Sam Roberts took some time on his NotSam wrestling podcast to discuss the WWE’s upcoming Network Special, Crown Jewel, and whether it should be relocated from Saudi Arabia.
The controversial regime has been under hot water due to the suspicion of their involvement in the reported death of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi. WWE’s relationship with the country has also come under scrutiny, most recently featured in a segment on John Oliver’s late night show chastising the company.
Roberts, who is also a panelist with WWE, respects the company’s agreement with Saudi Arabia, but personally feels that they should move the show elsewhere. Roberts says he has no problem with the deal (for hosting events in Saudi Arabia) itself in general, and said he doesn’t know anything about the reports of Superstars being uncomfortable traveling, because he thinks they’d speak up if that were the case, but WWE should move the show.
Here’s a portion of the monologue below, which can also be heard below in the full episode ( Transcription credit by Christopher McManus of WrestleZone.com):
Now the question with WWE’s involvement in Saudi Arabia has become even bigger. As far as the first show went, and as far as the whole deal goes, I don’t have an issue with the argument that WWE is looking to be part of the modernization of Saudi Arabia. I don’t have an issue with the argument that WWE is looking to change the culture so that because of what they do now, eventually they will have things like women’s matches in Saudi Arabia. I can buy into the argument, we can have the discussion that if you don’t do anything in Saudi Arabia, if the women can’t wrestle, we’re not going to go over there. OK, that might never change. Maybe the WWE can go over there, maybe they can see what the culture has to offer. Maybe it would become OK for women to wrestle; it happened in Abu Dhabi with Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss.
I’m OK with that stuff. I’m OK with the deal. Saudi Arabia has done a lot of questionable things, but I’m OK with the deal in general. I personally believe—this is my own personal opinion, I haven’t talked to anyone about this—I don’t know anything about these stories [about] the WWE Superstars are ‘uncomfortable’ going over there.
I think if WWE Superstars were really uncomfortable going over there, they would say, ‘hey, I’m uncomfortable going over there.’ I think that would be OK; WWE is not firing anyone because they are not going. If people were really uncomfortable going over there—they are not indentured servants. But my own personal opinion is that because of this story—honestly, the [United States] is still figuring out if they have to retaliate against Saudi Arabia—I don’t think that [WWE] Crown Jewel should take place in Saudi Arabia.
I think that the show should go on—the show must go on—a big investment has been made into this show. It’s going to cost WWE; it’s going to cost them a lot of money. I think the show is booked around the fact that Saudi Arabia is putting a lot of money into it. That’s why you have Brock Lesnar, and Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels, and Triple H and Kane, this eight-man tournament, and all of this stuff going on. Big paydays for these guys I’m sure, but I think that WWE’s got to eat this one. They were featured on VICE, they were featured on John Oliver this week, and it’s not good press.
I think what they [WWE] are trying to figure out now is what’s going to affect them as a business more; going or not going. What are the investors that they are responsible to—they’re not saying Saudi Arabia on the banners, on anything anymore—this whole week, two shows, nothing but Crown Jewel promotion. Evolution promotion as well, but a ton of promotion for the Crown Jewel pay-per-view, and no mention of where it’s taking place. Obviously that’s on purpose. I would expect WWE that they have a backup plan already, and if you ask me in this moment today, I think they should use the backup plan. I think the WWE should move it.