The storied history of WWE in Saudi Arabia is something that routinely defies belief. Every time a new low appears to have been reached, both sides plunge their arms into the depths of imagination and somehow manage to find new and exciting ways to dumbfound the wrestling world. This past week was just one such example.
Some 5 days removed from wrestling fans excitedly tracking any flights out of Riyadh that were bound for the United States, we're still no closer to firmly establishing the truth of what went on. Conflicting reports and circumstantial coincidences have allowed us to piece a messy puzzle together, but they've constantly been met with outright denials by the only people who'd actually know.
So what do we actually know? Well not a whole lot for definite, but when lining up the assorted timelines, statements, and social media outbursts, we can begin to piece together a picture. However as is the tradition with WWE in Saudi Arabia, not even that makes a whole lot of sense.
We begin back in June of this year, in the city of Jeddah and WWE's second Super ShowDown event. The first iteration had been held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, but this year it came to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah International Stadium for the company's 3rd showcase event in the country.
You remember. Shane McMahon beat Roman Reigns, Randy Orton and Triple H went nearly 30 minutes, Mansoor won a 51-Man Battle Royal, Undertaker and Goldberg dropped each other on their heads, it was a complete and total mess. However, the biggest problems were seemingly taking place behind the scenes, as the eye-watering fees WWE were charging the Saudi General Sports Authority weren't, it's been alleged, fully landing in the company's coffers.
The event was part of the 10-year "strategic multiplatform partnership" between WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority in support of the so-called Saudi Vision 2030. It's a complicated initiative, but the short version is that it's presented as social and economic reform of the country, and WWE were brought in to provide a friendly Western face to the rest of the world. For their troubles, it's claimed they're set to pocket something like $50m per show.
Precisely what financial issues were taking place here are yet to be confirmed by either party (and likely never will be) but claims from numerous sources state that WWE departed back to the United States with some problems yet to be resolved, presumably either being reassured that they'd be dealt with in due course or simply happy to wait until their next event to smooth them over.
Fast forward to October, and last week's Crown Jewel event...