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The Show Must Go On: A Tough Week in the WWE – by Mike Sanchez

It’s been a strange week in WWE, and for many reasons. Monday Night Raw was a very good show, but it feels weird to even say or think that, given the circumstances. Perhaps ‘memorable’ is a more apt word to use? This week the crazy world of professional wrestling has made the mainstream news and caught our attention in a variety of ways. The upcoming Evolution PPV and its build-up have been overshadowed by the furor surrounding the Crown Jewel event, due to be held in Saudi Arabia. I won’t delve into international politics here, but the rumored refusal to attend the event by John Cena and Daniel Bryan has some commentators asking if the event will even take place at all. (Editor’s Note: The rumor about Cena and Bryan is from a questionable source, so we didn’t post about it on the site. We try to avoid rumors, but in this case, there could be some truth it. Who really knows, right?)

Though one has to respect the stance Cena and Bryan have taken in putting their beliefs before their paychecks, the fact is that both men aren’t the biggest stars in the industry anymore. Both are part-timers and have healthy bank balances that won’t take a massive hit by not attending the show. They can miss it and not give a second thought. Sure, their paychecks could’ve paid for a bigger garage for an Aston Martin or another patch of land to grow organic crops, but they’ll be fine without it. Both men won’t endure a difficult retirement if they don’t go, nor will WWE management see fit to chastise either man harshly as both are nearing their respective retirements. If the same stance was made by AJ Styles, Braun Strowman or Seth Rollins then it would be fair to say that their careers could be derailed if WWE top brass wanted to ‘repay’ the favor their independent contractors had done to them by taking a moral stance.

What has come across with the Crown Jewel event standoffs is that perhaps the almighty dollar isn’t the be-all and end-all it once was. Sure, any of us could hire the Undertaker to wrestle in our local town hall if you’re willing to cough up seven figure paydays for the Deadman, but when principles are involved, the power can shift and if enough talent stand together, then there’s the chance for real progress to be made. I believe this protest is too little too late for me. Had this been four to six months ago, then perhaps serious conversations and decisions could’ve been made. But now that WWE cashed in on the Greatest Royal Rumble, they have previous form and will now be expected to fulfill any requests to hold events across the globe, no matter the personal feelings of their performers. I wonder if Kim Jong-Un offered millions to WWE to go to North Korea, would we see John Cena bowing to the supreme leader, or would more wrestlers see fit to stand together and refuse to work a show in a country with bad publicity that doesn’t own a huge share of the world’s oil reserves?

More muttering was heard around the internet after the end of Raw and the swift heel turn by Dean Ambrose. ‘Too soon? Insensitive? Rushed?’ For me, I think it was probably planned for next week, if not at the Crown Jewel event, but upon reflection, it made perfect sense. Regardless of personal feelings among the audience that night, as Paul Heyman said; the show must go on. This is the entertainment business and if we think WWE or Roman Reigns felt that the whole show should be cut short or muted, then we are mistaken. One must remember that the show continued after the tragic death of the fantastic Owen Hart. Rumors that Vince left the choice up to the locker room to carry on or not were met by the bereaved wrestlers insisting the show must go on. Even away from wrestling the same rings true. An iconic UK comic, Tommy Cooper, famously died on stage in 1984 after suffering a fatal heart attack and while he was worked on behind a curtain, Liverpool comedian Jimmy Tarbuck and others told jokes to keep the audience laughing while people frantically tried to revive Cooper mere feet away. It is said that Tommy Cooper died hearing laughter (the audience thought he was putting on an act) and that has a poignant tone when you think about it. Nevertheless, the show continued.

Finally, I want to give my two pence/cents on Joe Anoa’I, aka Roman Reigns. I’ll always be a Roman Reigns fan and have praised him many times here on TJR Wrestling. Regardless of my personal feelings, it took incredible courage to go out there and do what he did. He could easily have gone off on his own and had WWE come up with an injury angle or break the news in his absence, still having the Universal Heavyweight Title vacated in the process. The fact that Joe wanted to deliver the message to the fans in person speaks volumes about the character of the man and the respect that he had for the WWE Universe. His absence will cause the WWE to shake up and re-think a lot of plans that were in place if the end of this week’s Raw was anything to go by.

I’m certain I’m not alone in feeling so much sympathy for Joe and his family during his troubling time and I know I won’t be alone in sending him our thoughts and prayers that he can conquer this beast once again. We’ve likely all been affected by this awful disease in one form or another, so I sincerely wish him well in his upcoming battle. There’s an old adage that ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’. From the outpouring of support Joe received on Monday night from colleagues and fans across the globe, I think many have a new appreciation as to how influential and supportive Joe is in the world of professional wrestling. I hope he isn’t gone for too long and returns to be that locker room leader and popular figure that his wrestling brethren say he is.

F**k cancer. Believe that.