WWE returns to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday for Crown Jewel: the company's first event in the country since early 2020.
Roman Reigns will defend the Universal title against Brock Lesnar. Their story revolves around the role of Paul Heyman. While Heyman insists that he no longer has ties to Lesnar, Lesnar’s own statements saying otherwise has Reigns questioning Heyman’s loyalty.
The WWE Championship will be on the line as Big E defends against Drew McIntyre. After Big E accepted the former champion's challenge, the two have teamed in recent weeks, ultimately proving that they were able to co-exist.
The SmackDown Women’s title will also be on the line as Becky Lynch will defend against both Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks in a triple threat match. At Extreme Rules, Banks returned and attacked both women, setting this match in motion.
Other matches include Edge vs. Seth Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match; Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley; Xavier Woods vs. Finn Balor in the King of the Ring finals; Doudrop vs. Zelina Vega in the Queen’s Crown finals; Raw Tag Team Champions RK-Bro vs. AJ Styles and Omos in a title match; and Mansoor vs. Mustafa Ali.
On the pre-show, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos will face Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander in a non-title match. Join us for live coverage starting at 11 AM Eastern.
Kevin Patrick asked Paul Heyman backstage if he went over the Crown Jewel contract with Brock Lesnar. Heyman deflected the question and said he would enter the ring with Roman Reigns and would leave with the WWE Universal Champion. It wasn’t that subtle, but the talking heads made sure to point it out anyway.
The Usos defeated The Hurt Business (Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander)
This was good while it lasted. The Hurt Business were in control for 90% of this until the last few minutes of the match, which is definitely a new WWE trope.
Hurt Business got the heat early, isolating Jey from Jimmy as Alexander and Benjamin worked over Jey’s arm. Jey fought away from the corner he was being worked on, but was immediately taken down again. Jey finally made the hot tag to Jimmy. Alexander regained control after Benjamin hit a knee to Jimmy in the ropes.
Jey broke a pinfall attempt by Benjamin as everyone entered the ring, with Benjamin hitting paydirt on Jimmy for a nearfall. The Usos started laying out superkicks, then Jey connected with a splash on Alexander, pinning him for the win.
Edge defeated Seth Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match
This was excellent. Seth Rollins and Edge have the weirdest chemistry where the story of their feud isn’t interesting at all, but the matches are all great. This was no different and felt like the big blowoff match to end their feud.
Edge immediately took Rollins to the corner. Rollins connected with a springboard knee that took Edge to the floor. Edge cut Rollins off and threw him into the cage, then into the steps at ringside. Edge introduced two chairs then planted Rollins with the Edgecution DDT for a nearfall. Edge took out a piece of the chair and went for a crossface. Rollins grabbed the piece away from Edge, but Edge was able to get it out of Rollins’ hands.
Rollins gained control and threw Edge around the cell. He went to get weapons under the ring, but Edge came back with a baseball slide. Seth cut off Edge and started to set up for a conchairto but Edge locked in a crossface. Seth crawled over, grabbed the piece of chair introduced earlier, and stabbed it in Edge’s eye. Rollins then landed a frog splash for a two count.
Rollins introduced a table into the match, then planted Edge with a unprettier/killswitch for a nearfall. Rollins went for something on the top rope, but Edge shoved him off. Rollins somehow bounced off the cage then fell through the table in a really cool spot. Rollins brought in steel steps, but Edge cut Rollins off with the Edgeomatic. Edge flew off the top rope with a chair, sending it crashing into Rollins’ abdomen.
Edge went for the spear but Rollins hit a superkick then a pedigree for a nearfall. Edge hit a buckle bomb then a spear, but Rollins kicked out. Edge brought in a table, but also finds a ladder. Edge went to whip Rollins into the ladder, but Rollins reversed and sent Edge into the ladder. Seth set Edge on the table and went up on the ladder. Edge recovered and climbed the ladder as well. Edge went for a suplex, but Rollins cut him off and connected with a sunset flip off the ladder and through the table for another nearfall.
Rollins was looking for more weapons as Edge got back to his feet. Rollins hit multiple superkicks and came across a chain, wrapping it around his foot. Edge escaped, using a chair to low blow Rollins. Edge used the chain to choke Rollins, then used a wrench for a crossface. Rollins was about to submit when Edge stopped and got up. He grabbed a chair, placed it under Rollins’ head and hit the curb stomp, pinning Rollins.
Edge slowly got up after the match as the crowd cheered and pyro went off.
Mansoor defeated Mustafa Ali
This was pretty good. Ali is one of the more underrated workers on the roster and Mansoor’s always shown the ability to go. It helped a lot that Mansoor was obviously super over.
Crowd was super into Mansoor. The two traded offense early. Mansoor hit a standing moonsault and dropkick that sent Ali to the floor. Ali came back to the ring but was met with chops by Mansoor that sent him back to the floor. Ali gained control after using the ring apron to trip Mansoor as he was on the apron.
Back in the ring, Ali used a camel clutch on Mansoor in the middle of the ring. Mansoor powered out but Ali connected with a tornado DDT. Mansoor then started to make a comeback but Ali begged off in the cornet. Mansoor ignored him, hitting a big lariat that sent him out of the ring. Mansoor went for a dive, but Ali hit a dropkick. He missed a 450 splash in the ring as Mansoor connected with a moonsault. Ali locked his legs over Mansoor’s neck for a submission attempt, but he made it to the ropes.
Ali went for another 450, but this time Mansoor went to the apron. He then landed a springboard neckbreaker and pinned Ali.
Ali jumped Mansoor after the match. A mystery guy then came out and took a long time getting to the ring. He eventually revealed himself to be Tarek Hamdi, silver medalist in taekwondo at this year’s Olympics. Ali tried to get him out of the ring, but Hamdi instead knocked him out.
Natalya, Titus O’Neil, and four women who are introduced as breast cancer survivors were in the ring to promote the Zahra Breast Cancer Association. Then they showed footage of the Saudi Royal Air Force flying over the arena. This must be the propaganda portion of the show.
RK-Bro (Riddle and Randy Orton) defeated AJ Styles and Omos to retain the Raw Tag Team titles
This was fine when Omos wasn’t in the ring, but nothing special. Probably the best match you can do under these circumstances I guess.
As Orton and Riddle made their entrance, Riddle left, confusing Orton. He then reappeared riding a camel to the ring.
Orton and Riddle started off in control. Orton went for the RKO, but AJ escaped. AJ was able to tag in Omos, who quickly cut off Riddle. Orton was tagged in but Omos also took him down. Omos did some big guy spots, including walking over Orton before tagging Styles back in briefly before Omos came in and applied a claw to the shoulder.
Riddle and Styles came in and went 100 miles an hour compared to this Omos offense. Styles hit Riddle with a pele kick, but Riddle soon connected with a knee. Orton shoved Styles into Omos, but Omos quickly recovered. Riddle grabbed Omos’ knee and took him to the floor as Styles went for the phenomenal forearm. Orton cut him off with the RKO, then Riddle landed the floating bro for the win.
Kevin Patrick interviewed Becky Lynch. She said tonight was the night to remind people just who she was.
Zelina Vega defeated Doudrop to win the Queen’s Crown tournament
Not much to write about, wasn’t awful. This tournament was underwhelming to say the least. This was the longest match at nearly SIX MINUTES. What a disservice to this division.
Vega got in Doudrop’s face early. She went for a dive, then tried to counter with a sunset flip, but Doudrop easily cut her off, landing an elbow. She went for something off the top rope, but Vega cut her off and hit a tornado DDT for a nearfall. Vega locked in a dragon sleeper but Doudrop got back on her feet and connected with a clothesline.
Doudrop went for a cannonball but Vega dodged, then connected with a codebreaker. Doudrop came back with a spinning side slam. Doudrop followed with a senton but missed a splash. Vega then came back and hit a silly-looking Code Red for the win.
After she won, Zelina went to the throne, placed her crown on her head, grabbed her sceptre and sat down. The announcer said "ALL HAIL QUEEN ZELINA". Damn, why unionize when you can just come back and become queen of the WWE.
They showed footage from the Riyadh opening season.
Goldberg defeated Bobby Lashley
This felt long, but overall it wasn’t bad. I feel like the shorter the Goldberg match, the better, and probably should have ended after Goldberg hit the jackhammer.
As the bell rang, Laslhey revealed he had brought a chain to the ring. He immediately used it to gain control early in the match. Lashley took out a chair and struck Goldberg with it. Lashley then took out a table while also working on Goldberg’s knee, chop blocking it.
Lashley wrapped Golderg’s leg around a chair and stomped on it. Goldberg crawled near the table that was propped up in the corner. Lashley went for a spear, but Goldberg dodged as Lashley ran into the table.
Goldberg hit the spear, then despite having his leg worked over, hit the jackhammer anyway. But instead of the pin, Goldberg simply got up and let Lashley recover. Goldberg hit a spear that sent Lashley through the barricade on the outside. He took Lashley, put him on steel steps, and went to use one part of the steps to I guess squish Lashley’s head, but Lashley escaped.
Lashley started to leave as Goldberg stalked him, but The Hurt Business then arrived with kendo sticks. Goldberg quickly took care of the Hurt Business and grabbed a kendo stick. Goldberg laid out Lashley with kendo stick shots. Goldberg then speared Lashley off the stage and into a platform below, pinning Lashley.
They showed Lashley walking away under his own power as Goldberg celebrated his win.
Commercials have been airing for Survivor Series, using the usual tagline of how this is the one time of the year where Raw and SmackDown go head-to-head. Nevermind that the shows in recent weeks have featured matches between Raw and SmackDown stars.
Xavier Woods defeated Finn Balor to win the King of the Ring tournament
Good, fast-paced match. I did not expect Xavier Woods to win this at all, so it was a nice surprise to see a babyface win the tournament for a change.
The two went back and forth early. Woods started to build momentum, sending Balor into the ropes and connecting with a dropkick. Balor countered a tornado DDT and hit a double foot stomp. Balor hit a slingblade but Woods connected with a superkick for a nearfall.
Balor hammered Woods with elbow strikes but Woods followed with a roll-up for a nearfall. Balor kicked Woods and went to the top rope, but Woods met him there and hit a superplex. Woods followed with a springboard elbow, but Balor countered, hit a slingblade, and went for the coup de grace. Woods escaped and rolled up Balor again for a nearfall. Woods hit an enziguri and a gutbuster for another nearfall. Woods then hit the springboard elbow to win the King of the Ring tournament.
Big E defeated Drew McIntyre to retain the WWE Championship
Very good match. The crowd, which has gotten into everything tonight, was into this and both worked hard.
McIntyre started off with the early advantage, grabbing the shoulder of Big E. E regained control and connected with hits to the chest. McIntyre rolled out of the ring. Big E went after him, but McIntyre hit a giant belly to belly suplex on the floor. He soon followed that with a spinebuster.
Big E fought back with suplexes but McIntyre fired back with some of his own, hitting a reverse cutter. Big E countered the future shock DDT with another belly-to-belly suplex. Big E went for the big ending but McIntyre fought back, hitting a Michinoku driver for a nearfall.
Big E hit a uranage, but Drew countered with a future shock DDT that connected. McIntyre went for the claymore, but Big E countered with a powerbomb then locked in a stretch muffler. McIntyre escaped, but walked into the big ending for a two count. He went to go for the big ending off the top rope, but McIntyre countered with a bulldog off the top for a nearfall.
After avoiding another claymore kick, Big E in fact walked right into a claymore kick for a big nearfall spot. McIntyre went for the big ending, but Big E countered and hit a second big ending for the win.
They showed footage from a Be a Star rally that was held in Riyadh. Yes, stand up to bullying kids. Unless the government is the one that bullies and attempts to cover up the bullying with lots of sports.
Becky Lynch defeated Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair to retain the SmackDown Women’s title
Another good match. Finish was surprising, but I guess they are going to tell a story about these titles being on different brands. Can’t wait!
Belair was taken out early as Lynch and Banks went back and forth. Bianca came back and got the torture back on Banks, but Lynch hit a missle drop kick that sent both to the floor. Lynch hit an exploder on Banks and continued to work on both until Lynch was caught by both Banks and Belair, who teamed together to buckle bomb Lynch into the ring post.
Banks and Belair then competed, with Banks hitting the three amigos. Lynch came back and took out Banks. Belair hit a big delayed vertical suplex, sending Lynch crashing to the mat. Lynch and Banks somehow teamed up to take Belair out with a double Banks statement/disarmher as the two went at it.
Banks had Lynch locked in with the Banks statement as Belair crashed into them with a springboard, covering both for a nearfall.Lynch broke up a pin attempt by Belair and hit the manhandle slam on Banks, but Belair broke up the pin. Lynch went for the manhandle slam on Belair, but Belair made it to the apron. Banks took Belair to the floor as the two wrestled for control, but Lynch took out both and put Belair back in the ring.
Lynch went for the disarmher, then put Banks in it as well when she tried to break it up. Belair powered out, Belair hit the KOD on Lynch, but Banks and Belair fought over who would pin Lynch. Banks entered the ring, but Lynch rolled up Banks and held the ropes to retain the title.
Announcers pushed that the Raw Women’s Champion was on SmackDown and vice versa. I hope they just don’t trade titles like they did with the Tag titles last year.
Roman Reigns defeated Brock Lesnar to retain the Universal Championship
This match was really great until the ref bump, just constant explosive action. The finish was weak, but I guess the idea is that this is only the start of their feud, and we’ll see more matches down the line. Don’t see anyone else but Lesnar as Reigns’ WrestleMania opponent.
The two exchanged strikes early. Lesnar went for a German suplex but Reigns grabbed the turnbuckle. Lesnar got it after a second attempt. Lesnar took Reigns to the outside but Reigns threw him into the ring post. Reigns entered the ring, then laid out Lesnar with a Superman punch when Lesnar attempted to re-enter the ring. Reigns then hit a giant plancha, jumping over the top rope to the floor.
Reigns hit a spear but Lesnar kicked out at two. Lesnar hit another Superman punch, then a third. Lesnar leapfrogged over Reigns as Reigns went for a spear attempt and crashed into the turnbuckle. Lesnar came back with a German suplex, then another. Lesnar went for the F5 and connected, but Reigns kicked out at two.
Lesnar went for a second F5 but Lesnar countered with a guillotine. Lesnar fought out of it, hitting a spinebuster. Lesnar hit another F5, but the referee was too close and was laid out. Lesnar covered for a visual pinfall. Lesnar was distracted trying to get the referee to wake up long enough for Reigns to hit another spear.
Heyman, holding the Universal title, was unsure what to do. He threw the title belt in the ring in between both Lesnar and Reigns. Lesnar grabbed the title, but talked into superkicks by the Usos. Reigns then used the title belt and a second referee came down to cover Lesnar for the win.
So I will say this: this year’s Crown Jewel was easily one of the better WWE shows of the year and absolutely the strongest show held in Saudi Arabia to date. Almost every match was good to great and the crowd, which prior to tonight was usually silent for these shows, was into everything, which helps a ton.
Despite all of this, I can never shake the feeling of feeling dirty for watching these shows, which are a clear attempt, as is the entire Vision 2030 strategic framework, to wash away the idea that Saudi Arabia’s government constantly violates basic human rights. I can never forget the government-mandated murder of Jamal Khashoggi no matter what kind of show WWE puts on and I can also not forget WWE’s collective shrug and holding an event in Saudi Arabia anyway weeks after his murder.
My point is that these shows are always going to be weird for a lot of people. It was weird to cover this while enjoying the in-ring action. In a bubble, this was a good show, a show largely free of WWE’s lame booking tropes they can’t get rid of. But these events are always going to have an odd, odious feeling about them, no matter how good the shows are.