The WWE Crown Jewel event taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this Friday is an event full of controversy. After weeks of rumors about WWE possibly pulling out of the show and US politicians suggesting that WWE refuse to go, the company announced last week that they are going ahead with Crown Jewel as planned. However, two of WWE’s biggest names won’t be a part of it due to their refusal to participate. This is in addition to Roman Reigns being taken off the show since he is at home dealing with his very serious battle with leukemia. Reigns had to give up the Universal Championship because of it.
John Cena was officially removed from the “WWE World Cup” tournament at Crown Jewel on this week’s Raw. The explanation given by acting Raw GM Baron Corbin was that Cena didn’t even win a match to get in the tournament, so Corbin was replacing him with Bobby Lashley. In reality, Cena apparently refused to go due to the controversy in Saudi Arabia involving the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Cena has yet to comment while WWE has refused to reveal the real reason for Cena not going, which is simply that he doesn’t want to wrestle in Saudi Arabia. Keep in mind that at Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia in April, Cena did a promo about how great it was to be there. The death of Khashoggi has changed things with good reason.
Cena has been filming a movie in China with Jackie Chan for the past five months or so and at Super Show-Down in Australia earlier this month, Cena didn’t take a single bump during a tag team match victory. It’s possible that the company producing the movie may not want Cena to participate in a match to risk injury, but if that was the case then there is no way WWE would have advertised Cena for Crown Jewel for the past three weeks. Clearly, WWE expected Cena to be a part of the show.
Cena’s refusal to go shows that the report by Robbie Fox of Barstool Sports last week had some truth to it. The tweet also mentioned Daniel Bryan refusing to participate in Crown Jewel even though WWE continued to advertise him for a WWE Title match against AJ Styles last week and going into Smackdown this week. Bryan earned the title shot after beating The Miz at Super Show-Down earlier this month.
In an update on the Bryan situation, PWInsider’s Mike Johnson is reporting that Bryan will not be traveling to Crown Jewel to work the show this Friday. According to Johnson, as of yesterday, WWE planned not to send AJ Styles to Saudi Arabia either and there was an idea to do Styles vs. Bryan at the Performance Center in Orlando (really?), but those plans were dropped. The report from Johnson noted that WWE could opt to do Styles vs. Bryan tonight at Smackdown (they have advertised a face-off of sorts between the two men), there could be some injury angle to Bryan or WWE may simply opt to choose a replacement with Rusev’s name mentioned by Johnson as a possibility.
Cena and Bryan have not commented on their status for Crown Jewel yet, nor do they have to. We will find more about Bryan’s status after tonight’s Smackdown most likely.
As for the Crown Jewel lineup, here’s what we know for now.
Universal Championship Match for the Vacant Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
Triple H and Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker and Kane
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan (It’s still listed, but obviously it may not happen.)
WWE World Cup: Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley (Raw)
Kurt Angle vs. Dolph Ziggler (Raw)
Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz (Smackdown)
Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio (Smackdown)
The winners face off in the semifinals and then the winners of that face off in the finals, so it’s a Raw vs. Smackdown match in the finals.
Smackdown Tag Team Titles: The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) (c) vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods)
TJR Thoughts: I think they just do Styles vs. Bryan for the WWE Title on Smackdown tonight. Do a promo where they say they can’t wait until Friday. The reason WWE may be reluctant to do an injury angle is they have Bryan advertised for a lot of their European live events starting this week, so removing him would hurt ticket sales. It’s a tough spot for WWE, but that’s what happens when you go ahead with Crown Jewel in a controversial country.