WWE – Crown Jewel 2019 (Cert 15)

2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 207 minutes approx.

Wonders will never cease. Usually, the bi-annual Blood Money shows WWE hold in Saudi Arabia are a recipe for disaster, from having terrible matches on the cards to some kind of scandal overshadowing them. Case in point, the first ever Crown Jewel event from late 2018 has never had a home video release and has effectively been consigned to the naughty step of time within WWE.

But this year’s iteration marks what may – or may not – be a turning point for the Saudi events for three reasons: 1) There were actually some good matches on the show, 2) Women were allowed to wrestle for the first time ever and 3) Slight spoiler – There was a major title change!

The latter will be the most significant for WWE as the lack of female presence on these shows was a sore point in lieu of the Women’s Revolution they had been pushing over the past few years. They came close to having a women’s match at the Super Showdown event in June but it was nixed at the last minute, so it was quite a surprise when they got the go ahead this time around,, on the morning of the show.

However, there is always going to be some controversy surrounding any Saudi show and this was no exception, although the drama occurred after the show ended.

Crown Jewel took place on October 31st 2019 at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with commentary provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves.

As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results or major spoilers because the DVD back cover artwork does that for me, expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches.

 

WWE Heavyweight Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Cain Velasquez

Cain who, you may ask? If you follow MMA then you’ll know he actually defeated Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight Title in 2009; if you don’t follow MMA then like most people at the SD Live debut show on FOX TV, you wouldn’t have a clue who the chap was with Rey Mysterio who attacked Brock after he ended Kofi Kingston’s six month WWE Title reign in SIX SECONDS.

The announcers make a big deal about how Velasquez is having his WWE debut match in a WWE Title bout but nobody really cared and the fact this went on first, and with Lesnar being notorious for working early so he can nip off home and avoid the traffic tells you all you need to know about how this 2 minute match went.

World Cup Tag Team Turmoil Match – The Viking Raiders vs. The New Day vs. The OC vs. The B-Team vs. Heavy Machinery vs. The Revival vs. Lucha House Party vs. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode

Because Kofi Kingston managed to revive his stagnant career in a gauntlet match, many followed in the hope to recreate the magic, but they were all singles bouts. Therefore, there is a logic they should be long matches; with tag teams there seems less logic to having a gauntlet match run that long which is what this one did.

Perhaps it was to compensate for the brevity of the opener but there are long matches an interminable matches and this was the latter. I suppose we should be thankful it didn’t even feature every team in the WWE otherwise, it would probably still be going today! Anyway, the winners get a trophy and the title Best Tag Team in the World so one would assume one of the two brand champions would be protected here, but this is WWE…

Cesaro vs. Mansoor

It’s hard to describe the whirlwind success of Mansoor since winning the 51-Man battle Royal at Super Showdown in his home country – non-existent would come closest. Seriously, unless I missed it, I don’t think he has made any appearances on NXT TV in the five months between shows but I suspect he has been busy on the road instead.

Assuming the Saudi’s don’t watch NXT, Mansoor is wheeled again to play crowd pleaser whilst being presented as big deal to his fellow compatriots at of course it worked. Better yet, he was paired with an underrated but steady hand in Cesaro and wouldn’t you know it, they only had the best match on the show. Granted it was textbook stuff all the way but it worked and was pretty good to boot. A miracle.

Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury

Like Velasquez earlier, boxer Tyson Fury is making his WWE in-ring debut here, having got into a bit of a scuffle with Strowman on the SD Live FOX debut, though this is a one-match deal whilst Cain has apparently signed a full WWE contract. Fury has no wrestling experience but as a World heavyweight boxing champ and standing 6’ 9” he should be able to hold his own against the Monster Among Men.

Or not. Okay this wasn’t horrible horrible, but it was pretty blah. Fury didn’t completely embarrass himself like other outsiders have in the past, but this wasn’t much fun either. The finish was lame since they want to keep Braun strong and Fury couldn’t really lose either, so set your expectations low enough and you might not feel so underwhelmed.

 

If anyone cares there was a 24/7 title change skit here, meaning they flew a load of guys out just to faff about backstage in a joke segment that stopped being funny months ago. This closes disc one in the set.

 

WWE US Title Match – AJ Styles (c)  vs. Humberto Carillo

Carillo earned this title shot in a Battle Royale held in the pre-show, whilst in a startling and rare piece of continuity for WWE, he also pushed Styles to the limit on the RAW prior to this show! If you haven’t heard of the dimpled Carillo, he was the Luchador known formerly as Ultimo Ninja in Mexico before arriving in NXT last year, and having some fun little matches, before being brought up to 205 Live then to RAW.

Another good match, Carillo and Styles had to work hard to wake the dead crowd up but got there in the end with a combination of Carillo’s Lucha moves and Styles being a pro in holding it together as the veteran heel. Not a mind blowing bout but certainly cleanses the palette after the previous dud.

Natalya vs. Lacey Evans

And here is the answer to the trivia question “Who were the first woman in WWE to have a match in Saudi Arabia?”. However, they are not the first women to wrestle there as Sarita vs. Madison Rayne took place during a TNA show there in 2010, then worked as partners in a tag match against The Beautiful People the next night. And of course, the first WWE women’s match in the Middle East was Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

But, we should let Nattie and Lacey have their historical moment in which they worked a safe basic match that was good enough to make it worthwhile. Both came out dressed very conservatively, with t-shirts over their ring gear – well Nattie’s usual gear, Lacey wore tracksuit bottoms and long sleeved shirt, as well as eschewing make-up and her sassy mannerisms. Both were smiling throughout and the crowd was into it, so really all we can do is congratulate the ladies, and see where it goes from here.

Team Hogan (Roman Reigns, Rusev, Ricochet, Shorty G & Mustafa Ali) vs. Team Flair (Randy Orton, King Corbin, Bobby Lashley, Shinsuke Nakamura & Drew McIntyre)

Now we come to the “Saudi’s are stuck in the past” match which was the first bout put together for the show in an angle on RAW. Originally, Seth Rollins was Hogan’s team captain until he was pulled for the Universal title defence and replaced by Reigns. Orton was named Flair’s captain as the de facto heel team, despite being in the midst of a face turn. Shorty G is Chad Gable, embracing the stupid gimmick of him supposedly being short when there are many wrestlers the same size as him or shorter.

The only real ongoing feud in this line-up is Rusev and Lashley, started when the former showed up on RAW having suddenly taken up with Lana, leaving Rusev out in the cold, otherwise there are no real stakes for the teams other than representing their respective legends. Basically, it was 20-minutes of solid action with everyone getting in their licks in the usual chaotic finish for a multi-man match. Served its purpose and was quite fun to boot.

WWE Universal Title Falls Count Anywhere Match – Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Fiend

In what must be a precedent, WWE did listen to the fans who hated their match at HITC (which was practically everyone) and decided to settle it with this Falls Count Anywhere rematch, which was promoted with the stipulation it “cannot be stopped for any reason” to guarantee a winner. Surely a pinfall, submission, or KO is a reason? Otherwise this match would never end!

The bad news is the stupid red lighting is in effect again and doesn’t work any better in a giant stadium as opposed to a smaller arena. Of all the things complained about in this match, this was one they failed to act on, tough they have upped the brightness for the DVD release it is still hard to watch.

Also, there are some issues with the set up for this match as Wyatt/The Fiend had been drafted to Smackdown and Rollins is on RAW, and with the inter-brand Survivor Series PPV coming up that would mean Lesnar vs. Rollins (again) or Lesnar vs. Wyatt, and who do you have lose in that match?

Not to mention the Fiend has already proven to be indestructible so will being able to bounce him around a stadium make him vulnerable at all? Well, if the lights were on we’d be able to tell but instead there is a lot of barely visible smoke and mirrors and typical plunder shortcuts going on in front of a dead crowd, complete with a shock finish that asks more questions than it answers.

 

Bottom Line:

For once the show itself the real problem. It won’t go down as a classic but has some cachet as a historical event because of the women’s match otherwise this is business as usual for a WWE Saudi jaunt .

No, the real story happened after the show, with the beginnings of its infamy occurring during it. Just prior to the show, the WWE announced an extension to the Saudi Arabia deal to help boost the company’s prices on the stock exchange, which also indicates that all is well between the two camps. However, the show aired on a 40-minute delay in Saudi Arabia which was put down to a “technical issue” – yet others have suggested it was a call made by Vince McMahon because WWE hadn’t been paid for the two previous PPVs and held this one hostage until he got his money.

Again, this is just speculation but the story gets a lot weirder with more conspiracy theories derived from it. This event took place on a Thursday and the wrestlers for the blue brand we due to fly back to the US for the live Smackdown TV broadcast the next night, which sounds a bit tight even with the time difference between the US and the Middle East. The flight was due to leave Riyadh at 3:00am their time which is 7:00pm US time. 

Unfortunately, the plane never left the tarmac, with a “mechanical issue” cited as the cause, leaving most of the wrestlers stuck on the plane. Apparently, alternate flights for the whole roster couldn’t be arranged with only a few of the top SD names, like Reigns and Corbin, (who had been advertised for SD) given an opportunity to get another flight, leaving the others behind, and even they didn’t leave until much later anyway, barely making it back in time for TV and being dropped from the show.

Eventually, the pilots’ shifts had expired and were sent home, so even if the plane was ready to leave there was nobody to fly it, so after six hours on the grounded plane, the wrestlers were allowed to disembark and find a hotel and get some rest. They finally were able to leave Riyadh some 24 hours after the original schedule flight was supposed to have left.

At this point, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Hogan and Flair, and Vince and Kevin Dunn had already left via their private jets, the latter fuelling the rumours of dissent between Vince and his Saudi paymasters, which is where things start to get murky as far as their veracity. Keeping the remaining wrestlers and crew on the plane – numbered around 175 people – for so long without offering an explanation or alternate plans led to further rumours that this was payback by the Saudis for Vince allegedly screwing with the PPV broadcast.

How much of this is true and how much is fiction will only be known by very few at the heart of the situation, but with both camps having previous in being difficult to deal with, it is not hard to assume there may be a kernel of truth to some of it somewhere, but it may be a very long time before anyone is likely to reveal all – if they are being honest, of course.

However, this disaster proved serendipitous as the Smackdown broadcast went ahead with a new show that Triple H took charge of which actually paid dividends for the next month ahead. Watch this space for further details…

Best Match –  Cesaro vs. Mansoor

 

Extras:

German Language

Disc 1 Only:

Super Showdown Kick-Off Show Match – 20-man Battle Royale – Winner faces AJ Styles for the WWE US Title

 

Rating – ***   

Man In Black