Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Saudi Arabia's WWE Crown Jewel event marks kingdom's first women's wrestling match

Natalya took on Lacey Evans in Riyadh, while Tyson Fury made his wrestling debut

It was a night of firsts at the WWE Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia.

Part of a 10-year partnership signed between the WWE and Saudi General Sports Authority, the show on Thursday night at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh marked the first occasion that World Wrestling Entertainment had held a women’s match in the kingdom as Natalya took on Lacey Evans.

It also saw British boxer Tyson Fury make his wrestling debut.

Natalya had spoken on social media before the event of how proud she was to be representing the women's division amid social reforms in Saudi Arabia that have seen enhanced women's rights introduced during the past year.

She said afterwards on Twitter that her dream had come true.

"I’d been dreaming of this moment for a long time and tonight was for every girl and every woman who has had a dream," she wrote.

Their match was won by Natalya, known as the Queen of Harts, as she forced Evans to tap out during a Sharpshooter move. The two then embraced and were given a standing ovation by the crowd.

The pair dressed modestly for the occasion with baggy t-shirts and long trousers.

Women's wrestling has taken place in the Middle East before, as WWE stars Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss competed in the UAE in 2017.

The Saudi event, which also included the homecoming of Mansoor, WWE’s first Saudi Arabian Superstar who was born in Riyadh, comes as the kingdom looks to boost its entertainment offerings.

More than 100 events are taking place across three months as part of the Riyadh Season. Last month saw K-pop super group BTS set the country alight as the first international band to play a solo headline concert in the kingdom. Cirque du Soleil was due to begin on Friday night and run until December 7.

Meanwhile, Tyson Fury marked his debut with victory by count-out as he floored Braun Strowman who was unable to make it back into the ring.

Fury had earlier made an entrance in traditional Saudi clothing of thobe and keffiyeh headdress.

Updated: November 1, 2019 04:02 PM

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