Editorial Columns

No One Wants WWE To Return To Saudi Arabia

Adam Cailler gives his no-holds-barred view on WWE’s return to Saudi Arabia.

We all know that for Vince McMahon, money really does talk, which is why WWE’s vast roster of superstars are shipped off to Saudi Arabia twice a year for the Crown Jewel pay-per-view.

But, WWE is selling what little soul it has left to perform in front of almost empty stadiums.

And this is why they shouldn’t.

Caution, we’re about to get political…very political.

I have a question for everyone:

What do Sami Zayn and Noam Dar have in common?

They are both banned from entering Saudi Arabia because of their heritage.

Sami was born in Canada, but his parents are Syrian and moved from the capital city of Homs to Quebec before he was born. Noam Dar was born in a small town in Israel called Be’er Ya’akov, just outside of Rishon Lezion. He was five years old when he moved to Scotland, and was raised in Ayr.

Sami has the Syrian flag on his trunks, while Noam – who is Jewish, but we’ll cover that later – was billed as the first Israeli-born wrestler to grace a WWE ring when he debuted in the Cruiserweight Classic a few years ago.

And for these two reasons alone, neither is allowed inside the country, never mind even competing on the show. While Israel’s diplomatic ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have warmed in recent years – albeit off the record and through backroom deals – the Saudis still do not allow Israelis into the country.

And similarly for Syrians, to say that diplomatic ties are strained at best would be an understatement.

The fact that two of the company’s talents are not allowed into the country, that should be a good enough reason alone to not travel there. Also barred from wrestling on the show, although they can enter the country, are the women of WWE.

Much has been said about the serious damage the Saudi deal does to the Women’s Revolution, so I won’t rehash the same old arguments, but it’s safe to say that this attitude will not change, no matter how much the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman wants to talk a good game.

So, essentially, nearly a third of your roster and arguably four of the main attractions on any WWE show will not be allowed to compete – Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Becky Lynch. Throw in the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions in Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross and you have 4 champions who cannot compete on a massive “Wrestlemania-sized show”.

That, in my eyes, is degrading and disrespectful to a sizeable portion of the roster and to the audience.

Now, one of WWE’s priorities should of course be wrestler safety, and in fact the safety of their entire crew of staff.

Or not.

Last year, extremist terrorist group Al-Qaeda sent a warning to the crown prince to call his efforts to modernise the country “sinful” and threatened attacks on venues and special events.

The group said: “[Foreign] disbelieving wrestlers exposed their privates and on most of them was the sign of the cross, in front of a mixed gathering of young Muslim men and women.”

Putting aside the fact that each show WWE has put on in Saudi Arabia has been sub-par, if not downright awful, threats made by a terrorists group and the barring of a vast majority of the roster from being involved in the show should have stopped WWE from ever considering signing the contract that was put in front of them.

The murder of a journalist in Jamal Khashoggi last year ramped up the pressure on WWE, as has its treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. Its human rights record is beyond appalling, yet still Vince McMahon takes the money and puts on the shows.

Why not put on a show in Russia, China or North Korea, too?

Do WWE fans really care anymore about Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, who had a truly embarrassing interaction on RAW on Monday? We would all love to see The Undertaker square off in a dream match against Sting. But if it took place in Saudi Arabia, it would be nothing short of WWE continuing to whitewash, or sportswash, all of the above.

Goldberg vs Undertaker proves that money doesn’t make dream matches from 20 years ago worth watching today. So, simply put, Vince McMahon, there are more important things than money. Selling your soul isn’t worth it.

And I, like thousands of others, will not be watching WWE Crown Jewel on Halloween – the same day as Brexit day.

Horrifying. Truly horrifying.

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You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ACailler. Thanks for reading!

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