I wrote these words (not these ones, but the next one-thousand or so) during the live broadcast of the Crown Jewel PPV in Saudi Arabia. I bit the bullet for you guys. You’re welcome.
When WWE signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to perform exclusive shows over the next decade, they didn’t anticipate that they’d be at the centre of one of the biggest controversies of the year. These shows are to be a part of ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, a campaign by the new royal family to bring their country into the 21st century — A promise we all know that they’re absolutely sticking to…
Recent events called for WWE to pull out of the deal, but last week chairman Vince McMahon decided to go ahead with the show ‘Crown Jewel’ — Choosing millions of dirty dollars and potentially catastrophic PR over the majority of public opinion. On top of all of this, they’ve added Hulk Hogan to the show, a controversial figure in his own right, who (rightfully) hasn’t been in good-graces since he repeatedly used a racial slur on tape.
It should be noted that as far as the match-card is concerned, it’s bizarre even by wrestling standards. Shawn Michaels is coming out of an eight-year retirement to wrestle a legends tag-team match; Ruining what is regarded by fans as the most satisfying ending to a career in wrestling history.
Obviously, none of the women are wrestling. Women are only just able to drive in Saudi Arabia, putting on tights and pretending to fight would be too much of a stretch for 2018.
The former Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, had to pull out of the main event due to a legitimate Leukemia diagnosis, and top stars John Cena and Daniel Bryan have refused to attend the show from a moral standpoint. In the case of John Cena, it’s perhaps to save his blossoming Hollywood career.
As well as all of this, the majority of the show will be a “world-cup” tournament that’s made-up of eight Americans. So the winning country will be America, no matter who wins — A sentence that’s so typically American.
The pre-show match finishes with the line of commentary, “Retained the US title in controversial fashion,” and so before the main show even begins, we’ve heard the C-word from the company themselves. Welcome to the most tone-deaf show in entertainment history, welcome to WWE Crown Jewel.
Hulk Hogan starts the show, and comes out to more cheers than he’d receive in the US in 2018. I start playing a game with myself — Who will accidentally mention the words Saudi Arabia first. Hogan says a few sentences before his music plays once more, my hope is that American audiences won’t forget what he said, and that the world has outgrown men with opinions like his.
We cut to the crown-prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, at ringside. He receives fewer cheers than Hulk Hogan. His expression isn’t as jubilant as it was back in April, during their first visit to his country, so he’s likely well-aware of the controversies. It feels wrong to show him in a positive light on American programming, but here we are.
During their April show, The Greatest Royal Rumble, WWE aired plenty of propaganda packages, encouraging people to visit the “progressive” Saudi Arabia. There’s none of that this time around. It’s as though both WWE and Saudi Arabia are just trying to get through this show, hoping that everything will have blown over six months from now.
In the opening four matches, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler advance in the tournament. It’s during these matches that I start to notice the fans. Seeing all of the children in the crowd getting excited whilst witnessing their favourite WWE Superstars makes me loathe the royal family even more.
Most citizens of Saudi Arabia are just trying to enjoy mindless entertainment like the rest of us, on this shared home we call Earth, and a smile on the face of a five-year-old in a John Cena t-shirt makes that clear.
Popular tag-team The New Day ride down to the ring on a mechanical magic carpet for their match, with the commentary team mentioning magical blue genies. WWE has always been about stereotypes, but maybe it would’ve been for the best to avoid them at a show like this. I guess when you’ve already got Hulk Hogan appearing in Saudi Arabia, nothing seems too controversial.
Dolph Ziggler and The Miz qualify for the finals of the World Cup. Interestingly, both of these men are from Ohio. So not only is this “global tournament” limited to one nation, but now it has all come down to who is the best from the Buckeye State.
Samoa Joe, who is a last-minute replacement for Daniel Bryan, faces AJ Styles for the WWE Championship next. I’m two hours into the show and it’s important to point out that nobody has mentioned the words ‘Saudi’ or ‘Arabia’. Crown Jewel is a ‘Global Event’ that constantly has the feeling of Simpsons-esq, worried collar-pulling.
Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar fight for the vacant Universal championship. As much as WWE would like to sweep this show under the rug, this is the one match they’ll have to reference in the future, as a new champion has to be crowned. It’s heartwarming to see half the crowd watching the show via the camera app on their phones, just like we do in the West; We’d all be the same if it weren’t for our respective murderous oppressors.
Paige, the Smackdown General Manager, can’t be here tonight due to her status as a woman. So Shane McMahon steps in to play the role of authority figure on behalf of the blue brand. It’s time for the World Cup final. Smackdown vs Raw. Blue vs Red. Cleveland, Ohio vs just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
Miz is fake-injured and carried away to the back. So Shane McMahon steps in and takes his place. This is stupid, so therefore this is wrestling. For the first time at Crown Jewel I forget that the controversy exists, because it’s over-the-top storytelling without any offense intended.
Shane McMahon wins the tournament, which legitimises how bizarre and nonsensical this entire show has been. Perhaps Vince McMahon took some nepaitistc advice from the Saudi royal family, and decided that this was the best direction to take the story of Crown Jewel.
It’s time for your main event, DX vs The Brothers of Destruction — Four men who have a combined age of two-hundred and six. This match is disheartening to watch, as one man’s legacy is tarnished in exchange for a large paycheck.
The realisation that this whole show is meaningless happens, as the Saudi royal family film Shawn Michaels’ return to the ring through their cell phones, in a match they’ve paid millions of dollars to be shot professionally in their own country. They don’t care about legacy, they care about looking progressive. And apparently the way to do that is to pay fifty-year-olds to choreograph a fight.
After decades of trying to push professional wrestling out of the dirty bingo halls and into mainstream entertainment, Vince McMahon has surely set his company back a few years by performing in Saudi Arabia today. However, it’s hard to believe that anything can topple the giant that dwarves any company within its niche industry.
WWE will walk away with a lot of dirty money, but at least Crown Jewel wasn’t the propaganda-fest that Greatest Royal Rumble was. Although it’s a little alarming that the crown prince was still shown live on air in a featured moment, in behaviour akin to any other alarming dictator.
Commentator Michael Cole closes the show by describing the main event performance as one that “we will never, ever forget.” Cole, I think it’s in everyone’s best interests that we do.
Today is Monday, November 5th and America should set off fireworks today as well as July 4th, because it’s actually dark on an evening.
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