There were several big takeaways from Andrade’s first post-WWE interview with Hugo Savinovich for Lucha Libre Online. One involved him going on the record about what happened after 2019’s Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia.
As you may recall, many wrestlers, production people, and company employees were stranded in Riyadh for more than 24 hours after the Oct. 31 PPV. WWE reported it was due to an issue with the charter flight; reports from Wrestling Observer and others claimed the talents’ plane was held up as a result of a payment dispute between Vince McMahon and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Talent like AJ Styles who went on the record about what happened mostly confirmed WWE’s version of events. An anonymous wrestler gave a witness statement in an investor lawsuit (which WWE settled) backing Dave Meltzer’s reporting for the Observer.
Andrade’s account doesn’t provide definitive answers. It did leave him so frustrated he didn’t want to hear any more from the company about the situation, and was unwilling to return to Saudi Arabia at any price:
“I think it was like two days they didn’t let us leave. We went into the plane, boarded, told us there was something wrong with the plane. They made up a million stories. They told us a lot of different things. I think we went up the plane two times. We were already eating, some were sleeping and then they made us get off the plane. Cain Velasquez was there, Rey Mysterio too, guys with names. There were guys with their own planes. Some had to stay behind. They brought in a plane to try and bring the SmackDown guys because there was a taping. They made up a lot of things. They treated us like kings at first but once we were done, we were stuck in this small airport. You could see some guys on the floor, falling asleep after waiting all day at the airport. I don’t know what the real story is, but they did not let us leave the country.
“The following week, we had a meeting with Vince. I spoke with those in the office and I said I didn’t want to return to Saudi Arabia. The money is good, but I don’t want to go to Saudi Arabia. They told us to talk to Vince, that it wasn’t that much of an issue and that it wasn’t happening again. Speak with whoever you want to, but I wasn’t going back to Saudi Arabia. You can’t imagine seeing these superstars on the floor like that, sharing protein bars because there wasn’t enough to eat. We spent two days there and were not allowed to go. I don’t know what really happened. The day there was a meeting, I didn’t go because I knew they would make something up. I remember that time vividly because my mom passed away while I was in Saudi Arabia.”
So no answers, but more insight into what sounds like a miserable situation for those involved.
We’ll see if anyone still on the roster feels the same way when WWE resumes booking shows in Saudi Arabia after the pandemic.