As mentioned in our latest Rumor Roundup, Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer yesterday reported on a backstage meeting Vince McMahon held prior to the Mon., Nov. 4 edition of Raw. That was, of course, the first show since the post-Crown Jewel travel snafu which has dominated headlines since last Friday, and the issues surrounding the talent & crew’s return from Saudi Arabia were the focus of the meeting.
McMahon was said to have reiterated WWE’s public statement that mechanical issues with the plane, and nothing else, caused 170 people to be delayed in Riyadh after last Thursday’s event. He allegedly criticized wrestlers for making the situation worse by speculating about other possible causes. The meeting also supposedly saw Seth Rollins deliver what was described as a “rah-rah speech” where he warned talent not to post about the internal matters on social media.
Rollins caught wind of this, and tweeted a part denial/part insult response to Meltzer:
For his own sake, I really hope that guy develops thicker skin. But I digress...
UPDATE: Rollins has addressed the situation directly. You can read that here.
On the latest Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer expounded on what his sources have told him about yesterday’s meeting:
- There are wrestlers who accept the company’s explanation that mechanical issues were the sole cause of the delays, and others who don’t buy it at all. Those that don’t believe WWE are still “real mad”.
- Vince said the Saudis decided to air Crown Jewel locally on a 40 minute delay rather than live at the advertised start time. Meltzer and others had been told by company officials the delay was cause by a technical issue.
- The meeting was opened up for questions, but none came. Randy Orton “basically tried to make a joke”, and Rusev spoke but didn’t end up asking anything.
- Rollins’ speech came at this point, and Meltzer mentioned the above tweet saying “I guess he’s real mad with me over that. I guess I’m in good company with people Seth’s been knocking of late.”
- As to the attitude backstage post-meeting: “The guys who aren’t happy there are more unhappy there. The guys who have no intention of leaving are still not gonna leave and that’s basically it.”
- Of his sources, he heard from one person who took WWE’s version of events as the truth, another who was willing to accept that it was possible the company is telling the truth, and the rest “were like ‘no way it’s true, if you were there you would know there’s no way’”.
So that’s where things stand, and will likely remain.
Wrestlers who were there, some of whom were already unhappy with the company, believe that some sort of power struggle between Vince and the Saudi Royal Family related to WWE’s contract with the KSA led to their flight being intentionally delayed. Meltzer’s heard enough conflicting stories to have a hard time believing WWE’s version of events 100%, but also has not seen any concrete evidence to back up the wrestlers’ theories.
It’s been documented the company received a $60 million payment from the Saudis before traveling to Riyadh for Crown Jewel, so they weren’t owed money for May’s Super ShowDown. Whether Vince was upset about slow payment, or anxious about the lack of television deal in the Middle East developing... who knows? Probably only the billionaires in the room, and they’re not going to talk to anyone.
The rumors were spreading from wrestling sites to the business media, however. WWE’s stock was already down based on last week’s financial reports. They couldn’t risk another sustained price drop. The Saudis are in the process of taking their state-owned oil company public and didn’t want any more bad press. Yesterday’s public confirmation of their partnership was designed to put investors’ minds at ease. If the price for a WWE share today (up 5% near market close) is any indication, it did the job.
We’ll have to wait until individual wrestler’s contracts are up, or the next Saudi show in Spring of 2020, to see if there are longer term ramifications in the talent relations department.
Probably safe to assume Rollins will remain gotten to regardless, though, poor guy.