WWE sticks with Saudi Ara­bia deal de­spite back­lash from fans

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

WWE is set to hold its Crown Jewel event Fri­day in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia.

That’s a non­de­script way to de­scribe a spec­ta­cle — head­lined by ma­jor stars in­clud­ing The Un­der­taker and Brock Les­nar — that WWE would usu­ally blitz fans with bom­bas­tic hype to pro­mote.

Big­ger! Bad­der! And usu­ally with an event logo con­nect­ing the event to its host city, like the New York sky­line or the fleur-de-lis for New Or­leans in­cor­po­rated into re­cent WrestleMa­nia de­signs.

WWE in­stead has put Saudi Ara­bia on mute as back­lash spreads against its lu­cra­tive long-term deal with a king­dom fac­ing global up­roar.

The fi­nan­cials are murky but WWE is ex­pected to make be­tween $20 mil­lion and $40 mil­lion per event from two Saudi Ara­bian shows this year un­der a 10-year deal.

Crit­i­cism from fans and politi­cians started be­cause women were ex­cluded from com­pe­ti­tion in an April event, then shifted and spread af­ter writer Ja­mal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul .

WWE fans, tra­di­tion­ally as non-PC as the crotch-chop­ping wrestlers in the ring, have booed each time Crown Jewel is men­tioned when a wrestler cuts a promo and the video feed hyp­ing the event was abruptly shut off to the crowd at its first all-fe­male event Sun­day to squash un­fa­vor­able re­ac­tion.

The deal was lam­pooned in con­sec­u­tive weeks on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver .”

WWE has tried to dis­tance it­self from the in­ter­na­tional out­cry over the killing and down­played its ties to Riyadh. “We’re not go­ing to talk a lot about that,” WWE chair­man Vince McMa­hon said on a con­fer­ence call.

“It’s a very sen­si­tive sub­ject th­ese days, nat­u­rally.”

The com­pany’s an­nounc­ers have re­fused to men­tion Saudi Ara­bia on re­cent live events and WWE’s web­site, as of Tues­day, only listed the date and time for the card .

The page for April’s Great­est Royal Rum­ble still listed King Ab­dul­lah Sports City Sta­dium in Jed­dah, Saudi Ara­bia, un­der time/lo­ca­tion .

“WWE has op­er­ated in the Mid­dle East for nearly 20 years and has de­vel­oped a siz­able and ded­i­cated fan base,” WWE said in a state­ment. “Con­sid­er­ing the heinous crime com­mit­ted at the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul , the Com­pany faced a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion as re­lates to its (Crown Jewel) event.

Sim­i­lar to other US-based com­pa­nies who plan to con­tinue op­er­a­tions in Saudi Ara­bia, the Com­pany has de­cided to up­hold its con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions to the Gen­eral Sports Au­thor­ity and stage the event.”

WWE’s stock price has fallen the last month af­ter steadily ris­ing this sum­mer, drop­ping from $94.22 per share on Oc­to­ber 1 to $66.16 on Mon­day. – AP

Photo: AP

In this March 29, 2015, file photo, Brock Les­nar makes his en­trance at Wrestlema­nia XXXI in Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia.

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