WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin has been back in front of the WWE audience over the last couple of months, appearing on Raw Reunion, two weeks ago on Raw and will be appearing next Friday on Smackdown.
Speaking on his Podcast, The Steve Austin Show, the wrestling legend spoke about how he is in good shape once again.
“For the last couple of weeks, down there at the RAW reunion in Tampa, down there at the Madison Square Garden show at Monday Night RAW – people always ask me, ‘Hey man, you’re still in really good shape. You got one more match left in you?’ And I tell them, ‘Man.’ I say, ‘You know, it’s a tough thing to think about.’ Physically, would I be able to have one more match? Yes, most definitely, and I could make it to that match without being injured. Although the risks are always there, just because I think all of the surgeries, I had… where I had the spinal stenosis, and getting that bone spur taken off my spinal cord – I’m in a good place. Nerves are feeling a lot better than they use to. So, you know, in theory, could I have a match? In theory, yes.”
The chances of seeing Stone Cold back in the ring are slim to none as he’s now content with his new show ‘Straight up Steve Austin’ – but in wrestling you can never say never.
Last March WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority announced the start of a 10-year partnership as part of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ campaign, a public relations and economic programme aimed at boosting and repairing the image of the Saudi government on the world stage.
Next week, on June 7th, WWE will return again to Saudi Arabia for ‘Super Showdown’ which they are touting as “being as good as, or better than, Wrestlemania“. This event will feature The Undertaker taking on Goldberg in what many have called a once dream match.
Several superstars will miss this trip, including Daniel Bryan who has expressed his desire not to travel back to Saudi Arabia after feeling uncomfortable there previously. Also not returning will be Kevin Owens as well as Sami Zayn due to his Syrian heritage and Aleister Black because of his religious iconography on his tattoos.
The first event under this deal, the Greatest Royal Rumble, was held in April 2018 and was not met without controversy. First of all came the propaganda throughout the broadcast which attempted to signify an open and diverse Saudi Arabia under the leadership of the new Crown Prince, a video which received staunch criticism back in the west.
In addition to this, women were unable to compete at the event due to
the strict Sharia applications within the country. So much so that WWE ran an
advert during the GRR which featured female superstars which the
Saudi Authority publicly apologised for, for showing “indecent” women.
The money WWE is thought to have made from these events in Saudi Arabia is rather staggering. Although they do not publicly reveal the amount received from each event, estimates can be easily made through analysing the quarterly financial reports WWE release. The Saudi deal is included within the “other” figures of the quarterly reports alongside other programming such as Total Divas, WWE Studios etc and Q2 and 4 of 2018 saw huge spikes of financial growth. It can be estimated that for the Greatest Royal Rumble WWE received around $50- 55 Million and tens of millions more for Crown Jewel. The second event is harder to estimate due to the revenue from the Australian Super Show falling in the same quarter.
Surprisingly WWE’s deal with Saudi went more or less under the radar
until their second event, Crown Jewel, came along and the tide suddenly turned.
In the weeks leading up to the event Saudi Arabia was in the middle of a huge
international incident when journalist Jamal Khashoggi was lured from his home
to a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was then assassinated and
the order of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
When this information came out several high profile businesses withdrew
their support from the Saudi investment summit known as FII including the
Virgin Group, Uber, Google and Endeavour, the parent company of UFC. However,
WWE’s deal with Saudi Arabia remained, and so became a focal point of a lot of
media attention; this included a piece by HBO’s John Oliver, who criticised WWE’s
continued support in this video:
The backlash before the event even began was immense; four U.S senators,
including Senator Chris Murphy of WWE’s home state of Connecticut urged WWE to
reconsider and said that the brutual murder of Khashoggi “should represent a fundamental break in our
relationship with Saudi Arabia”.
However, during the company’s Q3 earnings report WWE announced
that it would continue to hold the Crown Jewel event despite the huge pressure
being placed upon them by outside forces. During the 3 conference call many
questions were asked of the board regarding the event and they refused to
answer any of them, pointing instead to the statement within the report.
Why is Saudi Arabia
The killing of Jamal Khashoggi is the tip of the iceberg of
the controversies surrounding Saudi Arabia and was simply at the forefront of
the press at the time WWE were planning the Crown Jewel event.
It is stated by Human Rights Watch that Saudi Arabia is responsible
for a plethora of human rights abuses stemming back long before the current
Crown Prince through to today and are constantly ranked
among the most repressive nations in the world for rights and civil liberties.
HRW reports that in 2018 the Saudi regime detained peaceful activists for no reason and without trial for long periods, many of these dissidents have been imprisoned for criticising the government or advocating for reforms. In 2018, 148 people were executed, 59 for non-violent drug offences. Campaigns of unlawful airstrikes continue and repression of women and homosexuals and other minorities continues.
decision by the Crown Prince in 2017 to lift the ban on women driving was met
with Global applause – making headline news around the world. Despite this,
Saudi Arabia is still the most gender-segregated nation in the world and women
still face an uphill battle in the country. They have an inability to make
major decisions without permission from their male Guardian, the Saudi dress
code is also of strict Islamic interpretation and reportedly leads to
harassment from the religious police if not followed to the strictest degree.
is not just women who are subject to high levels of discrimination, under
sharia as interpreted in Saudi, consensual homosexual sex remains punishable by
death. Between 2011 and 2012 the government is said to have arrested over 260 people
for the crime of homosexuality.
In 2014 a 24-year old Saudi man was given 450 lashes for using Twitter to
arrange dates with men.
In the first few months of 2019 alone a mass execution of 37 men took place on April 23rd throughout the country. The majority of those executed were from Shia communities and were convicted following unfair and “sham” trials. These executions have received international condemnation in the weeks following.
Just two weeks before WWE head back over to Saudi the regime has received yet more international condemnation after arresting 3 scholars, These arrests and executions have been condemned by the UN, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.
One thing must be remembered here, it is not the fault of the Saudi fans, they deserve to see their favourite stars compete. However, Saudi Arabia are not bringing the WWE to their country for the fans, they are bringing them over as part of a propaganda campaign for Vision 2030. If it was for fan experience, the floor of the stadiums at these shows would not be reserved for the royals and be half empty as a result.
WWE are not going to cancel these shows unless they are ordered to do so by the United States government following a serious international incident. If the Jamal Khashoggi assassination did not tip the scales then at this rate nothing will. Since the Saudi deal WWE’s engagement has been down across the board, whether it’s related we’ll never know but one thing is for sure – WWE fans and wrestling journalists alike are disappointed by this deal.
Whether WWE truly believes this to be the case or not we do not know, but it is rather telling that the company will not say the name of the host country in the promotional videos. WWE is well aware of the PR disaster this deal has been but there is no chance of it stopping now.
Hall of Famer Jim Ross has responded to WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins, who called AEW the “minor leagues” on October 21st when asked if he would face Kenny Omega. You can see that full interaction here.
This was the latest in a long line of jabs back and forth between WWE and AEW since the companies inception. Legendary commentator Jim Ross sis not take the comments light; on the latest episode of Grilling JR he had the following to say:
” I’m pissed off about it… It doesn’t do any favours for our business… I’m not inferring that Seth thinks he’s bigger than the business. But, by what he says sometimes, you can make that assessment, rightly or wrongly. It’s not a classy thing to say for an athlete of his designation.
Rollins is in a great spot… maybe someday he’ll be as over as his girlfriend. I don’t know. I’ve always liked his work. He’s a solid guy. But saying things like that makes him look bad. I feel bad for him. I was upset at Seth because I thought his comments made him sound bad. Made him sound bush league, like he was born on third base, woke up, and thought he hit a triple. I don’t know what’s happened to some of these guys. I don’t know if it’s internal, what they’re driven to say, what they’re obligated to say. They think it’ll gain favour of their bosses. I don’t know what the answer is.”
All quotes are taken from Grilling JR on Westwood One Podcasts
WWE’s Co-Vice President George Barrios sat down for an interview with The Verge this week where he discussed the WWE Network in depth, including the much talked about tiered system finally becoming a reality.
There will be three tiers, including a free subscription model which will be mainly videos you can find on WWE.com or WWE’s YouTube but will also include other content.
Here’s what Barrios had to say about the three tiers:
“Free: This will offer the same free-to-watch videos you’d normally find on WWE.com. Barrios said WWE might also offer timed previews of paid WWE Network content.”
“Regular: The standard WWE Network experience, combining free content with subscription benefits like live pay-per-views, on-demand streaming, and original programming.”
“Premium: “We think there’s also an opportunity to super-serve our most passionate Network subscribers with a premium tier that’ll bring together more content for them, more features for them, and also integrating some of our other non-video services like our commerce — potentially integrating something like free shipping, bringing together our digital ticketing efforts in there. It becomes the one place to experience everything WWE.” Barrios didn’t disclose how much WWE might charge for the premium tier.”
Barrios also said that 4K integration is not to be expected anytime soon; although the company has experimented with 4K technology, they have no time frame for releasing it.
Another interesting note from the interview is the upcoming “download to go” feature which already exists on apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. This would allow for the user to download content to their device to watch anywhere they want without an internet connection.
There is no release date for the tiered system yet but with the recent upgrade to the Network system and overhaul of the design it is likely that it will be coming pretty soon.
UPDATE: AEW have confirmed that the AEW World Championship has been stolen and released the following video:
The newly crowned first ever AEW World Champion Chris Jericho appears to have had his championship title stolen, according to a police report from Tallahassee Police department. Reported by Pro Wrestling Sheet, Fightful.com and the Blog of Doom
It should be noted that the report does not specify that it was the AEW Championship which had been stolen from Jericho, but speculation is that this is the case.
The police report reads:
“The victim reported the theft of his championship wrestling belt while he was eating inside Longhorn Steakhouse. The victim stated he arrived at the Millionaire Club Airport Terminal and place the belt inside his rented limousine. The limo driver shuttled the victim to Longhorn for dinner. The victim remained at Longhorn while the limo driver returned to the airport. The victim had taken the wrong luggage from the airport and the driver took it back to the terminal. When the driver picked up the victim from the restaurant, the belt was missing. Responding officers searched the limo and airport for the belt without success. On-call CID was consulted, and forensics responded to the scene.
Victim: Christopher “Jericho” Irvine, W/M, 11/9/70″
Tallahassee PD has confirmed that this case is still open