Extreme Rules is upon us again. That time of year where WWE tries to appease fans of hardcore matches by offering up a PPV meant to be dominated by the nastier side of wrestling. This year the card looked varied and offered up a mixed tag extreme rules match as the main event. Alongside that was a Last Man Standing match between Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley, the return of the Dead Man in tag action and more sweat from Shane McMahon. Let’s get into it shall we?
Nakamura’s New Title
WWE just gave Shinsuke Nakamura the IC Title on the opening match of the preshow. Just let that sink in a second. That is huge, if a bit weird. Now we haven’t seen a whole lot of that title or Finn or Nakamura in quite some time but it’s hard not to admit that the change isn’t good. The story appeared out of nowhere with little build but gave us a decent little match with a shock finish that gave Nakamura a new title and the chance to become relevant again after some time out of sight. Let’s hope they give him some hot feuds and we see a proper conclusion to the Finn/Nakamura story.
The 205 Live segment was once again preshow fodder but it did give us a decent match that once again showcases why Gulak deserved that belt in the first place. Not too much to say, it was short, sweet and saw the ugliest 450 Splash landing in quite some time. I hope Gulak has a lengthy reign with even more interesting opponents.
Dead Man Redemption
So, seeing Undertaker and Roman Reigns against THE BEST IN THE WORLD Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre doesn’t exactly fill you with hope on first glance. However, the match itself was a tasty slice of nostalgia, madness and stupidity. Undertaker was in decent shape here, wrestling better than he has in recent memory and taking bumps he probably shouldn’t be taking. He took an Elbow Drop through the announcer table and took a trash can assisted Coast to Coast only to raise up and scare the hell out of Shane. Some crafty camerawork also set up a nice ending spell that saw a lurking Drew almost Claymore Taker only to be saved by Roman. It was a pleasantly well shot bit of wrestling and seeing Shane floored by a Tombstone just warms my heart. Congratulations WWE you have given me a gift in the form of a broken Shane McMahon.
Back in Black
Black vs Cesaro sounds like a dream match. Cesaro is one of the best all rounders on the planet and Black is an excellent striker and technical mastermind. Then you pair them together and you get this match. A lot of striking and power moves. There was also plenty of back and forth that kept you on edge as the match went on. Whilst it may have been obvious that Black was going to win, the pacing and action at least made it look like Cesaro had a fighting chance. Plus, like Shinsuke Nakamura, it was just excellent to see Black back in a WWE ring wrestling. He doesn’t benefit from being confined to a small room, talking to himself and wanting to fight everyone.
Last Monster Standing
Braun Strowman is a bit unlucky when it comes to PPV matches. It’s been a long streak of getting pushed to the moon only to fall at the last hurdle. Now, he actually got to win a feud and do it in dramatic fashion. Lashley and Strowman took the fight everywhere, backstage, concessions and even into the stands as they through each other into everything that wasn’t nailed down. T-shirt boards, announcer tables and barricades couldn’t keep these men down for ten. It would take a super Powerslam from the stands. Strowman emerged from the wreckage at 9 and the Lashley was left broken in the rubble. It was a nice, chaotic change from the technically sound wrestling that had preceded it. Well worth a watch if you want to see two big men throw each other into walls and brawl.
Ricochet didn’t last long did he? The newly crowned US champion hasn’t won too many matches after picking up his title. His first feud with AJ Styles saw him get some wins but now, with the reformation of the club, that reign has ended. The Good Brothers were instrumental in saving Styles from losing and in the end a Second Rope Style’s Clash put Ricochet away. There isn’t too much else to say. You got a good match, with story relevant interference and a new heel champion with his own stable back.
The main event was fun wasn’t it? Yes, it was incredibly silly and could be seen as needlessly predictable and pointless but it was fun. This show was one week after Slammiversary. An Impact PPV main evented by an intergender match. Tessa Blanchard and Sami Callihan held nothing back and fought as equals. There must have been some fraction of the WWE viewership thinking about whether WWE would try and match that. The answer is kind of. The big shock spot was Baron Corbin hitting Becky Lynch with an End of Days. This incensed Seth who then broke a kendo stick over Corbin, then a chair then hit him with three Stomps and won the match. This small act probably generated more heat for Corbin than retiring Angle. He brought a small bit of intergender to WWE and that deserves to be applauded.
Old Habits, New Day
Anyone else sick of the New Day yet? The trio of Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston are some of the most beloved men in the company but my god I’m sick of seeing them as tag champs. Heavy Machinery may be new and untested as champions but I would have loved to see them given a chance. New Day felt like the safe and boring choice. It’s a minor gripe and the match itself was pretty good. It just seems like a bad idea to put the division titles on a stale-ish team in a stale division. Some new blood needs to be introduced to that tag division and I feel Heavy Machinery would have been more beneficial.
One of the worst things a PPV can do is be purely okay. A lot of this PPV just felt okay. Decent wrestling, decent matches but just nothing to truly get excited about. Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss vs Bayley was okay but predictable, Kofi vs Samoa Joe was okay but didn’t yield much in the way of talking points, as did Revival vs Usos. There were so many matches that felt like they were just autopilot matches. I wouldn’t normally complain at okay wrestling but it’s so difficult to stay focused on. This was one of those PPV’s where I struggled to concentrate on the action at hand. It just felt like a safe show. Which is the opposite of extreme.
Speaking of extreme, did anyone else play bingo with extreme moments? It feels like WWE has run out of creativity when it comes to their hardcore show. The spots were predictable, as was the weaponry. Bar some spots in the no holds barred tag, it was all kendo sticks, chairs and tables. I don’t expect death match level brutality but would it have killed them to add in ladders or other more creative weaponry and spots. It feels like they just re-hash the same tools each year and never break the cycle. Even then, did anything really feel extreme? It might be time for a rebrand on this PPV.
3 Second Match
I only add this as I feel it didn’t need to be an official match. I think it would have sent more of a statement if Kevin Owens had just attacked Shane post-match, then cut the promo he made. Then again it was also enjoyable to see Dolph Ziggler, a man who has been clogging up SmackDown for weeks get put out in about 5 seconds. It served its purpose as a promo spot and much like the last man standing match, broke up the monotony of the okay wrestling.
Brock Lesnar is your Universal Champion once again. He came out and cashed in after Seth destroyed Corbin and Lynch was unable to assist. He won with two German Suplexes and an F5. It may have come across as predictable but to me the weird bit was that it was done at Extreme Rules instead of SummerSlam where it would have had the bigger impact. I guess they needed a big hook to make the show more memorable and set up something for SummerSlam. Whatever that is, we’re yet to see.
So, there you have it, Extreme Rules reviewed. A purely okay show. It had some solid matches, shock victories and interesting set ups but ultimately just falls into the okay category. The wrestling wasn’t bad by any stretch but it was a struggle to stay invested a lot of the time. The big hooks came when the show did something different, like the Taker match or Last Man Standing match. Whilst nothing special, it may still be worth a watch when there’s nothing else on as it did have something’s worth watching and no extremely bad matches. It was inoffensive at worst. Now it’ll be a case of watching RAW and SmackDown to see if they take storylines in a new direction and what Brock does now that he’s champion again. Preferably not disappear for months on end.