By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Crown Jewel Hits
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship: A minor Hit for a match that was well on its way to getting a regular Hit until the abrupt finish. I wasn’t expecting a Joe win since he wasn’t originally going to be in the match, but the quick Phenomenal Forearm finish just over eleven minutes in felt like a house show finish and did nothing to protect Joe.
Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman for the vacant WWE Universal Championship: This won’t be a popular Hit. I get it. I’m bored with Brock as the part-time champion too. And it’s not like the three-minute match earned the Hit. Rather, it’s the decision not to race the championship onto Strowman. Braun’s character has been a mess lately. His heel turn was a disaster and his abrupt return to the babyface role brought on by Roman Reigns taking a leave of absence didn’t give the company enough time to solidify him in that role. Fans didn’t want Strowman to win the because they were invested in his pursuit of the championship, they wanted him to win because they preferred it to the alternative of another Lesnar reign. Strowman had no momentum going in and thus I’d prefer that the company build up to him or someone else winning the championship. Because we can’t rule out the possibility that Strowman isn’t the guy they intend to go with. So rather than restructure this event or give Braun a quick title reign, perhaps the idea was simply to get through this show and work toward Lesnar dropping the title to someone else.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev for the U.S. Championship: A quality Kickoff Show match that turned out to be better and longer than most of the World Cup tournament matches. Nakamura and Rusev never struck me as guys who would have good in-ring chemistry, but they’ve had a couple of solid matches together.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. New Day for the Smackdown Tag Titles: More of an in the middle than a true Hit or Miss. Big Show’s interference was logical in terms of pushing forward this oddball storyline, though it would be nice if someone actually bothered to explain why Show dislikes New Day so much. Is Big Show a waffle enthusiast?
WWE Crown Jewel Misses
Shawn Michaels and Triple H vs. Undertaker and Kane: Everyone involved tried hard and everyone involved came up short regardless of how much gushing the broadcast team did afterward. Undertaker has every right to stick around for the big paydays, but it’s sad to watch him lumber through these lengthy shortcut brawl main events. I’d prefer to see him in brief matches where he works in the greatest hits spots and calls it a night if he’s going to continue wrestling. There’s no denying this match worked for the live crowd. The fans in attendance loved it and if this were merely a house show match then I’d take a so be it approach. But these shows are being presented as pay-per-views, and it’s absurd to see the Attitude Era stars featured in pay-pert-view main events in 2018 and even boasting in promos that it’s because they do it better than today’s stars. Even if that were the case, the same guys who made that statement also felt the need to remind us that they are in charge of the developmental brand, so wouldn’t it be their fault if today’s talent is measuring up to the stars of the past? Anyway, who really wanted to see Undertaker return to the ring just to lose to Triple H and then to DX in a tag match? What good has any of this done for Undertaker aside from padding the bank account of the man who plays the character? I have a ton of respect for what the four men in this match have accomplished, but they need to accept their limitations, stop pretending they belong in main events, and stop acting like being in these main events isn’t stealing the spotlight from the deserving full-time stars of yet another generation.
World Cup tournament: Rather than run through every tournament match and point out how basic and brief they were, I’ll save us all some time by doing that with this single statement. Some of the matches were better than others, but the only thing most fans will remember a week from now is Shane McMahon winning. And while I won’t put Shane’s win in the Hit category, I will say that I’m not as down on it as a lot of fans seemed to be on Friday. In fact, the angle helped explain Shane’s dickish announcement that he would fire any Smackdown wrestler who lost to a Raw wrestler in the finals because he couldn’t handle his sister having bragging rights. Shane is a heel now. I have no idea why WWE feels the need to have yet another heel authority figure, but they do and when you watch Shane’s over the top celebration with this in mind it was actually very comical. Shane can now boast that he’s the best in the world. There are a couple of wrestlers out there who make similar statements. It’s hard to imagine CM Punk returning, but could this be the first step toward a Shane vs. Chris Jericho match?
Overall show: Crown Jewel was gross for all the obvious reasons, including Vince McMahon doubling down on the controversy by bringing back Hulk Hogan.
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The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...