It’s one of the worst ideas in WWE history, and it has the results to match!
Coming to you from Saudi Arabia – and paid for by the Saudi Royal Family – it’s WWE CROWN JEWEL, a card that could have been easily ignored by the majority of wrestling fans if not for Roman Reigns’ leukemia forcing him to give up the Universal Title. Now, there’s going to be a major title change here. Plus, the return of Shawn Michaels to ring action and a World Cup tournament.
Given the recent death of writer and activist Jamal Khashoggi, WWE doing business with the Saudis continues to be a fairly controversial decision, but hey, there’s no way they could make it worse, right?
Hey look! It’s WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan! The man who was recently temporarily blacklisted for using the N-word while being secretly taped before banging his best friend’s wife is the host of CROWN JEWEL, because when Saudi Arabia gives you money, you give them the Hulkster, brother. Maybe this was a mistake.
World Cup Tournament First Round Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton – The first match in this tournament that has absolutely zero ramifications pits the close-to-retirement Orton vs. the newly-returned and should-be-retired Mysterio. At least the action should be good in this tournament. Wait, I spoke too soon, since Mysterio gets a roll-up of doom after they go through their greatest hits for a quick win to advance. After the match, Orton beats up on Mysterio, because he’s a bad guy again. It’s hard to keep track sometimes.
World Cup Tournament First Round Match: Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz – The reading of everyone’s accolades as they are introduced to the ring makes the achievements feel less than. How many Grand Slam Champions has WWE introduced already? My hatred of Jeff Hardy is offset by my respect for the Miz, so I am back to being meh on this match. And it’s a pretty meh match. At least Miz gets the win to move on.
World Cup Tournament First Round Match: Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley – Lashley is replacing John Cena, who decided not to participate in protest, either to the Saudi connection or to the fact that the Bellas can’t appear on the show. At least Nikki got squashed at EVOLUTION last weekend. I will continue to be amazed at how Lashley’s headband stays on his head. For all the talk about his strength and physique, that’s the most impressive thing about him. The headband actually comes off when Rollins sends him outside. If this was the 1980s, Lashley would use it to choke Rollins out when his second, Lio Rush, had the referee distracted. Alas, it’s a different era. Lashley dominates, but Rollins gets a surprise stomp and gets the win in a surprisingly fun match.
World Cup Tournament First Round Match: Kurt Angle vs. Dolph Ziggler – This is the most intriguing match of the first round, because Ziggler should be able to sell Angle’s moveset beautifully and Angle could die at any moment in the ring. Ziggler’s got Drew McIntyre with him, and I’d be much more interested in this tournament if big Drew was participating. Angle quickly makes me believe he has a death wish by trying to hit a German suplex off the apron to the floor below. Slow match that didn’t really live up to the potential of its competitors, and Ziggler gets the win after Angle runs into the corner post and gets hit with a Zig Zag. Kind of weird that you’d hype Angle’s return to the ring so much and have him lose in the first round. But there’s no reason to question WWE’s booking on this show, right?
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Title Match: Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. The New Day – Big Show is backing up The Bar while the classical New Day lineup (Big E and Kofi) is in the ring for our first title match tonight. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve seen Cesaro on a big event, but he and Sheamus won the belts at the SUPER SHOW-DOWN just a few weeks ago. Everything in this era is forgettable. You’re not going to get a bad match from these guys, and they don’t disappoint again. Big Show is the difference maker, though, as he knocks Big E out, leading to a kick from Sheamus to help The Bar retain.
World Cup Semifinal Match: Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz – This isn’t the first time these two have met in a tournament, having faced off in the WWE Title tournament after CM Punk won and absconded with the belt. That was seven years ago, though, and Miz has gotten a lot better, while Mysterio has had a lot more surgeries on his knees. Mysterio is still nursing the beating from Orton, so the match is a slower pace than it probably would be otherwise. Way too slow, even when Rey picked up the pace. Miz counters a splash with knees to the injured ribs and gets the win to go to the finals. Apparently, if Miz doesn’t win the tournament, Shane McMahon is going to fire him. Things like this pop up when you don’t watch the weekly shows.
World Cup Semifinal Match: Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler – This should be a fast-paced, yet overall disappointing, match if their past performances are any indication. Rollins match with Lashley was so much fun and this is… much less so. I think it’s Ziggler trying to make a 13-minute match feel more epic than it needs to be. Epic, of course, means rest holds. Even the pinfall-reversal segment seemed dull. I’d say the match has bored the crowd, but the only thing this crowd popped for was Hogan at the start of the night. I wouldn’t mind sitting in one of those couches in the front row for one of these shows. McIntyre again is the difference and puts Ziggler over the top to get his partner into the finals.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler? The Battle of Ohio in the Saudi Arabia finals? That seems like an odd choice.
WWE Title Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe – Joe’s spot was originally planned for Daniel Bryan, who joined John Cena in not going to Saudia Arabia. I’m OK with the switch, I enjoy watching AJ and Joe beat the crap out of each other. And they do it one more time for another fun match. And once again AJ Styles comes out on top.
Universal Title Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman – This match was originally Roman Reigns defending in a triple threat, but cancer got the best of him and he had to relinquish. Of course, since Lesnar is part-time (at best), the smart thing to do would be for Braun to destroy him and take his rightful spot as the Monster at the top of the mountain and slowly build someone up to take the title from him. So, of course, Acting Raw General Manager Baron Corbin hits Strowman with the title, Lesnar hits a bunch of F5s and basically nothing else and Lesnar is once again your Universal Champion. This company is weird. You could say the match protected Strowman because he was hit with a belt and kicked out of four F5s before falling, but he still lost in less than three minutes.
And who do you build up now to beat Brock? Rollins? Lashley? Maybe McIntyre? It won’t matter for SURVIVOR SERIES, since Lesnar and AJ Styles will have a Champion vs. Champion rematch from LAST YEAR as one of the three matches they’ve announced for the show (the others are Rousey-Lynch and Rollins-Nakamura).
World Cup Final: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler – These guys have great chemistry with each other, but it’s still a weird choice for a tournament final. The referee sends McIntyre to the back and Miz attacks Ziggler before the bell but hurts his knee going out of the ring to attack Ziggler and can’t make it back into the ring. Miz can’t compete, so Ziggler is the Best in the World and wins the World Cup Tournament, right?
World Cup Final: Dolph Ziggler vs. Shane McMahon – Seriously, what the fuck? Corbin and Ziggler lose their minds. I know Ziggler had two matches so far, but it’s Shane O’Mac. Come on. Ziggler and Corbin should have been loving this. At least the crowd seems to have woken up… or the WWE remembered they could pipe noise into the arena. Shane hits Ziggler with a coast to coast, knocks Ziggler out and he’s now the “Best In The World.”
From the commentary team: “I have no idea how he can be proud about this.” Yeah… This is legitimately one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen at a WWE show. And we still have one more dumpster fire to go in this thing.
Speaking of which, I think the recap of the story for the main event was longer than the Universal Title match. How much time is left in this show? The answer is way too much.
Triple H and Shawn Michaels vs. Kane and The Undertaker – Shawn Michaels has been retired for 8 and a half years. And he comes back for this shitshow. I hope the Saudi money was good. The least they could do for me is make this match mercifully short, but I know that isn’t in the cards. Not with Triple H and Undertaker in the same match. Undertaker’s entrance, by the way, was also longer than the Universal Title Match. Even the prematch stare-down felt interminable. Is this really a match anyone was clamoring for?
The Heartbreak Kid looks ridiculous bald, by the way. He looks like a 1980s enhancement talent. And Triple H took a bump to the outside in the first few minutes of the match and lost the use of his right arm. Dumpster. Fire.
Having watched all four of these guys go from nobodies to superstars, watching this match made me feel old, and I haven’t even hit 40 yet. Watching Triple H and Undertaker both run into the barricade at the same time because Trips couldn’t handle reversing with his bum arm just made me sad. Gotta give Triple H credit for going through with a 20-plus minute match without the use of his right arm, though him getting the win with the Pedigree may not have been the best decision.
Jesus, the second half of this show was terrible. I hope they never do something like this again.
But I’ll be back in two weeks with the 2018 SURVIVOR SERIES, which used to be one of my favorite events of the year. Let’s see if WWE can ruin that for me.