Gordon Gekko's 1980s maxim, "greed is good," appears to be a lodestar for the WWE. Despite mounting evidence Saudi Arabia's government played a starring role in the torture, murder, dismemberment, and attempted cover-up of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at their embassy in Turkey, the Crown Jewel showcase in Riyadh on Nov. 2 will go ahead as planned. There had been reports earlier this week that the event was in danger of being moved or canceled altogether when star John Cena (and possibly Daniel Bryan) said he wouldn't participate, but there's simply too much money at stake and moola...trumps morals in today's America.
The WWE confirmed the event would go ahead as scheduled in Thursday morning's third-quarter earnings release, the perfect backdrop for such a morally bankrupt business decision.
"WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base,” the company said in a release. "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 Nov. 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."
The announcement comes just as Saudi Arabia changes its stance—for the fourth or fifth time—on what actually happened to Khashoggi in Turkey's Saudi Arabian embassy earlier this month. Now they're saying his murder wasn't the consequence of rogue agents, or a mistaken choke-hold gone awry, but a "premeditated" murder in cold blood, the New York Times reports. It seems CIA director Gina Haspel—who spearheaded the U.S. government's own torture regime of suspected Al Qaeda suspects on foreign soul after 9/11—was reportedly granted access by the Turkish government of audio and more of the torture and murder. In essence, they were forced to fess up.
Those other U.S.-based companies mentioned in the WWE's cowardly release are most notably the private equity and venture capital bigwigs in Silicon Valley, who see flashing dollar signs despite a regime—led by Jared Kushner's BFF, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS)—that's imprisoned political dissidents, blown up countless innocent Yemeni children in that ongoing humanitarian crisis, and murdered a journalist who wrote centrist critiques of the government (Khashoggi has ties to the royal family and doesn't advocate regime change!) on foreign soil.
"It will be a real moral challenge for anyone to accept money moving forward from Saudi Arabia," Venky Ganesan, of technology investor Menlo Ventures, told the Washington Post. It's a "challenge" they've cowardly abdicated, just like the WWE is doing by holding their event next month.
Fans are justifiably livid and sounded off on Twitter about the money-over-morals decision:
For some, it even marked the end of their fandom entirely.
While there are wrestlers who have said they're uncomfortable with the venue, considering what's been reported about Khashoggi's abduction and brutal murder, others—perhaps unsurprisingly—remain tone deaf about what message the event sends the rest of the world. "I'm looking forward to going to going to Saudi Arabia," Hulk Hogan told the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday.
However, despite Silicon Valley and the WWE turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's atrocities (similar to most American news outlets, we've only lightly touched on all the children killed in Yemen with U.S.-supplied Saudi air strikes), noted bastion of upstanding virtue, the UFC, has pulled out of Saudi Arabia despite it costing them a reported $400 million.
It seems kayfabe extends to the spine.