wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Will Crown Jewel Be An Exciting Event?

October 30, 2019 | Posted by Jake Chambers
WWE Crown Jewel Brock Lesnar Cain Velasquez

Welcome back to the 411 Fact or Fiction – Wrestling Edition, I’m your host, Jake Chambers. Every week, Fact or Fiction poses statements on pro-wrestling history, culture and current events and then challenges writers to explain why they believe each statement is totally factual or completely fiction. No middle ground will be tolerated!

This week’s guest is: Jake St-Pierre. Known around these parts as a discerning wrestling fan’s reviewer (at least to me), Jake has been on a bit of a hiatus lately from his regular run of detailed and reasoned reviews of PWG or Progress shows. However, this year he did complete a fascinating column series that re-evaluated every match Dave Meltzer ever gave a 5-star review.

If you follow Jake on Twitter, you will see that he’s a die hard UFC fan and has a strong knowledge of the history of MMA. So I thought he’d be the perfect voice to tap for this preview article for the upcoming WWE Crown Jewel event. Pay attention now as the man drops some science.

Statement #1: The WWE has done a good job of making their fights look realistic.

Jake St-Pierre: FICTION – I mean, it’s wrestling.  And WWE at that.  I’m not really one to die on the hill of realism in pro wrestling as it is, but if I was, the last place I would look would be WWE.  That’s not even to insult the company, either.  It’s just not what their product is supposed to be and I accepted that the first day I found out wrestling wasn’t on the level.  This is a world with frighteningly easy access to all sorts of combat sports, and the first 10 seconds of even the most understated UFC fight will give you the necessary info to make your conclusion.  It’s been decades and decades – in North America at least – since pro wrestling has felt the need to keep up the facade of kayfabe or authenticity… and even then, let’s not pretend 1970’s WWF looked like a fight.  If Vince Russo could sniff it out, then most people should be able to as well.  So no, WWE hasn’t done a good job at feeling legitimate, but they have never ever set out to do that job in the first place, even if their own employees die.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – As Jake said, it’s the WWE, so their style has to play to the back of the arena as much as the front row, so they don’t need intricate wrist-lock escapes to please the crowd. On the other hand, I have been always surprised that since the UFC entered the respectable mainstream a little over a decade ago, and little kids now train in jujitsu, that WWE still uses fake unprotected punches that do no damage, rear-naked chokes as “wear-down holds” and armbars for sustained pain submission instead of instant tap out for fear of breakage. Plus, no one is kicking out at 3, that’s the most unrealistic looking thing they do, but maybe that’s for another day…

Statement #2: With so many fans and critics using their own standards to give star ratings to matches, a 5-star (or above) match from anyone, including Dave Meltzer, is now meaningless.

Jake St-Pierre: FICTION – Meaningless is a very cynical way to look at it.  There’s not a single art form in the world that doesn’t strive under fan scrutiny and opinion, especially from people you trust.  Now, that trust could be built under a friendship, similar tastes, or in the case of the aforementioned Dave Meltzer, years and years of context and knowledge.  Using those recommendations and opinions to kickstart the journey into forming your own is natural.  I do it constantly.  I have an entire series of columns where I look at past five star ratings that Meltzer has attributed to matches, just to see where my tastes lay on that spectrum.  The idea that you have to agree with it is certainly preposterous, because that’s inherently against the concept of subjectivity.  I thought a few of those matches were horrendous.  But saying those ratings were meaningless because I didn’t think the same way, or there were other people watching the matches too?  That sort of pretentiousness makes someone a lot harder to take seriously.  There’s nothing wrong with more perspective.  That’s what makes talking about wrestling such a joy for writers like us.

Jake Chambers: FACT – I think all wrestling fans who give star ratings to matches should have a legal limit on the number of 5-star matches they can award in their lifetime. If they hit the limit and want to give another 5-star rating, fine, but you’ve just got to downgrade one of your previously rated matches. From critics to pundits, bloggers, social media accounts and article commenters, I just don’t know the difference anymore between a match that one source gives 4 1/2 or another gives 4 3/4. While I agree with Jake about the abstract concept of individuality and the fun that must come from being a star rater, but as a reader of published work I would just like some kind of general criteria before there’s more stars for wrestling matches than there are in the freaking sky.

Statement #3: If you were offered $50,000 US, first class accommodations and flights to travel to the next WWE Saudi Arabian PPV event to be part of an “authentic Western audience”, you would take it.

Jake St-Pierre: FICTION – The money certainly makes this a harder question than it seems (and I really like money), but I’d still have to give out a no here.  And I’m not exactly sure all of my aversions to this are moral either.  First, I hate being on a plane.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  The anxiety of being in a tube with a bunch of strangers is something you could make a horror movie off of and truly get me to balk.  That’s just me being an annoying goober, but I was asked to explain, so here you go.  Second, I have no desire to watch a WWE product live.  If I wanted to sit around for several hours watching something I hate, I’d go see my daughter’s dance recital.  The choreography is more unpredictable.  Third, I have no desire to support WWE’s ridiculous Saudi love tale by patronizing it.  And my job isn’t on the line by refusing to go, so I’m in the position of being able to say “sod off” without making my senile boss feel slighted.  I want this WWE/Saudi BS to stop, and if I have to take the flight there, I better get at least six figures and a company that isn’t horrible.  Give me $250,000 and a PWG show, and I might forget my values.

Jake Chambers: FACT – This is 2019 and so there’s no doubt I’d put on an Austin 3:16 shirt, do the New Age Outlaws call and response bit, and chant “You Suck” for Kurt Angle’s theme as he wrestles like Ric Flair or whoever. I get it, it’s gross. I’ll just wait for the revolution to start, I’m not throwing the first Molotov cocktail.

Fact or Fiction – Quick Hits
– one sentence is all you need for this FoF lightning round!

1. Dennis Rodman wasn’t that bad of a wrestler in his few WCW matches.

Jake St-Pierre: FACT -FACT: He’s Dennis Rodman; all he needed to do was show up (ha) at that point and they were golden.

Jake Chambers: FACT – People popped for his Japanese arm-drag at the time as much as Twitter gushed over Velasquez’s hurricanrana. 

2. You could defeat at least one WWE superstar in a shoot fight.

Jake St-Pierre: FICTION – Perhaps if I run away from Cain Velasquez long enough, he’ll blow out a knee?

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Maybe at best Drake Maverick or Jeff Hardy, but seems unlikely.

3. Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather was the best celebrity vs. pro-wrestler match of all time.

Jake St-Pierre: FACT – Off the top of my head, I can’t name a better example, although the early Lawler vs. Kaufman stuff was quite great.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Strowman is no Big Show and Fury is no Mayweather, so I wouldn’t expect this kind of magic at Crown Jewel.

4. Compared to AEW, NXT is kind of boring.

Jake St-Pierre: FACT – I don’t even think NXT is all that boring, but Dynamite has been a phenomenal television show and has no real contender for that crown in my eyes.

Jake Chambers: FACT – I thought going in that being at Full Sail every week would be NXT’s advantage over AEW, but instead it’s making the show look a bit dull.


Statement #4: You believe that a good wrestler should always beat a good boxer, and therefore Braun Strowman MUST defeat Tyson Fury at Crown Jewel.

Jake Chambers: FACT – While not Chad Gable, Strowman has some amateur wrestling in his background, so I think he should be able to at least symbolically beat a boxer, even a heavyweight “champion” like Tyson Fury. If we think about the Randy Couture vs. James Toney UFC fight in 2010, a wrestler was able to perform one basic move that helped him easily defeat the boxer. The WWE loves to let celebrities come in and walk over their stars, but it’s silly to think in a catch-as-catch-can match that Fury would have any chance against Strowman. We know it’s fake, but it’s gonna look a lot extra fake if Braun loses.

Jake St-Pierre: FICTION – It’s WWE in Saudi Arabia.  It’s not based in logic, goodwill, or entertainment.  If I were looking at this cynically – which I am, if we’re being honest here – I don’t see WWE booking Tyson Fury to lose given how wide that checkbook is being opened for him.  And I don’t have anything against the guy.  I actually love Tyson Fury and wish he’d have been given a better chance to succeed at the WWE level, rather than this random hackneyed goofery he’s had to perform under.  I don’t see the guy losing unless it’s a screwy finish.  He’s still well in the prime of his career and a bigger star than he’s ever been, and with the ever-elusive Deontay Wilder rematch looming, I just don’t see what he would gain from doing the job.  That might be where the checkbook becomes an asset again however, because it’s not exactly a secret that WWE has the cash to spare.  But based on their complete incompetence at every level of basic wrestling logic, I don’t predict a Braun Strowman victory, because that would actually do one of their babyfaces a bit of good.  And I suspect they’ll think that Braun just being in the same ring as Tyson Fury is a rub enough, even though Fury is nowhere near the star in the US that this company thinks he is and certainly not the star to their dissipating audience that Braun Strowman is.  This ain’t Tyson vs. Austin and WWE doesn’t pay its 30+ writers for Boxer vs. Wrestler psychology, even if the right thing to do is as clear as day here.

Statement #5: The pro-wrestling match between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez at Crown Jewel will be more exciting and entertaining than their UFC Heavyweight Championship match in 2010.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The 2010 match was definitely exciting, most Brock UFC matches were even if they turned into duds (poor Heath Herring), just because an aura of excitement seems to always follow Brock around. At that time though, Brock felt beatable from that diverticulitis, and Cain had been so vicious leading up the match, that once it started it seemed clear Brock was going lose and it was just cool seeing it happen. This Crown Jewel match has the advantage of a healthy Brock and a much less vicious Cain evening things out, and even a Cain victory not being that crazy. While I don’t think doing a few passable moves at an AAA show in America makes one deserve to be a WWE main event-er, that doesn’t mean that a well-planned out and rehearsed match between the two can’t be highly entertaining.

Jake St-Pierre: FICTION -If you’re an MMA fan, not a chance.  There isn’t even a comparison, from the build to the match to the stakes.  It’s night and day.  But it all depends on taste.  I’m just giving you my opinion as a man who’s largely been more into MMA than pro wrestling for the past several years, but since pro wrestling fans are likely reading this instead, I can totally get on board with finding their wrestling match more exciting purely based on format.  Different strokes and all.  But I have a bit of a different perspective.

For those who weren’t around in the MMA world in October 2010, the Cain Velasquez dethronement of Brock Lesnar was enormous.  It was far, far bigger an atmosphere than even the most advantageously-placed wrestling match between the two could be.  Cain Velasquez had looked unbeatable in the UFC up to that point, absolutely thrashing Minotauro Nogueira (one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history, although a bit beaten down by this point), Ben Rothwell (one of the worst beatings I’ve ever seen) and Cheick Kongo to earn the shot.  The guy had to debut in the UFC when he was 2-0 because he couldn’t get fights on the regional circuit, and I’m struggling to think of a UFC heavyweight (barring Lesnar, who was hyped because of much different reasons) who was as much of a monster coming out of the gym than Cain Velasquez.

On the other side, Brock Lesnar in 2010 was a much bigger star than the Brock Lesnar of 2019.  He headlined the biggest UFC PPV of all time to that point to pummel Frank Mir.  He’d overcome diverticulitis the first time and withstood the beating of a lifetime against Shane Carwin three months earlier.  He was UFC’s biggest superstar and brought an aura to his fights that only Conor McGregor has been able to duplicate since, in terms of significance.  So even if this fight was not outrageous and exciting, the circumstances behind it made it much more of an event than their WWE match has a chance to be.  It only helps their fight’s case that it was an incredible spectacle.

For 4 minutes, it’s hard to find a more innately exciting match-up than this.  Cain Velasquez withstood the absurd early Brock Lesnar storm and beat him to a pulp in a way that few UFC heavyweights have ever been able to display against similarly elite/gargantuan foes.  His wrestling – both defensively and offensively – was tailor-made for MMA and it was clear after a minute or so that Brock simply didn’t have the pacing or the wherewithal to give Cain a problem.  Cain Velasquez beat Brock Lesnar’s ass in such a manner that the stoppage got one of the biggest crowd pops in UFC history, and I’m willing to bet you that the finish of their Saudi Arabia match has no such aspirations.

For me, there simply can’t be another answer.  The UFC fight was an undeniable piece of history, the end and subsequent beginning of an age in heavyweight mixed martial arts.  WWE tried to shoehorn this match into existence without the years of build and context that went into the fight.  Brock Lesnar was the scourge of purist MMA fans who thought he’d lucked into his title run.  He was hated from the moment he stepped into the cage.  Cain Velasquez was the answer to those prayers, and had the added mystique of becoming the first Mexican UFC champion ever.  The stakes were so much more credible and interesting.  There were layers to their UFC fight that WWE simply is not smart enough to understand.  There have been few fights in the MMA’s short history to be such an event, and WWE is right in a sense to try and capitalize off of it, even if they did so poorly.  The Crown Jewel match may surprise some in terms of excitement for sure, but it won’t feel a fraction as special, significant, or high octane as its UFC 121 origin. 

Wow, thanks to Jake for this amazing oral history of one of the greatest nights in UFC history, along with all of his great responses this week. Let this guy know in the comments sections how much you want to see more of his work here at 411, maybe an MMA column??

Until then, you can get all of Jake St-Pierre’s takes on live UFC events and the pro-wrestling happens over at his Twitter account.

And I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Wrestling Fact or Fiction. While you’re over at Twitter go ahead and follow me too and join a tiny elite of bots and defunct accounts that are treated to random and “hilarious” New Japan tweets. I’m going to be scouting for new participants who want to step up and take the FoF challenge, so that will be the best way to get in touch!