WWE confirms Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia will go on as scheduled on Nov. 2
WWE was previously 'monitoring the situation' in Saudi Arabia over the last couple of weeks
Despite the outcry of critics, including fans and select government officials, that it should pull out of Saudi Arabia for next week's Crown Jewel event amid heightening tension between the nation and the United States, WWE announced Thursday morning the event will go on as scheduled.
WWE released the news as part of its Q3 earnings release published on its corporate website, citing "contractual obligations" and an effort to ensure "2018 guidance" stays on schedule financially" as reasons for the decision to remain status quo with the Nov. 2 event, which will be held at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.
Below is WWE's full statement regarding Crown Jewel, a WWE Network special which began to attract criticism regarding the company's involvement following the Oct. 2 murder of outspoken journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
"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."
Later in the filing, WWE noted that it "is continuing to monitor ongoing developments in the region, and there can be no assurances in this regard. If the event were to be cancelled, there could be material adverse impact on 2018 Adjusted OIBDA guidance. While not anticipated, it is possible that a cancellation could also impact expected results beyond 2018."
WWE's decision to cite its financial bottom line as the reason not to buckle amid the fallout of Khashoggi's death and unconfirmed reports that its own performers were fearful of their safety will undoubtedly draw an even deeper level of deserved criticism than the company first endured for signing a 10-year deal with the Saudi Arabian government earlier this year.
Not only did WWE, amid its own self-proclaimed "women's revolution," stage its debut Greatest Royal Rumble card in Jeddah on April 27 despite the fact that the Saudi Arabian government would not allow women wrestlers to appear, it aired a series of vignettes celebrating the progressive advancement of the country's General Sports Authority that reeked of propaganda.
In addition to the criticism WWE endured for the non-inclusive nature of the April card, many fans were upset with booking decisions which seemed to indicate the company was willing to compromise its own WrestleMania 34 card just weeks earlier in order to build to the Greatest Royal Rumble. The card also included a 50-man Royal Rumble match that did nothing but bastardize the unique quality of the annual event of the same name which took place three months earlier in January.
WWE attempted to offset the outrage against female performers not being included in Saudi Arabia by publicly stating that change takes time, citing a December 2017 Sasha Banks-Alexa Bliss match in Abu Dhabi that WWE promoted as the first women's match to take place in the United Arab Emirates. The company seemed to take further action to quiet criticism by announcing Sunday's WWE Evolution card in Uniondale, New York, as the first all-women's pay-per-view show in company history.
The death of Khashoggi, who had entered a self-imposed exile from his native Saudi Arabia since 2017 out of fear for his life, appeared to add a layer of political pressure to WWE's decision that couldn't be ignored.
The Saudi Arabia government initially denied Khashoggi's death had happened and declared him a missing person. After an investigation from the Turkish officials found the claim to be contradicting, the attorney general of Saudi Arabia ruled Thursday that Khashoggi died following a premeditated attack. President Donald Trump went on to call it "the worst in the history of cover-ups."
While WWE's event certainly lacked any connection to the crime, the company's political stance has often been questioned by critics due to Trump's inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame and the subsequent appointment of Linda McMahon, wife of WWE chairman Vince McMahon, by Trump to run the government's Small Business Administration. In addition, the McMahon family donated $6 million to Trump's presidential campaign prior to his election.
It remains unknown whether any WWE superstars will follow through on reported claims by various outlets that they would not travel to Saudi Arabia for the show. With the exception of Roman Reigns' removal from the main event following Monday's announcement that he's battling leukemia, the Crown Jewel card remains unchanged. In fact, the company has actually added matches to the show recently.
WWE has not mentioned "Saudi Arabia" on air while promoting Crown Jewel over the past two weeks, and mentions of the location of the event had been removed from WWE.com. Tickets were supposed to go on sale for Crown Jewel last Friday but were never released.
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