This show was bookended by some of the best and worst of WWE. Let’s start with the good.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns lived up to at least my own expectations at Crown Jewel, with Paul Heyman managing to play both sides to maintain his spot with whomever best serves him in the moment. In this case, that ended up being Reigns, who used an assist from The Usos to defeat Lesnar to retain the Universal championship.
Lesnar, good and pissed off about this, vowed to show up to SmackDown to put the boots to Reigns in retaliation. He did just that, throwing Reigns around like a rag doll and getting especially violent with Jimmy and Jey when they inevitably joined the fray.
Seriously, I want you to look closely at Lesnar as The Usos rush him and he moves to dealing with them. That kind of speed and power in such a large man is what makes him so terrifying, and his execution is so violent you almost can’t help but feel scared for what might happen to the poor bastards he has his hands on.
It’s why I will always say that Lesnar is one of the best to ever work in WWE. You just don’t get this anywhere else.
What followed was an angle we’ve seen before, Lesnar unhinged and breaking cameras before tossing officials around and ultimately attacking Adam Pearce. He was suspended indefinitely, which is how they’re getting him off TV for a while.
It works just fine, because, again, we got to see the proverbial bull running through the china shop.
Now that Lesnar is gone, though, the focus turns back to Reigns and his seemingly strained relationship with Heyman. It’s clear there is a great mistrust there but trust and usefulness are not mutually exclusive.
It will be most interesting to see what’s next.
Now to the bad.
And my god was this bad.
WWE is often a victim of Vince McMahon’s shortsighted ways, and this is another good example of that. Despite the fact that McMahon controls every aspect of this promotion, we somehow ended up in a situation where the women’s champion on each brand was drafted to the other brand and neither lost their title before the switch went into effect.
It’s clear they didn’t plan for this even one little bit, and one need only look at the above segment to see evidence of that.
Beyond a title exchange being dumb and devaluing, they quite literally had Becky Lynch, one of the coolest characters of the past decade, and Charlotte Flair, who has quickly become one of the top stars in the promotion, acting like children fighting over toys and who would give theirs up first — complete with throwing them around and playing keep away — while Sonya Deville played the role of the parent trying to keep the peace.
When they finally managed to actually exchange the titles, Flair suggested a winner take all match, which would have been an actually interesting way of going about this, before Sasha Banks showed up to get in the way of it and Lynch just left. She literally just walked off to go to Raw, stopping long enough to say “I’ll see one of you at Survivor Series.”
Banks even smiled and said “bye” as she walked away.
This was painfully bad, one of the worst segments I can remember either of these two taking part in. What sucks is they aren’t even necessarily to blame for it.
At least it’s done now and we can move on to the next thing that won’t make any sense, when Lynch wrestles Flair at Survivor Series in a brand warfare match where Lynch will represent Raw despite spending the last year on SmackDown and Flair will represent SmackDown despite spending the last year on Raw.
If you didn’t know
- Drew McIntyre is a guy I should be far more excited about having on SmackDown than I am. He’s a big hoss type who can absolutely go in the ring. I just have a hard time connecting with him. There just isn’t much there beyond “big fella who maybe tries a little too hard.” Here, he showed up to issue an open challenge, one answered by a much deeper, far more fleshed out character in Sami Zayn. Of course, Zayn did the job, going down to the Claymore Kick as a way to firmly establish McIntyre in his first full day on the blue brand.
- A ceremony was held to crown Xavier Woods the new King of the Ring. Kofi Kingston was there, and joy was had by all. I guess I expected something more of this because of who was involved, but it felt like a standard segment you would get for such a thing.
- For the second night in a row, Mansoor defeated Mustafa Ali. They had a decent match. There isn’t much to say about it otherwise.
- They didn’t change much of anything about Hit Row’s presentation from NXT, and that is absolutely the right call. They’ve got bars — legit, too, they’re actually good at this — and WWE finally went back to using a couple jobbers to put them over big in their debut, with Swerve Scott and Top Dolla squading up to score the team’s first win on the main roster. There’s a LOT of potential here, and that much was obvious in this first showing.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Happy Corbin is a perfect feud featuring two wrestlers who amuse me to no end with their character work involving sidekicks. By the way, if you’re team Madcap Moss over Team Rick BOOGS, get out of my face right now. It’s worth pointing out how utterly insane it is that Nakamura is more of a character wrestler in WWE considering his history, but hey, take what you can in this world, right? Corbin scored a win in part thanks to Moss, and they kept calling it a contenders match, so we can reasonably expect a title match between these two in the near future.
This show was all about setting up the new roster and showing off some new faces, which they did for some — Ridge Holland, Aaliyah, Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo, Sheamus — in the form of a brief promo backstage. To that end, it was always going to be a slower show without as much substance.