The WWE’s chief brand officer, Stephanie McMahon, was recently in Dubai to appear at a Women in Leadership Panel and to take part in he launch of WWE Wal3ooha, an Arabic show on the sports entertainment company that will appear on OSN.
While in the UAE, McMahon took time out to talk to The National about the WWE’s role in the UAE, the rise of the Women’s Division, working with Kurt Angle again and being part of Triple H’s entrances to WrestleMania.
On the WWE expanding its work and role in the Middle East and the UAE
“First of all we had our tryouts here in Dubai, and the tryout has been incredibly successful. We had nearly 40 talents trying out, representing close to 20 different countries and 10 of those who were trying out were women.
“In terms of growing our presence here in the Middle East, localisation is a huge part of that strategy and we couldn’t be more proud to take our partnership with OSN to the next level and have the opportunity to super serve our fans with localised, in language, content.”
On if the WWE were considering having a Network Special event in the UAE following the success of Beast in the East in Japan in 2015
“Absolutely. We are examining all different growth opportunities across all lines of business. Again, this new localised show Wal3ooha really is the first step of the process.”
More on WWE
■ Cesaro and Sheamus: On WrestleMania 33 and Liverpool's title ambitions
■ Alexa Bliss: On her career in WWE and dream match with Trish Stratus
On her appearance at the Women in Leadership Panel in Dubai
“The women’s leadership panel was absolutely incredible. I had the opportunity to share the stage with some really remarkable women, who are business leaders and professionals who are really doing an amazing job.”
On the rise of the Women’s Division in WWE
“I think role models are incredibly important, especially to girls and women and that is one of the things that I am so excited about with the women’s evolution that has taken place in our business.
“Women have always held a role in our genre and every woman who has ever stepped foot in a ring has helped to contribute to this rise of women as female athletes in our business.
“But really it was most recently it was a movement that was created by our audience. At the time our women’s division was branded the Divas division and our fans started a hashtag called #givedivasachance in response to a 30-second women’s tag-match that had happened on our programming.
“Vince McMahon, our chairman and CEO, and yes, also my father, responded [on Twitter] and said “We hear you. Keep watching #givedivasachance” and since that time we have had the opportunity to rebrand the Divas division as I mentioned before and now all our women are called Superstars, the same as the men.
“They have been given the opportunity to have more main event matches taking place on television and pay-per-view events and it has been incredible and now I see many more little girls in the audience wearing Bayley’s armbands or Sasha Banks glasses or T-shirts.
“It really is incredible to watch these young girls look up to these very strong, not only physically but mentally, strong incredible female athletes that are our Superstars.”
On there being two Women’s Championship matches on the card at WrestleMania 33 in April
“I am incredibly proud every time I watch our women perform, but I am especially proud at WrestleMania and to have those two matches, and see the performances that they all delivered, I was incredibly proud.”
On her feelings of getting the crowd to cheer her going through a table at WrestleMania 33 and when she is expected back on TV
“I take tremendous pride in the fact that I am doing my job,” she said of the loud cheers that came from the crowd following her fall backwards off the ring and through a table during the match between Triple H and Seth Rollins. She has not appeared on TV since WrestleMania 33 and she said of when she expected to return: “Honestly, I don’t know and that is the God’s honest truth.”
On getting to be part of WrestleMania 33 and making it a family affair
“There are no words to describe what that feels like. Coming out on the back of Triple H’s bike, being led out by the motorcade of Orlando Police officers and in front of over 75,000 people is a feeling that you really can’t articulate. I think fun is absolutely one of those words, but it is so many different things. Also pride. WrestleMania is an event my father created and to be a part of it, and not only to be a part of the event my father created, but also to be supporting my husband, who is one of the most iconic performers of all time. Having my brother [Shane McMahon, who fought AJ Styles] compete on the same show, and in the crowd is my mum and three daughters. I mean, it doesn’t get any bigger than that.”
On the challenge to find new ideas for entrances to WrestleMania for Triple H each year
“In terms of the entrances, yes, it is a challenge to top ourselves every year. But it is a challenge to top ourselves with the matches every year. But that is absolutely our goal to do that and I have been so privileged to have those opportunities and hopefully there will be another one.”
On working with Kurt Angle again in the future
Angle has returned to WWE programming after a gap of more than 10 years and is the new General Manager of Raw. He and McMahon were involved in a number of storylines around Angle’s first time in WWE between 1999 to 2006 and McMahon said: “I can’t wait to work with Kurt. Kurt is so entertaining. He is really funny. I think it is going to be so much and hopefully having that interaction and this time the situation is a little bit different as I am the boss.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport