WWE Crown Jewel 2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s review of Crown Jewel, the 10th WWE premium live event to be broadcast from Saudi Arabia. It was an absolutely loaded card this year — WWE PLEs have tended to end around the three-hour mark lately, but this one went almost four, with seven matches (plus a kickoff show match) and five championships on the line. We're not going to go ever absolutely everything that went down in Riyadh on Saturday (sorry, Cody Rhodes vs. Damian Priest) but you can always check out our live coverage/results page to learn about everything that happened on this show. But was the show good? Or, more accurately, how much did WINC's writers and editors appreciate it?

That's what we're here to answer. Did Kairi Sane's return land for us like a well-placed elbow drop? How did we feel about Logan Paul winning his first title in WWE? And did the Roman Reigns vs. LA Knight main event end up living up to the hype? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about WWE Crown Jewel 2023.

Loved: Rollins and McIntyre advance title program with hard-hitting opener (Liam O'Loughlin, WINC news writer)

The ongoing story between Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre over the WWE World Heavyweight yitle added another quality wrinkle on Saturday, with the champion retaining in a hard-fought opening bout at the Crown Jewel premium live event in Saudi Arabia.

After emerging victorious in multi-match feuds against Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura over the summer, Rollins faced his toughest task yet as the face of Monday nights, taking on an increasingly-frustrated Scotsman who was more than up to the task. McIntyre had all the support from the fans in Riyadh, whose reactions were mixed throughout the night but who showed their admiration for the two-time world champion, urging him towards a potential third trip to the mountaintop of WWE.

The two seasoned pros put in a brilliant performance, trading big offense throughout their 18-minute clash, with Rollins kicking out of a Claymore Kick and continuing to show the resilient nature that has defined his championship tenure. After dodging a second finisher from McIntyre, the champion would nail a Pedigree and a stomp to secure a three-count, leaving his opponent visibly deterred as he exited the ring and walked up the stage. This appears to be the first of a series of duels between the veteran WWE stars, but there could be plenty of twists and turns — especially given what happened post-match.

After the defeated challenger walked away and left his adversary alone in the ring, Damian Priest would attempt to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase but was thwarted by Sami Zayn, allowing Rollins to escape with the gold, before cameras spotted a tense moment between McIntyre and Rhea Ripley, further teasing a potential switch to the dark side.

At this stage, there are major question marks over McIntyre's allegiance. Will he join forces The Judgement Day? Will he remain a lone wolf, riding the line between heel and babyface? Or, most likely, will he finally snap after years of pent-up anger? Only time will tell, but it's making for intriguing television each week on "WWE Raw" and sometimes, that's all you can ask for.

Loved: The Raw women show off in Saudi Arabia (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

The women's fatal five-way match was one of my favorite things of the afternoon. With WWE forever touting how "progressive" they are by going to Saudi Arabia and bringing their female talent along with them, the more women they have on the card, the better. WWE has been so great at getting almost all the women on their respective shows, seeing that bleed into premium live events is great.

Personally, I love multi-person matches for the chaos they tend to descend into when disqualification isn't an option. There were some great spots in the match, especially Shayna Baszler putting multiple submissions on different women at once. Another that comes to mind is Raquel Rodriguez trying to get Nia Jax up to slam her. Spots like that are memorable and help showcase these competitors, even if we as fans know they're just not winning.

I also really love Zoey Stark. She's excellent in the ring and added a lot to this match. I don't think it's necessarily her time to hold gold just yet, especially with how good Ripley is, but she's getting reps in and she looks great while doing it. Stark is a future star, in my eyes. And say what you will about Jax, she also did well in this match and it didn't feel like much of the focus was on her, as she even slid out of the ring initially.

Having Ripley retain the title was absolutely the right call. She's white-hot right now and needs to hold the belt until WrestleMania to main event night one in Philadelphia. Not having Dominik Mysterio or any other member of Judgment Day out there with her, to let her shine on her own like the mega-star she is, was refreshing to see as well. She even won this match in a memorable way, hitting the Riptide on Stark right onto Rodriguez, who was attempting to pin Baszler. Overall, on a show that was just kind of good, but not great, this women's match really helped me stay excited.

Loved: Star-making spikes (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

A couple weeks ago, I wrote this about a John Cena promo on "WWE SmackDown:"

"The more he insisted that he had to win at Crown Jewel, the more sure I became that he is actually going to win, and that's just kind of a bummer, because Solo Sikoa could really use that rub. Isn't that what Cena should be doing at this point in his career — lying down for the next generation? The best idea, to me, would be to structure the match around a bunch of big Cena hope spots, making him look like he can hang with Sikoa and teasing a Cena win over and over, only to have Cena's body finally fail him against the younger Sikoa, who wins a hard-fought contest. I think that would have both guys come out looking strong given this storyline. But I don't think that, or anything like that, is going to happen. I think Cena wins."

I've never been happier to be proven wrong. Not only did things unfold more or less the exact way I'd have preferred, Sikoa looked even more dominant than I could have hoped for, demolishing Cena with a succession of Samoan Spikes and possibly sending the former WWE Champion back to Hollywood (if reports that the SAG-AFTRA strike might finally be coming to an end prove accurate). The match was everything it needed to be and more, and Sikoa comes out of it as one of the few men who can say they've beaten Cena clean at a major event. It was 1000% the right move, and I'm still a little shocked it actually happened. Umaga would be proud.

Hated: Logan Paul and Rey Mysterio fail to live up to the hype (O'Loughlin)

On paper, the match between Logan Paul and Rey Mysterio had all the makings of a classic, especially given what we had seen from a small sample size of the social media megastar's WWE career. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at the Crown Jewel premium live event, with the Hall of Famer and 'The Maverick' failing to live up to the hype and producing an uncharacteristically underwhelming in-ring display.

Despite some exciting high spots, the bout was quite sloppy at times — including a scary moment that saw Paul save Mysterio from a potentially dangerous landing — while the YouTube sensation also stumbled in attempting his signature Buckshot Lariat. The pair seemed to be off-kilter throughout the 18-minute match and lacked the chemistry expected given their previous tussle in tag-team competition and the ending to the match completely missed, both for the crowd in attendance in Riyadh and the audience watching at home.

An unnamed member of Paul's entourage coming in with brass knuckles, crawling around the ring in a strange fashion before being cut off by Santos Escobar, who accidentally placed the weapon back on the apron for the challenger to utilise for a pinfall victory — despite being hit with a 619 just seconds prior to nailing Mysterio in the face — was incredibly awkward to watch and was even weaker than the SummerSlam finish with Ricochet.

While it was only his eighth match inside a WWE ring, it was arguably the worst of Paul's career but one that both he and Mysterio will likely put down to a rare off night. The outcome may have been the right one, allowing Paul to grow into a new role within his wrestling career and add new eyes to the midcard belt, but the action from bell-to-bell and the awkward finishing sequence left plenty to be desired.

Hated: Kairi Sane's return to WWE was the right thing at the wrong time (Max Everett, WINC news writer)

Kairi Sane made her WWE return to help IYO SKY retain her WWE Women's Championship, which combines so many layers of history between the "Pirate Princess" and the members of Damage CTRL. Sane last wrestled for WWE in July 2020, defeating Bayley on "Raw" in the midst of a feud between The Kabuki Warriors (Sane and Asuka) and the Golden Role Models (Bayley and Sasha Banks). But Sane was forced out of the ring due to concussions issues, and their chapter never truly drew to a close. The former IWGP Women's Champion has also spent time as an adversary to Dakota Kai, both in WWE (on the main roster and in the Mae Young Classic) and in STARDOM, where Sane (alongside Iyo Sky and Mayu Iwatani) captured the promotion's trios titles from Kai, Hiroyo Matsumoto, and Kellie Skater in 2016. And of course, that leads into Sane and SKY's own history; the pair were trailblazers during their time for STARDOM, so much so that they drew interest from Triple H, who sought to bring them into WWE through "NXT".

All this is to say that Sane's return at Crown Jewel 2023 was all of the right things, but it happened at the wrong time, as it was painfully apparent that the fans in attendance in Riyadh cared little for her otherwise exciting arrival. There's a built-in story to be told involving Sane's allegiance to SKY and the growing tensions within Damage CTRL, but it's first impressions that count, right? Sane's last run on the main roster was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic and ended offscreen — this was WWE's best chance to re-introduce Sane, but instead, a flat crowd gave little reaction to the star that had come out to shine, and it may well serve only to undermine Sane's significance.

The difference between someone turning up unannounced to a roaring crowd compared to a flat one is exactly that. But if you as a fan don't know someone and the crowd cheers, you automatically have a reason to look her up. If someone you don't know appears and those around you don't seem to care, then it's only natural for you to feel unphased. "Raw" is literally around the corner, and it would have undoubtedly made sense to have Sane arrive in more familiar surroundings where people would genuinely care. In a vaccuum, her return was perfect. In Saudi Arabia, it wasn't.

Hated: Roman's repetitive reigns (Ruth)

Going into Crown Jewel, it was inevitable that LA Knight was going to lose to Roman Reigns. That thought made caring about the match pretty difficult for me, but I am a fan of Knight, so I thought it would be at least entertaining. And it was — until the end. We've been seeing the same thing, over and over again, from Reigns and the Bloodline for over three years now. Reigns gets in the ring. Reigns has good matches with whoever he's up against. Either Solo Sikoa or one of the Usos interferes. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Hand Reigns one belt or three belts, it's all the same.

Not only is the booking incredibly redundant, the Bloodline storyline has only gotten more confusing as time has gone on. On this particular premium live event, it was Jimmy Uso interfering and helping Reigns keep hold of the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. Wasn't it Jimmy who wanted out of the Bloodline in the first place? Wasn't he worried his brother Jey Uso was going to end up a tyrannical champion like Reigns? Am I getting that all wrong, or even my Usos mixed up? WWE has yet to tell me why it's so important for Jimmy to be back in the fold, going as far as calling himself a second-string quarterback to Reigns when the champion isn't around. Make it make sense!

Overall, the match was good, and it was a good showing for Knight. But when I got on social media afterward, all I saw were the same echoed opinions about the repetitive booking. It's been years, and yes, Reigns' title reign is historic and impressive, but there needs to be some variety to these victories. Can we even call Reigns a "dominant" champion anymore, since there is always interference and he rarely ever gets a clean victory in his even more rare title defenses? I suppose the interference kept Knight strong, but I doubt he's getting another match against Reigns soon, so I'm not sure that even matters.

I didn't see any talk about Knight at all as I scrolled through my Twitter/X feed. He looked pretty good. He hung well with Reigns in the ring. But where does this leave him now? Is the "Megastar" back down to the mid-card? Will the crowd still be behind him come Friday? It will be interesting to see. All I know is that WWE needs to do something with Reigns' booking, and that doesn't appear like it's going to happen until 2024, with the rumors that Reigns isn't likely to appear at Survivor Series. If Knight got anything out of this match, at least he got fans voicing their displeasure about how things with Reigns and his title are going. And maybe someone will finally listen.