Just a week after Saudi Arabia hosted the Tyson Fury/Francis Ngannou super fight, the propaganda campaign, a narrative that was made even more blatant as the event progressed, continued with another lucrative WWE presentation for Crown Jewel, a broadcast headlined by LA Knight vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Undisputed Championship. Still, as profitable as these shows are, more often than not, they amount to glorified house shows with very little of substance booked for the Saturday afternoon cards. So, was this all just Saudi sizzle or was there enough meat on the bone for this event to truly progress WWE storylines?
The show opened with the Seth Rollins title defense against Drew McIntyre, and this was a quality championship bout, as everything they did was crisp and smooth. Rollins and McIntyre are top-notch pros and their performance reflected that. However, the biggest hurdle was that there was never a point in the contest where it looked like Drew might actually win the title, a dynamic that has more to do with the way that Drew was used previously than anything about the specific performance in the segment. As I wrote previously, for whatever reasons, Drew was typecast as the talent to use when the champion needed a credible challenger, but it’s not a situation where he was considered to win the championship. It’s disappointing, but Drew’s best run was during the bleak atmosphere of the pandemic and he truly hasn’t been given the recognition or the credit he deserves for when he put the company on his back during an extremely difficult time, especially when he had to work matches in an empty building. When Roman Reigns needed a major opponent at Clash at The Castle, McIntyre was slotted to be the challenger. When Seth needed someone to work with at a stadium show, Drew got the call.
I also wrote that you can only book someone in that spot and have them lose so many times before the audience doesn’t view them as someone that can or will win the title so you have a situation where the result isn’t in question. Drew took a few months off after Wrestlemania earlier this year and there was speculation about his contract status, but many assumed he re-signed when he returned to the company after the three-month hiatus. While I don’t think AEW would know what to do with Drew on the roster and he probably would flounder there, if he didn’t actually re-sign a contract with WWE already, he might have to consider another exit from the organization. Obviously, he can always take the cash and stay with WWE, and that would make sense, but I’m not sure he will get the opportunity to work in the main event scene again on a consistent basis. It almost seems like management has a “been there, done that” mindset with McIntyre as champion, but make no mistake about it, he’s one of the best in the business.
The promo video where various WWE stars talked about how great the Saudi airlines are and put over the “modern” city was cringe worthy and almost laughable. It couldn’t have been any more blatant of a ham-handed PR campaign unless they had the teleprompter or the cue cards in the frame.
As a reminder of how much this is oil money just trying to spin the narrative of the country, the women’s match saw all five competitors wear bodysuits to completely shield them from the audience. This would be fine, except Nia Jax is the only one that usually wears something similar to that type of outfit. It’s not a matter of tradition or something like that in the country, because the entire point of this PR campaigns with western entertainment is to attempt to improve the country’s image, and one of the main criticisms in the past was the treatment of women. If Drew McIntyre can work in his usual gear, why can’t Bianca Belair?
The match itself was fine, but was a little clunky because of the number of competitors involved and seemed somewhat rushed, as it was only given about ten minutes for the segment. This was more or less a house show match so Rhea retaining was the obvious result.
John Cena vs. Solo Sikoa was fine, nothing subpar, but nothing spectacular either. This contest was basically what you’d expect from a Cena match, especially in Saudi Arabia at a time when he could be called back to Hollywood at any point when the rest of the union disputes are settled. The Saudis paid to have the star power of John Cena in the country, not for a five star classic so this bout was a safe contest that didn’t jeopardize his movie schedule, which was the wise decision. Solo getting the win makes sense because Cena is going to be over either way and as mentioned, his involvement in the product is temporary anyway. Hopefully, this win can be used to further establish Sikoa as a standout star.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why The Miz TV segment took place because when the government is paying literally tens of millions of dollars for the show, the company is going to play to the local audience, but the segment dragged and the momentum of the entire broadcast was halted. The fact that it was over twenty minutes between the action of the matches made for a very tedious viewing experience. The Miz TV segment could’ve been booked for the preshow and accomplished the same goal to have something at the event for the live crowd.
Logan Paul beat Rey Mysterio for the US title, and this was essentially a segment that was booked for the publicity of Paul winning a title. It would make sense, but as I’ve written before, the ratings don’t go through the roof when he’s on television and it doesn’t appear that his demographic will translate into regular WWE viewers so I’m not sure if Logan Paul as US champion will translate to much in the grand scheme of things. The match, similar to Cena/Solo, was fine, but nothing too spectacular. It was somewhat of a mixed bag, as it had its moments, but there were a few flat points since the content went over 15 minutes.
Iyo Sky retained the Women’s title in a match with Bianca Belair, with the assist from the returning Kari Sane. It seemed like, at least from the reaction, that the live crowd didn’t initially realize who Kari was when she showed up at ringside. The match was fine, but I think the argument could be made that these two had better matches in the past few months. The bigger story is that Kari is back in WWE, and despite the rumors prior to this, I’m still somewhat surprised that she actually decided to return, given her rocky exit from the promotion after injuries a few years. The women’s division is already a very aspect portion of WWE programming and the addition of Kari Sane to the roster only solidifies that status within the company.
In another example of more or less a house show match, Cody Rhodes pinned Damien Priest. The segment only went about ten minutes and just didn’t get into second gear. Earlier in the night, Priest attempted to cash-in his MITB contract for a title shot against Rollins before Sami Zayn interrupted him. It was a good use of the contract gimmick because it kept viewers guessing as to what would happen, but after Sami ran away with the brief case, and Priest was defeated in a rather basic match, he doesn’t seem to be in the position to be propelled to the next level even if he cashes in for the title shot.
Speaking of matches that didn’t get into second gear, the main event didn’t get there either. It was a decent match, but nothing great and there was never a point when it looked like LA Knight had any chance to realistically win the championship. It was almost as though they were simply going through the motions until the typical interference and disarray before the finish. You have to give Knight credit, he pushed himself to get over and the audience reacts to his character. If he was content with WWE catering and a paycheck, he probably would’ve been released with the Maximum Models tag team a few months ago. In theory, there should be more performers on the roster as ambitious as LA Knight that wants to get themselves over, even if it’s not in the office’s original plans. That said, in the grand scheme of things, Knight’s popularity is still relatively new, and Roman’s championship storyline is a narrative that will unfold on a long-term basis. There was really no reason to consider switching the title, and as much as it might disappoint some Knight fans, this was more or less his ceiling as a main event competitor, at least on the Smackdown brand.
Overall, the show was fine, but there wasn’t really anything “must see” on the card, and outside of the return of Kari Sane, viewers didn’t necessarily miss anything if they didn’t tune in for the Saturday afternoon pay-per-view.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, & Threads @jimlamotta89