WWE has a major event called “Crown Jewel” coming up soon and has put together a long-term arrangement with the Saudi government to do shows in that country.
One already happened earlier this year — not long after Wrestlemania — and among other issues, the company, which has been trying to tout itself as pioneers in elevating women performers, was forced to leave their entire female roster at home to placate the Saudi Royals.
This event and the entire arrangement more or less flew under the radar, mostly because wrestling is seen as a carny circus act that nobody pays attention to.
But then this situation with the murdered journalist occurred and there was additional scrutiny put on any business transactions done with the Saudi government.
And even worse for WWE, HBO’s John Oliver got wind of the arrangement and eviscerated it on his television show.
In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights:
“MBS’ PR push isn’t just toward attracting businesses. It’s also toward changing the world’s perception of Saudi Arabia. To that end, he struck a 10-year deal with one of the most popular and most American franchises there is — World Wresting Entertainment, or WWE. They held their first of many events there back in April, and audiences around the world were treated to wall-to-wall propaganda about the new Saudi Arabia, including video showing women happily driving, men dancing and tourist destination beauty shots, as well as constant excited compliments throughout the broadcast.”
WWE said in a statement that “we are currently monitoring the situation,” following some backlash, which did not seem to impress the HBO host.
“As for the WWE, while they say they are monitoring the situation, their gigantic Crown Jewel event is still scheduled for November, meaning John Cena could well be back there [praising Saudi Arabia again], which I guess in this context means you don’t see these human rights abuses right here.”
Oliver then waived his hand in front of his face, the trademark mannerism of Cena, WWE’s biggest current star.
I will never claim to be a John Oliver fan — I find him to be smug and often times incredibly dishonest — but he is 100% right here.
No other major sports or entertainment company would have even made it THIS far without facing major criticism, and the fact that WWE had not until now again shows you that nobody in the mainstream press cares at all about professional wrestling.
But the human rights abuses have been going on for decades, long before this journalist was murdered.
It is nice that there is a higher level of scrutiny on the Saudis now, but mere wees ago the NY Times was offering guided tours of that country.
Now, it is a horrible offense to visit or do business there.
Disingenuous to say the least, but better late than never I suppose.
WWE doing business over there was always beyond the pale and the idea they could even try to sell themselves as an organization championing women’s rights while conducting shows in Saudi Arabia is something far funnier than anything former WWE champion Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson could ever say.
I am not sure if WWE will weather this storm or if they will be forced to withdraw for the company’s agreement with the Saudis.
If they have any sense of decency, it will be the former.
But I have a feeling it will be the latter.
After all, as former WWE star “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase used to say, “everybody has a price.”
And it appears WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s price was one the Saudi’s were happily willing to pay.