WrestleWatch: WWE Super Showdown 2019
The latest WWE PPV went down today on the Network, and I've got a couple of hours to kill on this long weekend. Time for a WrestleWatch review!
Admittedly, I've been a little bit sour on WWE lately. The never-ending Superstar Shake-Up, along with the inane "Wildcard Rule" are creative choices that seem like desperation and a definite lack of long term planning. And if WWE can't be invested enough in their stories to keep them straight week to week, why should I stay invested in their stories? Since Wrestlemania, I've probably watched two full episodes of Raw and Smackdown if I'm lucky. Even NXT has taken a fall in the quality of its weekly TV shows. The last time I was this disenchanted with WWE was around a decade ago, when the Ruthless Aggression era ended and they went full-on in the PG direction.
I have kept up with WWE PPVs though, because as bad as the creative has been, the talent themselves are still great and deliver on the big shows. I enjoyed Money In The Bank, would give it an overall score of 7.5/10. Both ladder matches delivered, and AJ vs. Rollins was a genuine MOTY candidate. And NXT Takeover XXV the other week continued the strong streak of Takeover events, I score it a 8.5/10. Glad to see Street Profits get rewarded for their hard work with the tag title win (although Kyle O'Reilly deserves a massive raise with his performance and the punishment he put his own body through). Then Gargano and Cole put on a clinic- even if it stretched the suspension of disbelief at times- and the leader of the Undisputed Era captured the belt at the perfect time in my opinion.
Overall, over the past few months, my attention has gone more towards NJPW and AEW. For AEW, there couldn't be a better time to strike as a new promotion. My review of their debut event, Double Or Nothing, can be found on the main page. And I have been completely consumed by NJPW's Best Of The Super Juniors tournament this past month, there should be a detailed article coming on that in the following week. The hope is to smash out the boring work writing over Sunday/Monday, leaving me the latter days of the week to embrace my wrestling writing a bit more. But for now, let's focus our attention on WWE Super Showdown 2019!
So what made me choose this event to write about? Money In The Bank is a more significant event on the WWE calendar, and the Takeover show had some better bouts on the card. Well, a couple of factors came into play. First, these Saudi Arabia shows seem to exist in their own little universe. While matches on the card do receive build-up on the weekly shows, the marquee matches tend to feature big names coming in for a big one-off payday, then disappearing again. Saudi shows are basically where a Saudi prince plays real life GM Mode with his trucks of money.
But the real compelling factor for me was the main event. Goldberg vs. The Undertaker. This one was a real dream match for me. When it comes to fantasy warfare pitting Undertaker against WCW stars, the popular pick has always been Sting amongst the majority of hardcore fans, due to their similar "spooky" characters. Not the case for me. I was never a massive WCW fan, but whenever I did catch it, Goldberg captured my imagination. Running through his opponents with crazy intensity, I always wondered how his style would go against Undertaker. It was in my head in 2003 when Goldberg joined the WWE, it was a match that I played countless times on Here Comes The Pain on the PS2. Then when Undertaker reverted to his Deadman character, it added another layer to the awesomeness of what a clash of the titans Goldberg vs. Taker could be. Unfortunately, on the same event that Undertaker reprised his legendary character (Wrestlemania XX), Goldberg took a Stunner that sent him out of the WWE ring for over 12 years.
When Goldberg returned in late 2016, it seemed like my dream match could potentially become reality. Goldberg and Taker fought briefly in the 2017 Royal Rumble match, and considering Goldberg had dispatched of Brock Lesnar in seconds at Survivor Series, I thought that brief interaction could be setting the stage for a big Wrestlemania 33 match. But as we know, it was not to be.
Thanks to the bottomless pockets of a Saudi prince, I get my dream match- one of the few left in WWE. Let's look at how the event went down.
Kick-Off: The Usos vs. The Revival
When the entrances for this match occurred with 10 minutes until the PPV start time, I knew we weren't getting the barnburner that these two teams could potentially have. But what this match did do was whet our appetite for the main card, and give us a sense of what the show would look like, both in terms of arena aesthetics and crowd reaction. Tell you what, Jeddah LOVES The Usos. Superstar reactions for those boys. Of note, they changed the arena set up, allowing regular fans to be opposite the hard cam rather than Saudi royalty. The fans I could see seemed a lot more enthused than the kings and princes of past Saudi events, which made for a much improved atmosphere. As for the wrestling action itself, very standard fare which saw the Revival isolate one Uso for a while, working on body parts, before getting the hot tag to the other Uso (yeah, I can't tell them apart, sue me). Stereo superkicks put away the Top Guys.
Winners: The Usos (at 7:15) Basic action, but fine for warming the crowd up. (**)
Of note, as the show starts, both the voiceover guy, Michael Cole and Renee Young all mention that the show is taking place in "Jeddah, Saudi Arabia". In the past, WWE have simply referred to "Jeddah", seemingly trying to distance themselves from the heat of being associated with such a controversial country. And on that note, Renee Young is the only woman working on the show- still covered head to toe in a dress even though her role on commentary is largely off-screen. The commentators all mention how hot it is, recorded at 90 degrees but feeling like 100 (that's 32-37 in actual degrees. Bloody American measurement system).
Match 1: WWE Universal Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Baron Corbin
They've been billing this show as "equal to, or possibly exceeding Wrestlemania", so it's fitting that we start with a Universal Championship match, just like Wrestlemania 35. Seth has a snazzy red and white outfit on, maybe a take on the Avengers suits? Not sure. He removes his top to reveal taped ribs, which of course is the immediate target of the challenger Corbin as the match gets underway. Rollins spends the match fighting from underneath, getting in the occasional hope spot but getting cut off by the Lone Wolf at various points. Corbin debuts a new move where he lifts Seth up in a back suplex and spins him off his shoulder- almost a reverse Storm Breaker. Maybe Corbin's been watching some Will Ospreay matches. Baron gets increasingly frustrated with his inability to keep Seth down, and starts arguing with the referee over the count. He goes overboard on this, and finally referee John Cone snaps and shoves Corbin back, right into a roll up for the 3 count!
Winner: Seth Rollins (at 11:15). I like Corbin's style, and the story that told here was simple and effective with Rollins' injury. The shenanigans with the referee clearly sets up another Rollins vs. Corbin match for the next PPV. This was a nice way to kick proceedings off. The crowd really liked Rollins- they're not red-hot, but way better than previous Saudi crowds. The Universal Champion's night is not over here, though... (**1/2)
Post-match, an enraged Corbin hits Rollins with The End Of Days. Of course, this prompts the entrance of Mr. Money In The Bank, Brock Lesnar, with Paul Heyman and the MITB briefcase in tow. Heyman trips getting in the ring and drops the briefcase, so Rollins seizes the opportunity to attack Lesnar with a steel chair, then Curb Stomp him on the case. No cash in, so Lesnar may get that opportunity another day. That is, unless he changes his target...
Match 2: WWE Intercontinental Championship: Andrade vs. "The Demon" Finn Balor
No Zelina Vega with Andrade. Finn gets the big dramatic Demon entrance, complete with Demon minions doing some kind of weird interpretive dance around him. Cole says that Finn going to his Demon persona shows the level of respect he has for Andrade as a competitor. Andrade gets a fast start with a flying knee and a hammerlock DDT attempt, which Balor avoids. They settle into a competitive match, which is a little strange considering Balor's last 2 Demon appearances were basically squashes. Graves talks about how much he was looking forward to this contest, which Cole co-signs by reminding viewers that the IC title has long been considered the "workhorse's championship". Balor hits a sick double stomp from the top to the back of Andrade's neck for a convincing near fall. Andrade lands a cool handspring Pele kick. Hammerlock DDT connects around the 10 minute mark for a near fall. Balor lands a powerbomb (last established as part of his Demon arsenal), followed by the shotgun dropkick. He looks to follow up with the Coup De Grace, but Andrade meets him on the top rope. Balor lands a sick flying DDT from the top. Great "limit breaker" offense, Coup De Grace follows for the win.
Winner: "The Demon" Finn Balor (at 11:35). When this match was announced, it seemed like Finn becoming the Demon was an extra lick of paint, a bit of spectacle for the Saudi show, but the way Andrade was presented and how the match panned out, it seems like it was designed to elevate the Mexican superstar, even in a loss. He lasted far longer than Corbin and Lashley did against the Demon, in fact the only people to really have a competitive match with Demon Balor in main roster WWE are Seth Rollins and AJ Styles- not bad company for Andrade to be in. (***)
Match 3: Roman Reigns vs. Shane McMahon
Drew McIntyre made his entrance to watch his "friend" Shane O Mac's back. The Scottish Psychopath distracts Reigns to start the match, allowing Shane to get the early advantage. Shane dominates offense for the most part, with McIntyre getting in a quick cheap shot behind the referee's back, but overall his involvement isn't enough to justify the 49 year old part-time wrestler getting the best of Roman Reigns in a straight up wrestling match. Shane locks in a really shitty looking triangle choke, which Graves points out isn't locked up right, but Reigns sells like he's dying, so commentary change their tune. He does eventually escape the hold with a powerbomb counter. Shane steals Roman's move and hits the Spear for a 2 count. Shane looks to fly, but is met with a Superman punch. A ref bump allows McIntyre to race in and hit the Claymore Kick, allowing his boss, I mean, friend, to get the victory.
Winner: Shane McMahon (at 9:15). I mean, the actual finish itself was fair enough. The Claymore is sold as a devastating move and it makes sense that it would be enough to get the evil boss Shane the tainted victory. But Shane controlled a lot of that match with little help from Drew, which pushed the limits of believability way too far. (*)
Match 4: Lucha House Party vs. Lars Sullivan
They show clips of Lars' interview on Smackdown before the match. It's good shit (TM Vince McMahon). Basic formula stuff. It's 3 on 1, but the luchadors have to tag in and out, so they try and create movement and take Lars out but they're mostly ineffective. Lars goes for the diving headbutt on Kalisto, but his lucha buddies stop it and take the fight to the Freak. The ref DQ's them for the illegal triple teaming. Kalisto and Metallik hold Lars in place on the mat for Dorado to hit a top rope splash, then Metallik hits the diving elbow. LHP go to leave, but Lars catches them on the ramp and obliterates them. Nice knowing you, boys.
Winner: Lars Sullivan (via DQ at 5:15). Effective in continuing to establish Lars as a dominant monster. LHP were good opponents due to their size, accentuating the physical presence of Sullivan. Time to get moving with Lars having matches on the main roster now that we've gotten past anxiety attacks and forum posts, this was his first official match despite debuting on the Raw After Mania (*1/2)
Match 5: Randy Orton vs. Triple H
Gotta say, the video package before this match was top notch. You can criticise WWE for a lot of things, but the production of video packages is a great strength of theirs. There's also a great camera shot as Triple H spits his water out during his entrance, and you can see Orton glaring at him through the shadows. Really helps sell the intensity. The start of the match doesn't really match that intensity, though. Slow, deliberate, dare I say, boring stuff. Orton wears HHH down with his signature chinlock for a long time. Hunter eventually creates some separation with a facebuster. He soaks in the crowd response- you get the feel that Saudi loves their legends a lot more than the current crop, Balor vs. Andrade was almost a church atmosphere, but a much more exciting match. Hunter pops the crowd with a "Suck It", but runs into an Orton snap powerslam for a near fall. An RKO attempt is blocked, and the HHH spinebuster connects. The action is heating up a bit here. Pedigree attempt, back drop counter, Orton hits the RKO for a very close call. Orton goes for the Punt (I don't think he's actually hit it since 2009), HHH counters and hits the Pedigree. 2 and 3/4. They go to the outside and Hunter delivers the back suplex onto the announce table. And again. And again. 5 times in total, but the sucker doesn't break. Back to the ring, Triple H is in control... and runs right into the RKO for the 3 count.
Winner: Randy Orton (at 25:45) Feel like they could have achieved that in 15:45 and the match would be much better for it. The first half came across like they were killing time, although it did pick up nicely down the stretch. The crowd really liked both men, which helped the atmosphere of the match a lot. (**1/2)
They show video of the new 24/7 Title being defended. Jinder Mahal pins R-Truth on the tarmac at the airport, Truth regains the title by pinning a sleeping Mahal on the plane. Okay, out of the new stuff WWE are trying, I like the 24/7 comedy. I know it's technically not new, but eh, it's still fun. WOAT belt design though.
Match 6: Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman
Lashley has a podium and new lighting for him to strike his bodybuilder poses. No Lio Rush in sight. He really might be done with the company, they usually get all hands on deck for these Saudi shows (as long as you have a penis). Braun enters second and throws the podium off the stage. Well, that was fun while it lasted. They start fast with shoulder blocks and tests of strength, then they get on the move. Braun does a sweet forward roll, Lashley does a leapfrog. Hella impressive agility from the super heavyweights. Lashley suplexs Braun on the steel ramp. Braun throws Lashley off the top rope, and follows up with 2 powerslams (first one standing, second one running) for the win.
Winner: Braun Strowman (at 8:20). Wise move to keep this match relatively short in the Jeddah heat. Braun was absolutely pouring sweat post-match. But both men worked hard and pushed themselves to their physical limits, it was a lot of fun seeing those two monsters battle. (***)
Match 7: WWE Championship: Kofi Kingston (c) (w/ Xavier Woods) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Fast pace from these guys to start. Kofi is appropriately aggressive given the attacks on him by Ziggler in recent weeks (thank you, video packages). Ziggler hits a strong dropkick to gain some control. Kofi rallies with an SOS for a near fall. Kofi climbs the ropes and does his trust fall dive onto Ziggler on the outside, but doesn't hit it clean. Ziggler throws Kofi into the stairs, and when Xavier checks on his New Day teammate, Dolph blasts him with a super kick. Back in the ring, the referee turns his head away from the action for no apparent reason, allowing Woods to hit Ziggler with a jumping enziguri. Kingston takes the opportunity to hit Trouble In Paradise and retain the gold.
Winner: Kofi Kingston (at 10:15). These two men have had much better matches in the past. The heat must really be doing a number on these guys. This was still decent action though. Much like the opener, the finish is obviously part of a bigger story where there will be a rematch. (**)
Post-match, Ziggler is furious backstage and wants a steel cage match with Kingston. There you go.
Match 8: 50 Man Battle Royal
Well, good news, the ring didn't collapse. Bad news is, you can't execute wrestling moves with 50 bodies in a 20 X 20 ring. The Singh Brothers get crowd surfed out (and it looks like EC3 got eliminated before that opening spot could even finish, because fuck him for making a good career in Impact Wrestling, amiright?) If you were hoping for some cool surprises with 50 guys, sorry to disappoint, but they were able to make up the numbers fairly comfortably with 205 Live guys and the tag division. Akam of AOP is back from injury, so I guess that's cool. The final 6 comes down to Ali, Ricochet, Samoa Joe, Elias, Cesaro and Saudi Arabia's own Mansoor (who recently debuted on NXT). Comes down to Elias and Mansoor, and the hometown boy backdrops the songbird of our generation out of the ring to claim the victory!
Winner: Mansoor (at approx 7:00) The crowd lost their minds for this, the biggest reaction to anything on the show by far. Mansoor did a nice interview post match with Saxton. He does appear to have a lot of upside based on his first couple of NXT appearances, so this was cool (*1/2)
The commentary team run down some scheduled matches for WWE's next PPV, Stomping Grounds, on June 23. Among the bouts are a Universal Championship rematch between Seth Rollins and Baron Corbin, and Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler in a steel cage for the WWE Championship. Gee, WWE matchmakers work fast. It's almost like they planned this stuff in advance.
Match 9: Goldberg vs. The Undertaker
Here we go. Big time entrances, with Goldberg getting the full security walkout, pyro, the works. His forehead has a little blood, so I'm guessing he headbutted his locker room door again. Undertaker has druids, torches, big screen effects and a ton of flame pyro. This is next level spectacle, and really does feel like Mania.
They stare down and Goldberg does Undertaker's throat slash taunt. Taker pushes Goldberg away and he bounces back off the ropes with two hellacious Spears! Shades of the Goldberg vs. Brock matches (the good ones). Those two massive shots get a two count on the Deadman, and he does his trademark sit-up. Great start.
From here though, it starts to get very messy. Taker goes for a chokeslam, and Goldberg powers out. Fine. Then Goldberg grabs a leg and rolls through for the worst looking kneebar in the history of kneebars. Even WWE fans who have never seen a MMA fight know that hold was weak as piss. Taker reaches the ropes. Goldberg goes for a Spear in the corner, Taker moves. It appears Goldberg hit his head on the ring post, as he comes up woozy with a lot of blood coming from his head. Not quite Dustin at Double Or Nothing bad, but probably the most blood seen on WWE programming in a long time. Taker goes into his signature offense. Old School, Chokeslam and Tombstone. Goldberg appears genuinely hurt and struggling to do his part in taking these moves. Both men hit simultaneous clotheslines and we reset.
Trading punches. Taker hits the running clothesline. He barely hoists Goldberg up for Snake Eyes, but Goldberg is able to come back with another big Spear. Okay, that was cool, maybe Big Bill has a second wind and can finish this well. He goes for the Jackhammer, but doesn't get all the way over and spikes Undertaker on his head. Scary stuff. After spending a few moments talking to the referee, Goldberg covers and Taker gets the shoulder up for a near fall. Goldberg goes for a Tombstone, Taker goes to reverse it, but both men fall down. It's as bad as when Reigns and Taker tried to pull this spot off at Wrestlemania 33. Taker quickly hits a Chokeslam (that got no height whatsoever) for the 3 count.
Winner: Undertaker (at 8:35) Taker's face after the match said it all. He couldn't even hide his look of disappointment at how that went down. It started awesome. You could see what they were trying to achieve, and the initial spectacle was amazing. Then Goldberg cracked his head wide open, and it all went downhill dramatically. Goldberg Tweeted after the match that he was knocked out from that move, and he thought he could continue. The last couple of spots were asking a lot from two men in their 50s even taking that accident out of the equation. I kind of hope that's it for both wrestlers after that one. Goldberg had that kick-ass war with Brock at WM33, and that's how I'll choose to remember him. Undertaker hasn't had a good match since the series with Brock in 2015. He's a legend, I love him, but every outing gets worse and worse, and this (although not really his fault) was the worst of them. Both men are proud, though, and I can see them both wanting to redeem themselves for this display. (1/2*)
This show started nicely, with all the spectacle these international stadium shows bring, and a Saudi crowd that seemed into the action. The hot weather had to be a factor in some of the matches falling short of expectations, with most wrestlers sweating profusely before the opening bell even rang. That said, Triple H vs. Randy Orton was probably Triple H's best standard wrestling match for a few years, and the undercard featured two wildly different battles in Balor vs. Andrade and Braun vs. Lashley that were both extremely entertaining. This was on its way to being a surprisingly high quality event until the unfortunate way Goldberg vs. Taker went down. Maybe Australia can have back the Super Showdown event now?
Overall Score: 6.5/10
Until next time, take care,