in the second round, American Ben Shelton stunned fifth seed Casper Ruud, defeating the Norwegian 6-3, 6-3.

In the women’s draw, Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, the fifth seed, defeated Cincinnati’s own Caty McNally 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9/7).


Olympic champ Pichardo wins Euro triple jump, Bol keeps double bid on track

Olympic champ Pichardo wins Euro triple jump, Bol keeps double bid on track
Updated 18 August 2022

Olympic champ Pichardo wins Euro triple jump, Bol keeps double bid on track

Olympic champ Pichardo wins Euro triple jump, Bol keeps double bid on track
  • Cuban-born Pichardo, who has competed for Portugal since 2019, dominated the field with a best of 17.50 meters, Italy’s Andrea Dallavalle claiming silver with 17.04m and France’s Jean-Marc Pontvianne bronze (16.94)

MUNICH: World and Olympic champion Pedro Pichardo added European triple jump gold to his accolades in Munich on Wednesday while Dutchwoman Femke Bol kept her bid for an audacious track double on course.

Cuban-born Pichardo, who has competed for Portugal since 2019, dominated the field with a best of 17.50 meters, Italy’s Andrea Dallavalle claiming silver with 17.04m and France’s Jean-Marc Pontvianne bronze (16.94).

Bol, 22, was also in dominant shape in the women’s 400m, winning in 49.44 seconds ahead of Polish pair Natalia Kaczmarek and Anna Kielbasinska.

A world silver medalist and Olympic bronze medallist in the 400m hurdles, Bol now re-focuses on that race.

But there is no respite for the Dutch runner, with her 400m hurdles semifinal scheduled for 1011 GMT on Thursday and the final a day later at 2000.

She then faces a quick turnaround for the 4x400m relay at 1945 GMT on Saturday for a realistic tilt at triple gold.

In a good night for one-lap favorites, world bronze medalist Matthew Hudson-Smith of Britain retained his title in the men’s 400m in 44.53sec.

Switzerland’s Ricky Petrucciani claimed silver in 45.03sec, with another Briton, Alex Haydock-Wilson, rounding out the podium (45.17).

But there was not such good news for two other defending champions, France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Greece’s Aikaterina Stefanidi.

Martinot-Lagarde was denied gold by the slimmest of margins in the 110m hurdles as Spain’s Asier Martinez was handed victory in a photo-finish by just a thousandth of a second, in 13.14sec.

Another Frenchman, Just Kwaou-Mathey, took bronze in 13.33ec, with fancied teammate Sasha Zhoya clipping the final hurdle to hit the track and eventually finish last.

Stefanidi, meanwhile, was denied a hat trick of European pole vault titles by Finland’s Wilma Murto, who hit a rich vein of confidence to match the championship record of 4.85m.

2016 Olympic champion Stefanidi could only manage 4.75m, taking silver on countback from Slovenia’s Tina Sutej.

The women’s hammer throw was won by Romania’s Bianca Ghelber in the almighty absence of four-time champion Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland.

The Polish world record holder has won gold at the last three Olympics as well as four world titles, but had to sit out Munich and the Eugene worlds after being injured while chasing a man who had tried to steal her car.

Ghelber’s best of 72.22m came on her first attempt and was enough to see off Poland’s Ewa Rozanska (72.12m) and Italy’s Sara Fantini (71.58).

Reigning champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium was in pole position after the first day of competition in the heptathlon.

She registered 13.34sec in the 100m hurdles, 1.98m in the high jump, 14.95m in the shot put and 24.64sec in the 200m to leave her with 4,063 points. Compatriot Noor Vidts sits second on 3,849pts.

Thursday sees the heptathletes competing in the long jump, javelin and 800m.