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31 Days of Wrestling (12/27/18): WWE's New Playground

Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

Let's not mince words—WWE sunk to a new low this year with their little Saudi Arabia partnership.

To be totally fair to them, it wasn't controversial at the beginning. Sure, when this all began, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia just wanted to modernize their country, asking the company to hold grand special events in their territory. There's nothing wrong with a harmless glorified house show for an archaic ruling class (and their poor subjects) who merely wanted entertainment, and nothing wrong with the WWE wanting a huge payday. 

In response, the WWE gave them Greatest Royal Rumble; it was a show, and it was broadcast on the WWE Network. Legends and big names from past and present were on the show to make everyone happy. Braun Strowman, the winner of the first-ever 50-man Rumble gets his first title belt even though he's not really a champion. It was something we could all let slide (word to Titus O'Neil).



But then the vicious murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi happened. And Crown Jewel still happened, even though everyone really wanted it to not happen. The WWE's stance on Saudi Arabia became clear: as long as they're paying the big bucks, they'll always come over to play.

The backlash against Saudi Arabia after the Khashoggi incident got so bad that John Cena and Daniel Bryan had to refuse the event, and storylines had to be rewritten around their backing out. Still, WWE pushed on, and fiery debates raged on whether it was appropriate for WWE to continue and support a wicked and repressive regime, and what they should do instead. To be fair, internal discussions were reportedly had on whether they were going to back out, but Vince McMahon was apparently dead set on pushing through. And we're not surprised.


If there's anything this proves, it's that Vince is apparently unwilling to listen to neither fans nor high pressure from other sectors even in dangerous circumstances such as these so long as 1) he makes money, 2) he makes money, and 3) he makes money. This is why RAW continues to be its usual self, and why anyone who's been disappointed in the product remains disappointed—the WWE gets to do what they want, because not enough people stop watching to make a big enough dent in revenue.

And so Saudi Arabia becomes WWE's newest, most lucrative playground. The company will be holding two more events in the Kingdom next year as part of their deal. Thankfully, the way Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel have gone proves that they really are willing to run the Saudi events as truly glorified house shows, making them all too easy to skip in protest (barring, of course, a paradigm shift in how they're booked).

The world turns, and no one knows how to breach this company's conscience.


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31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

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