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The Greatest Royal Rumble Was Just Business



“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business” -Michael Corleone.

That line in the 1972 masterpiece “The Godfather” was uttered on-screen by the legendary Al Pacino, who played the Mafia Don’s son and eventual successor. After an unsuccessful attempt on Don Corleone’s life by con man Sollozzo with the assistance of corrupt police chief McCluskey, Michael planned their assassination, not out of personal anger, but rather a way to ensure the security of the family business. Michael took a measured approach to maintain their family empire.

This past Friday, the WWE presented the “Greatest Royal Rumble” event live from King Abdullah International Stadium in Saudi Arabia. The event drew a reported 60,000 fans, but the show would’ve been a finical success for WWE if there were 600 in attendance. The entire project was a bought show by Prince Mohammad bin Salman as a way to try to spin the public image of the country. In other words, the WWE signed a contract with the government of Saudi Arabia and gets paid a flat fee regardless of the amount of people who buy tickets to the show.

Reportedly, the WWE inked a ten-year deal to bring shows to the region and while an amount hasn’t been disclosed yet, there’s speculation that it was for major money. All things considered, it had to be a hefty sum for the company to basically present an overseas version of Wrestlemania just three weeks after the biggest show of the year in New Orleans. Look at it this way, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, and Chris Jericho aren’t going to travel that distance unless it was a very lucrative deal.

Unfortunately, that entire region has been very turbulent for several years because of several social and political problems. There are many conflicts and disputes. As a result, the WWE’s partnership with the Saudi government caused much controversy among fans outside of that region. Granted, how someone views the laws and cultural restrictions of Saudi Arabia is their opinion and they have a right to their opinion. Some people will point out the harsh treatment towards women as a disservice to humanity, while others will explain that it’s simply apart of the tradition of the country. Regardless of the opinion of the restrictions of the culture, it’s understandable that some fans will voice discontent with the seemingly hypocritical business deal. The WWE made it a point within the past few years to market women empowerment, but then signed an extensive contract with a country where the women athletes weren’t allowed to compete on the card.

Is that hypocrisy? Absolutely, but, it’s just business, not personal.

This might sound too harsh, but management will make millions of dollars for this Saudi deal, and that is more important to their corporate portfolio than to take a stand for the women athletes on the roster. Is money everything? In my opinion, it shouldn’t be, but the WWE is a business, and the dollars and cents are the bottom line. Women empowerment is a good marketing tool and a good PR spin, but the cash the Saudi government delivers and the impact of such a lucrative contract will have on the stock price is more of a priority for the WWE.

As far as the actual show, there’s not much to discuss. It was essentially a glorified house show that was televised. With the event starting at noon on the east coast of the United States, nothing of consequence happened and there wasn’t anything on the show that really progressed the product. Sure, a lot of star power was added to the card because that’s basically what the Saudi government paid for, but the results of this card don’t impact the current storylines. With the exception of the vacated tag titles, none of the championships changed hands, despite several being defended on the show so if a weekly viewer of Raw didn’t watch the “Greatest Royal Rumble,” did they really miss anything? In fact, isn’t a battle royal the easiest booking in pro wrestling?

Braun Strowman won the battle royal, but what does that really accomplish? He’s given another consolation prize because he’s not Roman Reigns? Speaking of Roman, for a competitor that is such a priority for management to force as the next top guy, he continues to be booked terribly in some very critical situations. Theoretically, WM 34 was the time for him to win the title because management built to that moment for a year. That was the entire point of why Braun and Samoa Joe were defeated with one F-5 so that Roman could be the one to kick out of it. That said, I understand why they wanted to avoid the hostile reaction to the title switch in New Orleans, but what exactly was the reasoning here?

If anything, Saudi Arabia is probably one of the few places that you can almost guarantee that there won’t be a resentful response to another Roman Reigns title win so the entire scenario is puzzling to say the least. Unless WWE brass abandoned the Roman super push, which is doubtful, how exactly does another loss get him over? Yes, I understand it was booked as a fluke win, but even the match itself was sub par and underwhelming. The bout didn’t tell a back and fourth story of the competition for the championship, but rather just a series of finishers and a fluke finish in under 10 minutes. In fact, The Undertaker, who is semi-retired, had a longer match at the show than the Universal champion.

In my opinion, this feud peaked at WM and the longer management stalls, the less effective the eventual title switch will be. You can’t present the “Roman finally wins the big one” when he’s already a three-time champion. Again, unless the writing team has other plans for the title, they should get Reigns as far away from this rivalry as possible. More than anything, this entire storyline portrays Reigns as the wrestler that gets all the opportunities, but still can’t win the title. Truthfully, even Brock hasn’t looked the best in this feud. He’s stale and sloppy in the ring, almost as if he knows he’s leaving soon so he would rather mail it in than risk injury. The whole situation just lacks buzz and has a “been there, done that” atmosphere to it.

So, the total of the Saudi Arabia show is that it makes the WWE look very hypocritical after they promoted women empowerment the past few years, it didn’t progress any storylines, and it probably didn’t help the Roman Reigns title push. But, it was the start of a very profitable deal for the company so from a business prospective, it was successful. Make no mistake about it, management will probably spotlight the women on the roster on Raw in an attempt to smooth over the situation, and then they will eventually run another show in Saudi Arabia that won’t allow women to compete, which will make the company look hypocritical again. Since the WWE is already a global brand, it’s obvious that they don’t necessarily need the money, but Saudi Arabia is willing to pay major cash so the company disregards the controversy and signed the deal.

Maybe Ted DiBiase was right, everybody has a price.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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