WWE | We’re Not Getting The Whole Story On What Happened In Saudi Arabia
Something very weird went down this past week, there’s no question about that. Considering the ridiculously short time frame between WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh, and the next night’s SmackDown in Buffalo, with a 14-hour flight between the two, they pretty much should’ve been on a plane within a couple of hours of the show going off the air.
Instead, they found themselves stuck there, waiting and hoping that they would be able to make their leave. Not for hours, as I’m sure they’re accustomed to, but well over 24 hours. Again, keep in mind, that’s waiting for a 14 hour flight.
Crown Jewel was held in the middle of the day by US time zone’s standards, Halloween, October 31st. There are nearly 200 people that just got home to their families again yesterday, November 2nd. All the while there were scarcely any updates, and seemingly very little they were allowed to say to quell the worries of fans, friends and family members alike. And there was plenty reason to be concerned, all things considered.
There’s still a lot about this story that’s left unsaid, and sure to be a major chapter in any respective memoirs that these wrestlers write down the road. But everything we do know, quite frankly, looks very, very suspect.
I wrote a couple stories about these events as they were still breaking and unfolding. Here’s what we knew about this issue in the wee hours of the morning November 1st, and an article from later that day when it seemed the problem was finally resolved.
The truth is we knew very little of what actually unfolded and only barely have more details now.
But just to give you a timeline of events, Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn and other higher-ups of the staff left Saudi Arabia on a private jet while it was still October. The likes of Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair also left that day on similar circumstances.
Per WWE’s own estimate, over 175 people – talent, commentators, production folks ect. – were all left behind, waiting for a chartered flight. In fact they supposedly were already boarded and settled at one point, only to be forced to leave the plane.
By the afternoon of November 1st, WWE had released a statement citing mechanical issues, something they’d also told their talent. More on that later. This same statement also talks about a separate, special flight that was prepared for either 20 or 22 people. These were considered the top stars and key production folks that were considered essential for putting on that night’s edition of SmackDown. Unfortunately it also didn’t make it in time, only touching down after the show.
WWE’s wording on this was, quote, “With SmackDown emanating live from Buffalo, N.Y., several Superstars felt so strongly that they arranged for their own separate charter in order to make it back to the U.S. for the show.”
While they were attempting to save face for them and make them look good to their fans, WWE didn’t seem to think about how that reflected on the nearly 200 others that weren’t lucky enough to make that plane.
It made it sound like they just didn’t care enough about wrestling or their fans to make the extra effort to try and make it. And indeed, many of them are unhappy with the statement for just that reason.
Nevermind that the notion that a bunch of WWE superstars independently chartered their own flight to the show is a complete work. They probably wouldn’t even be allowed to do such a thing in the first place, honestly.
Many tweets on this matter from the more disgruntled of WWE’s crew refer to a “Top 20” who were considered special enough to be sent away early. The resentment is apparent. It’d probably be an understatement to say that morale has been shot from this incident.
Thankfully, as I write this, the situation seems to have been resolved and everyone is safe and sound back home. But we’re just left to wonder why it even occurred in the first place.
Just so we’re clear on this, WWE’s story here is very unlikely.
The idea that a mechanical issue all by itself could delay a plane for such a lengthy stretch of time is absurd. And with the urgency of such a scenario, one would think they would simply be able to switch planes if the originally chartered one was going to take so long to fix.
No matter how you slice it, it just doesn’t seem like there’s any good reason for them to have been stuck there for what seems to be over 24 hours. Judging from the tweets of Ali, it seems like they only took off at about 9 PM CST on November 1st. That’s just absurd.
Nevermind the notion in the statement that the other chartered flight which left earlier also had unforeseen issues that prevented it from touching down until after the show went off the air. It just comes off as odd.
Again during this debacle, talent were largely mum aside from vague tweets. It doesn’t seem anyone’s given a full detail of what they experienced. But things have slipped through the cracks.
According to Dave Meltzer, who tends to talk directly with many of the talents themselves in these situations, there was atleast one that backed up the idea that it was a mechanical issue and actually noted witnessing mechanics on the scene. Others, however, were skeptical of WWE’s story. There’s been talk of military personnel appearing as well. It’s a confusing scene and much will be clarified in time.
Perhaps most suspiciously, WWE has been trying to get talent on video citing it as a mechanical issue.
Atleast, that’s how the aforementioned skeptics within the company frame it.
Now of course it’s perfectly natural for WWE to interview people and get footage after a unique scenario like this. But it’s easy to do that in a way that ensures their story is backed up. You control what you air and upload, and you can also coach people on their answers.
The urgency to do this makes it sound like a cover-up of sorts. That’s just my analysis.
A cover-up of what, is hard to say. There’s honestly a lot that could’ve happened, given where this all took place.
One thing that’s been brought up a lot however is the idea that the live feed of the show was actually pulled from Saudi Arabia. It’s since been reported that it ended up airing on an hour’s tape delay. The idea that in America we got this show live at around noon, yet in Saudi Arabia itself in ended up delayed, is just peculiar.
Some within WWE have also acknowledged that they are owed money from the Saudi Arabian government, seemingly slow to pay them for these shows.
Much has always been made of the exorbitant amounts that WWE is supposed to be getting with every event that they hold there. So that’s a lot of money up in the air if true.
WWE’s former Spanish broadcaster and current AAA commentator Hugo Savinovich actually popularized this idea, claiming that WWE pulled the show as a result of these disputes, and the Crown Prince retaliated by not allowing their talent to leave. He also claimed that they were owed somewhere around 300 to 500 million dollars, though that amount has been thrown into question. He cites getting this from someone with direct knowledge of the situation.
It’s also been noted that WWE has ducked questions on a Saudi TV deal, and just a week ago at their quarterly finance call, could not guarantee to their investors that they’d be having another set of two shows in the country next year.
Finally, in one of my articles I noted that Vince McMahon left before all this came about; however some are actually uncertain of this.
I can’t say that my impression of Vince McMahon as a human being is even close to a positive one. But I’d certainly like to think that he didn’t leave the country knowing that his own wrestlers might end up stranded there. And honestly, if he foresaw this, he might’ve went ahead and arranged to have those “Top 20” assimilate across the three private jets that were leaving the country just to let them run SmackDown business-as-usual. They could just come up with a cover story as to why later, it’d be very easy to see that happening.
But some talent were left feeling ‘deserted’ in all this, that’s an actual quote. It seems nobody really knows exactly when Vince left or what he knew at that time. Others claimed that they couldn’t wait to get out of their deals.
For now, I think that’s about it, I tried to fit everything that hadn’t already been said on here in this article.
Here is some messages on social media from those who went through this:
Among the responses of the above Instagram post are some comments from WWE talent: (h/t 411mania)
* Tyson Kidd wrote, “Next time we’ll pool our money together instead of being lazy.”
* Eric Young posted, “I’ll pitch in guys. Next time I’ll have more pride in myself and take it upon myself to be better! What a world. What a F’N UNIVERSE”
* Scott Dawson simply commented with, “#poor”
AEW World Champion Chris Jericho also chimed in on the same post, with “Shame on you lazy embarrassments to the company [thumbs down emojo].” before following up with “Glad everybody made it home safely.”
— Joe Hennig (@RealCurtisAxel) November 3, 2019
Looking forward to seeing who the locker room leader is on Monday..
— Karl Anderson (@KarlAndersonWWE) November 3, 2019
Couldn’t pay me enough to go back ..
Well that’s not true, I need a second pool, so…..
— Karl Anderson (@KarlAndersonWWE) November 2, 2019