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WWE announces 'Crown Jewel,' another event in Saudi Arabia

For The Baltimore Sun

WWE announced that it will be returning to Saudi Arabia in 2018, as “Crown Jewel” will take place in Riyadh in November.

The event, presented by the Saudi General Sports Authority in partnership with WWE, will be held at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh on Friday, Nov. 2, featuring a Universal Championship Triple Threat Match featuring Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman and the first WWE World Cup tournament.

“General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia Chairman His Excellency Turki Al Sheikh, WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia invite the world to celebrate this signature event,” WWE said in a release Monday night. “Following WWE’s sold-out Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah in April, this is the second event as part of a long-term partnership between WWE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

While many WWE fans knew this event was coming, the announcement raised questions on Twitter. The previous show also raised concerns because WWE women were not allowed to participate. Current women on the roster sent out tweets indicating that they wished they were on the card, and former women wrestlers, such as Lita, condemned the decision.

In an interview shortly after the event, Lita said, “I do feel this was a direct conflict of interest with them maintaining any integrity or truth to the fact that they say they would like to push forward women.”

For a minute, let's forget the mixed signals of the WWE holding the first women's pay-per-view, “Evolution,” on Oct. 28 and, less than a week later, going to a country that forbids women from wrestling. That's something that's not going to change anytime soon, and WWE can say that they want to help invoke that change. But there are bigger implications in running a show in Saudi Arabia, where the government has come under scrutiny recently because five human rights activists, including Israa al-Ghomgham, a woman, are under trial and could face execution.

Meanwhile, if “Crown Jewel” is anything like “The Greatest Royal Rumble,” the broadcast will feature videos and commentary praising that government, and particularly Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

It’s easy to understand why these events keep happening. Based on the quarterly financial reports, as well as other media reports, WWE made $45 million from “The Greatest Royal Rumble.” They will likely receive a similar amount for “Crown Jewel.” That's hard to ignore, and especially hard to consider passing up, no matter what the public might think. However, is there a way for WWE to have its cake and eat it, too?

WWE can't just sit back and hope nobody notices. Saudi Arabia is a hot topic right now, between the possible executions and the dispute with Canada, so the WWE can't have the same type of broadcast they had back in April. However, what if WWE removed the political propaganda from the broadcast? If WWE treated its host like a tourist destination, would that satisfy both sides? Maybe. It would be a step in the right direction. However, someone from WWE, whether it's Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, or even Triple H, needs to address the company’s relationship with the Saudi government. If they remain silent, their supportive words in April are all that remain. That is unacceptable, no matter how much money the company is making.

“Crown Jewel” is going to be a controversial show. WWE needs to realize that and address the controversies instead of ignoring them this time.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout

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