The much-maligned relationship between WWE and Saudi Arabia was rekindled on Thursday, as WWE produced Crown Jewel, their first event in the Middle East nation since February 2020 (pre-COVID). However, the company did not just resume their business in Saudi Arabia, they ensured business picked up by bringing a blockbuster card featuring their biggest stars, high-profile storylines, and more history-making moments for the women of professional wrestling.
In the main event, Roman Reigns battled Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, with the enticing storyline of ‘where does Paul Heyman's allegiance lie?' looming large. Edge faced off against Seth Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match to blow off their terrific and intense storyline, and for the SmackDown Women's Championship, Becky Lynch put her title on the line against the EST Bianca Belair and ‘The Boss' Sasha Banks. Plus, Goldberg took on Bobby Lashley in a No Holds Barred Match, a King of the Ring and Queen's Crown winner were crowned, and so much more! For this very reason, WWE was able to do what they've hardly ever achieved when venturing to Saudi Arabia, and that's put on a highly entertaining show.
During the Crown Jewel Kickoff pre-show, The Usos (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso) defeated The Hurt Business (Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin) in a non-title tag team match. In the end, Jimmy performed a Uso Splash on Alexander to win the match.
Edge vs. Seth Rollins – Hell in a Cell Match
The blow-off to Edge and Rollins' feud kicked off the main card, and it was most certainly the right move from WWE. Not only was this match one of the few that had built-in momentum thanks to an engaging and well-cultivated storyline that justified an epic Hell in a Cell showdown, but it also featured one of the big names in Edge to get the live crowd immediately up on their feet. Also, considering what Edge and Rollins have done in straight singles action, there was little doubt that the pair would produce another epic encounter with the bells and whistles that come with Hell in a Cell, and they did not disappoint.
Like most Edge matches nowadays, it started at a slower pace while making sure to include the necessary actions fans would expect from a bitter feud like this one. The two battled around the cell, teasing spots with a metal bar from the steel chair, before finally getting to the first big turning point in the match that saw Rollins practically stab Edge with the metal bar, causing Edge to have a glazed over look on his face. Edge's selling throughout this match was masterful, and it undoubtedly enhanced the story. From there, the match effectively built to big spots, such as Rollins flying off the top tope through a table or Rollins powerbombing Edge off a ladder through a table, with each spot meaning more than the next as it was not a spot fest throughout.
Edge vs. Rollins closed with a wonderful climax that played off key elements of their storyline, as Rollins wrapped a chain around his foot with the intention being to deliver one last dreaded stomp. However, Edge managed to turn the tide by using a chair before utilizing the chain and then a wrench while applying a crossface. Finally, the Rated R Superstar delivered a stomp onto a chair to Rollins, which led to Jessika Carr (the first-ever woman to referee in Saudi Arabia) counting the 1, 2, 3. Edge won the feud, concluding an all-time classic trilogy with Rollins, and to put the cherry on this storytelling masterclass cake, the WWE Hall of Famer expertly sold his battered state by slowly, slowly rising to his feet before raising his arms in victory. It's these subtleties that make Edge an even greater performer now than he was ten years ago. Incredible opener!
Mustafa Ali vs. Mansoor
Although this match was the opposite of the opener when it comes to having the momentum of a great storyline, Ali and Mansoor's match had greater meaning than any television storyline. This match saw two Muslim superstars face off on a major WWE PPV for the first time ever – a feat and accomplishment that, in all honesty, means more than any “great match” tag. The match itself was still solid, and the live crowd was invested thanks to it featuring one of their own, as well as some impressive athletic manoeuvres. In the end, Mansoor picked up the win and was later joined by Saudi Olympian Tareg Hamedi. But both Ali and Mansoor deserve applause for their effort and the fact that they likely did, as Ali later said on Instagram, “inspire the next generation.”
RK-Bro vs. AJ Styles & Omos – RAW Tag Team Titles Match
A rematch from SummerSlam, but this time, RK-Bro entered the ring as the Tag Team Champions, as the unlikely and highly entertaining duo looked to defend the gold against Styles and his colossus, Omos. After Riddle hilariously entered the stadium on a camel, the action kicked off as Riddle, Orton, and Styles set the tone with some strong wrasslin'. Omos' entrance into the match, which always feels like a big deal, was nicely done as Riddle accidentally tossed Styles in the direction of Omos before ‘The Phenomenal One' tagged out.
Naturally, the match slowed down when Omos entered, and even when Styles teased or seemingly set up Omos for something big, the big man just reverted back to grabbing Orton's neck instead of delivering something a little more impactful – showing his lack of experience. However, the match picked back up again as the crowd was hot for Randy Orton and everything he did, and eventually, Orton hit another beautiful mid-air RKO on Styles, which was followed by Riddle's Floating Bro and then a 1, 2, 3. A good tag match that was notably brought down slightly by Omos' inexperience.
Zelina Vega vs. Doudrop – Queen's Crown Tournament Final
It was wonderful to see Vega and Doudrop, two supremely talented and underutilised talents, get the spotlight by being in the first Queen's Crown final. However, it was also hard to be too thrilled about this accomplishment as the two women had a match that lasted only 5 minutes and 50 seconds. They did their best in the time they had, and it even finished with Vega delivering an impressive Code Red for the win. But they faced an uphill battle from the opening bell. However, it was still nice to see Vega get this nod from the WWE, and if this serves as a springboard for her to be a featured player in serious and competitive matches with the top women of WWE, I'll happily accept this short match.
Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley – No Holds Barred Match
What a difference a crowd can make. At SummerSlam, Goldberg and his son were booed mercilessly by the Las Vegas crowd that ultimately cheered like crazy when the big bad “heel” Bobby Lashley beat them down. Fast forward to Crown Jewel, and Goldberg could seemingly do no wrong for the Middle Eastern crowd, which ultimately worked in both Lashley and Goldberg's favour as they executed their simple strategy to get a slightly longer Goldberg match.
It's become more and more evident over the last few years that Goldberg's age is beginning to show, so the idea of him having a match that lasts longer than 5 minutes is even more worrisome. To both men's credit, however, the formula of Lashley beating down Goldberg for the first chunk of this match before Goldberg returned fire and took control with his signature moves, including a spear through the barricade, worked for the live crowd. This, in turn, made it more enjoyable for the home viewer too. Goldberg was still visibly clunky and awkward, especially when fighting off Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander. But a spear off the entrance ramp onto a table provided a spectacular finish for Goldberg's revenge against Lashley, in what was ultimately a decent No Holds Barred match. If anything, I hope this win allows Goldberg to put over Big E and finally wrap up his in-ring career.
Finn Balor vs. Xavier Woods – King of the Ring Tournament Final
Balor and Woods didn't have a long match, but they still had longer than the Queen's Crown match, so it allowed them to deliver a really fun back and forth match. It's fair to say, some fans (including this one writing) can forget about Woods' in-ring skills due to him being such an entertaining personality. However, even in a little under 10 minutes, Woods reminded everyone he is able to go with the best of them.
As is often the case for a babyface vs. babyface match, Woods vs. Balor took a little time to settle, especially as the fans didn't know who they were siding with. But both men ultimately found a great groove, leading to a lot of fun exchanges with Balor hitting his signature overhead kick or him getting his knees up on Woods' big leaping elbow, which almost led to Balor hitting his Coup De Grace. In the end, the momentum shifted back to Woods, who finally hit his elbow to be crowned King of the Ring. Although Balor could have done with the win, few will argue that Woods doesn't deserve a big singles moment of his own.
Find out King and Queen's first words here.
Big E vs. Drew McIntyre – WWE Championship Match
From the standpoint of cementing Big E as RAW's top player, this match was a great move from WWE due to McIntyre's status in the upper echelon of the company's main event scene for nearly two years. Immediately, Big E brought an intensity to this match by daring McIntyre to charge at him, which was excellent, as it not only matched the Scottish star's natural intensity but it also added to the importance of this match. It was also a nice example of for his critics, proving that when the time calls for it, E can be serious.
The match itself was very good. Both men showed off their physical strength by impressively tossing the other around with suplexes, but the match also had a fast pace that featured some technical wrestling with good pinfall and submission attempts from the big men. The final 5 minutes featured some nice near falls that even had Big E kick out after being hit by the Claymore Kick. But in the end, the WWE Champion retained his title by hitting his second Big Ending. Post-match, McIntyre acknowledged the champion with a thumbs up. It was a really good match with a well-executed post-match reaction to cement Big E's position at the top.
Beck Lynch vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair – SmackDown Women's Champion Triple Threat Match
Lynch, Banks, and Belair was another match with a good amount of momentum heading into Crown Jewel thanks to a lot of attention and some strong promo work from all three participants. The triple threat marked the first time WWE has had two women's matches on a Saudi show, but more importantly, it was undoubtedly the best women's match and one of the best matches WWE has ever had on a Saudi show.
Unlike a lot of triple threats, the match flowed nicely from the offset with great spots like Becky sending Banks flying into the arms of Belair, only for Banks to hit a hurricanrana to send Belair crashing into Lynch in the corner. In addition to great three-way spots, the match settled down nicely and gave each woman their time to shine, as Belair had plenty of cool spots to show off her power while Lynch showed her great character work when she attempted to play nice with her opponents as they held her in their arms, gearing up to slam her. It was a great match from start to finish, and Lynch ultimately scored the win with a roll-up (while holding the ropes) on Banks. Neither Banks nor Belair looked bad in defeat, and Lynch acted like a heel to win, so it was a win all the way around.
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar – WWE Universal Championship Match
No match felt bigger or had as much interest as Reigns and Lesnar. The two superstars have created an excellent storyline using Heyman as a wonderful tool to create various twists and turns and even produce doubt in Reigns' Tribal Chief character that has not really been seen up until this point. Thankfully, the match itself delivered too and even effectively left the door open for a rematch.
The little nuances in this main event were excellent, and it's what made it such an engaging main event. Reigns and Lesnar effectively built to Lesnar's signature German Suplex spot, but they knew that's what the crowd wanted to see, so they teased it constantly, only for Reigns to shut the Beast Incarnate down again and again. During the Champion's period of dominance, it was acknowledged how big of an obstacle Lesnar was for him, as Reigns busted out everything and more by hitting an incredibly impressive dive over the top rope onto the former UFC Champion. Lesnar, to his credit, switched roles a little by effectively playing the babyface fighting from underneath.
Lesnar finally managed to swing the momentum in his favour by hitting his Germans, as well as amusingly mocking Reigns by doing his signature Shield scream. The Beast soon went for an F-5, but Reigns' legs knocked the referee down, and eventually, the two superstars were lying down in the ring, recovering. It was here, Heyman, with the Universal title in hand, sold his struggle and threw the title in the middle of both men, screaming: “Know what to do with it!” Reigns and Lesnar had a tug of war over the belt, but after Lesnar got the belt, The Usos entered to hit their double superkick before Reigns used the title to get the pin. An incredible ending to a brilliantly put together battle of heavyweights, which gave Lesnar a valid excuse for his loss, and left us with question marks over Heyman's loyalty, especially with his uncertain facial expressions during Reigns' celebration.
Crown Jewel started and ended with a bang and produced other strong outings in-between that also gave fans interesting directions for the future. In the end, WWE delivered a really good, dare I say, a great event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE