Of all the B-show PPVs that the WWE puts on every year, few are as misnamed as Extreme Rules. For a night ostensibly built around no-holds-barred competitions, the event tends to have more gimmick matches than any other event held by the company all year. This year they seemed to realize this, so they changed things up…by only doing one Extreme Rules match on a night with 12 bouts on the card. Still, the biggest criticism you can levy toward this event is that it was largely uninteresting. There was some bad stuff, sure, but nothing too far from what we’re used to seeing on WWE TV. There was also some good stuff, but nothing that will really stick with you the next day. One could almost excuse the crowd for literally ruining the main event ironman match…almost. So how did Extreme Rules shake out?
- Not really a pre-show thing, but let’s talk about the crowd. So the main event, surprisingly, wasn’t the match between Roman and Lashley, nor was it the WWE Title match between AJ and Rusev. Instead, the highly anticipated 30-minute Ironman Match between Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler closed the show. You’d think this clash between two exciting workhorses – who put on a show-stealing affair on Raw a few weeks back – would be a welcome change of pace for an audience suffering from an overexposure to Big Dogs…instead some a-----e decided to start counting down the minutes like it was the Royal Rumble. Unfortunately, that s--t caught on and by the third minute the whole crowd was counting along with the clock and paying exactly zero attention to the match. Look, I get chanting, I get having fun at a show, but what the f--k? You drop hundreds of dollars at a wrestling show between tickets, travel, food and merch, why would you purposefully s--t on two guys – one of whom is like the second or third most popular dude in the company – who are trying to entertain you? Is it more fun to count down to zero thirty times in a row than to get excited for a wrestling show? Because you can do that s--t at home for free. I can’t entirely defend the match, because it wasn’t great, but the only pops from the crowd for when the clock was taken away and again when it was brought back. What the f--k? You people don’t deserve a wrestling show.
- Okay, actual pre-show stuff. The first match of the night is a rematch between Andrade “Cien” Almas and Sin Cara, in his fly new galaxy gear. Did you see their pretty damn good match on Tuesday’s SmackDown Live? Well, shorten it by about a minute, slow the pace a touch and you’ve got an idea of how this one went. Down to the spot, this was a retread of that first match – which is fine, I guess. Both guys looked good, and Almas got the duke, but like the pre-show in general, this felt a little needless.
- The other match on the pre-show was a tornado tables match between pancake-loving unicorns, The New Day, and camera zoom anarchists, Sanity. This one’s a bit more fun than the Almas match, and is full of a lot of table teases and one or two memorable big spots. The best of these, of course, is when Woods and E have Wolfe and Young up for powerbombs, only for Kofi to jump off the top rope to stomp both men to the mat. The end comes when Kofi and Wolfe are struggling on the outside, allowing Young to surprise the former Jamaican with a diving elbow through the table. Now the angle they shot makes it look like EY may have gone through the table first, so I contest this ending…well nah, no I don’t. Sanity needed this win, and hopefully these two teams get more time to work at SummerSlam….’s preshow probably. Side note: I hope Killian Dain wearing a T-shirt to the ring is an isolated incident to move merch and not someone giving him the Baron Corbin treatment. Yeah the dude’s fat and hairy, but it’s also kind of his deal.
B-Team vs. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt (c) for the Raw Tag Team Championships
This was one of two surprises over the course of the evening, and though I was initially down on the B-Team picking up the belts, these two jobbers made….jobbers with belts…may have swayed me on strength of personality alone. So the match itself is pretty dull, barring the few teases of open conflict between real life brothers Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt, and it ended somewhat suddenly when Bo drove Matt into Bray, driving Wyatt out of the ring, and allowing Dallas to hit his spinning neckbreaker finish (I, for one, don’t miss the Bo-dog) for the pin and the win. So far, so blah. It’s when they get interviewed at the top of the ramp and Axel says he feels like a rainbow, or that he understands how “Stretch Armstrong felt when he landed on the moon” that my cold heart begins to thaw. Later, when they invite Roman to join their celebration if he beats Lashley in the main event they come off like excited kids whose years of being at the bottom of the card makes this meager success feel like winning the Super Bowl. It’s on the post-show, however, where I decided I might like Bo and Curtis as themselves. Bo getting excited about getting chicken wings (“Mild! I don’t like ’em hot!”) and Axel hoping to go to a late night waterslide are just so damn endearing. I still hate that they’re the tag champs on a brand that has the Revival, but who knows how I’ll feel in a few weeks’ time.
Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin
In another bout that felt more like a Raw match than a PPV attraction, sexy (and shiny) leprechaun Finn Balor took on Baron Corbin, whose new look is somewhere between traveling salesman for cursed vacuum cleaners and goth dad chaperoning a middle school dance. It’s mostly fine, and I am often impressed with exactly how light on his feet Corbin can be in these situations, but it’s nothing remarkable. They have the same kind of “big man/little man” match that Daniel Bryan and Big Cass had a few months ago, only with the larger man being a touch more competent and athletic between the ropes. The little guy doesn’t have as dominant a win, either, as Finn manages to pull it out by reversing an End-of-Days attempt into a roll up pin. It’s not bad or anything but there’s just not a ton to say about it. If you’ve seen either guy work, you know what you’re getting into. Their styles don’t mesh in any meaningful way, neither guy’s stock really improves from this match, and no (non-Twitter) storylines were furthered or resolved by the outcome. You know, just like Raw.
Asuka vs. Carmella (c) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
The WWE has a storied history of pissing away sure things by trying to be clever. Whether it’s Carlito, Zack Ryder or Bray Wyatt, the organization has a real talent for taking a promisingly popular star’s good will by having them lose in ways that makes them look like total goobers. Welcome to that list, Asuka! It’s bad enough that she’s meant to lose to someone whose “talent” consists of an unimpressive moonwalk and little else, but she keeps losing by being dumb. Last time she was distracted by someone wearing her jacket, this time she is so wrapped up in kicking James Ellsworth’s heavily padded ass that she gets distracted and ends up banging her head on the cage. This is enough to keep the formerly unstoppable Empress of Tomorrow down for the three, and it’s literally going out of the way to make her look bad. You see, the setup to this idiocy is that Asuka has been kicking Carmella’s ass on the outside so bad that Jimmy Jam Ellsworth decided to pick the lock on the shark cage he was trapped in but got caught on the edge of the cage by the random assortment of ’80s bandanas that he TOTALLY ALWAYS WEARS. With Ellsworth dangling like some sort of be-Jnco’d pinata, Asuka starts laying into him with kick after kick, all while Carmella recuperates on the outside. It’s here where I take my issue, as it would have been so much easier to just count Carmella out to keep the belt on her. That’s believable given Asuka’s anger at Ellsworth and doesn’t make her look like a total buffoon. But nah, having the hairstylist from Staten Island knock Most Dangerous Kana out with a slight shove is much better. Great booking, Road Dogg.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy (c) for the United States Championship
This was almost a perfect segment. Almost. You see, I absolutely loved the “match” itself, with Shinsuke Nakamura punching Hardy right in the balls before the bell then instantly hitting a Kinshasa once the bell rang to win the U.S. Title in 10 seconds flat. That kind of scummy douchebaggery is exactly what I want from Nakamura’s heel character: it’s equal parts clever and brutal, which are descriptions that should have been Shinsuke’s calling card since his debut on NXT. I would have loved this to have been the entire segment, but as has so often been the case for the past decade or so, it was spoiled by Randy Orton. Yep, with Nak doing his weird pseudo Michael Jackson dancing over the fallen body of the Charismatic Enigma, Rev Theory’s “Voices” comes over the PA and Randal Keith strolls down the aisle and into the ring. Once there, Orton locks eyes with Nak, takes his sweet ass time walking over to Hardy (whose head and balls are no doubt still throbbing from the rattling they just received) and – as if to the tune of “anything you can do I can do better” – trips Brother Nero and stomps on his dick while keeping an eye on my man Shin. Okay, so….huh? I get that Orton’s last televised appearance was in a loss to Hardy, but is this meant to set up a feud between the two? Did it need to happen at the expense of Shin’s moment in the sun? Are Shinsuke and Randy going to have an ongoing rivalry built upon who can more stylishly squash Jeff Hardy’s nuts? If the answer to that last one is “yes,” then I’ll take it. Otherwise, this one is a B+. Good effort, couldn’t quite stick the landing.
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens (Steel Cage Match)
In our predictions piece I asked exactly who the face was supposed to be in this feud. I know the WWE wants us to root for the murderous hillbilly bear who flips trucks and wrecks sets with grappling hooks, and against aggressive alpha males like Brock or Roman, I wouldn’t hesitate. Those guys don’t shrink away from the challenge posed by the enormous rage bear that is Braun Strowman. With Kevin Owens, however, the opposite is true. Owens has spent the past several weeks running for his life from a 380-lb death machine that has done nothing but flip his car, wreck his stuff and dump over port-a-potties with him inside of them. He’s been a terrified victim the whole time – one whose situation has only been made worse by management’s support and seeming endorsement of the abuser. The fact that Kurt Angle not only enables this abuse, but encourages it by putting these two in a steel cage only bolsters my sympathy for Owens: a Shania-loving family man who is routinely beaten and has his property and person assaulted by one of the biggest human beings on the face of the planet. That’s the whole story of the match too, as KO spends almost the entire thing on the defensive, getting only a modicum of revenge when he handcuffs Braun to the ropes at one point (a legal move in this match, btw). Of course, puny chains cannot stop mighty Braun, and Strowman chases lil Kev up to the top of the cage then proceeds to chuck the Quebecois Kodiak 15 feet to the ground. It’s a hell of a spot — one that is sure to draw comparison to Mick Foley’s near-death experience at King of the Ring ’98, and it honestly makes me as a fan worry about Owens’ health. This is yet another major bump he’s taken at Braun’s hands and it’s not safe for dude to take this many bumps in such a short succession, and while it was an awesome sight that proves how badass Owens can be, it’s not something I’m eager to see him repeat any time soon.
Team Hell No vs. Bludgeon Brothers (c) for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Earlier in the night we saw backstage footage of the Bludgeon Brothers…bludgeoning D-Bry and Candidate Kane, even going so far as to smash the Big Red Machine’s ankle in a door with one of their toy mallets. As such, this thing starts off as a handicap match, with plucky underdog hero Daniel Bryan fighting off both larger men until Kane stumbles out from the back in a walking boot to even the odds. Of course a 50-year old mayoral candidate with a bum wheel can’t really stack up to two 300-lb monsters like Harper and Rowan, and Kane is taken out after a failed attempt at a Tombstone. This leaves Bryan alone, and while he puts up a good fight, WWE actually lets a sense of realism win out when Bryan inevitably falls to the BB’s version of the Doomsday Device. All in all, this one was fine. Kane is evidently injured in real life, so it’s not too surprising that they wrote him out this way. It’s not ideal for Bryan to take the pin, but it won’t hurt him too much. Hopefully, however, he moves past this pointless tag feud and onto greener pastures. As far as the Bludgies, I assume that they’re headed for some kind of multi-team scrum on the SummerSlam pre-show that will probably be won by…let’s say the New Day.
Bobby Lashley vs. Roman Reigns
Proving that WWE really does think that the “main event” isn’t necessarily the last match on the card, we have the Big Dog vs. the Dominator in a battle of buff dudes most people simply don’t care about. Weirdly enough, Lashley actually manages to win this one clean with a spear in a relatively hard hitting match that was better than you’d think, but still not that interesting overall. Well I mean, it’s interesting to see exactly how much Bobby sweats, but the match itself is pretty standard fare from both guys. What’s most interesting is that the dirt sheets are claiming that Vince McMahon wasn’t at Extreme Rules on Sunday, meaning the bookers could do something interesting like have Lashley go over the boss’s long-term pet project without much protest. Of course, Vince was back on Monday where they set up the rematch we all knew was coming that will allow Roman to both get his win back AND earn a spot against Lesnar at SummerSlam, but this was an interesting outcome while it lasted. I don’t really like the guy as a performer, but it has to be said: Lashley deserves better.
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss (c) for the Raw Women’s Championship
So the only actual Extreme Rules match on the Extreme Rules PPV features trash can, chair and kendo stick spots, interference from two other wrestlers AND a celebrity hopping the fence to beat up two of the biggest heels on the red brand – yet it is still only the second most overbooked match of the night. Bliss rolls toward the ring with Mickie James in tow, while Nia brings the bane of my existence Natalya, who manages to be both useless and the impetus for the finish. You see, midway through the bout, Bliss and James had sufficiently wrecked Jax and thus started kicking the s--t out of Natalya. That didn’t sit too well with one Ronda Rousey, who was sat at ringside ostensibly because she wanted to kick Bliss’s ass but sat through the opening nine minutes of this no-rules encounter without running out there and getting her a piece of Little Miss Bliss.
Still, when her “friend” (a seasoned professional wrestler, I might add) is getting the boots that’s all she could stand, so she hopped the barrier and proceeded to lay a sloppy looking whooping on James and Bliss. It was a great moment for Ronda, marred only slightly by the uneven selling by James. Ronda eats a few convincing kendo stick shots (how is her selling so good but her acting so bad?), allowing Bliss to do the same to Nia before hitting a DDT on a chair for the win. This was mostly fine, I guess, it’s just a little silly. The match had no rules, so why didn’t the two NPCs at ringside just join the match from the beginning? Why didn’t Ronda just get up and kick Bliss’s ass from the get go? Why did Travis Browne just kind of sit there while two women kicked the s--t out of his wife with sticks? WWE logic.
Rusev vs. AJ Styles (c) for the WWE Championship
It’s not too surprising to hear that AJ Styles was in the match of the night, but it’s a new thing for my man Ru Ru. While the Bulgarian Brute has won over the hearts of the WWE Universe, it hasn’t been with his in-ring skills. In fact, I don’t think anyone has really spoken highly of a Rusev match since his WrestleMania match with John Cena – and even then, people talk more about the tank he rode in on. Here, however, the former hero to the Russian Federation put in a solid, occasionally gutsy performance that gave fans an idea of what face Rusev may look like. Styles injured the big man’s legs early in the match and Rusev ACTUALLY SOLD THE DAMN THING! FOR THE WHOLE MATCH! Someone tell Sasha Banks and Cena that this is how you do an injury angle in a match. It even informs Rusev’s actions throughout the match, as he can’t even successfully perform the Accolade. They definitely sowed the seeds of Rusev Day’s destruction by having English expose a turnbuckle that Rusev ended up meeting face first. He then ate a 450 splash but managed to kick out in a great character moment for the big man. Eventually he does fall to the Phenomenal Forearm, but it was a decent performance for Rusev. I don’t know that it’s enough to make the powers that be see him as the top tier talent the fans believe him to be, but it definitely showed that he can hang with the best of the best.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler (c) for the Intercontinental Championship (30-Minute Ironman Match)
So yeah, the match we all thought would be a barn burner turned out to be a little bit of a dud, and although you have to point some fingers at the talent who never really got out of the blocks for this match, the bigger faults lie with the bookers and the audience. As I’ve already mentioned in the pre-show notes, the crowd absolutely ruined any chance this match had at being entertaining because of a goddamn clock. Hope it was worth it Pittsburgh, because you’re all people were talking about on Monday. The bookers, on the other hand, likely heard some of the concerns people have thrown out there about ironman matches (they’re formulaic; they’re boring, etc.) and turned too hard in the skip to avoid them. Instead of a drawn-out, scoreless affair like Hart vs. Michaels, or the typical “heel goes up early” formula of Bayley vs. Sasha, this match saw a total of eight falls between the two competitors, six of which happened within a span of 10 minutes. You see Seth went up 2-0 early, which caused Dolph’s running buddy, Drew McIntyre, to flip his s--t and absolutely wreck Rollins for a DQ fall. Fortunately, he so thoroughly stomped the Kingslayer that Ziggler was able to quickly earn three falls of his own before scoring a fourth with a dirty pin. Seth would tie it up and no man would be able to pull ahead before the actual buzzer (and not the a------s in the crowd pretending to be the buzzer) sounded the end of regulation time.
Not content to end with a tie, however, Kurt Angle came out to call for sudden death overtime – which lasted about eight seconds as Drew distracted Rollins, allowing Ziggler to hit his finish for the sneaky win. Like the PPV as a whole, this match wasn’t bad so much as it was disappointing. Both guys are electric in the ring – s--t, they put on an awesome match just two weeks before – but they kind of just went through the motions out there and played things too close to the script. That could have worked if the guys were more motivated, but when you have a crowd actively working to ruin your match with 25 minutes still to go, it’s hard to blame these two for losing the desire to really push their limits.
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