There’s a major red flag to the Greatest Royal Rumble and that’s the lack of the women’s division being allowed to perform on the show. Due to the laws of Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to appear on the show or to even attend the show on their own. Things are very, very different over there and while most Americans don’t seem to think that’s a good idea, WWE doesn’t have an issue taking the money offered to them by the Saudi Arabian government to run a show over there. That’s a major issue with the show and something WWE is going to have to answer to.
Now before we get into this, let me make a few things very clear. First of all, I completely get why WWE accepted the deal to hold this show. With rumors of the company making $50 million for this show (unconfirmed but that’s been a common number) and upwards of $250 million over the next ten years in Saudi Arabia, there’s no question about why they’re doing business there.
At the end of the day the company is about making money and they’ll be making quite a bit of it on this show and through the relationship that follows. I’m well aware that turning it down for the sake of almost anything would get me thrown out the window of any corporate board room. That’s all well and good and there’s not much of an argument to be made otherwise. However, for the sake of things other than money, there’s an argument for not going through with the deal.
Simply put, there’s a lot of value for WWE to turn down the Saudi Arabian deal for the sake of the women’s division. WWE has spent the better part of three years turning the thing from a complete joke (thirty second matches) to something that has main evented multiple pay per views, including the Royal Rumble. Throw in Ronda Rousey, Asuka, Charlotte and a host of other big names and there’s a lot of value in the division for years to come.
But none of them are even allowed to go to the biggest show of the year. What kind of message does that send? “Yeah we’re all about women’s rights and equality, until big money is involved that is. Then it’s back to the stone ages.” What does that say to the younger fans who want to be like their favorite female wrestlers? Or to the sponsors of these shows that aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of working alongside a country that doesn’t have the best record as far as human rights goes?
WWE knew they would be questions about going to the country. It’s not the best look in the world and the questions were obvious. Now that being said, are the questions worth it? Financially, and certainly in the short term, they are but how much of a dark mark does this leave on the company? That can be debated, but there’s definitely some damage to be done there. People are going to see the lack of women on the show and know what’s going on. It’s not a good look to have and I’m curious to see what the fallout from that will be. It’s probably not something that’s going to show up in the near future, but long term it just might.
So what should WWE have done? Well to begin with, go somewhere else. How many countries do you think would be willing to pony up some money to being WWE to town for a lot of money? I know the $50 million isn’t likely to be on the table but how many millions could be expected? It’s not like the show is going to bomb anywhere else. Bringing WWE to an international city is almost a way to print money. Fans are going to show up, buy tickets, buy merchandise, buy concessions and almost anything else for sale. It’s nearly a guaranteed way to make a fortune, and there are several places that wouldn’t bring the baggage.
Like, say, Wembley Stadium in London, England. Or perhaps Toronto, Ontario, Canada. What about Paris, France? Or say Melbourne, Australia? You know, the place where they’re holding the huge event later this year? You can imagine the number of places that would be willing to hold (and pay for) a major WWE event. WWE goes international a few times a year and maybe it would go even better if they went somewhere fresh that didn’t have these kind of issues going along with it.
That’s where so many of the problems stem from: WWE had options and picked one of the worst possible choices. Other than money, what’s the benefit of going halfway around the world? It’s completely out of the way, there’s a good chance that the fans in attendance will have little to no idea how to react to the show, the wrestlers are going to be exhausted from jet lag and the time difference, and the show is airing at a very odd time back in America. In other words, what’s good about this whole thing?
Money of course. As mentioned (and as should be obvious), this whole thing is about making WWE money. I mean, how else are they going to keep their stock prices up? And it’s not like the fans are really going to benefit from it. Will this mean the return of pyro? Maybe at Summerslam. Or big name signings? Nah, they have to pay Brock Lesnar that much money to show up every now and then. Perhaps some upgrades to the set? Well only if the set can look the same every time, because Heaven forbid they spend money. There are dividends to send out and we wouldn’t want stockholders to be mad at them.
That’s what the whole thing boils down to: WWE had a chance to do something better than they did without as many problems but instead, it took the path that got them the most money. It makes the Women’s Revolution look far less important than it should be and that’s a decision that WWE has made. Triple H spoke about how there are things you have to deal with when working in places like this and that’s the point: no, you don’t have to deal with it because you don’t have to work there. WWE could have said that they weren’t going to a place with those standards, and yet here we are.
Like I said, I know why WWE went where it did. There’s no secret to that and you would be foolish to argue against why they did it. However, it’s not as simple as taking the money and running. There are going to be people who aren’t ok with it and some of them may have some higher levels of authority than others. If a sponsor of theirs isn’t ok with it, things can change in a hurry. Just look at what happened with the Fabulous Moolah and Snickers at WrestleMania 34.
The Women’s Revolution is going to be fine. With Rousey, Charlotte and Asuka at the top, there’s no reason to believe that the division isn’t going to thrive for years. This shows where WWE’s priorities are though, and makes the statements they give that much more difficult to believe. You knew it was true all along, but now it’s even more obvious.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 26 wrestling books. His latest book is the WWE Grab Bag.
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