See the full list of results and highlights from WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia.
After weeks of controversy, WWE put on its much-anticipated Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
The show was very much in flux after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. At points during the build-up it was doubtful whether the show would go on at all. Later, John Cena and Daniel Bryan were pulled from the card after reportedly refusing to participate in the event.
WWE responded to the controversy by refusing to mention the location of the event. A small chyron at the very beginning of the show that read “Riyadh” was the only indication of where the show was taking place. The announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Renee Young never once said what country they were in, choosing instead to say “here at Crown Jewel” or other similarly vague constructions. The effusive praise for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that made April’s Greatest Royal Rumble painful to watch was absent from Crown Jewel.
All in all, it was a very good show. Read below to see how the action unfolded.
Full match card (winners in bold)
• Pre-show: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Rusev — United States Championship match
• Eight-man World Cup tournament (click here for first-round matchups and bracket)
• AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe — WWE Championship match
• The New Day vs. The Bar (c) — SmackDown Tag Team Championship match
• Shawn Michaels and Triple H vs. Kane and the Undertaker
• Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman — WWE Universal Championship match
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
Nakamura and Rusev get things started with a match for Shinsuke’s United States Championship and Nakamura retains via a low blow. In typical Rusev and Nakamura fashion, the match featured plenty of hard striking.
Hulk Hogan kicks things off
Hulk Hogan, recently reinstated by WWE three years after he was fired for repeatedly using racial slurs on a sex tape, is serving as “host” of the show. The crowd in Riyadh popped big time for his return and Hogan cut a brief promo that notably avoided mentioning Saudi Arabia by name.
After some pyro, the PA announcer says, “Please welcome his excellency Turki Al-Sheikh.”
(Al-Sheikh is the Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority, the government agency partnering with WWE for the show.)
Hogan and Al-Sheikh met before the show.
Just moments ago, the @gsaksa kicked off the #WWECrownJewel in #Riyadh, #SaudiArabia. His Excellency @Turki_alalshikh was in attendance, greeting all the wrestlers who came halfway around the world for this historic sports event, including legendary American wrestler @HulkHogan. pic.twitter.com/HfpazvPTam— SAPRAC (@SapracOrg) November 2, 2018
Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton
Orton and Mysterio put on a vintage match that could make you forget their ages. The highlight was this sequence, which Orton capped by countering Mysterio’s 619 into a hanging DDT.
Mysterio wins but Orton hits him with an RKO after the bell.
The Miz vs. Jeff Hardy
These first-round World Cup matches are moving at a pretty good pace. Miz and Hardy gave the crowd a few moments to get them off their feet, including Hardy hitting the Whisper in the Wind.
It was The Miz, though, who earned the pin to advance to the final on the SmackDown side of the bracket against Mysterio.
Bobby Lashley vs. Seth Rollins
Lio Rush flew all the way to Saudi Arabia to serve as Lashley’s hype man but Lashley bows out to Rollins in the first round.
Lashley’s power was on full display and had the crowd riled up.
A popular fan theory had Lashley winning the tournament as a makeup for WWE inviting Hulk Hogan to take part in Crown Jewel, but that won’t be happening.
Kurt Angle vs. Dolph Ziggler
Angle and Ziggler put on a fun little match that allowed both competitors to show off their grappling skills from their time as top amateur wrestlers.
Angle cut a series of promos since being added to the field in which he said maybe for one night he could still be the best in the world. That made him a popular pick to win the tournament, but Ziggler was able to escape the ankle lock and pin Angle.
The New Day vs. The Bar
We put the World Cup tournament on hold for this SmackDown Tag Team Championship match. The New Day enter on a mechanized magic carpet, while Sheamus and Cesaro are accompanied by the Big Show.
It’s Kofi Kingston and Big E in the ring for the New Day in this one while Xavier Woods is on the outside to deal with Big Show. It was a fast-paced match with plenty of exciting spots.
Kofi showed some very cat-like reflexes in this spot with Cesaro.
With the referee out of position, Big Show landed a big punch to Big E and Sheamus is able to hit him with a throat kick and pin him to retain the belts.
The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio
It’s the SmackDown finals of the World Cup tournament, featuring a raspy-voiced Miz after he got kicked in the throat in his match against Jeff Hardy.
It was a fun, back and forth match that allowed both wrestlers to show their strengths. That was never more evident than in this opening sequence.
Mysterio kicked Miz in the shins to set him up for the 619 and connected on his signature move, but when Mysterio went to the top rope to finish his opponent off, Miz countered by raising his knees then quickly pinned Mysterio.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
Ziggler and Rollins meet to determine who will face The Miz in the championship match of the World Cup tournament.
With both men working injuries, the match gets off to a slow start but things pick up later with a series of highly entertaining roll-up attempts. Ziggler wins after some interference from Drew McIntyre that goes unnoticed by the referee.
Ziggler and The Miz will reignite their old Intercontinental Championship feud in the finals of the tournament. Per Shane McMahon’s stipulation, The Miz will be fired from SmackDown if he loses the match.
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe
We’re getting into the meat of the card now with AJ Styles defending his championship against Samoa Joe. This match was supposed to be AJ vs. Daniel Bryan but Bryan refused to travel to Saudi Arabia and instead was replaced by Joe, who attacked Styles this week on SmackDown.
AJ comes out more aggressively than usual in the latest installment of this longstanding feud, but Joe shows that he can also play AJ’s high-flying game.
Styles appeared ready to drop the belt when Joe put him in the Coquina Clutch but AJ escaped by wrenching Joe’s leg and went on to hit the Phenomenal Forearm to retain.
Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
Umm, holy crap. Brock Lesnar is your Universal Champion once again. He defeats Strowman in a squash match after Baron Corbin hits Braun in the back of the head with the title belt.
Braun kicked out of four F-5’s from Brock but couldn’t kick out of the fifth and Brock lifts the belt again.
Lesnar will now face AJ Styles at Survivor Series, WWE announces right after the match. Are we in for another long run where the Universal Title is absent from Raw? We’ll see after Survivor Series.
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
Drew McIntyre reluctantly agrees to leave Ziggler’s corner and Miz attacks Dolph before the bell. Miz hurts himself outside the ring and the referee tries to stop the match and declare Dolph the winner by forfeit. Instead, Miz is replaced by... Shane McMahon.
Shane wins the match and celebrates like crazy, much to the delight of the Saudi crowd.
Shawn Michaels and Triple H vs. Kane and the Undertaker
The old guys close out the show, which immediately seems like a great decision when you see how hyped the Riyadh crowd is for this. Everybody is on their feet right from the start.
Shawn Michaels looks like he’s having an absolute blast getting in the ring for the first time in eight years. He’s bald now but he hasn’t lost his spark.
The match is the sort of slow-plodding afair that you would expect from three guys in their fifties (plus 49-year-old Triple H), though the crowd is as hot as it’s been at any point in the night.
Triple H took what looked like a brutal bump, getting chokeslammed through the announce table by Kane.
Michaels even hit a moonsault onto the outside.
Michaels superkicks both Taker and Kane and Triple H slides in for the pin to win the match for Degeneration X.
And that’ll do it for this one. That was one of the better WWE pay-per-views of the year. It’s a shame it was clouded by controversy.