John Cena will not take part in today’s WWE Crown Jewel event on Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This event has been widely criticized because of the Saudi kingdom’s stance on human rights and because of the ongoing investigation into the death of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
WWE wrote Cena’s absence into this week’s episode of Raw when Acting Raw General Manager Baron Corbin handed Cena’s spot in the World Cup Tournament to Bobby Lashley, saying Lashley earned his right to compete rather than simply being awarded a spot in the tournament, as Cena had.
— WWE (@WWE) October 30, 2018
Cena, who in recent years has made a push into the world of mainstream Hollywood in movies and television, has yet to release a public statement about backing out of appearing at Crown Jewel.
“The belief is that Cena was advised with his transition from wrestling to Hollywood that it would be looked at negatively in that world if he did a show in Saudi Arabia right now,” Dave Meltzer wrote in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
“For his career, pulling out was probably the smart move. He never said anything public as he’ll never do anything to damage the WWE and create a bigger controversy. But evidently, whether it was moral grounds or his growing career outside of wrestling, he made his decision.”
Cena wrestled in WWE’s first major event in Saudi Arabia in April, the initial promotion in a 10-year partnership between WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority. In an in-ring speech following his match against Triple H at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Cena said it was “an honor and a privilege” to participate in the event and thanked Saudi Arabia for “its unmatched hospitality.”
WWE in September announced its second Saudi Arabia show and had been promoting Cena as a participant in its first-ever World Cup tournament, which will take place during Crown Jewel.