Since the end of the Attitude Era, WWE has desperately been trying to regain its pop culture relevance. After nearly two decades, the company has finally achieved its goal, it seems, by partnering with an oppressive regime that allegedly murdered and dismembered a reporter. Yay!
We've talked extensively in the past about WWE's partnership with Saudi Arabia, which is giving WWE massive amounts of money over the course of a 10-year deal to hold big events in the country as part of the Saudi Arabian Vision 2030 project. So much money, in fact, that they've been able to coax stars of yesteryear like the legendary Shawn Michaels, who had steadfastly refused to return to the ring since retiring in 2010, to come back for at least one more big payday.
The partnership has already been subject to criticism for the exclusion of WWE's female performers, who are not allowed to wrestle in the country, as well as the exclusion of Syrian-Canadian performer Sami Zayn, as well as WWE's shameless promotion of the country as beacon of progressiveness despite all evidence to the contrary, so progressive in fact that one Saudi man was arrested by the government for criticizing pro wrestling after the last big event. But that criticism, at least on WWE's balance sheet, wasn't enough to cancel out the aforementioned crapload of money they were receiving to put on the events. WWE Executive Triple H even brazenly used the outrage about the country's oppressive attitude toward women, which resulted in the Saudi Sports Authority needing to issue an apology after WWE accidentally ran a video advertisement in the arena that dared to show women wrestlers, by touting WWE's leadership in women's equality.
"I understand that people are questioning it, but you have to understand that every culture is different and just because you don't agree with a certain aspect of it, it doesn't mean it's not a relevant culture," said Triple H. "You can't dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women's evolution in the world and what you can't do is affect change anywhere by staying away from it."
The delicate balance of money vs. bad publicity may be about to shift out of WWE's favor, however, since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, allegedly by agents of the Saudi government. The incident has sparked bipartisan concern from United States Senators about WWE's upcoming Crown Jewel event. And now, it's earned WWE that mainstream attention it so desperately craves, as WWE was featured prominently Sunday night on the main segment on HBO's popular Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Though we have to admit, we were a little bit disappointed that Oliver chose the low road when mocking WWE, saying, "It seems the WWE is as overtly pro-Saudi Arabia as it is lately homoerotic, which is to say, intensely." John, there's so much more to make fun of WWE for.
Congratulations, WWE. You've finally made it!
Crown Jewel is set to take place on November 2nd, only on the WWE Network, and though WWE is "monitoring the situation," there's no sign as of yet that it will be called off.