WWE Crown Jewel 2023 Review (05/11/2023)
By Mick Robson
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I watch a bit of wrestling YouTube in my downtime- also have a couple of channels of my own- and one creator who has really made a name for himself in recent months, posting daily content, is SantiZap. He recently made a tier list ranking the WWE Saudi shows, and it really displayed how far they've come.
Removing the obvious political and ethical implications for the moment, taking it purely as a "wrestling entertainment" POV, the shows in the first few years weren't good at all. Loaded with glitz, glamour and star power, but they were basically glorified house shows, with some truly embarrasing matches on there- DX vs. Brothers of Destruction, Taker vs. Goldberg, Goldberg vs. The Fiend... yeaaaah, not a good time.
Thankfully, the Saudi shows have turned a corner in recent years. They're now a proper part of WWE canon, meaning that the matches and events on the show are built around what happens on weekly WWE programming.
This year, at Crown Jewel, the main event features a star on the rise. The rapidly surging LA Knight gets his shot at glory, challenging the WWE Undisputed Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Raw's World Heavyweight Champion is on the line, as Seth Rollins puts it up against a bitter and angry Drew McIntyre. And we get the rare opportunity to see John Cena in a singles match, as he takes on the enforcer of the Bloodline, Solo Sikoa.
Let's do this!
Match 1: Sami Zayn def. JD McDonagh (at 9:40)
Thoughts: Good way to warm up the crowd, as Zayn continues his never-ending crusade against the Judgment Day by taking on the pledger of sorts in JD. McDonagh takes a nasty bump where he doesn't rotate properly off a monkey flip, crashing into the ropes. He wrestles most of the match with a terrible looking welt on his side that continued to get bigger and brighter, which I'm guessing started from that awkward bump. Cool finish as Sami hits the Helluva Kick, THEN the Blue Thunder Bomb for the win. I'm a big advocate for the Blue Thunder Bomb ending matches, it's been a long-standing pet peeve of mine that it generally doesn't. Fun, physical action and the crowd loved Sami.
Star Rating: ***1/4
Match 1: World Heavyweight Championship- Seth Rollins (c) def. Drew McIntyre (at 18:20)
Thoughts: Two pros that absolutely had their working boots on. The story of Seth having a dodgy back from the Nakamura feud continued here, as Drew often zeroed in on the back to gain an advantage. Each man hits their big moves- Seth with the Pedigree and Stomp, Drew with the Future Shock DDT and Claymore. Lots of big moves and kickouts, including a nail-biting one where Rollins misses a Phoenix Splash and McIntyre hits a Claymore. Really thought we were getting a new champ for a second there. Ultimately, it takes another Pedigree, immediately followed by the Stomp, to keep the Scottish Warrior down for 3.
Star Rating: ***3/4
Post-match, Damian Priest comes down with his MITB briefcase, and looks set to cash in- but is attacked by a hooded figure. The hooded figure reveals themselves to be Sami Zayn, who steals the briefcase as Michael Cole cheers him on on commentary. I get the Judgment Day has been a pain in the ass, but Priest was well within his rights to cash in, he hadn't done anything wrong on this night.
Match 2: Women's World Championship- Rhea Ripley (c) def. Shayna Baszler, Raquel Rodriguez, Zoey Stark and Nia Jax (at 11:05)
Thoughts: Fast and furious action here, with everyone having moments to shine. Nia Jax- who recently returned to WWE- has lost a lot of weight but still considerably bigger than the rest of the division, so was an effective wrecking ball in spurts here. Baszler looked like a killer locking in multiple submission simultaneously. The finish looked a little weird, with Raquel crawling into a cover while it was clear that Rhea was going to drop Stark right there with a Super Riptide, but asides from that weirdness this was a decent showcase of Raw's women's division, and Ripley continues to look like a big star with a dedicated special entrance in Saudi Arabia before the big victory.
Star Rating: **3/4
A video package aired with Bayley, LA Knight, Drew McIntyre and Bianca Belair talking glowingly about a Saudi Arabian airline. This felt like gross propaganda considering the history of the Saudi government, and why regardless of the quality of the wrestling shows, I'm never really glad about them taking place.
Match 3: Solo Sikoa def. John Cena (at 16:10)
Thoughts: A far, far better outing than Cena had at Mania vs. Austin Theory. It seemed like Cena was motivated and actually bumped around making Solo look great. He even busted out a top rope cross body to sell the desperation to beat Sikoa. And while I thought this match was simply there to break the 5 year singles match losing streak of Cena, whether it be a roll up or flash AA or whatever... nope. Solo went over strong by hitting many Samoan Spikes in a row. First, three big ones, then a bunch of rapid fire ones to a limp Cena. Cole & Barrett on commentary sold the story HARD of Cena being past it, and that this could potentially be Cena's last match, but this far exceeding the "phone it in" effort that WrestleMania 39 looked like, and got Solo over as a monster in the process.
Could definitely do without Cena blatantly calling so much shit though, especially after taking the Spikes.
Star Rating: ***1/4
The music of The Miz hits and he makes his way out for an unadvertised edition of Miz TV! His guest- Saudi actor and comedian Ibrahim Al Hajjaj. Never heard of him but the crowd loves him and he seems like a friendly, affable sort. Miz is kinda babyfacing it up after his confrontation with Gunther this past week on Raw.
The music of Grayson Waller interrupts and he instructs a bunch of stagehands to change the set to the Grayson Waller Effect talk show. Miz can't believe it. "I've been here 20 years and he's been here 20 minutes!" Waller tries to get Ibrahim on side but he sticks with Miz TV. Waller takes offense to this and kicks him in the gut. Miz boots him and Ibrahim hits a flying kick as well. Miz with the Skull Crushing Finale, Ibrahim with a People's Elbow that was at least better than Snoop Dogg's to end the segment. This was okay. Good use of a popular local celeb and Waller to solidify the apparent face turn of Miz. And I'm always happy to see my local boy Grayson Waller get a featured spot on a WWE PLE!
Logan Paul is driving some kind of dune buggy through the desert. We then get a video of him driving through the streets of Riyadh and then into the arena. (I should mention, we're in a far smaller arena with a smaller crowd compared to the stadiums of past WWE Saudi shows. Wikipedia lists the capacity of this venue as 13,000, which seems about right). Logan drives the vehicle onto the stage for his match.
Match 4: United States Championship- Logan Paul def. Rey Mysterio (c) (at 17:55)
Thoughts: Definitely not the best Logan Paul match I've seen, but I'm happy with the result. I think Logan can do a lot for that title and WWE by taking it everywhere he does. This match dragged and got clunky in spots, although we still got a bit of cool stuff, like a moonsault fall away slam by Logan. Rey fought from behind through most of the match, due to the size disadvantage and the attack to the back and ribs by Paul. Rey started to build momentum, but one of Logan's cronies slipped him some brass knux. Santos Escobar grabbed the knux and chased off the minion, but Logan got them back after Santos left the knux on the apron. The 619 hits, but Logan knocks Rey out of the air with a loaded punch. This was decent in the end, but I expected far more from this.
I wonder if this match was affected by less rehearsal time? Logan went from boxing training for Dillon Danis to wrestling Rey Mysterio on PPV a couple of weeks later. That said, Logan's set the bar so high as a celebrity wrestler that I'm disappointed in an average to good match, which says a lot for him in general.
Star Rating: ***
Match 5: WWE Women's Championship- Iyo Sky (c) def. Bianca Belair (at 16:35)
Thoughts: My attention waned a little in this match, and I think the crowd were a bit the same, as they didn't react to much. Sky attacked the leg, and Belair sold her knee throughout. One of Belair's biggest calling cards is her crazy athleticism, and she had to put the brakes on big time here to sell the pain. Bayley interferes in the match, and some miscommunication leads to Sky accidentally taking out Bayley. Kairi Sane returned to help Iyo- big moment- and her attack on Belair almost leads to Sky retaining by countout. Belair makes it inside at 9, and Iyo immediately hits the moonsault to retain!
Star Rating: **1/2
Post-match, Kairi celebrates with Iyo and hits Belair with an In-Sane Elbow from the top. Bayley looks a bit put out as Cole recalls that Bayley sent Kairi out of WWE a few years ago.
Match 6: Cody Rhodes def. Damian Priest (at 11:05)
Thoughts: The crowd comes alive again for Cody! Whoaaaaaa. Good chemistry here between Cody and Priest IMO. The fight spills to the outside early, and over to the announce table before long. Priest wants a Razor's Edge through the table, but Cody slips out and looks for Cross Rhodes. Damian reverses into the Reckoning on the table. The crowd chants "one more time" and Priest wags his finger at them, leading to a "You Suck" chant. We get a couple of Cody Cutters, but Priest survives. We get interference from Finn Balor and Dominik Mysterio, then Jey Uso comes out to even up the odds! We ultimately get three Cross Rhodes chained together in the ring to end this one.
Star Rating: ***1/4
We get confirmation via a video package set to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs"- War Games returns to Survivor Series in 3 weeks time.
Match 7: WWE Undisputed Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) def. LA Knight
Thoughts: I didn't really buy into the possibility of LA Knight winning the big one here- he's too new and too disconnected from the Bloodline drama to be the one. That said, it was nice to see Knight in this setting and he didn't look out of place. The people were behind him with big "YEAHs" as he swung big punches in the early going. Knight looked for his big elbow drop after playing to the crowd, but he got blasted with a Superman Punch. He eventually hits it following a leaping superplex, but Roman kicks out. Jimmy Uso gets involved, and puts Roman's foot on the ropes after taking a BFT. LA puts Jimmy through the announce table, only to take a Spear through the barricade, Spear in the ring, scene. Fairly standard stuff as far as Roman and the Bloodline goes. Not that I expected Knight to win, but the way we got to this point was about as basic and uninspired as it gets. It's all jumped the shark a little for me.
Star Rating: ***1/4
We started the show off strong and it soon went downhill. Not that anything was overly terrible, more like a sea of "meh". And based on the talent and the feuds involved, nothing should be "meh". Big moment of Logan winning the US title, big return in Kairi Sane, banger opening match between Seth and Drew. Watching this show wouldn't be the biggest waste of your time, but missing it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either. Roll on Survivor Series!
Overall Score: 7/10
Until next time, take care.