LECLAIR’S WWE CROWN JEWEL REPORT 10/21/21: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns vs. Lesnar, Lynch vs. Banks vs. Belair, Big E vs. McIntyre, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

LECLAIR’S WWE CROWN JEWEL 2021 REPORT
OCTOBER 21, 2021
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA AT MOHAMMED ABDU ARENA ON THE BOULEVARD
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton

-The opening video package hyped the event’s biggest matches, and claimed that the location of the show “brings out the best in all of us.”

-Pyro shot from around the more reserved, squared entrance stage. Michael Cole welcomed the audience to Riyadh, saying all the biggest titles will be on the line. After briefly tossing to the Arabic announce team, The Hell in a Cell began lowering from the massive structure over the ring. Cole said it’s the final match in a trilogy of a story that began many years ago. A promo package for the match aired.

Seth Rollins headed to the ring to a loud reaction that seemed at least partially piped in. The camera panned to show fans around the ringside area, pointing their iPhones toward Rollins and the stage. The announce team debated the odds for both men. Saxton said that Edge is ready to “scar the soul” of Seth Rollins. Seth jumped at the sound of Edge’s music. Cole said he looked spooked. Edge burst onto the stage to a respectable pop. Both men sported brand new gear.

Referee Jessica Carr wore a long sleeve black shirt underneath her referee gear.

(1) SETH ROLLINS vs. EDGE – Hell in a Cell match

The crowd broke into a “this is awesome” chant as soon as the match began. The two men traded punches following the opening bell. Seth Rollins quickly knocked Edge to the outside. He dove through the middle rope, but Edge dodged, sending Seth crashing head first into the wall of the cell. Edge pounced quickly, driving Seth’s face into the steel and dragging him across it. Edge tossed Rollins into the steel steps, then slammed his head against the steel of the structure. He tossed Seth back in the ring.

Edge retrieved a pair of steel chairs from underneath the ring. He returned to the ring and hit Rollins with the Edgecution for a two count. Graves wondered why Edge would want to end the match so early. Edge broke the support beam off the leg of a chair and tried to apply a crossface with it. Seth blocked it. He grabbed the bar and tried to push it into Edge’s eye. Edge held it back. Both men returned to their feet. Rollins hit a quick slingblade for a two count. He tossed Edge to the outside.

Rollins tossed Edge into the cell wall. He looked around at the crowd menacingly. They responded with a small “you suck” chant. Rollins looked under the ring for weapons, but Edge cut him off with a dropkick. Edge dragged Seth back in the ring and shouldered him into the corner. The camera pulled back and Cole reset the stage, talking up Riyadh again. Back in the ring, Rollins caught Edge in the back with a steel chair. He battered Edge with chair shot after chair shot. Edge rolled around on the mat. Rollins tucked a chair underneath Edge’s head and grabbed the second. Edge swept the leg to get out of the predicament.

Edge tangled Rollins into the crossface as the match passed the 7:45 mark. Rollins dragged himself toward the ropes, but found the broken bar from the steel chair. He drove it into Edge’s eye. Edge rolled away, clutching his face. Rollins climbed to the top rope and hit a frog splash for a two count. Seth rolled to the outside and retrieved a table, much to the crowd’s delight. They broke into a “yes” chant. Rollins set the table up on the floor. He returned to the ring and tried to powerbomb Edge to the outside, through the table. Edge fought out of the position, but Rollins maintained control. He turned Edge over and hit the Killswitch.

Rollins climbed to the top rope. Edge shot to his feet and shoved Rollins off the turnbuckle. Seth ricocheted off the wall of the cell, then fell through the table below. Nice looking spot. Edge rolled him into the ring for a near fall. Edge jumped outside, grabbed the steel steps and hoisted them into the ring. He gave Rollins an Edge-O-Matic onto the base of the step. Edge grabbed at his tailbone, which landed awkwardly on the corner of the steel.

Seth laid prone, draped over the base of the step. Edge climbed to the top rope with a chair in hand. He delivered a leaping elbow onto Rollins, sandwiching the chair between them. Edge covered for another near fall as the match neared 15:00. Edge set up for a spear as Rollins wandered to his feet. He charged, but Rollins caught him with a superkick. Edge stumbled back. Rollins hit a Pedigree for a near fall. Rollins set up for a stomp, but Edge used the momentum to toss Rollins into the air and deliver a buckle bomb into the corner. He followed up with a spear. Edge hooked both legs, but Rollins still managed to kick out just before three.

Cole wondered aloud what Edge could do at this point to put Rollins away. Edge retrieved another table from underneath the ring. He went back to the well, stopping as his eyes caught a ladder poking out. He hesitated, then pulled it out. Edge returned to the ring and hit Rollins in the head with the ladder. He propped it up in the corner, then tried to whip Rollins toward it. Seth countered, sending Edge crashing into the steel. The ladder fell on top of Edge as he collapsed to the mat. Rollins slammed it onto him again. He set up the table near the center of the ring. Seth clubbed at Edge’s neck. He laid Edge across the table, then set up the ladder. Rollins climbed the ladder, but Edge rolled off the table. He climbed the ladder to meet Rollins. Seth punched him back to the mat. Edge climbed again. The two men traded blows at the top of the ladder.

Edge hooked Rollins for a superplex off the ladder. Seth blocked it. He clubbed at Edge’s neck again. Rollins hit a Sunset Bomb off the ladder and through the table. Rollins crawled over for a cover, but Edge kicked out at two. Rollins tossed pieces of the broke table from the ring in frustration. He rolled to the outside and scoured under the ring for more weapons. He located a toolbox and tossed it in the ring. Edge wandered to his feet. Seth gave him a superkick. Edge didn’t fall. Rollins kicked him in the gut, dropping him to his knees. Rollins gave him another superkick. Edge crumpled into a heap.

Rollins turned his focus to the toolbox. He grabbed a steel chain and wrapped it around his own foot and boot. Edge returned to his knees, eyes staring vacantly at the floor. Rollins superkicked him with the chained boot. Edge fell onto a steel chair. Rollins grabbed his face, “this is how your fairy tale ends,” he declared. Rollins went for the stomp, but Edge lifted the chair between Rollins’ legs at the last moment. Seth collapsed with a scream. Edge dragged himself to his feet and hit a superkick of his own. Edge stumbled into the ladder for support. He delivered another superkick to Rollins.

Edge untied the chain from Seth’s foot. He wrapped it around Seth’s face and into his mouth. He spotted a wrench in the toolbox and switched to that. Rollins screamed, tongue wrapped around the wrench. He appeared ready to tap out, but Edge let him go. The announcers wondered what he might be thinking. Edge placed a chair under Rollins and delivered a stomp. He covered Seth for a three count.

WINNER: Edge in 27:37

(LeClair’s Analysis: Really, really good match. Creative spots, good storytelling, and a fitting end to an entertaining feud. It’s amazing what a Hell in a Cell match can still be when there’s a personal rivalry attached to it, and not just a first time meeting between two wrestlers that’s shoehorned into the cell because it’s that time of the year. If you blocked out the occasional propaganda from Michael Cole, and did your best to ignore the surroundings, you could almost forget where the show was taking place and what it unfortunately stands for. I would pretty safely consider this the best match in the less-than-illustrious history of these Saudi shows. It’s hard to set aside the ethics of this whole event and wholeheartedly recommend going out of your way to watch this match, but if you’re comfortable enough to do so, it’s well worth your time.)

-A video package for Bianca Belair aired.

-Mustafa Ali headed to the ring. Cole remarked that Belair would be competing for the Smackdown Women’s Championship later in the night. The announcers talked over the impetus for the rivalry between Ali and Mansoor. Saxton said it’s a real shame how Ali has handled his relationship with Mansoor. Graves said the shame is Mansoor himself. Mansoor headed to the ring to a respectful reaction after being announced by Mike Rome as being from Saudi Arabia.

(2) MUSTAFA ALI vs. MANSOOR

Mustafa Ali and Mansoor looked around the crowd as the referee rang the ball. The locked up in the center. Mansoor grabbed a headlock and took Ali to the mat. The crowd popped. Ali broke the hold with a forearm to the back of the neck. The two traded some quick arm holds and take downs. Mansoor used the ropes to slide out of Ali’s grasp and into an arm drag. He hit a quick dropkick, sending Ali to the outside. Ali pounded the mat in frustration. He told the crowd, and the announcers, to shut up.

Ali returned to the ring but found himself cornered. Mansoor chopped him. Ali stumbled out of the corner. The two battled onto the apron. Ali pulled at Mansoor’s feet, sending him crashing onto the edge of the ring. Mustafa tossed Mansoor into the barricade, then back in the ring. Ali climbed over Mansoor and settled into a Camel Clutch. Ali used his strength to stand and force Mansoor to break the hold. Ali jumped to the middle rope and leapt backwards onto Mansoor, hitting a Tornado DDT. He covered for a two count.

Ali tossed Mansoor to the corner and grounded him. He kicked him in the chest repeatedly, calling him a worthless loser. Mansoor caught a kick attempt and shoved his way out of the corner. He hit an inverted atomic drop and followed up with a big spinebuster. Ali begged off in the corner. Mansoor dropped him and began stomping. The referee nearly disqualified him, but Mansoor backed off. Ali shot out of the corner and got caught with a big clothesline.

Mansoor got caught with a kick from Ali. Mustafa climbed to the top rope for a 450, but Mansoor rolled out of the way. He dropped Ali, shot to the top rope, and hit a moonsault for a near fall. Ali turned the cover over into a Koji Clutch. Mansoor began to fade, but managed to drape his arm of the bottom rope in a last gasp effort. Ali climbed to the top rope again, with Mansoor still draped over the bottom rope. Ali went for a second 450, but Mansoor rolled out of the way. He hit a neckbreaker on Ali for a three count.

WINNER: Mansoor in 10:03

Ali attacked Mansoor from behind shortly after the bell. An unrecognizable music hit, and someone walked to the ring, dressed in a karate outfit and wearing a wrap over his entire face and head. Only the man’s eyes were visible. Ali looked on in confusion. Cole called it “one of the strangest things he’s ever seen.” The man looked around at the crowd. He peeled back his face covering. It was Saudi Arabian Olympic Silver Medalist, Tarek Hamdi. He kicked Ali in the face and helped Mansoor to his feet.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Fine match with a predictable outcome. This is more the style I think we’ve grown to expect out of the these Saudi shows – slow, house show pace to begin with a few big spots peppered in. Mansoor is still green, but he’s come along relatively nicely in a short amount of time. Ali worked well as the cowardly heel. I don’t think this feud has many legs, but it served its purpose here. I’m not familiar with Hamdi, but the crowd certainly was. They popped big at the sight of him, and seemed to appreciate the appearance. Like most things on these shows, it seemed to pander just a little too much.)

-Titus O’Neil and Natalya were joined in the ring by four Saudi women who defeated Breast Cancer. They talked up a Saudi Breast Cancer Association. The crowd cheered them respectfully.

-Michael Cole talked up the city of Riyadh. They showed a clip from earlier in the day, when Saudi Air Force fighter jets put on a show above the open air stadium. Cole, Graves, and Saxton then talked through the history between RK-Bro and A.J. Styles & Omos.

-“Look at the size of Omos!’ Cole exclaimed as the challengers approached the ring for their title match. The announcers continued to talk about the ongoing rivalry. Randy Orton and Riddle entered. Riddle abandoned his scooter to ride a camel that was “parked” below the stage. Orton looked on with contempt, mirroring my own reaction at home. Cole said he’s “riding high to the ring tonight.” They love those jokes. On a more serious note, Orton and Riddle received a very strong reaction (and fireworks, too.)

(3) RK-BRO (Randy Orton & Riddle, c) vs. A.J. STYLES & OMOS – Raw Tag Team Championship match

Riddle began the match with A.J. Styles. Styles kicked Riddle in the gut and forced him into the corner. Riddle ducked a clothesline and peppered A.J. with quick shin strikes. He whipped Styles to the opposing corner, but A.J. leapt over him on the rebound. Riddle caught him with a big kick to the chest, then tagged in Orton. That worked the crowd into a frenzy. Orton went for the RKO, but Styles blocked it. The crowd popped big.

Orton stomped at A.J.’s leg, working the crowd up for the stomp each time, really selling the effects of it. He tagged Riddle. Orton flipped his partner on Styles for a two count. Riddle deadlifted Styles into a gutwrench and spun him around before tossing him toward Omos. Graves said Riddle just gave Styles an easy opportunity to involve the colossus. Styles tagged Omos. Riddle charged at him, but Omos flattened him with ease. Omos tried to give Riddle a body slam, but Riddle slid down the back and immediately tagged in Orton. Randy hesitated to step in the ring.

Omos and Orton stood face to face in the center of the ring. Orton fired off a pair of punches. Omos no sold them. “Is that the hardest you can hit?” he asked. He dropped Orton with ease. The crowd booed loudly. Orton struggled to his feet. Omos pulled him up by the ear. Omos scooped Orton up for snake eyes in the corner. He stepped on Orton’s chest and taunted the crowd. Omos tagged in Styles. A.J. stomped at Orton’s chest.

The crowd opened up a big “Randy” chant. Orton returned to his feet and hit a few punches, but Styles cut him off with a dropkick. Styles covered him for a two count. Styles tagged in Omos and told him to finish Orton off. Omos grabbed the shoulder muscle of Orton. Randy screamed in agony. He broke free after a brief struggle and leaped to Riddle for a tag. Omos tagged in Styles. Riddle caught Styles with an exploder suplex, then punched Omos in the corner for good measure. Omos barely budged. Riddle hit a running senton on Styles or a two count.

Riddle scooped Styles up, but A.J. slid down the back and hit the Pale Kick. The two traded quick strike kicks until Riddle broke the chain with a pump kne. He tagged Orton. Randy tossed Styles into the stomach of Omos, knocking him to the floor. Orton hit his signature powerslam on Styles, psyched up the crowd. He slung Styles to the apron and set up for the Hangman’s DDT. Omos returned to the apron. Orton let Styles go to deal with him. Omos grabbed Orton by the throat. Riddle grabbed at Omos’ leg from below. Omos kicked him away, but Orton guillotined him over the top rope.

Orton stumbled into a punch from Styles, still on the apron. A.J. set up for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Orton caught him out of mid-air with an RKO. Randy tagged in Riddle, who hit the Floating Bro for a three count.

WINNERS: RK-Bro in 8:43 to retain the Raw Tag Team Championships

(LeClair’s Analysis: Pretty standard match between these two teams. This feud has more than run its course at this point, and I really hope this is the end of it. The biggest story here was the crowd – they were absolutely enthralled from bell to bell, particularly by Randy Orton. The heights of the opening Hell in a Cell match didn’t even reach the lows of this bout in terms of crowd engagement and participation. It’s always interesting to see what these crowds connect with, if anything. Evidently, the answer is Randy Orton and Riddle.)

-Backstage, Kevin Patrick welcomed Becky Lynch. He asked if she’s concerned about momentum, coming off a loss on Smackdown. Lynch said she expected more from Kevin, saying they go way back. Becky said Banks cheated her way to victory. She said Belair was running on momentum until she got punched in the face at SummerSlam. She said momentum only works until you hit a brick wall, and she’s the brick wall. Lynch said that if Patrick thinks either of those fools are taking her title, he hasn’t been paying attention.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good, quick promo from Lynch. The line about being the brick wall was clever, and befitting of her character. This certainly didn’t come off like a full heel promo, either.)

-A promo package for Charlotte Flair aired.

-The announcers talked up the triple threat match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship before turning attention to the Queen’s Crown tournament. Zelina Vega headed to the ring, wearing a full bodysuit and an orange t-shirt with “Z.V.” printed on it. Doudrop came to the ring in a similar black bodysuit and a generic purple shirt with her name on it. No reaction for either woman.

(4) ZELINA VEGA vs. DOUDROP – Queen’s Crown Tournament Final

Zelina Vegan and Doudrop stepped to each other in the center of the ring, Vega talking trash. She pushed Doudrop, who responded by easily shoving Vega to the ground. Zelina bounced to her feet quickly and delivered a few kicks. Doudrop caught one and shoved Vega to the apron. Zelina caught Doudrop off guard with a guillotine. She climbed to the second rope and dove, but Doudrop caught her.

Vega managed to roll into sunset flip position, but Doudrop didn’t budge. She pulled Vega to her feet and gave her a body slam. Doudrop climbed to the second rope, but Vega ripped her legs out from underneath her. Vega hit a beautiful looking tilt-a-whirl tornado DDT for a two count. Vega mounted Doudrop and grabbed a rear chinlock. Doudrop battled to her feet and dumped Vega in the corner. She hit Zelina with a clothesline.

Doudrop pounded the mat to get the crowd going. They clapped respectfully. Doudrop went for a cannonball in the corner, but Vega moved. Doudrop crashed into the bottom turnbuckle. Vega dragged Doudrop from the corner and covered her for a two count. Doudrop pulled herself to her feet and hit a spinning sidewalk slam on Vega for a near fall. Doudrop hit a running senton for another near fall.

Vega moved out of the way of another splash attempt. She leapt onto Doudrop and hit a Code Red for a three count.

WINNER: Zelina Vega in 5:51

“Zelina’s the queen!” Cole exclaimed. Graves said he’s amazed that she defied the odds, being such a physical underdog. Vega tried to put the cape on, but it wouldn’t buckle. She put the crown on and waved the scepter. Greg Hamilton gave an inspired “all hail Queen Zelina Vega” announcement, signaling the beginning of another insufferable royalty gimmick.

(LeClair’s Analysis: A fine match between two women who have been poorly booked for months on end, given very little to work with, and then sent out in front of a crowd that simply did not care. This was embarrassing. Both Vega and Doudrop’s attire was so clearly rushed, so clearly second rate, and so completely unfitting of both their characters. Commentary made no mention of the fact that these two were wearing attire they’d never normally wear. There was nothing threatening about them, nothing that denoted them as stars. They were just unassuming women in bodysuits and poorly thrown together t-shirts. If Saudi Arabia wants to be displayed on the national stage to a worldwide audience, and accepted as a destination for entertainment, they need to be willing to let the women on these shows be the women they are in every other country, state, and city they visit. There’s no excuse, and it’s disgusting that WWE just plays along.

From a storyline perspective, the Queen’s Crown tournament has already received plenty of well-deserved criticism. It was shoddily booked, with short, unsatisfying matches and even less satisfying conclusions. While I’m all for giving Vega a shot to prove herself as a mainstay in the women’s division, her booking prior to the tournament has already taught the audience not to see her as a legitimate threat. I was excited for a women’s tournament in theory, but it was beyond poor in its execution.)

-Michael Cole delivered some more propaganda, talking up the Riyadh Season Parade that took place last night. He then turned his attention to Bobby Lashley vs. Goldberg, tossing to a video package hyping the rematch.

Bobby Lashley entered first to a darkened arena and signature AR lightning display. He received a smattering of boos. Cole made sure to highlight the fact that pinfalls count anywhere in the building. A disjointed “Goldberg” chant rang out, but quickly got on track once his music provided the beat. The camera cut backstage, where a number of security guards lined a cramped, makeshift hallway outside of double doors serving as Goldberg’s locker room. A knock brought him out. He marched down the hall, and then to the ring.

Lashley pulled a chain from his tights before the match began.

(5) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. GOLDBERG – No Holds Barred/Falls Count Anywhere match

Goldberg pounced as soon as the bell rang. He caught Lashley with a few punches, but Bobby quickly used the chain to gain the upper hand. He tossed Goldberg into the ring post. Goldberg tried to shake it off, but Lashley kept the pressure, driving his knee into Goldberg’s head in the corner. Lashley left the ring and retrieved a steel chair. He cracked it over Goldberg’s back and held it up to the crowd to a flurry of boos.

Bobby bent the chair of Goldberg’s back a second time, then tossed him back into the corner. Lashley retrieved a table from underneath the ring. Lashley elbowed the back of Goldberg’s neck. He stepped on Goldberg’s knee, the same one he injured at SummerSlam. Lashley propped the table in the corner. He charged at Goldberg and gave him a chop block to the leg. Goldberg did a full flip. Lashley mounted Goldberg in a frenzy, firing off a couple of punches. He wrapped the chair around Goldberg’s leg and stomped at it. Lashley climbed to the middle rope and jumped, stomping the chair with Goldberg’s leg still inside it. Saxton said the referee should consider stopping the match.

Lashley geared up for a spear as the match approached the 5:00 mark. He charged, but Goldberg sidestepped him, sending Lashley crashing through the table propped in the corner. Goldberg tried to shake out his injured leg. He gave Lashley a spear, then called for the Jackhammer. Goldberg struggled to get Lashley up, but eventually did. He delivered the Jackhammer, but forewent the cover. He tossed Lashley from the ring and hopped outside to meet him, selling the injured leg.

Goldberg gave Lashley a spear through the ringside barricade. “You touch my son, you’re dead!” Goldberg yelled. Goldberg hobbled around the ring, looking for something underneath. He didn’t find what he was looking for, so he settled for the steel steps instead. He tore them apart, then went back to retrieve Lashley. Goldberg smashed Lashley’s head off the barricade, then the announcers desk. He walked Lashley around the ringside area and tossed him onto the steps. “You’re gonna pay now!” Goldberg barked. He tried to sandwich Lashley between the steel, but Bobby rolled out of the way and crawled up the ramp. Goldberg gave chase slowly. He stalked Lashley as the match crossed the 10:00 mark.

Lashley motioned toward the back. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin emerged with kendo sticks. They handed one to Lashley. Goldberg dispatched the Hurt Business with ease, took a stick, and climbed the ramp to meet Bobby. Goldberg quickly got the better of Lashley, taking him down with a kendo stick and then breaking it over his own knee. Lashley struggled to stand on the edge of the rampway. Goldberg speared Lashley off the stage and through three covered tables below. He covered Lashley for a three count.

WINNER: Goldberg in 11:28

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was probably Goldberg’s most impressive outing since returning years ago. In that, I mean it was a competent, WWE style hardcore match. It served its purpose, putting Goldberg over strong and making Lashley look like a cowardly dope. There’s just no excuse for this kind of booking – Lashley has been a main stay in the main event scene for the better part of a year, while Goldberg shows up once during that time to huff and puff his way to a destructive win. Next week, Lashley will show up on Raw once Goldberg has returned home, and he’ll pretend this never happened. The announcers will go along with it, and WWE will act as though they haven’t just defined down another one of their main event acts. It’s the WWE way – sacrifice your full time talent for the “moment” with a legend.)

-Cole, Graves, and Saxton recapped the show thus far. They turned focus to the Universal title match, showing clips from the contract signing on last week’s Smackdown. They showed a clip from Paul Heyman discussing the contract signing on the Crown Jewel kickoff show. Heyman said he’s going to walk to the ring with the Universal Champion Roman Reigns, and he’s going to walk back to the locker room with Universal Champion Roman Reigns.

-The camera focused on the King’s throne. Cole said it’s time to crown the latest King of the Ring.

Finn Balor headed to the ring to a respectable pop. The crowd cheered loudly when he did his signature arm throw. Xavier Woods entered next, without Kofi Kingston. He stared longingly at the throne at the top of the stage. Woods played the New Day trumpet as the crowd chanted along. Cole said Woods called this the most important match of his career.

(6) FINN BALOR vs. XAVIER WOODS – King of the Ring Tournament Final

Xavier Woods offered a fist bump to Finn Balor as the match began. The two men circled each other. Balor grabbed a rear waist lock. The two quickly traded arm twists and headlocks. Woods pushed Balor off the ropes, but Balor held his headlock grip firmly. He took Woods to the mat. Xavier rolled him into a cover for a one count. Both men wrestled to their feet and went back to chain grapples. Woods got the better of Balor this time, taking him to the mat and grabbing an arm lock briefly. Balor countered it into a mat headlock.

Both men returned to their feet simultaneously off the hold. Woods hit a tilt-a-whirl take down for another one count. Michael Cole talked about former King of the Ring winners. Woods shot off the ropes with a sunset flip, but Balor rolled through and hit a basement dropkick. He grabbed a headlock again. Woods worked his way to his feet and gave Finn a backdrop, but Balor didn’t let go. He applied a crossface. Woods quickly draped his foot over the bottom rope to break the hold.

Balor remained in control, grabbing a modified headlock in a seated position. Woods fought out of it and struck Finn in the gut with his knee. Xavier tripped Balor into the ropes, then hit a dropkick to the back. He spilled out onto the apron and caught Balor with a kick. Woods went for the Tornado DDT, but Balor shoved him to the mat and hit a standing double stomp. Woods retreated to the corner. Finn chopped him repeatedly. Woods fought back with chops of his own. After a number of quick ducks and reversals, Balor hit the clubbing blow to the chest, then followed up with the Slingblade.

Xavier Woods caught Balor with a kick to the face, blocking an attempted dropkick to the corner. Woods hit Finn with a number of quick strikes and chops. Balor seemed out on his feet, but hit an overhead kick in desperation. Both men took a moment to stand. Balor elbowed Woods in the nape of his neck. Woods rolled Balor into a small package for a near fall at the 7:00 mark. Woods climbed to the middle rope, but Balor kicked him to the mat. Finn climbed the turnbuckle, but Woods cut him off. Xavier set up for a superplex and hit it. He covered Balor for a two count.

Woods climbed to the top rope and went for the diving elbow, but Balor got his knees up. Finn hit the running dropkick, launching Woods into the corner. Balor set up for the Coup De Grace, but Woods rolled out of the way and caught Balor with an enziguri. Woods hit a unique looking gutbuster suplex. He climbed to the top rope and hit the diving elbow for a three count.

WINNER: Xavier Woods in 9:39

Woods spoke directly to the microphone after adorning his crown. He said he’s in charge, so he can cut cameras whenever he wants to make sure they pay attention to him.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. Woods and Balor had an extensive feeling out process to begin the match that definitely felt a bit like a house show, but the action picked up quickly. They worked quite well together, with some neat counters and a really innovative gutbuster suplex from Woods deep in the match. After the match, Saxton said that Woods spoke the moment into existence and it sort of feels like he did. The King of the Ring tournament was largely a prop to set up an important match for Saudi Arabia, so it’s hard to get very excited about the tournament. With that being said, I prefer that a silly king gimmick but attached to a guy like Woods, who can make it comedic and lighthearted, versus someone like Balor, who would undoubtedly be brought down by having to promote such a silly concept constantly. Even Woods, though, was perplexed by what being King of the Ring actually meant, hilariously telling the camera that he now had the power to cut cameras at will. Sure, King!)

-A video package for the WWE Championship match between Big E and Drew McIntyre aired.

Drew McIntyre headed to the ring, sword in hand. He punched himself in the head to psyche himself up. Cole talked about Drew’s impending debut on Smackdown tomorrow night, and whether he’d bring the WWE title with him. Big E headed to the ring. The announcers discussed the need for Big E to win to truly solidify his reign as champion. Greg Hamilton provided standard championship match introductions. Good reactions for both men when they were announced.

(7) BIG E (c) vs. DREW McINTYRE – WWE Championship match

Big E and Drew McIntyre approached each other in the center of the ring. Big E told Drew that he’s never been in the ring with someone like him. The two men locked up, neither gaining ground. The broke apart and circled each other for a moment before locking up again. McIntyre hit the ropes and gave Big E a shoulder, but Big E shrugged it off. He told Drew to hit the ropes and do something. McIntyre hit a second shoulder tackle, but Big E no sold it.

McIntyre gave E a quick arm drag and grabbed a hold of his chin. Big E quickly worked himself out of it, leapfrogged McIntyre twice, and delivered an elbow that dropped Drew to the mat. The champion dragged his opponent to the apron and pummeled him with forearms to the chest. E returned to the apron for a edge splash, but McIntyre rolled to the outside. Big E approached, walking right into an overhead belly-to-belly from Drew. Both men returned to the ring relatively quickly. Drew gave the champion a hard right and an even harder chop. He hit a Russian Leg Sweep, then transitioned into a pin for a two count.

Drew grabbed a side headlock but Big E powered out of it with right hands to the gut. McIntyre stomped out the flurry with a leaping spinebuster into a cover for two. Big E recovered quickly, delivering a belly-to-belly. He gyrated over McIntyre, then went for a running splash. McIntyre moved. He hit a quick neckbreaker and kipped up. Drew roared to the crowd’s approval. He set up for the Future Shock DDT, but Big E blocked it and hit another belly-to-belly. This time, Big E connected with the splash. He scooped Drew up for the Big Ending, but McIntyre slid down his back and hit the Michinoku Driver for a near fall. The crowd broke into a “McIntyre” chant.

Big E pulled himself to his feet as McIntyre climbed to the top rope. Drew dove, but Big E ducked it and shot E to the corner. Drew charged, but E caught him with a Uranagi for a near fall. Both men rose slowly. McIntyre caught Big E with a Glasgow Kiss as the match crossed the 8:00 mark. McIntyre ducked a punch from Big E and connected with the Future Shock DDT for another near fall. A “this is awesome” chant rang out.

McIntyre set up for the Claymore. He launched, but Big E caught him in a powerbomb. The champion held onto the leg and applied the Stretch Muffler. E tried to lock his hands, but McIntyre powered free. Drew fired a right wildly, but Big E ducked, scooped him up and hit the Big Ending. He hooked the leg, but McIntyre kicked out at the last possible moment. Big E sent Drew to the corner and hoisted him onto the top turnbuckle. Big E climbed up to meet Drew, trying to set up for a super Big Ending. McIntyre blocked it, transitioning into the offensive position and hitting a bulldog off the top rope for a two count.

Drew called for the Claymore again. He launched his body, but Big E ducked, sending Drew crashing. E called for the Big Ending, but McIntyre exploded into a Claymore. McIntyre fell onto Big E, but the champion managed to kick out just in the knick of time. Graves said he may have gotten him if he’d hooked the leg. The crowd began cycling through chants, rapid fire. McIntyre scooped E onto his shoulders, but E slid down his back. He hoisted McIntyre up, spinning around and eventually getting him into position to hit a second Big Ending for a three count.

WINNER: Big E in 13:23 to retain the WWE Championship

McIntyre gave Big E a thumbs up from the ramp as he turned to leave. “Respect to you,” E said from the ring.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Great match. Fast paced, hard hitting, and entertaining from start to finish. I loved the fire Big E showed at the beginning, telling Drew that he’d never faced anyone like him. E no selling McIntyre’s hard shoulders brought credibility to his character and finally made him seem like a credible, main event threat. E remained serious throughout, with a single gyration being the sole exception, and, as it should’ve, that act of hubris allowed McIntyre to take control of the match. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing these two cross paths again down the line.)

-Cole tossed to a video package recapping WWE’s B.A. Star event in Riyadh. Yikes.

-Greg Hamilton introduced the triple threat match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Becky Lynch entered first to a substantial pop. She wore a leather jacket over her black bodysuit and yellow t-shirt. Cole tossed to clips of Lynch’s return at SummerSlam. Sasha Banks entered, wearing a more colorfully designed bodysuit, but also sporting a generic t-shirt.  The crowd chanted with the “hell….yeah” in her theme. Bianca Belair hopped the to the ring in a purple bodysuit. She wore a flashy black jacket over her…you guessed it…generic t-shirt. Greg Hamilton introduced each woman before the opening bell.

(8) BECKY LYNCH (c) vs. SASHA BANKS vs. BIANCA BELAIR – Smackdown Women’s Championship Triple Threat match

All three woman circled one another to begin the match. Bianca Belair flipped over Sasha Banks and ran into Becky Lynch, sending her tumbling awkwardly into the ropes. Belair caugh Banks in a powerslam position. Lynch leapt onto Belair’s back. Bianca deposited Lynch in the corner. Banks fought her way free and onto the top rope. Belair quickly cut her off, scooping her into military press position. Belair dropped her hand, holding Banks with ease with a single arm. She shrugged, then dropped her.

Becky Lynch returned and tossed Belair to the outside. Lynch and Banks engaged in some quick take downs. Sasha worked Becky into a pin, but Becky slid out from underneath her and bridged herself to a standing position. Banks took Lynch down and hit the double knees for a two count. Belair returned to the apron. Banks kicked Bianca back to the floor en route to giving Becky a spinning bulldog.

Belair returned quickly, tossing Banks to the corner. Belair stomped at her in the corner. Belair got Banks into position for the K.O.D., but Lynch flew off the top rope with a missile dropkick. She covered Belair for a two count, then tried Banks for another two. Sasha rolled to the outside. Lynch gave Belair a pair of elbows. Lynch picked the leg of Belair and gave her a bulldog for a two count. Sasha returned to the top rope, but Lynch chopped her down. Banks got tangled in the ropes and Lynch slammed her. The champion went back and forth between both her challengers, driving her boot into their abdomens.

Becky gave Banks and Belair Bex-ploder suplexes. She covered both simultaneously for a two count. Lynch talked trash to both women. She climbed to the top rope again. Lynch dove, but Belair and Banks caught her. Becky tried to talk herself free, but Banks and Belair tossed her into the corner. Belair rolled up Sasha for a one count. Banks rolled up Belair for one. The two continued traded one counts for a few moments. Banks gave Belair an arm drag. Belair responded with a shoulder tackle. Belair leapfrogged Banks out of the corner, backflipped, then caught Banks with a dropkick. She went for a stalling suplex, but Banks countered into a suplex of her own. She rotated the hips for a second, then a third, completing the Three Amigos. An “Eddie” chant broke out.

Banks climbed to the top rope, but not before kicking Becky Lynch on her way up. She went for a frog splash, but Belair rolled out of the way. Banks hit double knees on Lynch in the corner. She went for it a second time, but Belair shoved her into the ropes and out of the ring. Banks landed awkwardly. Belair and Lynch traded quick roll-ups as the match approached 10:00. Belair hit a modified spinebuster and folded Lynch for a two count.

Lynch caught Belair with a boot out of the corner. Belair shrugged it off and went for the K.O.D. Lynch flipped out of it, but got rolled up. Banks returned to take out both women. Banks tried to sunset flip Belair, who had a grip of Lynch. Belair hit the stalling vertical suplex on Becky while thwarting Sasha’s attempt at a sunset roll up. Banks immediately pounced, applying the Bank Statement before Belair could stand up. Lynch joined in, applying the Disarm-her simultaneously. The two eventually broke the holds. Belair rolled to the outside.

Becky and Sasha battled back and forth. Lynch went to the top rope, but Banks thwarted her attempt at an axe handle, instead hitting the backstabber. Banks transitioned into the Bank Statement, but Belair quickly broke it up with with a handstand moonsault. She covered Lynch for two, then Sasha for two. Bianca worked Sasha into the corner. Belair battled out with a knee to the face. She slammed Belair by her ponytail. Banks looked around at the crowd, then grabbed Belair’s braid. She pulled on it, kicking Bianca as she taunted her. Belair used the braid to flip Banks into a cover. Becky saved the pinfall attempt.

Lynch went for an underhook DDT on Sasha, but she blocked it. Lynch hit the Rock Bottom instead. She hooked the leg, but Belair broke up the pin with a punch to the jaw. All three women struggled to stand as the match passed 16:00. Lynch and Belair traded elbows on their knees. Lynch went for a Rock Bottom, but Belair blocked it. Lynch sent Bianca tumbling to the apron. Banks returned, knocking Lynch to the floor. She slid through Belair’s legs and tried to powerbomb her to the floor, but Belair held on. Banks and Belair tangled on the floor. Lynch flew off the announcers desk and took out both opponents.

Back in the ring, Lynch set Belair up for the Disarm-Her. Banks returned, but Becky tripped her up as well. She applied a double Disarm-Her. Belair lifted both women off their feet to break the hold. Banks hit Belair with a backstabber. Lynch kicked Banks in the stomach and set up for the Rock Bottom. Banks slid out of it. Belair returned and hit Lynch with the K.O.D. Banks tried to toss her from the ring to steal the pin, but Belair countered and sent her packing. Becky sprang to life, rolling Belair up and holding onto the ropes for a three count.

WINNER: Becky Lynch in 19:24 to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Lynch celebrated as Banks and Belair looked on in frustration. Cole said the Smackdown Women’s Champion is going to Raw and the Raw Women’s Champion is headed to Smackdown. Saxton called it a “bit of a dilemma.”

(LeClair’s Analysis: Phew. Whirlwind of a match. These three brought it, big time. Tons of innovative offense, incredibly impressive spots for Bianca Belair, and an all around stellar performance from wrestlers at the top of their game. It felt like they went out there to make a statement about the importance of women in athletic competition against the backdrop of a country that treats them as less-than. This match was good enough to temporarily overlook the ridiculous gear that stripped all three of their individuality. Generic, color-coded t-shirts be damned, Banks, Lynch, and Belair refused to be looked at as anything less than stars. It’s a damn shame this match had to happen in Saudi Arabia, truly.

From a storyline perspective, they’ve sort of booked themselves into a corner with the champions changing brands. There doesn’t really seem a solution to this, short of just swapping the titles like props, and that’s probably what they’ll wind up doing. It’s stupid, it’s silly, and it demeans both titles and the competitors who hold them.)

-The announcers recapped the opening Hell in a Cell match, then turned to the Universal Championship main event. He wondered where the allegiance of Paul Heyman lies before tossing to a video package for the match.

-The camera peered up at Roman Reigns’ foreboding AR body. The real Roman Reigns stepped onto the stage, flanked by Paul Heyman and wearing his signature lei. Pyro shot from around, and above the stage as Reigns held the Universal title high above his head. Cole talked about the uncertainty surrounding Heyman’s allegiance. Graves said Heyman’s only allegiance is to the almighty dollar. In the ring, Reigns turned to face each side of the crowd. They booed. Brock Lesnar’s music hit and the crowd popped as the Beast stepped onto the stage. Cole said Lesnar held the Universal title for 503 days, making him the longest reigning Universal champion. Reigns, sitting at number two, wants to get to number one, Cole said. Greg Hamilton introduced the champion and challenger as the two men stared each other down.

(9) ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Brock Lesnar – Universal Championship match

Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar jogged around the ring tentatively to start the match. Lesnar threw a jab, but Reigns pulled away from it. They locked up. Lesnar forced Reigns into the ropes and broke the hold. Brock pounced, kicking Reigns in the gut and clubbing him in the back. Brock laughed as he let Reigns catch his breath. Roman came back and delivered an uppercut. Lesnar shook it off, scooped Reigns off his feet and drove him into the turnbuckle. Brock drove his shoulder into Reigns’ stomach repeatedly.

Lesnar waited for Reigns to stumble out of the corner, then he looked for a German suplex. Reigns blocked it by holding onto the ropes. Lesnar ripped him away and hit the move. A “suplex city” chant broke out. Reigns shook off the suplex, but Lesnar tried it again. Reigns again grabbed onto the ropes, this time winning the battle. Roman guillotined Lesnar on the ropes and dragged Brock to the outside. He tossed Lesnar into the barricade. Both men caught their breath as the referee counted to four. Brock lifted Reigns onto his shoulders, but Reigns fought free and slid into the ring.

The crowd began dueling chants of “let’s go Roman” and “suplex city.” Lesnar returned to the apron, and Reigns caught him with a quick Superman Punch. Lesnar staggered to his feet. Reigns dove over the top rope, onto Lesnar below. Both men returned to the ring slowly. Reigns set up for, and hit the spear, covering for a two count at the 4:35 mark. Reigns set up for another Superman Punch. He connected. Lesnar stumbled into the ropes. Reigns hit him with a third Superman Punch. Lesnar collapsed into the corner. He used the ropes to steady himself. Reigns let out a primal “ohh-ahh” and charged for the spear. Brock leapfrogged Reigns, and the champion speared the ring post.

Lesnar sat back against the ropes, catching his breath. He grabbed Reigns and delivered a second German suplex, then a third. Lesnar flexed and screamed, then hit a fourth German suplex. Brock played to the crowd, mocking Reigns’ earlier taunt. Lesnar scooped the champion up and delivered an F5 for a near fall. Lesnar stood over Reigns’ body. The champion tried to use Lesnar’s legs to help him stand. Brock scooped him up for another F5, but Reigns countered into a guillotine. Reigns wrapped up, forcing Lesnar to support his body weight. Lesnar snapped his upper body upward and planted Reigns with a spinebuster to break the hold.

Brock looked for the F5 again. He spun Reigns, who collided with the referee. Lesnar covered, but there was no official to make the count. Cole counted to five before Lesnar let go of the leg. Brock checked on Charles Robinson. He pulled him up with one hand by the belt, dropping him comically to the mat. Robinson rolled to the outside. Lesnar turned around and ate a spear for Reigns. Both men were down, face first on the mat as the match hit 11:00. The camera cut to Paul Heyman at ringside, holding the Universal title and seemingly wrestling with a decision. He tossed the title belt perfectly in between both Brock and Roman. “You know what to do with it!” he screamed, before turning away in shame.

Lesnar won a brief struggle for the title belt. He wound up to hit Reigns, but The Usos appeared in the ring and caught Lesnar with tandem superkicks. Brock dropped the title. Reigns picked it up and hit Lesnar in the head. A new referee emerged from the back, just in time to count Lesnar down for three.

WINNER: Roman Reigns in 12:22 to retain the Universal Championship

Reigns sauntered up the ramp with the Usos and Paul Heyman at his side. Heyman clutched the Universal title. Lesnar came to, staring up the ramp in frustration as the show faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: These two have faced each other a number of times at this point, but I was interested to see how things fared with the roles reversed. In truth, babyface Lesnar works a lot like heel Lesnar, and so the differences were rather minimal. Reigns had to work from behind a little bit, which is in stark contrast to his heel run thus far. Even still, this felt less fresh than I initially anticipated. It certainly wasn’t bad, and the finish accomplished a number of things. Lesnar has a legitimate claim to a rematch, hopefully this time on non-Saudi soil. Reigns gets a dastardly win to continue his dominant run. Most importantly, though, for the purpose of the story they’re looking to tell, Paul Heyman’s allegiance remains unclear. He gave himself plausible deniability regardless of the match’s outcome, delaying the reveal until a later date. In that way, this certainly felt like the storyline punt that we’re used to seeing on these Saudi events.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Undoubtedly the strongest Saudi event to date. An excellent opener and women’s triple threat match anchored what was a night (or day) of mostly solid wrestling, albeit with some predictable results. This didn’t quite feel like an all-the-way Pay-Per-View, but it certainly felt like more than a house show with legends. Perhaps they’re starting to settle on something somewhere in between, closer to the old UK exclusive events back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Generally speaking, I’m always for cutting back the length of a four hour event (not including the pre-show), but each match had purpose and mostly delivered.

While I’m still completely adverse to the mere existence of these shows, and of the pandering propaganda, I applaud the talent for going out of their way to deliver a watchable show that was, at times, good enough to make me forget about the nature of the event. I struggle to give it an outright recommendation based solely on the ethics, but taken strictly as a wrestling event, this was actually quite solid.

 

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