WWE was forced to deny claims that nearly 200 of its wrestlers and crew were held 'hostage' by Saudi Arabia as they tried to leave the country following a row over an unpaid bill amounting to £390million, new reports say.
According to a report in Daily Mail, there have been speculations that the Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have ordered the stars and crew off the flight to sit on the tarmac for six hours.
This is in sharp contrast to WWE's official statement where they said "More than 175 Superstars, production crew and employees boarded a 747 charter flight back to the United States on Thursday. After the door closed, due to several aircraft problems including mechanical issues, all passengers sat on the tarmac for more than six hours."
Daily Mail cited US reports that said the Crown Prince was furious that WWE boss Vince McMahon had pulled the plug on the live feed of the show in Riyadh because they owed the company up to USD 500 million for two shows in Saudi Arabia last year.
According to reports, the two sides did reach a hasty agreement before the show was eventually broadcast 40 minutes later, but it did not stop the wrestlers from being stranded post the show for six hours, thus missing Friday Night SmackDown on Fox.
Wrestler Karl Anderson of The OC had taken to Twitter to speak about the ordeal, writing that people could not pay him enough to go back.
Couldn’t pay me enough to go back .. Well that’s not true, I need a second pool, so..... — Karl Anderson (@KarlAndersonWWE) November 2, 2019
His comments saw a reply by his wife Christine, where she hinted that the superstars were held hostages in some way during the time of the delay.
2nd house!! Not a pool..but don’t ever go back AGAIN! We don’t need our daddy/papi/motherlover/absanderson/besttagteam etc. being held hostage while we’re at home worried to death ?? — Tini (@Strawtini) November 2, 2019
Daily Mail cited a US sports journalist Dave Meltzer as telling Wrestling Observer that tensions escalated when military police were sent to the airport in Riyadh, adding that the talent felt they were hostages, but nobody was harmed.
Furthermore, according to the report, some observers felt that if that particular flight was having mechanical issues, they could have chartered another plane which would have brought the wrestlers back to the US sooner.
Furthermore, the report said that former WWE announcer Hugo Savinovich too had posted a video on Facebook saying the real reason for the delay was retaliation in Saudi following the live feed being pulled by WWE.
The Crown Jewel event saw the then SmackDown's WWE Champion Brock Lesnar successfully defend his title against Cain Velasquez and Tyson Fury win a bout against Braun Strowman amongst other matches. Lesnar has since then gone on to quit the Blue Brand and join Monday Night Raw in pursuit of Rey Mysterio, who had given beat him down with a steel chair following the match.