It’s that time of year again. Thanks to the huge money the Saudi Arabian government throws at WWE, Crown Jewel, emanating from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is one of the year’s biggest wrestling events. Like last year, it’s just as star studded as a WrestleMania, if not more. And, as announced a day before the event, the show will feature WWE’s first women’s match in Saudi Arabia.
This year’s show is headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez for the WWE Championship. Velasquez is a former UFC star who’s making a transition into pro wrestling and famously beat Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight championship in 2010. Velasquez isn’t the only combat superstar on the card, as boxing champion Tyson Fury will wrestle/fight/box Braun Strowman.
Elsewhere on the card, Seth Rollins defends his Universal Championship against “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, which will hopefully be. We also have a 10-man tag team match, with Roman Reigns-led Team Hogan taking on Randy Orton-led Team Flair.
Why you shouldn’t watch
There are two reasons I advise against watching this show. The first is ethical. Crown Jewel is part of a 10-year deal the WWE signed with the Saudi government that stipulates multiple shows each year. This is the second year of that deal and the fourth Saudi show so far. Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer estimates WWE is being paid $40 million per show.
That deal is itself part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 plan: The country’s economy is overly reliant on oil, so Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is looking to diversify. He wants Saudi Arabia’s tourism, education, health and, crucially for WWE, entertainment sectors to grow. The same push has led to the reopening of movie theaters in the country after a 35-year ban.
The problem? The shows are essentially propaganda for the Saudi Arabian government. The first show in the deal, last year’s Greatest Royal Rumble, saw announcers gush over the hospitality of Saudis and videos praising the progressiveness of the government. That was discomforting in early 2018 — and then, weeks before last year’s Crown Jewel show, the Saudi government was found to be behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In fairness to WWE, the company has eased up on the overt propaganda since then — and it’s a sign of progress to (finally) have women on one of the big Saudi shows. But it’s still a harsh pill to swallow.
The second reason is simply that the shows are generally not very good. A large element of wrestling is crowd interest, and it’s clear that only a fraction of the audience at these shows actually watches wrestling. For most part, there’s very little response to the in-ring action, leading to a flat atmosphere. Few of the matches on these shows have been worth watching.
But hey, it’s understandable if Lesnar vs. Velasquez piques your interest. No judgment here. If curiosity gets the best of you, here’s how and when you can watch it.
Crown Jewel 2019 takes place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Thursday, and as such will air at unusual times. The main card starts at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET on Thursday. If you’re a WWE Network subscriber — at $9.99 per month, but free for one month for new subscribers — you can watch it live for free. Otherwise you’ll need to contact your local cable provider and pay a separate fee to watch. The Kickoff Show starts at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET on WWE’s YouTube channel and the WWE Network.
It’s a role reversal for UK viewers, who usually have to stay up late to watch American wrestling shows, as Crown Jewel starts at 6 p.m. (5 p.m. kickoff). Australians have the worst deal: The event starts at 4 a.m. Friday.
- WWE Championship match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Cain Valesquez
- Universal Championship match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
- Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury
- Lacey Evans vs. Natalya
- Team Hogan (Roman Reigns, Rusev, Ricochet, Shorty G and Ali) vs. Team Flair (Randy Orton, Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley, Shinsuke Nakamura and Drew McIntyre)
- 20-man battle royale
- United States Championship match: AJ Styles (c) vs. battle royale winner
- Cesaro vs. Mansoor
- 9-team World Cup tag team turmoil match: The New Day vs. Heavy Machinery vs. The O.C. vs. The Viking Raiders vs. The Revival vs. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode vs. Lucha House Party vs. The B-Team vs. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder
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Originally published Oct. 29.
Updated, Oct. 30: Adds women’s match.