In recent years wrestling in Kuwait has been making a comeback – both in terms of participation and spectatorship. Despite its resurgence in popularity though, the clichéd but fascinating question remains: is wrestling real or is it faked?

The Comeback Kid

The Comeback Kid

Wrestling may well command huge audiences in the United States, the UK and elsewhere, yet, since the nineties, this heavyweight sport-cum-entertainment spectacle has been virtually outlawed in Kuwait. This is largely due to an altercation (still available to view on YouTube in case you’re curious) between a wrestling star and a TV presenter in 1997. The wrestler was Vader, who, along with The Undertaker, was appearing on Good Morning Kuwait as part of the World Wrestling Federation’s (WWF) promotional tour across the Middle East.

The presenter, Assam Al Othman, asks the somewhat clichéd, and perhaps even rather foolish question, of whether wrestling is ever faked. The Undertaker is the first to respond and offers this rather vague answer: “Wrestling is one of the finest athletic endeavours you will ever see, not only do you get the best of athletics but you get people who can sell tickets just on their character alone. There are several people who could care whether I can wrestle or not, but the message I bring when I go to the ring, my creatures of the night, they don’t care what it is.” Mr. Al Othman turns to Vader to ask him a different question, but Vader takes umbrage and reaches over to Mr. Al Othman, throttles him and shouts, “Does this feel fake to you?” in the shaken presenter’s face.

Vader was subsequently arrested, charged with assault, placed under house arrest for ten days, and only able to leave Kuwait after paying a fine. Arguably Vader also took the reputation of WWF away with him, despite rumours that even his throttling of Mr. Al Othman was, itself, staged.

Childhood Fan Turned Ringmaster

Childhood Fan Turned RingmasterChildhood Fan Turned Ringmaster

Many remember the wrestling stars from our childhood; the great characters from the eighties and nineties. For some, the passion continued through adulthood.

John Atkins, 32, from London, has been a wrestling fan ever since a childhood holiday one wet summer. To compensate for its unpredictable climate, many English resorts build covered facilities to ensure that families are entertained and kept warm and dry. It was in such a venue that John witnessed wrestling for the first time.

“I remember watching it and even though my parents were saying it was just knockabout family fun,
I couldn’t reconcile that with seeing two guys beating the stuffing out of each other,” he recalls.

With an interest sparked, John then discovered a brave new world of WWF and “larger than life characters such as Hulk Hogan, Dino Bravo and Macho Man Randy Savage,” via bubblegum cards and comics. He returned to school and his friends quickly got into WWF too.

“We would go down to the field and wrestle,” he remembers. “Everyone loved it for about three months and then moved on, but I was still stuck on it. Then I found a magazine that was a mixture of all sorts of wrestling: WWF, WCW, stuff going on in minor leagues and lots of pictures of blood. So I still thought maybe it was real.”

Years later and with the passion for wrestling still in his own blood, John saw an advert in the very same magazine for fans who wanted to be involved in wrestling – but as non-wrestlers. He answered the ad and joined a wrestling promotions company, firstly as a volunteer to help promote events and set up wrestling rings, before progressing to commenting on televised tournaments and acting as ringmaster for prestigious matches across the UK. John has clearly been up close and in the ring with these gladiatorial ‘athletes.’

So, back to the million-dollar question: is it real?

“The deal is, often the ‘story’ of a match will be decided, the good guy versus the bad guy or the big guy against the little guy,” he says. “The promoter will say, ‘OK, you’ve got twelve minutes, I want you to win but I want you to do these two moves and I want you to pick a fight with the referee.’ So they know the length of the match, they know how they want it to end and they know some of what they want to see. The rest of it is acting off the crowd. It’s a bit like improvised comedy.”

However, there is a serious side too, reveals John: “The truth is, wrestlers do get hurt. There’s one move called blading where a tiny piece of razor blade is hidden either in a bandage wrapped round a finger or down tights and then, at an exciting part of a fight, a wrestler will cover their head and slice themselves a bit so all the blood rushes down their face. In Mick Foley’s autobiography he lists some of the injuries he sustained whilst wrestling. Things like 54 stitches, a broken jaw, a dislocated left shoulder, a twice broken nose and eight concussions, sometimes from being hit over the head with a steel chair. And in 2007, two times world champion Chris Benoit killed his son and his wife before hanging himself two days later. He’d received a lot of hits to his head in the ring over the years.”

Razorblades, blood, steel chairs. It all sounds real enough.

Kuwait Wrestling Club

Kuwait Wrestling Club Kuwait Wrestling Club

This amateur organisation was set up in 2012 at The Australian College of Kuwait in West Mishref. It’s a non-profit club, run by volunteers, and allows people aged 10 and over to have a go at wrestling.

Visit their website at kuwaitwrestlingclub.blogspot.co.uk for more information.

Alternatively, if you wish to watch only from a safe different, visit www.wrestlezone.com for details of all upcoming WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly WWF) and TNA (Total Nonstop Action) wrestling events on Pay Per View. 

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