Afternoon Update: Smackdown locker room reaction to Reigns announcement, Cena not going to Saudi Arabia if Crown Jewel is there, Saudi media coverage, Marko Stunt, Size Matters match, Cody’s future

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

John Cena (photo credit Wade Keller © PWTorch)

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-While Roman Reigns was shocking the Raw locker room with his announcement that he was taking a leave of absence to undergo treatment for a return of leukemia, the Smackdown drew was wrestling 156 miles southwest of Providence, R.I. in White Plains, N.Y. As word spread in the locker room what Reigns just said at Raw (likely via text messages from friends, phone alerts from, or wrestlers backstage refreshing Twitter), they were also shocked, but unable to be with their colleague and, in many cases, friends. “I’ve never seen the air sucked out of a locker room like it was tonight,” Daniel Bryan Tweeted last night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Roman and his family.”

-If Reigns decides to return to WWE rings, as he vowed to do after beating leukemia, he won’t be the first wrestlers to battle cancer and wrestle afterward. Among those who have include “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who was diagnosed early with kidney cancer and returned to action just over six months later. British Pro Wrestler Kris Travis (former contestant on TNA British Bootcamp alongside Rockstar Spud and Marty Scurll) made an in-ring comeback in 2015 after beating cancer the first time. He returned in a match against Sha Samuels on a card that also included Samoa Joe, Drew Galloway, and Noam Dar. PWTorch reader Niall Thomas says: “I was there in the crowd at the Preston City Wrestling promotion on the night and the emotion was unlike any other I have ever felt. Unfortunately, his cancer returned during his second run and he sadly lost his life shortly after.”


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-Cody Rhodes posted on Instagram that he will “continue his remaining dates with ROH” and is beginning “a transition to a new role in pro wrestling.” He also boasted that the NWA 70th Anniversary Show in Nashville, Tenn. on Sunday night was the largest gross in ticket sales for the venue’s long pro wrestling history. “Southern ‘rasslin’ and the cities that host it don’t often get that ‘buzz’ like they should and it felt like the days of old last night.

-WWE still hasn’t declared whether they are running Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia as originally planned or not. doesn’t list the location for the event on it’s preview page. This could be because they intend to run there but don’t want to draw attention to it. It could also be because they aren’t sure where it will be and are signaling a move might occur. John Cena, who was featured in John Oliver’s feature critical of WWE’s affiliation with Saudi Arabia on “Last Week Tonight” on HBO last week, is still listed as a featured star on the event. The page, though, has not been updated since Reigns’s announcement last night, as he’s still listed as defending the Universal Title. Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio says WWE creative team members were informed John Cena needed to be replaced in the tournament as he wouldn’t be going to the Saudi Arabia. He is still advertised, though, which could mean they’re waiting for a storyline development to remove him that will play out next week or they are strongly considering moving the event, which would mean Cena would agree to participate in the World Cup after all. JBL said on Busted Open Radio that no wrestlers would be punished for opting out of the event, noting they are independent contractors.

-Various news outlets continue to cover the Saudi Arabia controversy. The Hollywood Reporter published a story last week with the headline: “Saudi Debacle Exposes Hollywood’s Long Love Affair With Shady Money.” Excerpt:

Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor is giving back a $400 million investment after an outcry over a missing journalist as others are “trying to figure out what makes sense” in an entertainment industry quick to take cash from dubious sources. …

The question now looms as to whether others will follow Endeavor’s lead, and if the scandal will cause Hollywood companies to think twice about their historical willingness to accept money from dubious sources. Earlier this year, the Saudi government announced that it was opening up the country to theatrical film releases — a move expected to spur about $1 billion per year in box-office revenue (in comparison, China generates about $8 billion annually) — and hosted a premiere of Disney’sBlack Pantherat AMC’s first site in Riyadh. …

Saudi Arabia has long been labeled a brutal, repressive regime. But MBS, 33, went on a media tour earlier this year promising to be a young reformer after coming to power in 2017 (as part of the PR push, he appeared on the cover of Timeand in a largely positive profile on CBS’ 60 Minutes). In April, MBS visited Los Angeles on his U.S. tour and received a red-carpet welcome from showbiz royalty, with everyone from Disney’s Bob Iger to Universal film chair Jeff Shell to Dwayne Johnson lining up to enjoy face time with the monarch at a dinner party hosted by Rupert Murdoch at his Bel Air estate. … READ FULL ARTICLE

-The Independent in the UK published a story this morning with the headline: “As the world follows Khashoggi, WWE is going ahead with a show promoting Saudi Arabian interests. Why?” Excerpt:

Fans like me are calling on the organisation to pull out of Riyadh – but despite seeming embarrassed about their choice, WWE appears to still be going ahead with a very controversial show. …

All of this is part of a scheme engineered by the Saudi royal family called Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to improve and promote the global image of the nation. In other words, it’s a large-scale, extremely expensive PR exercise. The deal is reported to be earning WWE $45m (£35m) a yearfor the next decade. On 27 April, WWE hosted their first Saudi-based televised event in Jeddah. But before “Greatest Royal Rumble” even happened, fans voiced their disgruntlement at the thought of a show held in a country engaging in a war of attrition with Yemen, and where homosexuality is illegal. Women also have limited rights in the country, which meant WWE’s female wrestlers were prevented from performing. …

Those who watched were treated to what was essentially a piece of Saudi Arabian propaganda, where commentators would regularly promote “Saudi Vision 2030” and speak highly of “the beautiful city of Jeddah”. WWE, it seemed, had become a mouthpiece of the Saudi royal family, and it made for uncomfortable viewing. READ FULL ARTICLE

-MLW has added rising indy star Marko Stunt will face Ace Romero in a “David vs. Goliath” match on their Nov. 8 “Fightland” event in Chicago, Ill. at Cicero Stadium. Also on the card, Joey Ryan & Swoggle face The Dirty Blondes in a “Size Matters” match, PCO faces Brody King, Ruch faces Sammy Guevara, Low Ki defends his MLW World Title against Shane “Swerve” Strickland, and LA Park & Hijo de LA Park face Pentagon & Rey Fenix in the main event. Also listed: “Filthy” Tom Lawler, MJF (w/Aria Blake), Sami Callihan, and Kottto Brazil.

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NOW CHECK OUT THIS UPDATE: Reigns leukemia announcement came as a surprise to nearly everyone backstage, how it played out, what happened backstage during and after

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