We were all grateful to hear yesterday that all the WWE Superstars and other employees who had been stuck in Saudi Arabia after Crown Jewel eventually managed to leave and god back to the US yesterday, albeit more than 24 hours later than originally planned. The official explanation given by WWE and others is that “mechanical problems” were responsible for the delay, but rumors have persisted that there was something else going on.
Bear with me here, but Hugo Savinovich, a former WWE Spanish announcer who’s now with AAA, posted a Facebook video claiming that sources have told him that the the flight carrying the bulk of WWE talent was kept from taking off by Saudi officials because of an argument between Vince McMahon and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. According to Savinovich, the Saudi government owes WWE hundreds of millions of dollars for previous shows. Angry about not being paid, the story goes that Vince McMahon cut the local feed of Crown Jewel, so the the show that was meant to be broadcast live on Saudi TV ended up being delayed by nearly an hour. The Crown Prince supposedly responded to McMahon’s anger by keeping the WWE plane from leaving on time.
This narrative fits with the Fightful story from Friday, which included a bit about Vince getting in some kind of big argument in Saudi Arabia. It’s also confirmed that Crown Jewel did air late on Saudi TV, so that makes sense too.
Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio noted that there were previous reports in late September that WWE hadn’t been paid for the WWE Super ShowDown on June 7. Also, on the Third Quarter Earnings conference call that happened on October 31, the same day as Crown Jewel, WWE declined to answer questions about Saudi Arabia, and refused to definitively say that there will be shows in future years.
Meltzer also says he talked to WWE talent who were on the delayed plane, and most of them didn’t believe it was a mechanical problem. There were apparently military police there while they waited, which certainly must have added to the tense atmosphere. Meltzer adds that many people on the flight felt abandoned, since Vince had already left on his private plane.
Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart, and Tyson Fury all also reportedly left earlier on private planes (we know for sure Lesnar and Heyman did, since they were the only ones to make it back for Smackdown), but Cain Velasquez was apparently on the delayed flight.