WWE was faced with a tough task on Friday night.
SmackDown was slated to take place from Buffalo, N.Y. However, much of the WWE roster was stuck in Saudi Arabia following the Crown Jewel event held on Thursday afternoon.
There were rumors of flight delays due to plane issues, but other media outlets said the issues had nothing to do with mechanics. Essentially, no one knows why most of WWE’s wrestlers and production crew were stuck in the Kingdom for an extra day, with hopes to return to the United States this weekend.
WWE had to call an audible. Wrestlers from NXT were flown to Buffalo from Florida in order to appear on the show. Tomasso Ciampa beat The Miz, Rhea Ripley and Tegan Nox picked up a win and Adam Cole beat Daniel Bryan to retain the NXT Championship.
Reportedly, Triple H was in charge of the show.
The show closed with NXT wrestlers celebrating with Cole, and Triple H essentially challenged RAW and SmackDown to a fight at Survivor Series.
Considering almost the entire active roster was stuck in horrid Saudi Arabia, Cole vs. Bryan was a nice surprise. It would have been better with weeks of build, of course, but considering WWE’s options, this was one of the best matches they could offer fans.
The main point though is that these Saudi shows are a disaster for the company. They make WWE a lot of money, but is it really worth it? Is it worth the bad P.R. WWE gets for going to a country that’s stuck in medieval times in some regards? Is it worth putting a network television show in jeopardy of not happening?
What would happen if WWE didn’t have the Saudi money? Vince McMahon is worth $2.5 billion instead of $2.7 billion?
WWE has to answer to stockholders, but when is enough, enough?
WrestleMania used to be home of WWE’s biggest matches of the year, and now those big returns and debuts are being wasted in Saudi Arabia, just to appease some crown prince who is throwing around oil money to buy them. Tyson Fury debuted in Saudi Arabia, and so did Cain Velasquez. The Saudi money coaxed Shawn Michaels out of retirement last year.
Vince always says that WWE needs to serve the audience. We all know that’s a lie. For a while, I thought WWE had to serve its stockholders, but now I think even that’s a lie. WWE exists, a few days per year, to serve the Saudi government. The government uses WWE as propaganda to promote how progressive and mainstream they are as a country. Anthony Joshua will fight his rematch with Andy Ruiz there late this year as well. Everyone’s doing it, I guess.
But that doesn’t make it right. And I don’t feel bad for Vince McMahon anymore. He’s created a new reality for WWE, and it’s not better.