Match Card, Potential Spoilers, Picks and More for WWE Crown Jewel 2018
WWE Crown Jewel is set for Friday at 12 p.m. ET, airing on the WWE Network and hailing from King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The event has been under intense scrutiny for even existing, but despite the controversy, WWE has decided to deliver the show as scheduled.
Even with such short notice and with the card not set in stone, tickets sold out in less than three hours.
There's no telling what will go down, but as the clock ticks and Crown Jewel draws closer, let's take a look at what we do know and make predictions for what's in store at WWE's second pay-per-view of the past week.
Crown Jewel 2018 Match Card
The following matches are being advertised for this event:
- Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar (Universal Championship)
- AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe (WWE Championship)
- D-Generation X vs. The Brothers of Destruction
- Eight-Man World Cup Tournament featuring Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, The Miz, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and Seth Rollins
- The Bar vs. The New Day (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev (United States Championship)
The card is subject to change, but since a few adjustments have already been made, things may finally be set in stone.
With that in mind, let's get into some potential spoilers and predict which Superstars will walk away victorious in these matches.
United States Championship Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
For some reason, Shinsuke Nakamura has been on the sidelines over the past few months, as he wasn't booked for Hell in a Cell or Super Show-Down and wasn't even the focal point of his match at SummerSlam before that.
Despite holding the United States Championship, he's been devoid of any feuds or storylines, making a handful of appearances and doing nothing substantial. It's as if WWE has no idea what to do with him and has given up trying, hoping if he's out of sight, he's out of mind and that nobody would complain.
With Crown Jewel, he could have been in the World Cup tournament but failed to qualify. Then, the night before this event, WWE randomly announced he would be defending his title against Rusev, as if that makes up for pretty much ignoring him since August.
This was so randomly thrown together that WWE.com's advertisement for it has nothing to say to promote it other than that it's simply happening. There's nothing to this—no feud, momentum or backstory, and it's on the pre-show, which means fewer eyes will be on it.
There is no reason to believe Rusev stands a chance at winning the title in this match with all of those factors weighing against him.
Also, with Survivor Series coming up and the Raw champions set to face SmackDown's titleholders, it seems far more likely a heel like Nakamura would go up against Seth Rollins instead of a babyface like Rusev.
This is filler to help pad out the Kickoff and nothing more. Don't get your hopes up for it to mean anything.
Pick: Nakamura retains the championship.
8-Man World Cup Tournament
The bulk of Crown Jewel will consist of the eight-man World Cup tournament to determine who is considered "the best in the world."
It's purposely vague and probably means nothing in the grand scheme of things, similar to how Braun Strowman's Greatest Royal Rumble victory didn't amount to much, but it's still something worth taking a closer look at.
This could be WWE's way of pushing someone forward by giving them a big-enough win to boost their credibility and act as a shot of adrenaline for future matches.
Someone like Bobby Lashley could use the momentum to propel himself into the universal title picture, but since he's just a replacement for John Cena, it's unlikely he will win. He may not even make it past the first round unless Dean Ambrose interferes and costs Seth Rollins.
That may not be the only interference, as Baron Corbin might have it in for Kurt Angle and prevent him from beating Dolph Ziggler.
On the SmackDown end of things, commissioner Shane McMahon has said that the winner of that side of the bracket better defeat Raw or he may release them from the roster, which ups the stakes.
That almost points toward a win for a blue brand member, and it could be any one of them, although Jeff Hardy is a bit of a stretch because he has the least to gain.
Randy Orton could assert his dominance, The Miz could use this as a means to earn a title shot against AJ Styles and Rey Mysterio could win for the babyface pop and to re-establish himself on the main roster.
It's a toss-up, but you can never count out WWE's biggest underdog in any fight.
Pick: Mysterio wins the tournament.
SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Bar vs. The New Day
Having won the SmackDown Tag Team Championships on SmackDown 1000 in October, it's hard to imagine WWE would switch the titles back to The New Day so quickly.
While that does happen from time to time, short title reigns are the exception, not the rule. And now that Sheamus and Cesaro have Big Show in their corner to even the odds, there's even less chance they lose.
More than anything else, this is likely filler. It's a means to have another match on the card that isn't associated with the World Cup tournament or the other three headlining bouts, so it can act as a break between those segments.
It should be a good contest, but it will mostly serve as the obligatory rematch before The Bar moves on to face a new set of challengers.
Pick: The Bar retain the titles.
D-Generation X vs. the Brothers of Destruction
Now that Shawn Michaels is set to come out of retirement to step back into the ring, the door has been left open for him to have more matches down the road.
Nothing of the sort is confirmed or even hinted at on WWE's end, as that is something that would be better served as a surprise for events like Survivor Series, the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, but it remains an option that must be considered.
If that is even remotely possible, WWE must be having these discussions ahead of time and planning how to get to certain other matches, meaning this fight may be booked to lead in a particular direction rather than be the culmination of a feud.
When Triple H defeated The Undertaker at Super Show-Down, it ended in a way to set up this match for Crown Jewel, but the same thing can't be copied and pasted.
Another loss would make The Brothers of Destruction look bad, and it wouldn't even help set up a third encounter, as continuing to pick a fight would paint The Undertaker and Kane as sore losers.
If that does happen, Kane will be the one to take the fall, likely with The Heartbreak Kid scoring the victory because The Phenom shouldn't lose twice in a row and Michaels is the one with the most to gain with a win.
Even in a loss, though, The Heartbreak Kid could say getting between the ropes felt rejuvenating and that he wishes to continue to wrestle here and there in order to set up a future match, whether it's against The Undertaker or someone else unrelated to this feud like AJ Styles, Johnny Gargano or Daniel Bryan.
If not just to offset coming up short at Super Show-Down, let's give the edge to The Brothers of Destruction.
Pick: Kane and The Undertaker get the win.
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe
We may never know what WWE's intention was for the original match here between AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, though there is a chance it was supposed to end with Samoa Joe's interference no matter what.
That would have explained his absence from the World Cup tournament, at least, as the interruption would have been his role at Crown Jewel.
Now that Bryan opted out of participating Friday, Joe's position has been upgraded to receiving a WWE Championship shot, which is great for him but bad for WWE's trend of repetition in 2018.
This match has happened multiple times this year, and the outcome always remains the same, with Styles retaining the championship. So there's no reason to believe anything different will happen here.
The only thing that may increase Joe's chances is Survivor Series on Nov. 18, as WWE appears set to go with another Raw vs. SmackDown theme, with the champions facing off.
If Braun Strowman defeats Brock Lesnar, it would make more sense to book him against a heel WWE champion to counterbalance his babyface turn, but even that may not be interesting enough to be worth all the trouble of taking the belt off The Phenomenal One.
When in doubt, the smarter prediction is to side with history, and Styles has proved he has Joe's number more often than not.
Pick: Styles retains the championship.
Universal Championship Match: Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar
Clearly, WWE had other ideas in mind for the Universal Championship, but once Roman Reigns vacated the title, plans had to change.
Braun Strowman has reverted back to his more natural and comfortable role as a babyface to offset Brock Lesnar's arrogance and give the fans someone to root for.
Also, with Reigns gone, WWE needs to put the title on someone who will be around to defend the belt on a regular basis, as the entire purpose of the past year and a half has been setting up the need for that.
If WWE goes back to Lesnar as champion, it undoes everything that has happened since WrestleMania 33 and forces another period of stagnation that can't possibly be good for business.
With Drew McIntyre posing a looming threat more to Strowman than Lesnar, heels on Raw like Lashley and Corbin eager to try their hand at being the top guy and The Monster Among Men more than capable of holding down the fort while Reigns is gone, there is only one logical course of action for WWE to take.
Pick: Strowman wins the title.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.