This story is almost a week old, which is a looong time in the 2019 internet news cycle. Hopefully, we’re getting ready to close the book and move on. At least until Luke Harper’s WWE contract is up and he dishes on a podcast about what the boys who are still “real mad” think really happened with WWE’s delayed, stressful charter ride home from Crown Jewel last weekend.
For now, we get Corey Graves talking about his experience in the second episode of his After The Bell podcast. It’s a WWE Production, but one Graves promotes as “unfiltered”.
It lines up with AJ Styles’ account, and Natalya’s brief statement. So if you think those folks are just repeating talking points given to them by Stamford as part of a cover-up, you’ll probably think the same thing here. If you think WWE’s position makes total sense and isn’t worth questioning, this gives you another reference point. If you don’t know what to think but are just hoping we can move on soon... what are you doing in this post? Just kidding. I get it. We’re almost done, I think.
One thing Graves addresses directly which AJ and Nattie didn’t is the “Vince McMahon left talent behind” talk. Wrestling Observer also pointed out that the Chairman was long gone before any issues with the talent & crew flight were discovered, and the SmackDown announcer’s explanation of why that was the case certainly tracks.
Another is the social media activity of guys like Harper, and Buddy Murphy. Graves’ comments might give us a window into the message The Observer’s sources said management delivered at Monday’s talent meeting.
Anyway, here’s Corey (transcription via Fightful):
“We got to the airport after Crown Jewel. There were a litany of delays and no one seemed to get a surefire answer as to what was causing the delays. We heard everything from ‘the fuel truck was parked on the runway and the guy who drove the fuel truck wasn’t there.’ Literally, 10 or 15 different reasons why we couldn’t get on the plane. As has been well publicized, there has been quite a few theories as to what happened. Long story short, speaking from personal experience; we got on the plane, in our seats and ready to takeoff, the flight crew took our food orders, there was confusion regarding the pilots, there was some sort of mechanical issue, they shut the plane down, restarted it. In the time it took to get this done, the flight crew had timed out and we were informed that we would not be taking off.
They deplaned everybody, management came around and said, ‘If we can get a group of you guys to SmackDown, would you be willing to do it?’ This is where it comes down to being a professional. We wanted to do it. The #Saudi20, depending on who you ask, was the 20 most important people in the company. That wasn’t the case. What it boiled down to was, (it was) the people that were advertised for SmackDown. It had nothing to do with who was more important or who had the most cache.
What really got to me was when the rumors started coming out. The first one being, that Vince left everybody in Saudi Arabia. That’s not true. If you work here, you know that every week, no matter where we are, as soon as the final bell rings, Vince gets on his jet and goes home or to the next city because the guy is busy running WWE. It might be a sexy headline saying, ‘Vince left before everybody. Everybody was stuck except for Vince and Brock.’ When you’re Brock Lesnar, Tyson Fury, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair; you’ve earned that. It wasn’t like [Vince] said ‘to hell with the talent.’ Vince did exactly what he has done every week, without fail. It wasn’t some, ‘Gotta get the hell out of the country, there’s something crazy going on.’ It was exactly how it works. That’s how things operate every week, this is no different.
All these conspiracy theories that have been drawn up...and half of it comes from some of the boys that were on the plane. If you are that insecure and you feel so strongly that you’re gonna get on Twitter and complain that our flight got screwed up, what’s Twitter gonna do? All it is is fuel for these ‘journalists,’ and then everyone puts their two cents in and starts coming up with their conspiracy theories. If you’re mad that your flight got delayed and you weren’t one of the Saudi 20, that’s on you. Quit crying about it on Twitter. You know who wasn’t complaining? Randy Freakin’ Orton. If anyone has the cache and the right to speak his mind, it would be Randy Orton. He got it. It was about doing the damn show.”
You can find the episode, entitled “Silence Your Twitter Fingers” (you’re not helping people settle down, Graves!) here.