If it weren’t for the issues which prevented most of the WWE team who worked Crown Jewel on Thurs., Oct. 31 from leaving Saudi Arabia, we reportedly wouldn’t have had the NXT invasion we got on SmackDown last night (Fri., Nov. 1). In case worries about the travel situation which meant we didn’t get Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin were keeping you from fully enjoying Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Miz... good news!
Back in the states. What a day...— KOFI (@TrueKofi) November 2, 2019
Based on the timing of those tweets, it would seem Kofi Kingston - who was also part of the original SmackDown plans announced last weekend - was on a different flight than Ali. That would go along with the reports that a separate plane was commissioned to take “absolutely necessary” talent to Buffalo while whatever was keeping the main charter grounded was addressed.
How that lines up with the statement WWE PR sent out last night from Atlas Air isn’t exactly clear:
“A chartered WWE passenger flight operated by Atlas Air is currently delayed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia due to a mechanical issue. The flight was scheduled to depart at 0300 local time on November 1. Our top priority is always to ensure our passengers arrive safely and on time at their destination. The aircraft is being repaired and will be inspected and certified before returning to service to transport our passengers to their final destination. We regret that operational disruptions delayed the flight and apologize to our passengers who were inconvenienced.”
That the statement exists at all will satisfy some people. That it was distributed by WWE amidst rumors a disagreement between Vince McMahon and Saudi officials, or something beyond a “mechanical issue”, was behind the delay? There’s more than enough here to fuel conspiracy theories for years.
Whatever does or doesn’t happen next with WWE’s contract with the KSA will probably tell the tale. In the meantime, the good news is that all the wrestlers and other personnel who spent a frustrating extra day in Riyadh are back home.