WWE superstar John Cena will not participate in the controversial “Crown Jewel” card scheduled for Friday in Saudi Arabia.
The event is facing backlash after the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in early October.
Turkish officials concluded that Saudi Arabian agents awaited Khashoggi and killed him inside the consulate, removing his head and fingers in the process. Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was a frequent critic of Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
WWE moves forward despite controversy
WWE decided to move forward with the event despite criticism in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s murder. The company explained its decision in its third quarter earnings report released on Thursday.
WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh.
Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.
Show backed by Saudi money
“Crown Jewel” will be a pay-per-view event that is part of a partnership between WWE and the Saudi Arabian government.
Deadspin reports that Friday’s show, like April’s “Greatest Royal Rumble” in Saudi Arabia, is backed by Saudi government money, raising questions about the company partnering with a government suspected of murdering a prominent journalist.
Cena reportedly wanted out after journalist’s death
Which brings us back to Cena, one of WWE’s biggest draws. Cena and Daniel Bryan were reportedly “100 percent out” of the show last week in response to Khashoggi’s death, with Cena concerned about being associated with the event and its impact on his career.
After reportedly failing to convince Cena to participate, WWE officially wrote him out of the show during a bit on “Monday Night Raw” that replaced him with Bobby Lashley.
— WWE (@WWE) October 30, 2018
Cena has not spoken publicly on his stance on the issue. But WWE has officially confirmed that one of its biggest stars will not be at “Crown Jewel.”
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