Crown Jewel Grades and Analysis

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Crown Jewel Grades and Analysis

Bray Wyatt went to battle with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship | Photo by: Sportskeeda

Bray Wyatt went to battle with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship | Photo by: Sportskeeda

Bray Wyatt went to battle with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship | Photo by: Sportskeeda

Bray Wyatt went to battle with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship | Photo by: Sportskeeda

Matthew Rago, Sports Editor

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Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Cain Velasquez (with Rey Mysterio) for the WWE Championship

Summary: Velasquez ambushed Lesnar immediately after the bell rang. He stunned the champion with striking combos, landing a head kick that knocked the “Beast Incarnate” to the mat. However, Lesnar exploited a loophole in Velasquez’s ground game, taking advantage of his opponent’s zeal before locking the challenger in the Kimura Lock for the submission victory. 

After the match, Lesnar kept the Kimura Lock applied to a subdued Velasquez, prompting Rey Mysterious to intervene with a steel chair.  

Result: Lesnar defeated Velasquez via submission.

Grade: D-

Analysis: Whoa. Out of all the possible outcomes for this match, a squash victory in favor of Lesnar seemed the least likely. 

However, despite the shock value, this match was a disappointment. WWE needs to understand that what works in the UFC will not necessarily translate to sports entertainment. Save for a few notable exceptions, fans of professional wrestling crave long, dramatic title bouts with a proper conclusion, the type of contest Lesnar’s recent resume so glaringly lacks. 

If Velasquez was not ready for this platform, he should not have been placed in this situation to begin with. The idea that the WWE would waste the momentum of one of its biggest signings to date just to advance a relatively weak Lesnar-Mysterio storyline seems criminally shortsighted. 

 

Best in the World Tag Team Turmoil 

Summary: Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode began the match, quickly disposing of both the Lucha House Party and Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. 

 

After a brief respite for Ziggler and Roode, Heavy Machinery (Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight) came out next. Knight initially impressed with his agility, navigating the ring like a cruiserweight trapped in a 300-pound frame. However, Ziggler regained the advantage thanks to Roode’s timely intervention. Ziggler and Roode grounded the larger Knight, grinding the pace to a halt as Dozovic eagerly paced on the ring apron. A miscalculation by Ziggler allowed Knight to tag in Dozovic, who ran roughshod over his smaller opponents. As Dozovic overwhelmed a fatigued Ziggler and Roode, Knight regained his composure, rejoining the fray to land the Compactor for the victory.

 

Next up were the six-time tag-team champions, The New Day. Big E–one of the few competitors who could to toe-to-toe with Knight’s power and agility–started the contest for New Day. However, Kofi Kingston and Dozovic quickly tagged themselves in. Dozovic negated an early Kingston advantage, hitting the Caterpillar for a two-count. However, Kingston countered a slingshot into a DDT before pulling off a Trouble in Paradise to tag in Big E. After a brief flurry of offense from Knight, The New Day executed theBig Ending to advance in the match.

 

Former Raw Tag Team Champions the B-Team came out sixth, with Bo Dallas temporarily grounding Big E before succumbing to another Big Ending 

 

The current Smackdown Tag Team Champions drew the seventh slot. Kingston and Dash Wilder commenced the bout by trading counters before The Revival gained the advantage, slowing the match down to a pace that better suited them. Underhanded tactics allowed The Revival to isolate Kingston before hitting a recklessly executed elevated flying knee for a two-count. However, Big E soon resurfaced, knocking Wilder to the ground, subsequently allowing Kingston to roll up Scott Dawson for the pinfall. After the pinfall, The Revival hit Kingston with a Shatter Machine.

 

Following The Revival’s beatdown of Kingston, Gallows and Anderson (The O.C.) rushed to the ring to take advantage of an incapacitated Kingston. Kingston offered a last gasp effort, but  O.C. quickly overpowered both Kingston and Big E for the victory

 

Last to come out were the Raw Tag Team Champions, the Viking Raiders. The Viking Raiders began the match brutalizing the O.C. with their brute strength before outmaneuvering them with their agility. Gallows and Anderson used deception to regain the advantage, executing a plethora of combination maneuvers before finishing off the Viking Raiders with the Magic Killer for the victory

 

Grade: D-

 

Analysis: Another subpar showing with little-to-no substance. WWE’s transparent attempt to shoehorn nearly every tag team onto the Crown Jewel card resulted in a crowded mess of a match that afforded no team enough time to craft a solid outing. Each individual matchup was rushed and subsequently forgettable, resulting in an inconsequential showcase. 

 

WWE would have been better off allotting half an hour for two or three teams to tear down the house. But hey, at least everyone gets a payday and a PPV credit to their name.

 

Cesaro vs. Mansoor

 

Summary: After spurning Mansoor’s attempt at a handshake, Cesaro assumed a quick advantage. However, Mansoor’s agility and crafitness soon proved to be problematic for Cesaro, who was unable to latch onto his slippery opponent.

 

Cesaro shifted the momentum after countering a Suicide Dive with a stiff uppercut. A combination of sheer power and ring awareness allowed Cesaro to maintain the momentum despite Mansoor’s best efforts. Mansoor countered an attempt at a Double Axe Handle from the top rope with a dropkick before using his aerial arsenal to overwhelm his stunned opponent. 

 

A Tornado DDT earned Mansoor a near fall, energizing a crowd eager to see their hometown hero prevail. Cesaro attempted to utilize underhanded tactics to steal the advantage away, but a determined Mansoor countered with a leaping neckbreaker for another near fall. Mansoor ascended to the top rope, but was met by Cesaro, who executed a deadlift Gutwrench Suplex from the top turnbuckle. A pop-up European Uppercut netted a two-count for Cesaro, who immediately transitioned into a Crossface submission. Mansoor recovered, hitting a superkick for a two-count that resonated throughout the stadium. A second Gutwrench suplex attempt by Cesaro, this time from the middle turnbuckle, was countered into a Sunset Bomb, disabling Cesaro long enough for Mansoor to hit a Moonsault for the pinfall victory

 

Grade: B+ 

 

Analysis: Mansoor looked like a star here. The NXT newcomer staggered Cesaro with both high-impact and aerial moves, proving that his placement on the card was warranted through merit. The two competitors received ample time to craft a match that utilized in-ring psychology with wrestling prowess to entertain a crowd that zealously willed their home country hero to a well-deserved victory

 

Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury

 

Summary: The two started off by tentatively exchanging jabs before transitioning into traditional wrestling holds. Strowman dictated the action early, hitting Fury with a series of kicks, headbutts and punches. Once Strowman stampeded shoulder first into the ring post, Fury was able to regain his composure.

 

Strowman used Fury’s hesitance and inexperience in a wrestling ring to batter Fury, twice knocking Fury down with running shoulder tackles. However, once Strowman began pandering to the crowd, Fury was able to land a haymaker flush on Strowman’s chin, knocking Strowman off the ring apron and keeping him subdued for a countout victory. 

 

After the match, Strowman interrupted Fury’s victory lap with a Running Powerslam

 

Grade: F

 

Analysis:  Fury had no business in a match of this magnitude. The entire encounter was sloppy, disjointed and indicative of a performer who wasn’t familiar enough with the essence of the product to overcome his readily apparent inexperience. The ugliest part of the match came when Fury, clearly unsure of what to do next, passively looked down upon a staggered Braun Strowman before telegraphing the next sequence. Once Strowman looked to regain his heat with a post-match assault, Fury completed no-sold the Running Powerslam, one of the most protected finishing maneuvers in the industry, prompting the announcers to break the fourth wall and suggest Fury had not known what move Strowman he was just hit with.

 

The only redeeming factor from this contest was Fury’s entrance, which saw the “Gypsy King” saunter to the ring before an impressive display of fireworks and pyrotechnics.

 

AJ Styles (c) vs. Humberto Carrillo (United States Championship)

 

Summary: An early ambush by AJ Styles was withstood by Carrillo, who stunned Styles with his high-flying arsenal. Styles used his veteran savvy to regain the advantage, hitting a couple of backbreakers that temporarily negated Carrillo’s speed

 

The champion and challenger traded blows before Carrillo landed a modified, rolling version of the Spanish Fly. Styles then responded to Carrillo’s Enziguri with a Pele Kick of his own, prompting “AJ Styles” chants from the Riyadh crowd. Carrillo answered with a flurry of quick offense culminated by a twisting plancha over the top rope. 

 

Carrillo appeared to tweak his left knee after countering a back body drop, providing a target for Styles to hone in on. Carrillo withstood a Calf Crusher, but after attempting and failing to execute a Moonsault, Carrillo left himself vulnerable to the Phenomenal Forearm.

 

Result: Styles defeated Carrillo to retain the United States Championship

 

Grade: B

 

Analysis: Despite another strong showing from Carrillo, the crowd never seemed to buy into him as a legitimate threat to dethrone Styles. Nevertheless, Carrillo continues to solidify himself a future star following the same foundation laid by Cedric Alexander, Ali and Buddy Murphy

 

Styles, on the other hand, seems to be treading water. The OC faction is a main-event level alliance dwelling in the midcard. However, it is hard to place blame upon WWE Creative’s shoulders. Elevating the OC to the main event scene would undoubtedly squander their momentum should Styles not emerge victorious. However, it seems the United States Title is simply beneath such an accomplished faction. 

 

In other words, WWE is between a rock and a hard place.

 

Natalya vs. Lacey Evans

 

Summary: Natalya and Evans began the match exchanging pleasantries before trading the traditional wrestling holds that often precede high-stakes contests. Evans countered Natalya’s ring savvy with a display of her athletic ability, highlighted by a Wrecking Ball Dropkick and an over the top rope elbow drop. 

 

After a flurry of offense, Natayla attempted to end the contest early, unsuccessfully positioning Evans for her Sharpshooter submission. Evans countered the submission hold before subduing Natalya just long enough to executive her Springboard Moonsault. Following a Jim Neidhart-esque Lariat, Natalya once again applied the Sharpshooter, this time successfully, for the victory. 

 

Grade: C+

 

Analysis: WWE sauntering two women out to the ring in oversized T-Shirts and long-sleeved undershirts to appease Saudi Arabian leadership is insulting. For this writer, the concept of unadulterated equality for our women is not conditional, particularly when visiting a country that has historically marginalized women. 

 

From a match standpoint, this was an inoffensive effort. Evans and Natayla valiantly overcame Evans’ in-ring limitations to put forth an entertaining-if-unspectacular showing. Though this match won’t be remembered for its in-ring quality, it will be remembered as a landmark moment for women’s wrestling.

Team Flair vs. Team Hogan

 

Shorty G started the match against Shinsuke Nakamura, dominating the “King of Strong Style” with his wrestling expertise. Quick tags early on led to seldom seen matchups, such as Rusev vs. Drew McIntyre and Ali vs. King Corbin. However, the match settled in once Corbin pushed Ali off the top turnbuckle into the barricade. Team Hogan isolated Ali until Ricochet came in for the hot tag. 

 

Ricochet’s momentum was derailed once Orton and Lashley distracted the referee, allowing Corbin and McIntyre to double team a vulnerable Ricochet. Team Hogan adopted the heel persona, slowing the pace and dominated their smaller opponent. The momentum once again switched hands once Ricochet tagged Roman Reigns, who took the fight to the entire Team Hogan roster. However, once the match devolved into a series of rapid fire finishers, Team Hogan was able to overpower Team Flair.

 

Among the chaos, Rusev and Lashley crossed paths, affording Rusev his first in-match opportunity to exact revenge on Lashley. However, the revenge was short lived, as other competitors converged upon the two. Orton reversed a Reigns’s Superman Punch into an RKO out of nowhere for a long two-count. However, Ricochet and Ali converged on Orton, allowing Reigns to recover and pin Orton following a Spear.

 

Result: Team Flair defeated Team Hogan

 

Grade: B+ 

 

Analysis: This was a fun sprint of a match, allowing each competitor to temporarily stand out while concurrently protecting those who needed protecting. As expected, Reigns was involved in the decisive pinfall, though Shorty G and Ali each played an instrumental role in the victory. 

 

However, Rusev’s most notable contribution was a brief encounter with Lashley. I understand WWE wanting to elongate the Lashley-Rusev feud, but Rusev could have used a stronger showing to remind fans how dominant of an in-ring competitor he can be with the proper backing. 

 

Seth Rollins (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship

 

Summary: Like their Hell in a Cell contest, this match was contested under stark red light. The match quickly spilled to the outside, where Rollins pulled off a Curb Stomp on the thinly padded concrete floor. However, Wyatt no-sold the move, popping up to hit a Book End.

 

Rollins desperately attempted to subdue “The Fiend,” sending Wyatt through the barricade and threatening to execute a Curb Stomp on a steel chair. However, everytime Rollins afforded himself an advantage, Wyatt neutralized him, forcing Rollins to depend on evasion as a primary offensive tactic. 

 

A gross miscalculation of Rollins’s part allowed Wyatt to toss him off the top turnbuckle through two stacked tables. Rollins’s unprotected neck hit the ground in a compromised position. However, Rollins was able to recover and execute a second Curb Stomp onto the exposed concrete. Wyatt kicked out at two. 

 

The two spilled out into the crowd again, where Wyatt performed a Sister Abigail atop an elevated platform for a two-count. Wyatt chased the champion up the entrance ramp, where he endured six more Curb Stomps. Three superkicks then sent Wyatt through a rigged set of exploding equipment. 

 

However, “the Fiend” would immediately recover and apply the Mandible Claw to the blinded champion before hitting a Sister Abigail for the victory.

 

Result: Bray Wyatt defeats Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship

 

Grade: A

 

Analysis: This match was exactly what it needed to be. First, despite Wyatt’s delayed culmination, his title victory still felt satisfying as Wyatt’s character work deserved to be rewarded. 

 

Once again, Wyatt looked impervious to pain while Rollins came off as a fearless champion desperately latching onto any opening available to him. However, it was Rollins’s unabashed desperation that sold Wyatt as an unstoppable force. Watching the man who defeated Brock Lesnar repeatedly fail to incapacitate his opponent was captivating television. Like Hell in a Cell, Rollins threw his entire arsenal at “The Fiend,” stomping his head with reckless abandon and using every weapon available to him. Yet “The Fiend” still prevailed.

 

The match was imperfect, however. No-selling finishers diminishes sports entertainment as a whole, illustrating the narrative that WWE is scripted for the convenience of its writing team. While that may be an accurate statement, such sentiments should not be so clearly depicted on screen. Additionally, the red lighting detracts from the viewing experience, as the intricacies of the performance were difficult to discern.

 

Nevertheless, credit WWE for pulling the trigger on a white-hot character rather than maintaining the status quos by keeping the title on a performer that a large faction of their audience had begun to sour on. It is a testament to Wyatt’s commitment to an outdated, supernatural character that he was not only able to revive a career left for dead, but also ascend the mountain to earn his second foremost championship.

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