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Royal Rumble: Saudi crown prince 'held WWE wrestlers hostage' after $500 million pay dispute

Crown Prince Mohammed [L] was reportedly furious at Vince McMahon [R] [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2019

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New reports have surfaced claiming that WWE stars were 'held hostage' for six hours in Riyadh over a dispute with sports entertainment mogul Vince McMahon.
WWE wrestlers and staff were held "hostage" in Saudi Arabia following the recent "Crown Jewel" event in Riyadh, according to a new report.

The crew of more than 200 people were ordered to wait on the tarmac in Riyadh for six hours on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was furious that WWE owner Vince McMahon had cut off the Crown Jewel live-feed over a pay dispute, according to US media reports.

The sports entertainment mogul was reportedly owed as much as $500 million by the Saudis for previous shows held in the kingdom.

As rumours of a dispute leaked from the WWE camp, the wrestling company claimed that a mechanical fault had prevented their staff from returning back to the US on time.

A former WWE staff member, Hugo Savinovich, later took to Facebook to say that the real reason behind the delay was due to the kingdom's effective ruler's anger at the live feed being pulled.

According to Wrestlingnews, the video said that Crown Prince Mohammed "was so upset by the feed being cut off that he ordered to have the wrestlers be taken off Atlas Air just before the plane was about to take off".

Due to the delay, many WWE stars who were due to perform on Smackdown the following day did not make it on time.

The Saudi-WWE dispute was reportedly resolved when the two sides reached a quick agreement that brought the show on air 40-minutes behind schedule.

'Renewed vows'

On Monday, WWE announced that they had "expanded their live event partnership" with Riyadh's General Entertainment Authority (GEA) "through 2027 to include a second annual large-scale event".

Due to the fact that WWE already holds two live events in Saudi Arabia, the announcement was seen by observers as the sports entertainment firm's way of publicly reaffirming its relationship with the Saudis following a series of turbulent events rocking Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia's latest line of international sports and entertainments events has been dogged by controversy following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which prompted business leaders and heads of state and business to boycott a major investment conference in Riyadh last year.

After last year's 'Crown Jewel' event, some fans accused the sports entertainment firm of accepting "Saudi blood money".

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