Shadia Bseiso wrestles her way to history
From radio presenter to WWE, Shadia Bseiso is the first Arab woman to have the opportunity to train to become a WWE superstar and to represent the Middle East in wrestling. Growing up in Jordan, studying business in Lebanon and then moving to Dubai to start her own hosting company, Shadia, just 31 years old, tells us about her wrestling success and how she aims to make the Middle East proud.
Did you always know you wanted to be a WWE star?
WWE wasn't on TV in Jordan when I was a child, it was only when I was in Lebanon and Dubai that I heard about it. ... to represent my country as a WWE superstar wrestler didn't even enter my head. Especially with the lack of female athletes from the Middle East, my eyes had not even opened to the possibility.
All I knew is that I wanted to be in front of an audience and represent my country in some way. I would always get my sister to dress up with me and a family friend used to be a professional makeup artist so I used to get her to dress us up and do our makeup, and perform a show to my family.
How did you get into wrestling?
In the Middle East, Ju Jitsu and other forms of martial arts are part of the school physical education curriculum but it was only in 2013 that I started to take it up as a hobby. I've always been an ambitious person as well as slightly obsessive when it comes to something I love, so in just three months, I put 100 per cent into Ju Jitsu and won a bronze medal in my first competition. From there, I got super excited and started crossfit to get myself into better shape for the sport as I wanted to train on a more professional level.
It was quite ironic how I got into WWE because I was actually invited to a casting in January 2017 as a TV Presenter. I showcased my enthusiasm and passion for WWE and Ju Jitsu in the audition and then got a call to come and try out as an athlete a few weeks later!
The talent pool for the tryouts comprised 40 men and women from the Middle East and India with diverse backgrounds in sports and athletics, including power lifters, rugby and football players, amateur wrestlers, martial artists and fitness experts. It was such a wonderful moment to find out I had been chosen amongst such talent.
Have you always had a hard core fitness regime?
I started very late - getting into fitness. As I mentioned, I only started taking Ju Jitsu seriously in 2013. My drive for optimal fitness therefore only came 4 years ago, and effectively my calling for WWE only came along then also! Before that, I only did the basic PE classes at school and after school swimming club.
Being the first Arab woman to be chosen for WWE is a big responsibility. How are you dealing with the pressure?
I am honoured to be the first. This is a huge moment for Arab females and the development of the Arab world. It is a huge responsibility but I am ready for the challenge. I chose to try out for my country and I'm gonna do my best to make my people proud.
I've always wanted to represent my country in a way - so whichever way that is, it's good for me. This opportunity combines my passion for sports, entertainment and representing the Middle East for the first time. It's the perfect dream job and I'm going to give it my all.
Are you not scared of having your face smashed in the ring?
I know I'm gonna be coached by the best team, which on the whole should mean avoiding injuries. We will have a coach for every angle - this gives me a lot of structure to work with in avoiding an accident. Of course I'm afraid, but an injury can happen anywhere, in any sport or in any part of life. Being safe as an athlete is a very important part of the training.
What do your parents think of this chosen career path?
I got very lucky with my parents; they have always supported me in anything I have chosen to do. I didn't know how outside of the box I and my family were within the Arab world, until people kept asking me this question.
Although there was silence in the room when I initially told my parents face-to-face (I mean I hadn't trained in wrestling before) they were happy and supportive. 'Go and do your thing' they said!
How will you prepare until your training starts in 2018?
I got to meet some of the WWE athletes recently and I gained the best advice about how to prepare both physically and mentally. WWE is not just about athletic training, there will be acting and storytelling classes I will participate in, which will be emotionally challenging.
In the casting, we had 4 days of 3 sessions per day of wrestling, crossfit, conditioning training, in the ring training and camera work. If that's anything to go by, I know I need to have the ultimate starting basis to build on as an athletic performer to give me the best chance of excelling at WWE.
Wrestlers have careers up to 40 years these days, but I am aware I am in the higher end of the bracket at 31 years old. Either way I see this as an great opportunity inside and outside the ring.
Now some would say wrestling is predominately a male orientated sport. Would you call yourself a tomboy?
Well on the mat, it's all about the sport - no makeup, I don't care what I'm wearing, just aiming to showcase my skills and win!
Outside of the mat, I love to dress up. I enjoy everything to do with styling, makeup, a good salon, shopping etc.
People who know me outside of the ring are shocked when they see me in the ring and vice versa. I personally like the combination. We all have many different sides to us and we are definitely not one type of person.
I feel this makes me 360 degrees, an all-round woman.
Developing WWE skills
Bseiso will join a roster of international talent at WWE's Performance Center who hail from a variety of countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. The WWE Performance Center is the home of the developmental system for WWE. With seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning programme and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the Performance Center allows new recruits to hone their skills through a comprehensive programme that includes in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development. Additionally, recruits will be immersed in WWE's Professional Development program that focuses on four key pillars of development - Life skills, education, wellness and career success.
Don't miss it on TV
OSN, in collaboration with WWE has produced a one-hour behind-the-scenes special around the Dubai Try-Out. The programme is scheduled to premiere on OSN Sports Action 1 HD in late November.
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