Six days ago, WWE was in an awkward position regarding its upcoming Crown Jewel event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the second card in a 10-year contract with the kingdom that is believed to be worth $ 20- $ 50 million per show . Saudi Arabia's brutal war of attrition in Yemen and, more recently, Turkey's insistence that the Saudis killed and dismembered dissident journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi at his Istanbul consulate, have made the agreement appear ethically dubious or completely unconscious, depending on how charitable you are feeling. It was never anything more than that, but recent events have only made things look worse for the WWE.
The Saudis are pressing a cover story of "failed interrogation" about Khashoggi's death, but the Turkish government says it has a recording that proves otherwise. There is still much that is unknown about the case, but what is known is bad enough so that a growing number of companies are cutting ties with Saudi Arabia; Lawmakers are pushing legislation to make the United States government do the same. Even Endeavor, the content factory of the Hollywood talent agency that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has withdrawn from an agreement to sell a minority stake to the Saudi government. This came after Endeavor issued a statement almost identical to the one WWE issued about "monitoring" the situation.
With the story of Khashoggi still on hold and WWE still, uh, monitoring things, numerous major media outlets have covered both WWE's behavior and the increasing reaction the promotion has received. HBO Last week tonight with John Oliver he built his story around human rights violations and the "liberal" facade of Saudi Arabia on Sunday, and summed it up with some withering snippets about the WWE deal, including one episode of the most brazen propaganda at the Greatest Royal event April Rumble in Jeddah. According to Nielsen's ratings, the initial broadcast of this week's episode attracted 919,000 viewers, with another 3.7 million watching the official YouTube load of the Saudi segment; even the WWE-centric excerpts that I tweeted He got 76,000 visits. Those figures do not include HBO replay viewers, either on the linear channels or through one of their three on-demand services, or views of unofficial YouTube uploads.
While the Last week tonight Surely, the segment was the first that many viewers had heard of the agreement, the hardest fan base seems to have gained a new understanding of the Saudi problem from the coverage of Oliver and others. When The Undertaker mentioned "Crown Jewel" in the special edition of the 1,000th episode last night of SmackDown, the he was booed loudly. On the contrary, a surprise appearance by Vince McMahon provoked a huge ovation.
WWE has to wait for the cognitive dissonance to continue, because despite the growing public pressure, the promotion has not changed course. Watch your weekly TV shows and you will notice that, as of Monday, the Crown Jewel plugs no longer mention Saudi Arabia. You will also notice that that is all. WWE has been quietly confirming that the program will continue, while telling each news outlet that it is asking "we are currently monitoring the situation."
WWE has been doing a lot of monitoring in recent months, as it happens. Recently, WWE had claimed that it was "investigating" its front-line physician by swearing that he had a sexual relationship with at least one patient fighter and was investigating allegations that Randy Orton had been exposed to the writers. Since then, no public case has been revealed about any of the cases, and WWE did not respond to a request for comment on the status of those "investigations." It seems safe to assume that his "oversight" of Khashoggi's "situation" means almost as much as his "investigations". That is, not much.
While the WWE as a company has maintained its "monitoring" plaque, its substitutes have exposed the argument of the promotion in favor of staying in the realm. TMZ stopped Orton at an airport on Wednesday morning, where, instead of unveiling his penis, he defended the promotion decision to continue Crown Jewel. "I think we should go," he began. "I think the only way to help with the change is to go and not cancel the trip. Our girls performed in Abu Dhabi not so long ago, and I think we will eventually be there with Saudi Arabia, [at] Crown jewel. That is the goal, it is to improve things everywhere and I think that do not Go does not help Go help. "
Incoherent as this has been, there is no reason to believe that it was spontaneous. WWE has a set of discussion points on its agreement with Saudi Arabia, and be a change agent It has been a central part of the narrative; deviating from the persistent and flagrant violations of human rights in the country and abroad to focus on the absence of wrestlers from Saudi shows is also part of that history. As usual, it is difficult to know how sincere it is, or is allowed to be, to any person involved. Orton also liked a vaguely drafted but seemingly pro-union and anti-Saudi agreement Cody Rhodes's tweet on Monday, for example. (The normally talkative Rhodes has not responded to a request for clarification). Beyond the long history of obviously organized WWE / TMZ interactions, there was another reason why Orton's statement sounded scant and unconvincing, and that it was virtually note by note with another WWE substitute argument on Fox Business Channel hit since Tuesday.
That replacement was John "Bradshaw" Layfield, a retired fighter / announcer turned investor who does not even work for WWE anymore. In less than a minute of time in the air, Layfield unleashed a dizzying amount of propaganda in favor of the WWE in search of the agreement of Saudi Arabia, practically everything that rhymed with the case of Orton to TMZ. In summary, Layfield said that:
- WWE should go to Saudi Arabia because it believes that the US trade embargo with Cuba did not work, which shows that only commitment works.
- That WWE "had the first fight of women that had happened in the Middle East", which is not remotely true: the wrestlers appeared on WWE tours in the mid-80s in the most liberal countries in the region.
- That the crowd sang "this is a change" during the Alexa Bliss-Sasha Banks match in Abu Dhabi, which was incorrect because the singing was "this is hope" and because WWE has exaggerated what were clearly sung by a few fans .
- That "these senators who go out and beat the WWE in this" -three Democrats and the Republican Lindsay Graham, all talking in IJR- are simply "hidden"[ing] behind his patriotism and flag flutters to try to improve his abysmal approval ratings ", a point that nailed to the … noting that the WWE has presented shows for troops and organized the first event the size of a stadium after 9/11 Layfield also noticed that he visited Ground Zero.
"WWE has been at the forefront of change," he concluded, "and [if] You want to change Saudi Arabia, you send something like WWE. "
Although the coverage of the situation by the media has been broad and largely negative, there have been exceptions, all among the publications compatible with WWE. A search on the Google site shows that Rolling Stone, which has become a regular outlet for WWE announcements, has not covered the WWE / Saudi controversy at all. Your summary of more than 600 words from Last week tonight The segment omits parts of the WWE completely, even though many outlets led with them. ESPN seems to have withdrawn from WWE content in recent times, so while it is worrying that they published the border's propaganda in May, it probably means little that they waited until Tuesday night to post a solid WWE article. Saudi written by editor Tim Fiorvanti who appeared at the top of the WWE web page.
Perhaps most worrying, however, was an article about the Illustrated Sports Justin Barasso's website, which was published on Monday. YES has covered the Saudi issue very well, and his piece in the Last night weeek Segmento cited Oliver's observation that Greatest Royal Rumble was "wall-to-wall propaganda," but Barasso's piece stands out in a bad way. The story begins with the WWE talent that expresses "discomfort with the idea of acting in Saudi Arabia, especially given the nation's poor record of human rights" and Barasso agrees that the program should not happen. (WWE: "As always, we maintain an open line of communication with our artists as we continue to monitor the situation.") In the version of the article currently on the site, that part, updated after publication to add the WWE statement , it executes 203 words – 169 without the declaration.
The remaining 399 words are uncut and surprisingly naive like the WWE apology. "Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman sold them in a vision of a progressive nation" and "he was serious in his pursuit of Western entertainment," writes Barasso, and WWE sincerely believed it. He implies that there were no signs of human rights problems that worried the WWE until the Khashoggi murder, which is not true. He also writes that the agreement can be justified in the light of other Western companies dealing with the Kingdom, which omits the salient point that WWE served as propagandists for the kingdom as part of the agreement. The WWE now has the opportunity to "make a statement about human rights and equality" upon retirement, he concludes. That is debatable, and such a statement would be difficult to prove at this point. Of course, WWE is not withdrawing from Saudi Arabia, at least not yet. Which means that at this moment the statement they are making is about what the promotion really values and how much.
David Bixenspan is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York, who is co-host of the podcast Between The Sheets every Monday at BetweenTheSheetsPod.com and anywhere else where podcasts are available. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidbix and see his portfolio at Clippings.me/davidbix.