WWE’s Crown Jewel event took place Thursday at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The show was main-evented by the rematch of Seth Rollins and the Fiend for the Universal Championship in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Elsewhere on the card, we had the grand spectacle of both Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman as well as Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez in action, the latter being for the WWE Championship. And in a random yet historic announcement, Natalya and Lacey Evans became the first women to compete on a WWE pay-per-view event in Saudi Arabia.
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Cain Velasquez
This match kicked off the show with both men feeling each other out in a fighting stance like they were back in the UFC. Velasquez scored the first strikes with a few kicks to the champion’s mid-section. It almost looked like Brock was playing defense to Cain early on in the match in un-Brock like fashion. After getting locked in the corner, Velasquez nailed a big kick to the ribs, knocking Brock back before landing a second kick to the head, knocking Lesnar to the mat. While trying to mount Brock, Cain got caught in a Kimura arm lock, forcing the latter to tap out in a very UFC-esque match. Personally, I wish they would have made Velasquez look a little bit stronger and maybe show off more of his AAA lucha libre experience. But, this looked about as “realistic” of a match these two can put on in a WWE ring based on the story they were trying to tell playing off both men’s UFC history. When Brock continued to waylay on his former UFC rival after the match, Rey Mysterio ran in the ring with a chair to even the score, landing a few stiff shots in the process. Obviously, the story isn’t over with these three and it looks like Brock’s Survivor Series opponent will be Rey, which I’m definitely looking forward to.
Winner: Brock Lesnar Time: 2:10 Rating: 2 Stars
Tag Team Turmoil Gauntlet
Roode and Ziggler started off the match against the Lucha House Party. Quick shout-out to Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado for dressing up their attire for Halloween like Pentagon Jr. (or perhaps a skeleton) and Pennywise the Clown, respectively. The Luchas were able to wow the crowd with their big-air offense, walking the ropes and nailing high-flying dropkicks. Roode and Ziggler focused a lot of submissions and strikes on Dorado, slowing down the pace of the match. A heel referee distraction by Ziggler gave Roode the opportunity to nail a Glorious DDT on Metalik for the win. Hawkins and Ryder were the next team up, but were put away in short order after a missed neckbreaker by Ryder. Heavy Machinery were next, with a bulk of Roode and Ziggler’s offense going against Tucker. Otis is massively over in Saudi Arabia and the crowd popped big for the Caterpillar. A Compactor for the win brings out the New Day for the next bout. I enjoyed Big E and Tucker trying to out-hoss each other, ending in a double-clothesline knocking both men to the mat, out of breath. A fun match that ended in a Midnight Hour win for the New Day. The Revival were the next team out, giving us a sneak preview of the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match we’re in store for on Friday. These two teams have put together great matches in the past, and this was another fun installment with a good pairing of heel and face antics. New Day picked up the win but receive a post-match beat down by the champs. The O.C. are next and make quick work after the beat down, even though Kofi put up a good fight against Anderson and Gallows. Lastly, we had the Viking Raiders. I really enjoy the chemistry these two teams have with each other. This was just a powerful brawl of kicks, suplexes, cartwheels and everything you could want in a bruising tag match. I would not mind another match with these four in the future. The O.C. pin the RAW Tag Team Champions after a Magic Killer, establishing them as the Best Tag Team in the World. Fun match overall.
Winner: The O.C. Time: 32:05 Rating: 3 Stars
Mansoor vs. Cesaro
It goes without saying that Cesaro is one of the best wrestlers in the world. The guy could wrestle a toothpick and make it look like a worthy contender for the WWE Championship. As for Mansoor, I’ve only seen a handful of his matches but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far, so I had high expectations for this match-up. Since Mansoor is a high-flyer, Cesaro’s best attempt at offense was to ground Mansoor with upper-cuts and submission holds. But as the match went on, the Swiss Superman got more and more adventurous with his offense such as going up to the top rope for a double-axe-handle (which was countered by a Mansoor dropkick). After this moment, the match’s tempo picked up and the crowd got even more excited at the prospect of a Mansoor victory. Shout-out to the Riyadh crowd for getting really into this match and shout-out to the production team for showing off all the nervous fans watching the flow of the match ebb and change. I was amazed by Cesaro hitting a gut-wrench suplex off the top rope. But then my jaw hit the floor by a gut-wrench suplex turned into a sit-down powerbomb off the top rope by Mansoor. Seizing the moment, the Riyadh-native nailed a picture perfect moonsault for the win. A very, very fun match.
Winner: Mansoor Time: 12:45 Rating: 3.5 Stars
Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury
First off, shout-out to Tyson Fury for coming out to a Isley Brothers-led fireworks show before his entrance. The match’s first offense was by Fury throwing some punches at Strowman’s mid-section. After a few minor lock-ups, Braun was able to score the first knockdown of the match with a running big boot. I’ll admit that I graded this match on a curve because Fury is not a seasoned wrestler and doesn’t have any notable previous experience like Cain Velasquez. That being said, I was impressed by his take on a Drive-By Ala Roman Reigns. After being rolled back in the ring by Braun, Fury landed a Big Show-esque knockout punch that stunned Strowman on the outside long enough to give Fury the win. I didn’t really care for that ending because it was kind of anti-climactic, but otherwise, this was a fine match all things considered.
Winner: Tyson Fury Time: 8:04 Rating: 2.5 Stars
AJ Styles (C) vs. Humberto Carrillo
AJ took control of this match early and set the pace to inflict some stiff kicks and chops on the newcomer to RAW. Carrillo used a lot of rope-based high-flying offense to lead AJ on and take the momentum of the match right back from the champion. Humberto is extremely athletic and is sure to be another great talent to have on RAW. He’s slowly but surely winning me over as one of my favorite talents to watch on Mondays. Anyway, this was a pretty basic pay-per-view match that looked like Carrillo would squeak away with a win at points, but AJ ultimately held control and took the win after a big Phenomenal Forearm.
Winner: AJ Styles Time: 12:34 Rating: 2.5 Stars
Natalya vs. Lacey Evans
The crowd in Riyadh was very excited for this match and both women made sure to appreciate the Saudi ovation as well as the gravity of the historical nature of their moment. The match started with a respectful handshake before each woman tried to take the advantage. I was surprised that this match ended up being a lot more technical than I expected. “Technical” is practically Natalya’s nickname at this point in her career, but I was impressed by Evans taking a break from her heel gimmick to show-off her in-ring psychology against the former SmackDown Women’s Champion. She would fly around the ring to out-maneuver Natalya in order to get a quick roll-up or a quick knockdown. Anytime Evans was in any position remotely close to getting locked in a Sharpshooter, she made sure to kick her legs and squirm away from Nattie. But as the match went on, Evans was beaten down to the point that she could not counter the Sharpshooter, ultimately leading her to tap out. I was sick to death of seeing this match on television a few weeks ago, but this was a solid match. I was very impressed by the effort these two showed here, and the crowd in Riyadh made sure to let them know as well.
Winner: Natalya Time: 7:21 Rating: 2.5 Stars
Team Hogan vs. Team Flair
Roman Reigns emerged from the back to a huge pop from the audience. Nakamura and Shorty G started out the match with big kicks from the Intercontinental Champion and big suplexes from the former Chad Gable. Shout-out to Rusev for nailing a big spinning heel kick on Drew McIntyre and playing up his on-going rivalry with Bobby Lashley throughout this match, getting a great ovation from the crowd in the process. The opening minutes of this match allowed for most of Team Flair to focus their attack on Ali. Ricochet was able to score a much-needed tag and flew around the ring with a special superhero suit for the show/Halloween. Reigns looked like a total house of fire in this match with no one on Team Flair really getting a strong upper-hand on him. The closest would have had to be when Orton nailed a spot-on RKO on the Big Dog, only receiving a 2-and-7/8ths-count for his efforts. This was just a really chaotic spot-fest of a spectacle that I really enjoyed. After this performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Reigns was elevated back into the main event title picture on SmackDown very soon.
Winner: Team Hogan Time: 19:55 Rating: 3.5 Stars
Seth Rollins (C) vs. The Fiend
I have a question for you, loyal readers of ProWrestling.com: Why is it that the last two Fiend matches have been wrestled under red lighting, but during the Fiend’s “debut” at SummerSlam, it was under normal lighting? I don’t understand that at all, although at the minimum, it makes the Fiend’s title matches seem “different.” This match started out with Seth trying to put away the Fiend as early as he could. Seth threw the Fiend over a barricade into the crowd, ultimately trying to throw the former Bray Wyatt into a LED board. After returning to the ringside area, Seth threw the Fiend into another barricade, causing it to break and fall over on impact. Whether it was chair shots, sledgehammers, steel steps or stomps on the steel-grated floor, nothing could stop the Fiend tonight. (Some of which only resulted in one-counts by the referee). But to Seth’s credit, one Sister Abigail wasn’t enough to take his Universal Championship either. Both men fought up the ramp onto the edge of the stage where the Beastslayer would inflict more Curb Stomps (which I’m still not a fan of doing like that because it makes the move look ineffective as a “finisher”). Seth kicked the Fiend off the stage and into a pile of electronics, sending “sparks” flying. Blinded by sparks while investigating the scene, Seth was trapped by the Fiend in the Mandible Claw before delivering a final Sister Abigail, making the Fiend the 7th “man” to hold the Universal Championship. What this means for Bray technically being a “SmackDown” superstar holding a RAW championship, I’m not sure. All I’m happy about is that the wrong from an abysmal ending to last month’s Hell in a Cell main event has been righted. For as odd as last month’s match was, this contest more than made up for it. Long live the Fiend.
Winner: The Fiend Time: 21:50 Rating: 3 Stars
Overall Thoughts: For as much as I didn’t like Super Showdown back in June, I feel quite the opposite about this year’s Crown Jewel event. This show was well-paced, didn’t have any boring lulls and was pretty entertaining all together. Match of the night honors for me go to Cesaro and Mansoor, followed by the Team Hogan and Team Flair 10-man tag match. My least favorite match was probably Brock and Cain, purely because I thought there would be more action and explosiveness. Survivor Series is four weeks away, so I’m excited to see how WWE builds to what looks like to be a three-show free-for-all brawl for supremacy between RAW, SmackDown, and now, NXT.
Final Crown Jewel Rating: 3 Stars