The controversial partnership between WWE and Saudi Arabia continues on Halloween, as the second Crown Jewel event rolls into Riyadh. Our King Of The Ring and Wrestling Royalty pundit Andy Spoors previews the main event.
In an attempt to pull in higher viewing figures and seemingly attract mainstream media attention, the two main events feature lineal heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury and ex UFC champion Cain Velasquez.
News broke early on Wednesday morning, that for the first time in history, a women’s match would take place in Saudi Arabia, giving a much needed shot of positive publicity to the company.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. WWE has been taking heavy fire from a disillusioned fanbase. Over Raw. Over Smackdown. Over the Saudi partnership. Over storylines and overall with the company. Since the relationship with Saudi and taking part in Saudi’s 2030 vision, fans have not been shy in voicing their displeasure with WWE associating with a country never too far from political headlines.
Skim through any social media channel and every post WWE make is met with an intoxicating mix of sarcasm and derision. Falling viewing figures may no longer be the be all and end all, but Crown Jewel has come at a difficult time for the business.
Which may explain the sudden introduction of other sports stars trying their hand in the squared circle. The curious feud between Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury has served its purpose, gaining headlines in mainstream media outlets such as BBC Sport and The Mirror. WWE has a long history with the best in boxing: Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather among just some of the names to swap rings for a night or two.
Fury’s decision to take a fight just months ahead of a potential rematch and one of the biggest moments of his career does seem puzzling. A clear attempt to gain coverage in America, while WWE laps up the extra press coverage means, so long as no one gets hurt, everyone is a winner. It would be a shock if Fury’s one and only fight in the wrestling business ends in anything but victory.
Another competitor making his way to weird and wacky world of sports entertainment is Cain Velasquez. For those who don’t know, Velasquez was the man to inflict a heavy defeat on Brock Lesnar inside UFC’s famous octagon. The pair will clash in Saudi Arabia for the WWE Championship after Cain signed a multi-year deal with the company.
The few glimpses of in ring action fans have been treated to so far, suggest there is much work to be done. In Lesnar however, WWE has somebody who has dipped his toe in both waters and can lap up some of the accidental shots that may come from inexperience.
There is no disputing the inclusion of Lacey Evans vs Natalya is anything short of historic. Whatever your views, the inclusion of female performers in such a high-profile event, shows a level of progress, some may not have imagined possible in 2019. Providing the platform for two women to entertain in front of a nation shrouded in controversy and willing to change hundreds of years of oppression, WWE should be commended. The result will be immaterial, but the moment the bell rings, the women’s division takes yet another leap towards parity.
After the backlash from their Hell In A Cell match earlier this month, Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt once again go head to head in a match that must have a winner. Both men will be eager to rectify the awfully executed finish and move on to new storylines.
The rest of the card has been thrown together to include as many Superstars as possible. With the exception (to a degree) of Team Hogan vs Team Flair, who have been plugging Crown Jewel for months. It’s always great to see legends of the industry make a cameo every once in a while, but the continuous back and forths between Hogan and Flair has long boarded on the tedious. The 10-man tag team match includes a who’s who of Superstars not quite in the main event picture, but close enough to imminently break through.
An intriguing night lies in store and UK fans can watch Crown Jewel on either Sky Box Office or on the WWE Network from 6pm GMT. Stay tuned to rushonrock.com for all the fallout.
Full match card and Rushonrock predictions:
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez
John: No Contest
Andy: Brock to retain via DQ
Universal Champion Seth Rollins vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (Falls Count Anywhere Match that can’t be stopped for any reason)
Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury
Team Hogan vs. Team Flair (5-on-5 Tag Team Match)
John: Team Hogan
Andy: Team Hogan
Mansoor vs. Cesaro
The largest Tag Team Turmoil Match in history to determine World Cup winner and crown the Best Tag Team in the World
John: New Day
Andy: New Day
20-Man Battle Royal (Winner Faces AJ Styles for the United States Championship)
John: Buddy Murphy
US Champion AJ Styles vs Winner Of Battle Royal
John: AJ Styles
Andy: AJ Styles
Lacey Evans vs Natalya