WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler discussed the plane flight debacle from Saudi Arabia last week following the WWE Crown Jewel pay-per-view on the latest edition of his podcast, The Jerry Lawler Show.
While Lawler was not in Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel last week, he said that all of the talent that he spoken to have said that it was the worst travel experience of their life, and that "everything that could go wrong, did go wrong."
Lawler noted that wrestlers are notoriously bad at spreading gossip and rumors, and they'll make stuff up and get it to spread around as quickly as possible. He noted that talent were concerned during the flight delays that there was more going on than what they were told, and that there was a lack of communication with the talent.
While Lawler was not at Crown Jewel, he did attend the talent meeting this past Monday. Lawler said that when he got to the arena for RAW, there was a sign for a talent meeting at 3 pm. Lawler said that while he tries to avoid meetings, he decided to attend to find out what happened since there were so many conspiracy theories being spread. At the meeting, Vince McMahon took the microphone and addressed the situation.
"Vince said, 'guys, we've all been in this business for awhile, we've all experienced some travel issues in the past, but I can honestly say that in all of the years that I've been in the business, I've never seen this many travel issues happen at one time with a plane'," Lawler said.
McMahon and the talent arrived at the airport at the same time last Thursday night after Crown Jewel to leave Saudi Arabia. McMahon's jet departed first, and 175 staff and talent were on a large charter plane. The talent wouldn't end up departing until the following day. McMahon detailed the issues that caused the delay.
McMahon said that the first problem was with the tug that was supposed to pull the plane away from the gate. After that, there was a problem with the manifest with weight of the plane because of the amount of people on board. The issues were apparently not being explained to the talent properly. When the manifest issue came up, the pilot said that they were being delayed and that it was just something beyond their control that they're trying to get fixed.
After the issue with the amount of weight on the plane, they had to put on more fuel since it was a nonstop flight. When they finally added the additional fuel and the tanks were full, a sensor was set off indicating that there was a problem with a piece of equipment that would transfer the fuel from one engine to the other in the event that one went out. Lawler noted that it was nighttime, and there was nowhere in Saudi Arabia to get this piece of equipment so they had to fly it in from Germany, which is about a six hour flight, to put into this plane so that it could take off.
Staff and talent had been sitting on the plane for six hours not knowing what's going on. Finally they were told that they were going to deplane and check into a hotel.
"Can you imagine, 175 people getting off this plane and being bused to hotels in the middle of the night? After they arrived [to the hotel], here's 175 people showing up at a hotel that wasn't expecting them," Lawler said. "Everybody's trying to get checked in, it was just a nightmare. None of the WWE travel people were there to help at that point."
Early that morning, everyone was put back into buses and it was still pitch dark outside. They were driven to a different airport because the plane had to be moved from the original airport so that it could be worked on. There was also an issue with the time limits that a pilot can fly, so for the final flight they had to get two different pilots than from the original flight. The talent then finally got on the plane and returned to the U.S.
"Vince said to everybody, 'Guys, I've never seen anything like it, I'm sure you've never seen anything like it and hopefully we'll never experience anything like that again. We'll always have the travel people [stay with talent], they'll be the last people to leave. We'll always take care of this'. Vince and those guys got out on his jet thinking that all of the talent was going to be right behind him, so they didn't have a clue that all of this was going on," Lawler said.
Vince went through everything that went wrong and addressed the conspiracy theories, saying, "nothing like that happened, there could be nothing further from the truth. He said that as a matter of fact, our relationship with the Saudi government and the Prince is at an all time high."
Lawler noted WWE expanding their partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority through 2027 to include a second annual large-scale event.
"All of the things that people were concerned about didn't happen," Lawler stated.
"AJ said, 'I'll be honest with you man, we were just minutes away from somebody going off and something bad happening. All I'm thinking about is that I'm supposed to be at home playing ball with my son right now and instead I'm stuck here in Saudi Arabia and nobody can explain to me why'," Lawler said.
Lawler said that everybody understands what happened now and that those issues will be fixed in the future. McMahon also said that they would no longer use the charter company, Atlas Air, who issued a public statement apologizing for the incident.
You can listen to the full podcast by clicking here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Jerry Lawler show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.