From the first announcement of the huge Greatest Royal Rumble live event happening this Friday in Saudi Arabia, we all noticed that there were no women’s matches on the card, and given the sexist policies of the country where it’s taking place, nobody was very surprised. WWE, however, was frustratingly silent about the whole thing, going so far as to promote the event during women’s matches on RAW and Smackdown without so much as a “It’s too bad these Superstars won’t be there!”
Yesterday, Triple H himself finally spoke about the issue in an interview with the Independent. Whether you’re impressed with his response or not, it’s clear that he was aware of the criticisms and trying to be comprehensive in his response:
I understand that people are questioning it, but you have to understand that every culture is different and just because you don’t agree with a certain aspect of it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a relevant culture.
You can’t dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women’s evolution in the world and what you can’t do is affect change anywhere by staying away from it.
While, right now, women are not competing in the event, we have had discussions about that and we believe and hope that, in the next few years they will be. That is a significant cultural shift in Saudi Arabia.
The country is in the middle of a shift in how it is dealing with that – the position is changing, and rights are changing, as are the way women are handled and treated in society. We think that’s a great thing and we’re excited to be at the forefront of that change.
Despite his use of “relevant culture” to mean “country where we can make money,” and his repetition of the ever-more-meaningless “women’s evolution” buzzword, there’s a degree to which he’s not wrong. Things really are changing all over the world, including the Middle East. As he goes on to point out, WWE just recently held the first women’s wrestling match in the United Arab Emirates.
The plan is apparently for WWE to keep doing shows in Saudi Arabia every year for years to come, and it seems entirely feasible that within a few years, they’ll manage to get some women on the card, and that this change would be less likely to happen if WWE refused to put on shows in Saudi Arabia. None of this has to do with any dedication to feminist principles on the part of WWE and Triple H. But they know their women’s division has become a draw, and they want it to be a draw everywhere.
The thing is, though, if you maintain goodwill with fans of women’s wrestling in this country by saying that you’re only doing shows in a country that doesn’t let women wrestle in the hope that in time they will, eventually you have to deliver on that. It’s possible that Saudi Arabia won’t let that happen, and then this controversy becomes a controversy all over again. Then of course there are the other problems with Saudi Arabia — for example if the women’s division is invited in the future, will that include Sonya Deville, WWE’s only current openly-gay performer? Those and other tough questions are bound to come up.
In the meantime, the Saudi Arabian sausage party that is the Greatest Royal Rumble happens this Friday, whether we like it or not.