Opinion: The reason why WWE should continue their Saudi Arabian relationship
There was much criticism leveled against the WWE because it went ahead with its Crown Jewel event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after the death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi sent shock-waves around the world.
Prominent business leaders began pulling out of events scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia, and there was pressure on WWE to cancel its event as well. Linda McMahon, the wife of WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon, serves as a government official in the current White House administration, and felt the pressure as well.
At the 11th hour, WWE came to know that John Cena and Daniel Bryan would also not be participating at the event. Despite the turmoil, Vince McMahon made the decision to go ahead with the event, regardless of the criticism surrounding the initiative.
Regardless of how the event was received, WWE made an important strategic decision by holding the event in the Arab state. After several years of isolationist policies, Saudi Arabia finally is thawing its socio-economic policies.
The country is embracing a number of western traditions in hopes of shedding its image of a ruthless authoritarian state.
WWE is a brand of entertainment which is cross-cultural, and widely acceptable across the globe. Bringing the entertainment giant for an event in Riyadh was a coup for the new administration, one that it desperately needs to continue on its path of liberalising its state structure.
It also made monetary sense for the WWE to go there, but in a larger context. WWE's 10-year agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as part of its Vision 2030 plan, is estimated to be worth roughly $450 to $500 million.
Undoubtedly, the money on the table is enticing for the WWE top brass, but so is the positive social change they can initiate in the country by going there.
Randy Orton was quick to criticise John Cena for not going to the event, arguing that the only way you can change certain situations for the better is through being in the eye of the storm. Triple H also echoed these sentiments when he was interviewed by state television.
Ultimately, the event ensured the greater commitment WWE has to its loyal fan base worldwide.
By advertising for the event, the wrestling company had made a pledge to its fans that it would go ahead with a fantastic show, and by honouring that promise, it gave the message that loyalty to its fan-base transcends political tensions.
The WWE deserves a pat on the back for going ahead with the event, despite massive criticism against them from all quarters. Their commitment to clean, wholesome, family entertainment, along with their plans to initiate positive change, will surely deliver dividends in the future.
And for that, every WWE fan is thankful.