John 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.
The development follows recent news of Cena and Daniel Bryan's refusal to partake in Crown Jewel, which was first reported by Barstool Sports' Robbie Fox. In the report, Fox noted the current political climate as reason several fighters have expressed hesitance to compete in the region.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported Tuesday that Bryan will not travel to Saudi Arabia.
Tensions in Saudi Arabia have been sparked following the recent murder of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had been a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After making several alterations to the story of his death, Saudi prosecutors last week said that his murder had been premeditated.
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.
Cena has yet to officially make any public comments surrounding his decision for this weekend's tournament, but it's now clear he will not be competing.