Amid no shortage of scrutiny, WWE confirmed that their Saudi Arabian show, Crown Jewel, will take place as scheduled. While Vince McMahon stonewalled a question on WWE's thought process, his daughter, Stephanie McMahon just shed light on the company's decision.
In an interview with Sky News, McMahon conceded that the choice to move forward with Crown Jewel was not easy, but WWE felt an obligation to put on the show, despite heavy criticism.
"Moving forward with Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia was an incredibly tough decision, given that heinous act, But, at the end of the day, it is a business decision and, like a lot of other American companies, we decided that we're going to move forward with the event and deliver Crown Jewel for all of our fans in Saudi Arabia and around the world," she said.
After the death of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, American entities began severing or freezing their relationship with the Saudis. As his death became a murder investegation—with the Saudis being lead suspects—pressure has mounted on companies to withdraw business ventures in the country. WWE has made a slew of negative headlines for maintaining their relationship with the Saudis and have been slammed by fans, mainstream media, and even US Senators.
When WWE announced that Crown Jewel will still happen, they issued this statement:
"WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. 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," it read.
As the controversy mounted, word came out that John Cena is refusing to take part in the event. That has yet to be confirmed, but rumors have him being replaced by Bobby Lashley. Daniel Bryan is also reportedly against performing, but that also has not been verified by WWE.
The most remarkable stances against WWE going to Saudi Arabia have come from US Senators. Lindsey Graham told IJR he hopes that President Trump "prevail upon them not doing it. There should be a pause … I want a complete rethinking of our relationship."0comments
Senator Chris Murphy (CT) said "This is a brazen assault on the freedom of the press and a slap in the face to the United States, if this murder occurred as it seems it did, I'd hope that they would be rethinking their relationship with the kingdom especially with respect to events coming up in the next weeks like [WWE Crown Jewel]."
Senator Bob Menendez (NJ) said "Private enterprise is private enterprise, different than a governmental entity, but because [Linda McMahon] is part of the president's cabinet, it falls into the grey area where the administration really should give it some thought and maybe even prevail upon them not doing it."