WWE Roster Finally Lands in the U.S., More Details on NXT/Smackdown Invasion

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The WWE roster has finally touched down, safe and sound in the United States.

It was reported late Thursday night in the United States that more than 175 people from WWE, including Superstars, crew and officials, had been stranded in Saudi Arabia following the Crown Jewel pay-per-view in Riyadh.

The group was reportedly kept on the plane for upwards of 7 hours until they were eventually put up in hotels for the rest of the day.

At that point it was unlikely that any of them would make it back in time for the live broadcast of Friday Night Smackdown, so a small group of top stars and officials (believed to be 20 in total) boarded a secondary charter. That flight also experienced travel issues, and at one point WWE posted a video of Cesaro getting off a plane in Ireland.

The secondary plane did eventually land in the U.S. around 7-8PM ET on Friday, while Smackdown was already on the air. By that point the show had obviously already been rewritten to not include those onboard, and the NXT roster was brought in instead.

There’s actually an interesting travel note about THAT flight as well.

John Pollock of POST Wrestling first reported, and this has been confirmed by several sources at this point, that the flight containing the NXT roster that was flown in from Orlando did not arrive in New York until 7:55 PM. That’s just five minutes for Smackdown was set to go live on the air, so the crew was actually escorted to the arena by a police escort.

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This likely explains the notably long Paul Heyman promo that opened the show, as he intentionally stretched out every syllable and paused between every word, taking as much time as he possible could to get through what would normally be a short promo.

They also had the Bayley and Nikki Cross match go on after that, giving the NXT roster as much time as they needed to get Shayna Baszler in place for her post-match attack.

While I haven’t been able to confirm this, one person noted to me that Aiden English was put on commentary to open the show with Renee and Tom Phillips because he was already there for 205 Live, and they needed someone to fill in for Pat McAfee until he arrived with the rest of the NXT crew. That’s why after the Baszler attack McAfee joined the broadcast table, and they never mentioned Aiden again for the rest of the night.