WrestleWatch- WWE Crown Jewel 2021
So we're getting to the point where life is getting in the way of this site once again. Picked up a block of work for the remainder of the year which has occupied much of my time, which is great for my bank account, but not so much for my hobbies of watching and writing about pro wrestling and MMA.
I didn't get time to watch the last UFC Fight Night (Ladd vs. Dumont), let alone review it, and I don't know when I'm going to. Tomorrow's Fight Night, Costa vs. Vettori, has an interesting little storyline over the past few days where Paulo Costa appears to be having issues making weight, and after some back and forth, what was previously a middleweight main event will now take place at light heavyweight. Hopefully all the controversy leads to an exciting fight, definitely some bad blood there.
I did manage to squeeze in WWE's latest offering, and that's why we're here today. WWE Crown Jewel. After a year's absence due to the pandemic, WWE returns to Saudi Arabia with a loaded stadium show that they are getting paid millions upon millions to produce. And to be fair, on paper, it looks pretty great. Edge & Seth Rollins see their feud culminate inside Hell In A Cell. There's a No Holds Barred grudge match between the Almighty Bobby Lashley and Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg. Beefy boys Big E and Drew McIntyre clash for the WWE Championship. And last but certainly not least, a returning Brock Lesnar faces the Tribal Chief, Roman Reigns, for the Universal Championship.
On top of all that, the updated rosters from this year's WWE Draft come into effect immediately following Crown Jewel.
In the words of everyone's favourite farm boy/viking wanna-be, let's do this!
Kick-Off: The Usos defeat The Hurt Business (Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin) (at 10:40)
Thoughts: Solid opener, nothing spectacular but it was all well done. The biggest notable thing was the Riyadh crowd, which were red-hot and into the action immediately. They especially cheered the Usos here, who played a little to them with the old call and response "Uce" "Oh!" bit. Jey played the face? in peril for much of this match before the hot tag to Jimmy. Jimmy did his thing, and as things broke down, it was a double superkick, followed by a top rope splash from Jey, to start the night with a positive result for the Bloodline. (**3/4)
Match 1: Hell In A Cell- Edge def. Seth Rollins (at 27:40)
Thoughts: Easily the best match we've ever had at a WWE Saudi event. Wrestlers have been guilty of phoning it in on these shows, but Edge & Rollins fought with the brutality and intensity befitting a feud-ending match such as this. In the upper echelons of HIAC matches from the last decade or so. Rollins took a sick bump, as he was launched off the top rope into the Cell, then down through a table in a single spot. He would return the favour later with a sunset bomb off a ladder through another table on Edge. They got inventive with a steel chain wrapped around Seth's boot, but it would be Edge putting his feet to the best use, Stomping Rollins through a chair to claim victory in some poetic justice. Incredible match! (****1/2)
Match 2: Mansoor def. Mustafa Ali (at 10:00)
Thoughts: These two were put in the unenviable spot of following a classic HIAC, and while they had little chance of coming close to that greatness, they did quite well for themselves. Bit of backstory and significance here beyond the feuding former tag partner- it was the first time two Muslim men had been in a singles match on a WWE PPV. And although he played the heel here, Ali is truly a good guy- donating his pay for this show to charity. Smooth, fast paced action that still carried aggression, and again boosted by an enthusiastic crowd. This was fun, and saw Mansoor's Saudi Streak continue, pinning his mentor Ali with a leaping neckbreaker. (***)
Interesting post-match bit as a frustrated sore sport Ali puts the boots into Mansoor. Unfamilar music hits, and a hooded figure emerges, taking his sweet ass time getting to the ring. He unveils him to be Tarek Hamdi, who won a silver medal in karate at the Tokyo Olympics. I didn't know him as I didn't watch the Olympics, but he got a great reaction and kicked Ali's head off to make the save. Cool.
After some commercials, Titus O'Neil and Natalya are in the ring, promoting breast cancer awareness. They are joined by Saudi women who are breast cancer survivors, and each has a pink version of the Women's Championship.
Match 3: Raw Tag Team Championship- RK-Bro (Randy Orton & Riddle) def. AJ Styles & Omos (at 8:40)
Thoughts: Riddle showed some great strength and great chemistry with AJ, making me wish we got an extended singles feud between those two. Omos played his limited role well enough, and Orton did his thing, including catching a leaping Styles with the RKO. Fairly basic stuff asides from the finish, nothing bad, but more along the lines of the typical output for a Saudi show. Although, Riddle made his entrance on a camel, which was probably the funniest moment of the show, so points for that. (**1/2)
Match 4: Queen's Crown- Zelina Vega def. Doudrop (at 5:55)
Thoughts: Sadly, this was one of the longer matches of the whole tournament. The first year of Queen's Crown is a bust. On a positive note, huge bounce-back for Zelina Vega, who was fired a year earlier amidst controversy, eventually rehired and lost all her matches, before hitting her stride in this tournament. Maybe this victory can lead to a bigger spotlight for the talented Vega. (**)
Match 5: No Holds Barred, Falls Count Anywhere- Goldberg def. Bobby Lashley (at 11:25)
Thoughts: It definitely took its fair share of bells and whistles, but that was, by far, the most entertaining Goldberg match since Wrestlemania 33. Lashley got an underhanded advantage early by pulling a steel chain out of his tights as the match began, before working on the knee of the HOFer. Big Bill mounted an explosive comeback, with his Spear and Jackhammer looking more clean and impactful than he has in years. Punctuated by a massive Spear off the stage, this was a blast to watch, and I can't believe I'm saying that about a Goldberg match in 2021. (***1/2)
Match 6: King of the Ring- Xavier Woods def. Finn Balor (at 9:40)
Thoughts: Commentary and a couple of words from Woods during his entrance sold KOTR as the most important thing in the world to him. Would have been nice to see a little more on that during the build-up, rather than just relying of people being aware of Xavier's push to be King on social media. Anyway, this was a good face vs. face match-up, starting respectfully and technical before getting more gritty as time wore on. A huge Limit Break elbow gave Woods the biggest victory of his career. A thing of beauty, and the founder of UpUp DownDown celebrated like it was the WWE Championship. In both tournaments this year, I didn't completely love how the tournaments played out, but I'm a big fan of both of the winners. (***1/4)
Match 7: WWE Championship- Big E def. Drew McIntyre (at 18:25)
Thoughts: Wow, looking at the match time on Wiki, it certainly didn't feel like that. Both E and Drew went balls to the wall, hitting each other hard and often. Great displays of strength from both, as you might expect, and also a little new stuff, as McIntyre busted out a top rope bulldog as he fought to avoid the Big Ending off the ropes. Major moment and show of faith in Big E as McIntyre hit a solid Claymore, only for the champ to kick out, and shortly later, E spun Drew into the Big Ending for the win. Absolute hoss battle! (***3/4)
Match 8: Smackdown Women's Championship- Becky Lynch def. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair (at 19:25)
Thoughts: This was better than the triple threat main event of WrestleMania 35. Change my mind. These three worked together so, so well. Becky was right back in her groove- although Cole & McAfee were calling her "Big Time Becks" so much, I feel like they're going to properly change her ring name any day now. Sasha was Sasha- she ain't lying when she calls herself "The Standard". And Belair was a ball of energy, with some insane power moves on two of the Four Horsewoman. Really, it was a complete rehab job for the EST after the Summerslam debacle- not only did she get the most jaw-dropping spots of the match, but the finish was laid out in a way that made her look a million bucks- she hit the KOD on champ Becky, only for Sasha to throw her out of the ring, and it was Sasha, not Bianca, that fell victim to the surprise roll up from Becks. Brilliance! (****1/4)
Match 9: Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (w/ Paul Heyman) def. Brock Lesnar (at 15:20)
Thoughts: At this point, I'm sure Reigns and Lesnar could sleepwalk through a competent main event match. But this felt fresh, due to the switched dynamics- babyface Brock and heel Reigns. Lots of Brock trying to take Roman to Suplex City and the champ holding on for dear life. They battle to the outside before Brock takes a Superman Punch, knocking him off the apron- and then Roman hits a massive suicide dive. Amazing move, and shows the desperation of Reigns and the threat that Lesnar is. Shenanigans come into play, as we had the ongoing story of "whose side is Heyman on?" which was not resolved after a ref bump and "the wise man" tossing the title belt for use as a weapon between both men. Usos get involved, Roman cracks Brock in the skull with a belt... then a second official comes in to count the 3. Wait, the second ref had to have seen everything that happened, why is he going along with this and just counting the pin? As I write this following the post-Crown Jewel Smackdown, there was no explanation for this, just a lazy bit of booking really. Great match otherwise though. (***3/4)
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best show WWE has ever put on in Saudi Arabia. The wrestlers seemed up for this one- with the possible exception of the guys in the Raw tag title match, but they had a dude riding a camel, so they get a pass. But on a serious note, the world title matches- WWE, Universal, Women's- would not have looked out of place on a Mania or Summerslam. Same goes for the Hell In A Cell and the Goldberg match.
Also, a shout-out to the crowd. They were rowdy from the entrances in the Kick-Off show match. Maybe that electric atmosphere spurred the stars to work harder, it definitely elevated the overall feel and importance of the show. A lot to like and a lot that I'm sure I'll re-watch at some point.
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care,