More than a spectator sport

November 28, 2021

A small-scale wrestling tour at the Avenue Mall, Lahore, proved to be a huge attraction

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Traditionally, in wrestling entertainment, there is a face and a heel, the good guy and the bad guy, respectively, in any ring. One for the audience to cheer on and the other for them to boo. — Image: Supplied

The scene was Avenue Mall’s lower ground floor in Lahore. There were shops on all sides, a furniture point towards the far end, an electronics goods outlet to the right, a superstore in the left corner; the near end had a branded motorcycle up for exhibition. In the middle of all this was a giant wrestling ring, next to which were two speakers, three DJs, a group of hype men yelling out names and calling for applause, and a commentary table where the announcer sat in a suit and tie. The ring had black turnbuckles and a black mat with WRG written in two corners.

WRG, or Wrestling Revolution Global, is the banner under which Pakistan’s first professional wrestling scene is trying to take off. The banner was created in February 2019.

The attendance was free. In fact, most of the spectators were regular mall-goers out shopping. Only a few people like me had seen the advertisements on social media and come to watch what professional wrestling can look like in Pakistan.

It wasn’t bad at all. As any boy growing up in the 1990s I was a huge WWF fan, before they changed it to WWE for the reason that it’s not actual sport and the action is scripted. But acting out a fight is just as much of an art form as being in one, and just because it’s a show doesn’t mean the body slams and slaps across the chest don’t hurt. The scripts may have become formulaic after all these decades but still need energetic investment by the performers to engage the audience.

Traditionally, in wrestling entertainment, there is a face and a heel, the good guy and the bad guy, respectively, in any ring; one for the audience to cheer on and the other for them to boo. The announcer makes things perfectly clear as he delivers loud salvos of names, weights and places of origin.

At the WRG show, the first wrestler to walk in threw a water bottle at the audience before he jumped into the ring, announcing his villainy. The first match had two giant bruisers in spandex grappling with each other looking like bulls locking horns. It ended with a chokehold tap-out.

The second match had a shirtless gentleman with a red mask on who came with the entrance music of George Michael’s Careless whispers, to which he did a somersault into the ring. He was swift and nimble and hailed from Faisalabad. He produced the night’s best move of a flying turnbuckle dive into his opponent, sending him flat on his back. But the dexterous red-hooded manoeuverer was eventually counted down to three after taking a DDT in the face.

On one occasion a wrestler brought out a table, stood it in the corner and threw the other wrestler into it, smashing it in half. Before that the first wrestler was hit in the head with a chair. These are staple ploys from WWE, like the leg locks, the power bombs, the body slams, the pile-drivers and sprinting off the ropes with clotheslines that were flying around the mat every two minutes. This might be all Greek to some, but for a couple of generations of us growing up in the ’80s and ’90s these are things we had tried on one another as children resulting in many torn ligaments and fractured bones. Many of us had gotten black and blue all over despite the parental scolding that preceded and followed these adventures.

Just because it’s a show doesn’t mean the body slams and slaps across the chest don’t hurt. — Image: Courtesy of Facebook


The tours are by no means small in ambition. Their production values are fantastic, the lighting, the announcements, the hype men on the ringside and the action are well rehearsed and well executed.

WRG is the brainchild of Abdullah Khawaja, who after graduating from Lahore School of Economics (LSE) went to what’s known as Al Snow’s Wrestling Academy in Dubai, where he learned the ropes, literally.

His idea was always to come back and train wrestlers in Pakistan in the hope of starting the country’s first professional academy and touring circuit. Entirely self-financed at first, Khawaja is now getting plenty of sponsors for his events. Though small in scale, the tours are by no means lacking in ambition. The production values are fantastic, the lighting, the announcements, the hype men on the ringside and the action are well rehearsed and well executed.

This was WRG’s 19th show since their inception in 2019; 16th in Lahore. They have done three in Islamabad. The original plan was to expand the activity to include more cities but Covid-19 restrictions came in the way of scheduled tours. Now that things are improving post-vaccination, they did a show in March where a Northern Ireland wrestler was invited and this one where an Afghan professional wrestler was featured.

Abdullah Khawaja himself participated under his own name, sporting a purple and black ensemble. There was Jibran Khan from Peshawar, weighing over 220 pounds; then there was a Blue Mysterioso (resembling his source of inspiration from WWE, the famous Rey Mysterio) from Lahore, weighing in at just 150 pounds. Besides, there were people from Larkana, Kasur and Gilgit, a very diverse list of graduates from Khawaja’s academy, all trained by him.

I for one would be happy to see a professional circuit develop in Lahore. The venues can stand improvement, because there was a time last Sunday when two wrestlers started fighting outside of the ring and almost went to the Carrefour checkout counter holding each other like tagged items, but with more funds and more word of mouth, and maybe some more views on their YouTube channel, WRG has a lot of potential to make it big here.

The average age of the countrymen is 23, and fun things for kids to do are few and far between. So, with enough warnings against injuring one’s cousins at home trying this, this has the scope to fill some of that entertainment void.

More events are scheduled at the Mall of Lahore, Packages and Emporium Mall already, and they are set to expand to other cities.


The author is a freelance writer/ journalist whose work has appeared in Eos, The Herald, Roads and Kingdoms, Firstpost, and Quartz



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