Only In April

By on April 30, 2018

It is a little after 2 am somewhere in Kanombe, right next to Kigali International Aiport – in the Eastern part of Kigali City. The rain is coming down with noisy relentlessness and it seems apparent that everyone in the neighbourhood is dead asleep. Why wouldn’t they be? Such weather is designed for wild dreams, plenty of body covers and a whole lot of pleasure under the sheets.

Sleep has however eluded me for several hours but I’m not complaining. Tonight, insomnia can have me all she wants and I won’t worry much because most of my Monday plans don’t start till later in the afternoon. Besides, the client I am in Kigali to meet scheduled our meeting for 4 pm. So I have enough time to fight insomnia – or be her slave.

My presence in Kigali is a culmination of events that have rapidly unfolded with little room for me to catch my breath. The events have included a very lengthy yet fulfillling conversation with a new dad named Tony at the South African Airways office at Entebbe Airport – Uganda, a fierce argument about Mohamed Salah with a chatty Liverpool supporter named Vincent in Johannesburg – South Africa, a photo-op with a popular wrestler at the Ticket Pro Dome in Randburg, and a discussion about Manchester United with a friend named Charles in Kigali – Rwanda.

At the start of April, I received an email from Multichoice Africa regarding a travel plan they had hatched out. The email kindly wondered whether I was okay and went ahead to ask if I could create time in my busy schedule to travel to South Africa for a few days. Having done quite a bit of work for them in the past, I figured this would be a great arrangement. And then I read the email further and realized I was being invited for a rather momentous event – The Johannesburg leg of the WWE LIVE SOUTH AFRICA! Without necessarily losing my mind with excitement, I accepted the invite and started planning for what would turn out to be the trip of a lifetime.

The trip itself was slated for 21st April and the idea was to be in Johannesburg in time for a WWE event happening at the Ticket Pro Dome in Ransburg. The good people at DSTV Uganda and Multichoice Africa made sure everything was planned perfectly well to the dot.

Most times when one is flying from Entebbe Airport to any place no earth, there is not much in the way of conversation with random strangers at the airport. The few times I have grabbed a flight from Entebbe, most people are either rushing to catch their flight, having been stuck in the Entebbe Road Traffic for hours or they are busy selling you some product or service and aren’t entirely interested in genuine conversation about the weather, World Politics or the latest iPhone but rather making a sale.

The one person I spoke at length to was a decent guy named Tony at the South African Airways lounge. He had just gotten a son and was in very high spirits although his laid back demeanour did not prove it. We talked about this and that as I counted down to Check in time. And once I had checked in, I kept wondering whether he would teach his little boy to love airplanes and travel.

My trip to Johannesburg was as peaceful as they come. However, the moment I arrived at O.R Thambo Airport in Johannesburg, it was clear that silence and peace had stayed on the plane. The guy who picked me from the Airport turned out to be quite a chatty fella. And he made me smile a lot, considering I had spent the entire journey stuck in the pages of Stephen King’s On Writing which I am re-reading only for the third time. The drive from the Aiport to the Capital 20 West Hotel should have been longer because I was absolutely loving Vincent’s conversation about Liverpool possibly winning the Champions League.

Arrival in most major cities in South Africa opens your eyes to the importance of certain little things in your own country. For instance, a few weeks ago when I was in Cape Town, there were huge signs reminding everyone to use water sparingly. On arrival at Cape Town International Airport, I almost got the feeling water was being rationed with designated shower hours for everyone. There was a well publicised countdown to Day-Zero (A time when human beings in Cape Town would start bathing sea water, drinking only beer and using their urine to do laundry). Arrival at O.R Thambo airport in Johannesburg was less dramatic. There might have been a few signs telling people to use water sparingly but it wasn’t as dramatic as Cape Town.

I asked Vincent about the water crisis and he mentioned that people in Cape Town were just cry babies and the situation was actually not that bad.

We then proceeded to the Hotel to meet the rest of the team that had been invited by Multichoice. The guys at Multichoice very smartly selected some people from across the continent to attend the Johannesburg offering of WWE LIVE SOUTH AFRICA – all expenses paid of course, and I happened to be one of the lucky few among the ten or so that were selected. And so when I met up with the rest of the team (I was the last to arrive but ended up having the most fun) the activity was already in full gear. A visit to the Supersport Studios in Johannesburg, a dinner with the WWE wrestlers before the event and a welcome tour of the city were on the cards for this lucky lot.

And so when the event itself kicked off on Saturday afternoon, we had drunk in just about enough of the much talked about Johannesburg air we were ready for the epic WWE event at the Ticket Pro Dome in Sandton.

In the background the Dome imposes itself. And in the foreground the three gorgeous ladies from Multichoice who hosted us – Thami, Kamo and Busi.

The Ticket Pro Dome is a massive place – it really is. The facility seats no less than 20,000 people and is equipped with the most mind blowing lighting and sound. If there is anything I have learnt about international events, it is the planning and timing. Everything happens according to plan and anything that veers off the plan is either abandoned or tweaked right away to fit into the bigger plan.

Attending any wrestling event anywhere in the world is something of a big deal. You will typically find all ages of people wearing and carrying around dummy belts, t-shirts and banners with interesting statements.

“Marry Me Roman Reigns”

“Delete. Delete. Delete.”

“Seth Freakin Rollins”

“Skull Reaper Kana”

“Get These Hands”

“Asuka Take Me to Japan”

“Legit Boss Sasha Banks”

Whether it was the merchandising, photography or massive crowds outside the Dome, everything seemed like it had been choreographed a hundred times before. The organizers of the event were probably not too interested in falling behind schedule or missing anything on the line up because of time. And so everything took place right on time.

Let there be no doubt. I was there!

WWE LIVE SOUTH AFRICA was an event brilliantly promoted by Big Concerts and presented in close partnership with SuperSport, Africa’s premier sports broadcaster on MultiChoice. Supersport airs WWE programming in more than 50 countries and territories across Africa on SS3, SS4, SS9 and SS10. Various events including Raw on Tuesdays and SmackDown Live on Wednesdays, live telecasts and same-day re-airs, Live WWE specials, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble are all part of the offering by Supersport.

I have never considered myself the biggest Wrestling fan but as soon as the lights went dark in the Dome and the screens lit up with introductions of the Wrestlers, I felt goosebumps! A line up that included WWE Superstars Braun Strowman, Bayley, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns, RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Asuka, RAW Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Sheamus, Gulak, Nia Jax, among others is one that would whet anyone’s appetite.

And there I was, with the best seats in the house – drinking it all in.

History in the making!

Each of the fights came with an elaborate and colourful entrance, a bit of trash talk against the opponent, some threats and insults hurled here and there, a promise of defeat and then a fiercely contested bout that often ended in one party laying helpless on the ground and the other flexing their muscles and taking in the applause from the WWE fanatics. Watching Wrestlers carry and fling each other about made me wonder how this could possibly be entertaining to anyone. But everytime a Wrestler executed a move and rendered his opponent immobile, the crowd would go wild with euphoria and excitement. Yep – this is definitely entertaining.  The action is real!

I was particularly awestruck by the female wresters who were as hardened as the guys. Their contests blew me away as they involved strange tactics, plenty of acrobatics and of course colourful outfits and make up.

A colourful three way fight.

The music at the WWE Live South Africa Experience was unlike any I have witnessed. I am very big on music so it nevers passes me by. Sasha Banks for example came into the ring with her famous intro song ‘Sky’s The Limit’ which had everyone on their feet. And so did Alexa Bliss with her Dubstep offering ‘Spiteful’. Asuka’s entrance song ‘The Future’ was probably the heaviest and more electric among the ladies. For the guys, quite naturally, there was a predominance of heavy metal – as there always is with Wrestling. Of course Roman Reigns and his ‘The Truth Reigns’, Braun Strowman’s ‘I am Stronger’ and Seth Rollins and his ‘Burn It Down’ intro songs might have created the wildest reception with everyone up on their feet.

The Absolution ladies showed that a Grand Entrance is everything!

And the fans knew each and every song!

I sat near a boy who could not have been older than 12. He had a banner bigger than him that said “Brook Shields Please Marry Me”. I felt like snatching the banner and raising it higher – for him of course.

With people waving banners, chanting slogans of their favourite Wrestlers and basically getting wild like their lives depended on it, there was little else for me to do. And so I occasionally joined in the madness and chanted lines I had only heard being chanted on TV.

And sometimes all the wrestlers are on the ground and the crowd yelling for their favourite to get up first…

What perhaps was the highlight for me was the climax of the event. Renowned South African rapper AK stepped onto the stage and was involved in some trash talk with Leon who later ended up getting thumped by Samoa Joe. And this was followed closely was the main event that involved the Tag team combination of Roman Reigns and Braun Strawman up against Gallows and Karl Anderson. The Reigns and Strowman tag team emerged victorious and was met with the wildest of cheers.

Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns reigned supreme in the main event. 

Prior to this WWE event, if anyone had told me I would be getting VIP entrance to a WWE event, I would have slapped them in the face and insulted them in my native –Ateso. But now that it has happened, it is safe to say anything is possible going forward.

When I got back to Kampala a few days later, everyone, including my little brother Sammy who was due for operation was happy for me. And so as I settled in to wrap my mind around what had just happened and also begin to plan with my family for Sammy’s operation, I was sure I wasn’t going to forget how wonderful April had been.

And what is an event without a few pics with friends?

And after sharing some pictures on Facebook, someone in Kigali figured they needed to hear me narrate the entire ordeal and share as many pictures with them. And this is why I find myself in one of Africa’s most sought after destinations about to discuss WWE over a cup of tea.

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world – Gustave Flaubert

a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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Beewol - The Talkative Rocker