Despite growing political tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia following the premeditated killing of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, WWE announced that their Crown Jewel pay-per-view event will go ahead in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as originally scheduled on November 2.
WWE quietly made the announcement in their Q3 earnings release on WWE’s corporate site. Within the numbers is a section that mentions WWE moving the event forward.
“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 November 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”
In other words, because Saudi Arabia can and will give WWE a lot of money, and money is the one thing WWE and their shareholders really care about, WWE made the “tough” decision to keep the event in Saudi Arabia because this was playing during the meeting when they made that decision.
For the past couple weeks, WWE was under pressure from political leaders in both parties, media, and fans to do something different with Crown Jewel. Suggestions went from completely canceling the event to moving it to another country and possibly postponing to a later date if logistics prevented moving the event and having it ready in a week. Things got so bad that some fans booed The Undertaker for even mentioning the words “Crown Jewel” in a promo. If someone as revered as The Undertaker can get booed by a portion of the crowd for just saying the name of this event, I can’t imagine many WWE fans being thrilled about this event being in Saudi Arabia.
There was a report from Barstool’s Robbie Fox that John Cena and Daniel Bryan both told WWE they were backing out of Crown Jewel due to Khashoggi’s murder. Others on the roster don’t seem to be thrilled about going to Saudi Arabia either, but felt they didn’t have the power to back out and not suffer repercussions by WWE, unlike Cena and Bryan. While nothing has been confirmed about Cena’s and Bryan’s status, those two are in prominent spots on the card, so if they back out, it will require major changes to the event. Unrelated to all this was Roman Reigns’ sudden departure on Monday as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. Reigns was in the likely main event between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar, which will now be a singles match.
With all the money Saudi Arabia was paying WWE for the event, I can’t say I’m surprised that this is happening as scheduled. In their first Saudi Arabia event, the Greatest Royal Rumble, talk centered around WWE’s hypocrisy of expressing a belief in equality but staging an event in a country where female wrestlers weren’t allowed to compete. WWE countered that this time by having an all-female pay-per-view this Sunday, five days before Crown Jewel.
WWE loves to brag about the causes they support, but unlike their philanthropy, there’s no financial value in stopping an event where a journalist was killed by the people who are paying WWE to have this event. Canceling the event would be a PR victory, but would cost WWE a lot of money and WWE is hoping people forget about this very soon. As long as Saudi Arabia has the money, WWE will have Shane McMahon’s theme song playing in their heads and they will bend over backwards to justify why they are standing with Saudi Arabia.