As you no doubt remember, after last fall’s WWE Crown Jewel Event in Saudi Arabia, the chartered plane that was supposed to bring most of the roster back in time for Friday Night Smackdown was delayed. The NXT roster had to fill in on Smackdown, but thankfully the disgruntled roster members all got home by Saturday. Rumors swirled that the Saudi Government had held the roster there as payback because Vince McMahon had messed with the local broadcast as part of a dispute about late payments for the previous shows. WWE, however, blamed the delay on mechanical issues and aggressively stuck to that story as they renewed their commitment to Saudi Arabia.
In the months sense, WWE shareholders have filed multiple lawsuits against WWE, claiming that the company has made misleading statements and withheld facts about their business, and making specific mention of the Saudi Arabia deal and Crown Jewel. Because WWE can be insincere to us, and that’s just The Business, but if they’re lying to shareholders too, that’s a whole other thing.
As of this weekend, thanks to Wrestlenomics, we’ve seen the official court documents from one of these lawsuits, and it backs up all those rumors we heard back in the fall. It turns out the plaintiffs have an unnamed witness who’s able to testify firsthand about the experience on the ground (and trying to get into the air) after Crown Jewel.
The witness is referred to in the document as CW-2 (short for Confidential Witness Two), a former WWE Superstar who performed at Crown Jewel and was on the ill-fated flight. Here’s the relevant text from the court document, which you can read in its entirety in PDF form at CourtListener.com:
CW-2 recalled that he was initially told the charter flight he was scheduled to leave on was delayed because the plane needed to be pulled around, and once they boarded, they were removed from the airplane after 20-30 minutes. CW-2 explained that he spoke with a stewardess on the flight about the delay, who told him that “it seems someone doesn’t want us to leave the country.” CW-2 further explained that the pilot sounded “distressed” when he informed the passengers that the flight was unable to take off. CW-2 recalled that then they were told that it was because of mechanical issues, but he recalled seeing a “ton” of guards wearing black “militia” attire and wearing guns that were blocking their exit and “staring at the wrestlers.”
CW-2 became aware that something was wrong and explained that a number of the other personnel were referring to the event as a “hostage” situation.” CW-2 explained that he asked the Senior Director of Talent Relations, Mark Carrano, about what was going on and that Carrano told him that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and McMahon had gotten into an argument over late payments in connection with the June 7, 2019 Super ShowDown event. Carrano also informed CW-2 that McMahon had cut the live feed for the Crown Jewel event and that this had made the Crown Prince “very mad.
CW-2 advised the he and other WWE personnel looked into the prospect of booking flights on their own at a different airport for early the next morning. After a few hours, CW-2 explained, he and about 10-12 other wrestlers, cameramen, and agents were put on another flight to Buffalo. CW-2 further noted that at this point he wondered why if other planes were available that they did not get everyone out of Saudi Arabia.
CW-2 also heard that while on the plane, other wrestlers communicated back home that the military police were holding the wrestlers, and that McMahon didn’t air the first 30 minutes of the pay-per-view, and that as retaliation the Prince was holding them.
In addition, CW-2 recalled a number of wives being very concerned on social media and then when wrestlers returned home there were a lot of messages expressing how grateful they were to be home. CW-2 stated that after he returned, the WWE put out a letter that attempted to remove all blame from the company and that, in his opinion, many wrestlers were scared of speaking out due to the limited job opportunities in the industry and the WWE’s comparatively high salaries. CW-2 explained that many spoke on the condition of anonymity to journalists and the WWE denounced these stories as “conspiracies” and “laughable.” Nevertheless, after the event, CW-2 said that he and a co-worker went straight to Talent Relations and said they would not go back to Saudi Arabia. CW-2 noted that other wrestlers tried to do the same but the WWE “abused” their “power” and threatened the future trajectory of their careers if they did not go.