Tomorrow, WWE hosts their second event this year in the nation Saudi Arabia, titled WWE Crown Jewel. Like The Greatest Royal Rumble that was hosted in Jeddah this past April, it comes with its fair share of controversy. In the wake of the kidnap and murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, there’s been speculation for weeks now whether WWE would follow through with the show. We heard rumors that very few in the locker room didn’t want to go, but upper management did. Eventually, WWE put out a very short press release saying they will be going through with it.
That’s not to say though, that everyone is going through with it.
John Cena and Daniel Bryan have both been confirmed to have refused to participate in the show. They were both written out of their storylines for the event this week on RAW and SmackDown respectively. John Cena was to be in the World Cup tournament, but they’ve since replaced him with Bobby Lashley.
Daniel Bryan, however, was scheduled to face AJ Styles for the WWE title. Today we learned that he never wanted to go, even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer had some more insight on the matter:
“Evidently Bryan, who knew little or nothing about Saudi Arabia until he got there, largely felt he couldn’t go back under those circumstances. It wasn’t so much that the women weren’t allowed to perform, even though he’s married to a woman wrestler and has a sister-in-law who wrestles. But the key was what he learned about the treatment of homosexuals, and also, that they wouldn’t allow Sami Zayn to perform on the show, and he considered that racism.
It was not the current controversy over Khashoggi that evidently made him make his decision, although one would think it made him feel more strongly that his decision wasn’t wrong.
He had asked to lose to The Miz in Australia in the match where the winner would get the title shot. It’s not clear if that was because he knew the title shot was coming in Saudi Arabia, or because he felt that it wasn’t time yet to get his conclusive win which would come across as the blow-off of the program.”
That’s a bold move for Daniel Bryan, who has had a bit of a “fuck you then, fire me if you don’t like it” attitude the past few years. Cena can handle it, as he doesn’t need the WWE anymore, and he likely didn’t want to go on with the show as it may look poor for when he makes his full transition to Hollywood. Either way, I respect these two for not going. Especially Daniel Bryan, as he isn’t quite the household name that Cena is, and is taking a much bigger risk.
Now, who is attending Crown Jewel is even more interesting.
Newly appointed full-time commentator Renee Young will be doing commentary for the show. This is especially surprising as Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow female wrestlers to perform on the show, so to allow her to do commentary might be interesting. But hopefully, it’ll be a positive in a show that is overwhelmed by a list of negatives.
The biggest surprise of Crown Jewel the person that WWE has confirmed is the host of their show. That person is Hulk Hogan. Covering a PR disaster with another PR disaster, they are putting “The Real American” back on camera in front of a packed Saudi Arabian audience. I already don’t really care about this show for more than one reason, but this is just another decision that makes me groan. Saudi Arabia is an interesting place, however, and knowing them they probably asked to have him there. Hell, at the Greatest Royal Rumble, they requested Yokozuna wrestle on the show, despite him being dead. I don’t really want to see Hulk Hogan on my programming, nor do I really care much for the logistics behind this show, so I’ll probably just catch the highlights.
You can catch it tomorrow on the WWE Network.
Braden Jackson – @Dembrae
Image provided by WWE.com