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LECLAIR’S WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS 2023 REPORT
MAY 27, 2023
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA AT JEDDAH SUPER DOME
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK (U.S.), WWE NETWORK (Int.)
Announcers: Michael Cole & Corey Graves
-The opening video package, narrated by Triple H, talked up the merits of a champion over clips hyping the triple main event.
-The camera moved slowly up the large ramp as a massive fireworks display exploded from the stage. The camera pulled back to show a wide shot of the Jeddah Super Dome. Michael Cole said they’re expecting a capacity crowd.
At ringside, Michael Cole introduced his partner Corey Graves. Graves introduced the Arabic announce team, also positioned at ringside. Cole talked up the “first of three main events” as A.J. Styles music hit.
Styles marched to the ring. Cole said that, during his recent injury, A.J. started contemplating the future and how much time he had left. He wondered how best to use it. Styles received a strong ovation from the crowd. Cole said the new title was designed with “history in mind.”
A video package aired promoting the match.
“Burn it down!” rang out and the crowd entered into song. Seth Rollins danced onto the stage in a massive leopard print puff jacket. The singing continued long after his music faded out. Mike Rome delivered Championship match introductions. Both men received big, positive reactions.
(1) A.J. STYLES vs. SETH ROLLINS – WWE World Heavyweight Championship match
Michael Cole noted that it’s been four years since A.J. Styles last had a one-on-one match for a World title. Coincidentally, it was against Seth Rollins. A.J. Styles and Seth Rollins approached the center of the ring and went to lock up. Rollins ducked under Styles and played to the crowd instead. They teased another lock up, but Styles caught Seth off guard with a big dropkick. Seth rolled to the apron, checking his face for blood.
Rollins returned to the ring quickly, giving Styles a sly nod. The two locked up again. Rollins grabbed a side headlock. Styles shot him off the ropes, then leapfrogged him. Rollins waved at A.J. flamboyantly. Seth caught Styles with a dropkick, sending him to the outside. Rollins leapt through the ropes and caught him with a quick knee off the apron. He tossed A.J. back in the ring, looking for a stomp. Styles easily evaded.
The camera pulled back to a wide shot of the stadium as Seth hooked A.J. for a Suplex. Styles blocked it and drove Seth hard into the turnbuckle. He shouldered him multiple times, then gave him a Snapmare out of the corner. Styles kicked Seth in the back and grabbed a seated headlock at 3:40. Seth fought to his feet quickly. A.J. leapfrogged Seth out of the corner, then peppered him with quick chops. Styles went to leapfrog Rollins out of the corner again, but Seth caught him this time and slammed him backward into the turnbuckle.
Seth lifted A.J. onto the top turnbuckle and delivered a chop. A.J. fell to the apron, but recovered quickly. The two jockeyed for position on the top turnbuckle. Styles slipped through Rollins’ legs and the two returned to the mat, trading punches. Styles Suplexed Rollins into the turnbuckle. Seth crumpled onto his neck awkwardly. Seth rose slowly, delivering chops to the chest on the way up. Styles teetered, but stayed vertical. He blocked a chop and hit rapid kicks to drop Rollins. Styles followed up with a running forearm. He covered, but Rollins just managed to kick out.
Styles set up for the Styles Clash. Seth forced himself free, driving Styles into the corner. A.J. leapt to the middle rope and dove for a Moonsault, instead flipping all the way over Rollins and connected with a reverse DDT for a cover and two count. Graves and Cole finally acknowledged that Styles would become a member of the Raw roster if he wins the title. Rollins hooked A.J. and delivered a Buckle Bomb to the corner. He shot to the top rope and hit a big splash for a cover and near fall just past 8:30. The camera pulled back again as a weak “this is awesome” chant tried to gain momentum.
Both men rose to their feet slowly. Styles pulled Rollins in and hit an Ushigoroshi. He covered for a two count. Rollins and Styles used the ropes to stand. Seth set up for a Pedigree, but Styles broke free and caught Seth with an Enziguri. Rollins retreated to the corner, but A.J. followed. He climbed the ropes and tried to set up for a Styles Clash from the top. Seth flipped A.J. off of him, taking control. He hoisted Styles up onto the southwest turnbuckle and hooked him for an inverted Superplex. He hit it, held on, and delivered an inverted Falcon Arrow for a cover and near fall just before 12:00.
A.J. writhed on the mat. Seth gave him a couple kicks to the head. He climbed to the top turnbuckle, looking for a Phoenix Splash. Styles moved, but Rollins landed on his feet. A.J. went for a tornado DDT, but Rollins blocked him, shoving him out to the apron. The two traded Suplex attempts from either side of the ropes. Styles lifted Rollins to join him on the apron. He followed up with a release Suplex on the edge of the ring. Styles rolled his opponent back into the ring and set up for the Phenomenal Forearm. Rollins had the wherewithal to throw his body toward the ropes, tripping Styles up and sending him crashing to the floor. Rollins got a running start, diving through the ropes and taking out A.J.
A look of pain washed over Rollins’ face as he grabbed at his knee. Cole and Graves noted that Styles saw it happen. A.J. was quick to roll a hobbled Rollins back in the ring. He immediately applied the Calf Crusher to the injured leg. Rollins managed to roll out of it and hit a clothesline. A replay showed that Seth landed on part of the right foot, seemingly hyper-extending his knee in the process. Both men rose to their feet slowly. They traded punches at the 17:05 mark. Styles hit Seth with a series of open palm strikes, then a swift kick to the injured knee. Seth screamed in agony, then used his good leg to kick Styles. Rollins caught A.J. with a quick Enziguri. Styles shook it off and went for a Pale Kick, but Seth ducked it.
Rollins stumbled to the ropes. He charged for a stomp, but instead stepped on Styles’ hand. He pulled Styles to his feet, but A.J. sprang to life and hit a Pale Kick. Seth lost his footing. Styles pulled him in and hit a Pedigree for a cover and near fall. A.J. had a little bit of blood on his forehead. He climbed to the apron, calling for the forearm. Rollins crawled right toward him and the two locked eyes. A.J. delivered a forearm to create space. Styles leapt up for the forearm, but Rollins picked him out of the air with a Superkick.
With Styles immobilized, Rollins stumbled to the corner. He charged for the Stomp, but his knee gave out and he collapsed onto Styles. A.J. rose first. He pulled Rollins’ into position for the Calf Crusher, but Rollins rolled through it. He hooked Styles and delivered a Pedigree of his own. He shook the leg out, then finally hit the Stomp for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Seth Rollins in 20:38
Triple H emerged with the new WWE World Heavyweight Championship in hand. He raised Seth’s hand and gave him the title. Rollins celebrated as fireworks shot from the stage.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Look, there’s no redeeming the circumstances surrounding the creation of this title, or the participation of newly-drafted Smackdown wrestlers. It was a mess, and it remains a mess. They’re going to have an incredibly hard time getting people to view this as anything but a consolation prize. Strong criticism of the premise aside, Rollins and Styles had a good match, but it never really elevated into the highest gear. Both men sold the apparent gravity of the moment well, seemed enamored with winning the title. Unfortunately, the result felt like such a foregone conclusion that the crowd never bought into the idea that Styles could win the title. The false finishes were well executed, but ultimately, felt a little hollow. Rollins was just the obvious choice here. Putting this on first sent a clear message that the title, for all its homage to past lineages, is still well beneath those held by Roman Reigns, who was still featured in the main event despite not even defending his belts.)
-Michael Cole acknowledged the Street Profits seated at ringside. He tossed to a video package for Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus for Premium Plus subscribers.
-Out of the break, Trish Stratus entered first. Her gear had “thank you Trish” printed on the back. Becky Lynch followed to a big ovation. Cole talked about Lynch taking exception to the idea that she once idolized Trish Stratus, saying she always preferred Lita, and only respected Trish.
(2) TRISH STRATUS vs. BECKY LYNCH
Trish Stratus lounged in the corner as the bell rang, smugly staring down Becky Lynch. She walked to her slowly, beginning to talk some trash. Lynch snapped, firing off quick punches and hunching Stratus over the corner. Lynch dragged Stratus to the adjacent corner and slammed her head off of it. Trish rolled to the outside to regroup, but Becky followed. Trish grabbed Becky by the hair and whipped her into the steel ring steps. She slammed Lynch’s head off the two announcers desks, then slid her back in the ring.
The Hall of Famer sized Becky up, then delivered a strong kick the stomach. Becky stumbled toward the corner, but Trish gave her no quarter. She sat atop the top turnbuckle and choked Lynch, utilizing the referee’s full count. Trish held her hands out to a chorus of boos. She took a bow, but Becky caught her with a punch to the jaw on the way down. Trish recovered quickly and hit Lynch with a Tornado DDT. She covered Lynch twice for two off the move. Stratus slammed Lynch’s head into the mat as the match crossed 3:30. She hammered on Becky’s back and scraped her face across the canvas.
Lynch checked her nose for blood as she struggled to return to her knees. Trish pulled at the corner’s of Becky’s mouth, wiping the spit on her jumpsuit. She picked red hair out from between her fingers, laughing. Lynch hit a couple quick punches, but Stratus cut her off with a Thez Press. She hit a neckbreaker, then covered Lynch for a two count. Cole noted that Trish hasn’t been in a singles match in nearly four years. Stratus climbed the ropes, playing to the crowd again for big boos. Lynch walked the perimeter of the ring, selling the beat down. Becky fired back with some quick rights, but Trish met every punch with one of her own. Lynch finally gained control and whipped Trish to the corner.
Stratus tried to fight out of the corner, but Becky caught her with an Exploder. Trish retreated to the apron, but Becky stayed on her. She draped Trish over the middle rope and hit a leg drop off the middle turnbuckle. Trish slumped to the floor. Becky delivered a hard baseball slide, then a leaping forearm off the apron. Becky tossed Stratus back in the ring, but Trish kept her legs outside the ropes. She hooked Becky’s head and managed a Headscissor out of the ring, sending Lynch crashing face first into the turnbuckle.
Becky struggled to return to the ring. Trish worked her to the corner, then onto the top turnbuckle as the match crossed 9:00. Becky fought her off. Trish got a running start for a handstand on the ropes, hooking Lynch with her feet and flipping her off the ropes. Trish covered for another two count. Stratus set up for Stratusfaction, but Lynch blocked her. Becky climbed to the middle rope and pulled Trish in for Diamond Dust. She quickly climbed to the middle rope and hit a leg drop for a cover and two count.
A small ‘Becky” chant broke out. Lynch set up for the Man-Handle Slam, but Trish countered into a take down and set up for a Sharpshooter. Lynch blocked it, kicking Stratus toward the corner. The two got tangled up in the corner. Lynch managed to get Trish into position for a Boston Crab. She dropped off the ropes and dragged her toward center. Trish screamed in pain, but managed to get the a break. She pulled herself to the floor. Becky followed. She tried to leap off the stairs, but Stratus caught her with a kick to the mid-section.
The veteran, Stratus, rolled into the ring, looking for a count out. Becky answered at eight, but ran right into the Chick Kick. Trish hooked the leg for a near fall. She slammed Lynch’s head into the mat at 13:10. She slapped her in the face, holding onto Lynch’s hair. Becky grabbed Trish’s arm and pulled her into the Disarm-Her. Trish looked poised to tap, but desperately grabbed at Lynch’s hair instead. She managed to turn her over. The two rose to their feet, jostling against the ropes. Trish went for another Chick Kick, but Becky ducked it. She pulled her in and hit the Man Handle Slam. Lynch covered, but Trish got her foot on the rope just in time.
The two women rolled to the outside, trading shots. Trish went under the apron, looking for something. Becky cut her off and tossed her back in the ring. Suddenly, Zoey Stark emerged from underneath the ring. Trish distracted the referee. Stark hit Lynch with the Z-360 and tossed her back in the ring. Stratus pulled her up and into Stratusfaction for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Trish Stratus in 14:51
Trish and Zoey walked up the ramp together, staring Lynch down. Becky was left furious and bleeding from the nose.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Really good match. It seemed to take Trish a few minutes to get her legs under her, but once she did, I loved her aggressiveness. She and Becky sold the story of this being a blood feud really well. I thought it was hurt a bit by the crowd not seeming particularly invested unless called upon by one of the two women. I liked some of the unique offense and counters in the corners. Trish’s headscissor out of the ring to slam Becky into the ring post was a nice touch, as was Trish’s exploding Chick Kick as Lynch answered a referee’s count out. Typically, I’m against an interference finish in a longer match meant to earmark a feud, but I thought the elevation of Zoey Stark, and her apparent allegiance with Trish Stratus could be a really fun story playing opposite of Becky Lynch. I’m intrigued by what’s next.)
-After a video showing Mustafa Ali’s experience this week in Saudi Arabia, the underdog headed to the ring. Cole said Ali’s reward for winning a battle royal was to “be beat up by Gunther.” Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci stood in darkness atop the ramp, only a spotlight to light them. Kaiser demanded the crowd rise in attention of the Intercontinental Champion. Gunther marched to the ring as Cole talked up his accolades. Kaiser and Vinci left Gunther at the bottom of the ramp.
(3) GUNTHER (c) vs. MUSTAFA ALI – WWE Intercontinental Championship match
Gunther dropped Mustafa Ali with a massive chop to open the match. Ali took a moment to recover, then delivered one of his own. Gunther wasn’t phased. Ali began hitting Gunther with quick kicks to the legs. He caught Gunther in the face twice. Gunther shrugged it off and delivered a massive body slam. Ali hit a couple of punches to the stomach, but Gunther cut him off with a violent chop. Ali rose, so Gunther chopped him again. The crowd booed loudly.
The Intercontinental Champion looked around at the crowd as Ali clutched at his reddened chest. Gunther tossed Ali to the corner, then gave him another body slam on the ricochet. He turned Ali over into a Boston Crab. Ali crawled slowly toward the ropes, but Gunther pulled him back toward center. He transitioned into an STF. Ali got his leg out and pulled himself up. Gunther knocked him to the apron. Ali tried to jump at Gunther, but the champion picked him out of the sky with a boot, sending Mustafa flying to the floor. Gunther threw Ali haphazardly into the ring post for good measure.
Ali barely answered the referee’s count, sliding in the ring just after nine. Gunther seemed amused. He chopped Ali and taunted the crowd. Ali sprang back to life, rallying with rapid forearms and kicks to catch the champion off guard. Ali rolled through the ropes and caught Gunther with a Neckbreaker. He climbed to the top rope as the crowd came to life. Gunther cut him off with a chop. He climbed to the middle rope to meet the challenger, grabbing a double underhook. Ali managed to power out, flipping over Gunther. The champion held on briefly, but Ali had the leverage to pull him out and deliver a sit-out Powerbomb.
Mustafa climbed to the top rope and hit the 450 Splash for a cover and close near fall at 6:30. Cole said it would be the upset of the year. Ali tried to stay in control, but Gunther cut him off with a big clothesline. Ali was rocked. Gunther pulled him up and hit another one, this time with a running start. He hooked the leg, but Ali managed to kick out. “Now Gunther’s frustrated,” Cole said. Graves said he’s going to get more violent. Gunther shook Ali with his boot, daring him to stand. He set up up for a Powerbomb, but Ali flipped out of it. He caught Gunther with a Superkick. Ali climbed to the top rope again, looking for another 450. Gunther moved. Ali telegraphed it and landed on his feet. Gunther hit him with a massive Missile Dropkick. Ali sauntered to his feet and ate a massive Powerbomb from Gunther for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Gunther in 8:30 to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. The crowd certainly got behind Mustafa Ali in a big way. At first, I felt fairly strongly that this should have been closer to a squash in favor of Gunther, but with the result of the Smackdown Women’s title match later on, I understand why they gave them a bit more time to flesh out some offense for Ali. I enjoyed Gunther shrugging off most of Ali’s moves, which I think is necessary against a challenger that hasn’t really been established as a threat beyond a fairly random and inconsequential battle royal win. Gunther was impressive as always, and his missile dropkick into Powerbomb finish was a nice defining touch. )
-Kevin Owens was shown leaning against a road case backstage. Sami Zayn walked into frame. Zayn said he can’t believe they’re here. He talked about it being an incredible run, from main eventing WrestleMania all the way to this tag team title defense. Zayn started to say, “even if it ends tonight…” before KO cut him off. Owens wasn’t having it. Owens said they won the titles from Usos, who are more of a team than Reigns and Solo could ever be. He said today isn’t Roman’s day. “Today, Roman loses.” Zayn agreed, but he didn’t look very confident.
-LA Knight was shown sitting at ringside.
-A promo video for Bianca Belair vs. Asuka aired
-Asuka entered first as Cole and Graves talked about how dangerous she’s become. Bianca Belair followed to a strong reaction. Mike Rome introduced the title match.
(4) BIANCA BELAIR (c) vs. ASUKA – Raw Women’s Championship match
Bianca Belair and Asuka moved quickly out of the gate. The locked up, but the advantage quickly went to the challenger. She got behind Belair and ripped her to the mat by the braid. Belair shook off the initial shock and pounced on Asuka. The two rolled around the mat trading quick right hands. The stalemate ended when Asuka got a hold of Belair’s arms and stomped at her chest. She worked Belair toward the corner, but the champion fired back with a shoulder to the midsection. She leapdropped Asuka and hit a dropkick, then kipped to her feet. The crowd gave her a mixed reaction.
The champion delivered a quick body slam, then hit the ropes for a springboard Moonsault. Asuka rolled away and to the apron. Belair didn’t mind. She did a handstand into the ropes, kicking Asuka to the floor in the process. Belair leapt to the outside to meet the challenger. Asuka grabbed the braid and whipped her into the steel ring steps. The challenger tossed the champion back in the ring for a kick and cover for a two count at 3:30.
Asuka tried to grab an Arm Bar, but Belair rolled it into a pin for a two count, forcing Asuka to break. Bianca hit a quick Jawbreaker and School Girl combo for another two. Belair lifted Asuka for a Suplex, but Asuka caught her legs and pulled her into a small package for a two count of her own. Asuka smiled as a small chant for her broke out. Asuka went to work on Belair’s arm. Bianca worked herself back to her feet, but Asuka used her leverage to bring her back to the mat. Bianca powered to her feet and went for another body slam. Asuka slid down the back and again used the braid to drop the champion. She danced around the ring, driving her boot into the face of Belair.
Belair caught Asuka’s boot and used it to stand. Asuka shoved her toward the ropes, but Belair ricocheted back and caught Asuka with a standing Blockbuster. Both women were down. Belair used the ropes to pull herself up first. She caught Asuka with a quick elbow, then leapt to the middle rope. She flipped over a running Asuka and hit her with a dropkick. Asuka fed into a Suplex and kip up from the champion. The challenger retreated to the corner. Belair mounted her for ten punches. Asuka then slid underneath Belair’s legs and used the braid to pull her down. Bianca hit Asuka with a quick Backbreaker, then followed with a springboard standing Moonsault for a cover and two count.
Another small “Asuka” chant rang out as the match crossed 8:00. Asuka brought Belair down with a Snapmare and began kicking her chest. She climbed to the middle rope, but Belair met her there. The champion hooked Asuka on the top turnbuckle. Asuka managed to knock her off with jabs to the body. Asuka hit a missile dropkick off the top rope for a near fall. Asuka smiled as she regrouped. She set Belair up for a body slam, but Belair blocked it. Asuka changed course, pulling Bianca by the arm to the mat. She tried for am Arm Bar, but Belair used her strength to rise with Asuka on her shoulder. Asuka fought free and hit the ropes, but Belair stopped her with a slam.
The two women traded quick punches. Asuka pulled the champion into the Asuka Lock, but Belair used momentum to roll it into a cover. Asuka let go to avoid a fall. The two traded quick roll ups for two counts. Asuka eventually caught Belair with a stiff kick. She covered for two. Belair worked her way to her feet and tried to toss Asuka to the outside to create separation. Asuka held onto her braid and dragged her out, too. Asuka tossed the champion into the steel steps. Belair shook it off and the two got into a shoving match on the floor. The referee got to a count of seven before both women rolled back in the ring.
Bianca battled Asuka into the ropes, forcing the referee to break. Belair broke only long enough to reposition Asuka into the corner. Referee Jessika Carr got in between them. Asuka used the opportunity to spit mist, but Belair saw it coming and ducked. She pulled Asuka in for the K.O.D., but Asuka broke free. Belair shook out her arm while Asuka regrouped by the ropes. The challenger spit mist onto her own hand. Belair scooped Asuka into position for the K.O.D. Asuka stuck her mist-covered fingers in the face and eyes of the champion. Belair let Asuka go. Asuka hit Belair with two kicks to the head for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Asuka in 14:56 to win the Raw Women’s Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: I certainly didn’t see this result coming. Asuka felt like a worthy challenger at WrestleMania, but one to give Belair a signature win all the same. It didn’t feel like they’d done a whole lot to up the ante of the rivalry aside from having Asuka mist Belair. Despite the apparent heel turn, the crowd didn’t seem to have much heat on Asuka going in, and they certainly preferred her in Jeddah. The match was good, though I do think their last encounter was better. It just felt as though Belair’s title loss needed to have more fanfare. Defeating her, even under nefarious means, should have been met with more gravitas, shock, and awe from the fans and the announcers, and it didn’t feel like we got any of that. It felt under baked. I thought the finish was creative, and Asuka’s modified use of the mist elevated the finish from feeling cheap, but it still felt like an underwhelming moment. I am, however, intrigued to see Belair fighting from the challenger position again.)
-Karrion Kross and Scarlett were shown seated at ringside.
-Natalya headed to the ring. Michael Cole wished her a Happy Birthday, saying it would be a great gift to herself if she could win the Smackdown Women’s title. He also noted that Natalya just wanted to leave with her head held high, not necessarily with the Smackdown Women’s title. Rhea Ripley entered, joined by Dominick Mysterio. Graves said they’ve watched her enter NXT as a “starry eyed rookie” all the way to seeing her become one of the most dominant women in the world.
Mike Rome introduced the match. Both women received modest reactions.
(5) RHEA RIPLEY (c, w/ Dominick Mysterio) vs. NATALYA – Smackdown Women’s Championship match
Dominick Mysterio stood on the apron, jawing at Natalya as the match began. Rhea Ripley used the distraction to attack Nattie from behind, slamming her into the ring post, then tossing her to the floor. Rhea slammed Nattie into the Arabic announce desk, then the steel ring steps. Natalya tried to crawl away, so Ripley tossed her into the adjacent steel steps, and then into the ring. Ripley pulled Natalya in and hit her with Riptide for a cover and three count.
WINNER: Rhea Ripley in 1:08 to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: Makes sense. Natalya was never really built as, or sold to be a legitimate challenger. Cole sort of set the tone when he said that Natalya just wanted to leave the match with her head held high. That’s not the message you want to send, even if you’re planning a quick squash. It makes her seem like a loser, even more so when you factor in the manner in which she lost. Good win for Ripley, though.)
-Byron Saxton interviewed Seth Rollins backstage. Rollins’ said hearing “World Champion” precede his name again feels so good. Saxton asked about the future of Raw. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Rollins said. He pledged to be at Raw on Monday, and every Monday going forward. “The only difference, is now I’ve got Heavyweight Championship things on my mind.” He laughed as he hit his catchphrases and left.
-Cole tossed to a video package for Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar.
-Brock Lesnar entered first. He jogged in place and unleashed his signature pyro before making his slow, determined walk to the ring. Cole said it’s bad enough having to face Brock Lesnar when you’re at 100%. “You’ve got to have a screw loose to try to do it with a broken arm,” he surmised. Graves agreed, saying Lesnar is angry. Brock smirked as he sauntered around the ring.
Cody Rhodes came out to a star reaction. The crowd happily came to life for the “woah.” Cole said that the break in Cody’s arm is in the forearm region, and he’s wearing a titanium cast for strength and rigidity. Rhodes gave his weight belt to a fan at ringside and climbed the ropes. Lesnar laughed. Cole called him a shark in the water waiting to strike.
(6) BROCK LESNAR vs. CODY RHODES
Cody Rhodes took a defensive posture, hanging his broken left arm a bit behind his body and leaning in with his right. Brock Lesnar went in for a grapple, but Cody ducked him. Lesnar tried a second time, but Rhodes slid underneath the ropes and out of the ring. “You want to fight, right?” Rhodes challenged Lesnar to join him outside. Lesnar did. Cody ran, doing a lap around ringside and then sliding into the ring to gain position. He stomped Brock quickly, but Lesnar just shook him off.
Lesnar backed Cody into the corner and drove his shoulder into the mid-section. Lesnar hit a belly-to-belly out of the corner. Rhodes rose to his feet slowly. Brock delivered another belly-to-belly. Rhodes crawled to the corner. Brock shouldered him again, then delivered a third belly-to-belly. The referee checked on Cody, who waved him off. Lesnar lifted Cody to his feet. Cody threw a quick punch with the cast arm. It rocked Lesnar.
Suddenly, Rhodes reassessed his game plan. He began punching Lesnar repeatedly with the cast. Brock spilled to the outside. Cody dove through the middle rope, cast first, colliding with Lesnar’s head. He tossed Brock back in the ring. Cody him him with the cast again. He dove off the rope and hit a Cody Cutter. Lesnar was stunned. He stumbled to his feet. Cody gave him Cross Rhodes. Rhodes begged Lesnar to stand. He hit Lesnar with another Cross Rhodes.
Brock shook his head in confusion. Cody sized him up, looking for a third Cross Rhodes. He pulled him in, but Brock blocked it. Lesnar spun around and ripped Cody to the mat, applying the Kimura Lock. Rhodes was trapped in the center with the hold cinched in. He tried rolling it into a leverage pin, but Brock fought out and kept the hold applied. Brock rolled to his knees, applying more pressure. Cody reached desperately for the ropes, digging into Lesnar’s back. He began to fade. Brock continued to wrench. The referee checked Rhodes’ arm. He kept it raised. Lesnar applied more torque.
“The way Lesnar’s positioned, there’s no way Cody can make it out of the Kimura,” Cole said, telegraphing the next sequence. Cody turned his body just enough to reach the bottom rope with his free hand. Lesnar broke the hold at 7:20. He scooped Rhodes up for the F5, but Rhodes slid down his back. He hit a third Cross Rhodes. Cody hooked the leg for a believable near fall. Rhodes clutched his broken arm. Lesnar struggled to stand. Cody hit Brock in the head repeatedly with the broken arm. Brock managed to hoist Cody onto his shoulders and deliver an F5. Both men were down for a beat. Lesnar rolled Rhodes over for a cover and near fall.
Lesnar applied the Kimura a second time. Cody fought to reach the ropes, but Brock rolled him over into the semi-prone version of the hold again. Rhodes lost consciousness. The referee called for the bell.
WINNER: Brock Lesnar in 9:41
(LeClair’s Analysis: They’ve done a really remarkable job at putting Cody Rhodes in immensely sympathetic positions and watching him knock it out of the park with those opportunities. This was no different, but I do wonder how long they can get away with this kind of set up. Lesnar was vicious and bloodthirsty from the jump, and Rhodes’ only defense seemed to be the weapon on his arm. I would’ve preferred that it didn’t seem like such a surprise to Cody that he had a deadly weapon on his body, but it’s ultimately a rather minuscule complaint in a story that I thought worked quite well. Rhodes fought valiantly through the first Kimura Lock, and scored a believable near fall off the third Cross Rhodes before ultimately succumbing to his injury, and Lesnar’s dominant offense. I do think they overuse the pass out submission spot, though. It’s a hallmark of their protecting of a guy they need to lose, but don’t want losing anything in the process. That aside, I think this story has been good for Cody overall even if I do have reservations about the implications of making it his bread and butter going forward.)
-Cole tossed to a break, or a hype video for Ronda Rousey.
-Omos was shown sitting at ringside. Cole and Graves teased Money in the Bank qualifying matches on next week’s Raw and Smackdown.
-Back at ringside, Michael Cole and Corey Graves discussed Roman Reigns surpassing 1,000 days as champion. They tossed to a video package hyping the main event.
-The announcers laid out for Roman Reigns’ entrance. The Undisputed WWE Universal Champion emerged flanked by his partner, Solo Sikoa, and special council, Paul Heyman. The latter proudly held up the Universal title. Cole mentioned that Reigns has become the fifth longest reigning champion of all time, with #4 in his sights from a record set over fifty years ago. “You’ll notice, no Usos,” he remarked.
Fans on the floor level held up “1000 days” banners. Graves talked up the family’s legacy of tag team wrestling.
Kevin Owens entered next, then stepped aside for Sami Zayn’s entrance. Zayn received a huge reaction. He looked genuinely moved. Cole said he’s performing in front of family and friends. “Remember what happened last time that happened,” Cole noted. Roman Reigns gave a sly smirk as he watched Sami pose on the turnbuckle. Mike Rome began to give introductions, but Paul Heyman cut him off to handle things for the Bloodline.
Sami Zayn introduced himself and KO in Arabic, much to the crowd’s delight. “Much better than Mike Rome,” Cole said.
(7) SAMI ZAYN & KEVIN OWENS (c) vs. ROMAN REIGNS & SOLO SIKOA – WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championship match
After some brief internal deliberation, Roman Reigns sent Solo Sikoa to the apron and opted to begin the match himself. Kevin Owens opened things for the champions. The crowd sang to KO and Sami. Owens and Reigns stared each other down from across the ring. Owens listened to the crowd and turned back to his corner. Sami offered his hand. Kevin tagged him in. The crowd popped big. Roman spun the ring on his finger. He stretched his neck and shoulder, listening intently as the crowd chanted “Sami Zayn.”
Roman walked around the ring. “They wouldn’t know who you are without me!” he said to no one in particular. Reigns made a quick loop around the ring and tagged in Solo Sikoa. The crowd booed heavily. Reigns went outside to talk to Paul Heyman. “I should’ve never let you in!” he barked at Zayn. Reigns turned his attention to the crowd. He yelled at them as they pelted him with boos. In the ring, Sami Zayn and Solo Sikoa locked up as the match crossed 3:00. Solo shoved Zayn toward the corner.
Solo challenged Sami to step to him. Zayn did. Solo blocked his shot and went for a Spike, but Zayn ducked it easily. He gave Solo a big chop. Sikoa was enraged. He bodied Sami into the corner and downed him with body shots before whipping him to the opposing turnbuckle. Sami leapfrogged him and hit him with some right hands. Zayn shot Sikoa off the ropes, but the Enforcer dropped him with a back elbow.
Sami tagged in Kevin Owens. KO wasted no time coming to blows with Sikoa. The two traded quick shots before Kevin hit the ropes. Solo stopped him dead in his tracks with an uppercut. He worked Owens into the heel corner. Owens tried to take a shot at Roman, but he dropped off the apron and shook a finger at KO. Owens tagged in Sami Zayn and the two hit a quick tandem of moves on Solo. Reigns rushed in the ring and attacked Owens from behind. Sami tried to get to him, but Reigns leapt to the outside and played to the crowd.
Sikoa draped Sami over the middle rope and got pulled away by the referee, allowing Roman to choke Zayn off of the distraction. Sikoa gave Zayn a body slam and a big headbutt at 7:15. He stomped Zayn in the gut. Sami tried to crawl toward KO, but Solo cut him off. Roman Reigns called for a tag and got it. He taunted the crowd on his way in. Reigns stomped at Sami. He scraped his boot across Zayn’s neck. The referee forced him to break, and Roman feigned punching him. He slammed Zayn to the mat with a Suplex and covered him for a quick two count. Reigns admonished the official for a slow count.
After Zayn hit a series of quick chops, Reigns just brushed his chest off. “You think you’re the Nature Boy now?” he asked. Reigns tossed Zayn to the outside. Solo tried to get involved, but Owens rounded the corner to protect his partner. The two legal men worked back into the ring. Reigns continued to work over Sami. Zayn would hit a few rights, but a quick uppercut from Reigns would thwart the comeback attempt. Roman tagged in Solo Sikoa. The two elbowed at Zayn’s neck and back.
Zayn tried to make a break for the corner, but Solo cut him off, tossed him into the air and connected with a Samoan Drop. He stalked the tag champion, applying a vice grip to the trap. The crowd tried to will Sami to life. Zayn returned to his feet and broke the hold, but Solo just tossed him to the floor. Reigns tried to get involved, but Sami fought him off. Sikoa joined the action, but Sami bested him, too. Zayn rushed into the ring to reach KO for a tag. Sikoa still managed to intercept him.
KO reached from the corner desperately. Sikoa Superkicked him off the apron, then went back to work on Sami. He hoisted him onto the southwestern turnbuckle. Zayn kicked him in the face rapidly to create separation. He managed to hit Solo with a tornado DDT. Both men began crawling to their respective corners, and both made successful tags. Owens pounced on Reigns, quickly tossing him to the outside and hitting him with a standing Senton. He tossed Roman back inside and delivered a Superkick. Reigns collapsed in the corner. Solo leapt onto the apron, but KO knocked him off.
Owens looked for a Cannonball, but the brief reprieve bought by Solo allowed Reigns time to recover. He flew out of the corner and hit a massive clothesline. Reigns looked to follow it up with a Superman Punch, but KO blocked it and tossed Reigns up, hitting a Pop-Up Powerbomb for a cover and near fall. Owens wasn’t done. He climbed to the top rope and hit a big splash for a cover and second near fall. The camera pulled back at 15:35 as both men writhed on the mat. Cole reset the scene.
Reigns pulled himself up by the ropes. Solo guillotined KO over the top rope, unbeknownst to the referee. Reigns used the attack to feed into a Superman Punch. “I will be the tag team champions, you understand me?” he said to a downed Kevin Owens. The crowd booed him loudly. He set up for a Spear. Reigns tossed his arms back and charged, but KO kneed him in the face. Owens hit Reigns with a Stunner. The Universal Champion stumbled back into the ropes, but bounced back at Owens and hit the Spear. Both men were down.
Both men crawled to their partners and reached them. Solo and Sami came to blows in the center of the ring. Zayn leapfrogged Solo off the bottom rope, then clotheslined Sikoa to the outside. He got a running start, then dove clear over the top rope onto Solo on the floor. Zayn fired up. He tossed Solo into the ring. Solo missed wildly with a clothesline. Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a cover and near fall at 19:00.
Sami set up shop in the corner as Solo tried to drag himself up across from the ring. Zayn went for the Heluva Kick, but Solo caught him with a Superkick instead. Zayn stumbled back, but managed to pull Sikoa in for an Exploder. Solo crashed into the corner. Zayn hit a quick Heluva Kick for a cover that was broken up just in time by Roman Reigns. Reigns hoisted Zayn onto his shoulders, but Sami fought free. Reigns shoved Zayn, who almost took out the referee. Sami spun around to a charging Reigns. Roman went for the Spear, but Sami moved. Reigns hit the referee instead.
The camera cut to show Zayn cocking his fist in the corner. He hit Roman with a Superman Punch. Zayn tossed his arms back, calling for a Spear. He charged, but Reigns picked him off with a Superman Punch of his own. Owens exploded into the ring and Speared Reigns. The Universal Champion rolled to the outside. Owens followed, tossing him into the ring steps and then clearing both announce desks. Owens dragged Reigns to the table. Suddenly, the Usos appeared. They swarmed Owens, beating him down. Jimmy and Jey toppled the desk over KO, trapping him.
Back in the ring, Sami rose to his feet slowly, only to be met by the Usos. They gave him individual Superkicks, then set up for a tandem on. Sami ducked. The Usos kicked Solo Sikoa instead. Roman Reigns saw it. He entered the ring and shoved Jimmy. Jey grabbed Roman’s arm. “We’re just trying to help!” Jey said. Reigns was furious. “There ain’t no day one no more!” he screamed at Jey. He shoved him again and told him to get out of his ring. Jimmy blindsided Roman with a Superkick. Jey’s eyes grew wide. He asked Jimmy what he’s doing. Jimmy snarled. “I’m doing what you should’ve done a long time ago! It’s me and you now! I’ve got to!” Jimmy kicked Reigns in the head again. Jey was in shock. Jimmy forced him out of the ring. “Let’s go, we’ve gotta go!” he told his brother.
Solo Sikoa was alone in the ring. Kevin Owens returned and gave Solo a Stunner. Cole noted that he’s the legal man. Sami hit Sikoa with a Heluva Kick and hooked the leg. A referee rushed from the back to count the three.
WINNERS: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens in 26:22 to retain the WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championships
The Usos were shown on the ramp. “What did you just do?” Jey asked his brother, still in shock. Jimmy was sure. Roman Reigns sat at ringside, dejected. KO and Sami held up their titles, staring right at Reigns. Roman sat against the barricade, looking up at Sami Zayn and shaking his head. Cole bid the audience goodnight from Jeddah as the camera positioned itself behind Roman Reigns, who continued to stare at Sami and KO. The show faded to a recap package.
(LeClair’s Analysis: A really good main event tag team match, but the final five or so minutes are the only things we’ll be talking about. The Usos eventual appearance seemed like a foregone conclusion, and it certainly furthered the story in a significant manner. After all the teasing for months on end, it was Jimmy, not Jey, who pulled the trigger on dissolving the Bloodline. They’d set this version of the story up well over the last several weeks, but it still felt like it may have been a red herring for Jey’s eventual turn. As usual, the Usos were brilliant in their body language and execution. Roman sold the shock of the turn immensely well in the post-match, and WWE deserves plenty of credit for the great camera work there at the end. They focused heavily on getting shots from Roman Reigns’ perspective, positioning the camera just beside or just behind him to show Owens and Sami above him, in a position of triumph. It was a great touch. There should be plenty of intrigue for weekly TV coming out of this development.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: WWE has done a good job of folding these Saudi shows into regular, yearly WWE cannon in a way that makes them feel a little less like propaganda and more like consequential, normal events. The appearance of the crowd and removal of government officials certainly helps that, and I’m glad that fans from that part of the world get to experience these shows that actually matter in the context of the stories WWE is telling. Still, any praise comes with the inherent acknowledgement of the troubled relationship. This was, perhaps, the most consequential event in Saudi Arabia to date, with a major development in the Bloodline story. I think the show featured some really solid wrestling from top to bottom, but was ultimately anchored not by the action or atmosphere, but by the story-driven nature of the show’s final two matches. There’s plenty to talk about in the coming week – be it Belair’s title loss, Lesnar’s win over a valiant Rhodes, or the future of the Usos and Roman Reigns. With notable developments and good wrestling all around, this is a thumbs up show with all the usual Saudi disclaimers.