Days removed from the WWE Crown Jewel event, lots of questions remain unanswered on the events that followed the show and resulted in talent being stranded in the country and an overhaul of Friday Night SmackDown.
Here is what we do know:
-Prior to the charter flight that was set to leave late Thursday night at 3 am local time, Vince McMahon and his staff left the country. The reasoning behind the early departure is unknown.
-The charter flight did not take off and those on the flight remained on the tarmac for over six hours with the WWE’s press release citing ‘several aircraft problems including mechanical issues.’
-A separate charter flight was arranged for specific people with Fightful reporting Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Bobby Lashley, The Revival, New Day, and Shinsuke Nakamura among those on the flight. Of those listed, all but Lashley had been advertised for SmackDown on Friday night in Buffalo.
-Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Paul Heyman, and Jimmy Hart did leave because they had separate flights out of the country. Lesnar and Heyman did appear in Buffalo for SmackDown to shoot the angle of Lesnar quitting SmackDown to move over to Raw.
-The WWE included the following statement in their press release acknowledging the separate charter flight:
With SmackDown set to emanate live from Buffalo, N.Y., several Superstars felt so strongly that they arranged for their own separate charter in order to make it back to the U.S. for the show.
-The line in the press release about talent arranging their own separate charter flight has clearly irked those that were left waiting in Saudi Arabia. Comments were posted publicly by Luke Harper, Karl Anderson, and Curtis Axel.
-The second charter flight did not make it back in time for SmackDown. The show was rebuilt around an NXT invasion with talent flown in on another charter flight and landing in Buffalo at 7:55 pm eastern.
-On Friday, Air Atlas, who was the operator of the initial charter flight issued the following statement:
A chartered passenger flight operated by Atlas Air is currently delayed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia due to a mechanical issue. The flight was scheduled to depart at 3:00 AM AST on Nov. 1. Our top priority is always to ensure our passengers arrive safely and on time at their destination. The aircraft is being repaired and will be inspected and certified before returning to service to transport our passengers to their final destination. We regret that operational disruptions delayed the flight and apologize to our passengers who were inconvenienced.
-On Friday night, Hugo Savinovich hosted a live Facebook stream. According to those that translated the video to English, Savinovich stated that WWE had not been paid certain monies by the Government of Saudi Arabia and threatened to pull the live signal for Crown Jewel so it would not be broadcast in the country. The show did air on a delay on MBC Action (it was also scheduled to run on KSA Sports, and AD Sports). Savinovich used money figures that were greatly exaggerated but later was clarified that he was using hypothetical numbers and not reflecting the actual amount WWE was allegedly owed.
-On Sunday, Devon Nicholson posted a message from Savinovich explaining in English what he had heard. In the video’s description it added:
Savinovich says that a WWE Executive called him to give condolences on his recently deceased wife and told him of the issues which Hugo says an old connection he has from Saudi Arabia has also confirmed however we would like to stress the information in this video is hearsay.
-The delay on MBC Action checked out with people on Twitter asking why the event wasn’t airing after 1 pm eastern:
@mbcaction Where is WWE crown jewel?
— Ahmad Johar (@_a_johar) October 31, 2019
@mbcaction where WWE crown Jewel ??????
— محمد النيباري (@MalNaibari) October 31, 2019
-Regarding potential issues involving the payments, a lot of attention has been placed on this past Thursday’s earnings report and a line included in the WWE’s 10-Q filing regarding the status of their payment for the Super Showdown event in Jeddah this past June:
Cash generated from operating activities was $2.3 million in the nine months ended September 30, 2019, as compared to $121.5 million for the corresponding period in the prior year. The $119.2 million decrease in the current year period was primarily driven by the timing of collections associated with our Super ShowDown event which was held in the second quarter of 2019, combined with lower operating performance and the increased payout of management incentive compensation in the current year.
-However, on the WWE investor’s call on Thursday, it was stated that a payment of $60 million was made after September 30th but prior to October 31st. It was not specifically stated what this payment was for.
-Dave Meltzer added additional details on Wrestling Observer Radio today that several performers left in Saudi Arabia felt they were left abandoned in the country and were “pawns in a dick waving contest” between McMahon and the Government. Meltzer added that he had heard from one person in WWE that stated the company was attempting to get video from as many performers as possible to reiterate the mechanical issues on the plane as the central problem.