WWE presented its biggest-ever Saudi Arabia show on Saturday, and Crown Jewel 2023 looked to be a game-changer.
Roman Reigns slowed the fairy-tale rise of LA Knight with another successful title defense, but The Megastar challenged The Tribal Chief far more than he expected.
Logan Paul captured the United States Championship, cheating with some inadvertent assistance from Santos Escobar.
Kairi Sane made a surprise return to WWE to help Iyo Sky retain the WWE Women’s Championship. She left Bianca Belair lying and shocked Bayley at ringside.
Solo Sikoa was more of a threat to John Cena than the veteran was willing to admit. The Bloodline enforcer defeated The GOAT and may have sent him into retirement.
Rhea Ripley kept The Judgment Day’s momentum by defeating Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Raquel Rodriguez and Zoey Stark in a Fatal Five-Way match, but other members of the group weren’t so successful.
Sami Zayn picked up his first singles victory over the stable, when he took out unofficial member JD McDonagh.
The Ultimate Underdog also snuck away with Damian Priest’s Money in the Bank briefcase and left him vulnerable to Cody Rhodes, who beat The Archer of Infamy clean.
The following were the clearest winners and losers from Crown Jewel 2023.
WWE made a star in Sami Zayn over the last year, and very few environments embrace him more than Mohammed Abdu Arena.
He was the biggest star in the company at Night of Champions, defeating Roman Reigns and Solo Sikoa in the main event. It was a star-making moment that should have solidified Zayn.
Instead, he barely got a spot on the card on Saturday, working the Kickoff Show against JD McDonagh. While they had a solid match, it felt like an engaging Raw match with a hotter crowd.
At least Zayn won, but he should have stood in a greater spotlight at Crown Jewel. He should have been fighting Finn Bálor or Dominik Mysterio on the main show.
Hopefully, the future will be brighter for The Ultimate Underdog, who can bring down The Judgment Day one man at a time and get back to the world title scene.
He did have a fun moment later in the night when he stole Damian Priest’s Money in the Bank briefcase, likely costing him the World Heavyweight Championship, but he was still on the sidelines for other wrestlers on an important night.
In the steadily growing pantheon of WWE shows in Saudi Arabia, Seth Rollins has been a constant fixture. He elevates his game each time and had, arguably, the best match in the history of Crown Jewel with Edge in 2021.
His bout with Drew McIntyre rivaled that outing and has set a new standard for The Visionary’s title defenses. This was an incredible opener that sold the value of both men.
The Scottish Warrior is one of the best in the business. His chemistry with Rollins is obvious, and WWE should lean into it more in the coming months.
McIntyre worked this match clean, avoiding the expected heel turn. However, the tease to joining The Judgment Day continues.
The next time Rollins and McIntyre collide, the Scot needs to be a full heel. He is ready to show his dark side.
This Fatal 5-Way match was all about Rhea Ripley. She got the special entrance, and she took out each of her competitors one by one until she was the “baddest woman” left.
In this match, she was not Mami; she was The Eradicator. This was one of her best contests since winning the Women’s World Championship at WrestleMania 39.
It’s hard to imagine anyone beating Ripley any time soon. While she still has fun individual matches, she could also have feuds with Shayna Baszler or Zoey Stark, but both looked outmatched against the Australian here.
Until Becky Lynch is placed in her path or Jade Cargill is ready, it’s difficult to see anyone taking her down. Ripley has developed an aura that makes her one of the biggest stars in WWE, period.
A Fatal 5-Way match can protect certain talent, and it did just that with Nia Jax, who was mostly a secondary part of this contest. One woman who was not protected, though, was Shayna Baszler.
The Queen of Spades took a Riptide and then felt another as Rhea RIpley sent Zoey Stark into her and Raquel Rodriguez off the second rope. This led to Baszler taking the pin.
Ripley vs. Baszler is the most interesting match that could have come out of this bout. She showed her value and ingenuity when she put three woman at once in a submission hold.
With this result, though, Baszler is left out of the title picture entirely while Jax is the most likely woman to challenge Ripley next in a match hardly anyone is eagerly anticipating.
John Cena wrestling in 2023 is a unique and unpredictable journey.
He had one of the worst matches of his career with Austin Theory at WrestleMania 39. His tag team match alongside LA Knight at Fastlane 2023 was fine but mostly carried by the charisma of The Megastar.
Saturday’s bout with Solo Sikoa is likely Cena’s last in 2023, but he saved his best work for the end. He showed off uncharacteristic limb work and even delivered a chokeslam.
While Cena may never be able to deliver what he could at his best, this was as good as he has looked in years, and it was all for The Enforcer.
He put over Sikoa so much better than anyone expected. The Bloodline member destroyed Cena down the stretch, hitting a series of Samoan Spikes to seal it.
In his premium live event singles debut, Sikoa looked great. While he has been protected so far, this was the first time he has stepped out of the shadow of Roman Reigns and delivered on his own merit.
Cena will likely disappear from WWE television for a while now, but it would not be surprising if he returns for WrestleMania 40 for a rematch that will be much more anticipated after this.
Logan Paul carried Rey Mysterio in the ring throughout their Crown Jewel match. That would have been a ridiculous statement a few years back, but everyone knows how good The Maverick has become.
The Master of the 619 is slowing down. His age is catching up to him much slower than anyone could have expected, but it was inevitable.
At one point, Paul even saved Mysterio from a serious miss on a moonsault that could have left him seriously injured. It was a showcase of his fantastic instincts in the ring.
As the new United States champion, the YouTuber has a chance to work with a variety of great young wrestlers who can challenge him in a new way.
Through his title reign, he should figure out where he can slow down in the ring and become a top guy in WWE. He will be exciting to watch whenever he appears.
Iyo Sky vs. Bianca Belair was supposed to focus on those two women, but it was two others who stole the spotlight.
Bayley got involved to consistently while trying to help The Genius of the Sky but not always succeeding. But the returning Kairi Sane was a much more positive force for Sky, setting her up to win.
It looks like Sky made a call and has brought in a new ally she trusts, and that could spell disaster for Bayley. While Damage CTRL was The Role Model’s group to start, Sky has taken over.
It looks like Bayley could be replaced by The Pirate Princess, who is a valuable ally to The Genius of the Sky and has often been an enemy of The Role Model.
It is time for Damage CTRL to evolve, but hopefully Bayley will find a way to land on her feet without the group at her back.
Damian Priest walked into the biggest test of his career, fighting Cody Rhodes one-on-one. He needed to show he could hang with the best in the business.
Instead, this was focused on The Judgment Day interfering repeatedly to save their teammate from losing early.
Once Jey Uso had saved The American Nightmare, it was all Rhodes. He made it look as though the two men are not on the same level.
While there is still plenty of time to crown Priest with the World Heavyweight Championship, this was a major setback on a night when he almost won the title in the opener.
The rise of LA Knight has been impressive. In short order, he has become a top challenger to Roman Reigns and found his own magic as a unique opponent for The Tribal Chief.
While Cody Rhodes and Sami Zayn were veterans who earned their spots against Reigns through steady work, most of Knight’s veteran work was before he came to WWE.
When he arrived on the main roster, he built himself up through charisma, selling the crowd on his confidence.
In his match with Reigns, he brought the fight. He sent a dominant champion reeling. As time went on, Knight was challenged to work at a main event level, and he did just that.
This was the best match WWE fans have seen from The Megastar. WWE gave a him a visual win over Reigns, saved only by Jimmy Uso. It was an important moment for Knight.
While the win was not to be at Crown Jewel, he proved why this should not be his last main event in WWE. The crowd is far from done supporting him.