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Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar Solidifies Crown Jewel as Best WWE PPV of 2021

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2021

via WWE.com

WWE just put on its best pay-per-view of 2021, if not longer, at this year's edition of Crown Jewel from Saudi Arabia, in large part thanks to the main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. 

Go figure, right? 

The company has had big problems with the new annual series to date. Due to time-zone differences, it airs in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday in the United States. And before this year, it mostly felt like a legacy get-together of older, washed-up Superstars to appease a different sort of crowd.

With little in the way of title changes or storyline developments happening, either, it was hard to blame fans who wrote it off as a glorified house show. 

But WWE completely flipped the script this year. It actually built meaningful feuds for the event, then wrote some payoffs that actually happened in Saudi Arabia...and sometimes that makes all the difference. 

Granted, it's not like a ton of titles changed hands. But they didn't need to. The crowd was maybe the best live audience we've seen since fans returned to arenas and that big-fight atmosphere made some of the best moments even better. 

Think, Zelina Vega stunningly winning the inaugural Queen's Crown tournament. That's not just a special moment, as it's a huge launching pad for her career, which is a big deal for a company that has had serious problems building new main event stars. 

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Ditto the King of the Ring tournament, where it looked like Finn Balor would cruise, especially coming off that terrible loss to Roman Reigns. Instead, Xavier Woods, competing solo outside of The New Day, took the crown for himself in the upset, which could be a launching pad, too. 

WWE Network @WWENetwork

🔥 INSTANT CLASSIC 🔥 #WWECrownJewel @EdgeRatedR @WWERollins https://t.co/jWKX3ccV7x

And that's just focusing on some feel-good moments with serious Superstar-building potential. The Edge-Seth Rollins rehash wasn't just them doing their WrestleMania encounter over again. Instead, the two put on an instant classic for nearly 30 minutes. It set the tone as the opener and was easily one of the top matches of the year, not just the event. 

How about Goldberg? Back on the scene of where he and Undertaker almost killed each other in the ring (literally, the botches were that bad and helped to give these shows their bad reputation), the legend got a much-requested and fantasy-booked matchup with Bobby Lashley that could have easily ended in disaster. 

But following the theme of the show, it was actually a shockingly good time and callback of sorts to those superb, quick-hitting matches with a UFC feel that Goldberg had with Brock Lesnar years ago. In fact, it was easily his best match since those encounters. 

The show-ending bout exemplified all of these themes as the perfect capper to a big event, too. 

WWE had a major hill to climb here. There was zero chance Reigns was going to lose the title and fans knew that going into the match. On paper, that could hurt the annual show's reputation, aligning with that nothing major happens theme it had earned in past years. 

But the company leaned into the storyline and characters to avoid this pitfall and it ended up being a blast to watch. A fun, hard-hitting match between these two is always fun to a certain extent, but it was made much better by the inclusion of Paul Heyman at the end. 

Right at the pivotal moment with the referee down, clutching Reigns' title, Heyman made a choice. But the way he did it left things ambiguous. He tossed the title (weapon) in the ring between the two downed Superstars. The Tribal Chief eventually won the tug-of-war (nice callback, by the way) with an assist from The Usos, used it and won the match. 

WWE @WWE

.@WWERomanReigns stands tall at #WWECrownJewel! #UniversalTitle @WWEUsos @HeymanHustle @BrockLesnar https://t.co/0RxmfOChkK

So, no, a title didn't change hands. And yes, it was a dirty finish to a main event. But guess what? Sometimes that's just superb storytelling. Heyman's expression looking at Reigns while exiting the ring said it all, as even he can't read how the champion will react with it seeming like he was possibly trying to assist Lesnar. 

Now fans have something really interesting to watch in the coming weeks until Lesnar gets back on programming. That Reigns-Heyman dynamic just evolving in terribly intriguing ways and rest assured when Lesnar comes back, he'll bring it up. 

And that's what this year's Crown Jewel was all about. It actually helped build Superstars, capped off feuds and implemented storylines that will not only get fans invested in checking out the weekly shows in the coming days but also provides the lesson that this isn't a skippable event anymore. 

That WWE made this lesson in dramatic fashion with the top feud and storyline in wrestling to close the show says it all: There's no more sleeping on Crown Jewel events. Plus, every other PPV now has a bar to leap for. 

Not bad for a mid-afternoon show on a Thursday.

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