WWE Crown Jewel 2021 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 232 minutes approx.
Release Date: December 6th
One thing COVID put a temporary stop to for WWE was their twice yearly trips to Saudi Arabia to cash on the 10 year Blood Money deal since they were unable to travel across the country let alone overseas. Not that fans this side of the world objected much as these events were usually glorified house shows with decrepit legends being wheeled out to embarrass themselves one last time.
But, the world is slowly getting back to some degree of normalcy, including international travel restrictions being exponentially lifted. WWE made a brief trip to our shores in early autumn suggesting further global jaunts would likely follow, confirmed when the 2021 iteration of Crown Jewel was announced.
This time the show would be different in that it was being treated as one of the regular PPVs like Wrestlemania or Backlash, with the matches built up on TV being canon and not one-and-done deals to be ignored later. This includes two high profile title match and the culmination of two tournaments, along with the precedent of two women’s matches being held on this notoriously misogynistic soil.
Shockingly, this made for a good show, one of the better received efforts of the year. However, the results of many of the matches was hardly in doubt as WWE held their annual draft a week before on TV although the changes would only take effect after this show. Even so, in the case of a title match, it made it rather obvious who would win if one of the competitors had already been assigned a new home.
Held on October 21st at Mohammed Abdu Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in front of 22,000 fans. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers – the back cover drops a major one – but plenty of opinion and backstories!
Hell In A Cell – Edge vs. Seth Rollins
This feud has its origins dating back to 2014 when Seth was part of the Authority and nearly reinjured Edge’s neck. Seven years later, Edge defeated Rollins at Summerslam, but Seth got his win back on SD, punctuating this victory by hospitalising Edge. This wasn’t enough to keep Edge down who returned shortly after only for Seth to respond by breaking into Edge’s house whilst Edge was at the arena for SD. To settle the score, Edge made the challenge for a Hell In A Cell match.
A bold way to open a show with almost 30 minutes of two men inside a giant cage but to their credit both men gave it their all. The match started off hot but withered a bit by the end, as it got a bit sillier with the near falls from what would usually be match ending bumps. Definitely a war of attrition, they got a bit nasty using chains and chair legs as well as the usual staples of ladders and tables. For the first time in a long time, the Cell ended a feud as it was originally designed to.
Mansoor vs. Mustafa Ali
No shocks as to who wins this match – even Vince McSenile isn’t insane enough to pull his usual “hometown hero loses” stunt here. Match was solid but functional yet actually had a story behind it as Ali took Mansoor under his wing and formed a tag team but after losing, Ali turned on Mansoor. Simple and predictable story telling but it worked and the pay off was the right one.
Post match, Ali attacked Mansoor, who was saved by a masked man strolling to the ring in a lackadaisical run-in Kevin Nash would be proud of, that turned out to be Tareg Ali Hamedi, a Saudi Olympic silver medallist in Karate at the recent Tokyo games. He was actually DQ’d in the final for throwing a knock out kick! A dangerous Saudi? Who’d have thunk it?
Titus O’Neil and Natalya held an in-ring tribute to four Saudi women who survived breast cancer, presenting them with pink title belts which their husbands probably beat them with as soon as they got home.
RAW Tag Title Match – RKBro (c) vs. AJ Styles & Omos
Riddle came out on a camel. That’s all you really need to know about this match. It was a RAW match at best with the crowd being into Omos, though he didn’t do much (as usual) and with Orton being protected as one of Vince’s chosen ones, this was mostly Riddle and Styles bumping all over the place for each other.
Queen Crown Tournament Final – Zelina Vega vs. Doudrop
The Women’s Revolution in WWE was 5 years ago but seems longer, and if you followed this tournament – the female equivalent of the King Of The Ring – you’d wonder if it happened at all. No top names were in the tourney and every match was less than three minutes long. In fact, this final at 5:50 was the longest of the entire thing, with the run times of all seven matches totalling just over 19 minutes!!
It had been rumoured that Liv Morgan was originally going to either win of be the babyface finalist but someone up top saw that she had a Twitter conversation with someone from AEW and was punished by losing in 90-seconds in the opening round. I don’t know if this is true but let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a stretch given Vince’s pettiness. The match? Well, it happened, the crowd didn’t care at all until the finish, oddly being more into the botched post match coronation than the match itself.
No Holds Barred Falls Count Anywhere Match – Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley,
After another embarrassing outing at Summerslam in which Old Man Goldberg (don’t tell him I said that) was (kayfabe) injured and had the match end early, his son was put in the Hurt Lock by Lashley. To get his revenge, Goldberg said he was literally going to murder Lashley. I suppose if you do want to publicly kill someone and get away with it this is the right place to do it.
In all fairness, the relaxed rules worked in Goldberg’s favour as he was able to get away with doing little and let the smoke and mirrors cover up his shortcomings. Okay for what it was and definitely a much stronger turn from Goldberg than his last few matches, and whilst he didn’t actually murder Lashley, it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
King Of The Ring Tournament Final – Finn Bálor vs. Xavier Woods
Two babyfaces vying for the crown here, although the big question is why King Nakamura wasn’t forced to abdicate prior to this tourney? The story behind this one is based on backstage origins not scripted, with Woods making a big deal about always wanting to hold this particular accolade, whilst it would mean he was no longer the only member of The New Day to have singles success. Another TV level match.
WWE Title Match – Big E (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
Big E did the heel thing of cashing in his MITB briefcase on Lashley after he just had a match to win the WWE Title. After a rematch two weeks later, Drew decided he should be the next challenger and they did the usual “partners can’t get along” tag match deal to build heat for this match.
However, it was announced during the draft that Drew would be moving to SD, making the result a foregone conclusion. That said, we got two beefy guys suplexing the hell out of each other and dropping stiff bombs for 13 minutes. Not a classic first title defence but Drew is established, so Big E has one big name match to his credit.
SD Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks
Another match potentially spoiled by the draft. It was announced Becky would move to RAW as would Bianca, which would leave Sasha as the favourite to walk out of here the new champ. The alternative would be Becky wins and trades belts with Charlotte who was shifted from RAW to SD, but that would a dumb idea, right?
Sasha returned to ruin the Becky vs. Bianca title match at Extreme Rules after missing Summerslam for undisclosed reasons (rumoured anti-vax issues) to resume that feud whilst Bianca still had unfinished business with Becky. This was all action with some cool spots, including Bianca doing a single arm press slam on Sasha, who we have to feel sorry for as she wore an intricately sparkly body suit which she still had to cover up with a t-shirt!
Universal Title Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
Here we go again. If you were watching between 2015/2018 you’ll have had your fill of this match up as these two faced off countless times. The only difference here is the heel/face dynamic has been reversed – sort of, since fans always booed Reigns despite him being the kayfabe face – and Brock has a bushy beard and silly hairstyle (don’t tell him I said that).
To give this latest go around some spice, Lesnar’s big return at Summerslam was said to have been possible thanks to Paul Heyman, who is now Roman’s Special Counsel. Brock even said the contract for this match was approved by Heyman on his behalf, which Heyman denied. So whose side is Heyman on?
You know how the match goes – power moves, suplexes, finishers, ref bump, Usos run in – but the key here was Heyman throwing the title belt into the ring for someone to use. But who? Nice bit of intrigue there to an otherwise by the numbers bout.
WWE’s trips to Saudi Arabia still stick in the craw of many fans and observers due to the country’s dubious reputation as a morally bankrupt cesspool of oppression and chauvinism but money talks, and the company is making a mint from this deal. Therefore it pains many to admit how good this show is when the natural reaction is to want to boycott it. It was a clever move to treat this as a regular canon PPV even if it only lead to a minor increase in interest over prior Saudi events, and it rubbed off on the talent too who were much more motivated this time.
This isn’t to say everything was a winner – the women are still hampered by having to dress a frumps, with baggy t-shirts covering their bodies over their all in one bodysuits; even female ref Jessika Carr had to have her bar arms covered! However, this didn’t hamper their work and the ladies pulled off the best match of the night for this writer’s money.
Absence seemed to have made the heart grow fonder as the Saudi crowd were hotter than usual, giving almost everything a decent reaction rather than reserving their love for the relics of the past. This helped make the show and whilst nothing of any real note occurred here, it stands comfortably above the previous Saudi outings, and unexpectedly some of the domestic PPVs this year too.
Best match – Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks
Crown Jewel Kick-Off Match – The Usos vs. Hurt Business
Supersized Smackdown 15/10/21
Prepare For Hell
Hell Freezes Over
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
The Allegiance Of An Advocate
Rating – ***
Man In Black