More than two dozen pro wrestlers will be ready to rumble in Pakistan this summer as security improves, including former fighters from major US conglomerate World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), organisers said Wednesday.
Pakistani firm Pro Wrestling Entertainment said the fighters would take to the ring in the cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad starting in May.
“We have signed contracts with as many as 25 wrestlers of international repute to come to fight in Pakistan for the first time ever,” Pro Wrestling Entertainment director Imran Hussain Shah told AFP.
Without disclosing names, he said they came from countries including the US, Canada, Ireland, France, the UK and Algeria.
“Most of them have fought under the aegis of WWE and are big names,” he said.
The Pakistani firm had worked for a year to persuade fighters to come to Pakistan, which has been largely deserted by international sports stars during its fight against militancy lasting more than a decade.
“Security was the paramount issue for the agents who negotiated with us, but we positively convinced them of the improved security environment in Pakistan,” Shah said.
A militant attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in the Pakistani city of Lahore in 2009 halted visits by top-level cricket teams.
But Shah cited a boost from the recently completed Pakistan Super League (PSL), a domestic cricket tournament. Its final was successfully held in Lahore this month, with foreign cricketers taking part.
“The holding of the PSL has helped a lot in transforming the negative perception of our country to the international community,” Shah said.
While Mixed Martial Arts and other true combat sports have taken off worldwide, including in Asia, WWE-style wrestling entertainment has largely failed to gain a regional foothold aside from an established circuit in Japan.
But in recent years fledgling wrestling schools, national federations and amateur tournaments have mushroomed, mainly in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
© Agence France-Presse