Britain’s biggest hope for unifying the world heavyweight boxing belts has made a triumphant foray into the world of WWE wrestling, in a bid to boost his profile among American fight fans. Tyson Fury was enticed to take part in the WWE Crown Jewel match, staged in the unlikely venue of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, to fight 6ft 8” “Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman. There was a four-week build-up to the encounter between Fury and Strowman, which raised eyebrows in the boxing world, including his very own team of promoters.
Strowman is a relative newcomer to the WWE scene himself, having started out in wrestling just four years ago. It was recently revealed that Fury had been originally planned to fight against Brock Lesnar, but discussions were reported to have stalled at the early stages. This may have been partly due to the fact the Lesnar may have been uneasy giving Fury an easy route to WWE stardom, while Strowman is someone seeking the same level of exposure that Fury craves.
$12 million for eight minutes’ work makes a decent pay-day for Fury
Some cynics will argue that Fury was doing it for the bumper pay-day. They might be right in some respects, given that his one-off WWE appearance was expected to earn him a whopping US$12 million. Fury himself has claimed that the chance to appear on WWE has fallen at just the right time, as he takes some self-enforced time out of the boxing ring after sustaining a serious cut to his eye during his latest narrow victory over Otto Wallin in Las Vegas. The win over Wallin sets Fury up nicely for his rematch with Deontay Wilder, which is scheduled for late February.
The Wilder Vs Fury match-up is already on the lips of boxing fans across the US. The original bout captured the imagination of US sportsbooks and viewers, as both boxers proved to be just as entertaining inside the ring as they were out of it. It’s nailed on that the leading US sportsbooks will go wild with bonuses and promotions in the build-up to the rematch, as the boxing world seeks to find a genuine contender to hold all world heavyweight belts. Fury’s appearance at the WWE Crown Jewel match will have done the reputation of the “Gypsy King” no harm at all in the eyes of Americans, as he seeks to win over the general public ahead of his second duel with Wilder.
Boxing’s history with WWE wrestling
Almost four million people in the US watched Fury’s inaugural appearance on Smackdown, and his eight-minute victory over Braun Strowman may also catapult him to more wrestling stardom in the months after his bout with Wilder. WWE has long been used as a marketing tool for boxers to build their profile. In 2008, Floyd Mayweather fought the Big Show during 2008’s WrestleMania 24. Mike Tyson arrived on the scene of WrestleMania 14 in 1998 as a guest enforcer, while even Muhammad Ali acted as a special guest at the inaugural WrestleMania way back in 1985.
Fury’s brawl with Strowman certainly didn’t disappoint. There was plenty of pomp and ceremony regarding Fury’s ring walk. The Manchester-born star made his way onto the walkway wearing a full Arab thawb, including headdress, as he sought to curry favor with the local WWE fans. There was an insane amount of pyrotechnics used too, which made it reminiscent of Mike Tyson’s WWE appearance.
In terms of the action itself, there was a heap of trash talking, with Strowman proclaiming that WWE was “my ring”. However, after Fury “withstood” several blows from Strowman, it was Fury who would go on to prevail by catching Strowman with an earth-shattering right hand that pushed him out of the ring and onto the floor. After embarrassing Strowman on his own patch, Fury refused to rule out returning for another WWE appearance, but insisted that he had a “big fella called Deontay Wilder to see to” first.
Fury’s attention turns to “The Bronze Bomber”
Fury’s boxing team will have everything crossed that he returns to training without having sustained any additional injuries from his WWE Crown Jewel match. Although – whisper it quietly – wrestling is predetermined and not a real sport – the harsh reality is that wrestlers do often pick up nasty injuries. When you consider the physical punishment they endure being thrown in and out of wrestling rings throughout the year, it’s little surprise. That said, Fury’s bout with Strowman was sufficiently choreographed so that he didn’t have to engage in anything too risky that could put his rematch with Wilder in doubt.
One of the biggest stories to come out of Fury’s appearance at WWE Crown Jewel was the revelation that Saudi Arabian chiefs have sought to try and hijack the Fury Vs Wilder rematch and tempt the pair to fight in Riyadh instead of Las Vegas. Fury revealed on iFL TV that he and his team had received a “massive offer” to move the event from the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip to Riyadh. Fury admitted that he would need to “sit down as a team” with all his advisers, including promoter, Frank Warren, and “thrash it out”. On the face of it, it would seem somewhat surprising to move the fight to Riyadh given that Fury’s WWE appearance was seemingly all about building up his profile in North America.
In the summer, it looked like Dillian Whyte had usurped Tyson Fury in the race to fight Deontay Wilder. Whyte powered his way past Oscar Rivas to become the WBC ‘interim’ champion and the mandatory challenger for Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title in 2020. However, subsequent legal issues meant that Wilder’s status as ‘interim’ champion and mandatory challenger was suspended by the WBC, who recently agreed to install Fury as next year’s challenger, with Whyte potentially getting a shot in 2021 if his legal situation is resolved.