The next major WWE pay-per-view event in Saudia Araba is scheduled to take place on Friday, November 2 in Riyadh. However, due to recent events, there are some United States Senators that believe that WWE should cancel the event. As you may recall from earlier this year, WWE did their Greatest Royal Rumble event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in late April that was part of a new ten-year agreement that WWE made with the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority.
The reason for the controversy surrounding the November 2 date is because a Washington Post journalist named Jamal Khashoggi was apparently killed in Turkey when he entered a Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had been very critical of the Saudi government, so when he went to the consulate on October 2 to get paperwork that would allow him to marry his fiancee, he disappeared and reports are that he was murdered. According to the New York Times, Khashoggi was assassinated based on orders sent out by the highest levels of the royal court in Saudi Arabia. Earlier today, Variety reported that media outlets like CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg and the Financial Times have pulled out of an anticipated Saudi investment conference.
When Deadspin’s David Bixenspan wrote an article covering WWE’s deal with Saudi Arabia, WWE replied to it saying: “We are currently monitoring the situation.”
It was reported today by the Independent Journal Review (IJR), that several United States Senators believe WWE shouldn’t hold their Crown Jewel event as scheduled amid the controversy surrounding the Khashoggi murder.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut (WWE’s home state) said: “This is a brazen assault on the freedom of the press and a slap in the face to the United States, if this murder occurred as it seems it did. I’d hope that they would be rethinking their relationship with the kingdom especially with respect to events coming up in the next weeks like [WWE Crown Jewel].”
Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, believes that WWE “should be taking a hard look” at their relationship with Saudi Arabia in the future.
If you’re wondering why there’s a mix between politics and wrestling, it’s there in part because former WWE CEO Linda McMahon is now in Donald Trump’s cabinet as the Small Business Administrator. Senator Bob Menendez, who is a Democrat from New Jersey, believes that WWE needs to think about this: “Private enterprise is private enterprise, different than a governmental entity, but because [Linda McMahon] is part of the president’s cabinet, it falls into the grey area where the administration really should give it some thought and maybe even prevail upon them not doing it.”
It’s not just the Democrats that are speaking up either because Republican Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina believes WWE needs to stop this event from happening: “There should be a pause. Graham added that “there would be hell to pay” if Khashoggi was killed by the Saudi government like Turkish officials believe and added: “I want a complete rethinking of our relationship.”
TJR Thoughts: I am not the kind of guy that likes mixing wrestling and politics together, but I don’t think this is something we can ignore. It’s a legitimate news story that WWE is involved in because they have a major show booked in Saudi Arabia in three weeks. While they may upset their Saudi Arabian partners for canceling the show, it feels like the right decision to me. These shows are already questionable to begin with since there aren’t any women wrestlers allowed on the card and there were reports of upset Saudi General Sports Authority officials earlier this year when highlights of women wrestlers were shown in the stadium.
The rumors are that WWE is getting around $40 million for the shows in Saudi Arabia. Whether that’s per show or for both shows this year, we don’t know, but let’s be real here. WWE is having a great year financially with their stock reaching record heights even though it’s gone done in the last couple of days. The company is worth about $6.5 billion right now, so they can cancel this show and send a message to the world that they care about human rights. If not, it sends the wrong message.
We will keep a close on this story to see if WWE announces any changes in the next few days or weeks.