Crown Jewel was a unique event that arguably drew more media attention and carried more historic implications than any other WWE show this year. Yes, there were the parts WWE planned for—the return of Shawn Michaels after eight and a half years out of the ring for a dream tag team match, two world title matches, and a one night tournament featuring a mix of top talents and part time legends. But there was a lot WWE hadn’t counted on when it first started planning this show.
First, there were strained relations internationally, which placed WWE under a white hot spotlight in deciding whether or not to go through with the show, or move it to a different venue. As it would turn out, this led to no lesser names than John Cena and Daniel Bryan pulling out of the event. Cena was considered a favorite to win the World Cup tournament, and may have caused the bracket to be shuffled when he withdrew. Meanwhile. Bryan was to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship in a dream match. We instead got that bout on SmackDown and a good, but repetitive clash between Styles and Samoa Joe at Crown Jewel.
Cena and Bryan weren’t the only top stars to miss the show, though. The entire WWE landscape got rocked when Roman Reigns revealed he was battling leukemia and needed to forfeit the Universal Championship and step away from the ring. So it was that we went from a presumably epic title defense against Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman in which Reigns was favored to retain, to a scenario in which Strowman would win his first world title, or Lesnar would resume an unpopular part-time reign.
Throw in Renee Young doing commentary and Hulk Hogan playing host, and although Crown Jewel wound up a less than great show on the whole, it was nonetheless an unforgettable display for WWE. This article takes a look at the show’s two highest profile matches—Strowman vs. Lesnar, and DX vs. The Brothers of Destruction, to discuss highlights most fans may have missed.
20 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: Not Triple H’s First Tag Team Main Event With The Brothers
One of the big selling points of DX vs. The Brothers of Destruction was that it was the first time these two iconic duos were squaring off in a tag team match. Triple H himself is no stranger to tag team matches opposite The Undertaker and Kane, though, which may be little surprise given he rose to main event status during the Brothers’ heyday as a team in the Attitude Era and immediate aftermath.
As half of the Two Man Power Trip with Steve Austin, Hunter headlined against the Brothers of Destruction at Backlash 2001.
Additionally, Triple H was a part of a six-man team with Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon when he defended his WWE Championship against the imposing trio of The Undertaker, Kane, and The Rock at King of the Ring 2000.
19 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: Equal Introductions
The tradition of professional wrestling sees challengers come to the ring and be announced first, champion second. A number of wrestlers and pundits have discussed the psychology of the challenger having to wait on the champion to lend the latter a psychological edge, besides saving the bigger star for the last introduction. This is a tradition WWE has honored by default, though it has veered off occasionally, particularly when the challenger is the bigger star.
In the case of this match, WWE seemed to split the difference. Brock Lesnar came out to his music first, but when it came time for the ring announcer’s introductions, Strowman got introduced first. This sequence of events was fitting for a circumstance in which neither man walked in as champion, and thus got essentially equal treatment.
18 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: WWE Saved The Biggest Draws
While all four men involved in the main event were surefire Hall of Fame talents (and Shawn Michaels is already in), it wouldn’t be fair to say that all four were equal draws in this match. Kane is notch below the other three in terms of legendary status, second fiddle to The Undertaker who inspired his character and had been on the WWE decade for nearly a decade before the Kane character debuted. Meanwhile, though Triple H is a special attraction who doesn’t wrestle full time anymore, there’s little question that his partner HBK was the bigger attraction for returning to the ring after over eight years.
Shrewdly, WWE held off to pop the crowd with Michaels and The Phenom on the apron while Triple H and Kane started the match. Accordingly, there was a big response when the biggest draws each tagged in a few minutes into the match.
17 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: Dodging Lesnar’s Weight
WWE has been hit or miss in following the tradition of announcing wrestlers’ weights before matches.
In the case of this match, the announcer did give us Braun Strowman’s billed weight of 385 pounds.
It would've been interesting to hear what would traditionally follow. Lesnar has typically been billed at 295 pounds, but has been looking noticeably slimmer of late, trying to cut weight before his next fight.
However, WWE was a step ahead of this intrigue, as Paul Heyman grabbed the mic. Rather than coming across as a contrivance, this actually fit a pattern of Heyman insisting on introducing the Beast Incarnate, and thus felt like a very subtle troll of fans awaiting his weight announcement, while it could go unnoticed by most other fans.
16 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: The Undertaker’s Offense Pays Homage To The Hulkster
Hulk Hogan opened Crown Jewel by addressing the crowd. While there are stars more synonymous with The Undertaker than Hogan (three of whom were involved in the main event), The Hulkster was important to The Deadman’s career as the first one to drop a world title to him back in 1991. Hogan also lost the title to him again in 2002.
The Undertaker nailed a signature sequence when he hit snake eyes into a big boot into a leg drop in the main event. While it’s hardly his first time executing the moves in succession, he notably gets cut off midway through them a lot in recent years. To hit the big boot and the leg drop successfully for a near fall felt like homage to Hogan’s signature two-move combination finisher.
15 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: Brock Doesn’t Care How He Wins
Throughout Brock Lesnar’s WWE run, since he returned in 2012, WWE has emphasized his legitimacy as an athlete, and it’s particularly a part of his mystique that he seems a bit above traditional wrestling machinations. He isn’t necessarily invested in personal feuds or making historic moments. He’s there to win fights and collect paychecks.
Fittingly, Lesnar mostly no-sold it when Baron Corbin hit Braun Strowman with the Universal Championship belt to give The Beast the early advantage. He didn’t look like he was in cahoots with Corbin, nor did he look surprised. Instead, he pounced upon an advantage, immediately hitting the F5. Later, he threw Strowman to the outside with another F5, presumably in an effort to collect a count out victory. Whereas some WWE Superstars wouldn’t want to win a championship that way, it fit Lesnar’s character that he just wanted to win by whatever means necessary.
14 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: Mistakes Outside The Ring
While WWE was surely going for a sense of chaos as DX and The Brothers of Destruction brawled outside the ring, there was a point when things clearly went off the rails and went badly. First, Triple H sent Kane into the ring steps off an Irish whip in a slow, low impact, awkward bump that suggested something hadn’t gone as planned.
Things went from bad to worse moments later when careful listeners could audibly hear The Game call to The Undertaker “Go this way!” as he grabbed a hold of him.
From there, Triple H seemed to try to Irish whip The Deadman into the barricade, and perhaps expect him to reverse the move. The result was a tremendously awkward sequence of the two seeming to hold hands as they both ran into the barricade.
13 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: A Rare Brock Win Without Suplexes
Suplexes have been a part of Brock Lesnar’s offensive repertoire for some time. He called attention to them, though, in nailing suplex after suplex in beating John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2014. He further cemented the move as an integral part of his character when he taunted Roman Reigns, by saying, “Suplex City, b---!” in their WrestleMania 31 bout.
While some criticize Lesnar for how repetitive his offense can be, the simple, punishing style that emphasizes suplexes is quite believable and a demonstration of Lesnar’s quickness and power. Interestingly, this was a very rare instance when Lesnar didn’t hit a single suplex, but nonetheless won the match.
12 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: Michael Cole Simultaneously Covers For Kane And Puts Over HBK
Michael Cole is one of WWE’s most experienced and trusted voices from the broadcast booth and he demonstrated his value keenly in the late stages of the main event. Shawn Michaels found himself perched on the top turnbuckle while Kane came after him.
HBK tried to knock The Big Red Machine back in to the ring, until his mask and wig actually fell off.
It was an awkward moment, particularly because Kane’s wig is an awkward fit that he presumably uses to look more like he did when he debuted, and it was strange to suddenly see him without hair. Cole was on it form the play by play position, though, immediately covering for the awkward mistake by asserting that Michaels hit him so hard it knocked his mask off.
11 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: Lesnar Was The Only Universal Champion In Attendance
The way in which the ring announcer introduced World Cup competitors, including their biggest accomplishments and championships won, drew attention to just how many wrestlers have won world titles at one time or another in their WWE runs.
The Universal Championship, however, has a shorter list of former champions attached to it. Some of that has to do with the title only being introduced in 2016. Still, it is also treated as an elite title, highlighted by Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar having long reigns with the title that ate up nearly two years of the title’s existence on their own. Interestingly, without Owens, Finn Balor, Goldberg, or Roman Reigns on the card, Lesnar was the only Universal Champion in attendance when this match started, and he left the show the same way.
10 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: It’s Renee Young Who Notices HBK’s Smile
In what may have been the most memorable spot of the main event match, Shawn Michaels delivered a standing moonsault off the top rope onto both brothers outside the ring. It was a risky spot, particularly for a guy who hadn’t been in the ring for eight and a half years, and while HBK didn’t nail it quite perfectly, the height and rotation he got on the moonsault were quite impressive.
After he hit the move, Michaels, prone on the outside, visibly smiled. Renee Young pointed it out. Young herself drew attention for being in the unusual spot of being a female color commentator at that venue, and demonstrated her unique value on commentary in this spot. Traditionally, women are recognized as more in touch with their feelings than men, and it was fitting she would be the one to notice Michaels’s emotional display in this moment.
9 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: WWE Comes Full Circle To A Year Before
When Brock Lesnar won the Universal Championship and AJ Styles retained the WWE Championship, WWE interestingly returned to where it was about a year ago. A match between the two champions was one of the big draws for Survivor Series 2017, and WWE announced the rematch for this year’s Survivor Series at Crown Jewel.
This match could still change, just as a number of champion vs. champion matches did on the road to last year’s Survivor Series.
It is an interesting pairing to come back to, though, especially when one considers the similarities to how we got here. Just as Lesnar regained his title at Crown Jewel, a year earlier Styles regained the WWE Championship abroad when he pinned Jinder Mahal in London.
8 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: Taker's Submission Isn't So Unstoppable Anymore
In the late stages of the main event, The Undertaker locked his signature Hell’s Gate gogoplata onto Triple H—the very move he had used to defeat The Game at WrestleMania 27. That this hold wouldn’t pick up the win on this occasion was little surprise, but the way the hold was broken was a bit odd.
Shawn Michaels hit Kane with Sweet Chin Music, and the big man bumped backwards only to land on The Undertaker. With the right delivery, a 300 pound man falling on top of another could realistically break a hold. However, in this case, Kane fell slowly—almost carefully—and the gentle fall didn’t look convincing at all in breaking up the hold.
7 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: The Greatest Royal Rumble’s Biggest Winners Collide
Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar have a fairly long history between them at this point, having had no fewer than four Universal Championship matches against one another over the last year and a half. As an additional bit of intrigue for this collision, these two had also emerged as the winners of the two biggest matches at WWE’s first show from this venue back in April.
At the Greatest Royal Rumble, Strowman won the match the show was named after—a 50 man riff on the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, Lesnar retained the Universal Championship at that event, beating Roman Reigns on a technicality in their steel cage match.
6 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: Kane Follows His Brother’s Lead
As the tag team match broke down into a brawl, all four competitors found themselves down on the mat. It fit the nostalgic vibe of the match for Kane and The Undertaker to execute a simple signature spot in simultaneously sitting up to continue the battle.
The synchronicity wasn’t quite on point in this case, though.
Kane’s head was visibly turned toward The Undertaker, and it appeared as though he may have been talking to his partner. In any event. The Undertaker sat up, and Kane seemed to be waiting on him to follow his cue. The visual was still fine for the purposes of a nostalgic pop, but not quite as impressive as when the two were younger and executed it more seamlessly.
5 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: A Call Back To Lesnar Vs. Orton
In the late stages of Brock Lesnar’s match with Braun Strowman, the Beast Incarnate took off his gloves. There’s little denying that the sight of Lesnar stripped down to bare fists is an intimidating sight. All the more so, it reminded some fans of Lesnar’s SummerSlam 2016 main event match against Randy Orton.
That match saw Lesnar take off the gloves and go on to ground and pound Orton until he was a bloody mess and the referee called for a stoppage. It was a fitting shift for Lesnar in this match with Strowman, too, as four F5s couldn't put away Strowman, and so it looked like he might go ahead with a more straight forward hitting offense to finish the match. Instead, Lesnar ended up going for another F5, though, which did get the job done.
4 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken
As a tag team, Shawn Michaels and Triple H have won a lot of matches, and via variety of finishing sequences and moves. When it came to their battle with The Undertaker and Kane, though, it seemed as though they abided by the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Michaels hit a superkick on Kane that turned him right around into a Pedigree for the pin. It’s the very same two-move sequence that scored The Game his win over The Undertaker at Super Show-Down (and that came within a breath of helping Hunter end the streak at WrestleMania XXVIII).
To be fair, both Sweet Chin Music and the Pedigree are over as finishers, and thus believable as a combination that would keep down a monster. Still, it felt like a bit of a retread for the men involved.
3 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: This Isn’t MMA
While Brock Lesnar removing his gloves, on one level, may have looked like he was taking on a more serious, violent edge, further removed from the traps of professional wrestling, it actually may have represented the opposite. Lesnar wore his gloves in UFC, and only carried them over into wrestling after his first successful UFC run, in part to remind fans of his real life credentials.
In removing the gloves, Lesnar may have subtly suggested that, while he is expected back in the Octagon in 2019, he is still a pro wrestler, too.
With the gloves off, he nailed one last F5—very much a wrestling, not an MMA move—to finish off Braun Strowman.
2 DX Vs. Taker/Kane: The Kliq Hand Sign
The Kliq—the real life backstage friend group that included Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and, of course, Shawn Michaels and Triple H—is pretty famous among hardcore wrestling fans for their combination of backstage politicking and hugely influential success during the mid-to-late 1990s.
After winning their main event tag team match, Michaels and Hunter not only posed by making DX’s signature X formations with their arms and hands, but also by flashing the “wolf head” hand sign synonymous with The Kliq. It’s a gesture coopted by the New World Order and most recently by The Bullet Club, but speaks volumes to long time fans in paying homage to not only HBK and Triple H as an on air tag team, but their real life kinship.
1 Strowman Vs. Lesnar: Strowman And Samoa Joe Are On Similar Journeys
In the summer of 2017, WWE introduced Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman as a pair of intriguing challengers to Brock Lesnar. Rather than the heroes Lesnar had run through, Joe was a bruiser with MMA-informed offense who seemingly could beat Lesnar at his own game. Not altogether different, Strowman was that rare challenger who was bigger than Lesnar, and often got the better of the Beast in brawls.
Joe and Strowman now find themselves in similar positions again. Both men came up short in challenging Lesnar. In more recent months, Joe hasn't been able to take the WWE Championship off AJ Styles, while Strowman has been unsuccessful in challenging both Lesnar and Roman Reigns for the Universal title.
There’s more hope for Strowman than Joe at this point, as he has at least been protected in his losses. Both men unsuccessfully going for world titles at Crown Jewel underscored their similar position, though.