Stephanie McMahon on First Women’s Match in Saudi Arabia: ‘We Have the Ability to Influence Change’

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WWE’s return to Saudi Arabia will include its first-ever women’s pro wrestling match.

Natalya Neidhart will wrestle Lacey Evans at Thursday’s Crown Jewel event, and Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon noted that the match is an opportunity for WWE to place a spotlight on its talented female roster in a different part of the world.

“Our mission is to put smiles on people’s faces the world over,” said McMahon. “That is who we are at our core. We have the ability to influence change, to be a part of cultural significance throughout time, and now, especially, in this moment, with our women in a historic, groundbreaking opportunity: the first-ever women’s match in Saudi Arabia.”

WWE has received criticism from the onset of its business partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The deal generates an incredible profit for WWE, though partnering with a nation home to such atrocious human rights abuses negates the company’s many charitable endeavors.

But the addition of a women’s match is certainly a positive for the Crown Jewel show. With nine years remaining on the deal with Saudi Arabia, the potential now exists for WWE to include even more talent from its women’s roster, such as Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Asuka and Charlotte Flair at future shows.

McMahon confirmed that, moving forward, WWE wants to continue to have women’s matches at the shows in Saudi Arabia.

“I certainly hope so,” said McMahon. “That is absolutely a part of the goal.”

The ability to inspire people is integral to WWE’s product, which makes an emphasis on equality even more powerful.

“This is part of a women’s evolution that’s been happening in WWE since 2015,” said McMahon. “It started with a hashtag from our fans, #givedivasachance, and it trended worldwide for three days with our audience demanding better athleticism, better character development, more storylines, longer matches, and that ultimately led to the rebranding of the Divas division to the women’s division. The biggest opportunity was this past April at WrestleMania, where our women were the main event for the first time in 35 years.

“The women’s evolution has been a huge success, not only for our women, but for people all around the world. Now this match in Saudi Arabia is a perfect testament to that fact.”

McMahon is uniquely qualified to speak on the reach on pro wrestling. After earning her degree at Boston University, she has dedicated her professional career to finding new ways to impact the WWE fan base, with her focus now narrowed in on additional exposure for the female roster in Saudi Arabia.

“We reach people, we reach families,” said McMahon. “Regardless of anyone else’s opinion of that, we have the opportunity to showcase our women and to show the world that women belong on the same stage and should be given the same opportunities as men. That’s because they’ve earned it, not just because it’s the right moment in time. That speaks to who we are as a brand, and who we can all be as people.”

“This has been a goal of ours since we launched our partnership in Saudi Arabia over a year-and-a-half ago—to have our women be featured. And here we are.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.