There's an odd travel situation happening right now in Saudi Arabia, as WWE's charter flight has been delayed for several hours.
Fightful Select learned early Friday morning that a charter plane containing the majority of the WWE roster and staff had never taken off. Those who were supposed to be aboard were told of "delays," and some have become suspicious of the delay.
Many of the people that are set to fly out have been awake all through the day and night already, with several scheduled to compete on WWE Smackdown Friday. All of those we spoke to still in Saudi Arabia said they don't expect to make it back to the States in time for Smackdown.
Vince McMahon, Brock Lesnar and Hulk Hogan are all already flying back, as they had their own flights. One talent said that Vince was out of there hours ago, while talent was still on the ground. Until about 2 AM EST, a lot of the staff and talent were still on the plane hanging out, and being fed. Some went to a hotel at that point.
There were rumors among talent that Vince McMahon got in some kind of disagreement in Saudi Arabia, though I haven't been able to fully confirm that.
Some that we've talked to on the flight are clearly annoyed and perturbed by the situation, while others aren't so concerned, even saying "they'll figure it out, because they always do." So there's hardly a unanimous temperature on the delays.
For those wondering, Smackdown already has promoted Nikki Cross, Carmella and Dana Brooke vs. Bayley, Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville. Daniel Bryan, The Miz and Charlotte Flair are also advertised for the show and not in Saudi Arabia. Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss haven't been wrestling of late. Drew Gulak, Sami Zayn, Tamina, Carmella are also on the roster and weren't on Crown Jewel.
Dave Meltzer provided and update:
Some notes since nobody can say anything. WWE had a problem in Saudi Arabia. Talent was not allowed to leave on their flight and most are still there. 20 people, 12 of which were talent, have left but the rest are still there.— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) November 1, 2019
It's a 14 hour flight, Smackdown starts in 17 hours. The last we heard the rest of the talent wasn't going to be able to leave for a lot longer than three hours.— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) November 1, 2019
Mike Johnson at PWInsider reports the hold up is being described as a "mechanical issue with the fuel line of the plane." Johnson backs up Meltzer's report that WWE was able to get some talent out of Saudi Arabia, but could not confirm who.
Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet adds a second charter took off, but other talent got a hotel and are still in Saudi Arabia. Fightful Select has learned that Roman Reigns, Bobby (Lashley or Roode), Shinsuke Nakamura, Bray Wyatt, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder and a few others were on the charter that left Saudi Arabia.
We aren't sure if they've landed, when they will land, or what their status is for Smackdown. Revival vs. New Day had previously been advertised for tonight's Smackdown
WWE has reached out to names on the roster who weren't originally set for the show to see if they would be able to make it in for Smackdown if needed. At 2 PM we were given an obvious note that there's a big scramble to make a show, and that WWE was as of now operating on the assumption that the chartered flight wouldn't make it. Those that we've heard from seem to think the show that is coming together is very good.
Dave Meltzer would later indicate that NXT talent was being brought in for the show, which now advertises Nikki Cross vs. Bayley for the Smackdown Women's Title. As of now, this is the only WWE comment on the matter:
More than 175 Superstars, production crew and employees boarded a 747 charter flight back to the United States on Thursday. After the door closed, due to several aircraft problems including mechanical issues, all passengers sat on the tarmac for more than six hours. With SmackDown set to emanate live from Buffalo, N.Y., several Superstars felt so strongly that they arranged for their own separate charter in order to make it back to the U.S. for the show. Due to unforeseen issues, that charter will not land until after the live broadcast on FOX.
As always with WWE, the show must go on. Live at 8/7 CT on FOX, SmackDown will feature Superstars, such as Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Carmella, Nikki Cross, Dana Brooke — plus, additional surprises.
We'll keep you updated as the situation develops. This story was broken on our premium service, Fightful Select. Subscribe to get first access to exclusive news, podcasts and much more.