This past weekend, WWE's Crown Jewel event was shrouded with controversy, although it was more about the plane ride home than the event itself. There was a flight issue that kept several WWE stars and crew in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia following Thursday's event. As a result, SmackDown was changed due to virtually nobody from the brand being there.
We previously reported that former WWE Spanish commentator Hugo Savinovich claimed that he heard from a source that WWE was owed money by the Saudis for past events and Vince McMahon responded by cutting off the Crown Jewel live TV feed in Saudi Arabia. Savinovich then said that the plane was held back as retaliation by the Saudis. WWE has since denied those claims, although WWE Co-President George Barrios did mention on the WWE third quarter earnings call last Thursday hours before Crown Jewel that the company received a $60 million payment "for an outstanding receivable" after the third quarter ended.
Following the rumors that were flying, WWE wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page. According to the latest Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer reported that McMahon called a meeting in New York at 3 p.m. ET before Raw aired inside the Nassau Coliseum. He assured everyone that everything was fine and stated that the plane had mechanical problems. A.J. Styles had claimed the same mechanical issues during a Mixer gaming stream over the weekend.
Crown Jewel also reportedly started nearly an hour later on the MBC Action network in Saudi Arabia than scheduled. WWE issued a statement claiming that the show was delayed due to a technical issue. Meltzer noted that McMahon told talent a slightly different reason, saying that the delay was a decision that was made by Saudi Arabia.
Meltzer said that Seth Rollins gave the previously reported "Rah-Rah" speech to the talent, and that Rollins is apparently not happy with him. Rusev reportedly tried to say something during the meeting, while Randy Orton appeared to make a small joke about the situation.
It was noted that the meeting didn't really change things. Talent who were already upset are even more upset following the meeting. The talent who were not planning on leaving still won't.
WWE is planning to return to Saudi Arabia in June. WWE announced on Monday that they have expanded their partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority to include a second annual large-scale event through 2027.