Welcome back to PCU, wrestling fans. Still seemingly coming off the heels of Wrestlemania, which generally goes until Money in the Bank next month, Extreme Rules brought us some interesting stories and tidbits going forward. While not the greatest event of the year, it was quality start to finish, with some surprises to have everyone cheering.
Match 1: The Club (Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows) vs. The Usos in a Tornado Tag Match
What an odd and interesting way to start this event. With the Club coming out in their long white jackets, which we’ve seen before, I’m left thinking: why did we relaunch DOA in 2016 and why did we give them white Loki like robes. That said, the team show their experience as a unit in this match, giving a rough, stiff, and very fluid style. While Gallows fits the role as a bigger, slower, bruiser; a la Diesel but more nimble; Anderson is curious. He has moments of really impressive athletic feats, but tends to keep that under wraps leaning toward a more traditional tag style. That said, the moves the two do together are a perfect mix. The Usos continue to be booed more and more, which is to be expected the more they team with Reigns. While it works for Roman, now that he’s filling the “he’s not a good guy, he’s not a bad guy” role, it leaves the Usos stuck. Their moveset is pure babyface, mixing high flying with high impact super kicks. That said, the crowd cannot get behind them. How much of that is the smarkiness mentality to get behind the darling Bullet Club members in Anderson and Gallows remains to be seen. The match itself was solid, having the usual Uso spots and The Club picking up the win looking dominant.
Winners: The Club
Match 2: Kalisto (Champion) vs. Rusev (with Lana) for the United States Championship
I was very unsure on what to expect from this match. While I’ve enjoyed Kalisto’s moveset, which he uses well here, he seems stagnant on the card. Rusev, on the other hand, is one of the strongest heels they have in the company, and should be getting a stronger push. There’s talk that he has a decent amount of heat on him backstage, which would give credence to why he’s left in this giant mid card pool. In a lot of ways, this reminded me of a Rey Mysterio vs. Big Show match of about a decade ago, with a much more agile big man in Rusev. Rusev fits the role of scary monster heel, but also conniving villain very well, and Lana is the perfect mixture of annoying and menacing at ringside. His athletic abilities tends to give him the ability to have a solid match with anyone, and Kalisto’s unique, high flying offense gives him an opponent we aren’t use to. With Rusev taking the win, with an extremely back bending Accolade, I’m left wondering; even enjoying the match, why does the US Belt seemingly get more and more meaningless with each passing month? I know there are reasons this hasn’t happened yet, but it’s time to combine this with the IC title.
Winner and New US Champion: Rusev
Match 3: The New Day (Champions) vs. The Vaudevillians for the WWE Tag Team Championships
The New Day continue their roll of dominance as tag champs here. Expectantly picking up the win, but putting on a good match in the process. As the plan was to have New Day vs. Enzo and Cass, and the Enzo injury derailing that, it was obvious that this was a filler. That said, The Vaudevillians are a great team to put in that spot. While the New Day are comedic and crowd favorites, The Vaudvillians transformed their role from an old timey comedy team in NXT, to old timey, more or less hipster “wrestling was better in the old, more serious days, man”, which works very well in contrast to the New Day. On top of that, they are a great old school tag team, beating down on of the hero team members, with cheap shots and 2 on 1s, leading to a hot tag. Really just good, old school, storytelling. Also, this is one of the first ppv matches that featured Xavier Woods as oppose to Kofi, which was a nice change of pace. While we were missing that voice at ringside, the different in ring style was interesting, and believable in terms of story. Woods hits the shining wizard here for the win, but not before a very convincing near fall for the Vaudevillians.
Winners and Still WWE Tag Team Champions: The New Day
Match 4: The Miz (Champion and with Maryse) vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship
Surprising no one, this was the match of the night by a landslide. With the battle starting with a Zayn Helluva kick to Owens, essentially knocking him out of action for the first quarter of the match, we went balls to the wall from then on. With the four combatants hitting their spots, and each guy getting a very convincing near fall, or in Cesaro’s case, many near falls, no one comes out of this match looking weak. A few points to touch on, the role they have the Miz in right now is perfect. He’s not really doing anything different than before, but you love to hate him, and as he watches these incredible in ring talents beat the crap out of each other, he waits for his perfect moment to steal a pin, like a really dastardly heel, which he does here. He’s the weakest wrestler of the bunch, but his dirty tatics make him a believable champion. Also, putting him with Maryse is a good move, adding to his “I’m better then you” persona. Putting him with Cesaro is a good move as well, as Cesaro is so solid in ring, he could probably carry any match. That said, Miz isn’t a bad wrestler by any stretch, so the matches are quality. In terms of Zayn and Owens, it doesn’t really matter where they put these two, as long as they interact, it’s gold. It’s obvious that they are looking to extend this feud to Summerslam, and having these 4 work together in the meantime is another good choice. With Zayn and Owens, you can feel the hate, especially if you know their Ring of honor history. I’m just waiting the return of El Generico.
Winner and Still IC Champion: The Miz
Match 5: Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match
This was a really odd match. In a mixture of a cage match and an extreme rules match, we are given a more tedious version of the already ridiculous “Raven’s Clockwork Orange House of Fun” match from early TNA. Unlike that match, this match was extremely slow and plodding, as the only way to get weapons was to climb the cage and pull them down. As we watched the two struggle up and down the cage numerous times, the match felt never ending. It wasn’t until the end, when Ambrose took out the thumb tacs to go full Foley/ECW/CZW, that the pace and the stakes picked up. To me, the problem with this match, and most extreme rules matches in WWE, is that the sense of hardcore seems muted after what we witnessed in ECW in the late 90s, and what we see in companies like CZW today. In matches in those companies, the use of weapons, and overall action, is never ending, and sometimes cringe worthy. Say what you will about WWE, the match product, on the whole, is significantly better for NOT trying to go too hardcore. This match was a failed attempt to bridge the two, and shows the flaws in Ambrose’s character. It’s hard for him to be a truly crazy man the way they are trying to play him. It worked for Mick Foley back in the Attitude era because he was taking 20 chair shots to the head in a match, or falling off and then through a cell. Honestly, I don’t need to see that with a talent like Ambrose. If they stuck more toward a Piper type crazy, as oppose to this weird amalgamation of Brian Pillman and Mick Foley, he would be a much more well rounded character. That said, Jericho getting thrown on the tacs was pretty rough to watch, and good on him for being willing to take that bump. Ambrose, thankfully, picks up the win, and here’s to hopefully better things with him going forward.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Match 6: Charlotte (Champion) vs. Natalya in a Submission Match for the WWE Women’s Title
This would normally be the blow off match, bridging that third to last big match to the main event. While I was upset to see this Women’s match put here, the slog of the previous match actually had me much more engaged here. To be expected, this was another solid match from these two. They brought out some submission holds, like the Indian Death Lock, that we haven’t seen in awhile, but are very interesting. Both Charlotte and Natalya are so technically sound, that everything looked very polished, and was easily the best technical match of the night. The only problem I had was believing Natalya to be a viable threat to Charlotte. While Ric was barred from ringside, as he usually gets involved in the finishes (and some foolery from Dana Brook partially did it here), Charlotte’s victory never really seemed in doubt. Part of that could just be from the fan booking everyone is doing of Charlotte and Sasha eventually, presumably Summerslam, but it was lingering for the whole match. That said, I still really enjoyed this match, and am very excited for what’s to come next for both Charlotte and Natalya.
Winner and Still WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte
Match 7: Roman Reigns (Champion) vs. AJ Style in an Extreme Rules Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
First, I haven’t seen a reaction for a tweener like Reigns quite like this before. Even Cena doesn’t get hurled with boos like this. Reigns’ almost broey persona works well to be hated now, as he seems to be embracing his role. This, to me, is for the betterment of him, and we can see just how good he is independently of crowd reaction. Along that thought, this was a really good Extreme Rules match. As I said before, hardcore and WWE sometimes have a hard time mixing, but these guys solved that by having a good chunk of the match happen in the crowd, making it seem extreme, but with regular wrestling moves applied. On top of that, we were given spots that can really only be down by someone as agile as AJ and someone as athletic as Reigns. The numerous throws through the announce tables from Reigns to AJ were literal “high spots” that looked just as devastating as they were. This high octane type match made Reigns look really strong. AJ, also, can really be in any type of match and look like a million bucks. Short of wrestling a giant style, he can more or less wrestle in any type of situation. The finish of the match, a Phenomenal Forearm reversed into a spear, where Roman had to literally leap up and catch AJ, was an awesome spot, and gives Roman the win without making AJ lose anything. That led to one of the worst kept secrets in wrestling, where we saw Seth Rollins return and nail Reigns with a pedigree, while being showered with cheers. It’s easy to want to cheer Rollins. He’s attacking Reigns and he’s a great in ring talent. That said, WWE really needs all the heels they can get, so it’s important to make Seth just as hated as he was pre injury and quickly. To me, the best way to do that is aligning him with Stephanie.
Winner and still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Roman Reigns
And there you have it, WWE Extreme Rules 2016. A nice bridge event between Mania and next month’s Money in the Bank. With the return of Cena on the horizon, and the potential for Balor to debut, WWE has a lot of tools at their disposal going forward. I’m excited to see where it goes!