Imp's WWE Adventure - Saudi Arabia: Should WWE Leave the Deal?

Imp’s WWE Adventure – Saudi Arabia: Should WWE Leave the Deal?

Saudi Arabia

Imp’s WWE Adventure

Saudi Arabia: Should WWE Leave the Deal?

I wanted to be writing this when more was established about what happened October 2nd in Istanbul, but unfortunately that simply isn’t the case. So a big, bold ‘AS OF THE TIME OF WRITING’ is required here.

I’m writing this October 15th, almost two weeks after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was reported missing by his fiancé, and this column is about how the events that followed have had such a damaging impact on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in turn the WWE.

Back in May for the Greatest Royal Rumble, I wrote a column taking a more positive stance on the signs of gradual change within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, I closed things off with this statement,
“I myself am not going to blindly ignore some of the more controversial aspects (puts it lightly, but this is a wrestling column not a BBC article) of the Salmans’ tenure in power so far.”

*Sigh* Looks like I’m going to have to go into it.

What Happened In Turkey?

On October 2nd, according to his fiancé, Saudi born journalist Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi Consulate for some papers in order for the two to get married. She waited patiently outside for his return, which never happened. She waited for hours only for him to never appear.

After she reported Khashoggi missing, Turkish authorities announced the desire to fully investigate and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expressed a similar sentiment, stating a willingness to cooperate. Turkish investigators discovered CCTV footage from outside the consulate of a team of 15 men entering the building shortly after the journalist’s arrival. After tracking their whereabouts it was discovered that the team had only just arrived in Turkey via Riyadh (most on a private plane) and immediately went to the consulate, before leaving the country again shortly after.

As for the established facts of what happened that day, that’s it. Turkish media have reported via leaks from the investigation that investigators discovered both video and audio evidence of the whole event taking place, (of which have not been publicly released) citing a struggle, torture and the eventual murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi.

On top of that, Saudi officials were seemingly not as willing as their initial statement played, with disagreements over what permissions investigators were to be given in relation to searching the consulate. Turkish officers wanted to take in a chemical to detect traces of blood, and discussions took until this past Friday to figure out as the Saudis were insistent on a more limited search. Then just TODAY it was announced that Turkish officers would finally be allowed to enter the consulate this afternoon to conduct a joint investigation with KSA, two whole weeks after the disappearance.

Saudi officials have denied all allegations, stating that Khashoggi left the consulate (whilst providing no evidence of that fact) and that the 15 men were simply just tourists. Distorting the facts, a tactic too common in our politics. And that’s the thing, it’s not confirmed he’s actually dead. Khashoggi is still only supposedly not alive. He’s certainly missing, but the evidence of murder at this stage is mostly circumstantial.

But either way, all of this on top of the Saudi’s reluctance with being fully open to help with the investigation has really damaged that fresh new image they’re trying to present to the west.

Should WWE Honour Their Agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

This is where WWE comes in. That nicer image, a beautiful kingdom with lots to offer and amazing people to meet. A land changing with the times, giving more rights to women, bringing in foreign entertainment to perform for the people. An image that is all tarnished by the ways that haven’t changed when you look a little closer, in particular arresting anyone who speaks out negatively about matters relating to the government.

Our own Mr Tito posted a fantastic column on the WWE-Saudi Arabia issue, in which he made a statement that caught my attention, “But the WWE could consider these as allegations or if true, as an isolated incident.”

That’s the thing, this isn’t an isolated incident.

Have you heard about Saudi Arabia’s missing princes? Aka family of the King who have spoken out against what’s happening in the country and subsequently left. Within the last 2 years, 3 Saudi princes have gone missing, all of them have spoken out against the government. And there’s evidence all 3 were abducted and flown back to Saudi Arabia.

According to testimonies of one prince Turki bin Abdulaziz (who’s now back in Europe), back in 2003 he was straight up kidnapped and drugged with tranquilisers before being transported to a Medevac plane conveniently ready to fly him back.

Jamal Khashoggi was similarly critical of the running of the kingdom.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been ruled as an absolute monarchy since being founded in 1932, dissent is not tolerated. People who spoke out against WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble were ARRESTED, protesters for equality and human rights too. As appealing to the West as they are trying to market themselves, do not be disillusioned, Saudi Arabia is still effectively a dictatorship.

WWE are a part of that grand rebranding, but that doesn’t mean Saudi Arabian officials have actually changed their ways. Ahead of the GRR, Triple H said that you can’t dictate to a country about how they handle things, but what you can’t do is affect change by staying away from it. A nice sentiment, however Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has payed millions for this event, even asking for specific wrestlers to appear. So the stance comes from someone who stands to benefit greatly from the deal.

You wonder why Undertaker, Kane, Triple and Shawn Michaels are having their big match? It’s because MBS requested it and offered millions to each wrestler. Shawn Michaels is apparently going to be getting around $10 million! Hell, I shit you not, he apparently asked if Yokozuna could appear in the Greatest Royal Rumble. You know, the man that’s been dead for over 18 years.

But that’s really just a side issue as a fan, in the grand scheme of things that really matters not. The question is whether or not WWE are fine with what statement going ahead with this deal makes. Saudi Arabia is hosting a big Future Investment meeting later this month and more and more big names are pulling out, including the likes of JP Morgan, Ford, Mastercard, Viacom, Seimens and the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim.

Oh, and Uber. That’s big one, KSA have invested billions into Uber.

Saudi Arabia have a big influence on the world economy and they’ve made that abundantly clear after the threatening of sanctions by European countries and Trump himself. To be fair that was said in a statement made yesterday in the very next paragraph following this one that read:
“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations that will not undermine the Kingdom…”

Their statement basically called on folk for threats, before then immediately threatening in the very next paragraph.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seemingly more than aware of how much their money matters in the West (they’re the majority share of Twitter dammit!), but when it comes to WWE where do the morals lie? Big names are pulling away, the kingdom has lost billions over the past two weeks and it looks like sanctions may be on the horizon. That said, everything tells me WWE are going to go ahead with this unless there’s a full on fan revolt.

Well, that or Linda McMahon’s working relation with Trump finally biting the company in the arse. This is a big reason why WWE are so tied to this Saudi Arabia news, not only are they taking on millions to put on a big propaganda show for country accused of state endorsed murder, but the President of the United States now has a staff member with a direct tie in the McMahons. Suddenly this WWE-KSA deal matters, like really matters.

What If WWE Go Ahead With Their Saudi Deal?

John Oliver covered the Saudi Arabia topic last night on the HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight’, showing some of the propaganda clips from the Greatest Royal Rumble. The story was mostly about the US-KSA relationship, but without a doubt this greatly damages WWE’s image in the states. They are inherently linked with the rumoured wrongdoings of Saudi Arabia. The deal with MBS may bring in millions upon millions, but how much damage will that do to their US market? Their home demographic?

That makes tonight’s RAW really interesting to me, what will the crowd be like when Crown Jewel is mentioned? If it’s mentioned at all, this all makes tonight the perfect time to bang on endlessly about Evolution. You know, given it’s the go home show next week. But hey, I doubt that rather heavily as WWE have already tweeted about more ‘World Cup’ qualifying matches.

The stance seems to be to go ahead with the show, again none of the allegations are confirmed as of writing. Signs indeed do point to that horrific outcome of state sponsored murder, but if it isn’t definite Saudi Arabia did in fact do it, then should WWE be caught in the cross fire?

Dave Meltzer said last night on Wrestling Observer Radio that he was told the WWE would not be pulling out of the Crown Jewel event, unless specifically told otherwise by Trump or the State Department. If true, that should tell you everything you need to know about the company’s stance on this issue.

Lots of other companies have heavy financial ties to the Saudis, but that said, look at how many said companies are pulling out of the Future Investment meeting. How does WWE look if they continue on as normal? In spite of increasing backlash they march on as if everything’s simply ‘rather controversial’ like it was in back in May.

What I’m saying is this horrific act sadly wouldn’t be out of character for the King or Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, nor would it be out of character for WWE to go with the money. However, that doesn’t mean the WWE’s ‘character’ will come out unscathed. This has hit the mainstream, who knows what’ll happen next.

Saudi Arabia have potentially shown that they feel they can get away with anything, including the murder of a journalist. And by going ahead with the WWE-KSA deal, they’re telling us that they’re morally fine with that. The question now is: are you?

And man, I’ve not even mentioned Yemen… God I hope I don’t ever have to talk about that in a wrestling column. Well at least that’s ‘State Sponsored Murder’ crossed off the list.

When you say “wrestling” people think “WWE”. If you were to say “WWE” today, what would people think?

Email Imp – [email protected]

Thursdays on LOP Radio Imp covers the Mae Young Classic, NXT and 205 Live. Listen to the latest episode with guest: LOP’s 205 Live results man, Clive from the Ricky & Clive Show:

Links to Imp’s latest columns:
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – King of Pro Wrestling: The Road to Wrestle Kingdom Has Officially Begun!
Imp’s WWE Adventure – I Couldn’t Give Less Of A S*** About WWE Super Show-Down
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – Tanahashi vs Okada Episode VIII: The Last Rainmaker
Imp’s Adventure: ALL IN and the List of Pointless Comparisons
Imp’s WWE Adventure: Are You Wrong To Cheer Becky Lynch?
Imp’s WWE Adventure: Lesnar vs Reigns IV: Down As Smooth As A Dog On A Slide

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