Al-Ahram Weekly Online   25 October - 31 November 2012
Issue No. 1120
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Lords of the ring

Despite the half empty arena, those present were very much alive as they welcomed WWE superstars for the first time in Egypt. Ahmed Hamdi gives a detailed review of the tour

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Clockwise from top left: Sheamus pummels The Miz; Natalya in the ring, then gets atop Lilian Garcia; Zack Ryder on camelback at the Pyramids

Although the organising company did not invite journalists to attend the three shows of its first time tour in Egypt, Al-Ahram Weekly could not let its readers miss out on the historic event. The Weekly was in the stands inside Cairo Stadium's indoor hall 1 to bring you a detailed review of the WWE Smackdown tour.

On Thursday, when the tour started, all streets leading to Cairo Stadium were furnished with WWE merchandise. Shirts of superstars Sheamus, Zack Ryder, The Big Show, and even John Cena who was not on the tour were bought by children mostly on their way to the stadium's entrance. Many purchased the shirts though knowing they were not the original due to their low cost compared to the original ones sold inside the arena. Not only shirts were sold near the gates, but also tickets. Several men stood on the path leading to the entrance holding up tickets and chanting "for sale". Not many either cared or bought tickets from them.

Regardless of it being a South African tradition, the fofozila was present as well and up for sale by the entrance door. The loud oboe sold very well not only to children, like the shirts, but also to adults who enjoyed blowing it.

In that festive atmosphere nothing could turn you off except some impoliteness from the guard at the entrance door. If you asked him about the gate on your ticket you might have got a sarcastic answer like "are you sure you paid for that category?" as if he doubted your financial ability to pay for the category.

Putting that aside, attendants enjoyed a little walk to their assigned gates. Tickets were checked three times by security guards of the organising company. Passing through a metal detector, which no one paid attention to when it beeped, you would get just a few metres from the arena's entrance and from the action. Inside the arena stood many security guards from both genders leading people to their assigned areas of seating. Areas were split -- the LE250 zone which high, a bit far from the ring. Second was the LE500 ticket which was divided into four partitions defined by four colours -- grey, green, orange and purple. Then came the LE1,000 area which was also divided into four partitions defined by black, yellow, red and green. On the same height as the LE500 was the LE2,000 area. The difference between the two was that the LE2,000 area had comfortable leather seats. Down by the ring sat those who bought L3,000 tickets to enjoy a closer look at the action. People could later go to the next higher price area during the show due to the half empty arenas.

Should there be a next time, lower ticket prices would suit Egyptian society more and might solve the problem of having more than half the arena empty.

First to kick off the show the three nights would be the very famous ring announcer, Lilian Garcia. Hearing the chit-chat around though showed that many of the attendants had little knowledge of the WWE and its superstars. A man who encouraged his young son to look at Natalya as Garcia was an example of many who were there to enjoy while having no ability to differentiate between wrestlers and announcers.

Garcia would start by expressing her happiness to be in Egypt for the first time and her hopes that fans would enjoy the show. She would then ask the fans if they were ready for the show to start and the crowds were never a disappointment as they replied with very loud cheers.

In silence and as the lights went out in the arena except from the blue streak coming out of the Smackdown logo, people sat on the edge of their seats waiting for the first superstars to appear. Because there were three different schedules for the three nights, the Weekly decided to follow the third day as it was arguably the most exciting night of the three. Dolph Ziggler broke the silence with his entrance music on that day receiving a mixture of cheers and boos from the fans in attendance. Ziggler was scheduled to compete against Cody Rhodes who was booed into the arena and during the match. Ziggler and Rhodes gave a sparkling performance as Ziggler succeeded to get the Egyptian fans behind him while Rhodes continued to provoke them as the match went on. After a hard fought battle, Ziggler secured the win with his famous move "The Zigzag" despite being manhandled for most of the match by his opponent. Rhodes would later get booed out of the arena just as he came in.

The next match might have been the weakest during the tour as the Indian wrestler, Jinder Mahal, faced the NXT champion Seth Rollins with the championship on the line. Mahal would walk to the ring and grab the microphone from Garcia's hands to speak to the Egyptian crowd. Starting with some Indian, the fans had no idea what Mahal was saying. He then switched to English to express his resentment over what he called "the lack of respect" that Egypt had shown him during the days of the tour. Mahal would tell the attendance that he was born to be a champion and that he would be one that night. Rollins though had other plans for the championship as he defeated Mahal in a one-fall match. The match barely received reaction from the spectators.

Garcia went up to the ring again to announce a new match scheduled for one fall as well. The crowd came back to life again as cheers blew the roof off when the music of Zack Ryder hit. The self-declared Internet champion though was attacked from the back by The Miz as soon as he started walking down the ramp. The Miz then grabbed a microphone saying "due to Zack Ryder not being able to perform, I guess you can just declare me the winner." Miz was met with loud boos which turned into laughter later on as Miz spoke in Egyptian slang surprising the fans. He asked them to shut up and said "I will win... ana haksib."

By the time Miz left and Ryder was helped back to the dressing room, it was time for the Divas match. The announcement of that by Lilian Garcia got the crowd on their feet and was met with very loud cheers. Natalya's music would hit as she came out first getting a mixed reaction from the fans. She took off her mini-jacket inside the ring and threw it in Garcia's face. Out then came Kaitlyn, Natalya's opponent for the night and for all three nights as well, being the only diva other than Natalya on the tour. They engaged in a pre-match competition as both female wrestlers waved to the fans to get more cheers than the other. Although it was very close, it appeared that Kaitlyn had the more of the fans on her side.

Could a man's attention be diverted from the ring during a divas match? No is the short answer. As Natalya and Kaitlyn brought it on to each other in the ring, males in attendance from all ages were focused on the match as if it were a hard exam. Grown men as well as young boys cheered the women in the ring with every move they made. Some did not of course miss out on the opportunity to crack jokes as they imitated Mamdouh Farag, the famous Egyptian wrestling show presenter, in his commentary, imagining he was calling the match.

Halfway through the match and as the competition became more intense, Natalya would go for a flying move but it then seemed she landed the wrong way injuring her knee. While the referee checked on the injured wrestler, the fans started to ask each other if it was for real or part of the storyline. At the time many assured the others that the injury is real, Natalya would suddenly attack Kaitlyn claiming that she was just faking the injury. The surprise did not slow Kaitlyn down as she claimed the victory over Natalya after the second fell victim to an inverted DDT. Although the Divas division was criticised for having poor matches, Kaitlyn and Natalya surely made an impact in Cairo as their match captured attention more than many male superstars.

Next was a tag team contest. The team of the Prime Time Players, Titus O'Neil and Darren Young, faced the team of Kofi Kingston and R-turth. Although R-truth got an amazing reception from the fans, Kofi's reception was like no other. The man who comes from Ghana and shares the African identity with the attendance got his name chanted by nearly everyone in the arena. Being so loud, many thought the chants of his name could be heard miles away.

R-truth and Kofi's team dominated the Prime Time Players for most of the match. Young was injured during the match but this time it was for real after being hit in the face by a leg drop from R-truth. As Young tried to stop the bleeding, he tagged in his partner. R-Truth and Kofi fascinated the fans with their high-flying arsenal of attacks. The match that people liked very much though ended controversially. Having Kofi and Young in the ring as legal men, the first would deliver a cross body from the top rope to his opponent then went for the pin. The three count though was interrupted when O'Neil entered the ring and hit Kofi. While R-truth tried to even the odds, the powerhouse O'Neil threw him out of the ring, only to join him a few seconds later after being thrown out by Kofi. The Ghanaian would then turn around just to be hit with Young's finisher "The Gut Check". Young went for the count but Kofi placed his left foot on the robes as the referee counted the three while at the same time O'Neil pushed Kofi's foot down from the rope so the referee wouldn't notice.

The referee declared the Prime Time Players the winners. But while they were celebrating, another referee would head to the ring and tell the match's referee about Kofi's foot being on the ropes. After being told, the referee decided to restart the match. Being hit with a surprise, the Prime Time Players were also hit with an SOS (Kofi's finisher) and a Little Jimmy (R-truth's finisher) to lose the match that they had thought they won.

Following was a match between Wade Barrett and Ted DiBiase Jr. The British superstar, Barrett, dominated most of the match despite some resistance from the son of WWE's hall of famer Ted DiBiase Sr. Being an average match, it failed to capture the imagination of many of the fans. Barrett went on to win the match hitting DiBiase with his finisher, a short-arm elbow strike, which he calls "Souvenir".

Once again The Miz came out and headed to the ring. Known for his trash talk on the microphone he asked the referee to raise his hands and declare him the winner of the match since his opponent, Zack Ryder, was not inside the ring while he was. As the referee hesitated for a while, Ryder stormed into the ring and attacked Miz. The referee ordered the bell keeper to ring the bell announcing the start of the match. Despite having his ribs bandaged, Ryder looked determined to take his revenge from the loudmouth superstar for what he had done to him earlier.

Seeing Ryder's aggression, Miz tried to focus on targeting the bandaged area to slow him down. Ryder though wouldn't give up without a fight but as the match went on Miz's strategy appeared successful as he was able to rip the bandage off Ryder's ribs. But in the middle of the pain that Ryder felt at the hands of The Miz, he found the power to reverse the attack. Ryder would try to apply his finisher manoeuvre on The Miz after hitting him with a vicious "Broski Boot". Miz, though, would reverse the momentum and try as well to hit Ryder with his famous finisher the Full Nelson facebuster which he calls "The Skull-Crushing Finale". Miz's attempt was not successful as Ryder again reversed the attack to hit his finisher "The Rough Ryder" successfully this time and get the pin. Being cheered as he walked the ramp back to the dressing room, Ryder defiantly became a fan favourite in Egypt.

After such an entertaining match, the show was yet to reveal all its secrets as the main event was still to come -- the triple threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship between Alberto Del Rio, The Big Show, and current champion Sheamus. Del Rio arrived in the ring first, and was booed down the ramp to the ring. He was followed by The Big Show who was unexpectedly, due to his current heel (bad guy) character, cheered very loudly by the audience. Then, as the Music of the World Champion began, everyone went to his feet to give a very warm reception to the Irishman.

The match started with both challengers teaming together to take out the champion. Sheamus was beaten down by the seven-foot giant who would then pass him to the Mexican aristocrat to continue the beating. That was until Del Rio tried to pin Sheamus while Show looked away for a second. Show then went on to beat down Del Rio as well as use his massive hands to chop the chest of the Mexican so powerfully that the sound of it echoed inside the arena. Del Rio fought back kicking several times in the head and flattening the giant on his back. Going for the pin, Del Rio found himself flying in the air when Show pushed him off his body. Sheamus at that time would try to take advantage of the engaging fight and climbed to the top rope while at the same time Show prepared Del Rio for a Chokeslam ride.

The flying move of Sheamus though was not successful as he wanted as he landed in the hand of The Big Show. Feeling the urgency of working together, Del Rio and Sheamus reversed the double Chokeslam into a double Suplex in which both of them carried the nearly 500-pound giant. With the mammoth man taken out, Del Rio and the world champion fought each other until Show pulled Sheamus out of the ring as he attempted to Brogue Kick Del Rio. However, as Show went back to the ring and attempted to Chokeslam Del Rio, suddenly Sheamus Brogue Kicked both of them to secure the win and defend his title pinning Del Rio.

Thus, the show which was attended mainly by children and teenagers was arguably the best.

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