American "sporting" royalty was in Auckland yesterday, even if most mainstream sports fans might have been unaware.

WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) star Sasha Banks - arguably the biggest female name on the professional wrestling circuit - made a flying visit, to promote the upcoming WWE event in Christchurch.

While the events aren't as popular as the halcyon days in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it's still extremely big business.

Banks and her competitors, such names as Apollo Crews, Roman Reigns and Alexa Bliss, pack out arenas in more than 20 countries across the globe each year, though she was surprised by the reception they received last year in Auckland.

Advertisement

"There were so many fans at the airport," recalled Banks. "[And] it was one of the loudest crowds I have ever heard. Every little thing we did, they made a noise. They were incredible."

Banks has wanted to be a wrestler since the age of 10, when she stumbled across a show while channel surfing.

"There was something about it that made me instantly hooked," said Banks. "When you are a kid you have dreams of being a make up artist, a firefighter, or a doctor. After I started watching WWE all those dreams went away.

Her mother wasn't thrilled - "She said 'What did I do wrong'?" - and her grandmother was incredulous ('You wanna get beat up for a living')."

But Banks pursued her goal. She attended wrestling schools, then worked on various second tier circuits before joining WWE. Since then her fame has skyrocketed, and Banks is now recognised a three-time "world female champion".

The staged events severely blur the line between a genuine sporting contest and entertainment, but Banks is comfortable with the theatre.

"It's about making the fans believe what you are doing," said Banks. "When you are hurt, they cry. When you are happy, they are happy. It's what you do in there; you can either put a smile on their faces or make them hate you."

And although the outcomes and bouts may be pre-ordained, there is no questioning the athletic prowess of the Boston native. She trains up to three hours a day, and despite being only 1.65m and 52 kilos can dead lift almost 100 kilos.

"There is something about taking a beating and giving someone a beating that is so much fun," said Banks. "It's acting, being an athlete, being a superstar."

WWE LIVE hits Horncastle Arena in Christchurch on September 13. Visit http://www.tegdainty.com/tour/wwe-live-new-zealand-2017/ for further details.