WWE's latest event in Saudi Arabia dogged by more controversy and debate

Greg Evans
Saturday 03 November 2018 10:45
sport

On Friday WWE held the latest event in Saudi Arabia, as part of their ongoing 10-year partnership with the General Sports Authority, a body of the Saudi government.

In April they hosted the 'Greatest Royal Rumble' show in Jeddah, which was heavily criticised by fans as women were not allowed to perform on the show due to Saudi Arabia's laws against women and their anti-LGBT agenda.

Prior to the 'Crown Jewel' event on November 3 they were under a large amount of pressure to cancel or reconsider the show following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudi Arabian native, who held residency in the United States, was killed and dismembered by Saudi officials inside the country's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

As Khashoggi's death became an international talking point, WWE began to quietly distance themselves from Saudi Arabia but still was determined to go ahead with the show, which is part of a $45-million-a-year deal with the GSA.

Any mention of Saudi Arabia was removed from the WWE website and 'Saudi Arabia' hasn't been mentioned on WWE programming for weeks.

Still, the show went ahead but without stars such as John Cena and Daniel Bryan, the latter of which citing Saudi Arabia's LGBT laws as a reason for not appearing on the show.

Cena, who has a burgeoning acting career in Hollywood also put out this tweet about taking "accountability for your actions" just hours before 'Crown Jewel' started.

Many fans had voiced the discontent about the event happening, with the mere mention of 'Crown Jewel' prompting boos from the crowd.

US-based political commentator John Oliver has been one of the most prominent journalists to criticise WWE for their involvement with Saudi Arabia, at this time.

Boycotts of WWE were also prominent during the event on social media with people either cancelling their subscription to WWE's streaming service or promotions offering other alternatives.

With a damage limitation mindset in place, WWE went ahead with the show, where wrestlers and commentators avoided mentioning Saudi Arabia but did mention Riyadh, where the event was held.

As the event began fans were treated to a 'surprise' as Hulk Hogan made his return to WWE to open the show.

In 2015, WWE severed ties with Hogan after he was recorded making a racial slur.

Although his appearance on the show was brief, fans were quick in criticising WWE for allowing him back into the company.

It's worth noting that the lyrics to Hogan's entrance song include the lines:

I'm a real American, fight for the rights of every man.

Although the pro-Saudi propaganda wasn't as prominent on 'Crown Jewel' as it was at 'Greatest Royal Rumble,' journalist David Bixenspan did document several instances.

He cited the GSA Twitter account, which twisted the words of wrestler Drew McIntyre, to make it sound like the Scottish performer was talking about them.

Photos of Hogan meeting Saudi officials were also circulated online.

It also appeared that the WWE was still abiding by Saudi rules during their broadcast and avoided showing any pictures of women in their wrestling outfits, which proved to be a source of controversy in April.

These included removing women from a promotional video for Wrestlemania and heavy censoring of a graphic for an upcoming match between Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch.

A small compromise appeared to have been made as Renee Young was allowed to be a part of the commentary team.

Another story was the involvement of Shane McMahon, who won the 'World Cup' tournament on the show.

Shane, who is the son of WWE owner Vince McMahon and whose mother, Linda McMahon is a member of the Trump administration, posted a tweet before the show praising his wife, Marissa Mazzola-McMahon, who is a movie producer.

Her latest movie A Private War focuses on the career of the celebrated war journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in 2012 when rockets hit the house she was staying at in Homs, Syria.

In light of Khashoggi's death, McMahon's tweet, which he would have posted while he was in Saudi Arabia was criticised.

Finally, Glenn Jacobs also known as Kane, who is the incumbent mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, appeared in the main event of the show.

Although this wasn't a major piece of controversy it is worth thinking about the potential connotations of a US politician performing on a stage in Saudi Arabia at this current time.

More: Trump compared the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi to allegations against Kavanaugh

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