OSN, the leading pay-TV network in the Middle East, and WWE on Thursday announced a five-year partnership to distribute WWE Network as a premium, linear channel in time for WrestleMania on March 29, exclusively on OSN.
The agreement will run concurrent with WWE and OSN’s existing partnership to air WWE’s flagship programming, Raw and SmackDown, as well as NXT, Superstars and more in the region.
OSN subscribers will be able to access the premium linear network via their set top boxes, and anytime, anywhere on multiple devices via OSN Play and through authenticated access via WWE Network apps.
“OSN has a long standing relationship with WWE and we are very excited to be expanding that relationship further with the exclusive carriage of the WWE Network,” said Andy Warkman OSN’s VP, Sport and Production.
“We will be co-branding the linear channel OSN WWE Network HD and following on from our enhanced TV deal renewal last year, this is great news for WWE fans in the Middle East & North Africa region. We are looking forward to launching the Network in the coming weeks and cementing our position as the Home of WWE in the region.
WWE Network is available in more than 170 countries and territories and recently surpassed 1 million subscribers just 11 months after launch, making it the fastest-growing digital subscription service.
WWE Network’s one-of-a-kind programming includes all 12 WWE pay-per-view events LIVE at no additional charge plus groundbreaking original series, reality shows, documentaries, classic matches, exclusive coverage of special events and nearly 3,000 hours of video-on-demand content.
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Born in Ghana, his family emigrated to America in 1982 and after training as a wrestler after university he made his WWE debut in 2006.
The four-time Intercontinental and two-time Tag Team Champion tells Sport360° about his life in wrestling and what inspires him in the WWE.
What made you aspire to become a WWE superstar and how did you break into it?
Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to become a WWE superstar like Shawn Michaels, Brett Hart and Ricky Steamboat. I loved the fact that it was always so enter-taining – there was great music and athletes doing incredible things.
I started training for a while and along the road, I got my chance after I graduated from college. I had a tryout and I was very lucky to be in front of the right people at the right time. That was a kind of a dream come true with a lot of luck and a lot of work.
From moving to the US from Ghana to WWE superstardom, what has been the main change in your personality?
I have been in the US since I was two years old, so as far as my personality changing from being a civilian to being a WWE superstar, it hasn’t changed much.
My mum always gave me a great foundation and I think at the end of the day, we are all people.
I don’t have any kind of arrogance or cockiness about being in the WWE. I think that it is important to remember where you came from.
When did you know you wanted to be in WWE?
It was really early – it was probably in elementary school. I have always been a fan of WWE for as long as I can remember but I don’t know if I had an actual moment.
I have always loved watching WWE and we used to have Superstar, which was a show every Saturday morning.
For my entire youth that’s all I would watch – Superstar and Saturday morning cartoons. I would make sure to never miss an episode of WWE.
What do you feel about your position in WWE, are you where you want to be?
Yeah, I feel I’m pretty lucky for still going strong. It has been eight years; a lot of people have come and gone in that time but I’m very lucky to have been able to stay and still be the fans’ favourite, so I’m very pleased.
What are your ambitions for the future, how do you see yourself grow?
Right now I’m with Xavier Woods and Big E and we’re doing some pretty cool things as we have a group that we call ‘The New Day’.
I’m very excited about everything that we’ve been doing together so far, and we’re already kind of fulfilling our potential.
A lot of people question the authenticity of WWE, what do you say to them?
We are very forward in saying what we do is entertainment, it’s like any show you see on television that has a story line, protagonist and antagonist.
We’re the exact same thing except we do it in the ring and we do it in an incredible fashion and in a manner unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
It’s supposed to be this way and we designed it this way for a purpose – when people come to a show they are entertained, that’s the entire point.
You visited the Middle East before, so how do you feel about the fans in this region, how do you rank them?
Middle East fans are definitely one of the most hardcore WWE fans in the world. I have been fortunate to have experienced it in Abu Dhabi before and this is my third time in the city.
I’ve also been to Saudi Arabia on two different occasions, so I’m very familiar with WWE Middle East fans. I know how great and welcoming they are and I’m very excited about the upcoming trip.
After eight years in the WWE how do you think your character has changed?
My character has gone from being Jamaican, to being athletic, to being a motivational speaker. I think when you have people in WWE that are there for a very long time, you have this self-development. This is so natural and I’m very interested in seeing where it will all go and where I will end up.
How did your story with WWE start? Can you give us a few career highlights?
My career with WWE started when I was in Boston and I had a try-out at the school I was training at. I got signed to a developmental contract and I was able to make it all the way to main roster.
One of my favourite moments was winning the Intercontinental champion-ship from Chris Jericho in 2008. It was also because my favourite WWE superstars were the Intercontinental champions like Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat and Jericho.
It was an honour to actually hold that title because of all the guys held it before me and they really inspired me to get that one.
Is winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship still one of your dreams?
Absolutely! As a kid, you always envision yourself as being at the top of the food chain, envision yourself as being the best. The mark of being the best in our industry is the world heavyweight championship. That is definitely one of my goals.
You have won several titles in your career. Which one is the most special? My first WrestleMania was Money in the Bank in 2009 and that was when I really felt like I had made it.
I have been a fan since I was a kid and when you imagine yourself as a WWE superstar, you imagine yourself at WrestleMania and in 2009, I actually did that. It was definitely like a lifetime achievement and a moment that I am very, very proud of.
What is your dream WWE showdown?
Myself taking on Shawn Michaels in Wrestle-Mania in the main event. Shawn Michaels, in my mind, is the greatest of all time.
Your favourite WWE moment? There has been so many. Maybe when RAW initially came out; no one really knew how big RAW was going to get. I think it was in 1994 that Monday Night RAW debuted on television and look at it now! We are a worldwide entity all because of what started on that day.
What other sports are you interested in?
I lift weight, I do a little bit of cardio, but when it comes to competing athletically, I haven’t competed in anything since high school. I played American football and wrestled in high school. However, being at WWE, you have to lift weights and work out to maintain the athleticism.
Can you name one WWE superstar that has influenced you the most? Rey Mysterio is one of my biggest influences, because he’s very small, one of the small-est superstars in WWE, and he’s able to do so much.
I remember watching him whilst growing up; I was very small too and a lot of people used to tell me that I’m too small to be a WWE superstar. When I saw Rey Mysterio on TV, I believed I can do it too.
What sort of music do you enjoy?
I listen to a whole lot of different things from Bob Marley to country music to hip-hop to classical music. Music is a big part of my life – growing up I played in bands, played the saxophone and I have the drums at home. I have different types of music on my iPod.
While in the Middle East, WWE NXT champion Sami Zayn explains his pride at representing the Arab community and portraying a different kind of Arab wrestler that doesn't rely on gimmick.