The Greatest Royal Rumble was at once nothing and everything, a grandiose house show where nothing happened to effect WWE’s championship picture heading into Backlash. However, while WWE did their best to keep everything intact for their next, actual PPV event, the spectacle in Saudi Arabia was not short on controversy.
The first issue was women not being allowed on the show, which Triple H addressed as being a necessary part of WWE’s goal of effecting change in the region, citing how they recently put on the first women’s wrestling match in the United Arab Emirates. While it was at least a thought out answer, it didn’t satisfy everyone and the fact that an mid-PPV ad for Backlash featuring some of the women’s matches caused outrage from Saudi Arabia signaled there’s a long way to go before WWE has a chance of creating the change Triple H mentioned.
Then there was the lone major controversy from the show itself, where Ariya Daivari and his brother Daivari Classic showed up to confront the Saudi wrestlers chosen from that week’s tryouts with some good old fashioned WWE nationalism, waving an Iranian flag and generally heeling it up. That got Daivari death threats, which he felt the need to address on Twitter and apologize for what his in-ring character did as part of a “skit.”
As if that wasn’t all enough, the latest rumor out of the Greatest Royal Rumble was the absence of Sami Zayn from the rumble match, which is reportedly due to his Syrian descent. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Zayn’s absence was written into the storyline as an injury angle, but he wasn’t fully aware that the reason was because of his ethnicity.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports this week that the Sami situation was kept secret before and during the GRR event. Sami had known he wouldn’t be appearing for about a week as he was told that he would be doing an injury angle on the April 23rd RAW to explain why he would not be appearing, despite being advertised for the 50-man match. Sami was not told why he was off the show and it looks like he still has not been told, based on what he’s said to people privately since then. The Observer adds that Sami is claiming he has no explanation on why he was pulled from the show.
There was also a directive handed down, that no one could speak on the Sami issue until after the show, to avoid any potential controversy over WWE being told that one of their talents could not work a show because of his ethnicity, according to The Observer.
It’s just the latest in a tremendous line of hoops WWE and its superstars jumped through to make the event happen and WWE’s official statement on the matter is fairly bland: “WWE is committed to embracing individuals from all backgrounds while respecting local customs and cultural differences around the world.”
The Greatest Royal Rumble undoubtedly brought in a ton of money to WWE, but as the fallout continues, they’ll have to smooth over a lot of things with a not insignificant portion of their roster. Zayn’s exclusion from the event, like the women, can be explained away because of local customs, but it’s also the decision of WWE to agree to put on the event without their involvement and also offer up what was a fairly incredible amount of propaganda about how great Saudi Arabia is during the show, while much of the roster had to be excluded.
(Via Wrestling Inc.)