WWE have announced in their 3rd quarter earning report today that they WILL be going to Saudi Arabia as planned. The full statement from WWE is below:
“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh. Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled”
UPDATE (4:52PM 25/20/18): On the WWE analyst conference call this afternoon the first question asked to Vince McMahon was about Saudi Arabia and he responded by saying “We’re not gonna talk about that. It’s a very sensitive subject” before referring to the approves statement above.
A timeline of events
On October 2nd 2018 Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post, went missing after being lured to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey. Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime and was presumed to have been kidnapped and executed by Saudi agents.
This story has garnered international attention, from every mainstream media outlet. WWE has found itself in the crosshairs of staunch criticism due to their upcoming Crown Jewel event in the nation and a reported 10-year deal worth $450 million.
October 12: WWE release a statement saying they were “monitoring the situation”. Several US Senators voice concern over the relationship and say it should not go ahead.
October 12: Richard Branson halts $1 Billion investment in Saudi Arabia. Several companies such as Uber, CNBC, Viacom, HP and Ford drop out of the Saudi Arabian investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert”.
October 14: John Oliver, on his award-winning show Last Week Tonight, criticised WWE for the Crown Jewel event and for using their Greatest Royal Rumble event as a propaganda machine for the Saudi regime.
October 15: UFC’s owner, Endeavor, dropped a $400 million deal with Saudi Arabia
October 15: Sports Illustrated reported WWE talent were expressing that they were “uncomfortable” with making the trip to Saudi Arabia. WWE responded to the New York Post saying that they “maintain an open line of communication with our performers“
October 16 Former WWE Superstar and commentator John Bradshaw Layfield said on Fox Business news that he believed WWE should go to Saudi Arabia as a means to “promote change” in the region. This was met with some staunch criticism from wrestling journalists such as David Bixenspan and Sean Ross Sapp.
October 17: Eric Handler, a Wall Street analyst who is listed on WWE’s corporate website, told Deadline that WWE would stand to lose up to $16 Million if they pulled out of the Saudi deal. A far cry from some of the reported sums
October 20: Saudi Arabia claims that Mr Khashoggi was killed during a “fistfight” in the consulate. This marks the first time Saudi Arabia acknowledged the journalist’s death.
October 23: Turkish president Recep Erdogan said on Tuesday that the death of Khashoggi was a “premeditated murder”
October 23: US President Donald Trump today said that the operation “should never have been thought of” and that the cover-up was “one of the worst in the history of cover-ups”