When WWE’s contract to produce shows in Saudi Arabia began, one of the chief criticisms was how the country’s treatment of its female citizens was antithetical to the company’s “Women’s Evolution”.
One of the most prominent voices calling WWE out on that at the time will be wrestling on next weekend’s Elimination Chamber show in Jeddah. Back in 2018, Lita spoke to WrestleZone about the Saudi deal, the lack of women’s wrestling on the initial cards in the Kingdom, and the public relations spin that WWE’s presence in the country would be a catalyst for social change, specifically women’s rights:
“I understand that they are a business, a global business and they are always looking to expand their global presence. However, I do feel this was a direct conflict of interest with them maintaining any integrity or truth to the fact that they say they would like to push forward women, their roles and their reputations in this business as anything resembling equal to a male.
“Make the money, that’s fine, but don’t try to cover it up. Don’t say, ‘No, we are doing this because in the future we would like to help progress their culture forward!’ No, you want the money, you’re a business and businesses make money. That’s okay. From my perspective over here, I don’t own your business so that’s your call. From a PR perspective don’t say you are doing it because, ‘We want to help progress that culture forward.’ No, it’s a direct conflict of interest, in my opinion.”
Almost four years later, Lita is now saying the reason she chose to face Becky Lynch in the KSA is because she’s heard personally from women who’ve wrestled in the country about what an impression that’s making on Saudi women. The WWE Hall of Famer told Ring The Belle:
“So I will say I was outspoken on the early relationship between WWE and Saudi. ‘Oh, they say they want women to wrestle over there, but like, I don’t know if I believe it. There’s no women on this card.’ There’s women on the card [now] — and I’ve talked to the women personally that have been over there. And they’re like, ‘It’s unbelievable. There are women crying, never thinking they would get to see two women be so strong in the ring.’ They’re like, ‘It’s really powerful. You’re gonna enjoy that.’ And so, sure, do they have a long way to go? Do we as a society have a long way to go? Absolutely, but you’ve got to take the opportunities when they’re there.”
It’s a sentiment she used while touting the fact her & Lynch’s images are being used to promote Elimination Chamber in Jeddah:
Which Becky also did while pointing out the marquees are history-making:
It’s more fuel for the debate that’s been raging in the wrestling business & community since WWE announced their partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority. There’s no reason to doubt that Lynch vs. Lita, and all of the women’s matches that have happened & will happen in the KSA won’t be very meaningful for a lot of people — including the performers. Representation matters, and it can be influential in all kinds of ways.
That doesn’t change all the other ways WWE’s arrangement with the Saudi government is gross, though. And if you cast a cynical glance at Lita’s change of heart now that she has a stake in the money-making business of helping the Saudi Royal Family feel a part of the global community despite their various human rights abuses — we won’t judge.