Yep, WWE is going full steam ahead with its next Saudi Arabia show, with or without such top stars as John Cena and Daniel Bryan. It’s laughable and embarrassing and might be a factor in the drop in the company’s stock price last week, but carnies are all about the money, and there’s a lot of that rolling into WWE’s coffers from the Saudi government. It’s also getting WWE more mainstream attention that it usually gets, and although Vince McMahon has lived and died for that since he took over the company in the ‘80s, it might not be the kind of press that he likes to see.
One of the most notable critics of WWE’s Saudi deal has been Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The HBO show first mentioned Crown Jewel two weeks ago as part of a bigger piece on the Trump Administration’s response to Saudi Arabia murderering US-based dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Last night Oliver devoted a short segment entirely to WWE and Crown Jewel, mercilessly mocking the company’s decision to go on with the show. HBO doesn’t put the shorter segments from Last Week Tonight up on YouTube, but the four minutes Oliver spent on WWE have been making the rounds on Twitter since last night, and you can find them split into two videos in the tweets embedded below. Hat tip to wrestling journalist (and former Paste Wrestling contributor) David Bixenspan for posting this piece in full.
Even beyond the discomfort of watching a show that was originally conceived to be little more than propaganda for a brutal dictatorship, Crown Jewel doesn’t have a lot to offer to wrestling fans. Its most heavily promoted match pits Triple H and Shawn Michaels against the Undertaker and Kane. The return of Michaels after an eight-year retirement should be big news, but this match will probably redefine what “smoke and mirrors” means from a wrestling perspective. The youngest guy in that match, Triple H, is 49, and the Undertaker hasn’t put in a memorable performance in years. Meanwhile, as Oliver mentions in the videos above, John Cena’s reported to be skipping the show. Fan favorite Daniel Bryan is also reportedly refusing to wrestle at Crown Jewel, despite being booked in a WWE Championship match against AJ Styles, which is a true dream match for hardcore fans. Cena obviously has to worry about his burgeoning movie career, and probably has the power backstage to back out of this show without any repercussions. Bryan, who returned to action in April after being kept on the shelf by WWE for almost three years, doesn’t have the clout or pull that Cena has, but he also probably isn’t that worried about getting fired, as he could walk into any other promotion in the world as a well-paid main eventer as soon as his non-compete expired. At this point speculation over who will and won’t be at Crown Jewel is far more interesting than any of the matches that have been announced.
Somebody we know definitely won’t be there: any of WWE’s women wrestlers, who put on what was, by most accounts, a great show at last night’s Evolution PPV. If you ask us, not having to show up at Crown Jewel makes them the lucky ones.