WWE kicked off a packed pro wrestling weekend that coincides with the memorial day holiday with the latest Saudi Arabia event, Night of Champions. It goes without saying that these Saudi shows will always have a sleazy factor to them, but money talks, an aspect of the industry that became even more apparent after the Endeavor merger. At the same time, while the WWE is a corporate entity that is just there for the cash, and the Saudi government is just there to use these events as propaganda material, underneath that some unintentional progress is made on a more individual level. As we know, the treatment of women in the country was often a topic of criticism, but at the very least, the female stars of WWE are not only getting the chance to perform in the country, but also the opportunity to showcase the stars that they are. If that leads to any real progress in the country is a completely different matter, but if nothing else, the female stars are making top money for the Saudi events. Another very interesting aspect, is that Sami Zayn, who previously wasn’t permitted in the country because of his heritage, was a part of one of the main event matches. Again, if this leads to any real change in Saudi Arabia is a different discussion, but the very least Sami Zayn’s appearance at the event is an example that differences can be put aside. Forgive me for getting on a soapbox, but we’re all human and it would be nice if for only the three hours of a wrestling show that difference can be put aside for entertainment.
As far as the actual show, it kicked off with AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins for the consolation prize championship. I don’t want to be so negative on a contest that involves two of the best athletes of their respective generations, but when the entire premise of the title is that it was created because nobody could beat Roman reigns, which is exactly what Triple H said in the promo that introduced the championship, it’s literally a secondary belt. I have to be honest, I’m extremely puzzled as to why this concept was even booked, especially because if you examine it, even on a surface level, the benefits are more or less zero. As mentioned, the winner of the championship is quite literally the secondary world champion and at the same time, it actually takes away from Roman Reigns’ extensive title run because now he’s not the only world champion on the roster. On a macro level, it’s completely counterproductive because it wasn’t until Roman’s lengthy title run that the championships regained some level of prestige. Prior to that, for a major portion of the modern era, the belt was just used as a prop instead of a career-defining achievement. Jack Swagger has done well with a hat on Dynamite, but his stint as world champion isn’t exactly memorable. Despite the years wasted on the baby face super push that ultimately flopped, Roman Reigns is the top guy with all the tools to be the top star. Proof of that is that he has done such a stellar job in the role of world champion and his matches carry a level of intrinsic importance. However, and this is the biggest problem, the prestige for the championship that was established during his run is naturally diluted with the addition of another world title.
The match itself was more or less what you would expect with Seth and AJ in the ring. It was solid and everything was crisp. It was quality wrestling and proved why these two have the status that they’ve achieved. The brain buster on the apron was insane. Granted, Seth’s character, whatever it’s supposed to be, is silly and does nothing to help his career, but as an athlete, he delivers in these marquee matches. As I said, the nature of his character and the premise of the championship itself are secondary so I don’t think Seth’s reign is actually going to establish the championship, but he’s a quality worker, and at the very least, the consolation prize title could use that.
Trish Stratus vs. Becky Lynch was a decent match, there wasn’t anything wrong with it, but I have to be honest all things considered, I was expecting a better contest. That’s not meant as a knock against either competitor, but given their accolades and reputation, I expected this to be a stand out contest on the card. Instead, it was more or was just the average match that was mostly forgettable by the time the show went off the air. For whatever reason, it didn’t seem to get into second gear. That being said, I think these two have a lot more they can do with this feud so hopefully this was just a prelude to lead to a bigger and hopefully better match. Given the finish with the interference from Zoey Stark, it seems like a safe, bet that the conclusion was a way for the storyline to continue with Becky chasing the victory at Summer Slam.
I was surprised that Mustafa Ali won the battle royal to get a shot at the Intercontinental championship, particularly because he is often used in a lower tier spot. Perhaps, Ali was given the spot because of his background, and he got a nice reaction from the stadium crowd. Gunther looked like an absolute monster in this match, and Ali took some great bumps to make him look like a million dollars. This wasn’t a squash, as Ali got a few hope spots with a very impressive 450 splash, but at the same time, it was a definitive victory for Gunther to retain the title. Speaking of which, Gunther is such a solid worker and arguably the most believable competitor on the roster that in my honest opinion, he should be the one to break the Honky Tonk Man’s IC title record. Gunther has a level of authenticity that very few bring to the table and he’s undoubtedly one of the best workers in the company. Since he has such solid skills and works very well in the role, he brought a level of credibility to the IC title that hasn’t existed for several years. I don’t think it would be far-fetched for him to be as a future world champion, but the office might think that he’s not flashy enough for it. Either way, Gunther is money and this was a very impressive showcase match for him.
The Raw Women’s title match was a rematch from Wrestlemania and that’s fine because this was another solid contest from these two, but at the same time, this feud has definitely run its course so it would be better for both competitors to move on to other angles. Since Bianca was on such an extended title reign, I would’ve thought that until there was a new competitor that has the potential to become a star that she would’ve kept the championship. In some ways, it’s similar to when Charlotte dropped the title to Rhea Ripley at Wrestlemania. There was a certain amount of cache involved with Bianca’s title reign so to maximize the return on that, it would’ve helped establish a new name on the show if the office waited until there was someone on the horizon with that type of potential. That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Asuka winning the title in Saudi Arabia. It goes without saying, but I’m going to mention it anyway, Asuka is truly one of the MVPs of the company and she has really cemented her legacy on the main stage of WWE in the past few years. Her level of consistency and quality are aspects of her career that will get her the recognition of a legend after she retires.
The SmackDown Women’s title match wasn’t much of a match so it was booked as more or less a placeholder on the card than anything else. Rhea Ripley has a huge upside and the potential to draw serious money as possibly the top female star in the company in the future, especially given her relatively young age and the level that she has already achieved. At just 27, the argument could be made that her best years are still ahead of her. Obviously, Ripley drop the title any time soon, but the problem with booking Natalya in rather last-minute fashion didn’t lend itself to her credibility as a challenger. Since the result was obvious, this contest was basically used to pace the card.
Brock Lesnar vs. Cody Rhodes followed the usual Lesnar format of a fireworks bout in under 10 minutes, which is completely fine. If anything, the only thing that took away from this contest is that we just saw a more physical bout three weeks ago so this match didn’t stand out as much as it would’ve otherwise. The use of the cast was very well done, and Brock’s selling really adds another layer to his matches. The broken arm angle gave Cody a reason to lose and thus ties up the series for a trilogy so the defeat doesn’t really hinder his progress on Raw. The whole “he didn’t tap out” spot was a little forced because the audience has seen that angle before, but this portion of the feud allows for the narrative to continue to a bigger stage, which will probably be Summer Slam. If the angle pays off to put Cody in a better position than he was after the disappointing Wrestlemania defeat remains to be seen.
The main event tag match was fine, but the storyline of the match took priority, as it should’ve. Solo took the pin so it keeps Roman strong as champion, and The Bloodline faction dissolving creates a lot of possibilities for everyone involved. Most importantly, it appears that either of The Usos could be the next challenger for Reigns, which will give him the fresh opponents that he needs for the championship. As I said before, I think Cody should’ve been the one to dethrone Roman and Wrestlemania was the time to do it, but if the office wasn’t going to have him win it at WM then it makes sense to give Reign’s a title run that will surpass Hulk’s record. Don’t get me wrong, Roman still does well in the role of champion, but he worked with more or less every credible challenger for the belt, which runs its course a lot faster in the modern era than it did in a prior generation because of the nature of weekly TV. That being said, the angle at the conclusion of the Saudi show gives Reigns a few new challengers for the championship so it was mission accomplished.
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 @jimlamotta89