WWE is facing pressure and heat over one of their latest cash cows.
WWE plans to run their second event of the year in Saudi Arabia in just a couple of weeks in WWE Crown Jewel. The event will feature heavy hitters like the Undertaker and John Cena, and will pull Shawn Michaels out of a retirement that has lasted over 8 years. However, WWE is being zeroed in on after journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, and was allegedly murdered in at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Khashoggi is a Saudi Arabia-born journalist and former editor of the Saudi Al Watan newspaper who became a permanent resident of the U.S., and was an outspoken Washington Post columnist. He would often criticize the regime of Saudi Arabia, and was in Turkey to finalize his divorce so he could marry his fiancee. Turkey claims they have evidence he was tortured and murdered.
The situation has led to Viacom, New York Times, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg and many others withdrawing from the Saudi Future Investment Initiative conference after they were set to serve as sponsors.
Now, WWE is facing pressure from several Senators to make a change, cancel, or even "pause" the Crown Jewel show, slated for November 2 at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.
“This is a brazen assault on the freedom of the press and a slap in the face to the United States, if this murder occurred as it seems it did. I’d hope that they would be rethinking their relationship with the kingdom especially with respect to events coming up in the next weeks like (WWE Crown Jewel)," Senator Chris Murphy told IJR as part of a new report published Friday.
Senator Lindsay Graham, who said that there "would by hell to pay" if the Saudi Government killed the missing journalist said that "there should be a pause" on WWE's behalf.
U.S. President Donald Trump -- who also happens to be a WWE Hall of Famer -- spoke of the situation this week and said it would not prevent a $110 Billion arms trade with Saudi Arabia for fear the money would go to Russia or China. Trump said that he doesn't like the situation "even a little bit," but cutting business ties wouldn't be acceptable. It's worth noting that Linda McMahon, a former WWE President and CEO -- as well as Vince McMahon's wife -- serves as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Linda hasn't been exempt from that pressure.
“Private enterprise is private enterprise, different than a governmental entity, but because [Linda McMahon] is part of the president’s cabinet, it falls into the grey area where the administration really should give it some thought and maybe even prevail upon them not doing it," Senator Bob Menendez said in the article.
Fightful.com has been in contact with several members of the WWE roster throughout the year who had reservations about performing on the show, or WWE even doing business in Saudi Arabia, including one who told us today they'd be surprised if the event went along as planned. There is speculation is that WWE earns more money from their periodic events in the country than for their annual WrestleMania spectacular shows, which had some wrestlers questioning how they should approach impending contract expirations and negotiations.
WWE have yet to return Fightful's request for comment on the story, but last night told us they were "monitoring the situation."
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