Ben Stokes and WWE superstars shine in Newcastle

“He’s my hero. It makes me proud that he’s from the North East like us.”

You know it is going to be an enjoyable afternoon when excitable school children start cheering at their first sight of local hero Ben Stokes and beaming wrestling superstar The Miz immediately announces to the kids: “this is my chance to shine.”

Ben Stokes and WWE superstars The Miz and Dolph Ziggler pose with Ravenswood School kids at a Chance to Shine event

Along with England Women’s Dani Hazell and fellow WWE wrestling superstar Dolph Ziggler, the stars from radically different sports were brought together by cricket charity Chance to Shine at Ravenswood Primary School in Newcastle.

And they left a lasting impression on the likes of Year 6 pupil George above, a keen cricketer and dedicated fan of the 24 year-old Durham man. Stokes is proud to work alongside a charity that promotes a sport which has already given him so much and outlined how cricket still manages to surprise him.

“I’ve been teaching kids, well the kids have been teaching the wrestlers how to play cricket,” he said with a smile. “That’s something I never thought I would do; mix and mingle with WWE superstars through playing cricket.

“It’s important [to get out in my local area] because we want to promote cricket to youngsters as they’re going to be the future generation of England cricket. I still play cricket because I enjoy it. 

“There’s obviously a bit more to it now as it’s my job. But when I growing up it was for pure enjoyment, and that’s what I think we’ve managed to do today.”

The hulking cricket novices were warming up for an Intercontinental Title match against each other but got stuck in smacking balls off cones, learning how to bowl with a straight arm and facing a few “looseners” from Stokes.

After stealing a leg-side single off the bowler – “you need to run to the stumps” – The Miz turned his attention to Stokes’ potential credentials in the ring they would be fighting in later that evening.

WWE superstar wrestler The Miz learns how to hit a cricket ball under the watchful gaze of his coaches from Ravenswood Primary School in Newcastle

“He’s big guy and the kids absolutely love him,” he said. “You never know what can happen in the squared circle. If he ever wanted to step in, bring it on. Then maybe I’ll go to a cricket game and send one of those 90 mile-per-hour pitches all the way out to hit a home run. Are there home runs in cricket?”

Ziggler, who particularly enjoyed trying to the clear the school buildings with a big hit, added: “It’s just about having fun. The WWE tries to put smiles on faces and these kids are all laughing and having a blast.”

Stokes was off that evening to watch the pair fight at WWE Newcastle, attending to ring the bell to start the sixth match between Social Outcasts and Goldust. The all-rounder walked out into the arena to cheers from the sell-out crowd as a highlights reel was played on the big screen but admitted beforehand he was approaching it with trepidation.

“Playing for England you walk out in front of 30,000 people every game and although this is about 12,000 I’m a bit more nervous doing this than a full house at a cricket stadium.

“There’s no chance of giving it the ‘big one’, I’m just going to walk down and keep a straight face as much as I can.

“I watched wrestling religiously as a kid growing up but I’m not too up-to-date with the new era. I’m all about Triple H, Kane, Big Show, Undertaker, Stone Cold and all those guys.”

After seeing The Miz retain his title against Ziggler, Stokes had the chance to relive his childhood with Kane, Big Show and Triple H in action in front of a raucous Echo Arena crowd.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes waves to fans at WWE Newcastle before ringing the bell for the sixth match

Stokes may have won some new fans but a final word from his aforementioned devotee George, who was chatting with seven-year-old brother Charlie by his side.

“First of all when our teacher told us I thought it was an April Fools trick but when he came out I was absolutely speechless,” he said. “It’s such an inspiration for him to come to our school and at the start I was about to cry with happy tears, honestly.

“I want to go right to top level and play for England in Test and Twenty20 cricket just like Ben. We could be like Brendan McCullum and his brother but only for England.”

Source: ECB

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