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WWE Crown Jewel 2021 recap & reactions: Nothing personal, it’s just business

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Paul Heyman left WWE Crown Jewel with the Universal Champion. But who left the event as champion?

You are looking live at WWE’s latest Saudi Arabia event, Crown Jewel. You know the deal by now: I’ve got your recap with smart(ass) words of wisdom, while Claire provides the best commentary in the biz.

Let’s find out if WWE’s latest lived up to its namesake, shall we?


Paul Heyman Wins

Is Paul Heyman Tessio or Clemenza? For those of you unfamiliar with The Godfather, two of Michael Corleone’s most trusted soldiers are also the two he expects to set him up for a fall. He’s not sure which of them will do the deed, but he knows his trust in both men can only go but so far.

In the end, Clemenza is as loyal as a dog while Tessio betrays Michael. He tells the young boss that it wasn’t personal, just business. That’s a theme that runs through the series and one that defines Paul Heyman’s career on and off screen. In the end, Paul is always going to do what’s best for Paul.

This feud isn’t about Brock. It’s not about Roman. And it’s definitely not about which of the two of them can beat the other into a bloodier pulp. Well, bloody as far as 2021 WWE is concerned. It’s about Paul Heyman and where his loyalties lie. And just how many strings WWE’s ultimate puppeteer is pulling on at the moment.

Roman and Brock think they’re as smart as Paul Heyman actually is. That’s the catch about this whole thing.

It’s why this match ended the way it did with a bunch of finishers, a knocked out referee, Uso interference, and everything but an actual kitchen sink. It’s also why the key moment was none of those things. The most important part of the match was Heyman sliding the Universal Championship in the ring, right in the middle of both men.

Visions of tug of wars immediately left my head because I knew this was going in a different direction and has a separate context. Paul wasn’t helping either man; he was helping himself. Paul doesn’t care who loses as long as he wins. If Brock got his hands on that belt first and put Reigns down for the count, raise your hand if you think he wouldn’t walk out of Saudi Arabia by Lesnar’s side. If you actually raised your hand, please step away from whatever you’re reading this on and rethink a couple things.

Maybe that’s why Jimmy and Jey came down as insurance policies for Tribal Chief, inc. Roman knows Paul better than almost anyone. And he also doesn’t trust Paul, as illustrated by the looks he gave his wise man when the match ended. Paul wanted no smoke with an angry Lesnar, but he also flashed looks of dismay. Yes, he maintains power and that’s all that matters, but he also feels something for Brock. How could he not? Brock is the original Paul Heyman Guy!

Because of that, he also knows this thing isn’t anywhere close to being over. A pissed off Brock is traditionally a more dangerous Brock. We know how important family is to Roman, but Brock famously has no f*cks to give about your family. He’ll go after the Uso’s next and truly isolate mob boss Reigns on his own island with no one at his side but the guy Roman can’t afford to trust, who is also his biggest advocate: Paul Heyman.

As far as that initial question goes? Heyman is Tessio. He’s out for himself and always going to do what’s best for his business. Now we find out what Tessio does when backed into an even smaller corner than before.

This is the best story WWE is telling, full stop. And after Crown Jewel, it just got a lot more exciting.


Seth is the Visionary but Edge Sees Clearly

Will the MPAA grant Edge his vaunted R rating? That was the question going into the Hell in a Cell match between Edge x Seth Rollins. What started as a story about Edge’s sins coming back to haunt him—or so I thought—turned into one of a demon reclaiming his throne as chief devil when a young upstart tries to take his spot. It’s Paradise Lost with terrible fashion choices.

With that in mind, Edge appeared apprehensive to go there when the match first started. He made several attempts to end it quickly, choosing violence with chairs and an Edgecution. The more Rollins fought back, the deeper Edge went into his pretty damn deep bag of tricks. The man even paid homage to something Mankind did in his 1998 Hell in a Cell match that wasn’t getting tossed off the top of the cell. And yet, Rollins didn’t go down.

Eventually, Seth took control but the question in the back of my head was when would Seth lose control by going too far? Seth is type unhinged, right? He’s a habitual line stepper who never knows when enough is enough. Even after putting Edge through a table from the top of a ladder and wrapping a chain around his foot to deliver a well-placed boot to the side of the head for the deathblow, the homie Seth still wanted more.

And that was his downfall.

Seth, like Edge, relishes moments like that. But like Edge pointed out, that relishing means they sometimes underestimate their opponents. With Edge’s head on top of a chair and Seth ready to deliver a stomp—with the chain still wrapped around his foot—Seth took too long. He cackled, he got cocky, and then he got caught. Edge brilliantly moved out of the way, turned that chair sideways and Seth jumped right on top of it in a way no man ever wants to land on anything.

After getting Seth into a crossface with a wrench in Seth’s mouth for the assist, Edge let go when it looked like The Visionary was ready to tap. For a second, it looked like he was ready to fall victim to the same demons Seth did a few minutes earlier.

Nah ah, as Stone Cold Steve Austin would say.

Edge placed a chair under Seth’s head, delivered a curb stomp of his own, and the ref counted three.

Both men go to Raw with this feud in their rearview mirrors, and this was an incredible way to cap a story seven years in the making. Edge is here for the WWE Championship, so expect him to make a beeline for that belt the next time we see him on any given Monday.


The Real Crown Jewel

Triple Threat matches are usually almost always—lot of qualifiers—fun. Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, and Sasha Banks put on a fun match with great wrestling that incorporated their characters perfectly. The SmackDown Women’s Champion was conniving and opportunistic. Sasha was vicious untrustworthy, while Bianca was straightforward and used her power to dominate.

Each woman used different styles to get their point across, with Becky picking her spots judiciously and opting for high impact strikes. Sasha went for submissions to wear everyone down for an eventual Bank Statement, and Bianca is just a powerhouse. She not only carried both women on her back at various times throughout the match, but she also held Sasha in the air with one hand.

Look, I know Sasha isn’t the heaviest person walking, but she’s still a grown woman. For one grown woman to hold another grown woman in the air with one hand? With ease and no strain? That’s impressive.

But it was the little moments that made the match. Becky pleading with both women to be nice to her when they caught her in mid-air, Becky and Sasha locking in their submissions on a downed Bianca after they both realized she was down.

Neither woman got the chance to truly dominate the match as it was the true definition of “back, back, back and forth.” Aaliyah would be proud. Each woman hit their finisher but it was the final KOD that sealed the deal...for Becky Lynch.

Bianca hit her finisher on The Man only to get pulled out of the ring by Sasha. This gave Becky enough time to recover and hit a quick rollup on Sasha, grab the bottom rope for leverage, and walk out of Saudi Arabia with her championship in tow.

Becky heads to Monday with the Blue brand’s title, where no doubt Bianca is waiting for revenge. Sasha, still on Friday nights, will no doubt take out her anger on Charlotte Flair. But now WWE has a chance for some sort of chicanery to get both belts back on their respective shows.

Dope match with interesting implications going forward and I have no clue how it will play out. And you know what? I kinda like it that way.


Big Poppa

Drew McIntyre and Big E put on a match befitting of a much better story than the one that led to their confrontation. This was Godzilla x Kong going one-on-one yet not damaging anyone’s property. They felt each other out for a bit but eventually, the meat started slapping and the finishing moves came to play.

During an exchange that saw Drew catch a Big Ending out of nowhere—sorry, Randy—Drew kicked out. That was the turning point for the match. The WWE Champion walked to the ring personifying the championship, much like a certain champion NXT loves to do. Large Langston confidently proclaimed his “baby” was never going to leave him. Well, yeah, that’s easy trash to talk after dealing with one person who wanted his title in the form of the All Mighty. But it’s something else entirely when you’re now dealing with another tough former champion in a cat like Drew O’Mac.

Especially when he doesn’t go down as easily as you figured.

From that point on, both men shifted to another gear. Drew hit the Claymore, but E’s newfound resolve enabled him to kick out. From there, a still stunned Drew McIntyre took another Big Ending and the second time was a charm.

Your winner and still WWE Champion, Big E. Drew heads to the Island of Relevancy, while E awaits his next challenger. The champ says he and his “baby” have a lot of plans and they’re just getting started.

Let’s see what you got in store, champ. The slate is wiped clean.


King Xavier Woods, First of His Name

Xavier just wanted it more than Finn. That’s the story. Actually, no. Xavier needed it more than Finn. Needs always triumphs over wants, and this was a lifelong necessity for Xavier Woods.

Finn knew that going in, so he did all he could to take Xavier off of his game and drain all of his emotion. Finn started with mat wrestling, which is something we don’t see a lot from him in WWE. Ironically, it was when he went away from that game plan—purely out of frustration—that everything went sideways for him. Woods wouldn’t be denied after he dodged a Coup de Grace, assaulted Finn with a flurry of moves, and hit the elbow drop from the top rope that he was denied earlier in the match.

Your winner, and NEW KING OF THE RING, XAVIER WOODS!

King X takes his crown to SmackDown while Finn will have to find his way on Raw. Two men going in two different directions in their career. The path is kinda clear for one while the other is in limbo following this loss.


All Hail Queen Z!

Saints be praised. Zelina Vega and Doudrop got to wrestle for almost six full minutes! Seriously, it clocked in at about five minutes and fifty seconds, not including the entrances. It’s always tough to make matches between competitors this different in size and stature look believable. They didn’t pull it off entirely but I believed Zelina’s grit putting her over the top. It wasn’t the best match and certainly not one befitting for the “first ever” of anything, but that’s indicative of the whole tournament.

All in all, the entire Queen’s Crown Tournament took up about 20 minutes of TV time. All those hours of programming WWE does each week and they devoted TWENTY MINUTES to this. Look, if I can keep it real for a moment, anything WWE talks about making moves with Women’s wrestling feels like hollow talk that they hope echoes around the world until we all believe it. But I digress.

Hopefully this bodes well for Zelina on Raw. All hail the new—and first—Queen.


Extracurriculars

You’re Nobody ‘Till Somebody Kills You

Before we even get to this match, the commentary for said match was weird. In particular when Michael Cole pointed to Goldberg’s viciousness during this fight with Bobby Lashley as a side of Bill we’ve never seen before. Homie...this is entirely who Goldberg is. They tried to cover for it post-match saying they never expected to see that version of Goldberg in WWE. Yeah, nah. Goldberg, from his inception, was a vicious killer. He mowed through wrestler after wrestler and chose violence at every turn. By any means necessary. But I guess because it didn’t happen in WWE then it didn’t happen?

As for the match itself, this was the best we could hope for in the year of our Lord 2021 from these two cats. There was even a little psychology with Lashley working Goldberg’s bad knee. And, true to his word, Goldberg attempted to end the All Mighty’s life.

Rather than finish it with a spear and a Jackhammer, Goldberg kept the punishment coming. A spear through a barricade, kendo sticks, and he even knocked around the other members of The Hurt Business. Goldberg finally ended it with a spear onto the “floor” and hugged some kids at ringside. And no, he wasn’t arrested.

Uso’s Take the Prelude

The Uso’s x The Hurt Business are due for bigger and better. This match didn’t quite whet the appetite as much as it made me think about what it might be with a good story behind it. Shelton Benjamin x Cedric Alexander are looking for a reason to exist, meanwhile Jimmy x Jey are family. And when you’re family, you always get the Ws. So yeah, Uso’s took it in a fine warmup match for the crowd in Saudi Arabia.

Mansoor (Kinda) Soars

Mentor vs. mentee is a story old as time. It’s older than the story Ms. Potts sang about in Beauty and the Beast. For a grudge match, it felt like a relatively short one and I wasn’t sure why. Mansoor showed enough aggression to make his newfound backbone more than just talk. And, fittingly, he got the W. Before he could truly revel in the spoils, Ali hit him with a sneak attack. This brought out Tareg Hamedi, who you might remember from the Tokyo Olympics. The crowd went wild as the hometown martial artist kicked Ali in the head faster than the time it takes me to raise my hand. Hamedi and Mansoor celebrated in the ring, as the two hometown kids done good got to party with their people.

AJ’s Still the Weakest Link

AJ Styles is the weak link in the chain that is he and Omos. And no, not talking about the actual chain Omos wears. But this was a predictable match with a predictable finish because we’ve told this story before. And hopefully, this is the end of said story. RK-Bro get the W and retain the Raw tag championships. Coolest moment? Riddle riding a camel to the ring.


This was a very good way to spend an afternoon. WWE put together a good show where the big matches all hit big and the undercard was consistent enough to not put me to sleep. They also sowed a lot of intrigue for the next few episodes of SmackDown and Raw, which is the best we can hope for. They ended stories (Edge x Rollins, AJ/Omos x RK-Bro), crowned a new King and Queen, and advanced their most intriguing stories making them even more unpredictable and compelling.

Round of applause all around, people!

Grade: A

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.