WWE’s “Crown Jewel” show in Saudi Arabia took viewers back to the future.
Largely reminiscent of the “King of the Ring” tournaments booked by Pat Patterson that took place during house shows from 1985–1989, the show featured a World Cup tournament in which nothing of real significance took place.
The World Cup matches served as a showcase for a fan base intent on seeing the stars of the WWE perform, with a few other title matches spread across the card. The two major moments from “Crown Jewel” were Brock Lesnar regaining the Universal championship and the in-ring return of Shawn Michaels, with the rest of the event a glorified WWE house show.
WWE Crown Jewel: Results, updates and highlights from Saudi Arabia
A partnership between WWE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led to the creation of the “Crown Jewel” show, which took place only weeks after the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a murder linked directly to the Kingdom. Despite the controversy, WWE CEO Vince McMahon chose to honor the contractual agreement and run the show as advertised.
Unlike the vast majority of wrestling shows, “Crown Jewel” highlighted a contrast between darkness and light. WWE could have made a loud statement by postponing or canceling their show, but chose to collect a monstrous check instead. Yet it was a powerful moment when Hulk Hogan was introduced at the beginning of the show, as the sight of both children and adults smiling, cheering, and mimicking Hogan’s trademark hand-to-ear motion certainly showed that this was a show that many people in Saudi Arabia were eager to attend.
Here are the results:
• Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev on the pre-show to retain the United States championship
• Rey Mysterio defeated Randy Orton in the quarterfinals of the World Cup tournament
• The Miz defeated Jeff Hardy in the quarterfinals of the World Cup tournament
• Seth Rollins defeated Bobby Lashley in the quarterfinals of the World Cup tournament
• Dolph Ziggler defeated Kurt Angle in the quarterfinals of the World Cup tournament
• SmackDown tag team champions Cesaro and Sheamus defeated the New Day’s Kofi Kingston and Big E
• The Miz defeated Rey Mysterio in the World Cup tournament semi-finals
• Dolph Ziggler defeated Seth Rollins in the World Cup tournament semi-finals
• AJ Styles defeated Samoa Joe to retain the WWE championship
• Brock Lesnar defeated Braun Strowman to win the WWE Universal championship
• Shane McMahon filled in for an “injured” Miz to win the World Cup tournament
• Shawn Michaels and Triple H defeated Kane and The Undertaker when Triple H pinned Kane
And here are my top three takeaways from the show:
Brock Lesnar is, once again, the new WWE Universal champion.
For those keeping score, Braun Strowman is now, once again, a babyface and Lesnar is a heel.
The story that was told showed the opportunistic Lesnar capitalize after Raw GM Baron Corbin hit Strowman in the face with the Universal title right before the match started. Strowman then kicked out of four of Lesnar’s F5 finishers, before ultimately succumbing to the fifth F5.
Strowman now begins his chase for the title, stepping in for Roman Reigns as WWE’s new top protagonist.
Renee Young joined the broadcast team to call the “Crown Jewel” show.
Women were not allowed to wrestle on the show, but WWE will champion the fact that a woman helped call the show. This is certainly noteworthy, but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is more permissive towards foreign women than female nationals. Young wore dark clothing but did not wear a veil, which foreign women are not required to do.
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Young has proven to be a fantastic addition to the broadcast team, but if WWE ever wants to be truly revolutionary during one of their trips to Saudi Arabia, then a Saudi woman should join the broadcast booth.
Shawn Michaels returned to the ring at “Crown Jewel”.
Michaels, who mostly played his greatest hits, proved that he can still work an entertaining match in 2018, which is more than eight years after he “retired” following a loss to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 26.
The look of Michaels, whose head is completely shaven, is jarring for longtime fans of “The Heartbreak Kid”. And yes, there is irony in the fact that the 53-year-old Michaels—who performed well but looked his age—is referred to as “Kid”.
The hyperbole from play-by-play announcer Michael Cole during the match regarding Michaels’s skill level at the age of 53 was on overdrive. It was also interesting to hear color commentator Corey Graves connect Michaels to the Eagles’ hit song “Desperado” after a moonsault to the outside of the ring. That song was also the entrance music for Terry Funk in ECW at the age of… 53. Yes, Shawn Michaels is somehow wrestling at the same age as Terry Funk did in ECW.
Overall, the match served its purpose. Michaels can now move forward, past his feud with The Undertaker.
The dream match for WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels vs. AJ Styles, is now one step closer to reality.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.