John Cena will not take part in the WWE’s Crown Jewel event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.
After being advertised as part of the show in recent weeks, Cena was quietly removed from the match as part of Monday night’s broadcast of WWE’s flagship show “Monday Night Raw.” He will be replaced in the event by Bobby Lashley, who joins Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and Rey Mysterio in the tournament portion of the show.
The WWE is moving forward with Crown Jewel despite the ongoing investigation into the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2.
In a statement, WWE said, “As always, we maintain an open line of communication with our performers and will address each situation accordingly.”
Cena, who in recent years has made a push into the world of mainstream Hollywood in movies and television, has yet to release a public statement about no longer taking part in the Crown Jewel show.
As part of their Q3 financial report last week, WWE confirmed they were moving forward with their Crown Jewel event.
“WWE has operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years and has developed a sizable and dedicated fan base. Considering the heinous crime committed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Company faced a very difficult decision as it relates to its event scheduled for November 2 in Riyadh,” WWE said in the report. “Similar to other U.S.-based companies who plan to continue operations in Saudi Arabia, the Company has decided to uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event. Full year 2018 guidance is predicated on the staging of the Riyadh event as scheduled.”
Cena previously performed at WWE’s first major event in Saudi Arabia in April, the Greatest Royal Rumble, and made an in-ring speech following his match against Triple H that opened the show in front of a crowd of 60,000 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.
“What an honor and a privilege it is to be allowed to be a part of an event like today,” Cena said in April. “Regardless of what is going on in my universe, I was not going to miss this event for anything in the world. I want to send a genuine thank you to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia … for its unmatched hospitality that extends far beyond this evening. And I also want to say once again thank all of you for allowing me to be part of something so special.”
Crown Jewel, which is set to take place at Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium, is also scheduled to feature several of the company’s other high profile legends. Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels returns to in-ring action in the WWE for the first time in more than eight years as part of a tag team match featuring Triple H, The Undertaker and Knox County, Tennessee, mayor Glen “Kane” Jacobs.
Brock Lesnar, a former UFC heavyweight champion and multiple champion in WWE, will feature in a Universal championship match against Braun Strowman. WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan said in an interview last week with the Orlando Sentinel that he was “looking forward to going to Saudi Arabia with the WWE.”
There has not yet been any word of any other potential changes to the Crown Jewel show.