At the end of the month WWE will be hosting its first all-woman Pay-Per-View — Evolution. The announcement back in July was met with positivity and universal acclaim, with only a few people on the far fringes of the fandom suggesting that women had “gone too far this time”, and “when are men going to get an all-male show?”
Well, thanks to a ten-year, $450million deal with the Saudi Arabian royal family, WWE has two all-male shows every year. Beginning back in April with The Greatest Royal Rumble, and continuing with Crowl Jewel, which takes place just five days after Evolution. Fans can expect these shows to be twice a year for the next decade. Although perhaps not, given recent global political events.
Jamal Khashoggi, is a Saudi journalist who writes for The Washington Post, and he went missing on October 2nd. He has been openly critical about the Saudi royal family in recent years, given their crackdown on human right’s activists and a military campaign in Yemen. He has been living in exile in the US for the majority of the last year.
While in Istanbul on October 1st — where he was looking to obtain a marriage certificate for himself and his Turkish fiancee — he visited the Saudi embassy. CCTV footage shows Khashoggi enter, but he doesn’t emerge from the building. His fiancee waited until after midnight and returned the next day, where there was still no sign of him.
Turkey has pressured the Saudi royal family to own-up to a potential assassination attempt, as royal family private jets arrived in Turkey the day before and left the day after. America back an investigation, and President Trump claims to have spoken to the Saudi royal family “more than once” about Khashoggi’s “disappearance”. The royal family, of course, deny the allegations.
To my limited knowledge, very little will come of this. Many Western governments, including America, turn a blind eye to a lot of the events in Saudi Arabia, in exchange for financial benefits. However, Trump is a wild card who likes quick and easy publicity wins. By putting pressure on the Saudi royal family he can market himself as a man who is tough on the sorts of people his followers perceive as the ultimate villains.
Saudi Arabia is supposedly undertaking a culture revolution, setting their sights on 2030 as a date by which they’ll be progressive. This seems highly unlikely, and Khashoggi is right to criticise them for it, as women still lack basic human rights, LGBTQ people are still considered to be committing illegal activities by being themselves, and the royal family maintains a dictatorial stranglehold on its people.
I know these things take time, and twelve years is a long way away, but murdering human rights activists, those campaigning for women’s rights and allegedly assassinating a journalist are all steps in the complete opposite direction.
All of this could put WWE in a rather awkward position, especially if Trump decides to retaliate against a potential state-sponsored assassination. Of course, the money received from the royal family might go a long way to stop any real reaction. Also, Lina McMahon (wife of WWE owner Vince McMahon) currently works for the Trump administration. So a quick favour for a friend could see that tensions do not escalate, if only to protect a $450million entertainment deal.
Which, I should point out, is silly money for professional wrestling. This deal nets WWE more than ten WrestleMania’s will.
Any negative attention that WWE receives for performing for the Saudi princes (who are essentially billionaire WWE fans paying for their own, personal show) will only highlight the other issues with this deal. Particularly when it comes to women’s rights and the “evolution” of women’s wrestling, as female wrestlers are not allowed to perform in front of live audiences in Saudi Arabia.
Five years ago the women of WWE were still simply models who’d been hired and taught a few wrestling moves. Nowadays they’re legitimate athletes, putting on the same athletic, choreographed stunt-shows as their male counterparts. They boast talent from MMA (including Ronda Rousey), various women’s sports leagues, and prestigious Japanese promotions — All of whom would not be interested in WWE if it weren’t for their progressive shifts.
So if women’s matches in WWE are no-longer a sexy pillow fight (this happened), then why do Saudi officials have a problem with them? Well, it’s all down to how the women dress.
Even though the male athletes wear far fewer clothes than today’s female athletes, the issue is that the women are showing the slightest bit of skin. Even if they wore full body-suits, as they did at an emotional Abu Dhabi show last year, they’d still be showing too much, in the form of their hair.
Now, I know it’s a different culture, dominated by a different major religion, so it’s not our place to decide what a country does and doesn’t allow. But when many Muslim women are dying for their right to be free of the oppression of their male religious leaders, you have to empathise with that cause. I ask myself sometimes if it’s right to tolerate intolerance? It’s a complex issue.
WWE may be about to have their first all-female wrestling show, but they’ve also added two all-male shows to their calendar year. Evolution was aways going to happen eventually, as the talent of the women’s division has grown enough to justify it. But this is almost literally one step forward and two steps back for WWE — Given that they can now boast one progressive event per year, and downplay two regressive money-grabs.
Women already get less time on WWE TV than men, and are featured in fewer matches on PPV. I figured that Evolution was going to be their way of balancing this act, especially when you include the fact they’ve kept up their all-female summer tournament for the second year-running. But with events for Saudi Arabia, where women have only just been given the right to drive, the cynical side of me is screaming that WWE are only making these progressive steps, so they can pocket $450million in royal money with a clean conscience.
Today is Thursday, October 11th and political attack ads in the US should be illegal. You can literally say whatever you want.
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