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The New Arab Staff

WWE denies wrestlers were 'intimidated' for boycotting Saudi tour

WWE's Crown Jewel tour has been marred by controversy since beginning in 2018 [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 June, 2020

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An ex-WWE wrestler claims staff were intimidated for refusing to participate in the sports entertainment's tours of Saudi Arabia.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has hit back at claims by a former wrestler and staff of "intimidation" after boycotting the company's controversial Saudi bouts.

The complaint, filed by the Firefighters Pension System of the City of Kansas City Missouri Trust, includes the testimony of an unnamed former wrestler, who claimed that WWE threatened the careers of those who refused to participate in the Saudi shows.

According to the lawsuit, the anonymous performer said wrestlers were left "scared" for their careers.

"CW-2 stated that after he returned, the 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 the limited job opportunities in the industry and the WWE's comparatively high salaries," the documents read.

In another section, CW-2 alleges that after telling WWE's Talent Relations that they would not return to Saudi Arabia, several 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."

WWE has denied the claims and said through its lawyers it will be moving to have the lawsuit dismissed.

"These false allegations were originally made in two suits filed by two different law firms," Jerry McDevitt, a lawyer representing the firm, said in a statement to Forbes.

"After the Court appointed a third firm to be lead counsel, WWE provided all three law firms with specific detailed facts from the persons with actual knowledge of the situation, including the phony allegation about the plane.

"The first two law firms then dropped their lawsuits to avoid sanction motions, but the third firm chose to ignore the specific facts they had been provided, and instead cited an unnamed disgruntled former wrestler with no knowledge of the facts."

Since kicking off in 2018, WWE's 'Crown Jewel' events in the kingdom have been marred by conspiracy and criticism, owing largely to the kingdom's record on human rights.

The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October of that year at the hands of Saudi operatives increased pressure on the sports entertainment firm to sever ties with the state and its de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

WWE staff reportedly received a taste of Prince Mohammad's reputation for thuggish authoritarianism last year when a dispute broke out between the US company and the prince.

While travelling back to the US, more than 200 WWE staff were allegedly ordered to wait on the tarmac in Riyadh for six hours on the orders of the prince. According to US media reports at the time, the crown prince was furious that WWE owner Vince McMahon had cut off the Crown Jewel live-feed over a pay dispute.

The sports entertainment mogul was reportedly owed as much as $500 million by the Saudis at the time for previous shows held in the kingdom.

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