Yesterday’s WWE Crown Jewel was a strange event, with Hulk Hogan making his post-scandal return, and Shane McMahon winning a tournament he wasn’t in. In fact, while there were some good wrestling matches on the show, Crown Jewel overall really seemed like something WWE was only putting on to fulfill their contract with the Saudi Arabian government, and not an event they actually cared too much about. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but the really odd way in which the show was booked has led many fans to make negative assumptions.
Crown Jewel had a lot going against it from the very start. For one, WWE’s dealings with Saudi Arabia have always felt a bit unpleasant, considering that country’s dreadful record on humans rights, especially women’s rights. With WWE putting so much time and energy into the development of their women’s division – including the recent first ever all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution – it especially seems weird that they would agree to perform in a country in which their female wrestlers aren’t allowed to compete. Add to that the recent horrifying murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, and WWE was inundated with calls to move the event somewhere else.
Despite that criticism, WWE pressed forward, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why: the company is raking in millions via their Saudi Arabian deal. So, how was Crown Jewel as an actual event? Well, things started off on a controversial note, with Hulk Hogan making his return to WWE TV for the first time since his 2015 racist rant scandal. The live crowd in Riyadh was certainly happy to see Hogan come out and run through his famous catchphrases and poses, and Hogan definitely looks in excellent shape for his age, but the reaction to The Hulkster’s return wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic from WWE’s fans watching live back in the U.S.
That whole vibe of things feeling slightly off kilter continued later on in the show, when WWE made one of its most baffling booking decisions in quite some time. During Crown Jewel, a one-night tournament was held for WWE’s World Cup trophy. Tenured veterans The Miz and Dolph Ziggler reached the finals, only for Miz to sustain an “injury” (which by all accounts other than WWE’s wasn’t real) and be replaced by Shane McMahon in the match. Shane had of course not competed in the tournament at all, and hadn’t wrestled since the Greatest Royal Rumble in April. To top things off, Shane then won the tournament, and celebrated as if he had survived the whole thing.
Additionally, the inexplicable booking decisions didn’t stop there. Originally announced for the event was a Universal Championship match between champion Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and Braun Strowman. With Reigns having to bow out due to his recently revealed battle with leukemia, WWE understandably changed the match to a singles bout between Lesnar and Strowman. With Lesnar poised to leave WWE for UFC again, most fans assumed Braun would finally win the title, after failing multiple times. Instead, WWE put the title back on Lesnar, whose year-plus reign was just ended by Reigns in August at SummerSlam. Naturally fans aren’t thrilled about the prospect of once-again having a part-time Universal Champion who defends the belt every four months.