WrestleWatch- WWE Crown Jewel 2022 (05/11/2022)
By Mick Robson
The Saudi/WWE partnership is such a weird one. I'm not going to get into the political and ethical issues associated with it, considering I'm not adequately informed on it, and it's not what this site is about anyway. The fact that these events are called "BloodMoneyMania" in some circles is a pretty big clue, though.
No, the reason I'm calling WWE Saudi events weird is their tendency to veer into WWE 2K Universe Mode territory. From celebrity guest stars like Cain Velasquez and Tyson Fury, to getting Shawn Michaels to break his vow of never coming out of retirement after more than 8 years by offering an obscene amount of money... it's wild. These shows are canon, but also somehow seem to exist in their own little universe as well.
Today's example- social media superstar Logan Paul has a WWE Universal title match. He made his in-ring debut at WrestleMania 38, teaming with The Miz to take on Rey & Dominik Mysterio. His performance was well received, showing great athletic ability and a knack for performing to the camera. He did come across as a natural heel, particularly in mocking Eddie Guerrero and stealing his moves, but Miz turned on him post-match, turning him babyface and leading towards his first singles match at Summerslam. Paul vs. Miz received rave reviews, and was arguably match of the show outside of the Last Man Standing insanity between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.
Then we had an announcement of Roman Reigns vs. Logan Paul, and a press conference was held to promote the match. Logan said in response to Reigns calling himself the Head of the Table, "I am the table", earning a spot on Botchamania videos. Reigns has the experience advantage by a mile, but Logan Paul did go the distance in a (exhibition) boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. So, they're playing up the idea of "one lucky punch", something the Usos and the Honorary Uce, Sami Zayn, felt from Logan on Smackdown.
Alright. Welcome to Saudi Bizarro World. Let's do this!
Match 1: Brock Lesnar def. Bobby Lashley (at 6:00)
Thoughts: Damn! Starting off the show hot with these two. Lashley jumped Brock and basically dominated the match. Lesnar does pop off a quick trip to Suplex City, but he struggles through it. Brock got to show his guts and heart by surviving in the Hurt Lock for a significant length of time, telling the referee to piss off when he asked Brock if he quit. Brock eeks out the win by kicking off the turnbuckles while still in the Lock and pinning Lashley that way. So Lashley looks good for kicking ass for the duration, while Brock has the out of getting jumped before the bell and getting the win in the record books. Short and sweet for what I'm sure was a massive payday. (**3/4)
After the match, Lashley attacks Brock and applies the Hurt Lock again. Looks like this one ain't over, folks. And after their Rumble match earlier this year, Lashley & Brock are 1-1. Still waiting for that real banger match between these two, hopefully we get it in the decider.
We get an ad for Survivor Series, the next PLE. This year, they're bringing War Games to the main roster. I hope they use the audio of Regal yelling "War Games!" throughout the hype. The Survivor Series theme is War Pigs by Black Sabbath. Nice.
Backstage interview, where Byron Saxton is with newly crowned Women's Tag Team Champions Alexa Bliss and Asuka. Bliss gets distracted by Bray Wyatt's insect logo appearing on a TV next to her. For the love of God, don't make Alexa into a little spooky girl again! I'm just fine with the Goddess, or as close as she is in her current iteration.
Match 2: WWE Women's Tag Team Championship- Damage CTRL (Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky) def. Alexa Bliss & Asuka (c) (at 12:50)
Thoughts: Looks like Bliss and Asuka won the titles on Raw purely to get a title change on Crown Jewel, and make the show feel a little more important. Issue is, the Women's Tag Team Championship still feels pretty worthless under Triple H, just as it did under Vince. Hunter's doing a good job with the other championships, but this one still feels like an afterthought. Hot potato-ing the belts doesn't help the cause. The wrestling here was good but unspectacular, and the new/old Nikki Cross interfered to cost her old tag partner, Bliss, the gold. (***1/4)
A video shows Logan Paul and his entourage pulling up to the stadium. Byron interviews Logan and he talks up the "one lucky punch" theme. I saw something on Twitter where some people were mad about Saxton getting demoted from commentary to backstage interview duties. I'm just over here wondering how he's kept a job for so long, when I can hardly remember a decent soundbite from the guy in a decade or so. Jimmy Smith- who they just got rid of- was miles better, and didn't even have a wrestling background. Saxton out here basically stealing a living. But I digress.
Match 3: Steel Cage Match- Drew McIntyre def. Karrion Kross (w/ Scarlett) (at 13:00)
Thoughts: Forgot to mention it in the last match, but Scarlett is all covered up in Saudi Arabia, as are all the women on the show. Even the referees have to wear long sleeves. At least the wrestlers have gotten more creative in their outfits instead of just wearing baggy shirts.
As for the match, hard hitting affair. Kross' style, which I don't typically care for, actually came across better in the steel cage environment. Both men hit some of their bigger moves early, with a Doomsday Saito and Future Shock DDT thrown in there. Drew also hit a superplex which elicted a "this is awesome" chant (a little too generous). Scarlett got involved to mace McIntyre at one point. McIntyre was able to hit the Claymore, and when Scarlett locked the cage door, the Scottish Warrior climbed over the top to win. Hopefully, that's about it for these two. Kross still hasn't shown me what makes Triple H believe in him as a main event level star, but this was at the high end of what I've seen him deliver. Credit to McIntyre as well- he apparently wrestled this match with the flu. (***1/4)
We get another SUV arriving at the arena, and this time it's the Bloodline. Heyman mocks Byron for bringing up the "one lucky punch" talk, and says that Roman Reigns is the best offensive AND defensive wrestler, and there won't be an opportunity for that punch to be hit.
Match 4: The Judgment Day (Finn Balor, Damian Priest & Dominik Mysterio) (w/ Rhea Ripley) def. The OC (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson) (at 14:00)
Thoughts: Enjoyable commentary from Michael Cole & Wade Barrett in this one. As the Judgment Day makes their entrance, Cole references being a father to teens and trying to intervene when they're involved with someone wrong for them (in regards to Dominik and Rhea Ripley). Barrett rightly retorts that Dom is a 25 year old man- which makes me feel old AF. As far as The OC goes, Cole sends Twitter into a tizzy by directly name dropping "Bullet Club" and Anderson's NEVER Openweight Championship.
The action is fast and furious, and although Dominik is still useless in the grand scheme of things, he is better as a heel, ducking out of the battle at the right times, allowing Priest to be the heavy hitter for this team. The OC rally, and Styles sets up for the Phenomenal Forearm, only for Rhea Ripley to get physically involved and pull Styles off the apron. Balor is able to follow up with Coup De Grace for the win. So leader of the faction pins the leader of the other faction, but Rhea was the X-Factor. We're still in a world where Rhea is untouchable, even when she holds her own and does shit like BODY SLAM Gallows, so we need a lady on the OC side to even things up. Ripley did style her hair in the fashion of- in her words- "the late, great Beth Phoenix", so that could be a bit of foreshadowing... (***1/2)
Match 5: Braun Strowman def. Omos (at 7:20)
Thoughts: This match was better than it had any right to be, but that is damning with faint praise, as expectations were at basement level. Omos didn't have MVP in his corner (Saudi related issues), but seemed very confident on his own, which was commendable. He body slammed Strowman, holding him for a moment in an impressive feat of strength. Later on, Braun broke a choke bomb attempt and hit the powerslam for the win. Strowman took to Twitter the following morning to say "giants > flip floppers" and made a joke about the smaller guys on the roster bagging groceries. Steady on, Strowman, it wasn't THAT good... (***)
Match 6: Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship- The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) def. The Brawling Brutes (Ridge Holland & Butch) (at 10:45)
Thoughts: No Sheamus here, as he's enjoying his honeymoon/selling being injured. No Sami Zayn either- I believe that's his personal choice to not go to Saudi Arabia, as he has Syrian heritage and there's been conflict between those countries. Ridge has a nice tribute to Sheamus with the 10 Beats, and Butch includes enough joint manipulation to make Matt Riddle jealous. Jey Uso apparently has an injured wrist, but is working well through it. Holland connected with White Noise for a near fall, but at the end of the day, this was only going one way- Usos hit superkicks and an avalanche 1D for the 3 count. We the ones. (***1/4)
Match 7: Raw Women's Championship- Last Woman Standing- Bianca Belair def. Bayley (at 20:20)
Thoughts: This was a ton of fun, with both ladies wrestling with the level of aggression befitting their long feud- which dates back to before Bayley's knee injury in 2021. They utilise some unique weapons to try and get the job done, including a shipping crate and a golf cart, which Bianca uses to drive Bayley to ringside while she's laying on the roof. Belair then attempts to throw Bayley through the table from the golf cart roof, but it doesn't break. They recover quickly and Bayley goes through courtesy of a Bianca powerbomb. Bayley gets up at 9 and the battle rages on. Inventive finish involving a ladder, which I'm not sure if I liked- Bayley was wedged between the ladder and then the ladder was placed under the bottom turnbuckle, rendering Bayley "stuck"... but I dunno, it looked like she had plenty of room to move. Points for creativity though. (****)
Bray Wyatt made his entrance live in the stadium to a massive ovation. Wyatt started with "My name is Bray Wyatt" to thunderous cheers. He spoke about coming from a wrestling family and feeling the pressure to not only live up to expectations, but to surpass all of them. Without mentioning The Fiend by name, he talks about "wearing the mask" and feeling unstoppable- but he wasn't loved. The crowd chant "we love you", but Wyatt responds that they don't love him, they just love the idea of him. Uncle Howdy appears on the screen to address Wyatt, saying that he can fool these people, but not Howdy. "Remember how good the mask feels?" He ends with "Tell me I'm wrong".
Interesting build with this new version of Wyatt, where he gives the fans his "real self", but seems to be battling with his inner demons, brought to life by this Uncle Howdy character. And exactly who is Howdy? Bo Dallas? Shawn Michaels? Johnny Knoxville? Who knows...
Match 8: Undisputed WWE Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (c) def. Logan Paul (at 24:50)
Thoughts: This was an absolute blast. Love him or hate him, you can't deny Logan Paul is pretty damn good at this pro wrestling thing. I'm sure these matches are produced and rehearsed to death, but Logan is delivering in execution, timing, selling... he's a natural. He makes a grand entrance off a massive podium, to which Wade Barrett quips is copyright infringement.
The story of this is Roman Reigns not taking the YouTube kid seriously and paying for it. Paul is an exceptional athlete, and while he goes through some of the things we've seen him do in his other matches, like leapfrogs and Blockbusters, he also busts out a Buckshot Lariat, shocking everyone. Hits it clean as hell too. Eat your heart out, CM Punk! Reigns finally starts to wake up and knocks a springboarding Logan out of the sky with a massive right hand. He's still behind though, from the shocking offense to this point. Logan gets Reigns onto the announce table, takes his phone from one of his ringside friends, and records a video of himself hitting Reigns with a Frog Splash! Wild. We then get a bunch of run ins from the Usos, Logan's mates, Jake Paul and finally Solo Sikoa. Logan wipes them out with another huge dive, then gets back in the ring to take a Superman Punch and a Spear. Roman wins, but sells disbelief at the incredible fight Logan Paul put up! (****1/4)
The early Saudi shows were like glitzy house shows, with most wrestlers going through the motions, but in recent times, they've put forward Big 4 PPV (oh, sorry, PLE) level performances on these things. Most of the card ranged from good to very good for its spot, but they saved the best for last, with both Bianca vs. Bayley and Roman vs. Logan being stellar. The main event was pure sports entertainment spectacle, but it was undeniably awesome to watch. I was a Logan Paul hater, but he seems to have matured in his personal life and has clearly put in a ton of work to take pro wrestling seriously and be good at it.
Apparently, he tore his meniscus, MCL and possibly his ACL on that frog splash through the announce table. Some people are saying "work" to write him off, and I guess it could be, but what would be the point? He's already a special attraction performer, like Brock, he can just leave until he feels like coming back. So, I'm going to take it at face value, wish him a speedy recovery, and commend him for working hurt. Regardless, he deserves to be commended following that very worthy main event.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Until next time, take care.