WWE returns to Saudi Arabia on November 2nd for Crown Jewel, a WWE Network special emanating the King Fahd International Stadium (capacity: 67,000) Riyadh. It’s the second event under WWE’s 10-year blockbuster partnership with the country. According to WWE’s financial reporting, the Greatest Royal Rumble netted WWE roughly $40-45 million. The Saudis have demonstrated that money is no object in presenting a top-flight show and securing marquee talent. Two Superstars poised to profit handsomely from this dynamic are Brock Lesnar (rumored to be earning a seven figure payday) and WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels.
The Return of HBK
Shawn Michaels is reportedly ending his retirement to face The Undertaker and Kane alongside his DX stablemate Triple H. In terms of high profile returns in wrestling history this has to be considered up there. Michaels has reiterated on several occasions that he planned on honoring the retirement stipulation when he lost to the aforementioned Undertaker at WrestleMania 26.
In recent months, Michaels has softened his stance on getting back in the ring. He has been apprehensive about working singles matches with top athletes like AJ Styles. He has, however, sounded open to the prospect of wrestling a legends match, which would come with lower expectations. With perhaps the biggest payday of his career dangled in front of him, how could he refuse?
The question now moves to the precedence of the Saudi Arabia shows. As previously mentioned these shows are extremely lucrative for WWE and as such certain promises must’ve been made…you don’t hand over multi-million paydays without some guarantees.
The Network Era
So, with the “Network Era” seemingly making all shows on equal footing due to the $9.99 pricing structure does the lure of a big four show such as the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania lose a lot of its lustre? The idea of Shawn Michaels returning at anything BUT a WrestleMania show is surely enough to make a longtime fan’s stomach turn, but there was no way that a WrestleMania payday could equate to that of the Saudi Arabia show. Michaels flat out refused to return at the 2017 Royal Rumble to face AJ Styles, but this isn’t a ‘standard’ show.
Should WWE be giving away such legendary returns at a ‘minor’ show (that also includes The Undertaker)? Maybe we as fans need to stop looking at the WWE calendar as we did during the PPV era. With every show being accessible and WWE trying to expand further into a global powerhouse we have to accept that maybe WrestleMania isn’t the sole ‘superbowl of entertainment’ anymore.
Does the inclusion of these extra special attraction events dilute the product? Absolutely, but WWE is well aware of the fact that the more content you can offer the audience the better. As an over the top service you need to differentiate to make that $9.99 a month seem attractive to the savvy consumer. Netflix is driving the streaming platform and giving it’s users more and more unique ‘original’ content, there’s no way that your casual viewer can watch ALL of what Netflix offers, it’s the same thinking that seemingly drives the WWE Network now.
Do you think that these extra shows are detrimental to the product?