Hulk Hogan has been selected by WWE to host their Saudi Arabia event “Crown Jewel,” the entertainment company told TheWrap.
Hogan’s appearance will be his first with WWE since a tape of him making racist remarks was made public during the wrestler’s defamation lawsuit against Gawker in July 2015. In the tape, Hogan could be heard voicing his frustration over his daughter’s relationship with a “black billionaire,” repeatedly using the “n-word.”
Following reports of the tape, WWE announced it had terminated Hogan’s contract and removed all mention of Hogan from its website and merchandise shop. This included removing him from the list of members of the WWE Hall of Fame, which Hogan was inducted into in 2005.
Now Hogan is making his return to the wrestling promotion he popularized in the 1980s at an event that has made headlines in the light of the death of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish intelligence says was tortured and killed by the Saudi government at the country’s embassy in Istanbul.
As several other American businesses, including Endeavor, have severed ties with the Saudis, WWE has moved forward with the event, which is set to take place on Friday. But “Crown Jewel” will go on without two of WWE’s biggest stars, John Cena and Daniel Bryan, who have reportedly refused to perform at the event. Bryan, who was scheduled to compete for the WWE Championship in Riyadh, was written out of the show on this week’s episode of “WWE Smackdown Live.”
“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base,” the company said last week in its third-quarter 2018 earnings release.
“Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for Nov. 2 in Riyadh. Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.”
In the meantime, “Crown Jewel” has been derided by fans and comedians alike. On recent episodes of WWE programming, fans could be heard booing promos for the event, while John Oliver mocked WWE for moving forward with the event with a fake promo for “Crown Jewel” on the most recent episode of “Last Week Tonight.”