WWE signs first woman wrestler from Arab world in global push

 

DUBAI (Reuters) - World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. signed its first female performer from the Arab world on Sunday, smashing cultural taboos as the U.S.-based pageant seeks to piledrive its way into lucrative foreign markets.

Shadia Bseiso, a Jordanian versed in jiu-jitsu, dreams of encouraging more Arab women to take up sports - and of one day maybe even crashing a metal chair over WWE mega-star John Cena.

"Female athletes are finally getting the credit they deserve. The world is more open to that, and in terms of how the region will react to it, I'm hoping its going to be very positive," said Bseiso.

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Professional wrestling through the years
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Professional wrestling through the years
Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (R) argues with wrestler "Triple H" as he referees the championship match of the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) SummerSlam event at Target Center in Minneapolis, August 22. Jesse "The Body" Ventura is a former wrestler and commentator for the WWF. He has donated his $100,000 payment for refereeing to charity but is expected to make up to one million dollars in royalty payments from the Pay-Per-View event. EM/HB
NEW YORK, NY - 1987: Randy 'Macho Man' Savage signals number one during his WWF match with Sika circa 1987 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
383804 01: The Rock And Stone Cold Steve Austin Star In 'Wwf Smackdown.' (Photo By Getty Images)
1985: Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat wrestles with Don 'The Magnificent' Muarco during their WWF match circa 1985. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
Former heavyweight boxing champion champion Mike Tyson (R) approaches World Wrestling Federation star wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (C) as he is held by opponent Shawn Michaels (L) during a promotional appearance in Boston's Government Center, March 26. Tyson kissed Austin rather than hit him when he reached the wrestler. Tyson will appear with Michaels and Austin in the WWF's "Wrestlemania XIV" broadcast live from Boston's Fleetcenter, March 29. TYSON
1987: Randy 'Macho Man' Savage poses for a portrait before his WWF match circa 1987. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-r) Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan during an interview with host Johnny Carson on June 15, 1982 -- (Photo by: Jospeh Del Valle/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
1987: Randy 'Macho Man' Savage lies on the mat bloodied with Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat during their WWF steel cage match circa 1987. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, UNITED STATES: Minnesota Governor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura (L) is adorned with his former trademarks, sequined sunglasses and a feather boa, by wrestler Chyna during a press conference at the Target Center in Minneapolis, MN 14 June 1999 where he announced that he will return to the ring as guest referee in the SummerSlam wrestling event 22 August 1999 in Minneapolis. Governor Ventura said that 'There's no rule that says a governor can't have fun. There's no rule that says a governor on his own time can't be a human.' AFP PHOTO/CRAIG LASSIG (Photo credit should read CRAIG LASSIG/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 09: WWF reigning Women's Champion Sable signs autographs at Irwin Toys showroom at 1115 Broadway (Photo by Robert Rosamilio/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - JULY 12: New cruiserweight champion Rey Mysterio Jr acknowledges the crowd after defeating Jericho during the WWE Bash at the Beach event at Cox Arena in San Diego, California on July 12, 1998. (Photo by Elsa /Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 17: World Wrestling Federation (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
CANADA - DECEMBER 28: Seka (above) is big 'n mean; but when Ricky (The Dragon) Steamboat is hot there are few foes in the World Wrestling Federation who can take the heat. At right; Seka feels the The Dragon's wrath; much to the satisfaction of Maple Leaf Gardens fans; below. (Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
New York - JANUARY 1 : WWF Wrestler (L) Jacques Rougeau puts a drop kick on Smash of Demolition during a WWF match on January 1,1988 at Nassau Coliseum in New York, New York. (Photo by: B Bennett/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 17: World Wrestling Federation (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
370782 03: World Wrestling Federation's Wrestler Rock Poses June 12, 2000 In Los Angeles, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 18: World Wrestling Entertainment Wrestlers Kurt Angle (L) and Triple H attend a media conference announcing the all-star lineup of WWE WrestleMania XIX at ESPN Zone in Times Square March 18, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)
WWE Owner Vincent Kennedy McMahon (c) flanked by superstars The Undertaker (l) and Brock Lesnar (r) (Photo by Simon Galloway - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 2: (U.S. TABLOIDS OUT) WWE wrestlers Rey Mysterio (in gold) and Chris Jericho perform on stage during the '1st Annual Video Game Awards' at the MGM Grand Garden Arena December 2, 2003 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show premieres on Spike T.V. Thursday, December 4 at 9:00PM ET/PT. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Big Pappa Pump celebrates victory over Test during the WWE Raw Aggression Tour event at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park July 31, 2003 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - APRIL 05: Triple H retains the WWE Championship belt after defeating Randy Orton at 'WrestleMania 25' at the Reliant Stadium on April 5, 2009 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/WireImage)
HOUSTON - APRIL 05: Triple H hits Randy Orton with a sledgehammer during their WWE Championship match at 'WrestleMania 25' at the Reliant Stadium on April 5, 2009 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/WireImage)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 5: (L-R) Actor Mickey Rourke celebrates with Ric Flair after beating WWE Superstar Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 25 at Reliant Stadium on April 5, 2009 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bill Olive/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: General view of the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: Big Show attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: Big Show and Alberto Del Rio battle during their WWE match at the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
A moment of the show during the WWE Live in Turin. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)
A athletic position during the wrestling match of WWElive in Turin (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)
Alberto Del Rio in a moment of the show during the WWE Live in Turin. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)
John Cena in a moment of the show during the WWE Live in Turin. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)
Wrestlers fight during a show at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, as part of the WrestleMania Revenge Tour, the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) European tour, on April 22, 2016. / AFP / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Wrestlers Ryback and Kalisto fight during a show at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, as part of the WrestleMania Revenge Tour, the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) European tour, on April 22, 2016. / AFP / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Roman gestures during the WWE show at Zenith Arena on may 09, 2017 in Lille, France. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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While women exercising in public is rare in the Arab world and the local entertainment industry often relegates them to docile roles, big companies such as Nike have stepped up advertising geared towards female athletes.

Still, the high octane physicality and outrageous storylines of professional wrestling remain a novelty in the region.

Speaking to Reuters in the WWE's Dubai office, Bseiso said she made sure to tell her parents about her colorful career choice in person.

After announcing she would join the ranks of the WWE, they paused in disbelief for a moment, she said, worried for her safety in the often bruising shows.

They support her fully, she added, as she now heads to the company's Orlando, Florida, training center for grueling in-ring training and what WWE calls "character development" - transformation into one of their trademark big personalities.

She has a Jordan-themed persona in mind, she says, declining to elaborate.

(Shadia Bseiso via REUTERS/Satish Kumar)

For decades a quintessential if curious emblem of Americana, professional wrestling has now won die-hard fans in the Arab world and beyond, and features widely in apparel and toys.

WWE's reach deeper into new demographics makes plenty of business sense for the $1.5 billion Connecticut company, which has also recently signed several Indian and Chinese athletes in the hope of snaring millions of potential new devotees.

"Recruiting Shadia to join our developmental system underscores WWE's ongoing commitment to building a talent roster as diverse as our fan base," said Paul "Triple H" Levesque, WWE Executive Vice President and himself a popular wrestler.

Bseiso insists the quirky genre has room to expand if only fans could find a hero from home.

"As it is, the WWE's incredibly popular in the Middle East, but I think having athletes from the region who grew up here - it will change things. You finally have someone to root for."

(Editing by Mark Potter)

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