The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia suck. The spectacle of what will be the Greatest Royal Rumble will not. It’s a second helping of WrestleMania three weeks removed from the real thing. That is what WWE wants to solely focus on, but that’s not possible.
The present contradiction is unavoidable for fans not to notice. The contradiction of how WWE has been presenting their revolution of women performers and how Saudi Arabia traditionally treats women. But while there, WWE has to respect and abide by the customs no matter how hard they are for the Western world to comprehend or tolerate.
The obvious reason is because money talks. Money is the top reason WWE is doing the show and will come back in future years to do it again. Big, big money. Right or wrong for WWE doing a show in Saudi Arabia, nobody can realistically speak on the decision making. This includes the most righteous of spectators on social media.
Let me make clear I don’t support or like the lack of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia or some of the dynamics of this situation. I also admit that I’m not naive enough to think that if I was an executive in WWE, I would do so much better by any measure. When it’s not your money or responsibility for the company’s bottom line, it’s easy to tout your hypothetical decision making around not having a price to be bought and constantly standing on the highest of moral ground.
WWE knows anything they do is met with criticism. It’s the way of the world today, but very true when it comes to the especially passionate pro wrestling fan base. If it’s not women not being on the show in Saudi Arabia, it would be why Roman Reigns is in the main event. But die-hard fans will watch no matter what and a majority of them voicing their displeasure will still watch.
Wonder if the Jeddah crowd will bring beach balls?
Die-hards are reliable but casual is where the new money is at. Casual is where the exposure is. The bandwagon fans are the growth from one year to the next (applies to all sports and their ticket sales).
WWE knows they’ll be met with complaints no matter what, so they’re going to make their money where they can and increase their footprint. The Greatest Royal Rumble will reach casual fans and their exposure that comes with. Like it or not, that’s the reality check.
Saudi Arabia and the region is a populated part of the world. This isn’t WWE’s first show in the country, but compared to their aggressive worldwide touring everywhere else, it will make their appearance there a big deal. In addition to WWE cashing checks now, I do see them viewing this payday as the opportunity to start something that will end in positive business and cultural PR. What a great story it would be if WWE is able to build their relationship with Saudi Arabia over the coming years and eventually present a women’s match. It happened in Abu Dhabi. They began visiting the city for live events and built to the historic women’s match in December 2017 between Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss.
The current regime in power in Saudi Arabia has been labeled as progressive at times and took steps forward regarding women’s rights. Yes, there’s more work to be done, a lot more, but it shouldn’t erase hope for the big picture. I’m not suggesting Vince McMahon and WWE are going to drastically change an entire culture. But in all battles of civil rights, it’s a lot of small steps that build to eventual change. I see no reason that WWE can’t be involved and be an influencer in those small steps.
Fans locally and around the world get a stacked card. The show streaming live on the WWE Network doesn’t cost anything extra other than the $9.99 price fans are paying already. The focus should be on the bonus everyone as a fan is getting. A stacked card with top names built around a first-time ever 50-man Royal Rumble match.
If we want to debate cultural acceptance, let’s debate how in WWE “Royal Rumble” culture we need a prize for the winner. Put something on the line for these 50 guys. This historic Rumble match not having a pot gold at the end of the rainbow is a huge gap in this mega production.
Oh, and if we’re going to keep doing this show, then let’s move it. Don’t put it three weeks after the crew and talent have had the grueling wrap to WrestleMania season. Move it later in the year to one of WWE’s traditional major events, like SummerSlam. That way the stories and winners can have a more direct creative lead into something of importance on WWE programming.