WWE leaps into ring in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI // As the crowd roared around them and music pounded out of Zayed Sports City's stadium speakers, Amar Kseibi could not have been more ecstatic.
"It is so much better than on TV," said the 11-year-old from Saudi Arabia. "It's just extra - extra loud, extra exciting, extra fun."
Thousands of wrestling fans from all over the region filled the seats at the stadium for the capital's first World Wresting Entertainment event last night. Clad in T-shirts bearing the faces and slogans of their favourite wrestlers, excited fans carried signs, screamed and begged for signature moves and jumped from their seats in cheers when a particularly hated character hit the mat.
Amar and her father Tarek had travelled from Riyadh for the event, but they were far from the only ones who made a special trip for the stop on the Raw World Tour.
Fawzan Al Naser, a Saudi living in Bahrain, accompanied his son and two friends to the stadium, but it was they who dragged him along.
"I had no choice," Mr Al Naser said. "My son has been watching these matches every Tuesday. He talks about it in school. He loves it."
For Emirati Saud Sharar, the live wrestling show was a chance to expose his nine-year-old son Rashid to a lifelong passion of his.
"First of all it's good entertainment and good fun for our whole family," Mr Sharar said. "It's also something which does not happen around here."
This is the second visit to the Gulf for the WWE, which has grown considerably in popularity in recent years. Last year, wrestlers performed in Qatar.
Earlier yesterday, the 19-time champion John Cena threw rival Kane through a collapsible table at a press conference at the Burj Khalifa.
Cena said performing the manoeuvre 452 metres up the tower was nerve-racking. "That's a first for everyone who saw it, and certainly a first for me," he said afterwards. "It's not a question of it is real or not real, the WWE is known for entertainment.
"At normal press conferences, there's just a guy standing on a podium talking. At WWE press conferences, you get to see a guy going through the podium."
The Raw World Tour continues today and tomorrow and features such household fixtures as Cena, CM Punk and The Miz.