The wrestling world is a curious case of monopolization and a thriving independent market both existing simultaneously.
On one hand, the WWE has managed to control most of the market thanks to their status as a publicly traded company, which gives them a constant source of income from investors. It has allowed them to stay successful at a time where pro wrestling isn’t the mainstream attraction it once was.
That being said, there are plenty of passionate fans left in pockets and communities around the physical and digital world. This has led to a renaissance of the independent scene, with many promotions gaining notoriety as fans seek an alternative to WWE’s PG product.
Yet, despite PG standards and the corporate responsibility that comes with being a publicly traded entity, WWE is treading on the dangerous ground both literally and figuratively with their Saudi Arabia deal. It wasn’t enough they held the Greatest Royal Rumble event there earlier this year – violating the goals of their highly touted women’s revolution by leaving their female roster behind for the trip per the wishes of the Saudi government.
But now they’re on the way back for the Crown Jewel event, which has come about right at a time when the Saudi regime is facing massive scrutiny because of the disappearance and ultimately the death of a journalist. But WWE hasn’t seemed to be affected by the criticisms enough to pull out of the event and break their deal. However, this is spawning a bit of a counter-response from the independent scene.
The promotion EVE is unique in the fact it is an all-woman promotion. The British organization is announcing their intention to stream a free event during the WWE’s Crown Jewel broadcast, giving fans of women’s wrestling something else to watch and a way to protest WWE’s going to a place that seemingly views women as second-class citizens.
At the very least, they view their women differently than WWE views their own female roster – at least according to the proud proclamations they’ve made in previous years. Changing the “Diva’s Title” to the “Women’s Title” and having women compete in gimmick matches for the first time in history were landmark events, but the company’s partnership with Saudi Arabia seems like a step back.
They have launched their own women’s only pay-per-view, Evolution, which may have been a way to give women a bit of shine after seemingly putting them off with the Saudi deal. But the WWE is facing scrutiny not just because of how their business partner views women, but because the journalist issue still hasn’t faced a full investigation.
Going through with this deal when other companies have temporarily suspended dealings with the area is risky, and WWE may be looking too much at the short-term. Regardless, the show will go on, as will EVE’s counter-programming. If nothing else, this may help EVE gain more attention they might have otherwise missed out on.