Last Saturday marked another milestone in the WWE's long-standing partnership with Saudi Arabia, as it successfully held its ninth Night of Champions event at the Jeddah Superdome. This ten-year collaboration has been a subject of much debate over the years, drawing flak due to concerns around Saudi's authoritarian government using the shows for propaganda, continuing the association posted the Jamal Khashoggi incident in 2018, and the mysterious delay of wrestlers' flight after the 2019 Crown Jewel event—additionally, the sidelining of Sami Zayn from the shows until recently stoked controversy.
However, the latest update from Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer indicates a changing tide within the WWE talent pool towards these shows. Meltzer describes this evolution as a "full circle" journey. Many wrestlers who initially harbored hesitations about participating, especially after the 2019 flight incident, are now voicing more positive sentiments.
Positive Shift at Night of Champions
According to Meltzer, there is a noticeable uptick in the number of "people talking about how much they loved the trip." The recent Night of Champions show was a hit, mainly due to the decision to dedicate three out of seven matches to women's bouts.
The enthusiastic Saudi fan base was also a big part of the positive experience, adding a unique charm to the event. Sami Zayn, recently reintroduced to the Saudi shows, was among those who expressed personal enjoyment of the event.
His sentiments echo the positive attitude shift among the WWE talent, illustrating a softening stance on the WWE's association with the Saudi government. The WWE's contract mandates two shows each year with the Saudi government, a decision that has been largely unchallenged despite the ongoing controversies.
In August 2021, WWE quelled further unrest by settling a shareholder lawsuit from the mysterious plane incident and its ramifications on their TV deals across the Middle East and North Africa.
As observed by Meltzer, this shift in perspective among the WWE talent certainly paints a more positive picture for the future of WWE shows in Saudi Arabia, with the tenth and final show of the current contract looming.