An WWE star that was recently released is now a confidential witness in a lawsuit against the company. As previously noted, WWE is being sued by stockholders who feel the company misrepresented the nature of its dealings in Saudi Arabia.
HeelByNature.com has obtained court documents. “CW-2” (Cooperating Witness) is the former WWE star and here is an excerpt:
A Former WWE Wrestler Confirms He and Other Wrestlers Were Detained in Saudi Arabia Following the October 31, 2019 Crown Jewel Event as Part of a Dispute Between the Crown Prince and Defendant McMahon
A former wrestler for the WWE, who performed for the Company as a wrestler from 2012 to April 2020 and who participated in the October 31, 2019 Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia, confirms that (as reported in the media) WWE representatives were detained in Saudi Arabia following the event. The allegations confirm that Defendant McMahon cut the live feed to the broadcast of the Crown Jewel 2019 event in response to delayed payments the Saudi government owed the WWE—and in retaliation, the Crown Prince ordered certain WWE representatives to be held in the country for a few hours.
Specifically, CW-2 explained that following the Crown JewelOctober 31, 2019 event, he along with other WWE personnel were scheduled to leave the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (where the event was held) and head to a private airport to take a charter plane to Buffalo, New York for the SmackDown event which was scheduled for the next night. CW-2 stated that while his group was waiting to depart, Defendant McMahon, other WWE executives, and big-name talent such as Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan boarded different flights than the rest of the group and took off, appearing to be “in a hurry.”
CW-2 recalled that he was initially told the charter flight he was scheduled to leave on was delayed because the plane needed to be pulled around, and once they boarded, they were removed from the airplane after 20-30 minutes. CW-2 explained that he spoke with a stewardess on the flight about the delay, who told him that “it seems someone doesn’t want us to leave the country.” CW-2 further explained that the pilot sounded “distressed” when he informed the passengers that the flight was unable to take off. CW-2 recalled that then they were told that it was because of mechanical issues, but he recalled seeing a “ton” of guards wearing black “militia” attire and wearing guns that were blocking their exit and “staring at the wrestlers.”
CW-2 became aware that something was wrong and explainedthat a number of the other personnel were referring to the event as a “hostage” situation.” CW-2 explained that he asked the Senior Director of Talent Relations, Mark Carrano, about what was going on and that Carrano told him that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and McMahon had gotten into an argument over late payments in connection with the June 7, 2019 Super ShowDown event. Carrano also informed CW-2 that McMahon had cut the live feed for the Crown Jewel event and that this had made the Crown Prince “very mad.”
CW-2 advised the he and other WWE personnel looked into the prospect of booking flights on their own at a different airport for early the next morning. After a few hours, CW-2 explained, he and about 10-12 other wrestlers, cameramen, and agents were put on another flight to Buffalo. CW-2 further noted that at this point he wondered why, if other planes were available, that they did not get everyone out of Saudi Arabia.
CW-2 also heard that while on the plane, other wrestlers communicated back home that the military police were holding the wrestlers, and that McMahon didn’t air the first 30 minutes of the pay-per-view, and that as retaliation the Prince was holding them.
CW-2 recalled a number of wives being very concerned on social media and then when wrestlers returned home there were a lot of messages expressing how grateful they were to be home. CW-2 stated that after he returned, the WWE put out a letter that attempted to remove all blame from the company and that, in his opinion, many wrestlers were scared of speaking out due to the limited job opportunities in the industry and the WWE’s comparatively high salaries. CW-2 explainedthat many spoke on the condition of anonymity to journalists and the WWE denounced these stories as “conspiracies” and “laughable.” Nevertheless, after the event, CW-2 said that he and a co-worker partner went straight to Talent Relations and said they would not go back to Saudi Arabia. CW-2 noted that other wrestlers tried to do the same, but the WWE “abused” their “power” and threatened the future trajectory of their careers if they did not go.
At CW-1’s request, due to potential safety and retaliatory concerns expressed by CW-1, Lead Plaintiff has removed some identifying details about CW-1’s employment at MBC during the relevant time frame. Lead Plaintiff believes that the details of the responsibilities of CW-1 contained herein are sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the PSLRA. However, Lead Plaintiff can provide additional specificity, including CW-1’s exact title, to the Court through an in camera submission.
An employee of the Middle East Broadcasting Center (“MBC”)—which is controlled by the Saudi government—confirms that the WWE and MBC could not agree on basic assumptions of a proposed deal. This CW, referred to herein as CW-1,3 explained that he worked on a feasibility study when he joined MBC in Fall 2019, which had begun at some point before his hiring, on the possibility of a broadcast partnership between WWE and MBC. CW-1 recalled that WWE had wildly unreasonable expectations of the revenue it expected from a potential broadcast partner. It proposed an $80 million annual licensing fee for its projection of 100 million-plus “OTT” subscribers, which were based on the large number of OSN subscribers who watched WWE.
CW-1 called this audience estimate “optimistic,” and confirmed that, according to his research and analysis, MBC projected only 6.5 million WWE subscribers, at most. According to CW-1, WWE rejected this low subscriber figure, so MBC raised the estimate somewhat—first to 10 million to be cooperative, and then finally to 15 million. But this was only to please WWE, not because MBC felt the projections were realistic. WWE then reduced its licensing fee ask to $50 million. However, MBC felt it could not go above $14.5 million. CW-1 was later informed that MBC and WWE concluded their negotiations due to the difference in “numbers.”