Pro-Wrestlers Put On Show for Baffled North Koreans

A group of brawny pro-wrestlers took their antics to Pyongyang this weekend in an oddball attempt at sports diplomacy.

. Faces in the crowd are illuminated by stage lighting as they watch pro-wrestlers enter the arena in Pyongyang on Saturday.

North Koreans got their first look at pro wrestling in about 20 years over the weekend when an ex-NFL lineman and 20 other grapplers from around the world took to the ring for an exhibition put together by a charismatic former Japanese pro-wrestler who is now a member of parliament. Wong Maye-E / AP

. Wrestler Jon Andersen appears on stage. When Andersen and fellow American Bob "The Beast" Sapp took to the ring, the crowd of about 15,000 didn't seem to know how to respond.

"It was real eerie and a little scary at first," said Sapp, who briefly played for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears before becoming a celebrity in Japan as a mixed martial artist. "But we were able to take control of the audience. It went over very well." Wong Maye-E / AP

. North Koreans in the crowd at the exhibition, the first major sports event with big-name foreigners in the country since Dennis Rodman and a team of other former NBA players staged a game in January for leader Kim Jong Un's birthday. Wong Maye-E / AP

. Former NFL player Bob "The Beast" Sapp lifts his opponent. Wong Maye-E / AP

. A North Korean boy arm wrestles with Bob "The Beast" Sapp on Friday. Sapp and a group of brawny pro-wrestlers led by a Japanese politician took their oddball attempt at sports diplomacy to the streets of Pyongyang on Friday, staging a tug-of-war and arm wrestling competition with local children before a large and somewhat bewildered crowd of spectators. Wong Maye-E / AP

. North Korean athletes cheer on their teammate as he competes with a pro-wrestler on Friday. Wong Maye-E / AP

. Japanese pro-wrestler-turned-politician Kanji "Antonio" Inoki, center, poses during a press conference Thursday. Inoki, who organized the two-day event in Pyongyang, said he hopes it will pave the way for more exchanges with the North. Wong Maye-E / AP

. A woman reacts while watching a pro-wrestling exhibition on Sunday.

-- The Associated Press Wong Maye-E / AP