Update: On April 24, 2018, a Twitter user with the handle “Konnan’s Hip” tweeted in response to this article: “KSA implements their own “Sharia Law” to rule over their people. They DO NOT represent Muslims and Islam. Don’t get it twisted.”
Mike’s prompt response to this tweet was: “please explain the difference and if I got any facts wrong, I will correct them and give you thanks in the article” followed with a clarifying follow up tweet reading “the differences in ‘KSA Sharia law’ and ‘non KSA Sharia law’ , please explain.”
Konnan’s Hip’s own prompt response was: “KSA punishes people without merit. No witnesses to alleged crimes, etc. They are quick to punish. Sharia Law is just a deterrent, but they follow their own form. Made up laws to keep people scared. Just like all dictators” followed up with “KSA implements their own laws to rule their people. It’s simple. The way women are treated there is not true Islam, Sir. Not being able to drive(until recently somewhat) voting, etc. Owning property, chasing a career. That’s ridiculous. Nothing in Islam forbids that.”
Thanks to Konnan’s Hip for the feedback!
original article from March, 2018: Mike Messier challenges WWE’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and tolerance of Sharia law
Mike Messier, a life long Pro Wrestling fan, is raising his voice about World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) ten year agreement to do shows in Saudi Arabia, with the apparent concession to their hosts from WWE that they will not schedule Women’s matches as part of these shows, at least not at the first event coming up on April 27, 2018 at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.
“The Greatest Royal Rumble” show, featuring a 50 man main event, John Cena vs. Triple H (WWE head Vince McMahon’s real life son-in-law) plus seven (all male) title matches, is sure to be an exciting show loaded with male Wrestlers (or ‘Superstars’ as WWE refers to its talent), including the semi-retired fifty-three year old Undertaker. However, WWE has, according to the Sportskeeda article linked below, already conceded that no Women Superstars are currently scheduled, or will be scheduled, to appear on the April 27 show, which will also be available to be seen worldwide to those fans who usually pay $9.99 a month for the WWE Network online subscription service. There is no word released in regards to if the No Women Wrestlers policy on Saudi Arabian cards will change, or is even in discussion to possibly change, at any point over the next ten years.
“This benching of the entire Women’s roster by WWE to accommodate the Saudi Arabian’s royal family’s preferences upsets and disappoints me. I find it an exercise in hypocrisy which diminishes WWE’s frequent claims that they are constantly ‘evolving’ their ‘product’ in regards to ‘advancing’ gender equality. A recent WWE Network special titled ‘Empowerment’ focuses on how thirty Women Superstars recently competed in their own Royal Rumble match, which even main-evented a yearly WWE pay-per-view, yet that now seems particularly hollow in light of this 50 man Royal Rumble just three months later in Saudi Arabia, on a show in which the Women are not even allowed to perform at all.”
Messier states, “Ten years ago, a WWE show with no Women’s matches would not be so unusual. However, most WWE shows over the last five years have had at least one Women’s match and many have had two or even three. The WWE has used recent interest in their Women’s division as a marketing tool to reach young female fans, whom they position their Women Wrestlers as role models to inspire. The WWE uses these Women Wrestlers to spread a message of equality. In recent years, the WWE has even dropped the term ‘Diva’ in referring to their Women’s Superstars, even making a bit of a ceremony about this decision, although, quite oddly, the TV program ‘Total Divas’ with that same title, still airs on the E! Entertainment network, which is about WWE Women Wrestlers.”
Mike continues, “In years past, the treatment of Women on WWE programming has traditionally been poor to mixed, with the lowest point being Vince McMahon making then Women’s star Trish Stratus get on her knees and bark like a dog, then strip to her underwear, in the middle of the ring in 2001. Although, eventually Trish got some ‘revenge’ by slapping Vince, the lasting image is that of the usually proud Stratus begging like a dog to the cheers and catcalls of a mostly male audience”.
Of course, McMahon’s on-air “story-line” treatment of Stratus seventeen years ago is nothing compared to the gross reports of Human Rights Violations in Saudi Arabia as reported on Human Rights Watch World Report 2018.
On the evening of March 26, 2018, Mike spoke with the hosts of The Joe Cronin Show to discuss his videos and the ramifications of the upcoming event and rallied some support from Joe, his co-host Jake and a riveted live audience.
“As Wrestling fans, we like to concentrate on the next big match but sometimes we have to see the bigger picture”, says Messier. “Fans may have to challenge themselves, how much do they, as paying fans who ultimately speak with their pocketbooks and wallets, really need to financially support a company that sends out such mixed messages?”
Messier, who Wrestled a few matches himself and has done commentary and ring announcing on the independent circuit, once applied for and was eventually interviewed for the WWE Creative Writing team in 2007 but was not hired, says he has been a fan of Womens Wrestlers like Madusa Miceli and Sheri Martel for years. “In recent years, WWE has in fact showcased its Women stars quite well, with competitors like Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Asuka, highly praised for their athletics and charisma. There has been an occasional setback, such as an undersized male valet winning a historic, First Ever Women’s Money In the Bank Ladder match on behalf of his female ‘boss’, a match ending that was conveniently edited out of the WWE Network’s ‘Empowerment’ documentary. However, this arrangement with Saudi Arabia seems like a giant step in the wrong direction. It does not ‘read well on paper’ to me, especially a company lead, in great part, by Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of Vince McMahon, who has three daughters with her husband Triple H herself; daughters, we can likely assume, that some day will likely inherit the company along with their three male counterpart cousins.”
“What does this message say to the young girls watching WWE now?,” Mike points out, “Is the message here ‘Women’s Empowerment is great, but just not in Saudi Arabia?’ It’s a mixed message at best, and my fear is that money is really the only reason for WWE to do these shows in the first place. Some people are telling me to ‘give it time’ and that in ten years, a lot can change. Some fans are telling me that the WWE is using a Trojan Horse strategy; with the idea for them to get into Saudia Arabia without Women’s matches initially and then ‘warm their Saudi Arabians up to the idea of including Women’s matches’. But that’s the fans speculating and being overly optimistic to the point of naivete; the WWE itself has not said anything of the sort. I’d like to think that’s possible, but I think it’s realistically more likely for the WWE and its fans to just eventually accept and go along with this arrangement over the long term as a ‘necessary evil’ rather than Saudi Arabia somehow changing their long-held custom of Sharia law to suddenly accommodate a United States based Sports Entertainment company. Although ‘anything is possible’, let’s live in reality for a moment.”
Saudi Arabia, under Sharia law, is very discriminatory against women, and reportedly strict to the point of violently ruthless, on its own citizens, even in more recent years. This article As Long As There Is Sharia Law, Women Will Not Have Human Rights by Deeba Adebi on Huffington Post has more information.
More details on WWE’s planned shows can be found on this article by Alex Ferns on Sportskeeda WWE News: Women will not feature in WWE’s Saudi Arabia event
This video by France 24 has detailed information on recent conditions facing women in Saudi Arabia. “Although things seem to be getting better, change seems to be very slow in coming, so slow to the point where one might ask, if tolerating these policies by doing business in the country at all is morally justifiable”, says Mike.
In his own protest, Mike has made and released three separate videos in the last week about the topic, meant with a mix of interest and apathy from his fellow fans, although some fans have backed him and one Professional Wrestling legend, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, a former WWE (then WWF) Intercontinental Champion, known for his outspoken nature, has backed Mike’s second video, “Dear Wrestling, It’s Me – MIKE”, through correspondence on twitter.
Mike continues, “What’s got me bothered is A) these conditions exist in Saudi Arabia in the first place B) WWE is doing these shows regardless of these conditions C) some fans don’t seem to realize that supporting WWE as they do these shows validates these conditions and D) some WWE fans do in fact agree why leaving the Women off the show is morally wrong but they have absolutely no plans to actually do anything about it. Some are so pragmatic, they feel that the WWE and the McMahons ‘need’ the money that will come from doing these sexist shows. I don’t think the McMahons are so hard up for money they need to do shows in Saudi Arabia. Vince McMahon apparently has enough money to revisit his failed XFL football league, so why would they suddenly need Arab money? They don’t need it, they want it. ”
Messier concludes, “Overall, many fans will say “You are bringing Politics into Wrestling. Well, that’s not me… I am just the one bringing up these topics. It is actually the McMahon family, by doing these shows in Saudi Arabia for all the money involved, that are mixing Wrestling and controversial politics by even doing business in an environment with those sexist and inhumane government policies. Which to me, makes the McMahon family accountable to their fans, their team of Wrestlers and production crew, and their stockholders. Certainly, our own country has issues as well, of course. One of which is citizen apathy or ‘convenient morality’ as I call it. Oddly, I’ve noticed many of the same fans who recently were so vocal about a WrestleMania 34 Battle Royal being named after the ‘controversial’ Fabulous Moolah seem much less inspired to discuss this Saudi Arabia situation. Perhaps my own voice will encourage a deeper analysis and knowledge of Worldwide events and human rights policies and how we can influence them with our own purchases.”
With that, said here are Mike’s three videos. Extreme language and passion are in each one.
Mike states, “Fans want to separate their Wrestling from Politics but that’s just not possible with WWE these days. This is just as the McMahons endorse Donald Trump by having had contributing financially to his campaign, inducting him into their Hall of Fame and by having Linda McMahon work for Trump. Of course, Trump seems very friendly with Saudi Arabia’s royal family himself. Pro Wrestling fans are not stupid, but, many, in this case, are choosing to not even be ignorant, but to turn their heads to the basic truths presented right in front of them. It seems some fans don’t even want to discuss the issues at hand; they just want to watch Wrestling and continue to spend their money on a company who’s politics they may vehemently disagree with.”
This article from Forbes by Dan Alexander has more info on the McMahon – Trump relationship: Why Is WWE Listed As The Trump Foundation’s Biggest Donor?
These videos are not Mike’s first video examinations of WWE policy. In the summer of 2017, Mike received some attention for also pointing out the obvious in his video “If you Support WWE or NXT, you also support Donald Trump.”
“People will criticize my delivery or presentation as they wish, but deep down, they know I’m right”, says Mike. “I’m putting myself at risk for even bringing up these topics. We all know what happens to people that rock the boat and challenge the status quo. Ask Malcolm X. Ask John F. Kennedy. Oh yeah, you can’t ask them. They’re dead.”
“The world is not perfect”, states Mike Messier. “People see Pro Wrestling and, in many cases, WWE’s version of Sports Entertainment, in particular, as fun escapism entertainment. But my point is, that if your entertainment dollar is going to support politics you yourself do not agree with, then you have to find another avenue to entertain yourself or at least admit to being foundation-ally weak and a moral hypocrite. Pro Wrestling is an addiction and this addiction can easily blind good people to act, or not act, outside their integrity. At some point, we all have to grow up and make our own decisions and take action in regards to our own conscience”.
cover photo “The Darkside” by Eileen Slavin, 2016, a promotional photo from a short film by Chris Boylston and Mike Messier. The Darkside
APRIL 25 FURTHER UPDATES AND RESPONSE
April 25, 2018 Update: Snack Society’s Will Mahoney on Twitter shared this “Open Letter from a WWE Fan living in Saudi Arabia” shared on SquaredCircle Pro Wrestling forum on Reddit, ironically a forum Mike himself is no longer allowed to post in.
Now preparing for the big, Triple H has also defended the show and WWE’s involvement in Saudi Arabia in this article published in The Independent WWE Greatest Royal Rumble: Triple H defends hosting event in Saudi Arabia without any women wrestlers
Triple H, Vince McMahon’s aforementioned son-in-law who himself is scheduled to wrestle John Cena in a Wrestlemania 22 rematch on the April 27 show, is quoted as saying, “I understand that people are questioning it, but you have to understand that every culture is different and just because you don’t agree with a certain aspect of it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a relevant culture. You can’t dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women’s evolution in the world and what you can’t do is affect change anywhere by staying away from it. While, right now, women are not competing in the event, we have had discussions about that and we believe and hope that, in the next few years they will be. That is a significant cultural shift in Saudi Arabia. The country is in the middle of a shift in how it is dealing with that – the position is changing, and rights are changing, as are the way women are handled and treated in society. We think that’s a great thing and we’re excited to be at the forefront of that change.”
Unfortunately, while WWE puts the hard work into the show, brutality and violence in the region, even against civilians at a wedding, continues as described in this article from the New York Times: Yemen Wedding bombing kills estimated twenty civilians.
On April 25, considering all the information and viewpoints offered Mike has evolved his position a bit to state, “If nothing else, The Greatest Royal Rumble has raised my personal awareness of World Events. Triple H does have a point I understand and respect in that change cannot come from sitting on the sidelines. Does that justify doing business with the Saudis when there are so many factors on an ethical and even safety level? I personally still don’t think so, but it’s not my company and it’s not my call. Vince McMahon’s history with WBF and XFL makes him an easy guy to second guess; but I’d like to think this Saudi deal is more well thought out than those adventures. I don’t personally believe that the risk involved in public perception or even staff safety is ‘worth it’ and I hope the WWE Superstars appearing are doing so on their own true choice, not because of pressure or professional expectations from the company. Former WWE World champion Rob Van Dam has said that he was pressured by McMahon and other WWE decision maker to perform in ‘volunteer shows’ without pay overseas during war time, which lead to conflicts between himself and the company.”
Mike continues, “In addition, there is a whole other issue of how homosexuals are treated in Saudi Arabia, with even possible death by beheading for fans who show public displays of homosexual affection at the show. This issue has not even been covered either in my article or others that have focused on the Women’s issue. For their part, the stars on WWE Women’s roster have not spoken about this one way or another, so who knows how they actually feel? Hopefully, there is some good to come from this April 27 Greatest Royal Rumble show, and one day all people across the world will be free to watch Wrestling, both men’s and women’s, in safety, and leave the violence to the trained professionals in the ring. As shown in my video, I did cancel the WWE Network, but they continued to charge me for it, so as for now, I’m still a WWE fan, whether I like it or not, apparently. Perhaps this show can give the fans attending that ‘escapism entertainment’ I’ve always enjoyed on to get me through the struggles of my own life, which pale in comparison to many of the folks who will experience The Greatest Royal Rumble. Overall, I hope for the success and, even moreso, the safety of all involved.”