WWE’s latest event in Saudi Arabia last week made controversial headlines beyond the grumbling over the company’s closeness with a regime that’s been accused of killing a journalist.
The main event of Super ShowDown in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, pitted The Undertaker against Bill Goldberg. Both wrestlers are in their 50s, both did their most important work in the 1990s, and both currently wrestle only sporadically.
The Undertaker won the match, which was notable for the large number of mistakes and botched spots. Goldberg was bloodied severely, most likely unintentionally, and later did a jackhammer move that was sloppy. At one point, both men fell down.
“This was sad more than anything,” the wrestling website Figure Four Online wrote in its recap of the match. “The layout of the match was designed for it to be as simple as possible, but it was clear, especially in the closing moments of the match, that both men can’t even do this type of match anymore.”
Goldberg, on Twitter, delivered what amounted to an apology for the match, which was shown in the U.S. on WWE Network.
“Knocked myself out and thought I could finish,” the wrestler said on Twitter. “love my fans…..but let u down. Everyone else that found ‘pleasure’….. hope ur happy.”
Also, as pointed out on Twitter by wrestling writer Ryan Satin, The Undertaker liked an Instagram post in which WWE was urged to stop bringing The Undertaker back, and to “let him retire in peace.”
The now-52-year-old Goldberg burst on the scene in WCW in the late 1990s, winning the championship from Hulk Hogan and taking a spot at the top of the roster in WCW’s final years. He briefly wrestled for WWE in the early 2000s before retiring to a career of acting and reality shows, although he made a comeback in 2016 and entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018.
The Undertaker, whose real name is Mark Calaway, has been wrestling since the 1980s, and has worked for WWE since 1991. Now 54, The Undertaker has appeared less frequently in the WWE for the last four years or so.
While WWE has been holding events in Saudi Arabia since 2014, it began a 10-year partnership with the kingdom in 2018, which includes multiple high-profile events in that country each year.
The partnership has come under scrutiny due to WWE not including women in its Saudi events and to the 2018 death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist who was killed in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, which the U.S. intelligence believes was ordered by the Saudi regime. WWE, however, has continued with the deal.