Corey Graves discusses Saudi Arabia travel issues.
On the latest episode of his After The Bell podcast, Corey Graves gave his account of what happened in Saudi Arabia and addressed theories floating around online. For those unaware, WWE talent was stranded in Saudi Arabia following WWE Crown Jewel due to reported mechanical issues.
"We got to the airport after Crown Jewel. There were a litany of delays and no one seemed to get a surefire answer as to what was causing the delays," Graves recalled. "We heard everything from 'the fuel truck was parked on the runway and the guy who drove the fuel truck wasn't there.' Literally, 10 or 15 different reasons why we couldn't get on the plane. As has been well publicized, there has been quite a few theories as to what happened. Long story short, speaking from personal experience; we got on the plane, in our seats and ready to takeoff, the flight crew took our food orders, there was confusion regarding the pilots, there was some sort of mechanical issue, they shut the plane down, restarted it. In the time it took to get this done, the flight crew had timed out and we were informed that we would not be taking off."
AJ Styles told a similar story on the flight crew timing out when discussing his account of the issues.
With WWE SmackDown being the next day in Buffalo, a chartered flight was arranged for some of the top stars in an effort to get them to the show. This led to members of the roster who remained stranded using the hashtag #Saudi20 and #NotTop20 as a way to voice their frustration. As Graves explains, those on the chartered flight were part of the SmackDown roster and advertised for Friday's show.
"They deplaned everybody, management came around and said, 'If we can get a group of you guys to SmackDown, would you be willing to do it?' This is where it comes down to being a professional. We wanted to do it. The #Saudi20, depending on who you ask, was the 20 most important people in the company. That wasn't the case. What it boiled down to was, (it was) the people that were advertised for SmackDown. It had nothing to do with who was more important or who had the most cache," he said.
While mechanical issues have been the given reason by WWE and Atlas Air, not everyone is buying it. Vince McMahon allegedly got into a dispute with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over unpaid money, leading to the Crown Jewel feed in Saudi Arabia being delayed. After Crown Jewel, Vince immediately left the country, and some theorized that Vince perhaps knew there would be an issue and got out before anything happened, leaving the talent behind. However, Graves isn't buying this theory.
"What really got to me was when the rumors started coming out. The first one being, that Vince left everybody in Saudi Arabia. That's not true," he stated. "If you work here, you know that every week, no matter where we are, as soon as the final bell rings, Vince gets on his jet and goes home or to the next city because the guy is busy running WWE. It might be a sexy headline saying, 'Vince left before everybody. Everybody was stuck except for Vince and Brock.' When you're Brock Lesnar, Tyson Fury, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair; you've earned that. It wasn't like [Vince] said 'to hell with the talent.' Vince did exactly what he has done every week, without fail. It wasn't some, 'Gotta get the hell out of the country, there's something crazy going on.' It was exactly how it works. That's how things operate every week, this is no different."
In fact, Graves is putting partial blame on WWE superstars for taking to social media and adding fuel to the fire that is was more than mechanical issues.
"All these conspiracy theories that have been drawn up...and half of it comes from some of the boys that were on the plane. If you are that insecure and you feel so strongly that you're gonna get on Twitter and complain that our flight got screwed up, what's Twitter gonna do? All it is is fuel for these 'journalists,' and then everyone puts their two cents in and starts coming up with their conspiracy theories. If you're mad that your flight got delayed and you weren't one of the Saudi 20, that's on you. Quit crying about it on Twitter. You know who wasn't complaining? Randy Freakin' Orton. If anyone has the cache and the right to speak his mind, it would be Randy Orton. He got it. It was about doing the damn show," he explained.
WWE did hold a talent meeting addressing the travel issues on Monday before Raw. In a statement made to Fightful, Seth Rollins said Vince McMahon and Triple H, "commended the talent for their conduct in a tough spot and fielded questions and allowed anyone to voice their feelings on the matter. Some talent spoke up and overall it was a productive forum." You can view his full statement by clicking here.
If you use any of the quotes above, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Fightful for the transcription.