In a recent report by David Bixenspan of Babyface vs. Heel, an account was provided of a single unnamed WWE Superstar of the apparent "hostage situation" following the WWE Crown Jewel 2019 event in Saudi Arabia.
Last year, following the Crown Jewel 2019 event, the returning WWE Superstars went through an incident that caught the attention of the WWE Universe. The charter flight that had been booked for the wrestlers to return from Saudi Arabia was delayed and then canceled before they returned via another charter flight.
In an SEC filing earlier in the day, WWE announced a $39 million settlement (which is expected to pay through insurance) to a securities fraud lawsuit that included the issues that arose with the plane, among other things "concerning the company’s business relationship in and with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Throughout this time, WWE has asserted that the flight was delayed thanks to normal mechanical issues, but there have been reports to the contrary as well.
In the report, David Bixenspan included the account of a wrestler present for the issues related to the delay of the WWE Superstars' return from Saudi Arabia.
WWE Superstar's account of the "hostage situation" in Saudi Arabia
When the news of the delay surrounding the return of WWE Superstar from Saudi Arabia started to spread, David Bixenspan reached out to wrestlers to find out the situation.
One wrestler reportedly replied that they were being "held hostage".
“Big s**t show. We’re all pretty certain we’re being held hostage.”
The unnamed WWE Superstar who talked about the incident revealed further details about what had gone on in Saudi Arabia.
“While sitting in the airport, initially, we were told to line up to get on the plane. Then we were told it would be 10 more minutes. Then about 30 minutes later, we were told it’s going to be another 30 minutes. After an hour goes by, we get ‘another 10 minutes.’ No one is telling us what’s going on or why we’re being held. Then finally, we are told it’s because they have to refuel the plane so it may take another hour.”
The wrestler admitted to being alarmed at being told they were refueling at that time, when the plane had been waiting for them after having dropped them off in Saudi Arabia two days prior.
"Why should we need to refuel the plane NOW when it’s been sitting in the exact same position it was when it dropped us off two days prior? The reason for charters is to get a group of people out on time and have everything ready to go.”
The WWE Superstars were reportedly told that the technician who would fill the fuel tank could not be found at the time, but three minutes later they were told they would be able to board the plane.
The situation then would only escalate further, as even after boarding, the plane did not take off. The pilot would later tell them that for some reason they were not going to be able to leave.
“We all get on the plane, we haven’t eaten a meal in 8 hours. I ask [one of] the flight attendants what was going on. He told me he had no idea why they were holding us (if it was mechanical, wouldn’t they let someone know?). He said all he knows is for some reason, these people don’t care to get you guys out of here.”
The Pilot: “Folks, I’m sorry, but we’re not sure what’s going on; It’s beyond our control and we’re not going to be able to leave right now. Please bare with us.”
The wrestler revealed that at this point a smaller charter plane was able to get 20 important wrestlers out as SmackDown was set to broadcast, and the wrestlers had to get back for the show. WWE reported that Superstars felt so strongly about getting back for the show, they had paid for the charter themselves. The unnamed wrestler in the report has disputed the fact, and other wrestlers such as Brodie Lee and Tyson Kidd have taken issue with that statement in the past.
In the end, there were several flights of WWE personnel out of Saudi Arabia. Before any of the later events, the company plane and Brock Lesnar's personal plane had taken several key WWE officials and wrestlers out of the country, including Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jimmy Hart, Paul Heyman, and Brock Lesnar.
The rest of the wrestlers were put up in luxury hotels for a day before their flight would leave a day later. Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful tweeted at the time that there were rumors about a disagreement Vince McMahon had in Saudi Arabia. The report has not been confirmed.
On top of the other reports, it had been advertised that WWE Crown Jewel would air live in Saudi Arabia, but the show aired with an hour's delay instead. According to a report by Forbes, the feed delay did not have anything to do with delayed payments by WWE.
It should be noted, around this time, it was revealed that WWE had a drop in cash flow due to “the timing of collections associated with our Super ShowDown event which was held in the second quarter of 2019", among other reasons.
The details of exactly what went down in Saudi Arabia has not been confirmed, and largely remains surrounded by conjecture. The added account of the unnamed WWE Superstar who spoke with David Bixenspan adds another angle to an already convoluted situation.Published 21 Nov 2020, 09:32 IST