A few weeks ago, I penned an article and explained that despite the negative publicity of the Crown Jewel pay-per-view in Saudi Arabia, everyone’s got a price, even the WWE. Since that column was posted, it was confirmed that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated just minutes after he entered the Saudi consulate last month. Regardless of the dictatorship style murder to silence a critic of the Saudi royal family, the WWE is not only still willing to accept the major cash from the Saudi government, but also be used by Mohammed bin Salman as a PR tool in an faux attempt to change the perception of the country, which is known for its harsh restrictions toward certain groups of its population. As I said previously, the WWE is a global, publicly-traded company and they signed $2 billion worth of TV contract that will start in 2019 so it’s not as though the promotion needs the money. That said, is the Saudi money really worth it? Granted, business is business, but isn’t there a line of decency somewhere?
The negative perception about this event taking place a month after Khashoggi’s murder isn’t just general discussion outside of the genre of professional wrestling. John Cena, the company’s top star for more than a decade, declined to participate in the event. At 41, Cena was a workhorse for the organization for the past several years, but more recently took a lighter schedule to pursue an acting career. It makes sense because after such a grueling schedule for the majority of his WWE run, he obviously won’t be in the ring on a full-time in the future. Even the hefty payday isn’t worth the negative press and the effect it could have on his acting career. Plus, Cena has the status within the company that he can refuse the appearance without any repercussions.
Another star, Daniel Bryan, refused to work the show because of Saudi Arabia’s restrictions toward women and other groups. Different from Cena in this situation, Bryan doesn’t have a brand or an image to protect. Daniel Bryan is doing something that WWE brass isn’t willing to do, he won’t compromise his values for cash. That authenticity is one of the many that Daniel Bryan is one of the most over athletes of the modern era because the fans can identify with him and see the effort he displays in the ring.
It speaks volumes that two of the WWE’s top stars refused to be associated with this event.
With the exit of Bryan and more specifically Cena, the WWE had to find a way to deliver the star power that the Saudi family is expecting for that huge payday. So, Hulk Hogan was quietly announced as the host of the event. The former WWF champion was fired in 2015 after a leaked tape surfaced that showed Hogan use several racist remarks. The racist rant was just one of many things that tainted the disgraced champion’s legacy over the past decade. Prior to his run in TNA, Hulk was known as a tabloid circus. The racist comments made by Terry Bollea ruined much of the legacy of Hulk Hogan. Granted, there will always be naive fans that cheer for Hulkamania, but the reality is, Bollea doesn’t seem like the most honorable person. Let’s not forget, he made a career of using his creative control clause to maintain his status at the top of the card. There’s no place in society for Hogan’s narrow-minded view and he certainly doesn’t deserved to be promoted by a global promotion.
Ironically, Hulk returned to the company for a backstage meeting prior to the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in July. Reportedly, Hogan’s “explanation” was that he didn’t know he was recorded when the leaked tape was filmed and apologized for it. Several wrestlers were dissatisfied with his apology and expressed discontent on social media. From a historical context, there’s no realistic way to erase Hogan’s wrestling career so let that stand on its own, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean that the WWE should promote Terry Bollea. Remember, several lewd comments from Bollea surfaced, it wasn’t a one-time incident so there’s definitely a pattern as to who he is when he’s not portraying Hulk Hogan on-screen. Since those comments went public in 2015, Hulk remains a polarizing figure, as some fans still support his accomplishments in sports entertainment, while others don’t want to be associated with the comments he made in reality.
So, why would the WWE bring him back?
Again, the Saudi family is paying for name value more than anything else, and with Cena’s refusal, management needed something to justify the major paycheck from the Saudi government. Obviously, since the Saudi government assassinated a journalist, they aren’t concerned with Hulk’s disgusting remarks from the leaked tape. I’d guess that even WWE management knows how terrible Hulk’s involvement looks because his scheduled appearance wasn’t advertised or promoted on TV this week.
Hopefully, Hulk’s involvement with modern sports entertainment is contained to the Crown Jewel event, what else could he realistically do for the WWE? While he would probably be more than willing to drop the leg on younger talent to get another win at 65 years old, Hogan doesn’t have much value from a PR perspective at this point. Unfortunately, with the shady situations around this event, Hulk’s involvement almost seems suitable. More than anything, this Crown Jewel pay-per-view just makes the WWE, which represents professional wrestling on a main stream basis, look terrible. The major corporation takes money from the corrupt government, which is sadly common for business outside of sports entertainment. The most disappointing aspect of this whole situation is that the WWE is already extremely profitable without the Saudi contract and they could cancel the event.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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