This past weekend in wrestling was eventful, but not for all the right reasons.
WWE returned to Saudi Arabia for its Super ShowDown. Despite considerable hype, the show was a letdown, and ended with a main event between The Undertaker and Bill Goldberg that the company would rather soon forget.
There is no way around this: The Undertaker and Bill Goldberg combined for a cringe-worthy match on Friday in Saudi Arabia in the main event of the Super Showdown.
The match was a disastrous perfect storm. The two icons—who are 54 (Taker) and 52 years old (Goldberg)—were asked to close out a show in the stifling Jeddah heat. ’Taker did not have control of Goldberg during his trademark Tombstone piledriver, and Goldberg fortunately avoided serious injury. Goldberg also did not have control during his Jackhammer, nearly causing serious damage to ’Taker. The highlight of the match was the ending, as it meant there would be no further chance for injury.
Unlike Shawn Michaels, who returned to the ring in Saudi Arabia at November 2018’s Crown Jewel show for a tag match (which he helped carry), The Undertaker and Goldberg were set up to fail in a one-on-one clash.
The extent to which Goldberg hurt his head banging it against a door before the match is still undetermined, but this match was a bad idea even if both stars were working at full capacity. ’Taker needs someone who can sell for him, and there is a plethora of stars on the roster that could further enhance his legendary status (AJ Styles, Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor, Rusev, and Shinsuke Nakamura immediately come to mind).
With a calling card of unbridled intensity, Goldberg was never known for his wrestling—which made this matchup even more mystifying. The match would have been saved by simply making it a tag. Instead, we were treated to botched spots that could have left either man with tragic spinal injuries.
Moving forward, especially with nine more years remaining in the 10-year deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, WWE needs to use this match as a template for how not to place their talent in situations that are destined to fail.
More positively, New Japan Pro Wrestling also held its Dominion show, which is where Kenny Omega first tasted IWGP heavyweight gold when he defeated Kazuchika Okada at last June’s show. This year featured the return of Chris Jericho, who failed to take the belt from Okada—but set up the potential for a rematch, as well as introduced a new program between Jericho and New Japan “Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi.
There was zero chance that Okada would lose his IWGP heavyweight title Jericho. The question entering this match boiled down to its finish: how would they keep Jericho strong in defeat?
The loss did not hurt Jericho, as Okada used a cradle pinfall to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (the same finish was used in the first fall of Okada’s best-of-three falls match against Kenny Omega last June). A program was also set up between Jericho and fellow legend Hiroshi Tanahashi, who broke up the post-match carnage Jericho was inflicting onto Okada. Jericho-Tanahashi is another match that will garner worldwide attention in pro wrestling.
Jericho’s stock remains high, and his next big test is ensuring Hangman Page attains superstar status in their match together in August at AEW’s “All Out.”
Also, at Dominion, Jon Moxley continued to build on the momentum he gatheredwith his appearance at All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view.
Moxley defeated the vastly underrated Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States title at the Best of the Super Juniors finale in Tokyo on Wednesday, then crushed one of New Japan’s young lions, Shota Umino, on Sunday in the opening bout of the Dominion show in Osaka. After the match, he announced his intention to enter NJPW’s famed G1 tournament.
Moxley will next appear for All Elite Wrestling at Fyter Fest on June 29 and AEW is likely to recognize the fact that Moxley is a New Japan champ, Sports Illustrated has learned from multiple sources.
WWE would never admit that one of their stars holds a title in another company. For AEW, it is better to present themselves as everything WWE is not. Even a simple move like recognizing Moxley as IWGP U.S. champ will be applauded for not insulting anyone’s intelligence.
Moxley will take the week to recuperate from his long trip back to the continent. He will work next weekend, along with his wife Renee Young, who will be doing signings, for Northeast Wrestling in Connecticut on Friday and New Jersey on Saturday.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.