Natalya Sees History-Making Match in Saudi Arabia as Bigger Than Wrestling

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WWE's Natalya takes a selfie with a fan in Saudi Arabia

Natalya Neidhart made sacrifices throughout her entire adult life for this moment.

The payoff wasn’t headlining WrestleMania. Or finally taking claim of a WWE women’s title.

It may not sound like much, but Neidhart took one of the most meaningful selfies in the history of professional wrestling.

Neidhart’s outstretched right arm caught the image of her and a passionate young female fan in the front row of this past Thursday's Crown Jewel show at Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd International Stadium.

WWE’s photographer snapped a photo mid-selfie, capturing another perspective of the worldwide leader in pro wrestling’s trips to Saudi Arabia. And if a camera is truly an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera, then this picture is a symbol for overcoming perceived limitations.

The young lady in the background celebrating the moment. The curious, almost puzzled look by the grown men in the shot’s peripheral. On first glance, they, too, appear to be enjoying the sudden outburst of emotion.

“It was bigger than a wrestling match, it was bigger than WWE,” said Neidhart, who wrested Lacey Evans in the first-ever women’s pro wrestling match in Saudi Arabia. “I immediately saw that girl sitting in the front row. I hugged the girls, and that hug felt so good.”

Saudi Arabia has historically denied women many basic rights, though strides have been made in recent years. As of 2018, women were no longer forbidden to drive cars, and women from Saudi Arabia competed in their first Olympics in 2012. In August, women over 21 were given the right to travel abroad without first receiving permission from a male guardian. 

The women’s match did not solve any international crisis, nor will it provide additional rights to women in Saudi. It does not justify WWE’s business relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But it certainly was a moment that has the potential to awaken and inspire.

“If you’re a little girl or woman that has ever had a dream and it seems impossible, just know that it is possible,” said Neidhart. “We are proof of that.”

Neidhart has stood for equality her entire career, fighting to give herself and the women surrounding her the opportunity to succeed on a grander scale than ever before.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion before I even came to the ring,” said Neidhart. “The little girls and the women in the audience wanted to embrace us. I live for those moments.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.