DUBAI// With barely a second to take in a gulp of air, professional wrestling hopefuls were trained to run the ropes, hit the mat and take knocks under the watchful eyes of talent spotters.
Forty men and women from across the Middle East and India are being pushed to their limit and beyond this weekend as part of a global search by WWE at Dubai Opera House.
Martial artists, bodybuilders and rugby players were invited to prove their potential to start on the path to stardom, like Canadian-Arab star Sami Zayn, discovered himself in a developmental talent show.
Mohammed Al Braik, a 21-year-old Emirati, also known as Fayez Al Emarat when he competes in Dubai Pro Wrestling, was surprised at the intensity of the training.
“We’ve been doing many drills like running the ropes, rolls as well as hundreds of squats, push-ups and sit ups,” he said.
“But this has been a dream of mine since I was three and to be here training with the WWE is just amazing.”
He admitted his parents were not initially keen but he managed to talk them around.
“My parents have given me their full support because they know how much I want it,” he said.
“I appreciate if I manage to get through that it will mean moving to the US and seeing my family much less but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”
Although he has been with Dubai Pro Wrestling for three years, there are some differences with the way the WWE do things.
“We tend to wrestle in a boxing ring so it’s much smaller and it’s sold wood but the WWE ring we are training in is bigger and has a bit more protective matting and has more give when you hit the canvas,” he said.
The WWE’s talent scouts are in Dubai for four days.
The tryouts conclude tomorrow, when those who have made the cut will be offered the chance to continue their training at the WWE’s Performance Centre in Orlando.
Shadia Bseiso, 30, a Jordanian who works as a TV presenter in Dubai, is hoping to be one of those on the plane to the United States.
Although she does not have a background in wrestling she is hoping her Brazilian Jujitsu skills will give her an advantage.
“I’m a fitness fanatic and also do a lot of CrossFit, but even with all that the training we have been doing during the tryouts has been intense,” she said.
Theparticipants will also get the chance to display their camera skills. “I hope my experience being in front of a TV cameras helps when we do the promo training but we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.
“So far only my close family know that I’ve taken part in the tryouts so when my friends see this they’re in for a shock but I’m determined to become the first Arab woman from the region to join the WWE.”
Also taking part is former Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball pitcher Rinku Singh.
“It’s just awesome to be here and the level required by the WWE is at such a high level that you have to give 110 per cent all the time,” said Mr Singh, who became MLBs first Indian players after winning the reality TV show The Million Dollar Arm.
William Regal, former WWE star and now the company’s vice-president of global scouting and talent, said he was impressed at the quality of the participants.
“It’s only a matter of time before we see someone from this region really make it in the professional wrestling industry.”
“I’ve already seen several people who are likely to go through to our performance centre and that’s when the real hard work begins.”