WWE Crown Jewel 2018 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
WWE returned Friday to Saudi Arabia for a controversial, much-maligned pay-per-view broadcast entitled Crown Jewel, headlined by a Universal Championship clash between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman.
A new champion was not the only thing decided on WWE Network, as the "best in the world" was crowned in the first-ever World Cup tournament featuring eight of the most celebrated in-ring competitors of their generation.
WWE champion AJ Styles also put his title on the line against longtime rival Samoa Joe.
Who emerged from the show victorious, with their resumes bolstered and title aspirations realized?
Find out with this recap of WWE's latest pay-per-view extravaganza.
United States Championship Match: Rusev vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Kickoff Show)
The afternoon's action kicked off with the pre-show featuring a United States Championship defense by Shinsuke Nakamura, who put his title on the line against Rusev.
The Bulgarian Brute had an unsuccessful first venture to Saudi Arabia this past April, where he lost a Casket Match to The Undertaker, but he sought to change his fortunes in Friday's opening contest.
Nakamura grounded Rusev early, keeping the Bulgarian Brute from utilizing his strength advantage. Rusev attempted to fight out, but the champion re-established control, dragging him back to the mat with a front face lock.
Rusev finally fought out and fired off a series of clotheslines. His attempt at a Machka Kick was countered by a series of strikes from Nakamura. He finally delivered a sidekick that scored the challenger a two count. Nakamura answered with a Shining Wizard for a near-fall of his own.
Later, Rusev delivered a Machka Kick in midair but was only able to keep Nakamura down for two. Answering that blow, Nakamura delivered a knee to the back of the head but could not put his opponent away.
Rusev countered a Kinshasa from Nakamura, transitioning directly into the Accolade. Nakamura, though, forced a break and lifted his head just in time to "inadvertently" deliver a low blow. The Kinshasa finished Rusev's night and earned the champion a successful title defense.
Nakamura defeated Rusev
This was one of Nakamura's better matches of late as he and Rusev demonstrated an in-ring chemistry the defending champion has not had with many other stars not-named Jeff Hardy.
Rusev lost nothing in defeat as he has not exactly been the red-hot character he was six months ago, and Nakamura scored another hard-fought victory.
Unfortunately, the midcard depth on SmackDown is so light that The King of Strong Style really has no one to feud with, so beating Rusev here does little to change that problem.
World Cup Quarterfinal Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton
After Hulk Hogan kicked off the show, making his grand return and welcoming the fans, the in-ring action got underway with the first World Cup tournament match pitting SmackDown Superstars Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio against each other.
Orton leveled Mysterio with a midair dropkick and scored a two count, halting the latter's momentum early. The former continued his attack with a front suplex that sent Mysterio sternum-and-stomach-first over the top rope, as did two callous stomps to the injured midsection.
The Viper set Mysterio up on the top rope for a superplex attempt, but The Master of the 619 countered, fighting out of Orton's grasp with a series of hard rights and a seated senton. A springboard cross body block grounded Orton as the pace quickened.
A wheelbarrow bulldog continued the masked competitor's comeback.
Orton countered a 619 and delivered his draping DDT from the middle rope. The third-generation star teased an RKO, but Mysterio countered the finisher into a sunset flip and scored the upset win.
Orton answered with an RKO—he was an incensed, sore and humiliated loser. He continued the assault, sending Mysterio crashing midsection-first to the arena floor.
Enraged, Orton continued his attack of Mysterio's midsection, sending him face-first into the commentary team as a chorus of boos rained down from the stands.
Mysterio defeated Orton
No one beats Orton without consequence, and that is one of the coolest elements of his new character. Wins and losses actually matter.
The beatdown by Orton sets up an underdog storyline for Mysterio, who will have to overcome a serious injury to his midsection if he hopes to emerge victoriously from the World Cup tournament.
As for the match itself, there was not much to it. Not that anyone should have expected as much given how many tournament matches there are and how jam-packed the show will ultimately end up being.
World Cup Quarterfinal Match: Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz
SmackDown brand action continued as The Miz and Jeff Hardy battled for the right to advance to the semifinals for a date with Rey Mysterio.
Miz arrogantly played to the audience following a shoulder tackle, confident in his ability to leave Saudi Arabia with his arm raised in victory.
A fast-paced exchange followed with Hardy gaining the upper hand with a jawbreaker. His advantage was momentary, though, as Miz seized control, trapping him in a headlock. Hardy tried to fight out but Miz ducked and delivered a backbreaker for a count of two.
Miz tried for his trademark corner clothesline, but Hardy launched himself out with one of his own, taking the Hollywood A-Lister to the mat. Hardy unloaded with a series of rights and delivered a running forearm, a double legdrop to the abdomen and a low dropkick for another near-fall.
The Charismatic Enigma tried for the Twist of Fate, but Miz countered. Hardy responded with a Whisper in the Wind. Miz recovered, though, and hung Hardy up on the rope. He followed with the Figure Four, but Hardy countered with a small package rollup for two.
With Miz prone at ringside, Hardy ran the guardrail and delivered a big clothesline that flattened his opponent.
Hardy set up for the Swanton Bomb, but Miz rolled out of the way. He sucked Hardy into the corner and tried to use the ropes on a rollup, but the referee caught him. Hardy tried for the Twist of Fate, but Miz countered and delivered the Skull-Crushing Finale for the clean and decisive victory.
Miz defeated Hardy
This was a strong, fast-paced match that brought work rate to the show and gave Miz a rare clean win over a popular babyface. Wins like that in matches that may be considered insignificant go a long way in lending a heel credibility. Sometimes, winning clean in the center of the ring is not a bad thing.
It was a back-and-forth match that left the fans guessing as to who would emerge victoriously, and it showcased the in-ring chemistry of the Superstars and, more importantly, just how much Miz has mastered the WWE style over the course of his 14 years with the company.
World Cup Quarterfinal Match: Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley
Intercontinental and Raw tag team champion Seth Rollins battled the seemingly unstoppable Bobby Lashley, flanked by his hype man Lio Rush, in the third of four quarterfinal round matches in the World Cup tournament.
An arrogant Lashley turned to his power advantage out of the gate, shoving Rollins across the ring and trying for a double-leg takedown. Rollins escaped, though, and delivered a step-up enzuigiri that sent Lashley to the outside.
Lashley, a super-athlete, slid right back in and drilled Rollins with a spinebuster. He followed up, grounding The Architect with a Cobra Clutch. He sent Rollins head-and-neck-first into the top turnbuckle, continuing his attack on the Kingslayer.
Rollins fought out of another Cobra Clutch, but Lashley immediately caught him in a Full Nelson, with his strength seeping the energy from the IC champion. Lashley cut off a comeback attempt, driving Rollins face-first into the mat.
Rolling escaped the standing vertical suplex from Lashley, clotheslined him over the top rope and drove him into the floor with consecutive suicide dives.
Rollins tried for the sunset flip powerbomb, but Lashley halted his momentum, slipped out and delivered a spear to the back. Rollins fought back, escaped his grasp and delivered the Stomp for the victory.
Rollins defeated Lashley
This was another short, action-packed first-round match that was not quite as good as the Hardy-Miz match that preceded it, but it did a great job of putting Rollins over as a resilient babyface who overcame a head injury and the dominant strength of Lashley.
None of these quarterfinal matches have been particularly great or anything more than what you would expect from a brisk television bout, but the significance of the tournament has been put over nicely by the commentary team, as was Rollins' emotional journey in the past few weeks.
World Cup Quarterfinal Match: Kurt Angle vs. Dolph Ziggler
Two accomplished collegiate wrestlers battled in the final World Cup quarterfinal round match of the tournament as Kurt Angle returned to the squared circle to battle Dolph Ziggler in its most anticipated match.
The Superstars grappled to start, each jockeying for position and the final spot in the semifinals.
Angle scored a takedown and applied a front face lock, but Ziggler escaped and applied a headlock. An exchange gave way to a belly-to-belly overhead suplex, followed by two German suplexes. Ziggler hooked the top rope and avoided a third.
The Olympian teased a German from the ring apron, but a back elbow from Ziggler helped break him free.
The Showoff sent Angle shoulder-first into the steel steps. The action returned to the squared circle, where Ziggler delivered a neckbreaker and trapped his opponent in a sleeper.
Angle tried to fight out but found himself again trapped in the grasp of his opponent's sleeper.
The former Raw general manager rallied, delivering three straight German suplexes for a count of two. He tried for an Angle Slam, but Ziggler countered out with an ugly armdrag and delivered a nasty spike DDT for another two count.
Angle finally delivered the Angle Slam, but Ziggler shot his shoulder off the mat to prevent defeat. An energized Angle pulled down his singlet straps and tried for the Ankle Lock, but Ziggler delivered a Fameasser for two.
Ziggler tried for a sunset flip, but Angle rolled through and applied the ankle lock. The Showoff screamed in agony as Angle twisted his ankle. Ziggler contorted and twisted his body, looking to relieve the pressure. He finally did escape and sent Angle shoulder-first into the steel post.
A Zig-Zag followed, and Ziggler scored a massive upset.
Ziggler defeated Angle
Had this been the Angle of a decade ago, this could have been a show-stealer. Unfortunately, he is not, and the match reflected as much. Too often throughout it, the Olympian looked slow and showed his age. He was unable to keep up with Ziggler's speed, instead relying on his greatest hits to pop the crowd.
Ziggler worked circles around Angle, and his victory was really the only sensible outcome—especially considering a date with Rollins awaits in the second round.
The overall quality of that one will be much better with Ziggler involved than it would have been with Angle, even if the all-time great vs. The Kingslayer is a legitimate dream match.
For Ziggler, this was a legitimate big-time win that helps him garner credibility and legitimacy after weeks of being the guy that always gets pinned in multi-man tag matches.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. The Bar
The New Day rode a magic carpet to the squared circle. In Saudi Arabia. That was a thing that happened.
The Big Show accompanied Sheamus and Cesaro to the squared circle for their SmackDown Tag Team Championship defense against New Day's Kofi Kingston and Big E, who were thirded by Xavier Woods at ringside.
Big E and Sheamus started the action with a strength-based exchange before Kingston and Cesaro tagged in for their respective teams, with their speed and athleticism on display.
Each man teased a German suplex, but a headscissors takedown into the corner gave way to a cross body block from the middle rope for a quick near-fall for the challengers.
It was only a matter of time, though, before The Bar isolated Kingston and worked over the smaller of their two opponents.
The striking and brutality of the champions, as well as their penchant for classic tag team strategy, helped them retain control of the match despite a comeback attempt by the resilient Kingston. Cesaro trapped his opponent in a front face lock, but Kingston used his remaining energy to inch closer and closer to the corner.
Cesaro, though, cut him off and continued the champions' dominance.
Kingston finally made the hot tag, and Big E exploded into the match. He flattened Sheamus with a uranage and big splash for a strong near-fall. They followed up with a towering double stomp for another close two count, but Cesaro broke up the pin.
Big E launched Kingston into Cesaro at ringside, but before he could deliver the Big Ending, Big Show hopped on the apron and provided a distraction. A cheap knockout punch by the giant to Big E and the Brogue Kick from Sheamus earned The Bar the victory.
The Bar defeated The New Day to retain
Even a pedestrian match between New Day and The Bar is still pretty damn good.
The two teams have such chemistry between the ropes, and know each other so well, they can fit certain spots and sequences in the framework of a match and deliver above-average outings every time.
Big Show interfering should have been expected, as should the successful title defense, so there was no harm or foul with the finish.
An energetic match with a few strong near-falls and a heroic performance by the underrated Kingston helped make this the best on the card to this point.
World Cup Semifinal Match: Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz
Rey Mysterio was forced to overcome a brutal assault at the hands of Randy Orton earlier in the show, while Miz was nursing a throat injury caused by a kick from Jeff Hardy in the night's second bout.
Mysterio took the fight to Miz from the opening bell, stunning the Hollywood A-Lister with a series of strikes to the face. The Master of the 619 followed up with a baseball slide to the face that leveled his opponent and a sliding splash that left Miz reeling.
Mysterio fired off a series of hard rights to the face, but Miz answered with a flapjack that reaggravated the injury to the midsection. Miz continued to wear down his smaller opponent, cutting his comeback attempt off with a running knee to the gut.
Mysterio screamed in agony as Miz trapped him in body scissors designed to suck the remaining fight out of Rey.
At ringside, Miz drove Mysterio rib-first into the apron, then the barricade as he continued his focused and deliberate attack. An abdominal stretch, coupled with elbows to the exposed ribs, followed. A desperation DDT by Mysterio allowed him to create separation and an opportunity for a comeback.
An exchange of rights was followed by a springboard cross-body block from Mysterio for two. Rey sent Miz face-first into the turnbuckle and called for the 619. With Miz in position, Mysterio sprinted across the ring, but Miz countered.
The Skull-Crushing Finale only kept Mysterio down for two, leaving the former WWE champion in disbelief.
Mysterio nearly utilized the same rollup from earlier to beat Miz. When that did not work, he executed the 619 and scaled the ropes. Miz got the knees up, though, thwarting a frog splash attempt and allowing him to score a pinfall victory.
Miz defeated Mysterio
Take two guys seemingly incapable of having a bad match at this point in their careers, give them 10 minutes to do their thing and they will deliver a strong bout. Such was the case here as Miz scored another, surprisingly strong victory over a celebrated babyface.
Miz and Mysterio have worked each other countless times before, so the familiarity was no surprise, nor was the quality of the match. Given how good he has been in this tournament, Miz winning the whole thing would not be a disappointment.
Especially if he was allowed to gloat about his status as the "best wrestler in the world" in the coming weeks and months.
World Cup Semifinal Match: Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler
The rivalry between Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler reignited in the semifinals of the World Cup tournament Friday. Commentator Corey Graves put over the limitations travel puts on Superstars' abilities to train like they are used to, saying a match like this one goes a long way in establishing the elite.
Rollins controlled early and came face-to-face with Drew McIntyre at ringside, daring the big man to hit him.
Ziggler capitalized on that momentary distraction and targeted the established head and neck injury of Rollins. He grounded him, using a sleeper to keep Rollins at bay. An overconfident Ziggler halted a comeback and slapped at the head of his opponent as the commentary team questioned the wiseness of such actions.
Ziggler continued to control the match as chants of "let's go Rollins" filled the stadium. The IC champion fought back into the match with a backslide. A series of pinning combinations by both Superstars kept the referee busy.
A superkick attempt by Ziggler was countered, and Rollins delivered the ripcord knee to the face for a quality near-fall.
Rollins sent Ziggler into McIntyre, then delivered a suicide dive that laid both out at ringside. He followed up with a springboard knee attempt, but Ziggler rolled out of the way. A Fameasser from The Showoff earned Ziggler a near victory.
Rollins ran the ropes for a superplex, but on his second suplex attempt, Ziggler wiggled free and delivered the Zig-Zag for another two count.
A superkick from Rollins should have put him in position for a win, but McIntyre interfered, allowing Ziggler to recover and score the win to set up a meeting with Miz.
Ziggler defeated Rollins
The best match of the show to this point.
Ziggler and Rollins have spent months on end battling each other on Raw and pay-per-view. While this may not have matched the best of their battles, it was still a highly competitive match, with great near-falls and the unexpected finish of Ziggler winning.
McIntyre's involvement made sense considering he has had his fair share of issues with Rollins. More importantly, it continued to establish the sinister Scot and Ziggler as one of the most dangerous forces in wrestling, something the Raw brand needs without another obvious top heel ready right now to program against Braun Strowman and Rollins.
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe
The WWE Championship was up for grabs as the rivalry between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was renewed Friday afternoon.
Styles immediately targeted the knees of Joe, which were injured the last time they waged war at Super Show-Down in Australia.
An aggressive Styles sought a successful title defense. His aggression, though, cost him as Joe sent him face-first into the guardrail at ringside.
Joe, seeking complete control of the match, delivered a suicide dive that sent Styles ribs-and-back first into the announce table and drove the air from the champion's body. Back in the ring, a back elbow and corner kick allowed Joe to score his first near-fall of the bout.
A sickening chop cut Styles' momentum off as Joe retained control. Styles withstood an onslaught from Joe and delivered a big kick that helped him create separation. An ill-fated attempt at a Styles Clash was blocked by Joe, but the champion delivered an inverted DDT for a two count.
Joe caught a speeding Styles with a snap powerslam as he continued to chase his first world title in WWE.
Styles withstood a nasty lariat clothesline and applied the Calf Crusher, again targeting the knees of his larger opponent. He followed up with an O'Connor Roll, but Joe countered with the Coquina Clutch. Styles, ever aware, grabbed hold of a heel hook and forced a break.
Styles ultimately launched himself off the top rope with the Phenomenal Forearm for the pinfall victory.
Styles defeated Samoa Joe
Styles and Joe have had hundreds of matches against each other over the years, and after a heated series of bouts the last few months, this felt somewhat underwhelming.
The storytelling was strong and both Superstars worked hard, but it felt like a placeholder match in which Joe never really stood a chance of winning.
It was fine for what it was, but considering the original plans called for Styles vs. Daniel Bryan, the repetition and by-the-numbers nature of the action made for a lackluster final product.
Universal Championship Match: Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar
A new universal champion was guaranteed as Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar met for the top prize on the Raw brand.
Before the match, acting Raw general manager Baron Corbin blasted Strowman with the Universal Championship, allowing Lesnar to deliver an F-5. Strowman kicked out at two.
A second F-5 followed and Strowman kicked out again as Michael Cole openly questioned what Corbin was thinking.
A third F-5, a third kick out.
The commentary team questioned what Lesnar would have to do to put Strowman away, and The Beast Incarnate answered with an F-5 over the top rope and to the arena floor.
Lesnar executed a fifth F-5 and picked up the win and Universal Championship, stunning the fans.
Lesnar defeated Strowman
It does not matter how he lost, all that matters is Strowman lost another championship match after being manhandled by a part-time wrestler who lost 30 pounds since the first time they squared off.
Yes, from a storyline perspective, Corbin's attack will create an enraged and vengeful Strowman in the weeks to come, but there are so many times Strowman can be put in this position and beaten before he loses credibility.
He kicked out of finishers, sure, but everyone does these days. Selling the idea that Strowman, who overcame attempted vehicular homicide by Roman Reigns a year ago, could not withstand a shot to the head from a title is ridiculous.
Lesnar is the champion now, and according to the commentary team, he will meet AJ Styles in a rematch from a year ago at Survivor Series. That match may be enough to make some happy, but it is not nearly enough to wash away the bad taste this match/angle/outcome left in this writer's mouth.
World Cup Final Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
Dolph Ziggler and The Miz, two of the most prominent heels on their respective brands, battled for supremacy in the finals of the World Cup tournament Friday night as Raw general manager Baron Corbin and SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon watched from ringside.
Before the match, the official barred Drew McIntyre from ringside, ordering him to the locker room and evening the playing field as a result.
Miz seized an opportunity, taking the fight to Ziggler before the bell.
Miz exited the ring and appeared to injure his knee. He sent Ziggler into the stairs and attempted, but was unable, to get back into the ring. The referees huddled and were prepared to announce The Showoff the winner by forfeit when McMahon interjected himself and announced he would compete in Miz's place.
The bell rang and McMahon unloaded on Ziggler, peppering him with rights and lefts, then following up with a big back elbow.
Corbin tried to get involved but found himself ejected from ringside. Ziggler seized on the distraction and delivered a Zig-Zag, scoring a two count.
A big DDT from McMahon kept him in the match and a Coast-to-Coast earned him the win.
McMahon defeated Ziggler
Remember how the top Superstars in WWE were fighting to be recognized as the best in the world earlier in the show?
Scrap all of that. It meant nothing. Not a lick.
Instead, McMahon comes from the ringside area to win a match over a legitimate wrestler in mere minutes.
What does that say for guys like Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley and Rey Mysterio?
What a senseless and stupid conclusion to a tournament that had all the promise in the world.
If there were a lower grade to assign, it would have been.
In the name of Vince Russo, who booked this?
The Brothers of Destruction vs. D-Generation X
It makes sense that on a show dominated by 40-somethings and Attitude Era icons, the battle between four Superstars with a combined age of 206 years old would headline Crown Jewel.
Shawn Michaels returned to the ring Friday for the first time in eight years, all the goodwill of his retirement and decision to stay that way erased in the name of a massive payday and one last dance in front of the intensely passionate wrestling fans in...Saudi Arabia?
Triple H and Kane paired off to start but it was the entry of Michaels into the match that popped the crowd. Delivering a double ax handle off the top rope, Michaels showed flashes of the guy that previously wowed audiences and had many labeling him the greatest of all time. A neckbreaker electrified the audience, and the first in-ring competition between HBK and Undertaker drew an enormous reaction from fans.
Undertaker leveled Michaels with a big boot and targeted the arm, setting him up for Old School. Before he could execute the move, Triple H cut it off, drawing Kane into the bout. The action spilled to the outside momentarily before Undertaker and Michaels returned to the ring, where The Dead Man finally delivered Old School.
D-X withstood the brothers' onslaught, though, and seized control by working over The Big Red Monster. Michaels, in particular, delivered the top rope elbow drop. An attempt at Sweet Chin Music was countered and Kane floored him with a chokeslam.
Michaels again found himself in danger at the hands of Undertaker, eating straight rights and a headbutt in the corner. A double down led to a sit-up from The Phenom, who tossed Michaels to the floor and cleared the Arabic announce table. Climbing on top of it, Undertaker set him up for a Tombstone but Triple H made the save.
Kane interjected himself, too, but was driven into the steps. Undertaker soon found himself driven into the barricade. Kane recovered and put Triple H through the English announce table. Undertaker followed up with a legdrop across the chest of a Michaels draped over the ring apron.
Back inside the squared circle, The Brothers of Destruction beat down and punished HBK, who was left partnerless as Triple H struggled to recover at ringside.
Michaels sent Undertaker face-first into the steel post and paired off with Kane in the ring. At one point, he hit him so hard, the mask and wig came off his opponent's head. From there, he moonsaulted from the top rope onto Undertaker and Kane...completely missing them but everyone sold so it was forgiven.
Triple H, obviously nursing a rib or pectoral injury, fought his way into the match with one arm. He tried for a Pedigree but was back body dropped by The Dead Man. A second Pedigree attempt was more successful as he dropped Undertaker.
He left himself open, though, to Hells Gate as Undertaker sought a second, consecutive win over The Game.
Kane tried for a chokeslam but Sweet Chin Music sent him into his brother, breaking the submission. A second Sweet Chin Music to Kane sent him right into the worst Pedigree ever executed and D-X scored the victory.
D-X defeated The Brothers of Destruction
The injury to Triple H undoubtedly hurt the overall quality of the match because he is the one guy who can still go at a reasonably high level. With that said, this was never about him. It was, instead, about Michaels' return to the ring and for the most part, he looked ok.
Not at all like someone who should still be wrestling but still ok.
The match itself, though, was messy and disjointed. There was brawling spliced into a regular tag team match with little to no concern for the rules of a basic match. It was sloppy, it was ugly and far too often, it exposed the fact that the four guys involved are all around 50 years old and no longer able to have the match they would have had even a decade ago.
Yes, this was never meant to be anything other than a way to create excitement for the second of 10 Saudi Arabia shows. It was a special attraction, a marquee match to drum up interest in what is a glorified house show. That is not at all lost on this writer.
With that said, it was not particularly good and it was done at the expense of a young roster WWE will eventually need to lean on as the heroes of a bygone era look more and more their age and less and less like credible athletes.
For a company that has documented how foolish WCW was to allow its aging veterans to thrive while a more talented, younger and hungrier roster to wallowed in midcard mediocrity, WWE continues to make the same mistakes.