Despite heavy criticism following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, WWE will hold its Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia as scheduled. WWE's 10-year, multi-million dollar deal with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been a controversial topic since it was first announced. After all, Saudi Arabia is basically a totalitarian dictatorship, even though its rulers would argue against that label. The country also has a very bad record when it comes to human rights, especially the treatment of women. Of course, those facts have never stopped the United States government from dealing with the Saudis.
WWE put on its first event under the long-term Saudi Arabian deal in April, called the Greatest Royal Rumble. The event was headlined by the titular match, a Royal Rumble featuring a whopping 50 participants, which was won by Braun Strowman. Big stars like John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, and Kurt Angle all performed on the card. Crown Jewel would probably have taken place without much additional fanfare, if not for the recent scandal involving the brutal kidnapping, torture, and murder of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian regime.
While Saudi Arabia's leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has said that his government wasn't involved in Khashoggi's murder, pretty much everyone outside the country has little doubt that he's not being truthful about what took place. With that in mind, WWE has spent the last couple of weeks being inundated with calls to cancel Crown Jewel, scheduled to take place in Riyadh on November 2. While they appeared to be wavering for a bit, the company confirmed today (via The Wrap) that Crown Jewel will happen in Saudi Arabia as planned. WWE released the following statement:
WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for Nov. 2 in Riyadh. Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.
While that move is already earning backlash on social media, WWE is holding firm on its original Crown Jewel plans. The event will see Hall of Famer and legend Shawn Michaels come out of retirement for a tag team match alongside his D-Generation X pal Triple H, as the duo goes head to head against The Undertaker and his onscreen brother Kane. Interestingly, the man behind Kane, Glenn Jacobs, is taking time off from his job as mayor of Knox County, Tennessee to compete at the show. In a recent development, John Cena has reportedly pulled out of working the event, although WWE has yet to confirm that publicly.
The statement provided by WWE above was intended to head off the issue before today's scheduled Q3 earnings call for the publicly traded company, although that didn't stop WWE boss Vince McMahon from immediately getting asked about the decision to keep Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia. McMahon dodged the question, suggesting that WWE had said all it wanted to say on the matter in the statement. While McMahon might not want to talk about the subject any further, it's likely those outraged by WWE's choice will continue to cry foul.
Source: The Wrap