World Wrestling Entertainment stars were stuck in Saudi Arabia for hours, even missing a scheduled live show in the U.S., allegedly due to "mechanical issues" — but some reports claim that they were being held hostage in a dispute between Saudi Arabia and the WWE over an unpaid bill, according to the Daily Mail.
More than 150 wrestlers were in Saudi Arabia for the Crown Jewel event on Oct. 31. According to the Daily Mail, WWE CEO Vince McMahon pulled the plug on a live broadcast of the event because the Saudis had allegedly not paid a $500 million bill for two previous broadcasts.
Even though the broadcast reportedly went on about 40 minutes late after the two sides reached a financial agreement, the situation allegedly angered Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman enough to temporarily ground the wrestlers' Atlas Air flight home.
The wrestlers were stuck on the tarmac for six hours, and at one point Saudi military police were even sent to the airport. Reporter David Meltzer told Wrestling Observer that the wrestlers felt like hostages.
"The talent felt they were hostages … nobody was harmed or anything like that," Meltzer said. "It's a really tense story."
Some of the higher profile WWE stars took matters into their own hands and flew back to the U.S. on chartered flights, but a majority of the group did not have the means to do so. McMahon, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart, Ric Flair and Tyson Fury were among those who arranged their own transportation.
The WWE's official statement made no mention of any conflict causing the delay:
A chartered passenger flight operated by Atlas Air is currently delayed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia due to a mechanical issue. The flight was scheduled to depart at 3:00 AM AST on Nov. 1. Our top priority is always to ensure our passengers arrive safely and on time at their destination. The aircraft is being repaired and will be inspected and certified before returning to service to transport our passengers to their final destination. We regret that operational disruptions delayed the flight and apologize to our passengers who were inconvenienced.
Still, a number of WWE wrestlers say they have no intention of returning to Saudi Arabia, indicating that there were more than just mechanical issues at play.