Early Wednesday, WWE announced they would be holding the first-ever women’s match in Saudi Arabia. The historically significant announcement for Crown Jewel fails to inspire.
This morning, WWE sent out a tweet and press release announcing the addition of a match to the pay-per-view WWE Crown Jewel.
The press release stated that the match will be the first WWE women’s match to ever take place in Saudi Arabia, and will air on the upcoming Crown Jewel pay-per-view. Crown Jewel takes place during Riyadh Season, which features more than 100 events over a two-month span.
There’s plenty of fishy stuff going on with this scenario, but let’s start with the booking.
Natalya and Lacey Evans will be featured in the match, facing each other one-on-one. At first, it seemed silly that WWE would not send their biggest female superstar, Becky Lynch to the event.
Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report sat down to interview Stephanie McMahon right after the announcement. Snowden asked McMahon why Lynch wasn’t the chosen talent. McMahon explained the reasoning between choosing the two for the match.
“Natayla is somewhat of a legend in the women’s division. She is the veteran. She has been here for so long, been a part of so many of the changes that have happened. When you consider her legacy and family history, it’s pretty remarkable.
You take Lacey Evans, who is fairly new on the scene but who has not been shy about sharing her perspective on overcoming, especially in her life and the things she’s been through. She has a young daughter and she wants to set an example and pave the way not only for her daughter but boys and girls all around the world. That’s their personal stories.”
While it very well could be that Natalya and Evans fought their way to the first-ever match, the choice seems last-second, and more noticeably, blonde. In the interview with Snowden, McMahon seems to want fans to believe WWE has been pushing for this match for a year-and-a-half, but the booking would argue otherwise. Neither Superstar has been booked in a solid feud, recently.
Of course, unless the talent were to speak up to the press, there’s no way to tell what the exact process of booking really looked like. But there’s more telling issues with the scenario.
The match will take place in Saudi Arabia, which is under the rule of the royal family House of Saud. The current head of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Salman bin Abdulaziz, who acts as the King, Head of State, and monarch. The King holds almost absolute power, which is an authoritarian and quasi-theocratic rule that gives little room for grace or humanity.
Saudi Arabia, under the rule of the House of Saud, is known for it’s oppression of women; a “culture” that treats women as lesser beings. If one is simply looking at the fact that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has finally agreed to let women compete in a physical sport, like men, one would think the fanbase would be celebrating.
But, the horror of the Kingdom doesn’t end there. Most notably, wrestling fans’ protests of Saudi Arabia began after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
A Saudi dissident and journalist for The Washington Post, Khashoggi was vocal about his criticism against the Kingdom. Khashoggi disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Instanbul, Turkey, trying to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage. He was declared a missing person, and horrific reports of dismemberment by Saudi officials surfaced. Saudi Arabia government first denied involvement, but Turkey believes the death was premeditated, and Saudi officials have admitted that agents affiliated with the Saudi government killed him.
Though the exact nature of the death is unknown, because the body has not been located, most of the world believes heads in Saudi Arabia ordered the assassination in response to Khashoggi’s criticism of the regime.
How does this relate to WWE? One month after the death of Khashoggi, WWE proceeded with their pay-per-view in Saudi Arabia, Crown Jewel. Despite the biggest powers in the world refusing to be associated with the Kingdom in any way, WWE decided to take the paycheck the House of Saud offered; what has now become known by many as “blood money”.
The royal family in Saudi Arabia is worth $1.4 trillion dollars. Yes, trillion. Which, of course, means their payments for services rendered are likely nothing to sneeze at. But, the idea that WWE would rather do a money grab, instead of holding itself to morals shared around the world, infuriates fans.
Now, pile on the oppression of women, and as the interview from Snowden shows, the McMahons’ decision to pursue the match in Saudi Arabia instead of Evolution 2, and you have a fanbase that is protesting the WWE Network, the pay-per-view, and the company, itself.
The announcement of the historical women’s match is not a band-aid. It does not heal the hearts of those who are furious with the immoral moves, nor does it erase the memories of the women and men disgusted with WWE’s decisions.
WWE can not put on the face of a philanthropic company, and also take “blood money” from a brutal dynasty that oppresses women and kills journalists. And booking women in a country that doesn’t necessarily want them there to begin with? Borderline dangerous.
If WWE had any sort of conscience as a company, they would refuse to work in a country known even by the U.S. President as a ruthless empire, and instead focus on bettering their staff, and pushing the women to the actual levels they claim they have been.
Until their message matches their actions, WWE will never spark inspiration, faith, or loyalty.