x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

WWE wrestler Jack Swagger loves the UAE and its culture

The wrestler talks about the WWE showdown in Abu Dhabi next week and how he unwinds post matches.

Jack Swagger pumps up the crowd during WWE's RAW World Tour at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on February 10, 2012. Christopher Pike / The National
Jack Swagger pumps up the crowd during WWE's RAW World Tour at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on February 10, 2012. Christopher Pike / The National

The WWE juggernaut rolls into Abu Dhabi for three days starting on Thursday. Joining fellow big names John Cena, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at Zayed Sports City is Jack Swagger, the WWE world heavyweight champion who is a regular fixture on Gulf tours – this is his third trip to Abu Dhabi. “I just love it here,” the 32-year-old tells The National, before adding: “I have a message for my UAE fans: assalamu alaykum.”

Welcome back to the UAE. What is your impression of the country after these visits?

I love the country, man, and the culture. I remember everyone being so friendly. I remember the first time I came, I was just struck by the water and culture. I live in Florida so I just love the water. It was all a lot of fun and breathtaking, really.

Does going on international tours require a different kind of mental preparation?

I don’t know if it’s different mentally, but it’s a lot more fun. The chance to go out and experience new beautiful countries is great. Sure, there is always that long flight and the stuff that goes with it, but I think we thrive on that.

You got into wrestling professionally very young and participated in amateur leagues. Is that where your old-school wrestling style comes from?

Absolutely. I do a classical amateur-wrestling style. That’s what I like watching when it comes to wrestling – that great technical ability. I got into it very young and got involved in wrestling camps and youth leagues. It really got serious in junior high school and basically anything involving wrestling after that I would just do.

Would you say the classical wrestling style is more about anticipation than brute strength?

I think that’s a great description. When I am in the ring I am thinking about what the opponent is thinking. I want to be in his head and see what kind of shots are coming at me so I can counter them.

Is it tough to balance the showbiz aspect of your life with the demands of an athlete?

They go hand-in-hand and complement each other very well. I think it’s about understanding what each person excels at. It is something that you have to adjust to and prepare for, but it is amazing how it creates larger-than-life characters with great athletic ability.

What would you say has been the biggest change in wrestling in the past few decades?

There is more speed, definitely, and shorter matches. I think that is the evolution of sports in general. This generation is getting bigger and faster, and because of that, the style has also changed.

After all that running around, how do you unwind after a show?

I like to have a nice meal and hang out with the guys and have a few laughs. We talk about the day and then we go on to the next town and get some sleep.

So everyone gets along after the fights?

WWE produces great sports entertainment and it is a lot of fun to go out and perform. At the end, that’s what we are. So after the ring there is nothing there but some good laughs.

With all the touring, do you have time for personal plans?

A wise person once told me that you always have to make plans to do what you want to do. We get our calendars for three months at a time so it’s very hard to plan for anything more than that, but I definitely try to plan my life.

• Tickets for each of the three days of WWE Live in Abu Dhabi at Zayed Sports City from Thursday to Saturday start from Dh300. Buy online at www.ticketmaster.ae. Visit www.wwe.com/AbuDhabi for more details

sasaeed@thenational.ae