Avais' Story

Posted on: 23rd November 2013

World Heavyweight Champion John Cena made Avais Iqbal's dream come true when he met up with the 11 year old at the WWE Live event in Leeds earlier in November.

Early years

Born with cerebral palsy Avais could barely move up to the age of 2 and his speech development was very delayed. However, an amazing change started to take place after Avais was introduced to the world of wrestling.

Avais’ mum Shamimi considers the first time that Avais saw WWE on television to be a milestone. “It caught his interest straight away,” Shamimi said. “He began to move, even talk – ‘John Cena’ were his first words – and he began to mimic the wrestler’s gestures.” Imitating the wrestlers encouraged Avais’ development and helped him to learn Makaton.

Years later, when Avais got his wheelchair, Shamimi wanted to personalise it for him. She arranged for a US company with the rights to the WWE logo and images to print a design for the spoke guards. Needless to say, Avais loved his new-look wheels. The WWE wrestlers and staff at the event in Leeds were blown away by Avais’ wheelchair. They had never seen anything like it.

How to make a dream come true

“Avais had wanted to go to the WWE and meet Cena for so long; when we heard they were coming to Leeds we just had to get tickets,” Shamimi said. She knew that the only way Avais would be able to meet John Cena would be to get VIP tickets. “He wouldn’t have been able to understand going to the wrestling and not actually seeing John Cena in person”, Shamimi said.

With help from Marylka Pearson, Avais’ case manager Shamimi tried to get hold of VIP tickets for the show but none were available to wheelchair users. Shamimi contacted the Yorkshire Evening Post and spoke to Paul Robinson, sports editor, who tried to help but who also couldn't secure the vital VIP tickets.

Eventually Shamimi found Tony Watson, sales and marketing director at the First Direct arena, Ian McGlumphy marketing manager at the WWE and Billy Smith, VIP liaison at Artist Arena. Together they arranged for the family to receive a complimentary VIP package, including a meet and greet with some of the WWE stars.

“You can’t see me,” Cena’s famous catchphrase

Avais, Shamimi, Sara (Avais’ sister) and Adeel (Avais’ cousin) went to the live show. They met wrestlers ‘RTruth’ and ‘Alberto del Rio’ but were told that Avais' idol Cena wouldn't be meeting anyone. Shamimi pleaded with the staff to allow Avais to meet him, knowing how upset he would be if he couldn’t, but to no avail. Then during an interval a security guard sought out Shamimi. He told her that Cena had heard about Avais and had asked to meet him. Disbelievingly the family rushed to where Cena was waiting and finally Avais got to meet his hero! Avais, dressed like Cena, was overjoyed when the star signed all his memorabilia and posed for photographs.

A night to remember

During the last part of the show and later that evening Avais was stunned from the day’s events. “He couldn’t believe it,” said his mum, “he thought it was a dream. Since then he hasn’t stopped talking about it.”

Shamimi recommends the WWE Live event at the Leeds arena, to families with disabled children: “It had a great atmosphere, it really was family-friendly and the disabled section had fantastic views”.

It was certainly an evening that Avais will never forget.