Update WWE talent stranded in Saudi Arabia
It's becoming pretty clear that we're not going to hear the full truth of the WWE Non-Flight From Hell situation that developed dramatically in the wake of Crown Jewel this week. We've already seen conflicting reports of why the majority of the travelling roster ended up effectively trapped in the country and then forced to endure a mammoth trip home and now there's a little more to offer.
Dave Meltzer has revealed on the latest Wrestling Observer that there is another slight sting in the tale, because it seems the talent were lied to about the nature of the delay.
Meltzer says the stars were aware of an emergency summit between Vince McMahon and Saudi representatives and that there was some conflict over money owed that led to the TV airing of the show going out 40 minutes late rather than live. That fits with the video posted on Facebook by former WWE Spanish announcer (and current AAA employee) Hugo Savinovich in which he claimed that WWE talent was not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia because of a matter of $300 and $500 million that WWE was owed by the Saudi government. WWE allegedly responded by cutting the TV feed and the government responded in kind by essentially kidnapping the talent.
Naturally, that's not the sort of accusation you throw around lightly, because kidnapping is a grave crime that comes with significant punishment. Though presumably not when you're a government who set their own rules anyway. Apparently, it was resolved - hence the televised show going ahead on delay - but that still doesn't entirely account for why the talent were delayed so long subsequently. It does, however, add some insight into why they were told a different story about why they were stranded.
Now, on the back of that story and a tweet in which he said that talent was being coerced into releasing videos to blame the delay on mechanical issues, Meltzer says the official line offered to the talent as well as us rubes was that it genuinely was mechanical issues. Again, it fits with the fact that Atlas Air (the charter company) issued an apology for the mechanical issue and delay.
Meltzer's latest suggests that the talent were effectively lied to about the reasons and while one person who he spoke to actually did believe the story, the majority were unswayed by the attempt to shape the narrative. They fly a lot and mechanical issues are an inevitability, but the manner of the delay and the fact that Meltzer reports that there were military police around suggests this was out of the ordinary. Perhaps that's why the called-for videos haven't arrived en-masse?
Intriguingly, Meltzer reflects on the fallout saying he knows some WWE names never want to return to Saudi Arabia while some are actually considering their positions with the company in the mid-term (the next few months is the specific timeline he offers). If that's the case, it's going to cost WWE a lot more than just the money they were owed.
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