Renee Young, Tom Phillips and Aiden English are set to call tonight’s “SmackDown” on Fox, TheWrap has learned exclusively. The trio are acting as replacements for regular announcers Michael Cole and Corey Graves, who are among the large number of WWE wrestlers, employees and members of the production crew that have been “delayed” in their return from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s “Crown Jewel” pay-per-view event, as TheWrap reported earlier Friday.
“More than 175 Superstars, production crew and employees boarded a 747 charter flight back to the United States on Thursday,” WWE said in a statement Friday morning. “After the door closed, due to several aircraft problems including mechanical issues, all passengers sat on the tarmac for more than six hours.”
In an attempt to make it back for tonight’s “Friday Night SmackDown” in Buffalo, N.Y., several wrestlers chartered their own plane, WWE said at the time. But, “Due to unforeseen issues, that charter will not land until after the live broadcast on Fox,” the statement read.
“The remainder of WWE’s Superstars, staff and crew will depart on a charter set to depart Saudi Arabia later tonight,” it continued.
Fox’s “Friday Night SmackDown” will go on as scheduled, though with major changes to the show’s card. Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Carmella, Nikki Cross and Dana Brooke did not make the trip to the Middle East and will be in the house tonight, WWE said.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, who opened the Saudi Arabia PPV but tends to travel via private jet, will also be on the show, WWE announced.
The company also promised “additional surprises.”
Young is considered a special contributor for “Friday Night SmackDown.” English replaced Percy Watson on the “205 Live” commentary team in early 2019. Phillips does the play-by-play for “205 Live” and “NXT UK.”
On Friday afternoon, airline Atlas Air backed up the part about the delayed stemming from a “mechanical issue.”
“A chartered WWE passenger flight operated by Atlas Air is currently delayed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia due to a mechanical issue,” the airline said. “The flight was scheduled to depart at 0300 local time on November 1. Our top priority is always to ensure our passengers arrive safely and on time at their destination. The aircraft is being repaired and will be inspected and certified before returning to service to transport our passengers to their final destination.”
“We regret that operational disruptions delayed the flight and apologize to our passengers who were inconvenienced,” Atlas Air concluded.
That statement refers to the original 747 that was delayed. Nov. 1 at 0300 in Riyadh is 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 31.
These were the Superstars who wrestled at “Crown Jewel”: Natalya, Lacey Evans, Seth Rollins, “The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt, Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, Ricochet, Rusev, Ali, Shorty G, Randy Orton, King Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre, AJ Styles, Mansoor, Cesaro, Humberto Carrillo, and tag teams The New Day, The Viking Raiders, Heavy Machinery, Lucha House Party, Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins, The Revival, The O.C., Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode, and The B-Team.
Additionally, Paul Heyman, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair managed talent on the pay-per-view show. Boxer Tyson Fury wrestled Strowman.
There were also matches on the pre-show, including R-Truth vs. Sunil Singh and a 20-man battle royal.
“Featured Superstars” that were scheduled to appear Friday in Buffalo include Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, King Corbin, Daniel Bryan, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks, according to WWE’s promotional webpage.
Below is WWE’s full statement on the travel issue:
The WWE roster is delayed in its return from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, following a historic performance at yesterday’s record-breaking WWE Crown Jewel event.
More than 175 Superstars, production crew and employees boarded a 747 charter flight back to the United States on Thursday. After the door closed, due to several aircraft problems including mechanical issues, all passengers sat on the tarmac for more than six hours. With SmackDown set to emanate live from Buffalo, N.Y., several Superstars felt so strongly that they arranged for their own separate charter in order to make it back to the U.S. for the show. Due to unforeseen issues, that charter will not land until after the live broadcast on Fox.
The remainder of WWE’s Superstars, staff and crew will depart on a charter set to depart Saudi Arabia later tonight.
As always with WWE, the show must go on. Live at 8/7 CT on Fox, SmackDown will feature Superstars, such as Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Carmella, Nikki Cross, Dana Brooke — plus, additional surprises.
For the latest updates on this story and tonight’s SmackDown, check back with WWE.com and follow WWE on social media.
“Friday Night SmackDown” airs from 8-10 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.