ABU DHABI // Although the action of WWE is largely pre-planned and acted out, the excitement of last night’s showdown in the capital was very much genuine.
Wrestling fans, young and old, turned out in the hundreds to watch the stars of the sport take to the ring at Zayed Sports City for WWE Live.
The American-born sensation has long-enthralled audiences across the world, and the UAE is no exception, drawing thousands when it came to the city last year.
Despite what at first glance may appear like a violent spectacle, WWE is very much a family affair, as the vast majority of the crowd at the tennis complex were youngsters.
The climax of the show came with the final bout, a WWE championship match between crowd favourite Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton.
Chants of the bearded Bryan’s slogan “yes, yes, yes” echoed round the arena as the star took a string of seemingly brutal blows.
But impossible comebacks are the order of the day for WWE fans, and Bryan triumphed over his towering opponent, much to the satisfaction of the young audience.
“It is really exciting, Daniel Bryan is my favourite wrestler,” said 10-year-old Soren Tabatabaein, who travelled from Iran with his father just for the Abu Dhabi event.
“He is a good guy, I wanted him to win,” Soren said.
“It was here last year, but I didn’t really expect it to come. I have always wanted to come see it, it’s a big event and really good fun,” said 14-year-old Ben Tinkhof, who travelled from Dubai for the event.
Ben was given the ticket for last night’s show as a birthday present from his parents.
“I was really excited about it. Daniel Bryan deserves to win, he’s a nice guy,” he said.
Some vistors did take issue with the price of tickets, however.
“We’ve been twice in Scotland, and been to matches in the United States,” said Christopher Cowen from the UK, who brought his 10-year-old son Connor to last night’s event.
“It’s great seeing it, and it is great that it is here in Abu Dhabi but in the States you’d pay about 20 dollars for a ticket, but we had to pay 600 dirhams each, with no discount for the kids. It’s a lot of money.”
“I expected more people to be here tonight, maybe it’s the price,” Mr Cowen said.
Despite the price, sales are expected to be higher for tonight and Saturday’s events.
“It is absolutely awesome, in the words of the Miz,” said Barry Bremner, general manager of Zayed Sports City.
“Last year was the first time here. To have them back is a great honour. They are looking to expand their footprint in the Middle East, and we want to be one of the bases where they can reach out to other parts of the region.
“We know WWE is more about family entertainment, and part of the side is bringing families closer to sport. It is fantastic family fun, but when you speak to some of these guys, they are real athletes. I know some of it is rehearsed, but they work out every day of the week and deal with massive injuries.
“It really is fun for all the family. Come and have some fun and meet some of the sport’s heroes. WWE Live is very different from what you see on TV so it is well worth coming down and checking it out.”
Tickets and the line-up for Friday and Saturday evening’s entertainment are still available from ticketmaster or by visiting www.wwe.com.
Prices start from Dh300 for a standard seat and up to Dh2,000 for premium tickets, where visitors are allowed to take home the folding chair they sit on.