Morecambe’s Tyson Fury has made a foray into the world of professional wrestling that will culminate in a fight against Braun Strowman at a WWE Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia on October 31.
Now that the dust has settled from last week’s announcement, we take a closer look at the matter.
How has this happened?
It was less than a fortnight ago that Fury, sitting front row at the WWE’s Smackdown Live event, had to be restrained by security after jumping the fan barricade in an attempt to confront Strowman. Matters escalated last week when the entire WWE roster intervened to separate the brawling pair on Monday Night Raw, leading to confirmation the pair would settle their feud later this month.
Why is he doing it?
Fury said at the press conference to announce the fight: “I’m a lifelong WWE fan and this is a fantastic opportunity for me.” While that may be true – and he will surely be paid handsomely for his involvement – the organisation has millions of ardent American followers and allows Fury to further his profile in the United States ahead of an expected return bout against Deontay Wilder next year.
Does this affect the Wilder rematch?
Quite possibly. Fury’s handlers would have preferred to wrap their client in cotton wool before an expected second bout against the WBC heavyweight champion in the early part of 2020 – following their controversial draw last December. As the WWE has in the past said themselves in an effort to dissuade its followers from trying out its wrestlers’ stunts: “Yes, this is entertainment but the hazards are real.”
So, Fury shouldn’t be doing this?
Fury needed more than 40 stitches to close two gaping wounds around his right eye – a large one on his eyebrow and a smaller one on the eyelid – following his unanimous decision victory over Otto Wallin last month. Wilder will almost certainly look to target the area if and when they tangle again, but it is unlikely Strowman will do so while any high-risk manoeuvres will probably be heavily discouraged.
What’s in it for the WWE?
This seems to be a quid pro quo arrangement. Fury, as the self-proclaimed lineal heavyweight champion of the world, is a household name and one of the biggest attractions in boxing. While his first fight with Wilder drew around a relatively modest 325,000 pay-per-view buys, Fury has been on a charm offensive in the United States since then and industry insiders suggest their rematch could exceed one million.
Okay, but why is the fight in Saudi Arabia?
Despite criticism from campaigners about the country’s human rights record among a number of other issues, the WWE has established a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Crown Jewel event at the King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi capital of Riyadh will be the organisation’s fourth PPV in the country. It is noticeable, however, that Fury has received considerably less backlash than compatriot Anthony Joshua did for announcing his own fight in Saudi Arabia.
Is Fury the first boxer to make the switch to wrestling?
No. Muhammad Ali was a guest referee for the main event at the first ever Wrestlemania, while Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather have also made high-profile appearances at the WWE’s flagship event. On the same bill as Fury, former UFC heavyweight titlists Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar will clash for the WWE Championship. Velasquez defeated Lesnar at UFC 121 in 2010 to dethrone Lesnar as UFC champion.