Tonight’s SmackDown was always going to be interesting. The Fri., Nov. 1 show is in Buffalo, New York, which is roughly 14 hours worth of air travel away from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is where WWE’s Crown Jewel event took place on Thurs., Oct. 31.
Everyone figured we’d be getting a tired group of wrestlers, but due to an undisclosed issue, we might not even get that.
Wrestling Observer and PWInsider are both reporting that a large number of the talent who worked Crown Jewel were stuck in Saudi Arabia as of earlier this morning. Dave Meltzer of The Observer wrote that it was not a mechanical issue with the plane that was chartered to get them from the Middle East to the Northeast United States, or weather-related. Mike Johnson of Insider, on the other hand, wrote that there was an issue with the plane’s fuel line, but that he’d “heard there are other issues”.
The latter account included that because the people on the plane had cleared customs already, the’d been forced to remain on the plane while the issue(s) were being addressed. That was seven hours, as of Johnson’s report.
Both sites say WWE was able to get a handful of people en route using a different plane. Meltzer puts the number at 12 wrestlers - probably talent who were advertised in advance for SmackDown like new Universal champ Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Baron Corbin, and The Revival & The New Day. He also says Vince McMahon flew out separately, presumably without issue.
A second post on Insider updates the situation to say a “majority” of the talent who worked yesterday’s show are not travelling at all today and have been booked into hotels for another day in Riyadh. Well, at least another day, as Johnson writes he’s been “told there is no word yet when they are now leaving to return to the United States.” This report goes on to echo Meltzer’s report, saying WWE is trying to get wrestlers who are “absolutely necessary” for SmackDown en route to the States, and that everyone at all levels of the company are “upset about the situation”.
In the likely event these issues lead to some or all of the Crown Jewel crew being unavailable for Buffalo, WWE does have some options. Obviously, most of the women’s roster wasn’t in Saudi Arabia. Same goes for several men who for various reasons have declined or are unable to work the shows on the company’s ten year deal with Saudi Arabia, like Sami Zayn, Daniel Bryan, and Kevin Owens. There’s also a chance they could bring in NXT talent - something which might make more sense now that the brand has been added to the promotion for Survivor Series on Nov. 24.
Here’s hoping everyone gets back to the States safe and sound whether they make it to New York in time for a show or not.
Should be a wild night.