It’s funny how a little time can change things so dramatically.
When WWE first started their regular Saudi shows, the general consensus was one of either disappointment or anger. Several people condemned the shows as being strictly profit-driven and morally bankrupt decisions. Those that did tune in were met with what barely qualified as ‘glorified house shows’, with good matches being few and far between.
Fast forward three years and boy have things changed. I guess after almost two full years of COVID shows with few-to-no fans in arenas, everyone in WWE was starved of crowd noise. That’s probably why Crown Jewel opened with one of the best WWE matches of the year. I’ve heard mostly good things about it so surely it must be worth revisiting, right? Read on to find out.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
A few months earlier at Money in the Bank, Rollins interfered in Edge’s Universal title match because he was upset that Edge got a title shot before him. Rollins also got offended that Edge called him “Edge Lite” and wanted to prove he was better than Edge ever was. In response, Edge and Rollins had a match at SummerSlam that Edge won. Rollins demanded a rematch a few weeks later which he won. With the score tied 1-1, a tie-breaker was needed. But Rollins got greedy and decided to really get under Edge’s skin. Which he did…by invading Edge’s house. No one was home but that lit a fire under Edge and he later attacked Rollins with a vengeance. Then Edge announced the HIAC stipulation for their final match.
This was going to be an interesting challenge. Edge had only been in one HIAC match before and that was against the Undertaker back in 2008, which he lost. Rollins had a better record with two wins and one loss, but his last HIAC match was that wretched, abysmal, infuriatingly-bad match with ‘the Fiend’ in 2019 (but a win’s a win, I guess). So would Rollins’ experience lead him to victory here, or would Edge’s fury allow him to overcome his own shortcomings inside the cell?
This march originally took place on October 21st, 2021. It was rated ****3/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and the full five stars by TJR’s John Canton. That’s a lot of high praise, so let’s see how well it holds up.
Edge rushes Rollins into a corner and lands some punches. He sends Rollins into the opposite corner but Rollins gets his boot up. The two trade strikes for a bit until Edge reverses an Irish whip and lands a stungun onto the top rope. Edge lands a big boot that sends Rollins onto the apron. He goes to capitalize but Rollins hotshots Edge’s arm into the rope. Rollins follows with a springboard knee to the side of Edge’s head. Edge bails to ringside and Rollins charges for a dive. Edge sidesteps so Rollins hits the cell wall head-first. Edge takes advantage by grinding Rollins’ face into the cell.
Edge smashes Rollins into the cell and the steps and then pulls out two steel chairs. He sees Rollins stirring so he drops them and then drops him with an Impaler DDT for a two-count. Edge snaps off a crossbar from a chair and tries to use it for a crossface. Rollins blocks it, takes the bar, and tries to push it into Edge’s eye. Edge fights him off but Rollins hits back with a slingblade for his own two-count. Rollins dropkicks Edge to the floor and throws him into the cell wall.
The crowd chants for Edge as Rollins throws him around, but then as Rollins searches for weapons underneath the ring Edge hits his own basement dropkick. Edge follows with a corner shoulder check but then Rollins kicks him and hits chair-shots to Edge’s back and ribs. Then Rollins teases a con-chair-to, but Edge trips him and locks in a crossface. Rollins crawls a bit and grabs the crossbar from earlier and gouges Edge’s eye. Then Rollins throws a chair at Edge, Edge catches, and Rollins hits a Misawa rolling elbow to the chair, driving it into Edge’ face. Frog splash by Rollins. Edge kicks out.
Rollins grabs a table, which gets a huge pop from the crowd. He sets it up ringside. He goes for a powerbomb but Edge escapes. Rollins ducks a clothesline and lands a Killswitch/Unprettier for a two-count. Rollins goes for a Phoenix Splash but takes too long. Edge gets up and pushes Rollins off the turnbuckle, into the cell wall, and through the table. Damn, what a nasty landing for Rollins.
Edge tosses Rollins back into the ring and covers for a two-count. He brings the steel steps into the ring and teases a DDT. Rollins breaks free and goes for an elbow but Edge ducks and hits an Edge-O-Matic onto the steps. Edge follows with a diving chair-shot to Rollins’ ribs. Edge hurts himself in the process but still manages to cover. One, two, Rollins kicks out.
Edge charges for a spear…and runs into a superkick. Rollins follows with a Pedigree but can’t pin right away. Rollins’ momentary delay allows Edge to survive another pin attempt. Rollins goes for the Stomp. Edge counters with a bucklebomb and a successful spear. One, two, Rollins kicks out again.
Edge pulls out another table and a ladder, and then smashes the ladder into Rollins’ face. He sets the ladder up in a corner and tries whipping Rollins into it. But Rollins reverses it and Edge hits the ladder instead. Rollins capitalizes by smashing the ladder into Edge some more and then sets up the table. He places Edge on the table and climbs the ladder for a dive. But Edge cuts him off and then the two of them brawl atop the ladder. Edge fights back and teases a superplex. But Rollins fights out and hits a diving sunset flip powerbomb. Great move. one…two…and – no, Edge kicks out.
Rollins hits three superkicks but doesn’t pin, even a blank expression appears on Edge’s face. Instead, he wraps a steel chain around his boot. Then Rollins hits another superkick, but he still doesn’t end it. He goes for a stomp with a chair under Edge’s head. Rollins charges…but Edge gets the chair up and drives it into Rollins’ groin. Edge follows with some superkicks of his own. he pulls the chain off Rollins’ boot and starts strangling him with it. Rollins reaches for a wrench but Edge steals it and locks in a crossface with the wrench in Rollins’ mouth. But then he lets go because he wants one more piece of revenge. Edge hits a Stomp onto a steel chair. One, two, and three! Edge beats Rollins!
Winner after 27:38: Edge
I’m not impressed. That was alright as far as HIAC matches go, though it’s a far cry from some of the better cell matches from prior decades. It was competitive, dramatic, and had some nice surprises. In typical HIAC fashion, it came across as a brutal demolition derby. Both wrestlers made the most out of the stipulation, especially with Rollins getting thrown into the cell wall and then falling through a table. The Cell stipulation was justified here and served a storyline purpose instead of just being brought out as a marketing ploy. This was the right way for these two to end their feud: with tons of violence and a decisive finality.
And yet, I think that much of the praise for this match is a bit misplaced.
Even with some fun action and good near-falls, there was something a bit off with this match. It didn’t come across as a proper HIAC match; like Edge’s other HIAC match from 2008, this felt more like a TLC match contained within a cage. The sense of intensity and personal vengeance seemed to come and go throughout the match. There wasn’t this sense of “you’re locked in here with me and you’re f**ked” but instead it was more like “we’re locked in here together so let’s do stuff”. Both Rollins and Edge did a good job of selling the idea that this was a personal war but that job was only good and not great. Their own storytelling was hampered by a need to bring out weapons that, to be honest, didn’t belong in this match.
If we look at this HIAC match and compare it to the standard-bearer, Michaels-Undertaker from Bad Blood 1997, we can see that this one tries to live up to that one’s expectations but falls short. That one set the standard for seeing a conniving and underhanded jackass get the punishment he deserves. Here, Edge played the role of Undertaker and Rollins played Michaels. And while this match was a bit more competitive, the way this match’s action was laid out made it less compelling and emotionally satisfying. The story and lead-up to this match made it seem like Edge was out to kill Rollins, but where was that intensity and emotion during this match? The effort was there but the payoff just didn’t reach the same high notes expected in this grand finale intended to put the feud to an end.
Another thing that didn’t make sense was Rollins’ gloating as he had the match won. Once he wrapped that steel chain around his foot, he should’ve ended the match right then and there. But he didn’t. He replaced his urgency with stalling and trash-talking. That made it obvious that he was just waiting for Edge to recover enough to counter the stomp. The same thing also happened earlier after Rollins’ chair-shot volley; he just stood around instead of covering or capitalizing on the immense damage he just inflicted. It might seem like a small detail, but that sort of stuff can make or break a match. It was another case of weak match structuring masked by trying to elicit cheap heat before a surprise finish out of nowhere. It was a bit disappointing for Edge to come back like Superman after all of that punishment in almost Super-Cena-like fashion.
Final Rating: ****
This was a good HIAC match but nothing more. Maybe I’m nitpicking here but I’m getting a bit tired of seeing HIAC matches serving as enclosed hardcore matches. It’s cheap and lazy storytelling when a stipulation as allegedly big as Hell in a Cell is shoved aside in favor of introducing tables, ladders, chairs, and other weapons. The first Cell match (which was also the best by a country mile) was sold on the idea of two wrestlers that hated each other being locked inside a structure without the possibility of escape or outside interference. That match, which serves as the standard for all HIAC matches, was all about two wrestlers settling their personal score. This one told a similar story but weakened that story in favor of gratuitous fanservice in the form of random weapons. Edge and Rollins sacrificed intensity and deep storytelling in favor of spots and cheap pops which is why this match isn’t as good as I thought it’d be.
I think that any wrestler wanting to compete in a HIAC match in the future needs to re-evaluate what they do once inside the cell. This match type needs to be about settling scores and emphasizing what sort of personal antagonism led both sides into such a horrific place. It shouldn’t be about getting cheap pops by pulling out weapons from under the ring.
But since that’s what most modern HIAC matches have become, then let me ask a question: aside from having four walls around them and a roof above them, what distinguishes modern Cell matches like this one from Hardcore matches, Street Fights, or Extreme Rules/No Holds Barred matches?