Wrestling with Controversy: WWE's Untimely Deal with Saudi Arabia

Wrestling With Controversy: ​WWE's Untimely Deal With Saudi Arabia​

WWE is facing backlash over an ill-timed deal with a country embroiled in controversy.

The Saudi Arabian government has recently been facing backlash for their part in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This has led to companies across the world being criticized for doing business with the country, including professional wrestling company World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE. In March, the company signed a 10-year deal with the Saudi Arabian government that would see the company hold several shows and events in Saudi Arabia.

The first of these events was known as "The Greatest Royal Rumble," held on April 27th in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At the time of this event, there was a vocal minority criticizing the company for signing this deal with Saudi Arabia. Even before the murder of Khasshogi, there were a few reasons why people were outraged.

One reason was that despite the WWE employing many female wrestlers, none of them wrestled on the show. Why? Because of the country's laws that prevent women from having certain freedoms, including in what they wear. Although they did not wrestle, women did appear on the show in a promotional video for an upcoming WWE event that aired. However, this caused the Saudi Arabian government to release a statement apologizing for "showing women in an indecent way."

In response to the backlash of having no women on the show, WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative Paul "Triple H" Levesque put out his own statement on how Saudi Arabia was becoming a more "progressive" country. However, women were not the only ones who did not appear on the show. Wrestler Sami Zayn was also absent from the show, as he is of Syrian descent. Syria and Saudi Arabia have had bad blood since the Syrian War started in 2012.

Luckily for WWE, these two controversies did not cause their reputation much harm and the show was able to go on without any problems. The same cannot be said about their November 2 show, "Crown Jewel." With the recent Khashoggi death controversy, the vocal minority against WWE's deal with Saudi Arabia has grown into a majority, with mainstream media such as the Washington Post, Forbes, and even John Oliver joining in on the criticism.

This time around, not only were the women and Sami Zayn not competing, but famed wrestler John Cena did not attend the show due to the recent controversy. Another wrestler, Daniel Bryan, officially pulled out of the show as well. The company must have been feeling the pressure, as ten days before Crown Jewel, it was reported that WWE was searching for a new location other than Saudi Arabia to hold the show.

Of course, like any company that cares about money, WWE decided to go through with the show in Saudi Arabia anyway, leading to yet another press release in defense of their decision. This gives off the feeling that the company values making money over having morals. If that is how they choose to behave, then they deserve every bit of controversy that comes their way.

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