Crown Jewel 2021 is in the books, and it was, in fact, a very good show. It opened with a tremendous Hell in a Cell match between Seth Rollins and Edge and ended with three fun title matches.
Roman Reigns got a win over Brock Lesnar with a little help from his cousins and Paul Heyman, who may not have been trying to help him at all—stay tuned.
Big E staved off a challenge from Drew McIntryre. Becky Lynch held on to the SmackDown women’s title in a strong Triple Threat match against Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair. Randy Orton and Riddle defeated Omos and AJ Styles to keep the RAW tag team titles.
Xavier Woods was also crowned the newest King of the Ring, while Zelina Vega became the first to win the Queen’s Crown tournament.
While no championships changed hands on Crown Jewel, we were left with several takeaways from the show.
THE REIGNS-LESNAR-HEYMAN SAGA ROLLS ON
Thursday’s main event was a success. The match went longer than most of Lesnar’s matches these days, was well worked by both men, and had twists and turns without going too long.
The screw-job finish in the main event was necessary if the plan is to carry a Reigns-Lesnar matchup to WrestleMania. They threw in a key moment of drama when Heyman shoved the belt into the ring between the two men. It left the door open as to which wrestler Heyman was trying to assist. Reigns kept the title showed he still leans on his cousins to stay on top. For Lesnar, getting a visual pin before losing to Reigns after a belt shot and interference from the Usos doesn’t hurt him in the fans’ eyes.
This saga can roll on for a while now. Lesnar will be involved in the Royal Rumble and could make more appearances in the meantime. That would allow him to cast more suspicion on Heyman, who was not celebrating as he walked away.
Of course not, right? Oh, but there were hints. Ever since SummerSlam, when Bobby Lashley put the full nelson on Gage Goldberg, papa Goldberg has been throwing around death threats toward Lashley. This was rare for WWE, but the company leaned into them, making it a central part of the promos from Goldberg leading to the No Holds Barred match.
Add to that the Undertaker’s surprise appearance in Saudi Arabia the night before introducing Pitbull at a concert and it was enough to make one worry they were thinking of doing a death angle or a supernatural storyline.
Thankfully, none of that happened. They even had a decent match. It ended Goldberg hitting a spear off the ramp through some tables before pinning Lashley in the rubble. It was apparent the finish came to them late, as they threw in a “Falls Count Anywhere” stipulation on the pre-show so they could do the pin right after the big bump.
The Undertaker never appeared on the show, and both Goldberg and Lashley are alive, both in storyline and in real life.
THE WOMEN’S SITUATION
Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks had a very good Triple Threat match in the semifinal. It was clear the agents and wrestlers worked hard to put this together. Several Interesting spots were created involving all three women at once. Most were done in a way that made it look like they were battling and reacting to what the others were doing, rather than cooperating.
Lynch pinned Banks, taking the SmackDown title to RAW with her, so the blue belt is going to the red show and vice versa. The announcers seemed to be pretending this has not happened before and they had no idea what the WWE would do. It happened last year with the tag team titles and the champions simply traded belts. We’ll find out soon if they even address there’s a precedent here.
All women on the show had to wrestle in gear that covered their bodes except their heads and hands. They also wore T-shirts so nothing form-fitting from the waist up could be seen. Even referee Jessika Carr had an untucked referee shirt and long sleeves. Doudrop also avoided her usual spirit-finger interaction with ringside fans. These are all rules one must follow to put a show on in Saudi Arabia.
It flies in the face of equal rights, but we are talking about a company that’s taking tens of millions of dollars from a government that murders critical journalists. WWE’s lip service toward equality stood no chance in the face of money—and hasn’t for years.
Unlike previous Saudi Arabia crowds, these fans were into nearly everything. Reactions were enthusiastic throughout the four-hour event, and even threw in six different “this is awesome” chants as the night wore on. The set looked great, as well, so combined with the fans’ reactions, it felt like a major event was taking place.
WWE crowds in the United States have been beaten down over the years and see the promotion itself as the heel, so strong reactions can be difficult to come by. That wasn’t the cases here.
HAPPINESS AT HOME
One reason for the good vibes was that the fans were given something WWE rarely hands out: A triumphant ending for the hometown wrestler. Riyadh-born Mansoor was given a win over Mustafa Ali in a good match. Afterward, Ali attacked him but Saudi Arabian Olympic silver medalist Tareg Hamedi made the save. The karate star knocked out Ali, shook hands with Mansoor and gave the fans a hometown happy ending.
Mansoor did a good job and deserved to soak in the cheers for a night. The entire point of these events is PR for the Saudi government, and this is Mansoor’s role at these shows. He defeated Dolph Ziggler at Super Showdown 2020 and Cesaro at Crown Jewel 2019. He also won the 51-man Battle Royal at Super Showdown 2019.
WWE should note that hometown advantage can be used to keep fans invested. The company usually beats or embarrasses people in their hometowns in a misguided effort to build heat. What it actually does is teach fans their local star will let them down, stripping away some fan enthusiasm. This was an example of hometown advantage being used well.
Xavier Woods defeated Finn Balor in the finals of the King of the Ring tournament. Zelina Vega pinned Doudrop to win the first Queen’s Crown tournament. Woods worked hard to establish how important the tournament was to him, both in interviews and in his matches. It’s unclear so far if he will make being king part of his character. It’s not a very babyface thing to do, after all.
As for Vega, she has the harder job. The Queen’s Crown tournament was treated shabbily on television. Matches were over quickly with only perfunctory promos attached to it. The tournament didn’t seem that important to the characters or the company. The finals match got more time and it wasn’t bad, but fans were told not to care about the tournament by the WWE’s presentation of it, and acted accordingly. It will be a challenge for Vega to make this win help her character.
WWE HAS A STRONG IN-RING ROSTER
One reason WWE pay-per-view types of events easy to watch is because they contain fewer bad comedy skits, less script-reciting, and often cut silly storylines such as home invasions and death threats. The matches on this show were fast-paced and entertaining. It shows if WWE could just get out of its own way creatively, it has the talent to put on an excellent show.