WWE Superstars flew out to Saudi Arabia last week as part of a much wider event in the kingdom, aka Crown Jewel. They didn't just wrestle in the restricted ring, but also on the flight back home.
More than 175 Superstars, production crew, and employees boarded their Atlas Air flight back to the United States on Oct. 31 and got stuck in the plane for more than six hours due to "mechanical issues".
In the aftermath of the incident, Atlas Air issued a statement, apologizing for the inconvenience caused by the delay.
"Our top priority is always to ensure our passengers arrive safely and on time at their destination," the airline said.
"The aircraft is being repaired and will be inspected and certified before returning to service to transport our passengers to their final destination. We regret that operational disruptions delayed the flight and apologize to our passengers who were inconvenienced."
The Superstars eventually arrived safely to JFK Airport Friday afternoon, but that didn't mean the tensions vanished.
The Superstars were not happy with WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who left them stranded while he (and a few others) departed from Saudi Arabia on another chartered plane the same day. There were rumors that it had something to do with money, leading to a dispute between McMahon and one Saudi prince. However, WWE has since denied those allegations in a statement to Forbes.
According to the media company, former WWE Spanish commentator Hugo Savinovich began speculating on whether financial issues between WWE and Saudi Arabia could've been the reason the Superstars were stranded. Several wrestling blogs reported that WWE hadn't been paid for an event this year in Saudi Arabia, which led to the conflict at the recent Crown Jewel event.
Savinovich also contemplated whether the plane was held for hours after McMahon reportedly cut Saudi Arabia's live television feed to Crown Jewel because the kingdom reportedly failed to pay the network for its broadcasts.
Both these claims were refuted by WWE as per a statement given to Forbes. But tensions were still high between McMahon and a number of WWE superstars.
The tensions were taken offline and relayed on Twitter, as many WWE Superstars vented their frustrations online. The hashtag #Top20 circulated in reference to the reportedly 20 WWE employees who returned home safely without any delays or problems.
Professional wrestler Curtis Axel took to Twitter to voice his sentiments and disappointment with regards to WWE's actions, calling out the organization for "picking and choosing" their favorites to board the smooth flight while all others were left stranded for hours.
Many WWE Superstars took to Twitter
Especially upon arrival to the U.S.
Many reassured fans of their safe arrival
And thanked all those who sent prayers
"We made it"
Selfies were taken, too
Others said they'd never go back, unless ...
One wrestler thanked Saudi Arabia for the "lovely" time, despite what happened
Another even thanked the kingdom in Arabic!
The latest WWE matches come a year after Saudi Arabia's sports authority signed a 10-year deal with the entertainment brand, granting Saudis the opportunity to watch matches live in the kingdom.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. has since expanded its live event partnership with Saudi Arabia to include another large-scale event, leading to a 7 percent increase in "extending trading" following the announcement.
The partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA) will run through 2027, according to Bloomberg. The two parties will also continue to work toward a media agreement in the MENA region. This comes after WWE's stock dropped almost 16 percent on Oct. 31 — the day the Superstars were held in the plane for hours.
WWE has since said there was no such dispute. So ... it seems what happens in the ring, stays in the ring?