Saudi Arabia set for first WWE women’s wrestling match

WWE promotional image showing Lacey Evans and NatalyaImage copyright WWE

The first women’s wrestling match in Saudi Arabia takes place on Thursday, as the country takes steps towards relaxing strict rules on entertainment.

The contest, in Riyadh, features WWE stars Natalya and Lacey Evans.

It is not clear whether the wrestlers will be required to “dress modestly”, as foreign tourists must do.

Saudi Arabia has attempted to shake off its image as one of the world’s most repressive countries for women in recent years by introducing reforms.

The government lifted a long-standing ban on women driving in 2018 and made changes to the male guardianship system this August, allowing women to apply for passports and travel independently without permission.

However, women continue to face numerous restrictions on their lives, and several women’s rights activists who campaigned for the changes have been detained and put on trial. Some of them have alleged that they have been tortured in prison.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Former boxing champion Tyson Fury is also taking part in the WWE Crown Jewel event

Thursday’s landmark match is part of the WWE Crown Jewel event taking place at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium, which can seat 68,000 spectators.

Former boxing champion Tyson Fury will also be competing.

“When I signed up for WWE my goal was to really impact the world and the people that I can, and we’re doing it one day at a time,” Lacey Evans tweeted on Wednesday, after the line-up was announced.

Natalya wrote: “The world will be watching. I am so incredibly proud to represent our women’s division tomorrow night at #WWECrownJewel. It’s time to bring your best, Lacey.”

Saudi wrestler Mansoor, who will be squaring off against Cesaro, told that many female members of his family could not wait to watch the match live.

“I cannot even begin to describe how much that means to me, how much that means to my little sisters, who love WWE, how much it means to my nieces, who love WWE and who fantasise and dream about being wrestlers,” he said.

Mansoor added: “When I first started… I had a lot of people asking me, ‘hey, do you think women are ever going to get to compete here?’

“I was, like, ‘absolutely’, because when I grew up here the idea of men and women even sitting in the same arena to watch a show was unheard of. We have women driving now. Just the changes that have been in this country, every single time I come back, are astronomical. I’m so incredibly proud that I am going to be there.”