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WWE Greatest Royal Rumble: Triple H defends hosting event in Saudi Arabia without women wrestlers

Exclusive: The likes of Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey will not compete on Friday due to Saudi Arabia’s culture, but Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque hopes the WWE can be a catalyst for change

Matty Paddock
Thursday 26 April 2018 10:29
The Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia - Trailer

Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque has insisted the WWE are right to go ahead with their Greatest Royal Rumble show in Saudi Arabia this week despite the event drawing criticism for its omission of female stars.

The sports entertainment giant has decamped in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a huge, landmark show which is headlined by a 50-man Royal Rumble match – the largest of its kind in WWE history.

But the build-up to the spectacular show has been blighted in some quarters by criticism of WWE to allow the show to go ahead without the presence of any of its female talent.

The company has been famed in recent years for the vast development of its women’s division – with the likes of Charlotte Flair and former UFC Champion Ronda Rousey making headlines around the world for their performances. The event is to some, then, a stark contradiction to what WWE terms its ‘Women’s Evolution’ – not mention the company’s vast work in engaging with LGBT groups around the world.

The event is also only to be attended by families and men – women are only allowed to watch the show from the King Abdullah Sports City if they are accompanied. While that has drawn the ire of many with WWE being accused of hypocrisy, Levesque – who is both still an in-ring performer and company executive – told The Independent that the company is right to stage the show.

He said: “I understand that people are questioning it, but you have to understand that every culture is different and just because you don’t agree with a certain aspect of it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a relevant culture.

While women are not competing in the event, we have had discussions about that and hope that, in the next few years they will be

Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque

“You can’t dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women’s evolution in the world and what you can’t do is affect change anywhere by staying away from it.

“While, right now, women are not competing in the event, we have had discussions about that and we believe and hope that, in the next few years they will be. That is a significant cultural shift in Saudi Arabia.

“The country is in the middle of a shift in how it is dealing with that – the position is changing, and rights are changing, as are the way women are handled and treated in society. We think that’s a great thing and we’re excited to be at the forefront of that change.”

It might seem that Levesque, 48, has lofty ambitions in talking about WWE as a vehicle for global change but, in fairness, the company does have a sound record to which they can point in this regard.

Their brand of entertainment is, undoubtedly, globally popular and the emergence of female talent at the forefront of their programming in recent years has made a difference.

Female wrestlers like Ronda Rousey will not be able to compete in Saudi Arabia (WWE)

Last winter, superstars Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss competed in the first-ever WWE women’s match to be held in the Middle East at a show in Abu Dhabi.

And that’s the very example multi-time former WWE Champion Triple H cited when he added: “It never ceases to amaze me that you come to any place in the world and walk down the street, and people know who you are. There’s nowhere you can go in the world without being recognised as a WWE superstar.

Triple H will face John Cena at the Greatest Royal Rumble

“You talk about the cultural shift in the world, and just a few months ago we were in Abu Dhabi and had the first ever match with women competing, with a crowd of women, men and little boys in the audience with tears in their eyes.

“The audience were chanting ‘This is Hope’ – that is cultural change.”

The WWE hosts the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia this Friday

WWE Greatest Royal Rumble takes place this Friday, 27th April 2018 with a UK start time of 5pm. For more details visit wwe.com.

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