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Pro wrestlers return to China as global bouts resume after pandemic


By Casey Hall

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Not only presidents and chief executives are making their way to China to reconnect after three years of border closures, but also international professional wrestlers, who returned this week after the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s professional league, Middle Kingdom Wrestling (MKW), held its championship card of eight bouts on Tuesday evening, featuring both domestic and foreign contestants before a live audience of about 350 fans cheering every body slam.

“We are glad to let the world know, ‘Hey, Chinese wrestling is back’,” said event promoter Adrian Gomez.

A cast of colourfully dressed characters – both heroes and villains – hammed it up for the audience, in the spirit of the storied WWE, the best-known pro wrestling body.

International participants included former WWE pro wrestler Yoshi Tatsu from Japan and Malaysia’s Nor “Phoenix” Diana, who is known as the first hijab-wearing pro wrestler.

For those inclined to view events in light of the competition between China and the United States, a neat bit of theatre played out, as Chinese wrestler Wang Tao defeated his American opponent to win the “Belt and Road Championship”.

Gomez said the return of international wrestlers signalled a huge change in fortunes for Chinese pro wrestling, which has battled to stage domestic live matches since COVID curbs were imposed in early 2020, sometimes with no audience at all.

“It was really difficult … But we’ve made it to the other side. I can’t put it any other better way,” he added.

(Reporting by Casey Hall; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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