The Big Dog fights for control of his yard, AJ Styles defends against Rusev and more!
The mid-season lull between WrestleMania and SummerSlam gets an injection of the extreme this Sunday in the form of WWE Extreme Rules. This pay-per-view, the spiritual successor to ECW, is advertised as the night where there are no rules, but strangely, only three matches on this 11 match card have stipulations that could be considered extreme (and only four matches have stipulations at all). Regardless, seven titles are on the line — every main roster strap except, of course, the Universal Championship, which is being held hostage by UFC star Brock Lesnar — meaning this show could be deceptively consequential when it comes to the landscape of WWE going into SummerSlam.
The New Day vs. SAnitY (Tables Match, Kickoff)
Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, and Killian Dain have finally debuted on the WWE main roster, and immediately committed one of wrestling’s gravest sins: they interrupted the New Day’s pancake eating contest. That flies in the face of the Power of Positivity, and New Day is hell bent on showing the chaotic newcomers the pecking order on SmackDown Live.
Brian: If this is the start of a real Trios movement in WWE, I’m all for it. Each team has its pros and cons, with Killian Dain having the greatest future, long-term upside out of the six right now. This will be a fun match with some cool spots and a table or three I guess. Why are there tables? Who cares?
Loser: Kofi Kingston for being the Mr. Perfect of his generation
Jason: I gotta be honest, I worry that the WWE may have already fumbled Sanity’s debut. They lost their first match and seemingly lost that initial mini-feud with the Usos with little fanfare. Moving onto a feud with the New Day is a wise move, but they absolutely need to win this thing or risk falling into the wasteland alongside the Ascension. So unless they want to reduce Killian Dain to a mute idiot role and turn Eric Young “wacky,” make mine SAnitY.
Loser: Pancakes. Be waffles or be nothing.
JJ: SAnitY needs this victory. The New Day doesn’t. It’s just that simple. The New Day are perhaps the only team in WWE that’s for all intensive purposes bulletproof. Name another team that’s been going for three years, as faces no less, and is still this beloved by the WWE fans. You can’t. They’re special, unique and they should be used to put over a team like SAnitY that has a lot of potential to be big stars, but desperately needs a helping hand in getting there right now.
Loser: It’s hard to call The New Day losers. As I said, everyone will still love them regardless of what happens (myself included)
Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin
Since dubiously receiving the title of Constable of Monday Night Raw, Baron Corbin has been using his newfound power to make Finn Balor’s life a living hell. Corbin’s got the size advantage on the leader of Balor Club, and believes that’s all that matters in the world of sports entertainment. Balor has chided the newly-corporate Corbin as a TGI Friday’s castoff, and he’ll have the opportunity this Sunday to do what every member of the WWE Universe wishes they could do: shut Baron Corbin up.
Brian: The prime example of a feud doing more on social media than it has done on TV, this has the makings of a solid mid-card match. Corbin has really jumped into his new role and Finn is always excellent in the ring. While I’d love to see Balor in a bigger picture feud, with the biggest title on Raw out of the picture for the near term, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not sure how long this program can last, but I think it will continue into a gimmick match at Summerslam.
Winner: Finn Balor
Jason: Constable Corby’s found new life as the manager of an Express for Men who picks on dudes with better abs than his, and if there’s one thing WWE loves more than big men it’s making Finn Balor lose matches he shouldn’t. I love me some Prince Devitt, but I see sweet Barry C walking through him on Sunday.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Loser: People under the misconception that Balor will be in the title picture again any time soon.
JJ: When Baron Corbin cut his hair (FINALLY) his stock rose almost as high as WWE’s has in these past few months. Now that he doesn’t look like a complete dope and found a gimmick that works as The Constable of Monday Night Raw, it looks like things are finally clicking for the former Lone Wolf of NXT. The momentum is in Corbin’s corner — sorry Finn, looks like you lose, again.
Winner: The Constable
Loser: Finn Balor
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (United States Championship)
After failing to pry the WWE Championship from AJ Styles’ hands over the course of a months-long blood feud, Shinsuke Nakamura has set his sights on another stack of hardware: Jeff Hardy’s United States Championship. The Artist and the Charismatic Enigma are two of the most bizarre WWE Superstars in memory, and their unique in-ring style combined with Nakamura’s new sense of aggression should make for a solid match.
Brian: This kind of match is why it’s so important that the Universal Title is missing from Raw. Two big time Superstars fighting over the secondary title and two over the main title. Big matches with big upsides. Hardy has lost a few steps, but can still put on a show and Nakamura has been consistently good (not great, but good) since Mania. I have to imagine that, even without a major build-up, that Shinsuke will finally get his first main roster title on Sunday. I’ve picked him in every damn match since Mania and I need to be right sometime.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Loser: Me when I’m wrong AGAIN
Jason: Jesus Christ, can Nakamura buy a win? I don’t care about Jeff Hardy, and Shin’s in a desperate need of a win, so for the love of god, give the guy a midcard title.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura (please?)
Loser: (sigh)…probably Shinsuke Nakamura.
JJ: Shinsuke has been on the main roster for just about a year now and hasn’t held a single belt or accolade during that time. It feels like he’s long overdue. After losing two WWE Championship programs back-to-back, the guy needs to start winning or WWE risks him falling into mediocrity, which would be simply crazy.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Loser: Jeff Hardy
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens (Steel Cage Match)
Ever since Kevin Owens tried to get every member of the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match to gang up on Braun Strowman, the Monster Among Men has had it out for the Prizefighter. He’s tormented Owens, he threw him off a 20 foot ladder through a table, and even tossed a port-a-potty containing Owens off the stage. Despite Owens’ best efforts, he hasn’t been able to successfully run away from Mr. Money in the Bank, but this Sunday he won’t even have the chance to try. This will be settled in a steel cage.
Brian: This feud is so weird. I know it’s all comedy shtick, but these guys can both go in the ring in every way that matters. Owens can be the Prizefighter or he can be the heel that runs away from the monster. The steel cage should come in handy for either a cool Owens spot (frogsplash off the top?), a sneaky escape win for Owens, or Strowman just tearing the cage apart like it was paper. Both will eventually be in the Universal Championship picture once Lesnar’s contract runs out, so this will be a good match to callback a few years from now.
Loser: The guys who have to clean up the cage after Strowman destroys it
Jason: So who’s the face again? The freakishly tall Grizzly Adams lookin’ dude who outweighs his opponent by like 100lbs and has spent the past several weeks flipping rental cars and pushing over port-a-potties with him trapped inside? Oh, cool. Yeah, unless someone hits Braun with a tranq dart, there’s no way Owens is winning this one. Sorry, KO.
Winner: The Abominable Strowman
Loser: Whoever is in charge of the marketing for the “Be A Star” program
JJ: I could see this going either way, but I think Kevin Owens is coming away with the victory. A loss here won’t hurt Braun any and given that he’s gotten the better of Kevin Owens at every turn, I think the tables will finally turn. My hope is that before this program ends Kevin regains some of his badass prizefighter reputation he originally had on the main roster, as the guy who beat up Cena. If not, he needs to be put back on the train immediately after these two are done. Owens is main event caliber and had the only good run we’ve seen out of the Universal Title thus far — don’t waste him.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Loser: Braun Strowman
Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Team Hell No (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
Kane shocked the WWE Universe when he came to the aid of his former tag team partner Daniel Bryan, reforming Team Hell No. Paige was apparently just as happy as the fans watching at home, as she immediately thrust the team into the SmackDown Live title picture, giving them a tag title match against the Bludgeon Brothers, who have been making Bryan’s life a living hell (no). Can Bryan and Kane put their old squabbles aside and focus on adding another accolade to their already impressive resumes, or will Harper and Rowan spoil the reunion?
Brian: I feel like Daniel Bryan is doing an extended “This is Your Life” segment. Like, someone is keeping the Miz-Bryan thing going just enough to keep us in suspense until Mania next year (I hope), but until then he’s got to run the gauntlet of every other thing he’s done. At some point, he’ll choke out Justin Roberts and get fired. While it would be a very feel-good moment to see Team Hell No win, the Bludgeons need the belts much more to avoid being relegated back down to tag team hell.
Winners: The Hammer Bros
Losers: Whoever made that stupid t-shirt
Jason: Brian is definitely not wrong about the Bludgies needing those belts more than D-Bry and Kane, but do I think that’s enough to keep those big dimes on Harper and Rowan? Not unless they actually go through with a Daniel Bryan vs. Kane match at SummerSlam which…yeah, I’ll say that wastes his talents more than a forgettable tag match. I imagine Team Hell No defending the belts in a multi-team TLC match with the Bludgies, Sanity, New Day and maybe the Usos, with D-Bry at the center of it all. Another thing Brian is right about? That ugly ass shirt.
Winners: Team Hell No
Losers: The voting constituency of Knox County, Tennessee
JJ: Team Hell No definitely has one more title run in them, but I don’t think it’s happening just yet. I imagine they’ll claim victory on a grander stage, such as SummerSlam or at Hell in a Cell, one of Kane’s specialties. The Bludgeon Brothers may have the titles, but the tag program has been about everyone but them these days. They need a victory here.
Winners: Bludgeon Brothers
Losers: Team Hell No
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt (c) vs. the B-Team (Raw Tag Team Championships)
Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas have been on the winning streak of their lives since splitting up from The Miz when he was picked up by SmackDown Live. Now dubbed the B-Team, the former Miztourage have been racking up singles wins against the incumbent Raw Tag Team Champions Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Their impressions of the eccentric Deleters of Worlds are pretty spot-on, too. Will the Cinderella story continue at Extreme Rules, or are the B-Team OBSOLETE MULES ripe for DELETION?
Brian: It would be just like WWE to think it hilarious to put the tag titles on the B-Team, wouldn’t it? In a sane universe, this is a passing feud getting Bray and Matt a good win and moving them on to run against AOP. B-Team sticks around and becomes a heel Fashion Police.
Winners: Deleters of Worlds
Losers: Anyone wearing a fedora unironically
Jason: Do people still like the B-Team? Their lovable loser shtick outwore its welcome a few weeks ago and now it’s just tiring. Poor Curtis Axel is being asked to do his awful impersonation gimmick again — and just like last time, his partner is better at it than he is! I’ll be happier when Bo and Axel are back in the undercard jobbing to the Revival on Main Event. Bray and Matt should roll through these guys like a runaway shopping cart in an empty parking lot.
Winners: The two coolest dads in the parking lot of a Panic! at the Disco show
Losers: The goofy wannabes in need of a real gimmick
JJ: You know who loves cinderella stories? Everyone. Including WWE. We’ve seen it countless times before. Zack Ryder winning the US title. Rhyno and Heath Slater winning the tag belts. Jinder Mahal winning the WWE Championship. The list goes on and on. Who cares about the Deleters of Worlds? No one I know. Either way, the B-Team is doing a great job in the classic goofy underdog role and all signs point to a victory.
Winners: the B-Team
Losers: Matt Hardy and that guy who drives recklessly and cheats on his wife
Carmella (c) vs. Asuka (SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Everybody knows Carmella isn’t on Asuka’s level physically — no one is. But the Princess of Staten Island has found other ways to hold on to her coveted SmackDown Women’s Championship, even re-enlisting the help of the delusional James Ellsworth to get into the Empress of Tomorrow’s head. Ellsworth should be a non-factor Sunday though, as he’ll be suspended above the ring in a shark cage, and no shenanigans have ever come out of a situation like that. Is Mella still Money, or will Asuka finally get her hands on main roster gold?
Brian: Can Asuka catch a break? What’s the long term plan here? Again, if we weren’t living in the worst timeline, Asuka would break Ellsworth’s arm and then make Carmella tap, letting Asuka v Becky Lynch be the title match for SummerSlam. But, we live now in the “Berenstain” universe, so I imagine Ellsworth will successfully interfere, letting Carmella meet her title reign’s end at the hands of a returning Charlotte while Asuka has to tag with the other faces and make everyone else look good.
Loser: Japanese Strong Style in the WWE
Jason: Could they have telegraphed Ellsworth’s involvement more than putting that turtle with an undercut into a goddamn shark cage above the ring? Sigh, Asuka deserves better than a face full of hairspray and a shitty Yakuza kick, but she’s gonna lose that match. Cams is going to keep going until the heat death of the universe, i.e. when they finally push Becky Lynch back toward the title.
Loser: Women’s wrestling
JJ: I so badly want Asuka to win here, but my gut is telling me it just isn’t going to happen. Asuka came out of NXT like a bat out of hell. Everyone was afraid of her and for good reason. She’s kicked the crap out of every single opponent she’s come across. Then comes the main roster run and wouldn’t ya know Vince McMahon is dropping the ball. I know, I know, this is very unexpected. Carmella plays a good heel and Ellsworth is perfect in the manager, this-guy-can’t-be-serious role, but god dammit Asuka should be destroying these two goons.
Winner: Mella is money, Ellsworth rules and Vince is a dumbass
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax (Extreme Rules Match for the Raw Women’s Championship)
Alexa shocked the world when she won the women’s Money in the Bank briefcase at the eponymous pay-per-view event and cashed it in the same night on an unsuspecting Nia Jax. Jax wisely invoked her rematch clause, and is coming to collect at Extreme Rules. However, Alexa may have even bigger things to worry about, as Ronda Rousey, who got herself suspended from Raw, has announced she bought a front row ticket to the event and will be watching this matchup in particular with great interest.
Brian: This being an Extreme Rules Match is the only way Alexa has a fighting chance in a match against the much larger Jax. With Ronda Rousey in the front row, I expect some significant shenanigans, but I think Alexa (along with Mickie James) will find a way to win the match, setting up an eventual Rousey v Bliss. Except against Jax, Rousey will never be seen as an underdog, so putting her against the bitch heel is the way to go to eventually get a title around her waist.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Loser: The first person to accidentally stiff Rousey in the ring
Jason: I understand why they’re working toward a Bliss vs. Rousey match at SummerSlam, as Bliss is the biggest heel on the red brand, but I am really tired of seeing Alexa at the top of the mountain. I’d rather see stronger workers like Ember Moon in the title picture, instead of several months of Alexa cutting the same promo over and over again then winning in some underhanded way – which is exactly what’s going to happen here. Bliss in 10 minutes.
Winner: Little Miss Bliss
Loser: A soon-to-be directionless Nia Jax
JJ: This match is filler until Ronda gets to take the belt off Alexa at SummerSlam. I want to like Nia, I really do. She looks good in the ring and puts on entertaining matches. But the second she gets the mic in her hand it all goes to hell. An Extreme Rules match is perfect for Alexa going over on Nia, because with all the weapons at her disposal, it’s easy for her to realistically take Nia out.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Loser: Nia Jax
Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley
Since Brock Lesnar is one step away from taking his ball and going home, Roman Reigns has to focus his aggression somewhere, and the man who has been standing in his way as of late is one Bobby Lashley, who also feels he’s earned a shot at the Universal Championship. Lashley was dubbed the next “guy” upon his arrival during his first run in the company a decade ago, but everyone knows it’s the Big Dog’s Yard now. Who will go on to challenge Brock Lesnar, if he decides to show up?
Brian: If you could put together Vince McMahon’s perfect wrestler, he would look like Bobby Lashley. Unfortunately, he would also sound like Bobby Lashley and wrestle like Bobby Lashley. Why is he back?! Why are we wasting a main event spot on a no-charisma, milquetoast MMA-wannabe? Is this the only way to get Roman cheered? This is all leading to another edition of Reigns/Lesnar, assuming Brock comes to work at some point, and I just want to die. Is this show still going?
Winner: Roman Reigns and his wet hair
Loser: The half-dozen other wrestlers who should be in Lashley’s spot
Jason: Oh my god, do I not care.
JJ: The ridiculous battle these two had on RAW shows how desperate WWE is to get people to give a shit about this feud. Bobby Lashley might have a good look, but he’s got the personality of a lamp. Woof woof, my yard, Superman Punch, Spear, fin.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Loser: Everyone watching at home
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Seth Rollins (Iron Man Match for the Intercontinental Championship)
We may not have a world title on the red brand, but Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler have made it clear the Intercontinental Championship is the premiere title on Monday nights. Rollins was on the roll of his career before he ran right into the brick wall that is Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, who conspired to take the championship in dirty fashion a few weeks ago on Raw. Rollins gets his chance for revenge this Sunday, in what should be the show-stealing matchup between two of WWE’s most athletic competitors: a 30 minute Iron Man Match.
Brian: Rollins is awesome, Ziggler is a great heel and can bump like a madman. The real story here though, is Drew freaking McIntyre. That dude looks and sounds like the star they always knew he could be. Rollins is one of the top guys in the world at this point in his career and the eventual Rollins-McIntyre feud over the IC title is going to light it up. Side note: for anyone complaining about how these two had a near 30-minute match on Raw, this should be a totally different affair. I expect several falls early and maybe a sudden death OT. That or penalty kicks. I don’t know how soccer works.
Winner: Seth Freakin’ Rollins
Loser: No one. Everyone wins with this match, especially the audience
Jason: This is the match to watch the show for. These two KILLED IT on Raw a few weeks back, and I really look forward to what they can pull off on a bigger stage. What a reversal of fortune for Ziggles – from afterthought to (co)star of the show. Yeah, this is window dressing for the inevitable program between Rollins and big Mac (side note, Monday’s match was DOPE), but it’s awesome window dressing, so who am I to complain? With Drew on the outside, I feel like Ziggly Puff is going to hang onto that belt for a little longer. Rollins will move on to bigger and better things.
Winner: The man (billed) from my hometown of Hollywood, Florida.
Loser: Struggling to pick a loser with this one. This one’s going to burn the place down.
JJ: This will be the best match of the night my friends, mark my words. Rollins and Ziggler have put on some of the best matches RAW has seen in years. Dolph Ziggler is a new man and I am absolutely loving it. Together with Drew McIntyre these two should be running RAW. Ziggler is oozing swagger and McIntyre looks like he should be killing people with an axe during the time of the Vikings. They’ve got $$$ written all over them and my hope is that once Roman takes the belt off Brock, we’ll see Drew gunning for the Universal Title, while Ziggler and Rollins continue their dance. With Drew at ringside, I don’t see Seth being able to get out of this one. Not only that, but Dolph is just doing too damn well to slow him down any right now.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Loser: Seth Rollins
AJ Styles (c) vs. Rusev (WWE Championship)
The Phenomenal One may have staved off Shinsuke Nakamura for the time being, but there’s no rest for the WWE Champion. A few weeks ago, Rusev won a gauntlet match to become the #1 contender to the WWE Championship. The Bulgarian Brute will not take his first singles WWE Title opportunity lightly — and lucky for him, Extreme Rules falls on Rusev Day.
Brian: This match is last on our list, but there’s no way it goes on in the last slot of the night. According to our wrestling statisticians here at AiPT! Wrestling, the WWE Championship has not been defended in the final slot of a PPV since the brand split in 2016. With the chance to shove some more Roman Reigns down the throats of a crowd that will probably start leaving part way into a struggle of a match, this match goes on third from the end. Rusev finally gets his first shot at the WWE Championship and AJ Styles gets the chance to continue his legacy as one of the best in-ring performers in the world. Along with Okada, Omega, and Rollins, he is at the top, no question. As much as I want to see Rusev pick up the W here, I just can’t see him as the man right now when there’s only one top-level singles title on WWE TV right now. They need Styles to carry this like the man that he is. Due to botched shenanigans by Aiden English, Styles retains in the sleeper MOTN.
Winner: The Phenomenal A…J…Styles!
Loser: Everyone’s Rusev Day celebrations, sunk like England in the semis
Jason: Man, it breaks my heart that Rusev has finally made it to the main event, and there is absolutely no way he is going to walk away with the title. It doesn’t matter how over he is. It doesn’t matter how much merch he sells. It doesn’t matter that he’s got the loudest chants since the early days of the Yes Movement. Vince didn’t pick him, so he’s not going to be holding that belt. What’s extra sad is that we saw what the machine getting behind a lower-midcard guy could be with Jinder Mahal. Look at how far that guy came? Now imagine if he were talented. Or likeable. It should have been RuRu is what I’m saying. Now, unfortunately, I feel like WWE scorched the ground with the Modern Day Maharaja, and now my man Rusev is doomed to never ascend to his rightful place atop the blue brand. Styles is great and all, but I’d love for someone new to get a shot.
Winner: Mr. Alan Jones Styles
Loser: The proud people of Bulgaria – on Rusev Day, no less!
JJ: AJ Styles is arguably the best wrestler in the world. Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada are the only two people giving him competition right now. This is going to be the long title run that WWE fans deserve, not the hot dumpster fire that Lesnar’s reign has been (he never should have broken Punk’s record). To have a long and memorable title reign, stars like AJ need opponents that people believe to be a serious threat and Rusev is absolutely that. This is Rusev’s first title shot and I’m thrilled that it’s finally happening, but it’s just not his time yet. Eventually it will be, but it’s not now.
Winner: AJ Styles
Loser: Rusev Day
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