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Former WWE Star Mansoor Discusses Growing Up In Saudi Arabia

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Mansoor made history in his time with WWE between 2018 and 2023 as the first Saudi Arabian wrestler to compete in the company. He discussed growing up in Saudi Arabia during "Keepin' it 100," having spent much of his childhood in the Middle Eastern nation. 


"Every kid in Saudi Arabia plays soccer — we call it football over there, that's the national sport. Much like many countries, it's kind of the only sport that matters," he said. "I was never that big of a fan. I was kind of the black sheep in that sense. I just loved wrestling, but there was no outlet for that. When I was really little all I could do was buy cheap rip-offs of the [WWE] pay-per-views, you could buy them for two bucks over there. So that's how I watched all the pay-per-views."


Mansoor spoke about his American mother's transition from living in the US to living in Saudi Arabia. As a woman who had served in the military and owned her own business, Mansoor’s mother found herself in a situation where she couldn't drive and had to adhere to a traditional dress code.


"Being told she couldn't drive, she couldn't go outside not wearing complete covering, the Abaya and the Hijab, was very difficult for her," he said. 


Mansoor shared an anecdote of a time his mother had to carry him to the local pharmacy in the rain, given that she was forbidden from driving, and as she arrived she wasn't wearing a head covering. A police officer told her she needed to cover up, to which she refused, and the officer aimed his gun at her. Mansoor concluded the story by saying that his mother called up and got the officer fired when she got home. 


Mansoor on progressive change in Saudi Arabia


Mansoor moved from Saudi Arabia as an early adolescent. Upon returning to the nation in the years since he described how crazy it feels to see some of the progressive changes made in the country. The Gulf nation has drawn widespread criticism for its authoritarian government, alleged human rights violations, and ties to assassinations, as well as imposing restrictions on its citizens' dating life and displays of affection. Mansoor pointed to the latter, as well as progressive women's rights, as positive steps to have been made.


"So much has changed, I see guys and girls going on dates, which is crazy to me," said the former WWE star. "Because back in the day, I mean, I knew a guy who was taken in the back of a van and lashed because he was out with a girl he wasn't related to."


Mansoor addressed the controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia from a Western standpoint, opining that it is due to a disparity in the freedoms of the two regions. He said he feels that the small progressive steps are not appreciated by those looking in from the outside, but are felt significantly by those living in the Kingdom. 


"For people in Saudi Arabia, every little step is a big deal, and I know that because I lived there before all these steps were taken, and I have seen it after all these steps were taken. I think people who are expecting the totality of the culture to shift immediately are not understanding just how difficult it is and how traditional and conservative Saudi society is. So, just the fact that women can drive and there is no punishment for taking a girl out, to me, is a huge leap forward."


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