WWE Super Showdown @Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
What a difference a month makes in WWE. 31 days since the Royal Rumble delivered some of the best storylines and writing at a PPV in some time, Super Showdown was on hand to, for want of a better phrase, shit the bed.
For those unfamiliar with that graphic image, the general meaning is to make a decision that most people would consider a mistake. Super Showdown didn’t make a mistake though. They made a plethora of them.
Maybe we should start with a disclaimer? It’s very easy to sit in the comfort of a living room and fantasy book what we as wrestling fans would like to see. There is, after all, always the bigger picture to consider. A journey, if you will. But if said journey contains multiple wrong turns and questionable driving techniques, even the most intrepid of explorers can lose heart.
Super Showdown got off to an innocuous enough start, a gauntlet match to award the Tuwaiq Trophy: a bizarre looking gong shaped like the mountain it was named after and infuriatingly referred to as ‘prestigious’ by the commentators at every opportunity. R-Truth put in one of his best showings in the ring, defeating Bobby Lashley, Rowan and Andrade before losing out to AJ Styles. The fact one of WWE’s fantastic 24 documentaries focusing on Truth aired directly after the PPV is further evidence of Truth’s professionalism and well worth a watch.
AJ, wearing a permanent grin throughout his walkover victory against a beaten and tired Truth, demanded his hand raised when Rey Mysterio failed to emerge as the final competitor. Queue a backstage shot of Mysterio being jumped by AJ’s running buddies Gallows and Anderson. The smirk soon disappeared as The OC members were also thrown to the floor by a mystery assailant. Cue a huge crowd reaction as the bottom of Undertaker’s iconic trench coat billowed into view. Obvious? Absolutely. Effective? You bet your ass.
This was the pinnacle of the night in some respects. Undertaker proceeded to the ring and vanquished Styles with a single chokeslam. A chokeslam. Singular. Against one of the most revered peformers in the industry. If this is to be the start of a Mania feud, Styles has his work cut out for him to even gain back some credibility let alone a riveting rivalry.
In somewhat of an upset, The New Day lost their tag titles to The Miz and John Morrison. It wasn’t a thriller, but seeing Morrison still performing at this level in 2020 is nothing short of impressive. It appears that Elimination Chamber will host a tag team Chamber match, so at the very least it is nice to see the tag division get some much-needed airtime and focus.
A rematch between real life cousins Humber to Carrillo and Angel Garza started out as another promising match up, between two hyper talented performers. The conclusion was a carbon copy of their match just a few days prior on Raw. A roll up pinfall can be effective, after some exciting back and forths – it instead felt cheap and unimaginative here.
A routine victory for Raw Tag Champs Rollins and Murphy came at the expense of The Street Profits. It is quite telling that even in defeat, WWE seem keen to make the impressively charismatic and athletic Montez Ford strong. The general feeling seems to be that Ford could be as big as The Rock with the right direction and storylines. However, that is a huge hypothetical at the moment.
The obligatory hometown victory for Mansoor followed. In some respects it’s great to see new talent receive a push. The fact Mansoor can barely receive screen time in NXT shows just how obsequious the relationship between WWE and Saudi Arabia is. Mansoor may be talented, but the extent of his matches have been beat downs, over the top facial expressions and a victory speech after the match. Make him a legitimate contender and the rest of the world might get behind him too.
Before Ricochet’s match with Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, a promo video of the challenger aired asking “why not him?” and how no-one had given him a chance in the build-up. Call us jaded, but most of the WWE Universe saw the result coming thousands of miles away. For some perspective on why the match was so hideously predictable, the promo video was 2 minutes and 54 seconds in length. The match went 1 minute and 33 seconds. Not for the last time within the event would we be left feeling it wasn’t the result of the match, but the execution that was the main issue.
Corbin and Reigns mercifully ended their bloated rivalry inside a steel cage. Nothing amazing, nothing too poor. As far as cage matches go, it was par for the course.
Moving swiftly on and Bayley retained her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Naomi. The use of the figure hiding and oversized t-shirts both women were wearing, was clever and a potential sideways dig at the perceived constricting nature of female attire.
And so, we reached the main event of the night after months of building The Fiend into an unstoppable force, that incites fear into any man that crosses him. Exit fear. Enter Goldberg. For decades, Bill Goldberg has made a career out of three things. Spear. Jackhammer. Win. During the 90s this nearly helped win the ‘Monday Night Wars’ but in 2020 it helped win the Universal Championship.
Bray Wyatt and his Fiend gimmick may have kicked out of a couple of moves, but the ease in which The Fiend’s mystique was shattered was damaging beyond measure. A brutal strap match against Daniel Bryan, a Hell In A Cell match or multiple curb stomps weren’t enough to keep him down for a three count, but a 50-year-old part timer was. It’s not about the what, it’s about the how.
WWE must employ some of the best writers in the industry, but surely one of them must have been able to come up with a way to make Bray Wyatt look strong. Instead, the sight of The Fiend throwing a hissy fit into the darkness, left everyone wondering what they had just witnessed.
The powers that be have made a huge call to drop the title from The Fiend. It’s not a bad call and such is his character there is an argument he never needed it in the first place. It does feel somewhat cowardly to execute the plan away from the States, where the negative reaction would have been limited.
It now leaves an open goal for Roman Reigns to receive a positive reaction should he walk out champion at Wrestlemania. The aforementioned bigger picture. Whether it is worth it, will be revealed on April 5 in the Raymond James Stadium. The next few weeks will need all hands on deck to correct a hugely despondent and disillusioned WWE Universe. In other words, it’s time for WWE to prove they are the best in the world.
Andy ‘King Of The Ring’ Spoors
John: 5 (out of seven)