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After a few disappointing events from WWE, the company heads to the Middle East for the first time in over a year. Emanating from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Crown Jewel came with an absolutely stacked card, however the Saudi Arabia events often come with a fair share of controversy. And they often seem to be the times when WWE pulls some of their worst booking decisions (The Fiend vs. Goldberg in 2020, Shane McMahon wins Best in the World Trophy in 2018) or puts on matches that result in disaster. That said, there have been shows that have come off well (if flawed), like 2018’s Greatest Royal Rumble or Crown Jewel 2019, so could this super scaled show in 2021 dig WWE out of its major rut of late?
Yes…Yes it could!
1. The Hurt Business (Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin) vs. The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) (Kick-Off Show)
This Kick-off show match was really thrown together, as was The Hurt Business reunion, but Jimmy and Jey Uso were unlikely to let The Bloodline faction down and they didn’t, as they picked up the win over a game Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin, in an energetic tag match, that managed to deliver in the ring to mask its randomness in taking place.
The show opened with a fireworks display after the opening video package detailing the Saudi Arabian PPV history. Arena seems massive and crowd is LOUD. Something that remains a constant all night, the fans were great!
2. Hell in a Cell match
Edge vs. Seth Rollins
What a way to start! The Edge and Seth Rollins story has been everything we hoped it would be, and arguably the rivalry of the year. The promos, segments, home invasions and most importantly of all the matches have delivered quality every single time! And after Edge claimed the win at SummerSlam, and Rollins claimed the victory at Madison Square Garden Smackdown, this rubber match looked to end the feud and what better way than in WWE’s old school feud finishing structure, Hell in a Cell? And what a treat it is to see WWE booking Hell in a Cell this way again, after threatening to drain its legacy by crowbarring it in to matches on a yearly gimmick PPV, with increasingly diminishing results. Anyway, onto the match and good lord what a match it was. In the first match of the main card, Rollins and Edge stole the show with a searing showdown which lit up the crowd constantly and was as back and forth as it gets. The match was littered with tough, body bruising, weapon shots and spots, which told a great story, as Edge fought to end this and scar Seth’s soul, and Seth fought to cripple the Rated R Superstar. This was just glorious and put me in mind of The Undertaker and Edge’s Hell in a Cell match 23 years ago, as Edge has since reversed roles, fighting his own crazed opportunist on this night. The match kept you on edge (so to speak) and anyone could have snatched the win, but in the end, Edge used Rollins’ own curb stomp against him to poetically take him out for good and get the win. What a classic. Edge is ageless and Rollins is at that top level right there with him.
3. Mansoor vs. Mustafa Ali
How long I wonder before WWE starts having Mansoor defend his Saudi PPV Streak officially? Seriously though, this battle between the tag partners turned rivals was rather historic, as it marked the first singles match in PPV history between two muslim superstars, which is pretty darn cool. I liked the build to this one and both stars put on a good little match, with levels of intensity and each playing the assigned heel and face roles nicely. In the end though, in front of his hometown crowd, Mansoor would get the win over his mentor turned tormentor Mustafa Ali, after an apron to mat flying neckbreaker. Afterwards a bitter Ali attacked his former student, but found himself on the end of a KO kick by Saudi Arabian silver medalist karate sports star Tareg Hamedi, whose shock appearance popped the crowd huge. Unexpected but neat.
In the ring, Titus O’ Neill and Natalya celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness month with survivors of this horrific disease, whilst promoting the work of Saudi Arabia’s Zahra Association.
We also got to see the earlier flyover by jets from the Saudi Royal Air Force, this show has real WrestleMania vibes so far.
4. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) (c) vs. AJ Styles and Omos
Of course Riddle entered the arena riding a camel, which seems like a regular old day for him! How does Randy Orton keep his face straight? I digress, this SummerSlam rematch was again brief but fun. I’d say slightly better than their previous match but nothing that really stood out on a card as loaded as this. That said, it was entertaining, with AJ Styles doing some of the heavy lifting ring work-wise but in the end Orton countered AJ’s Phenomenal Forearm into an RKO and Riddle hit the Floating Bro for the decisive win for the charismatic champs.
Backstage, WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch was interviewed about her upcoming all-star title defence later in the show. She was confidant, after all she is “Big Time Becks”.
5. Queen’s Crown Tournament Final
Zelina Vega vs. Doudrop
While it has been nice to see WWE finally do a King of the Ring style tournament for the women’s division, the Queen’s Crown Tournament has not felt quite as special as it should have done, and that didn’t really change with this final between Zelina Vega and Doudrop. Don’t get me wrong, nothing about this was all that bad, but at just under 6 minutes, it all felt a bit of an anti-climax to an already rushed tournament. The two worked hard but it didn’t seem to quite click in the time they had but that said, Zelina winning after her Code Red finisher was a nice surprise, but I wouldn’t have minded either lady winning to be fair. Although Vega will likely rock that Queen gimmick.
6. No Holds Barred Falls Count Anywhere Match
Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley
The match on the card that was the most scoffed at bar none, especially after a somewhat messy SummerSlam clash. However, this has been the best Goldberg booking in years, working off of a good family revenge story, as the WCW icon sought brutal vengeance on behalf of his son against “the almighty” Bobby Lashley. But what would happen when that bell rang? Well, what happened was we witnessed Goldberg’s best match since WrestleMania 33. This was brilliantly paced and delivered by both men and pure carnage as it should have been. In fact, if Goldberg was booked in matches like this every time, I’d wager fans would not be half as down on him as they are. This was just great fun, a table cracking, barricade busting knock down drag out, with great selling by Goldberg, as Lashley dominated his knee early. Goldberg would regain the advantage, even fending away the Hurt Business at the end, to finish the match with a cool spear off the walkway through some tables for the pinfall win over Lashley! Tonnes of fun. More like this in future Goldberg matches please WWE!
7. King of the Ring Tournament Final
Finn Bálor vs. Xavier Woods
Let’s be honest here, while there were some greats in this year’s King of the Ring, we were all pulling for Xavier Woods weren’t we? He has been vocal for years about dreaming of winning the King of the Ring and so when WWE actually went the logical way on this night, giving him the biggest win of his career over ‘The Prince’ Finn Bálor, it was a really nice moment. The match was a well flowing contest, with both guys looking good and trading blows, it felt like a hard fought match for a savoured crown and while Bálor looked like he’d trade up from Prince to King, Woods would not be denied, and after a Diving Elbow drop, Woods claimed his crown. A boyhood dream came true, which felt quite special. Hope Woods gets something good out of this run.
8. WWE Championship match
Big E (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
After one New Day brother won big, WWE Champ Big E faced a tough challenge in a clash with hungry former champ Drew McIntyre. As soon as WWE booked this, I was eager to see it and I was not let down. What a powerhouse war this was. These two titans waged absolute battle for Raw’s top prize and traded offence and near falls throughout. Both even got big kick-outs out of each others top moves. This was such a slick power display from two of WWE’s top modern stars, but in the climax E missed out on eating a second Claymore and instead hit a second Big Ending for the clean as a sheet win. Afterwards Drew and E traded respectful glances and thumbs up. What a fantastic match!
9. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks
As expected, this triple threat match for the Smackdown women’s championship was quite the match, which centred on the in-ring action over any non-ending BS finish or shenanigans. These three great women put on a hell of a show much to the crowd’s delight. From some great spots like the attempted double dis-arm-her by Becky, to Bianca Belair’s amazing one handed press slam on Sasha Banks, this was just constantly moving action and the ladies worked together beautifully. I wasn’t actually sure who would win, considering Belair really ought to have dethroned Charlotte Flair as Raw women’s champ on the Raw prior, but the ending sequence of events saw the desperate SD champ retain her prize thanks to a roll up on Sasha, with the assistance of the ropes of course! Which sadly means we have to do the whole titles exchange silliness, I hate when they do this in the draft, it’s so pointless. Still, awesome match!
10. WWE Universal Championship Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Brock Lesnar
And it all came down to this. I give WWE a tonne of credit, they built this match up tremendously well, with Paul Heyman’s loyalties being at the centre, which was a novel way to do a match we have seen many many times before. And while this match was not the best between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, neither was it the worst. Lesnar looked fantastic in his return to the WWE ring. It did at times boil down to a signature move and finisher fest but they spiced it up here and there, especially in the climax where both were down and Heyman threw in the belt to them – but who was it for? Well, thanks to Roman’s ‘ol faithful interfering cousins Jimmy and Jey, he got chance to clock the beast with the belt and get the tainted title saving win. Yeah, it was screwy but far better done than WWE have often attempted and it continues this feud for a later date quite nicely.
Overall, I had a blast with what was the best show WWE have done in Saudi Arabia, and the best show they have done all year, barring only January’s Royal Rumble. This card delivered, and while there were a couple of wrinkles (and we could have had a surprise appearance somewhere in here), nothing here stank or left a bad taste to the show. Far from it. The WWE Championship match and WWE Smackdown Women’s Triple Threat match were absolute bangers, Goldberg had his best match in years, the booking decisions were sensible or logical, and WWE has some cool new royalty crowned. And as for Hell in a Cell? What more can be said, an absolute classic. This WWE is more like it! These are the kind of results we expect.
Next up, Survivor Series – one of WWE’s most up and down events – and the final of their Big Four PPVs this year…and yes, they are doing Raw vs. Smackdown…again, but let’s just hope the show has more in store. Keep this newfound momentum going guys! Please!