It might seem like an odd confluence of events, but the WWE is now in the middle of an international incident involving the suspected murder of a Saudi journalist in Turkey and a wrestling event that's due to take place next month in Riyadh.
The WWE has been expanding into Saudi Arabia, hosting a major event earlier this year which was marked by controversy over showing women wrestlers during a promotional segment. Its next event, The Crown Jewel, will see the likes of Triple H and Shawn Michaels come out of retirement for a tag-team match against the Undertaker and Kane, who recently won a mayoral election. (Yes, really.)
Senator Chris Murphy of CT (home of WWE HQs) says if the Turkish allegation of murder is true, “it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” This could end up being troublesome for WWE's event deal with Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/nkUKoZDqMs
— Wade Keller (@thewadekeller) October 10, 2018
However, since news broke about the suspected murder of Jamal Koshoggi, a vocal Saudi journalist who disappeared when he entered his home country's consulate in Turkey, WWE's event has come under fire by fans and politicians alike. Koshoggi has been a vocal critic of the current regime under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father, King Salman, and his disappearance has shocked the world.
Richard Branson of Virgin pulled out of two of his advisory roles in the Saudi Vision 2030 projects, whilst a number of businesses - including CNN, The Financial Times, Viacom, and CNBC - have all pulled out of the Saudi Future Investment Initiative.
The WWE event, however, is still going ahead as a statement released by Vince McMahon only mentioned that the WWE is "monitoring the situation." Even without the added context of Jamal Koshoggi's disappearance and alleged murder inside a Saudi consulate, the WWE has been under fire for hosting events in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia's stringent laws against both women and the LGBT flies in the face of many performers in the company, not to mention the WWE's audience itself. The event, particularly the Crown Jewel, will earn the WWE a significant payday if it goes ahead, however US politicians have been urging sanctions against Saudi Arabia in light of the situation.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and represents the state WWE is based, has urged them to call off the event. "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 (the WWE Crown Jewel)", Murphy told the IJR.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied that Jamal Koshoggi was murdered in their consulate.