WWE Rumor Mill: Exclusive in-depth backstage timeline surrounding WWE Crown Jewel and the Saudi Arabia controversy
WWE's Crown Jewel has been an ongoing saga with more twists and turns than The Big Show's face and heel turns. The show is cancelled, the show isn't cancelled, the show is being moved, the show is going ahead as advertised. It's pretty hard to keep up.
So what's happening and what has happened with Crown Jewel? Well, Let's go through the timeline of events to the best of my knowledge. We know from my sources that WWE held a crisis meeting on October 11th 2:30pm where they released the very dismissive 'we're monitoring the situation' statement afterwards.
Discussed in that meeting were the concerns of several Superstars, Linda McMahon, John Cena, Kane and Finn Balor were the names I had at the time who were unhappy or refusing to go.
'Other people who could be put in compromising positions are Linda McMahon who co-owns the WWE and currently holds a position on President Donald Trump's staff, and John Cena, who as a film star, is a very public figure and could face backlash for appearing on the show. There are also a few other wrestlers who are said to be very unhappy with the show on a moral basis'.
Also discussed in the meeting was the possibility of moving the event, with WWE officials in the UK for the NXT UK TV tapings at the time looking at possible venues in the UK.
Over the weekend of the 12th, 13th October public pressure builds on the WWE to cancel Crown Jewel, with several US Senators calling on them to do so. Around the same time, Dave Meltzer on WON/F4W and other sites started reporting the venue change and Superstars being unhappy. This wider report led to WWE releasing a statement about the concerns of its Superstars.
My sources tell me that over this weekend officials from the WWE met with officials from Saudi Arabia to negotiate cancelling the event or moving it somewhere else given the political climate and the controversy surround the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Around this time we reported that WWE were 75% likely to cancel (because they were actively looking to do so) but we did add the following caveat in that article,
The reason it's taking WWE so long, and why they're still working towards it for now is because they have contracts with Saudi Arabia to put these shows on, and they now need to work out how to proceed in a way that minimises the potential legal blow back and financial loss to the company.
I also mentioned in that article the following, remember this was Sunday Night
I am told that Raw and SmackDown will also completely minimise any reference to Crown Jewel and Saudi Arabia.
Then around Sunday 14th and Monday 15th October, WWE removed all references to Saudi Arabia as the venue of Crown Jewel from their website and took the tickets to the event off of the sale, essentially making the necessary preparations to cancel and move the event.
Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live 1,000th rolled around and Saudi Arabia wasn't mentioned at all on the shows, even though they continued to build towards the World Cup.
I am told that it is around this time, most likely Monday, that negotiations with Saudi Arabia fell through, with Saudi Arabia expecting WWE to honour their contractual obligations or risk breaching their contract.
We've seen the figures WWE stood to lose they didn't do the show and didn't receive payment from SA, but they stood to lose a substantial amount more if they breached a legally binding contract.
Dave Meltzer reported this on Wrestling Observer Radio when he said the following,
“What I was actually told was that unless the State Department tells them they can’t go or Donald Trump tells them they can’t go, then they are going.”
This is because if an outside, third party told them they couldn't go then they wouldn't be in breach of contract. Essentially now the WWE were waiting for the investigation into Jamal Khashoggi's death to take place, for Saudi Arabia to be proven guilty, or admit it and then the US Government to intervene, maybe by imposing a travel ban.
But until then the show must go on. So WWE prepared to go ahead with the event, the tickets were advertised as going on sale for October 19th, JBL and Randy Orton gave almost identical statements using the 'positive change' angle and the internet continued to be aghast at WWE's decision not to immediately cancel.
Then John Oliver criticised WWE for his pro Saudi Arabian 'propaganda' and information began surfacing that Saudi Arabia were preparing a statement admitting that Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey and that it was an accident. All of a sudden Friday 19th rolled around and the tickets set to go on sale had not gone on sale.
On the 20th Saudi Arabia released a statement saying that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a fight and then over the next few days more and more evidence being released that this was in fact a premeditated murder and cover up and not an accidental death caused by a fight.
And that's where we're at now, with the huge news dump overnight. Sites are reporting that John Cena and Daniel Bryan were refusing to go, that WWE are scouting new locations, have potentially found one in America and that WWE would potentially make an announcement Wednesday [today].
I am told that WWE told its Superstars that anyone who objected going to Saudi Arabia should say so and that they didn't have to go. It's around this time that creative staff members were told Cena wouldn't be on the card due to 'prior engagements'.
I've also been told Bryan was going to go ahead with Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, but only out of respect for AJ and their match. They haven't replaced John Cena in the World Cup yet because they may move the event or convince him to appear, obviously if the event is moved he has no objections.
They haven't put tickets on sale yet because they've been told they might not be allowed to go (Linda McMahon works for Donald Trump remember) and now they're waiting on confirmation the event can't go ahead due to US-imposed sanctions on SA, which is what they wanted this time last week.
So I guess the next step is to wait for a statement from WWE.
Please note: This article is labelled rumour mill because WWE has not confirmed any of the above-mentioned reports.
Now that we know Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian Consulate should WWE cancel Crown Jewel? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!