We have to talk about Crown Jewel.
The show’s scheduled to air live on the WWE Network on Friday, Nov. 2, and as far as we know, it’s going to happen as planned. WWE has built feuds for it, brought legends back for it, and hyped it in all of their usual ways. But Crown Jewel isn’t a normal pay-per-view. It’s the second WWE show has held in Saudi Arabia, following Greatest Royal Rumble in April. WWE has a deal with the Saudis to do multiple shows there over the next few years, and by all accounts, a near-unfathomable amount of money has changed hands. A lot of us were against WWE doing business with Saudi Arabia from the start, but now as Crown Jewel approaches, things have gotten far worse.
In case you’re not following what has gone on in recent days, Washington Post columnist named Jamal Khashoggi, who was Saudi by birth and had ties to the royal family, wrote quite critically about the current Saudi government, particularly crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. On October 2, Khashoggi went to a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey to obtain some documents in preparation for his marriage to a Turkish woman. He never came out.
What did come out are reports from the Turkish government and others that Khashoggi was detained by a Saudi Arabian security team within the consulate before being killed and dismembered. Obviously investigations are still ongoing, but as the Washington Post puts it, “Within the White House, on Capitol Hill and among U.S. intelligence officials there is a growing belief that Khashoggi is dead and that Saudi Arabia is to blame.”
In this environment, where the Saudi government has most likely murdered a journalist for saying mean things about them, WWE is probably still going to take that same government’s money to come put on a big wrestling show that helps Mohammed bin Salman sell the idea that Saudi Arabia is a modern, forward-looking country that the world should see as fun and friendly. People who watched the Greatest Royal Rumble commented that there were moments in the show that seemed like pure propaganda for the government of Saudi Arabia. With these recent events, that may prove even more true of Crown Jewel, assuming WWE lets it happen.
Weirdly, this also affects me personally. I live in Knox County, Tennessee, which is receiving $100,000 from WWE for our first responders. I’m in favor of WWE investing in communities, including mine, but I feel gross about it. I can’t help but think that the purpose of that donation was to have something positive to point to if anyone in the community questions why our mayor, Glenn Jacobs, is performing for the Saudi royal family. When all we knew was that Mayor Kane was going to Australia for the Super Show-Down, that seemed fine, but now that he’s headed to Saudi Arabia, the money seems like a way for WWE to receive some good press.
Of course, all of this is in addition to the ongoing problem of WWE’s entire women’s division being excluded from these shows. Crown Jewel feels even more egregious in that regard because it’s the week after WWE Evolution, the all-women PPV that WWE is selling as proof of how far they’ve become when it comes to women’s wrestling. I’m sure Evolution will be a great show, but it has to exist in the shadow of an all-male show a week later, which also involves WWE doing business with a government for whom women being lesser than men isn’t just a cultural belief, it’s an official policy.
To say it’s not a good look is a profound understatement, and just another reason why WWE shouldn’t be doing Crown Jewel, or any further Saudi Arabian shows.
So what can we do about it? Can we get WWE to cancel the show? People on social media are certainly trying, with the #CancelCrownJewel hashtag growing steadily on Twitter. Maybe shame will be enough, but the possibility exists that it might not be. We don’t know what conversations are happening backstage, or what the talent that’s scheduled to go to the show might have to say. But we do know that the only statement WWE has released so far is simply “We are currently monitoring the situation,” which isn’t encouraging.
Can we boycott WWE or refuse to talk about them if they continue to do business with the Saudis? Well, we at With Spandex really can’t. Watching and talking about WWE is a big part of our jobs, and right now, that’s not going to change. For those of you who don’t cover wrestling professionally, you do have that option. It’s obviously a complicated choice, especially considering all the individual performers you may still want to support (including those not allowed in Saudi Arabia, like everyone who will be at WWE Evolution), but it is an option.
Here’s one thing we can do though: We can stop talking about Crown Jewel like it’s just another PPV, one that we use to make jokes or critique bookings. We can agree that things are very messy all over the world right now, but WWE getting in bed with Saudi Arabia is more than just messy, it’s an egregious problem.