Everybody’s Got A Price, Even WWE

“Everybody’s got a price”

Those are the lyrics for the theme song and a catch-phrase of “The Million Dollar Man,” a Vince McMahon creation that utilized the less than admirable traits that wealth can generate from certain people. Ted DiBiase’s villainous persona appeared in many segments where he used his money to get others to sacrifice their mortality for the almighty dollar.

It’s somewhat ironic that the WWE, a global publicly-traded company, finds itself as the corporate member of the audience that performs tasks for the cash. When the WWE held The Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia in April with a WM-type card just weeks after the actual Wrestlemania, it generated much criticism because of some of the cultural restrictions in the country. For example, women athletes, a group that the WWE claims to promote as an extremely important part of their organization as a part of the female empowerment marketing strategy, weren’t allowed to compete in Saudi Arabia. Some might view this as just the traditions of a different culture, while others will think it’s a repressive regime. Either way, it’s difficult to judge these things from an outside perspective. However, when the WWE accepts the Saudi cash, they must also be prepared from the criticism that goes along with it.

At the time of the Greatest Rumble, I penned an article that explained that the Saudi deal was strictly business and that a corporate entity wasn’t going to skip the chance to get that type of money in a deal with the government of a foreign country. It’s still strictly business, but the perception of the contract went to a different level recently, and though it won’t happen, WWE might want to think about the reality of this deal, not just the sports entertainment events it brings to the country.

Recently, the Saudi government has been the subject of many news stories because of the disappearance of reporter Jamal Khashoggi, who went to the Saudi consulate, but didn’t return. Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, was seen entering the building, but footage has yet to surface that shows his exit. There are rumors that he might’ve been assassinated, a claim that the Saudi government denies, but what happened to the reporter remains unknown.

It would be unfair to jump to conclusions, but the notion that a government agency had someone assassinated to keep them quiet isn’t exactly a new concept. Was there anyone on the grassy knoll?

But, the point is, the major news currently around the world about Saudi Arabia is that the government might’ve silenced a critic because he didn’t praise their decisions. With the Crown Jewel event being held there, the WWE is indirectly associated with the controversy around the country. According the The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, the Saudi royal family is paying roughly $40 million for each WWE event, which makes it an extremely profitable venture. That said, depending on the stock price, the WWE is worth nearly a billion dollars, do they really need the money considering this particular situation?

Just a few days ago, Turkish government officials claimed that there’s evidence of the assassination, but Saudi Arabia continues to deny any involvement, and the investigation hasn’t concluded yet.

As of this writing, the Crown Jewel event is still scheduled to take place and WWE released a statement that said they are “monitoring the situation.” Keep in mind, this WWE deal and other western imports into the region are simply a vanity project to try to improve the image of a country that is often associated with strict cultural traditions. Basically, the WWE is being paid to be used as a PR tool for the Saudi government. Again, the company is worth nearly a billion dollars and will make $2.5 billion for its combined TV deals in the next five years so is the potential negative press worth the Saudi money?

Aside from the money, which is the most important factor, the WWE doesn’t need to be associated with the Saudi royal family because the organization is already a global entity. The bottom line is, the Saudi government needs the WWE more than the WWE needs the royal family’s cash, but it’s management’s decision to determine if the amount of money they will be paid for this show is worth it. Obviously, if a reporter was killed because the Saudi royal family didn’t approve of criticism then it’s a total disgrace. Essentially, the WWE should be better than this to accept major cash if there was actually an assassination at the consulate. All things considered, it might be a better decision for management to cancel the show because the promotion is financially secure and this is an opportunity for WWE brass to prove there’s a standard for the company.

That being said, management already invested TV time into the storylines that are booked for the show, including the return of Shawn Michaels after an eight years retirement. Speaking of HBK, it speaks volumes about the power of the dollar when he agrees to wrestle again after the stellar conclusion to his career in 2010. Why take away from the match with The Undertaker in 2010? At this point, what does WWE brass do with the promoted Undertaker/Kane vs. DX match or the Universal title match? In some ways, the company is booked into a corner since the matches are already advertised.

Vince McMahon built a north east territory into a truly global brand, and in the process, he consolidated the entire sports entertainment industry, buying the tape libraries of every major promotion in the United States, which built the foundation for the WWE Network. The WWE stock price is currently at $84.30, which is an exponential increase from the price of $22.30 last year. So why would the WWE allow the company to be used as a PR tool for Saudi Arabia?

Everybody’s got a price.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta