WWE To Hold Event in Saudi Arabia Despite Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder
The WWE recently announced they were going forward with the Crown Jewel event, despite mounting pressure after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Despite domestic and international pressure for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to cancel the November 2nd Crown Jewel event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the company has decided to move forward with the show. The Stamford, Connecticut based company announced the decision in their Q3 report, stating:
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.
The announcement comes after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) took responsibility this week for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi calling the incident a “premeditated murder” after previously stating on October 2nd the journalist died after he began a 15-1 “brawl.”
Of note, despite WWE being set to make between $20-$45 million for Crown Jewel, their Q3 report also details their impressive 2018 financials:
- Revenues reached $188.4 million for the third quarter 2018 and a record $657.7 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2018, representing 12% growth over the prior year period
- Operating income was $18.1 million. Adjusted OIBDA1 of $35.8 million exceeded the Company’s guidance
- Through the first nine months of 2018, digital engagement increased with video views up 61% to 22.9 billion and hours consumed up 81% to 842 million across digital and social media platforms
Rumors have begun circulating from sports and wrestling outlets surrounding several WWE performers not being pleased with the decision for the show to go forward, while Citizen Truth cannot confirm the speculation leaks are becoming more common as November 2nd approaches.
WWE Crown Jewel could be in trouble.
I was just told Reigns is currently injured and that Cena and Bryan are "refusing" to work the show. Many on the current WWE roster have expressed concerned with going, as well, but obviously not all of them have the power like Cena/Bryan.
— Robbie Fox (@RobbieBarstool) October 22, 2018
The tweet came prior to the October 25th confirmation of the show, yet rumors are playing a role in the company receiving critique for continuing the deal with KSA.
WWE superstar Randy Orton gave an interesting rationale for Crown Jewel happening when he spoke to TMZ earlier in the month, “I think we should go. I think the only way to help with change over there is to go and not to cancel the trip. [WWE’s female Superstars] performed in Abu Dhabi not too long ago, and I think we’ll be there eventually with [Saudi Arabia] and Crown Jewel. That’s the goal is to make things better everywhere and I think us not going—it doesn’t help. Going helps,” Orton stated in the video interview.
Former WWE superstar John Bradshaw Layfield also defended the show moving forward on Fox Business.
WWE is holding another big event in Saudi Arabia next month, however, many WWE stars stated that they felt uneasy following the disappearance of columnist Jamal Khashoggi. @JCLayfield, former WWE Wrestling Champion, joined Stuart to share his insight. #WWE #Kashoggi #SaudiArabia pic.twitter.com/hd88DpXy1P
— Varney & Co. (@Varneyco) October 16, 2018
Even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia has undergone heavy critique for their multiple human rights abuses. From Human Rights Watch:
Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.
With the show going forward WWE will continue to have their motives questioned, especially if their broadcast contains sanitizing commentary supporting the Saudi royal family — for the duration of their partnership with the oppressive regime.