WWE returns to Saudi Arabia for 'another payday'

WWE returns to Saudi Arabia for 'another payday'
Saudi Arabia will be the venue for another, little-known wrestling tournament from the WWE franchise.
2 min read
19 September, 2018
The WWE tournament will be held in Riyadh this November [Getty]
Saudi Arabia is gearing up for another star-filled WWE event this autumn, a year after another controversial wrestling tournament was held in the kingdom.

The WWE Crown Jewel tournament will be held at Riyadh's King Fahd International Stadium on 2 November, attracting big name wrestlers such as Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman.

They will compete at the WWE World Cup tournament, which organisers say will "determine the best in the world".

"General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia Chairman His Excellency Turki al-Sheikh, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia invite the world to celebrate this signature event," WWE said in a statement.

"Following WWE's sold-out Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah in April, this is the second event as part of a long-term partnership between WWE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Despite the big sell by the organisers - which will be screened on WWE's pay-per-view channel - wrestling fans are not so enthusiastic about the tournament.

Wrestling journalists have dismissed the event as "another multi-million dollar payday" for the WWE, and accused the organisers of "making up another trophy" to bring in revenues from the Middle East, according to Cageside Seats website.

Last year's Greatest Royal Rumble tournament in Jeddah saw Braun Strowman win the tournament, but the wrestling website again dismissed the significance of this title.

"Remember the Greatest Royal Rumble championship? Yeah, me neither. It's worth wondering if Braun Strowman remembers it," the site said.
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"[The title] didn't come with any in-story perks, and he’s in pretty much the same 'always a challenger, never the champ' position he was in before heading to Saudi Arabia."

The Greatest Royal Rumble attracted controversy last year, when women wrestlers were excluded from the tournament, although women fans did attend for the first time as spectators.

It saw a politically-charged fight take place when the Daivari Brothers entered the ring - to a chorus of boos -carrying the Iranian flag, and confronted a group of Saudi wrestlers.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in an existential crisis with both countries competing for influence in the region. 

Militant group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] has reportedly threatened Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over last year's wrestling event.

Bin Salman has loosened the kingdom's strict laws on public entertainment, by allowing music concerts, cinema screenings, and mixed-gender plays to take place.

Analysts say the relaxation of conservative restrictions are an attempt by the crown prince to curry favour with young Saudis, and halt a brain drain of educated nationals to more liberal countries.