WWE “Crown Jewel” will take place in Saudi Arabia as originally planned, the company announced Thursday morning as part of its third-quarter 2018 earnings release.
In a statement, the pro-wrestling promotion acknowledged the “heinous crime” committed at the Saudi consulate against journalist Jamal Khashoggi — but the show will go on.
“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base,” the company said on Thursday morning in its third-quarter 2018 earnings release. “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.”
“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 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.
On Friday, Saudi officials said Khashoggi had died as a result of a “fight” at the Istanbul consulate. That made the decision much more difficult on WWE executives. For a few days, it seemed like a last-minute relocation was a real possibility.
Many fans and non-fans alike have been critical of WWE’s lucrative business arrangement with the Saudis. People from all walks of life called on Vince McMahon and his company to cancel or relocate “Crown Jewel” after Khashoggi’s disappearance and his increasingly grim fate made headlines.
Since its silence-breaking statement, WWE had remained mum on the overall issue and what it would do in response to the backlash. The company heavily promoted “Crown Jewel” on Monday’s “Raw” and Tuesday’s “SmackDown” shows, though announcers declined to mention its location each time.
WWE.com has effectively scrubbed all mentions of “Saudi Arabia” from the event’s page. Here is how it looked as of Thursday, Oct. 18, when Reigns was still in the main event:
And here is how it looks now, after Reigns revealed his battle with leukemia and announced a leave of absence from wrestling:
On Oct. 18, an actual search of “Saudi Arabia” across all of WWE.com brought up this other page, which still listed a location:
By the next day, that page had been removed from the website.
When the landing page (the one above with John Cena) was still active, that “Buy Tickets” button took browsers here:
At the time of this story’s publishing, the Saudi website still lists tickets as “coming soon.”
On Friday, Oct. 19, a WWE.com search for “Crown Jewel” brought us to a result with “tbd” listed as the “Crown Jewel” location:
That “tbd” was removed by the following day, Saturday, Oct. 20, after TheWrap requested comment from WWE on the “tbd.” We reached out to reps practically every day since their initial Oct. 11 statement. We never heard back from our multiple attempts.
Here are the search results as of Oct. 20, with no “tbd.”
Tickets were set to go on sale on Friday, Oct. 19. They did not. At the time this story published, they were still not on sale.
“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.