What’s On sits down with WWE NXT wrestling star Sami Zayn ahead of his ringside match at WWE Live in Abu Dhabi at Zayed Sports City.

Canadian-Syrian wrestling superstar Sami Zayn will be throwing his weight around – literally – with other favourites like John Cena, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler from February 12 to 14. Discover how he feels to be representing the Arab world (in tights no less) and what his parent’s thought about his career choice.

How does it feel to be in WWE? For me it is a huge deal, obviously being of Arab descent. I can come here, and in a way represent the Arab population as far as the world of wrestling goes. There has never been a representative for the Arab people in the WWE, or at least not in over 20 years. And Arabs haven’t always been represented in the most positive light in the media, so if I can do my part in changing that perception, then it is something I can be proud of.

When you first told your parents about wrestling, how did they react? They were pretty supportive, especially since they are old school Arab parents. But I don’t think they understood how far this would eventually go. I think they just saw it as a hobby. I remember I got my first booking 45-minutes out of town and then that was when my mom started saying – you had your fun, enough of your hopes. This is a quote, enough of your dreams and everything; get ready to go back to school. It progressively kept building. It got to a point where they had no idea where on planet earth I was. I would come home from Japan for a day to do laundry, pack more t-shirts and leave to Europe. But they are very supportive, especially now with WWE, they are prouder than ever.

So it was smooth sailing from the start? I have family all over in the Middle East who would tell me to give it up to become an engineer, a doctor, live the Arab dream of becoming an accountant something. All of a sudden they are watching videos on YouTube, real proud. It’s a big opportunity, sometimes I don’t realise the full gravity of it – but it is amazing.

What is happening at the match? I don’t know who I will be wrestling yet, but I’m hoping I will be defending the NXT championship. So many of our top stars are going to be there, from John Cena, Seth Rollins to Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler. I’m sure that anyone I wrestle against will be an entertaining match. That’s really my goal, to entertain the Arab people.

What’s the potential for wrestling stars from this region making it big? I was here in Dubai maybe six or seven months ago and came as part of a WWE tryout not only for the Middle East but India as well. The fact is WWE is very much in touch with the Middle East market and I know for a fact they are looking for more talent here. For the time being, I will hold down the fort though. (laughs)

What’s it like being in the ring? It’s basically non-stop motion. For the 20 minutes you are in the ring, from the second your music hits till the second you walk back there’s almost never one second where you are not moving in some way. You’re getting slammed, getting back up, jumping, picking some one up, ducking down, running. And add the fact there is the pressure of performance and the adrenaline of performing in such a loud crowd…. It’s just a very very unique thing and it’s my absolute favourite thing in the whole world.

Sami Zayn at WWE Live in Abu Dhabi

What’s your go-to-move? Helluva kick

How important are the fans during matches? It is an interactive performance. I mean you go to a movie and you’re not going to shout at the screen, you know? And it certainly won’t change the outcome of what happens but in wrestling – it does. If you cheer loud enough, or make enough noise it affects what happens in front of you.

Who was your favourite wrestler growing up? My first favourite wrestler was Hulk Hogan. I was five and I just knew this guy would get beaten up for a really long time and then he would win and people loved him. The pageantry, the showmanship of it spoke to me from a very young age. This six foot six sweaty guy, who’s just been through hell…it was very dramatic and very grand.

What music do you listen to? I’m a rock and roll kinda guy. I love bands like Rancid, Against Me, Dropkick Murphys, The Bouncing Souls. These are some of my favourites. I love Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. I’m a bit all over the place.

So nothing embarrassing on your iPod then? There’s definitely some random stuff. I don’t get embarrassed very easily – maybe some 80’s pop like the Dirty Dancing theme song or something like that. But that’s good. If it’s good, it’s good. I don’t discriminate.

February 12 to 14
Zayed Sports City Tennis Stadium, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, Thur and Fri 7pm, Sat 5pm, Dhs300. Tel: (800) 86823. Taxi: Zayed Sports City. ticketmaster.ae

Sami Zayn at WWE Live in Abu Dhabi