(Photo Credits: 24 Wrestling)
Jamal Khashoggi. A name that has rung out throughout the globe, leaving outrage, resignation or panic in its wake.
Not too many normal people had heard of Jamal Khashoggi ahead of his tragic passing outside journalistic circles. After the 2nd of October, however, he may be one of the most famous journalists in the current global scenario. Unfortunately, this fame was showered on him posthumously.
As an outspoken critic of the Saudi-regime, Khashoggi was no stranger to criticism and hostility during his life. So when he failed to leave the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on the 2nd of October, the world sat up and took notice. He had apparently gone to the consulate to get documents in relation to his planned marriage.
The lack of CCTV footage of him exiting the building and news reports emerging that he had been dismembered in the consulate paved the way for global outrage. While reports of what happened inside the consulate are still emerging, it can be confirmed, that he was killed there according to an actual admission of involvement by the Saudi Arabian government.
The public outrage continued to grow with each passing hour, and one-by-one companies and high profile individuals all spoke out against Saudi Arabia for their alleged heinous actions, while also cutting ties with them. But while companies all over the world cut ties with Saudi Arabia, one particular company remained in contact with them with the promise of a huge landmark event set to take place.
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. was set to host an event there. For the second time in 2018, WWE looked to partner up with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a highly lucrative show in the Middle East.
The first event was extremely successful, as the Greatest Royal Rumble following WrestleMania yielded high profits for the company and the stars who took part in it. While it was in the form of a WWE House Show Event with hardly any actual storyline progression, it was on a much larger scale and live streamed on the WWE Network.
The second event, WWE Crown Jewel, is expected to be of a similar – if not bigger – scale. With the reunification of D-Generation X and The Brothers of Destruction slated to take place, WWE has been promoting the event in every way possible.
However, the events of the Khashoggi killing put a giant dismembering spanner in the works for Vince McMahon’s best laid plans.
The public outcry for WWE to follow the lead set by so many other companies was huge. On top of that, there were actual reports that John Cena said he was out of the deal unless there was a change in venue.
The fallout after the murder were puzzling to the fans. WWE continued remaining oddly silent on the matter. For a company with such an active PR team that is usually extremely particular about public perception, the silence was unnerving.
Nothing seemed clear, but when 19th October came up, aka the date that the tickets were set to go up for sale, the ticket information was removed from the company website. WWE continued to promote the event, only without mentioning any details about the location at all.
There was talk that WWE was trying to get out of the event, but was being held to the contracts which they had signed. If they backed out, they would apparently be liable for huge amounts of compensation to Saudi Arabia.
But after all of the will-they-won’t-they, it was announced that the WWE is pressing on with the event anyway. Their silence – that was initially misconstrued to be uncertainty – was only to prevent drawing attention to the fact that the paycheck weighed much more than any moral questions that rose at the decision.
The WWE may not have said much at all, after Khashoggi-gate. But in refusing to change the venue, nothing needed to be said.
For a company has been exceptionally vocal about the advancement of women, and their role in the company, the decision to honour their commitment with Saudi Arabia – an oppressive regime for women – is baffling. In fact, this Sunday, WWE is set to hold the first-ever women’s-exclusive WWE pay-per-view in the history of the company, Evolution. With that in mind, is WWE going against the ideals they themselves had set to host an event in a country that only recently even allowed women to drive – let alone wrestle?
The WWE had stated that they hope to effect a change in the country by hosting events there. It is hard to accept this, even with a grain, a pinch, or even a bucket of salt. The idea that a country which had issues with the last event, simply because a video montage was aired where women were featured, would change its ideals because a professional wrestling company held an event in their country seems ridiculous.
It is true, that without exposure, nothing can change. But at the same time, to change you need to want that change.
At no point has the country seemed prepared to effect any change at all. Even the simple law of allowing a woman to drive alone has come with vocal criticism, the labelling of some prominent women as traitors and arresting them with the possibility of the death penalty.
In light of all of this, being connected to such a country, and receiving immense amounts of revenue for doing so, does not feel right at all on the WWE’s part.
In WWE’s commitment to its community, it states that, “WWE is committed to leveraging the power of its brand and platforms to help address important social issues worldwide including diversity and inclusion, education, military support and providing hope to those in need.”
At such a time to perform an event in a country which has admitted its part in the killing of an individual who was exercising the basic right of free speech, is unacceptable.
Especially since it is a country without a policy of diversity and inclusion, and one where intolerance is the dominant trait.