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Photo Credit: wwe.com

Let Me In: “The Fiend” Now the Crown Jewel of WWE

Hello AW Universe,

So, we have another event from Saudi Arabia in the rear-view mirror, the second Crown Jewel event as the company honours their commitments to hold events in accordance with the controversial ten-year agreement they struck with the General Sports Authority.

There’s no doubt that fans and wrestlers alike are put in a strange– and frankly, uncomfortable– position when taking these events in. They featured matches that have been so over-the-top (no pun intended) and gimmicky, like Braun Strowman winning the 50-man Royal Rumble, and even the WWE Tag Team World Cup Gauntlet Match to crown the “greatest tag team,” all of which have just felt like ways to put over excess of wealth and influence. This has been most obvious with the booking of matches that’ve been hard to watch and clearly were born from gratuitous fistfuls of cash forced into the hands of wrestlers like Undertaker and Goldberg who are so long in the tooth that it’s medical malpractice to let them wrestle. And others like Shawn Michaels and Kane who have been drawn out of retirement to put on a show for a benefactor who seems to think that pro wrestlers do not age like human beings, but instead remain in a stasis similar to video game sprites.

This latest edition of Crown Jewel, was no different, booking yet another squash victory for Brock Lesnar over a non-WWE roster opponent that nobody watching seemed to care about, and Braun Strowman losing to his non-WWE roster opponent that was booked in a way that I guess was supposed to keep him looking strong, but really made him look like a punk (the only consolation here will be if this actually gives some juice to the Drew Gulak program, which has been pretty entertaining).

WWE seemingly broke ground by featuring the first women’s match in Saudi Arabia, between Natalya and Lacey Evans, both of whom were dresses accordingly to remain culturally sensitive, at at times certainly felt the weight of the moment as they simply competed, not doing any real storytelling, digging into any overly heel-ish or babyface tendencies. Yes, there are reasons to be cynical as far as the earnestness of what this match actually implied: was it simply a not-so-subversive tactic for the Saudi Arabian regime to project the perception that they are more humanitarian progressive than might be reality, or that Natty and Lacey were both forced to wrestle in fully covered attire and at the same time completely stripped of their  characters (particularly Lacey), while male performers like Seth Rollins are free to ply their craft completely unhindered, bare-chested and all. But, the match happened. After WWE was much maligned for agreeing to this ten-year partnership, then barring women from the first three events, then booking what could have been viewed as a contrived attempt to reconcile that slight by creating an all-women’s PPV, Evolution, and then doing nothing with it, and never having another one, it’s hard to give them credit here, but the fact that the match happened is something.

There were some bright spots, though. Resident Super Star Mansoor wrestled Cesaro (who can anyone look like a million bucks) in a very entertaining match– some thought it was the best of the night– the tag team gauntlet was well-paced, the 10-man tag match wasn’t a complete schmoz, and AJ Styles and Umberto Carrillo were outstanding, as Carillo continues to have the rocket strapped to his back and pushed to the moon.

But, the perhaps the biggest surprise was the finish to the main event. “The Fiend” won the Universal Championship from Seth Rollins. Cleanly. Yes, the match moved at a pace that was glacial compared to the rest of the card, and the red light is bordering on obnoxious now. But, “The Fiend” won. Whether or not it was a response to the chorus of boos and chants of “AEW” after the horrific finish to Hell in a Cell, it really shouldn’t matter much because fans got what they wanted. It was a surprising finish to a match that was beginning to look like it was going to end much like the last one: with Seth Rollins stomping the living shit out of “The Fiend” and forcing him into a compromising position that would both keep him strong, but have Rollins walking out of the event with the belt.

But WWE did the right thing. Well, at least what the fans wanted. It’ll be interesting to see what happens now with Rollins, Bray, and the title moving forward, considering that Michael Cole made it clear that “should ‘The Fiend’ win, he would take the Universal Championship to Friday Night SmackDown with him.” It’s made even more interesting considering that the majority of the roster is not going to make the opening bell on FOX.

“The Fiend” was scheduled to appear on Miz TV, but won’t be making it, so it’ll be interesting to see what these “special surprises” will be– one has to hope that it isn’t a slew of FOX personalities trotted out into the ring– and if that just means that every available ring hand from Monday Night Raw and NXT will be called up for spot duty.

And where does Rollins go from here? It can’t be ignored by WWE that he’s nowhere near as over as they want the face of the company to be, and he struggles as a pure babyface. Is this an opportunity to refresh him character a bit and turn him heel? And is Bray Wyatt booked to hold the title for an extended period of time, keeping the Universal title on SmackDown, dropping it back to someone on Raw, or just have him move to Monday nights all together?

Does Brock factor into this at all?

Might have to wait another week to see how it all unfolds, but regardless it’ll be an interesting week.