Two major WWE stars pull out of controversial Saudi Arabia event

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PWInsider reports that Bryan "made it clear he would not be traveling to the event and WWE began making alternative plans last week".

Bryan is still advertised as AJ Styles' Crown Jewel opponent, given his status as number one contender to Styles' WWE Championship.

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However, on this week's edition of Monday Night RAW, it was announced that Bobby Lashley would be taking his place.

It was also revealed on Monday who would face who in the quarter-final rounds, with The Miz and Jeff Hardy squaring off and Rey Mysterio going up against an old foe in Randy Orton. This was WWE's way of working around Bryan refusing to go to Saudi Arabia.

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Cena's growing profile in the entertainment industry could've played a part in his decision to withdraw over recent events. "Regardless of what is going on in my universe, I was not going to miss this event for anything in the world. And I also want to say once again, thank all of you for allowing me to be part of something so special", he had said. That changing image got a harsh revision at the beginning of October as the news emerged that Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who had written for the Washington Post, had been brutally murdered during a visit to the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

WWE initially issued a terse statement in the wake of the events, saying, 'As always, we maintain an open line of communication with our performers and will address each situation accordingly'. John Bradshaw Layfield told Busted Open radio last week that WWE wrestlers are independent contractors and would not be punished if they opted out of the show.

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While the company said in a statement that it had been a "very hard decision", it pointed to a 20-year relationship with fans in the region.

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