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Saudi Arabia

John Cena out of WWE Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia amid reports he refused to go over Jamal Khashoggi killing

  • WWE’s biggest star written out of controversial ‘Crown Jewel’ event in Riyadh
  • Cena reportedly told WWE he won’t perform after Khashoggi consulate death
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 12:11pm

John Cena has been replaced on WWE’s “Crown Jewel” event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this week after reportedly refusing to go.

WWE’s biggest mainstream star who is building a successful crossover career in Hollywood, Cena had been advertised to perform in the “World Cup” tournament on November 2 as part of the Saudi show.

But the 16-time WWE champion was written out after losing a match to Bobby Lashley on Monday’s edition of the company’s flagship television show, Raw. Lashley replaces Cena in the tournament.

Cena is currently working a part-time schedule in WWE, as he is on location in China shooting for action-thriller Project X with Jackie Chan, but flew in specially for Raw to set up his absence in Saudi Arabia.

His withdrawal comes amid growing criticism of WWE for choosing to go ahead with Crown Jewel despite the Saudi government’s reported involvement in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2.

WWE released a statement last week following reports that Cena, as well as fellow performer Daniel Bryan, told company management they would not take part in the show.

“As always, we maintain an open line of communication with our performers and will address each situation accordingly,” WWE said.

Bryan is still advertised for a match at Crown Jewel against WWE champion AJ Styles, though he too may be written out of the show on Tuesday’s edition of WWE’s other main television programme, SmackDown Live.

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There had been reports last week WWE was looking to change the location of Crown Jewel, with the event location listed as “null” on their website.

The company will be in Manchester, UK on November 5 and 6 for Raw and SmackDown Live, but speculation the Manchester Arena could also host Crown Jewel was put to bed when WWE confirmed their trip to Saudi as part of their third quarter financial report last week.

“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizeable and dedicated fanbase,” the report said.

“Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh.

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“Similar to other US-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. “Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.”

WWE signed a lucrative 10-year deal with the Saudi General Sports Authority earlier in 2018. They held their first Saudi show, the “Greatest Royal Rumble”, in Jeddah in April, at which Cena performed.

“What an honour and a privilege it is to be allowed to be a part of an event like today,” Cena told the crowd at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in the ring after his match.

“Regardless of what is going on in my universe, I was not going to miss this event for anything in the world. I want to send a genuine thank you to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... for its unmatched hospitality that extends far beyond this evening.

“And I also want to say once again thank all of you for allowing me to be part of something so special.”

Saudi Arabia places restrictions on WWE, with women not allowed to perform at shows in the kingdom.

WWE’s held its first all-female pay-per-view event, “Evolution”, on Sunday, just four days before Crown Jewel.

The crowd at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York heavily booed visual advertisements for the Saudi show.