After weeks of speculation and uncertainty, it appears that WWE is moving forward with its scheduled show in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2.
As part of a third-quarter earnings report released Thursday, WWE addressed the state of the Crown Jewel event, set to take place at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.
"WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh," WWE said in the report. "Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled."
WWE had faced scrutiny for planning an event in the country amid the ongoing investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and disappeared under suspicious circumstances. The Saudi government has since admitted that Khashoggi died inside the consulate, and Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said Thursday that evidence indicates the killing was premeditated.
Several U.S. government officials, including Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (from Connecticut, where WWE is based), Bob Menendez (New Jersey), Lindsay Graham (South Carolina) and Chris Coons (Delaware) had encouraged WWE to postpone the event or reconsider its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
WWE released a statement to multiple media outlets last month that stated the company was monitoring the situation. An additional note was included later in the WWE's Q3 report.
"The Company is continuing to monitor ongoing developments in the region, and there can be no assurances in this regard," WWE said. "If the event were to be cancelled, there could be a material adverse impact on 2018 Adjusted OIBDA guidance. While not anticipated, it is possible that a cancellation could also impact expected results beyond 2018."
Representatives of Ford, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Uber, Viacom, AOL, CNN, The New York Times and the Financial Times, among others, pulled out of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, which took place this week. Richard Branson temporarily suspended his partnership with Saudi Arabia in a potential space tourism venture via Virgin Galactic that included a promised $1 billion investment from the Saudi government.
In March, WWE announced a 10-year strategic multiplatform partnership in support of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's social and economic reform program. That partnership was part of an effort by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who also moved to bring boxing, Cirque du Soleil, a movie theater and other Western-style entertainment to the region.
WWE's first major show in the region, Greatest Royal Rumble, took place at the King Abdullah International Sports Stadium in Jeddah on April 27 and drew an announced crowd of 60,000.