By Chuck Carroll
(CBS New York/CBS Local) — The WWE Super ShowDown card is being marketed as one that’s as good if not better than WrestleMania. And on paper it is.
There’s Triple H versus Randy Orton, Roman Reigns versus Shane McMahon and a 50-man battle royal to whet your appetite. Then there’s Seth Rollins defending the Universal Championship against Baron Corbin, with the threat of Brock Lesnar looming large and Kofi Kingston continuing his improbable run as WWE Champion, as he defends the title against Dolph Ziggler.
But, as was the case with the previous shows in Saudi Arabia, the buildup for many of the matches, including a historic main event, has left something to be desired. In the case of the first ever clash of a pair of pro wrestling legends in The Undertaker and Goldberg, a lack of storyline has sapped much of the potential buzz. The biggest question hanging out there is why they’re wrestling in the first place. All we had were a couple of quick promos at the end of RAW and SmackDown this week that offered little explanation. The only answer to surmise is the truth: both men are being paid an exorbitant sum of money for their services.
The other truth facing WWE is the continued controversy surrounding their lucrative partnership with the Saudi Arabian government, which is paying handsomely for the privilege of hosting shows there on a semi-annual basis for the next decade. A sizable amount of public backlash against the wrestling giant has subsided, as eight months have elapsed since Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Still, other social injustices remain very much at the forefront of the public eye, including the continued oppression of women’s rights.
A number of talents have refused to participate in the show and are staying home or have been ordered directly to do so. Among those to inform WWE officials that they will not be going are Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens, while Sami Zayn and Aleister Black were reportedly left off the card intentionally. In Zayn’s case, his heritage is problematic, while Black has tattoos that could be considered offensive in Saudi culture.
Interestingly, Natalya has confirmed she is making the trip to Jeddah, while Alexa Bliss is also reportedly headed there, despite the taboo surrounding women’s wrestling in the country. It’s unclear whether they will wrestle on the show, but a match would in fact be a history-making moment for WWE and the entire country. The company has stated that they hope their presence in Saudi Arabia will help usher in a less oppressive era for women, and this bout undoubtedly would be a major step in that direction. Announcer Renee Young is also set to return to Jeddah.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind with Super ShowDown. Even with the turmoil unfolding outside the ring and matches that are void of storyline, WWE fans can still appreciate the show for what it is — entertainment. The card is packed with major names and has a pair of icons ready to do battle in the main event. Going down the card match by match, you get the sense that something big could happen here. Lesnar, anyone?
The Undertaker vs. Goldberg
It’s hard to believe that this will be the first time the two legends have clashed in the ring. This one should have happened 15 years ago, but WWE is gambling that fans are taking a better-late-than-never approach with the dream matchup. The edge in this one goes to The Undertaker, given the fact he still has some matches left in him and hasn’t officially hung up his boots just yet. Although Goldberg left the door open for a return following his loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33, the fact that he hasn’t wrestled a match since and was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame last year led us to believe that his days of spears and Jackhammers were behind him. If this is his real swan song, he should do the customary honors and let his career rest in peace. Pick: The Undertaker
Triple H vs. Randy Orton
For the second time in three months Triple H will be squaring off against one of his former brothers in Evolution. The Game did beat Bautista at WrestleMania in April, but I wouldn’t expect the same to happen here. Randy Orton remains a mainstay on the SmackDown roster and is in need of a boost while the show continues its efforts to shore up slumping ratings. It wouldn’t make much sense to put Triple H over when the bulk of his time on camera is spent in an executive capacity. Pick: Randy Orton
Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin
The real question here is whether Brock Lesnar will actually be cashing in his Money In The Bank contract on Seth Rollins. WWE has teased and even promised that he would do so for the past three episodes of RAW, but the only thing The Beast did with the briefcase was turn it into a modified boombox and use it to assault Rollins. And you can’t knock the entertainment value on that. Lesnar’s presence in recent weeks is partly responsible for an uptick in ratings, proving that whether you like it or not fans will tune in to see him. So, it is plausible to think he will walk away once again as the Universal Champion for the third time. The bottom line here is that Baron Corbin will not be winning the Universal Championship. Pick: Seth Rollins (but Brock Lesnar will cash in)
Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler
If there is going to be a major title change on this show, this isn’t the match to do it. Kofi Kingston’s dream run as WWE Champion should continue on a little while longer. Taking the belt off of a fan-favorite to put it on Dolph Ziggler following a lengthy absence would be a risky proposition for the company while it remains on thin ice with viewers. Plus, there are more interesting stories to tell with Kofi. Many are still waiting on one of members of The New Day to turn on him. Pick: Kofi Kingston
“The Demon” Finn Bálor vs. Andrade
Whenever Finn Bálor morphs into his demon persona it’s a good bet that he’ll be coming out on top. This is no exception. That’s not to say Andrade will come out looking lame in this one, as this match has the makings of sneaky contender to steal the show. It’s in WWE’s best interest to keep Andrade looking strong, as their new television network partner has already pressured the company to keep the budding Superstar on the SmackDown brand. And since they’re stroking a billion-dollar check, it’s a wise move to keep them happy. Contentment is still attainable with an Andrade victory, however. So look for “The Demon” to get the win in what should be a solid showdown. Pick: Finn Bálor
Roman Reigns vs. Shane McMahon
The card lists this as a one-on-one match, but it’s really anything but. The deck is stacked against Roman Reigns here, with Drew McIntyre likely to interfere at some point given their rematch at WWE Stomping Grounds in a couple weeks. Second, this is Shane-O-Mac’s first time back in Saudi Arabia since being crowned “best in the world,” which has become his calling card of late. It’s not going to be clean, but McMahon gets the win here and a little revenge for Vince McMahon who was knocked silly by Reigns weeks ago. Pick: Shane McMahon
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley
In this battle of big men, Braun Strowman should come out on top. Strowman already defeated Bobby Lashley in an arm wrestling contest and will follow that up with another win in what should be a quick match. Pick: Braun Strowman
The Lucha House Party vs. Lars Sullivan
Following the recent unearthing of misogynistic, racist, and homophobic remarks posted by Lars Sullivan on a bodybuilding message board years ago, Kalisto was one of the WWE talents to publicly condemn his oversized opponent. “He just needs to get out of my way… I’m Latino,” the luchador tweeted at the time. It will be interesting to see whether the tension carries over to the ring. In response to the outcry, Dylan Miley, who portrays Sullivan, was fined $100,000 by WWE and issued an apology for the comments, which were made long before he signed with the company. The controversy has done little to slow the push being given to the 30-year-old, which means a loss here is unlikely. Pick: Lars Sullivan
50-Man Battle Royal
This one is tough to pick given the lack of names that have been announced. WWE really did a disservice to themselves by not announcing participants here to drum up interest, even if the bulk of them are likely to be the same undercard talents chasing the 24/7 Title. As of Wednesday, only Mojo Rawley and Elias have officially been confirmed as participants. Karl Anderson tweeted that he will be occupying one of the 50 spots, but WWE had not confirmed his involvement as of Thursday morning. Luke Gallows, AJ Styles and Finn Bálor were also tagged in Anderson’s tweet, but Gallows seems to be the only one of the three who is likely to participate, as Styles has been out injured and Bálor is already wrestling in another match. Pick: Impossible to say
The Usos vs. The Revival (Kickoff Show)
The Revival has been experiencing a resurgence of late after voicing their displeasure about their storylines or lack thereof. There have been the goofy back shaving and Ucey Hot segments, but Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson have also made the most of their opportunities in the ring and shine when given the chance. Meanwhile, despite having been moved to RAW, the Usos continue to anchor the tag division on both brands thanks to the Wild Card Rule. You can pretty much flip a coin to determine who will come out on top here. But I’m giving a slight edge to The Revival, since WWE reportedly wants to convince them to re-sign. To do that you’re going to have to keep them happy. Pick: The Revival
Date: Friday, June 7, 2019
Time: Kickoff Show at 1 p.m. ET, main card at 2 p.m. ET
Location: King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.