The WWE has emerged in the new millennium as the last major wrestling promotion standing, and the only outfit to ever amass such a massive financial standing through public trading.
WWE’s status as a publicly traded company has come with some additional responsibilities. Despite being based in an industry long associated with high drug use, short lifespans, and in some estimations even the stigma of a “carny” entertainment form, WWE has cleaned things up significantly. It’s been a long process, but it has paid off.
A strict drug-testing program and concussion policy has kept athletes healthier and changed the image of wrestling – or sports entertainment, to a large degree. The company has also taken stances against bullying and in favor of gender equality, and while their actions haven’t always aligned with these aspirations, the aspirations remain nonetheless.
This was why it was a curious decision when the company held an event in Saudi Arabia earlier this year. As a company that constantly touts their “women’s revolution,” it was odd for them to go to a country that limits women in what they may do. Some even claimed the allure of big oil money led the WWE to go against their own values with the Greatest Royal Rumble event – though the company promoted it as a means of pursuing international exposure.
But the controversies associated with Saudi Arabia are even greater than their views on women – now with journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance being alleged to have involved the Saudis, there are big questions about whether WWE will return for their upcoming event, known as Crown Jewel.
While company officials have said they are monitoring the situation, names from big companies like Ford, JPMorgan Chase & Co., CNN, the New York Times, and others have pulled out of a big conference in Riyadh.
WWE’s decade-long partnership with Saudi Arabia has been threatened by the growing controversies associated with the country and their stance that is apparently at odds with some of WWE’s supposed values.
Now U.S. politicians have begun to make their voice heard in the matter, encouraging WWE to postpone the Crown Jewel event until the situation has cleared up – and some have even suggested they should reconsider their relationship with Saudi Arabia entirely.
They aren’t the only organization that has done business with the nation recently – the World Boxing Super Series held an event there in late September. But there are still questions about how the country’s ongoing controversies could affect their status as a place for U.S. businesses to work with moving forward.
WWE doesn’t look good in this situation – they’re being viewed by many as a company that is willing to abandon their supposed values and look the other way so long as the price is right. And while they’ve been monitoring the issue, they’ve already advertised a lot of big names and big matches for the event. It seems they’re heavily invested, so a pullout at this point seems unlikely.