LECLAIR’S WWE CROWN JEWEL 2022 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns vs. Paul, Lesnar vs. Lashley, Belair vs. Bayley, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


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

LECLAIR’S WWE CROWN JEWEL 2022 REPORT
NOVEMBER 5, 2022
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA AT MRSOOL PARK STADIUM
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK (U.S.), WWE NETWORK (Int.)

Announcers: Michael Cole & Wade Barrett

-The show opened with a video package narrated by Titus O’Neil, highlighting moments from previous Saudi events, then turning focus to the major matches on today’s card.

-Fireworks shot from the darkened stage in Mrsool Park Stadium. Michael Cole introduced the show, himself, and Wade Barrett before tossing to the Arabic announce team seated at ringside.

-Bobby Lashley’s signature drum line rang out and the camera honed in on him posing atop the stage. Cole said the fans in Riyadh were in awe of the “physical specimen that is Bobby Lashley.” Lashley posed atop the turnbuckle as more fireworks shot from the perimeter of the stadium. Cole said they were kicking the show off with a “box office sensation.” An audible “Bobby” chant rang out. The show cut to a video package hyping the match.

Brock Lesnar entered to a big ovation. He paced back and forth on the stage as the crowd yelled his name with ring announcer Mike Rome. Cole said that Paul Heyman recently claimed that Lesnar viewed Lashley as an asterisk on his career, one he needs to conquer and correct. Lesnar circled the ring with a smile on his face.

Bobby Lashley slid out of the ring and attacked Lesnar from behind, slamming his knee into the ring steps. He tossed him into the ring.

(1) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. BROCK LESNAR

Bobby Lashley hit Brock Lesnar with a spear as soon as the bell rang. Lesnar rolled to the outside to regroup, but Lashley stayed on the attack. He drove Lesnar through the timekeeper’s barrier, then tossed him back inside. Lashley hit a second spear and hooked the leg for a near fall. The crowd rose to their feet for Brock. The Beast recovered enough to hit Lashley with a trio of German Suplexes. He posed for the crowd, favoring his knee heavily.

“One more time!” the crowd chanted as Lesnar stalked his prey. He scooped Lashley up and hit the F5. Lesnar hooked the leg, but Lashley kicked out at two. Lashley wandered to his feet. Brock looked for another F5, but Lashley slid down his back and clotheslined Lesnar over the top rope to the floor. Cole said that Brock isn’t steady on his feet. Lashley hoisted Lesnar onto his shoulders and slammed him into the ring post. The crowd booed. Lashley tossed Brock back in the ring.

Lashley charged at Lesnar, but Brock picked him up into F5 position. Lashley slid down the back again and connected with a Spinebuster. Lashley called for the Hurt Lock. He grabbed it. Brock resisted, but Lashley still managed to lock his hands. Lesnar screamed in pain as the crowd tried to will him on. Lesnar began to fade. He gave out a primal yell, trying to drag himself toward the ropes. “I don’t want to give up, shut up!” Lesnar told the referee. Brock fell to one knee. The referee raised Brock’s hand one and it fell. Twice, same result. Third, Brock locked his arm in the air. The sudden burst of momentum carried Brock to the corner. He used his legs to force his legs up onto the turnbuckle. Lesnar kicked himself backwards, falling onto Lashley. The referee counted three.

WINNER: Brock Lesnar in 5:59

Lashley was incensed. He argued with the referee, then put Lesnar in the Hurt Lock again. Lesnar collapsed against the ropes. His face turned red, and he slumped lifeless. Lashley posed for the crowd to a chorus of boos.

(LeClair’s Analysis: There’s a certain monotony to these Lesnar matches at this point. It’s bedlam out of the gate, with big finishers and early kick outs. From there, you get some Suplexes, a couple more power moves, and some more finishers before the finish. I applaud them for going in a different direction with this finish, Lesnar winning with a surprise pin while still locked in the Hurt Lock. Still, there just wasn’t much to this. It certainly sets up for a third encounter down the line. I do wonder if this was meant to officially turn Lashley, or simply continue down the path of two highly competitive monsters. Lashley’s post-match attack was certainly cheap, but I do think they can pretty easily explain it away. The Saudi crowd very clearly viewed Lashley as a heel, but I don’t know that that is necessarily indicative of the reaction American audiences will deliver. While this wasn’t anything special or spectacular, it served its purpose as a hot opener to get the crowd involved.)

-Dakota Kai and Io Sky headed to the ring in coordinated, full-cover body suits. Cole talked over a quick clip of Kai and Sky losing the Women’s Tag Team titles on Raw.

-The camera cut to Alexa Bliss and Asuka backstage. Byron Saxton asked them how confident they are defending the titles just five days after winning them. Bliss said they’ve been preparing for this moment. The TV behind her showed Bray Wyatt’s firefly logo. Bliss was startled. She briefly lost her train of thought before returning to the conversation at hand. Asuka said Damage Ctrl isn’t ready for Bliss and Asuka.

Back in the stadium, Asuka entered first. Bliss followed to a very strong reaction. They posed with the titles on the apron.

(2) ALEXA BLISS & ASUKA (c) vs. DAKOTA KAI & IO SKY – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match

Dakota Kai began the match with Alexa Bliss. The two women locked up. Kai gained the upper hand initially, working over Bliss’ arm. Alexa quickly rolled through it into a lock of her own, but Kai dumped her to the mat. Bliss whipped Kai into the corner and invited her to bring it. Kai charged, and the two women fought back into the corner. Bliss and Kai traded quick roll-through moves and roll ups for one counts. Kai tried to slide into Bliss’ legs, but Bliss jumped and landed on Dakota’s back. She drove her weight into Kai before relinquishing to the referee’s rope count.

Kai tagged in Io Sky. Bliss decided to tag in Asuka. Asuka played to the crowd, who rose to their feet for her. Asuka and Sky traded quick take-downs. Asuka tagged Bliss back in and the two attempted a double Suplex. Sky flipped through it, but ate double knees from the champions anyway. Sky stumbled back into the ropes, but caught Bliss with a boot to the face. Bliss tagged Asuka back in, and the duo hit running hip checks to Kai and Sky on the apron. Sky tagged out.

Io and Kai dumped Asuka to the outside awkwardly. Asuka grabbed at her knee. Bliss checked on her. Asuka barely answered the referee’s count. A “let’s go Asuka” chant broke out. Kai grabbed a leg lock on the champion. Sky pulled the ropes away, leaving Asuka trapped. Asuka eventually broke free, but Dakota dragged her back to the corner and tagged in Io Sky. The heel duo continued isolating Asuka as the match crossed 6:00.

Sky gave Asuka a powerful Dragon Screw. Asuka screamed out in pain. Bliss reached desperately for a tag. Sky planned Asuka face first, then tagged in Dakota. The pair whipped Asuka to the corner. Asuka fought free with an elbow, a clothesline, and a bulldog. She crawled and leapt toward the waiting hand of Alexa Bliss. Alexa dropped Kai and Sky with Meteoras. She hit a double basement dropkick. Kai fell onto the middle rope and Bliss drove her knees into the back. She hit her signature double knee roll, then a Tornado DDT off the middle rope. Bliss covered, but Sky broke it up. Io dragged her partner to their corner and tagged herself in.

Bliss tried remain on the attack, but Sky hooked her arms and planted her face first. Bliss recovered quickly and hit a nice looking Code Red for a near fall. Bliss climbed to the top rope, but Sky leapt up to meet her. Kai joined the fray. Asuka entered the ring, hopping on one leg. She hooked all three women for the big tower spot. Both Bliss and Sky tagged out. Asuka hit Kai with a dropkick off the top rope. She followed up with quick back hand strikes and kicks. Asuka looked for the Hip Attack, but Kai moved. Asuka caught her anyway, connecting with a German Suplex for a two count.

Asuka was tripped into the middle turnbuckle by Kai. Dakota hit a running boot and covered for a two count at 11:20. Asuka crawled to her corner and tagged Alexa. Bliss went for Twisted Bliss, but Kai got her knees up. Asuka and Sky battled on the outside. In the ring, Bliss dropped Kai again and climbed to the top rope. Nikki Cross appeared on the apron. She tripped Bliss, then hooked her on the ropes for a spike DDT. The referee was distracted by Sky and Asuka, but recovered just in time to see Kai make the cover for a three count.

WINNERS: Dakota Kai & Io Sky in 12:51 to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was on the higher end of what I think could’ve been reasonably expected. All four women seemed particularly motivated. Bliss was sharp throughout, and though some of her offense still looks choreographed, she’s added some cool stuff to her repertoire and it was on full display here. The crowd was engaged throughout, and really into Bliss and Asuka, particularly the former. I liked the pre-match tease of Bliss being drawn back to Wyatt, too. It was a bit perplexing to see them go back to Damage Ctrl so quickly, though. I dislike these rapid fire title changes, and the only reason this really makes sense is that they felt they needed a title change in Saudi to make it feel relevant. Given the way they’ve sort of worked this event into WWE’s regular calendar, though, that feels pretty unnecessary.)

-A black SUV pulled up the stadium, and the Paul brothers stepped out with their entourage. Byron Saxton approached, asking how Logan is feeling about his title match. Paul said he feels great, and all it takes is one lucky punch.

-Cole and Barrett tossed to a video package for Drew McIntyre vs. Karrion Kross.

The camera looked up at the steel cage hovering above the ring. Mike Rome announced the rules of a steel cage match, and the screen’s color drained. Karrion Kross emerged from the smoke on stage, flanked by Scarlett. She got a head start, lip syncing Kross’ music. The two posed in the ring, bathed in red light, to a minimal reaction. Kross looked up at the cage menacingly.

Drew McIntyre’s music hit and the crowd came back to life, giving him a warm welcome as he emerged from the entrance. Fire shot from the stage as he raised his sword. Drew got a drone-created sword in the dark Saudi sky above the stadium while fireworks shot from around the edge of the building.

Ominous music played the cage was lowered to contain the competitors in the ring. McIntyre slammed the door shut himself.

(3) KARRION KROSS (w/ Scarlett) vs. DREW McINTYRE – Steel Cage match

Drew McIntyre and Karrion Kross engaged in a brief stare-down after the bell rang. McIntyre approached first, and the two began firing off punches. Drew quickly worked Kross into the corner, then gave him a back drop. He shook the wall the of the cage, playing to the crowd. Kross recovered quickly, overwhelming McIntyre in the corner before delivering a snap side Suplex. The crowd began a “McIntyre” chant and Kross told them to shut up.

Kross easily thwarted a comeback attempt from McIntyre, shaking off his punches and tossing him into the wall of the cage. “Tick tock!” he yelled before raking Drew’s face across the steel. Kross whipped McIntyre into the corner, but Drew exploded back at him with a clothesline. Kross rolled on to his feet and went for his own, but Drew caught him with a neckbreaker. McIntyre kipped up, much to the crowd’s delight. He shoved Karrion toward the steel, but Kross caught himself, and bounced back with an elbow to the head.

McIntyre and Kross worked back toward the turnbuckle. Cole called it a “slow and plodding match that works in Kross’ favor.” Karrion gave Drew a handful of headbutts, catching him in the Tree of Woe position. Drew lifted his body straight up to throw Kross off the turnbuckle. McIntyre returned to the mat, but ate a Claymore-like knee to face from Kross for a two count as the match crossed 6:30. Drew returned to his feet, tossed Kross into the steel, then delivered a Spinebuster. He rolled into a jackknife cover for two. Kross immediately tried to turn it into the Kross-Jacket. McIntyre fought free.

The two men jockeyed for position on the mat before Kross worked Drew to his feet and hit a Doomsday Suplex. Kross sized up McIntyre for the Kross-Hammer. Drew ducked it and connected with the Future Shock DDT. He counted down for the Claymore, but Scarlett climbed the cage to reach eye level with Drew. The distraction allowed Kross to recover and apply the Kross-Jacket. He let go of the hold only to deliver the Kross-Hammer. “I told you!” he yelled, before beginning his ascent of the cage. Kross reached the top before McIntyre sprang to life and grabbed his leg. Drew pulled Kross back inward and hit a Superplex from the top.

Both men were laid out in the center of the ring at 10:00. Drew crawled to his knees and told the outside official to open the cage door. He crawled toward the exit, but Scarlett maced him, and the referee. McIntyre stumbled back blindly. Kross awoke, laughing and crawling to the door. Drew caught Kross’ leg and applied an Ankle Lock. Karrion screamed in agony. He managed to use the turnbuckles to break the hold, but McIntyre caught him with a kick to the face.

Scarlett guarded the door as McIntyre looked poised to make his escape. She closed the door and locked it, dangling the key in front of McIntyre’s face. Drew began climbing the cage instead. Scarlett frantically unlocked and opened the door for Kross to escape. He crawled and she tried to pull him, but McIntyre dropped to the floor first.

WINNER: Drew McIntyre in 13:03

Cole said that Scarlett may have made a rare error by locking the cage door, giving Drew time to escape.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt a lot like a classic house show steel cage match, and not really in a good way. It’s a nice way to give the live audience a chance to see the steel structure, but for the audience at home, it felt, as Cole himself put it, slow and plodding. It was really all about working to the Scarlett finish, with the mace returning from the Extreme Rules match, and McIntyre finding a way to overcome it. The problem here is that this didn’t at all feel conclusive. McIntyre just outsmarted Kross and Scarlett for one night. This feud has felt pretty dead in the water from the start, and now we’re poised to get more of it.)

-The Bloodline pulled up in a black SUV. Solo Sikoa spilled out first, followed by Roman Reigns, the Usos, and Paul Heyman. Byron Saxton approached, asking for comment. Reigns ignored him. Solo pushed the microphone away calmly. Heyman mocked the “one lucky punch” question, saying Paul won’t have a chance to hit it.

Back at ringside, Cole said he’s called dozens of Roman Reigns matches and tonight “something feels different.” He wondered if tonight could be the night.

-The Judgment Day entered, accompanied by Rhea Ripley. Cole said that Rhea Ripley pulled him aside earlier in the day to tell him that she’s paying homage to the “late great” Beth Phoenix with her hairstyle. He and Barrett discussed what the Judgement Day did to Phoenix and Edge. He said as a parent, he understands what happens when a child dates someone who is a negative, manipulative influence and you feel powerless. Barrett admonished him, saying no one has ever said Rhea and Dominick are a couple. He reminded Cole that Dominick is 25 years old.

The O.C. headed to the ring. Cole and Barrett talked up their history in and outside of WWE, and how it relates specifically to Finn Balor.

(4) THE JUDGMENT DAY (Finn Balor & Damian Priest & Dominick Mysterio w/ Rhea Ripley) vs. THE O.C. (A.J. STYLES & LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON) – Six-Man Tag Team match

Karl Anderson began the match with Finn Balor. They traded quick chops before running the ropes. Anderson took Balor out at the knee. Finn spilled to his corner and tagged in Damian Priest, which brought Luke Gallows into the fold. Gallows and Priest locked up. Gallows delivered a shoulder tackle that sent Priest stumbling into the ropes. The two stood toe to toe and traded words. Gallows dumped Priest into the corner by the throat and hit him with rapid punches to the mid-section. He followed up with a big clothesline out of the corner before tagging in A.J. Styles.

The crowd came to life for Styles, who got taken down immediately by the much larger Priest. Dominick Mysterio reached a hand out, asking for a tag. Priest obliged. Dominick walked into a Backbreaker from A.J. He continued to work Dominick over before tagging in Karl Anderson. The O.C. isolated Dominick in the corner with frequent tags. Styles gave Dominick a Brainbuster, then looked to the heel corner with contempt. Dom rolled to the outside to regroup. Styles used the opportunity to drag Finn Balor into the ring. On the outside, Damian Priest caught Karl Anderson with a running side kick after Karl chased Dominick.

Priest and Anderson wound up the legal men as the match crossed 5:00. He took Anderson down in the heel corner and began to isolate him, tagging in Dominick, and then Balor, to continue the attack. Balor eventually tagged Priest back in. He grabbed an arm stretch and the camera pulled back for Cole to reset the stage. Balor tagged in and mocked Styles on the apron. He grabbed a seated side headlock and taunted the crowd. Anderson broke free and tried to walk himself, and Balor, to his corner for a tag. He nearly reached Gallows, but Balor used his own momentum against him, violently whipping him back to the heel corner.

Anderson fought out of the corner, taking down Judgment Day and rushing toward Gallows again. Priest still managed to cut him off. Karl hit Priest with a neckbreaker and dove toward Styles, but Balor ripped A.J. to the floor. Anderson still managed to reach Gallows. Priest tagged Dominick. Luke clotheslined Dom off the apron, then gave Priest a boot to the face. He spilled Balor awkwardly to the outside, then slammed Dominick. Gallows tagged in Anderson and the two set Dom up for the Magic Killer. Priest saved him. Dom rolled up Anderson for two.

Mysterio and Anderson tagged in Balor and Styles, respectively. Balor looked for 1816, but Styles fought free and dropped Balor over his knee. He set up for Styles Clash, but Finn backed him into the corner. A.J. rolled through, looking for the Calf Crusher. Balor blocked it and applied a Figure Four. Karl Anderson broke it up with a Senton. Dominick tossed Karl to the outside. Gallows gave Dom a Spinebuster. Priest kicked Gallows in the face. Styles gave Priest a Pale Kick. Balor caught Styles with a Slingblade and covered for a two count. He climbed to the top rope, but Styles rose to meet him.

Styles and Balor fought for position on the top rope. Dominick latched onto Styles’ leg, but Gallows and Anderson returned to pull him away. Priest hoisted Anderson onto his shoulders. Gallows hoisted Mysterio onto his. Styles and Balor came crashing off the top rope as the Priest and Gallows hit choreographed slams. The camera cut to Rhea reacting at ringside. Styles and Balor were left alone in the ring. The referee, distracted by the fighting on the outside, didn’t see Ripley drag Styles out of the ring and slam him into the apron. “Somebody’s gotta do something about Rhea Ripley!” Cole yelled as she tossed A.J. back in the ring. Balor hit the missile dropkick into the corner on A.J., then followed up with the Coup De Grace for a cover and three count.

WINNERS: The Judgment Day in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent enough six-man tag, but nothing we couldn’t see on Raw during any given week. Rhea Ripley continues to be the highlight of Judgment Day, being presented as the mastermind and leader, and the reason they’re able to win matches. I wondered if they’d bring her along for the trip, given their history of sticking with a skeleton crew of women on these Saudi shows, but it seems they’ve become more apt to keep acts complete, which is a net positive. I’m not sure if this leads to the O.C. bringing in a woman to combat the Ripley effect, or if they’re just going to move back to Edge and Beth Phoenix. It’s clearly front of mind, given Ripley’s hair and Cole’s big diatribe about it before the match began. The problem with this, and with everything Judgment Day has done thus far, is that it feels like one big continuation of the same program we’ve been seeing since March. There’s just a generic sameness to all of it.)

-Cole and Barrett tossed to a video package for Braun Strowman vs. Omos.

After the video, the announcers ran down a tale of the tape for the two competitors. Omos headed to the ring. Cole talked about Omos palming his entire face at yesterday’s press conference. Barrett said he could’ve crushed Cole’s head like a grape. Braun Strowman headed to the ring, playing to the crowd and locking eyes with Omos. Cole said M.V.P. isn’t there because of injures suffered on Smackdown. Barrett said he believes Omos needs M.V.P. in his ear to be truly effective.

(5) OMOS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN

Omos and Braun Strowman jawed at one another as the match began. Strowman pointed to the crowd and they gave him a modest reaction. Strowman stepped up to Omos and looked into his chest to create the visual. Then he looked up into Omos’ eyes and said the whole nation of Saudi Arabia is behind him. Omos raised his massive palm to the sky and invited Strowman to engage him in a test of strength. Strowman milked it for a moment, then locked hands. Omos forced him to his knees with ease. He drove Braun into the corner and choked him, screaming, “I own this!”

Strowman was whipped to the opposing corner. Omos ran and splashed him. He carried Strowman out by the beard and gave him a big boot. “I’m the only giant here!” he told the camera. Strowman spilled to the outside. Omos pulled Strowman back to the apron by the skull. Braun guillotined him over the rope, but Omos shrugged it off and dropped Braun again. Strowman rolled around as Omos continued to talk to the camera. “Monsters aren’t real, he’s gonna get this work!” he said. He scooped Strowman up and delivered a on-armed body slam.

The crowd booed Omos heavily as the match crossed 4:00. Omos put a single boot on Strowman’s chest for a one count. He dumped Strowman into the corner and pounded him to the mat. Omos gave Strowman a hip toss across the ring. He wiped sweat from his brow, “I can do this in my sleep!” Omos grabbed Strowman by the throat, but Braun responded in kind. He broke free of Omos’ group and hit him with a flurry of punches. Omos stumbled toward the ropes, collected himself, and charged at Braun. Strowman used his momentum against him, dumped him into the ropes and trying to clothesline him over the top rope. It took two attempts, but he got it.

Braun rounded the ring for his signature freight train spot. Omos flattened him when he came around the corner. He tossed Braun in the ring and tried to set him up for his Chokeslam Bomb. Strowman held Omos’ hands apart, blocking it. Strowman managed to scoop Omos up and hit the Powerslam. He covered Omos for a three count.

WINNER: Braun Strowman in 7:20

(LeClair’s Analysis: Curious booking here. Strowman gets the win, which very much feels like the right move, but he got absolutely dominated. Omos beat Strowman from bell to bell. He was engaged and talkative, far more menacing than usual. This type of presentation actually works far better than what we’ve seen even against Bobby Lashley, which was the highest of low bars set by Omos in the past. I just don’t know that anyone comes out of this looking good, though. Omos dominated but lost. Strowman got dominated but caught Omos off guard for three seconds. It leaves the door open for a rematch, but I don’t know how much more these two can really do together, especially with Omos being so limited.)

-The Usos entered to a star reaction. The danced down the ramp, showing off their tag team titles. Cole and Barrett talked over clips of the budding rivalry between the Bloodline and the Brawling Brutes. Cole pointed out that Jey has a heavily taped wrist. He said Jey told him he believes its broken, and that it happened sometime during the recent European tour. He said the Brawling Brutes know, and are sure to try to exploit it. The Brawling Brutes headed to the ring, loaded with energy. They received a modest reaction. Cole said it was the biggest match in the careers of Holland and Butch.

(6) THE USOS (c, Jimmy & Jey) vs. THE BRAWLING BRUTES (Ridge Holland & Butch) – Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship match

Butch and Jimmy Uso began the match. Jimmy ran for a clothesline, but Butch ducked him and kicked Jey Uso off the apron. Butch quickly took Jimmy down and tried to kick him in the head, but Uso rolled to the outside. He and Jey talked briefly, then grabbed their tag team titles, looking like they planned to walk out of the match. As they rounded the corner, Butch dove onto both of them from the apron. He tossed Jimmy back in the ring to continue the match.

Jimmy gained control quickly, dumping Butch onto the bottom rope and driving his knee into the back of Butch’s head. He distracted the referee long enough for Jey to get a cheap shot in. Jimmy tagged Jey, who scoffed at the crowd. They started chanting “we want Sami.” Jey told them they aren’t getting him. The Usos tagged traded tags, isolating Butch and working him over in their corner. The crowd began chanting “you’re not Ucey.” Jimmy couldn’t help but smile. The crowd distraction allowed Butch to recover and hit Jimmy with a Tornado DDT off the middle rope.

Both Butch and Jimmy made tags to their respective partners. Ridge took down both Usos, distributing them to opposing corners and hitting rapid-fire opposing splashes. He lifted both Usos onto opposite shoulders and dumped them. Cole said Sheamus is smiling somewhere. He dumped Jey to the apron and delivered nine of the ten beats. Jimmy pulled Jey to the outside before the last one. Holland didn’t let up, heading to the outside and dropping Jimmy with a running clothesline. Jey tried to dive to the outside, but Holland picked him out of the air with a stiff uppercut.

Holland had Butch hold Jimmy’s arm on the steel steps and he stomped the elbow. “That’s what they did to Sheamus!” he told the camera. Back in the ring, Holland worked Jey over before tagging in Butch. Butch leapt to the top rope. Jey threw a blind Superkick, thinking Butch had already dove at him. Butch was still perched on top and delivered the Moonsault. He covered for two. Jey recovered and dropped butch. He tagged in Jimmy, who set up for the Uso Splash. Jimmy dove, but Butch caught him in a hold. Jimmy pulled himself toward the ropes, allowing Jey to tag himself in. Jey broke the hold and the Usos climbed the ropes. They hit tandem Uso Splashes and covered, but Holland broke up the pin just in time.

Jey Uso stalked Butch as the match crossed 8:20. Butch grabbed Jey’s injured hand and torqued the fingers. Jey screamed in agony. Butch tagged in Ridge. Holland tossed Jimmy to the outside, then delivered White Noise to Jey. Butch held Jimmy down and Holland hooked the leg for a believable near fall. Ridge and Butch tossed Jimmy into the barricade, trying to eliminate him. They hit a tandem kick and slam on Jey in the ring and covered. Jimmy made the save just in time.

All four men were down in the ring. Ridge and Jimmy dragged themselves toward the apron. All four men rose simultaneously, trading punches. The Usos caught Holland with a Double super kick, sending him to the floor. Jey tagged in Jimmy, unbeknownst to Butch. Jey hoisted Butch onto the top rope and lifted him up with Jimmy laying in wait below. They hit a Super 1D from the top rope and covered for a three count.

WINNERS: The Usos in 10:47 to retain the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships

(LeClair’s Analysis: The outcome, of course, felt like a foregone conclusion, but the journey to get there was fun. This is the one match on this show that I would’ve liked to have seen go longer, but they packed a lot into their near-11 minutes. Butch and Ridge had some unique, fun offense that kept the crowd engaged, and The Usos continued to deliver in big situations – feeding off the crowd’s energy toward them and, of course, getting a kick out of the “Ucey” stuff. The finishing sequence was great, with Butch and Holland getting a couple of big near falls and having the smarts to isolate the legal Uso as best as they possibly could. The big top rope 1D looked great and felt like a big deal. This was the match of the night thus far.)

-Bayley headed to the ring in a Damage Ctrl suit. Drones above the stadium displayed the group’s logo. Bianca Belair followed to a strong reaction. She skipped to the ring, twirling her braid. The drones moved to create an impressive lips and braid light design in the sky. Mike Rome provided standard championship introductions. The crowd booed Bayley heavily. Belair received a good reaction.

(7) BIANCA BELAIR (c) vs. BAYLEY – Last Woman Standing match for the Raw Women’s Championship

Michael Cole talked about the history of Last Woman Standing matches as the bell rang. Bayley and Bianca Belair teased locking up, but Bayley dropped the champion and asked the referee for an immediate count. Belair kipped up at two. Bianca gave Bayley three quick bodyslams before tossing her to the outside. Bianca called to the crowd as Bayley searched under the ring, retrieving a Kendo Stick.

Bayley swung the stick wildly at Belair, who ducked every attempted. The champion tossed her challenger to the outside a second time. The referee counted Bayley to four. Bayley yelled at some fans in the crowd before retrieving a steel chair. She slammed it against the ground with a smile and slid back in the ring. Belair tried to kick it into her face, but Bayley ducked. She tried to take Belair out by the legs, but Bianca jumped over the chair. She tripped Bayley up, and she landed awkwardly on the chair. Bayley rolled to the outside to regroup.

The challenger pulled a ladder from underneath the ring. Bianca tried to cut her off, but Bayley guillotined her over the top rope. Belair recovered quickly and dove onto Bayley. She pulled the steel steps away from the ring and moved them against the apron near the Arabic announcers desk. Bayley cut off her set up, using the braid to pull her to mat. The two women walked-and-brawled to the other side of the apron, back toward the entrance. Bayley sat Belair down in a chair. She scaled the barricade, tiptoed the top, and hit a diving clothesline onto the seated champion below as the match crossed 5:00.

Bayley retrieved a table, garnering a big pop. She kicked Belair into the barricade and continued setting up the furniture. Belair struggled to her feet while the referee failed to count her out. Cole pointed it out. Bianca and Bayley brawled up the ramp. Belair gave Bayley a Suplex on the ramp. The referee counted both women to eight. Bayley stepped awkwardly off the ramp and collapsed in a heap. The referee checked on her, holding Belair back. Bayley nursed the ankle for several moments before exploding to her feet and blindsiding the champion. She walked Belair back to ringside and tossed her inside the ring.

Belair was laid out in the ring. Bayley put a chair on top of her and climbed to the top rope. Belair shot up and threw the chair at Bayley, collapsing her. Bayley rolled to the outside. Bianca followed. The two fought briefly before Bayley managed to trap Belair in between the ring and the steel steps that Belair re-positioned earlier. The referee counted Belair to six before she stood enough to break the count. Bayley hammered her with shots from the kendo stick. Belair collapsed again. The referee began counting her out a second time. Belair broke the count again and caught the kendo stick this time. She cracked Bayley in the ribs, then lifted the top half of the steps. Belair tried to toss them onto Bayley, but the challenger moved.

After a count of eight, Bayley rose. She began limping away from ringside, moving briskly up the ramp. Bianca gave chase with a kendo stick. She snapped it over Bayley’s back repeatedly, breaking it into shreds. Bayley blocked a final shot and hit Belair with a Bayley-to-Belly atop the ramp. The referee counted both women to nine before they rose at the 12:00 mark. Both collapsed again. Bayley stood first, rushing backstage. She returned quickly with a large orange road crate. She drove it into Belair as soon as she stood up. Bayley dumped Bianca into the case and held it shut. The referee counted, but Belair flung the top open, catching Bayley in the head.

Bayley stumbled back toward the LED boards of the stage. Belair slid the road crate at her, but Bayley moved. The challenger tripped up Belair and applied the Crossface. Belair faded slowly, then seemed to pass out. Bayley asked for a count. Belair rose shakily at seven, but Bayley had disappeared. She re-emerged from the back, driving a golf cart. Bayley tried to hit Belair, but the cart was too slow to make it dramatic. Belair casually stepped out of the way, then used the frame of the cart to lift herself and deliver a dropkick. Bayley climbed to the roof of the cart. Belair followed. They traded punches, but the champion gained the upper hand. She slammed Bayley’s head into the roof of the cart, then dropped down. Belair got behind the wheel and drove the cart down the ramp with Bayley hanging onto the roof.

Bianca went to retrieve Bayley, but the challenger grabbed her ponytail. Belair whipped her off the top of the cart and onto the table, but it didn’t break. Bayley bounced off of it awkwardly and collapsed to the floor. Belair scooped her up and gave her a Powerbomb through the table instead. The referee counted, but Bayley used the broken edge of the table to stand at nine. Belair retrieved three chairs from under the ring. She tossed Bayley back inside as the match crossed 17:30. She gave Bayley a body slam on the chairs. She put on one Bayley’s stomach, then climbed to the top rope. Belair went for a 450, but Bayley rolled out of the way. Bianca collided with the chairs.

The referee reached a count of nine on Belair, who used the ropes to steady herself long enough to break the count. Bayley pounced with a clothesline, then went to set up the ladder from earlier. She abandoned the project to bend a steel chair of Belair’s back repeatedly. Bayley opened the chair and tried to give her a Rose Plant onto the edge of the chair. Belair blocked it and hoisted Bayley onto her shoulders. She hit the K.O.D. On the way down, Bayley tried to move the chair out of her way but wound up awkwardly landing on it knee-first. Belair then slammed Bayley into the ladder and closed it over her body. She slid the ladder underneath the turnbuckle, wedging its base and leaving Bayley unable to escape as the referee counted to ten.

WINNER: Bianca Belair in 20:28 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m not particularly fond of many Last Man/Women’s Standing matches, but this was mostly fun. The women got creative with a lot of the offense, and I thought the finish was a smart babyface move that worked, especially when these matches are often so unsatisfying in their conclusions. The early going felt like a glorified house show hardcore match, but as they got deeper, the intensity ramped up enough to feel like a legitimate PLE-style women’s main event. I don’t think Bayley’s run since returning has been hot enough to warrant a title change, so keeping things with Belair felt like the right move, and furthers my belief that the Women’s tag title switch was meant as a bone throw to the audience.)

-The lights in the stadium cut out and the opening key strike of a piano clued the crowd in. They rose to their feet and turned on their camera lights. The drones overhead formed Bray Wyatt’s signature firefly design. Eventually, the bright lantern cut through the smoke on stage and Bray Wyatt emerged from his doorway. He walked to the ring slowly, surrounded by the crowd’s “fireflies.” Cole and Barrett remained silent. The camera focused in on the lantern. Bray reached up and switched it off, drowning out his music.

“Welcome back!” the crowd chanted. Bray introduced himself. He said some may not know that he comes from a very prestigious family, some of whom are larger than life. He said from a young child, he thought he was destined to be great. “I had to be greater than the rest of them,” Bray said. He said he did what he thought he needed to do – give in. He said he gave in so much that he made a monster of himself. “I wore that mask with pride,” Bray said, “and it didn’t take me long to realize that when I was wearing that mask, I couldn’t feel pain.”

Wyatt said he was completely untouchable in the mask, and it felt good. He said some say sensations like that are impossible to quit. He said he found himself in a kingdom of nothingness, on an island by himself, destroyed by the monster he created. He said no one loved him. The crowd chanted “we love you!” Bray said they love the idea of him, he doesn’t even love himself. Bray said that’s not how he wants to be remembered. “My name is Bray Wyatt, and I’m here to rewrite my story.”

Uncle Howdy appeared on the screen again. He wondered if people would love Bray if they knew the truth. “The truth is, you’re gonna go too far,” he said. He asked Bray to remember how good it feels. “Hurt them, do it. If you’re worried about the aftermath…just don’t take the mask off.” The camera zoomed in on Howdy’s face on the screen. “Tell me I’m wrong,” he said. The camera cut to black.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like the most straight-forward and intentional promo we’ve seen from Wyatt yet. At this point, it seems clear that Bray considers his characters to be a side of him that “wears the mask”, and he’s trying to rewrite his story as himself. The problem, of course, is that the masks just won’t let him go. I still still have my reservations as to how this can all work within the context of a wrestling show, but in a vacuum, I enjoyed this.)

Cole and Barrett talked up Survivor Series, then tossed to a video package for the main event.

-Logan Paul entered first, emerging from a velour-covered lift high in the air. It lowered to deposit him onto the stage. He jumped down and played to the crowd. Wade Barrett talked about the fact that Logan Paul stood toe to toe with Floyd Mayweather and the very end of his career, but is facing “peak” Roman Reigns. Barrett said he’s not buying it. Cole talked up the “one lucky punch” theory. Paul played to the crowd as the drones above the stadium displayed an animated caricature of both Paul and Reigns staring each other down.

The AR Bloodline tree filled the screen as Roman Reigns’ music began. The champion sauntered onto the stage, flanked by Paul Heyman, wearing his traditional big-match lei. Heyman stared at Reigns with reverence. Roman took the Universal title from Paul and raised it to the sky, prompting a massive fireworks display. Cole said that Heyman claimed Reigns will handle Paul the way his family has previously dealt with outsiders. He then talked up the whispers within Reigns’ own camp that maybe he’s not taking Paul seriously enough. Barrett scoffed.

Mike Rome introduced the competitors. Logan Paul initially received a mixed reaction, but it quickly dissolved into boos. Roman received a strong, positive star reaction. A “Roman” chant quickly broke out.

(8) ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. LOGAN PAUL – Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match

Logan Paul paced back and forth in his corner as the bell rang. Slowly, he and Roman Reigns circled each other. Reigns looked to the crowd and adjusted his gloves. The two locked up in the center. Reigns overpowered Paul and sent him crashing into the corner. Roman turned his back to Paul with a finger to the sky. Paul stepped back for another lock up. Reigns worked Paul to the corner again, but the referee broke it up before it came to blows.

Paul gave Reigns a shove out of the corner. Roman took a step back and slicked his hair back. A mixed “Logan/Roman” chant broke out, but Reigns sold it as all “Logan.” He curled his lip and went back to attack, but Paul took him down with a Fireman’s carry. Reigns rolled to his feet and gave Paul a quick uppercut. Paul missed wildly with a right. Reigns ducked to the outside to regroup. Heyman coached up Reigns. “You can’t get hit by that right hand,” he said.

The champion sauntered around ringside, talking to kids, taking his time. He told the crowd to sit down as he slowly stepped back between the ropes. Paul smiled at him, “stop running Tribal Chief!” Reigns caught Logan with a body shot, then a back elbow. He stalked Paul at 4:30, then delivered a snap Suplex and covered for a one count. Reigns went for a back Suplex, but Paul flipped over his back. He caught Reigns with a couple of punches, but Roman quickly fought back with a clothesline. Paul shot back to his feet and gave Roman a hip toss, then a clothesline over the top rope to the floor.

Heyman went to check on the champion while Paul contemplated his next move. He followed Reigns to the outside and got caught with a kick to the gut. Reigns tossed Paul into the timekeeper’s area. Reigns posed to the crowd again. He turned around and Paul came flying with a cross body off the barricade. The challenger tossed Reigns back in the ring and hit a Buckshot Lariat for a cover and near fall. Reigns rose, briefly stunned in the corner. Paul charged, but Reigns tossed him to the floor. The champion stumbled out the corner. Paul immediately leapt to the apron, then the top rope, looking for a springboard clothesline. Reigns picked him out of the air with an uppercut.

Both men sold the effects, slowly rising to their feet. Roman took Paul to the mat and shushed the crowd. He drove his forearm into Logan’s face and covered him for one. He clapped mockingly, then grabbed a seated chin lock. The camera pulled back to an overhead drone shot of the stadium, slowly zooming back in as Paul tried to stir. “I got him, I got him,” Reigns said confidently. Paul rose to his feet as the match approached 10:30. Logan got a few punches in, but Reigns overpowered him into the corner and hit ten short-arm clotheslines. Paul stumbled toward center. Reigns hit him with a leaping clothesline for a cover and two count.

Reigns gave Paul a headbutt and then shook off the impact. He grabbed another mounted chin lock. “This is the last YouTuber you’re ever gonna see over here,” Reigns jawed. Paul fought free and stumbled to the corner. Reigns charged, but Paul moved. Logan scooped Reigns up and hit a Gutwrench Suplex, leaving both men down in the center. Both men rose slowly. Paul got in some body shots, then a clothesline, then a back elbow. He scooped Reigns up for a Powerslam, but Reigns slid down his back. Paul still managed to climb to the top rope and hit Reigns with a Blockbuster for a cover and near fall.

Paul Heyman confirmed a count of two with the official as the match pushed past 14:00. The champion used the ropes to stand. Paul approached him in the corner. Reigns fought back with more body shots. He whipped Paul toward the ropes, but Logan exploded with a Superman Punch. Paul kipped up. He shook the ropes to rile up the crowd. Paul climbed to the top rope and caught Reigns with a Cross Body, then a standing Moonsault for a two count. Heyman sold his disbelief.

Logan tried to get the crowd clapping. He tuned up the band in the corner. Reigns slowly rose to his feet. Paul went for a boot, but Reigns caught it, pulled Paul in, and hit a Uranagi for a cover and two count. Reigns stood poised for a Superman Punch. He charged, but Paul caught him with a punch to the gut. He caught Roman with a right hand and Cole lost it. Paul got a running start and connected with a second Superman Punch. Paul hooked the leg, but Reigns kicked out at the last possible moment. Heyman screamed with shock.

Roman pushed on his temple, trying to adjust his jaw. He rolled to the outside in a heap. Paul followed. He began tearing apart the Arabic announcers desk. Logan hoisted Reigns onto the table. Paul convened with his entourage at ringside, taking one of their phones. He filmed the crowd, then climbed to the top rope. Paul dove through the table, phone still in hand. The Usos ran to ringside to check on Roman. They pulled Logan’s entourage over the barricade and delivered tandem Superkicks.

The Usos held the ring until Jake Paul stepped onto the stage. He marched to the ring and knocked out both Usos with hard right hands. Jake cocked his hand, mocking Reigns. He helped his brother to his feet. Logan rolled Reigns into the ring and climbed to the top rope. Paul hit a massive Frog Splash and covered for another near fall. Both men struggled on the mat. Solo Sikoa’s music hit. Solo marched down the ramp to meet Jake Paul. Jake seemed ready to strike, but referees and agents spilled from the back to hold them apart.

While Jake and Solo continued to stare each other down, separated by officials, The Usos recovered and stalked Jake from behind. Suddenly, Logan dove clear over the top rope and onto the Usos. He celebrated, then slid back in the ring. Paul immediately ate a Superman Punch. Reigns threw his arms back, charged, and connected with the Spear for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Roman Reigns in 24:48 to retain the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship

The Bloodline celebrated all the way up the ramp. The camera caught disappointed reactions from the Paul brothers. The show concluded with a full event recap video.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match, as I think most probably expected. In reality, I don’t know how wise it was to make Logan Paul such a credible challenger to Reigns’ historic run. There was a no question that this was going to be far more competitive than anything they’d presented on TV would lead us to believe, but Paul was given nearly as much offense and near falls as just about any challenger Reigns has had to date. It took massive interference on both sides to reach a finish, and though Reigns technically won “cleanly”, it certainly felt like they went out of their way to protect Paul to a considerable extent. Logan was impressive, and managed to get the crowd on his side on several occasions despite Reigns being the clear audience favorite early on. This was a current era WWE style main event through and through, and it delivered, even if I question how strongly they booked Paul.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: WWE has made considerable strides in presenting the Saudi shows as legitimate events, rather than “house shows with part timers,” a problem that plagued earlier iterations of their visits. The events themselves still fill icky – a morally bankrupt display, undoubtedly, but the company has done substantially better at not leaning into the propagandist tendencies of the Riyadh Celebrations, and instead, just largely presenting their product in the way they always would, with little fanfare outside of what one would normally see at a stadium show. This certainly stacks up on the highest end of Saudi shows in terms of in-ring quality. While I’ll never outright recommend one go out of their way to watch one of these events, the wrestling itself proved to be a perfectly fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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