When Mansoor won the battle royal at Super ShowDown in Jeddah earlier this year, the result was met with more than a couple of raised eyebrows.
However like much of the discourse around Saudi Arabia at the moment, this result was not about now, but more so the future.
Social media was alight with cynicism when the young Saudi defeated some of the industry’s elite – he was after all a developmental talent being handed a huge win in front of his home fans.
While many scoffed, they were not there. They didn’t hear the ‘pop’. Or see children, and many older fans, crying tears of joy at the sight of one of their own doing what only months previously would have been deemed impossible.
“People say it was a hometown pop, the hometown kid getting the win, but what they don’t understand is this is not just a guy from Cleveland winning in Cleveland,” Mansoor said. “It’s the first time someone from this country had performed in the ring in that country – ever, and for people there and everyone watching it meant more than just that.
“It means there would be a second Saudi, a third Saudi, a fourth, and hopefully hundreds more in the future of this business who are going to be able to do exactly that.”
Mansoor is the living embodiment of the dreams taking place across the Kingdom, and not only can he inspire the stars of tomorrow, but he can also educate the fans of today – which could have even more impact.
The viewpoints around the WWE’s 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia have been vociferously expressed, but in Mansoor we have an affable superstar who can scotch the misconceptions.
Speaking fondly of the moments following his battle royal win, which saw him jump into the crowd to embrace his family, Mansoor talks about the wider impact of his victory.
“I ended up in the arms of my brother, who introduced me to WWE – without him I wouldn’t be – and then my father.
“One of the things I often talk about is there is a lot of Saudis like my father who, believe WWE is not for us,” he says. “It is not a part of our culture, it doesn’t reflect well on us because typically there have been a lot of Middle East stereotypes, or characters who don’t reflect well on our culture.
“I think for him to be able to see in such an incredible fashion, to see me defy what we thought possible, it means everything to me. And if I can do that for all the other dads and moms who tells their kids this isn’t for us then that is a dream come true.”
At its core, wrestling is a battle between good guys and bad guys. Go back 20 to 30 years and those bad guys were likely to be non-American, from countries little understood by a US audience and the results were stark.
This ranged from anti-US factions at the time of the Gulf War, to Arab superstars with a clear distain for the States. Today we are in a very different space.
“There have been a lot of ethnic stereotypes in wrestling, it is the same in movies, it is the same in the media where there are foreign guys pigeon-holed as bad guys. If you were a WWE superstar in the 80s or 90s and they were put in that role, it’s just what you had to do to put food on the table.
“I think we are very lucky to be in a global climate now where it is ok to be an Arab, or be wherever you are from – that is not the entirety of your character but just shows a little piece of who you are.
“What I said after Super ShowDown is that I wanted to prove to people they can do whatever they want to do. I also wanted to show everyone else in the world that Saudis can do whatever they want to do.”
Mansoor will return to Saudi Arabia at Crown Jewel in Riyadh on October 31.
Tickets are available from www.TicketMX.com.
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