In the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey in front of 15,963 fans the WWE went extreme. Or at least as extreme as a PG company can get without receiving a barrage of complaints and angry business calls.
Yes, it was finally time for the annual Extreme Rules pay per view and the card looked to be a stacked one with almost every match generating a fair amount of interest. First though was the pre-show.
As is the case every month, the pre-show was a middling affair as the kickoff panel tried to keep fan’s attention for a full hour. Sure, the line up on that panel is a good one but there’s just not enough going on to entice people to tune in. Repeated discussions about who is going to win the upcoming matches does not cut it. However, there were two surprisingly good segments during that hour which were reason enough to watch.
The first was a solid heel promo by The Dudleys in which they boasted about their extreme credentials and ran down New Jersey at the same time. The crowd seemed to be pretty into it but they only really came alive when Big Cass came out, cut a short but enjoyable promo, and took down both Dudleys. Whilst that may have done nothing for the ECW boys it did give a boost to Cass who, if he is booked correctly, could easily be a megastar of the future.
The second segment was a brief but funny Q and A with Rusev and Lana in which they both showed why they are one of the most entertaining acts in the WWE right now. If you were still rooting for Kalisto over Rusev after this, then you are in the vast minority.
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler.
This match probably shouldn’t have been on the pre-show as Corbin is a guy who deserves to be pushed in a more meaningful manner than he currently is. Still, it was nice to see him on the show at least and finally fans got an end to this saga with Ziggler.
In terms of actual in-ring action this was far from great. There were some nice spots such as a Tornado DDT by Ziggler and a huge Deep Six by Corbin, but for the most part it was just plodding offence that no one seemed to be that into at all. The smart move was in utilising a low blow rather than introducing weapons early on as it still got Corbin over as a ruthless competitor whilst saving the bigger spots for the main show. In the end Corbin landed and End of Days and scored a much needed win.
Winner: Baron Corbin.
With that it was on to the main show and really any of the non-WWE Title matches could have kicked things off as they all had the potential to be fantastic.
Tornado Tag Team Match- The Usos vs. The Club (Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows).
The fans really do not like The Usos these days, do they? The boos seem to rain down on them at a savage volume. Undoubtedly it is their relationship with Roman Reigns that has led to such a violent backlash but there is also the fact that they are just so boring. Their characters, whatever they are, are stale and show no signs of evolution. That being said, they’re still two excellent wrestlers. So too are Anderson and Gallows who needed the win to legitimise themselves in the eyes of the WWE fans.
Making this a Tornado Tag Match was the best move available as it helped to differentiate this contest from the numerous others that these teams have had over the past month or two. Even with the added stipulation though this still wasn’t the most interesting encounter due to the frequency with which they have wrestled. The action was fine but in many ways it was just more of the same and the crowd reaction reflected that.
The right people won at least as The Club hit a Magic Killer on one of the twins and scored a three count. Hopefully this match won’t happen again for a good long while and both teams can move on to greener pastures.
Winners: The Club.
United States Championship Match- Kalisto (c) vs. Rusev.
There was only ever going to be one acceptable outcome to this match and it sure as shooting wasn’t Kalisto going over. Thankfully, he didn’t and finally the WWE Universe has a believable US Champ in the form of the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev.
It’s not that Kalisto is a poor wrestler, far from it in fact, but he has been booked as an incredibly contrived Rey Mysterio 2.0 and it just isn’t working out all that well. Fans took to him at first but opinion has quickly soured and now was the right time to make a switch to one of the best monster heels in the company.
Before getting there though there was the small matter of the match which was better than expected. Whilst not being a classic by any stretch of the imagination it was still a solidly put together battle of David vs. Goliath and it told a story which drew you in. You could easily believe that Kalisto was going to pull off another giant upset victory but, equally, you could see Rusev simply walking over his diminutive foe.
The match saw some beautiful offence from Kalisto, particularly when he hit a Moonsault to the outside that looked absolutely stunning. Ultimately though, it was an Accolade to a downed Kalisto that scored a decisive win for Rusev, making him a two time US Champion. Let’s just hope that the rumours of Cena returning and immediately taking the belt are not true.
Winner and New United States Champion: Rusev.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match- The New Day (Xavier Woods and Big E) (c) vs. The Vaudevillains.
What’s to say about this match? It was only 6 minutes and 20 seconds long so there really wasn’t much in the way of action to call. In fact, the New Day promo beforehand was more noteworthy even if just for its clever use of hoes.
The point here is that The Vaudevillains aren’t really on the same level in the companies eyes as The New Day and so they weren’t afforded much of a chance to get over in this match. It has already been reported that Vince doesn’t see much in the duo and that can only be an omen of doom for them. It’s a shame as they proved in NXT that they are good workers with a real grasp on their characters, they could be something big if given the chance. As it stands they are not getting that chance and Xavier pinned Gotch after a lackluster few minutes of ‘action’.
Winners and Still WWE Tag Team Champions: The New Day.
Intercontinental Title Fatal Four Way Match- The Miz (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro.
What. A. Match!
When December rolls around and discussion turns to the match of the year, do not be surprised the see this one at the forefront of that conversation. It had everything, high drama, believable storylines, and more near falls that you can shake a stick at.
Every single one of these wrestlers looked amazing in there as they were each given ample opportunity to get their spots in and make an impact before selling for the next guy. From the opening moments where Sami nailed Owens with a Helluva Kick to the closing ones where The Miz stole a pin fall over Cesaro to retain his title, this match was all go and the fans were hooked throughout every second of it. These guys gave the audience jaw dropping moments such as a German Suplex/Exploder Suplex that just showcased Cesaro’s amazing strength, an awesome Yoshi Tonic by Zayn, and one of the most impactful Uppercuts from Cesaro that you are likely to see.
There needs to be rematch between these four men down the line and Kevin Owens needs to be looked at very closely for a main event push in the not too distant future. Perhaps a Money in the Bank win could get him there? For now though expect Zayn and Owens to continue fighting one another at every turn and Miz and Cesaro to do the same.
Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: The Miz.
Asylum Match- Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose.
The build to this match was beaten only by Reigns vs. Styles. Both men had time to develop a hatred for one another that actually warranted a hardcore stipulation so this Asylum outing did not feel as forced as it would have done under different circumstances. Add to that the fact that both of these guys are putting in some of their best work in a long while at the moment and this should have been an outstanding display. Sadly, it was not.
It wasn’t bad but it suffered greatly from running for far too long. A whole 8-10 minutes could have been shaved off of this and added to the two tag matches to make a better rounded card but instead they stuck with having this go for a tedious amount of time. What that meant was that both men slowly ambled from forced weapon spot to forced weapon spot and it felt like a bit of a mess.
The weapons themselves were largely pointless and far too gimmicky to be taken seriously, aside from the triumphantly returning thumbtacks that is. Yes, at long last those pointy buggers have made their way back into a WWE ring and god did Jericho look like he was in agony after landing straight on them. It was a spectacle that many won’t have expected to see in this company again what with their current direction but it led to one of the best spots of the night and honestly may have saved this match from being something of a dud.
Dean Ambrose got a deserved win here and now is the time to move him back up to the top of the card. He’s ready, willing, and Gab… wait, no that’s someone else’s shtick.
Winner: Dean Ambrose.
Women’s Championship Submission Match- Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya.
No Ric Flair at ringside? That must mean there’s finally going to be a clean finish to a women’s match. Oh wait, no never mind, Dana Brooke just inexplicably got involved.
That’s right, what was touted as an actual submission exhibition between two gifted technical wrestlers was once more sullied by the spectre of needless outside interference from an unwelcome presence. People in the audience seemed annoyed and honestly it feels like a waste of words to talk at any length about the whole debacle. Suffice to say that this was an alright match turned into a complete stinker with the addition of Dana Brooke. The very idea of her being front and centre in the Women’s Title picture from now on is nauseating.
Winner and Still Women’s Champion: Charlotte.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Extreme Rules Match- Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles.
Say what you want about Roman Reigns, and many of you do, but he proved himself to be believable in the role of the no nonsense badass here. Sure, he will never be as gifted as AJ Styles and the fans are never going to wholeheartedly cheer him on but that doesn’t mean he has no place in the company. Perhaps that place shouldn’t be at the top but matches such as this suggest that maybe he isn’t the worst choice for champ either.
So what made this match so good? It was the fact that it took everything that made last month’s main event work and added even more carnage into the mix. You got a real sense that Roman was every bit the beast he has been billed to be and, at the same time, you realised that Styles is more than just a plucky underdog, he’s a wily veteran who is just as dangerous in his own right. Neither man left the ring looking weak after all was said and done and this is exactly what needed to happen.
Everybody knew that Styles wasn’t going to win the title but the fact that he got so close on both occasions has done wonders for his standing in the company and it has helped to legitmise the reign of Reigns at the same time as he is not Superman, squashing all he sees but he is a tough guy battling against the best in the business.
One thing that was missing was a debut from Finn Balor. That has to be coming sooner rather than later but it’s still a real shame that he hasn’t gotten to the main roster yet to start a feud with Styles, likely with The Club at his back. The upset at that is lessened though by the fact that Seth Rollins returned to rapturous applause after that match as floored Roman with a Pedigree. Monday Night Raw should be an exciting one with Crossfit Jesus back in action.
Winner and Still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Roman Reigns.
Looking back, Extreme Rules wasn’t the best event you’re ever going to see but it was far from the worst too. Most of the matches could have done with being booked to go longer than they did, with one notable exception which should have gone the other way. Despite that there were some unbelievable highlights and one match of the year candidate, what more could you want?
Match of the Night: Fatal Four Way for the Intercontinental Championship.
Most Underwhelming Match of the Night: Charlotte vs. Natalya.
Highlight of the Night: Seth Rollins returning.
*Image Source: wwe.com