John Cena is taking a stance against his employer the WWE. Cena will not compete at WWE’s Crown Jewel World Cup tournament event in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2 and will be replaced by Bobby Lashley, confirming rumors that Cena had refused to work the controversial event after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The move was written into WWE’s storyline Monday night on Raw, with Acting General Manager Baron Corbin informing Lashley that he would replace Cena in the eight-man field.
— WWE (@WWE) October 30, 2018
U.S. senators and some mainstream American media, such as Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, have criticized WWE’s plans to hold an upcoming event in the region. However, the company officially announced last week that Crown Jewel would go on as scheduled.
Crown Jewel will be a follow-up event to the WWE event held in Saudi Arabia in April, called Greatest Royal Rumble. Female competitors were barred from competing, and the event was criticized as propaganda promoting bin Salman’s regime, with Cena publicly complimenting the leadership for the opportunity to partake in the event.
While Cena is the first WWE superstar to withdraw from the event, other long-time veterans have no problem with going overseas for the event. Brock Lesnar, a former UFC heavyweight champion and multiple champion in WWE, will feature in a Universal championship match against Braun Strowman. WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan said in an interview last week with the Orlando Sentinel that he was “looking forward to going to Saudi Arabia with the WWE.