Exclusive: Tucker Details Travel Issues Following WWE Crown Jewel 2019

A gruelling couple of days

Former WWE Superstar Levi Cooper (FKA Tucker) has detailed the travel issues the company faced following the 2019 Crown Jewel pay-per-view in Saudi Arabia.

WWE held their second event of the year in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, October 31st and the plan was to immediately head back to the United States after the show to make it back in time for the November 1 edition of SmackDown. Numerous WWE Superstars experienced travel delays, though, and WWE booked NXT to invade SmackDown instead on the Friday night show. 

WWE's official statement blamed the delays on "mechanical issues" but reports following the event claimed WWE and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had gotten into a dispute over late payments from Super ShowDown earlier in the year. As a result, Vince McMahon reportedly cut the live feed to Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince retaliated by preventing WWE's chartered flight from taking off.  

A former WWE wrestler then confirmed the reports as part of testimony for a lawsuit against WWE and they noted then Senior Director of Talent Relations Mark Carrano told them the Crown Prince and Vince McMahon argued over late payments from Super ShowDown and bin Salman was mad after McMahon cut the live feed to Crown Jewel. 

While WWE has continued to officially deny this account of events, Levi Cooper has now detailed the issues talent faced getting home on Straight To Hell and he admitted a lot of the reports were "fairly accurate." 

"A lot of what was read is fairly accurate, I don't know for sure. What I heard, and I heard this from a cameraman who obviously is wearing the headset and can hear all the chatter over the headset, the main man told him to cut the feed to the Saudis. That's what I heard. I don't know if that's true or not, that's just what the rumour I heard and I also read that on the internet a couple of times as well. I don't have any confirmation of that but that's sort of the reason I heard was based around money. And that we [WWE] hadn't been paid and there was some kind of disagreement. And so the feed for that particular show was cut to the Saudis. This is just the speculation that I heard but I did hear it in Saudi Arabia from somebody on a camera. It is hearsay, but that is the best I can do," Tucker said.

"So we sort of got into a billionaire d*ck measuring contest. A little bit of a p*ssing match. We're political pawns a little because we were supposed to fly straight back to SmackDown and my wife was very upset, of course. In my mind, at the time I was thinking, 'Well if this situation is sort of what we think it is, they're not gonna keep us long enough to make it in an international thing.' I don't think they're stupid enough to be like, 'Hey we really want to catch some heat over this. But if we can maybe inconvenience them for inconveniencing us and make their guys miss SmackDown, then we'll inconvenience them.'"

Tucker then noted talent were stuck waiting in the airport for hours while they tried to travel home. 

"So, we left from the show and we go to the airport. Where we're flying out of is not the main terminal but 'executive arrivals'. It's basically a private hangar for big groups and those on invitation from the government. So we get to that executive arrival building, we're one of the only ones in there at the time. It's probably midnight or so, we left straight after the show so we're tired and hungry too because we ate before the show but catering got put away at 6:30 pm," he continued. 

"The confusion at the building was crazy because nobody's getting any information about what's happening. We sit there for like four hours probably in executive arrivals. Finally, they let us get on the airplane. We're on the airplane for 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours and we can't take off for whatever reason. The pilot is basically like, 'We can't get our completed paperwork.' However, the air traffic stuff works, the plane's good, the crew's good, we're all good here with Atlas Air, but the issue is we can't get clearance from the airport. They're not allowing us to leave. 

"So we end up getting back off the plane. We sit in executive arrivals for like another two, two-and-a-half hours before finally the buses come back. By this point the sun's up, it's probably 8 or 9 in the morning.

"In the midst of all this, I forgot, a group of like 15 or 20 people, they booked them a separate charter flight to try to get them to SmackDown. I can't remember who was on this plane but suffice to say it was people most needed for SmackDown. That plane ultimately didn't make it either," Tucker stated.

After leaving the airport, talent were booked into hotels for another day so they could get some rest, Cooper revealed. The ordeal didn't end there, though, as WWE's plane was moved to the main terminal before they travelled home on November 1.

"We go into another hotel in Riyadh and we stay there for, I don't know, maybe 10-12 hours. Something like that. Basically book rooms for everybody so we can get some sleep and whatnot and then we head back to the airport the next evening. And everything when we got back was pretty smooth except I remember we get there, we get through executive arrivals. The time before we got straight on the airplane. The other times we'd get straight on the airplane from executive arrivals, but I guess because we stayed for a whole day, I don't know if they moved the plane to mess with us or if they moved it because they had to but in that timeframe, our plane got moved to the main terminal but nobody knew this," Tucker added. 

"So when we get through executive arrivals, instead of getting on the plane, we get on trams and we take off. After a couple of minutes, we're in the desert now because, we don't know this, but we're probably a mile and a half from our plane. So we end up on these people movers for 20 minutes before we get to our plane. Five or 10 minutes in, we've all been through this 24-hour ordeal and now we're on these buses. There's dark everywhere, we can see executive arrivals behind us and the main airport over there but around us is nothing and we're all like, 'Feel a little sketchy to you, man? Feels a little sketchy to us. I don't know what's going on here. Where are we going? Where are they taking us?' And ultimately we get back on the plane and end up flying home and landing in JFK and everybody flies home to their respective wherever because we didn't make SmackDown. It was an ordeal. It was enough to make me never want to go back to Saudi Arabia."

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Journalist/Editor-in-Chief of Cultaholic.com Twitter: @theaidangibbons