Today’s Crown Jewel show was historic for WWE as it marked the first women’s match to be held on Saudi Arabian soil. Natalya and Lacey Evans were the chosen participants for the bout, and Stephanie McMahon has told Bleacher Report why the company opted to include the pairing.
“Natalya is somewhat of a legend in the women’s division. She is the veteran. She has been here for so long, been a part of so many of the changes that have happened. When you consider her legacy and family history, it’s pretty remarkable. You take Lacey Evans, who is fairly new on the scene but who has not been shy about sharing her perspective on overcoming, especially in her life and the things she’s been through. She has a young daughter and she wants to set an example.”
Following the initial match announcement, Natalya took to Twitter and described it as an “incredible opportunity.” Evans, meanwhile, tweeted that her participation will make her a positive role model in her daughter’s eyes.
During the interview, McMahon revealed that bringing women’s wrestling to the country has been the company’s “goal since day one” of their partnership. She also stated that their partners in the Middle East fully supported the idea.
The match was also well-received by fans attending the event. Following her win, Natalya celebrated by taking selfies with a cheering family in the crowd.
Both women were forced to wear full body suits and t-shirts during the contest. However, despite having to compromise with Saudi Arabian laws, WWE will count this moment as another major breakthrough for social change in the Middle East.
The company previously introduced women’s wrestling to the continent back in 2017 during an event in Abu Dhabi. That match — which featured Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss — was six years in the making, but it only took the company a year and a half to convince Saudi officials to greenlight today’s event.
Despite the landmark moment, WWE has faced plenty of criticism for holding shows in a country that’s guilty of human rights violations. As documented by The Independent last year, the company received some backlash after pressing ahead with an event following the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
There has also been some criticism from WWE employees. As The Inquisitr reported earlier this month, several superstars refused to participate at this year’s show because of the controversies surrounding the event. Sami Zayn was noticeably absent, as he’s of Syrian decent and was unable to attend due to tensions between his family’s home country and Saudi Arabia.