Saudi Arabia prepares for its first WWE women’s wrestling match tonight as Natalya takes on Lacey Evans in Riyadh
- WWE Crown Jewel 2019 is the fourth event in the franchise to happen in Riyadh
- Will feature the first professional women’s wrestling match hosted in the country
- Natalya will fight against Lacey Evans, but it is unclear what the pair will wear
- WWE has 10-year franchise deal with Saudi Arabia to host events in the kingdom
The first ever professional women’s wrestling match will take place in Saudi Arabia this evening at WWE Crown Jewel.
Stars Natalya and Lacey Evans are due to get in the ring together at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on Thursday night, as the kingdom tries to redefine itself as a tourism and entertainment hub.
However, it is not clear whether the pair will be allowed to wear their typically revealing outfits, or whether they will be forced to opt for a more modest alternative.
WWE stars Natalya (left) and Lacey Evans (right) are due to climb into the ring in Riyadh tonight at Crown Jewel 2019 in what will be the first women’s wrestling match in Saudi Arabia
It is not clear whether Natalya (right, in the ring with Ronda Rousey) and Lacey Evans will be allowed to wear their traditional costumes or will have to opt for something more modest
Mail Online has contacted WWE for a comment, but had not heard back by the time of publication.
The vast majority of Saudi women wear a black abaya, which covers the full face and body, to comply with the country’s strict decency laws.
However, the kingdom has been slowly walking back on such laws – with female tourists permitted to drop the abaya, provided they still dress ‘modestly’.
Women have also been permitted to drive cars, leave the house without a male escort and own passports as part of a reform agenda driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Bin Salman is attempting to diversify Saudi’s economy away from a reliance on oil by reinventing it as a hub of tourism, entertainment and investment.
The event will also feature a title fight between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez
Boxer Tyson Fury (left) will take on Braun Strowman (right) in a showpiece fight at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on Thursday night
The show will also feature a fight between ten competitiors including Saudi wrestler Mansoor (pictured right looking at the camera) who is fighting on Team Hogan against Team Flair
However, he has faced strong criticism over his human rights record – such as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the hundreds of executions Saudi carries out each year and the jailing of prominent female rights activists.
Crown Jewel is the fourth WWE event to take place in Saudi Arabia, following on from Greatest Royal Rumble, Crown Jewel 2018 and Super Showdown.
WWE has signed a 10-year franchise deal with Saudi to host matches in the country, that has caused controversy among some fans.
Also on the bill for Tuesday’s event is a title fight between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez, as well as a showpiece fight between boxer Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman.
Saudi wrestler Mansoor will also take on Cesaro further down the billing.
King Fahd International Stadium will play host to the event, which is the fourth WWE match to take place in Saudi Arabia
Speaking to WWE.com, the Saudi athlete said: ‘I cannot even begin to describe how much that means to me, how much that means to my little sisters, who love WWE, how much it means to my nieces, who love WWE and who fantasise and dream about being wrestlers.
‘When I first started… I had a lot of people asking me, “hey, do you think women are ever going to get to compete here?”
‘I was, like, “absolutely”, because when I grew up here the idea of men and women even sitting in the same arena to watch a show was unheard of. We have women driving now.
‘Just the changes that have been in this country, every single time I come back, are astronomical. I’m so incredibly proud that I am going to be there.’