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June 15, 2020

Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against WWE Regarding Saudi Arabia Deal; Former Talent Supports Original Crown Jewel Flight Reports

Dave Meltzer is reporting on his post WWE Backlash edition of Wrestling Observer Radio that well over a dozen class action lawsuits in the the same vein have been filed by people who have stock in WWE for allegedly misrepresenting to investors the nature of the situation with Saudi Arabia, the television deal being the primary bone of contention.

According to Meltzer, the key to the lawsuits is that the filers have two secret witnesses, one of which happens to be wrestler and another is an employee from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) which is the station that was negotiating with WWE for the new TV deal.

The lawsuit filed states that the parties could not agree on basic assumptions of a proposed deal. The MBC witness recalled that “WWE had wildly unreasonable expectations of the revenue expected from a potential broadcast partner. It proposed an $80 million licensing fee and a projection of a 100 million plus over-the-top subscribers which were based on the large number of OSN subscribers who also watched WWE.” (It should be noted that subscribers in this case don’t mean WWE Network, but television subscribers for people in the Middle East who watch WWE)

According to the witness’ research and analysis, the subscriber count was at 6.5 million at most. WWE rejected that number and so the witness raised the estimate first to 10 million and then to 15 million, but it was only to please WWE, not because he felt those numbers were realistic. WWE reduced it’s licensing fee to $50 million instead of $80 million, and MBC felt it couldn’t go higher than $14.5 million and therein the negotiations concluded because of the vast difference in agreement terms.

The wrestler that the filers of the lawsuit have as a witness is indeed a former talent that happened to perform on the WWE Crown Jewel show confirms the substance of the media reports (basically the reports initially made by Meltzer). The following is what Meltzer was reading directly from one of the lawsuits filed in regarding that wrestler’s account on the matter, which includes the strong feeling of a hostage situation.

“The individual explained that following Crown Jewel on October 31, 2019 he along with other WWE personnel were scheduled to leave that King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh where the event was held and head to a private airport to take a charter plane to Buffalo for SmackDown. He was told that the charter flight he was scheduled to leave on was delayed because the plane needed to be pulled around. After they boarded they were removed from the airplane. After 20 to 30 minutes, he explained he spoke with a stewardess on the flight about the delay who told him ‘It seems someone doesn’t want us to leave this country.’ He further explained the pilot seemed very distressed when he informed the passengers that the flight was unable to take off. He recalled that they were told because of a malfunction issue but he recalled seeing a ton of guards wearing black militia attire and wearing guns that were blocking their exit and staring at the wrestlers. (“Remember we were told none of this happened?” Meltzer adds.)

“He became aware that something was wrong and explained that a number of other personnel were referring to the event as a hostage situation. He explained he asked Senior Director of Talent Relations, Mark Carrano about what was going on and Carrano told him ‘That Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Vince McMahon had gotten into an argument over late payments in conjunction with the June 7, 2019 Super ShowDown event. Carrano informed the person that McMahon cut the live feed for the Crown Jewel event and this made the Crown Prince very mad.”

“The wrestler stated that after he returned WWE put out a letter that attempted to remove all blame from the company and that in his opinion, many wrestlers were scared of speaking out due to limited job opportunities in the industry and WWE’s comparatively high salaries. He said that many spoke on the condition of animity to journalists and the WWE denounced these stories as conspiracies and laughable. Nevertheless, after the events he said that he and a co-worker went straight to talent relations and said that they would not go back to Saudi Arabia. He said that other wrestlers tried to do the same, but the WWE abused their power and threatened the future trajectory of their careers if they did not go.”

Meltzer states that the big crux of the lawsuit does happen to be the television deal disputes, but the claims allegedly made by the former talent is more than newsworthy for the wrestling fan base.

(Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone)


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