According to a new report, several WWE Superstars will be heading to Saudi Arabia to promote the company at a gaming/esports event.
PWInsider has reported that multiple WWE wrestlers will be promoting the company's 2K game series at the Gamers Season (Gamers8) event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The event will be the site of esport competitions and concerts by music artists.
The report names Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles as being present at the event. Rey is the cover star for the latest edition of the game franchise, WWE 2K22.
The show has been touted as "the world’s largest e-sports tournament" by Fact Magazine.
The Stamford-based promotion will also head to Saudi Arabia for this year's Crown Jewel premium live event, which will emanate live from the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh. The country also hosted this year's Elimination Chamber event, held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
WWE has a controversial history with Saudi Arabia
WWE's Greatest Royal Rumble event in 2018 was the first pay-per-view the company held in Saudi Arabia. Since then, the promotion has entered a contract with the country's General Authority of Entertainment to host two 'large scale events' every year until 2027.
While the shows have largely been panned for their lack of stakes and reliance on older talent, this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the company's controversial history with Saudi Arabia.
The cracks started to show when reports surfaced of Sami Zayn, who is of Syrian descent, being left off the card for The Greatest Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) and John Cena have also refused to work shows in Saudi Arabia for a variety of reasons.
After Crown Jewel 2019, roughly 200 wrestlers and employees were stuck at King Fahd International Airport after their flight was delayed. While the official statement claimed that this was due to "mechanical issues," reports at the time mentioned a spat between then-CEO Vince McMahon and the Saudi government, the reason being missing payments for the previous shows.
The country has been reported to instigate several human rights issues. Women's rights are also a major issue for the company, with women in Saudi Arabia facing several inequalities.
But by far the biggest controversy was the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, following which several companies from the western world refused to work with Saudi Arabia. This happened a month before Crown Jewel 2018, and WWE decided to go on with the show.
While little good seems to be coming out of these shows in Saudi Arabia, it is unlikely that the promotion will renege on its contract. This means that we can likely expect the company to host shows in Saudi Arabia until 2027.
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