WWE Chairman Vince McMahon declined an opportunity Thursday to elaborate on his decision to stage pay-per-view “Crown Jewel” in Saudi Arabia as originally planned.
On the publicly traded pro-wrestling promotion’s third-quarter 2018 earnings call, the very first Q&A question asked McMahon to walk us all through the internal discussions surrounding the event.
“We’re not going to talk a lot about that,” McMahon replied to the media analyst. “It’s a very sensitive subject. I think our statement says what we wanna say.”
Here is the statement he is referring to, which accompanied the actual Q3 earnings on Thursday:
“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 Nov. 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. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.”
Earlier in the call during prepared remarks, WWE co-president George Barrios briefly referred to their call to stay the course in Saudi Arabia as a “difficult decision.”
Later, executives were asked about future Saudi events and to explain some “risk factors” that influenced the “Crown Jewel” decision. They punted, though Barrios did vaguely refer to the “complexity” of the situation.
Next week’s “Crown Jewel” in Saudi Arabia wasn’t always a definite.
On Oct. 11, a spokesman for the professional wrestling promotion told TheWrap that they are “currently monitoring the situation” in Saudi Arabia.
The brief statement was WWE’s first acknowledgement of the circumstances surrounding deceased Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabia native who had been critical of the country’s royal regime. U.S. and Turkish officials both believe that Khashoggi may have been murdered by his own government, or that he was killed with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s knowledge. At the time, Khashoggi had been missing for more than a week after going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers. Saudi officials now acknowledge his murder, and have admitted that it was possibly premeditated.
“Crown Jewel” is the latest in WWE’s massive push into expansion in the oil-rich nation. It will follow April’s “Greatest Royal Rumble” event, which took place at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
These events are believed to pull in tens of millions of dollars for the publicly traded company.
This isn’t the first time there has been an outcry against WWE for accepting Saudi money to put on a live show over there. Due to local laws, women are not permitted to participate in Saudi Arabian wrestling events.
“Crown Jewel,” which will now officially take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is set to stream live on WWE Network Friday, Nov. 2 starting at noon ET.