World-renowned wrestling promotion WWE has found itself under the common umbrella with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), following a merger with Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor to create TKO. This merger has put the spotlight back on WWE’s multi-year deal with Saudi Arabia, which sees regular shows in the kingdom and is still in effect. The next event to look forward to here is set to be the Crown Jewel on November 4, where Seth Rollins will battle Drew McIntyre for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The WWE’s partnership with Saudi Arabia hasn’t been without controversy. Emanuel and Endeavor chose to pull out from their business relationship with Saudi involvement after the 2018 murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi. However, while speaking at the Bloomberg Screentime Conference, Emanuel gave insights into the change of stance, focusing on the current association between TKO and Saudi Arabia. He stated he didn’t initially want them as part of their investors’ stack as they weren’t public at the time.
However, Emanuel also clarified that he never ruled out the idea of doing business in Saudi. They currently distribute their soccer league through IMG, acquired an event from UFC recently, and have committed to two WWE events annually for at least five more years. Emanuel said at the time he wasn’t comfortable with them being part of the financial stack of their investors but is now satisfied with their business relations. He suggests it’s now “business as usual” with the Saudi partners.
In addition to dealing with Saudi relations, Emanuel also expressed his openness to a significant shift in WWE programming. The CEO mentioned that he would consider moving WWE Raw from its long-time Monday night slot. The suggestion has sparked chatter amongst WWE fans, with some welcoming the idea and others citing tradition as a reason to retain the Monday feature.
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The combination of WWE, UFC, and Saudi connections isn’t without challenges, but it’s clear from Emanuel’s words that he is eager to maintain and expand on the business relationships that have brought them to this point.