John Cena was officially taken off of the upcoming Crown Jewel event during Monday Night Raw this week.
During the show acting general manager Baron Corbin congratulated Bobby Lashley for beating up Finn Balor after their match. As a reward he added Lashley to the World Cup tournament at Crown Jewel in Cena's place, pointing out that Cena never won a qualifying match before being entered into the bracket.
Reports had been spreading for nearly a week that Cena wanted to back out of Crown Jewel due to the controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia following the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Following Khashoggi's death, WWE released a statement that they were "monitoring the situation" in Saudi Arabia. Over the next two weeks all mentions of Saudi Arabia were removed from the event's promotion both on television and online, but the show was never officially canceled. Finally on Thursday the company released another statement during their quarterly earnings report confirming their intent to keep the show in the city of Riyadh as scheduled.
"WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base," the statement read. "Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh.
"Similar to other U.S.-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," the statement continued. "Full-year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled."
Barstool Sports' Robbie Fox, who was the first to report of Cena's potential absence, named Daniel Bryan as another top Superstar who wanted to back out of the event even though he's booked for a WWE Championship match with AJ Styles. As of Monday, that match is still on.
Now in Cena's place, Lashley will take part in an eight-man single elimination tournament to crown the "Best in the World" at Crown Jewel. The other seven participants include Kurt Angle, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy and The Miz. On Monday the official bracket for the tournament was released, pairing Lashley up with Rollins in the first round.
Other matches for Crown Jewel include Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman for the vacated WWE Universal Championship and D-Generation X vs. The Brothers of Destruction.