WWE finds itself at the heart of an international incident. If you’ve missed the news over the last week, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a permanent U.S. resident who writes for the Washington Times, went into the Saudi consulate in Turkey almost two weeks ago, and he never left. According to Turkish officials, Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi hit team and dismembered.
Khashoggi has been critical of his native Saudi Arabia in his writing and reporting, especially critical of the Saudi royal family.
This is a big story. President Trump has awkwardly defended the U.S. still doing business with Saudia Arabia because of the amount of money the government spends on U.S.-made weapons.
WWE also has a large business interest with Saudi Arabia. This past spring, the company ran The Greatest Royal Rumble from inside the country and there are plans for an event next month, Crown Jewel. During the first broadcast, on WWE Network, WWE praised the progressive nature of Saudia Arabia, all while leaving their female talent at home, because women weren’t allowed to wrestle in the country or be shown in typical attire. Sami Zayn, who is Syrian, was also left home as to not upset the Saudi government.
WWE has done a lot of despicable things in its day, but taking this regime’s blood money has to be at the top of the list.
I hope WWE cancels this show, or moves it elsewhere. If they do, I’ll be the first to eat crow and admit I’m wrong. But I don’t think I will be.
WWE now must decide whether or not to continue with the nine-year agreement it made with the Saudis last year, not only putting on pro wrestling shows but essentially serving as the nation’s PR firm.
Big companies, like the Endeavour Group, have already pulled out of Saudia Arabia — Endeavour killed a $400 million deal. U.S. senators have urged WWE to either cancel or “pause” the event, while more could be evaluated.
But I’d be very surprised if WWE kills this deal. There’s too much money on the line, and if WWE has proven anything over the years, it’s that the dollar trumps everything else.
If the leader of the free world can’t be bothered to criticize the Saudis because “of the money they spend” in the U.S., why should Vince McMahon walk away from his millions? Especially when his wife works in the president’s cabinet?
The whole situation is a mess.
WWE is under tremendous pressure, and they know the poor optics of the situation. Earlier this week, the company removed all mentions of Saudi Arabia on the WWE website.
But they’ll wait for this to blow over. Khashoogi’s family will never get justice, especially if the U.S. is unwilling to assist, and WWE will go on with business as usual, because that’s what they always do. They’ll respond, like the always do, but it won’t be good enough. When people thought Chris Benoit killed his family becaues of steroids, WWE fired a bunch of talent who it was reported received shipments. When Eddie Guerrero died, they instituted a Wellness Policy that has been criticzed from its very launch. Any time something is criticized, we seem to see more Make-A-Wish and charity videos during Raw and SmackDown broadcasts.
That’s the WWE way. Take the money, no matter how much blood is on it, and hope for the best.
Vince McMahon likes to say that WWE is part of the fabric of America … there’s nothing more American than that money over everything.