SmackDown heading down under
At the end of February, the Superstars and Divas of SmackDown will head to New Zealand for WWE's next international tour -- including its first-ever trip to Auckland.
The country, which provided the landscape for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, boasts plush greenery and impeding mountains. It's unlikely, though, that they'll be looking to trek the same route that Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee hauled to lug the One Ring to Mordor.
However, if WWE were to follow that same, arduous path, there isn't a more qualified person to be the ring bearer than the reigning World Heavyweight Champion, Batista.
"I'm excited, this will be my second trip over there," said Batista. "Unfortunately, I was injured and unable to make the show last time, but I did catch a cricket game. The entire place shut down for the game, which shows the passion those people hold for their sports and for their sports-entertainment."
The expectations for WWE's arrival are high, and Batista is anticipating a warm welcome from the New Zealand natives.
"The Kiwis know how to treat their guests with the utmost hospitality," said the champion.
Former WWE Superstar and Auckland, New Zealand native Tony Garea will also be accompanying WWE.
"We're heading to [the city of] Christchurch and then on to my hometown," he said with a smile. "I've been getting swamped with emails and calls asking for tickets to the show, but I just can't promise any."
Along with Garea, other well-known New Zealanders have etched their mark into the walls of the sports-entertainment industry. These people, according to Garea, have helped make sports-entertainment a mainstay and a very popular commodity in the country.
"If I'm not mistaken, I believe WWE is the number one sports-entertainment show in the country. There is a long list of well-represented New Zealanders that used to be sports-entertainers, including the Bushwhackers and the late Pat O'Connor."
The anticipation of WWE's first trip to Auckland isn't just exciting because Garea will be able to show the SmackDown Superstars around his old stomping grounds. Although the trip is in February (winter across the United States), Garea said the favorable weather in New Zealand helps make the trip even more attractive.
"It's summer there, and the new stadium isn't finished so [the show] will be in an outside stadium that holds roughly 25,000 people; it's the same stadium that I used to go to as a kid to watch motorcycle racing."
Asked if he had any specific plans for his WWE guests, he said he would be up for anything -- even bungee jumping.
"I'd jump if I could get someone else to promise they'd jump right after me," he said chuckling. "Maybe we can take the America's Cup boats around the harbor too… I'm just looking forward to going home."