WWE wrestling superstar John Cena has pulled out of a major show in Saudi Arabia that was billed as the Crown Jewel. While Cena, who is the wrestling industry’s most famous face, has not given an explanation for cancelling his appearance, many suspect that his decision is connected to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
At one point it looked as though the first-ever WWE World Cup tournament in Riyadh was in jeopardy following Khashoggi’s killing in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Following pressure on the wrestling entertainment company to cancel the show in Riyadh, a representative for WWE released a statement to the media saying, “We are currently monitoring the situation.”
But unlike the international mixed martial brand UFC, made popular by the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov that terminated its $400 million deal with kingdom, WWE decided to go ahead with the event due to the success of its previous show “Greatest Royal Rumble”, which sold out the 60,000 capacity King Abdullah International Stadium in Jeddah last April.
Rumours of Cena’s non-participation began to circulate last week but his name was kept on the promotional campaigns in the hope that he would reconsider his decision. However, on this week’s edition of Monday Night RAW – a professional wrestling television programme – it was announced that Bobby Lashley would be taking his place.
Because no official reason has been given, some have speculated that Cena may have pulled out due to injury or filming commitments, but it’s widely suspected that the wrestler boycotted the event in Saudi Arabia over the gruesome killing of Khashoggi.
WWE has signed a ten year, a multimillion-dollar deal to stage events in the kingdom.