With a name like Extreme Rules, you would expect the WWE to plan the entire pay-per-view around putting extra stipulations into all their matches. They did for the most part but this year’s Extreme Rules felt a little less “extreme” than I expected. Sure, there were a plethora of special match rules like Last Man Standing, 2-on-1 handicap, triple threat tag team, no holds barred tag team, and even a mixed tag team with extreme rules. But I did expect things to be a little more chaotic overall.
I do have to give props to the WWE, though. Most of the matches were pretty good and really fun to watch. Unfortunately, there were ultimately two matches that just failed to do it for me. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were matches in the midcard. Too bad they were actually the main event matches. But I’ll get to them in a bit. I’d like to talk about the matches that I really enjoyed before I talk about the slog of the main event matches.
The match of the night, for me anyway, was Ricochet vs. AJ Styles (with The Club) for the United States Championship. It’s actually weird that I consider this the best match for Extreme Rules as this was one of the matches that didn’t have any match stipulation. I guess it just boils down to the excellent ring work and exciting moves of Ricochet and the plain charisma of AJ Styles. I’m really happy they made AJ Styles a heel again. Him being a babyface was good but Styles works better as the bad guy. Pairing him with his old Bullet Club buddies Anderson and Gallows just makes him a bigger force to be reckoned with.
I especially like how things ended here. Even though Anderson and Gallows were at ringside, they didn’t really make their presence felt until near the end but that was when it mattered. Ricochet lands a beautiful shooting star press and pins Styles but Anderson points out to the referee that Styles’ foot was under the rope, breaking the count. Anderson runs interference and distracts the referee, allowing Gallows to crotch Ricochet. Styles then does a second rope Styles Clash to become the NEW United States Champion. Beautiful match all around.
The triple thread match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships was another highlight for this pay-per-view. It certainly helped that all three teams participating are tag teams that I actually like. Although I didn’t expect them to win, it was really good that Heavy Machinery got a lot of time to to shine here. The New Day were good but they were probably only here so that Xavier Woods would be the traditional “guy to be beat down for a long time” that’s a staple of tag team matches. The action was really good and, like I said, Heavy Machinery got to strut their stuff here.
My main nitpick was the finish. It had The “New” Daniel Bryan doing the Yes Kicks on Big E then Big E just started shrugging them off. One Midnight Hour later, The New Day are your NEW Smackdown Tag Team Champs. I just wish the finish was a little more exciting but, otherwise, this was an excellent match.
The Cesaro vs Aleister Black match felt a little rushed to be plugged into the card. It didn’t even have and “extreme rules” stipulation. But thankfully, both Cesaro and Black pulled off one heck of a match. There was a lot of good in-ring storytelling, with Cesaro doing some really good selling of an injured leg. Black looked incredibly good here but I do worry that his moveset does seem to revolve too much around kicks and strikes, which may get boring after a while. The Black Mass does look devastating and that’s good because it’s how the match ended. I honestly do wish they gave both of them a little more time as it did feel like the Black Mass kick came from out of nowhere. It felt like it ended when it could’ve built up to something a bit more.
The last standout match would be the Last Man Standing match between Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashey. I honestly didn’t expect all that much for this as I predicted that they would just do another prop/stunt to end it. While that prediction did come to pass, the journey to get to it was fantastic! Lots of fun spots here, like Strowman suplexing Lashley into a (foam) wall. They also used the entire arena to its fullest, which is something that I think every Last Man Standing match should do. Basically, no announce table/booth was safe!
The finish was, predictably, a big prop stunt, with Strowman powerslamming Lashley into… something. I couldn’t really tell you what it was supposed to be. Anyway, you could see that it was simply made out of cardboard and they had a very soft landing as you can see the piles of foam that was inside the area. Even so, the image of Strowman smashing through the (obviously cardboard) wall was a nice touch, leading him to win this Last Man Standing match.
We go now to the more “it’s okay” level of matches. And I just realized how strange it is for me to say that, especially since it has the Undertaker in it. I’m talking about the Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre in a No Holds Barred tag team match. Color me impressed, but the Undertaker still can perform in the ring! There were times when I totally forgot Roman Reigns was even in it! The biggest issue I have with this match is that everyone was actually following the rules of tag team matches… when it’s supposed to be No Holds Barred! It doesn’t make sense why they would bother tagging in and out! Just run in and beat the other team senseless! I guess it took them some time to realize it as it was just near the end when Elias poked his head and it really turned No Holds Barred.
The finish came after that Undertaker chokeslam shown in the clip, by the way. Everyone else either eats an Undertaker chokeslam or a Roman Reigns spear. Reigns tosses Shane to the Deadman and does a Tombstone Piledriver for the pinfall victory.
The match that truly disappointed me was the 2-on-1 handicap match with Bayley taking on Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Not that this was a bad match but the WWE has been so cautious regarding going to the next stage with the entire Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross pairing. I get that Bayley taking on two women at the same time ultimately makes her a super underdog but she’s not the story; Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross’ friendship is. So having Bayley win by blocking Bliss’ Twisted Bliss with her knees then taking out Cross with an elbow from the top rope to retain her Smackdown Women’s Title doesn’t really matter. What should matter is what Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross do after the loss. I hate to say this but this is slowly getting to the entire “frenemy” storyline that involved Bayley and Sasha Banks. That one dragged out for too long and this entire Bliss and Cross buddy gimmick is also getting long in the tooth. Even though I was disappointed, I will say the action was generally really good.
The last match that I though was just okay was The Usos taking on The Revival for the RAW Tag Team Championships. Now, I will start this by saying that the match was good. I’d say it was great even. The Revival is a prime example of classic heel tag team wrestling and that’s in short supply these days. They even did some old school tag team finishers like the Demolition Demolisher. The Usos are still exciting to watch and they pulled off some slick moves.
I can’t fault the wrestling but the thing that I didn’t like was the commentary. More specifically, Renee Young’s commentary. I understand that she’s new and trying her best. But her color commentating for this match? Yeesh! It just didn’t add anything at all! Just attacking The Revival and how they’re spending their money made her almost sound like a heel commentator! It just got annoying as the match went on to the point of distraction. Liked the match, not the color commentary of Renee Young here.
Now, I wonder if I should even talk about the Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler match because it was over in less than a minute. Basically, the bell rang and Owens connects with a Stunner to get the quick pinfall over Dolph. I didn’t like this because I know Dolph can do a lot more. However, I will commend the WWE for shocking me as I didn’t expect it to end so quickly. I guess they just did this quick squash match to give Owens enough time to rag on Shane McMahon more.
We now have to talk about Kofi Kingston vs Samoa Joe for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. The in-ring storytelling here wasn’t all that good as it basically boiled down to Samoa Joe beating the snot out of Kingston for most of the match. There were some smart spots, like Samoa Joe seemingly smashing Kofi’s fingers in between the ring steps.
Probably my biggest issues with this match was how it ended and how it make Samoa Joe ultimately look. The finish had Kofi hitting the Trouble in Paradise from nowhere to get the pinfall win. You’re telling me that, after the vicious beatdown Joe did to Kofi all night, all it took was one spinning kick to take down the Samoa Submission Machine? This just makes Samoa Joe look weak as this is his just another main event loss for him. I would’ve accepted a rollup much more than Joe getting knocked out by a kick!
We finally go to the Mixed Tag Team, No Holds Barred match for both the WWE Universal Championship and the RAW Women’s Championship held by Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, respectively. They took on the team of Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans. Once again, No Holds Barred means there are no rules. Yet, the women can only face each other and the men can only face each other. Does the WWE even understand what No Holds Barred? This could’ve been great if Baron Corbin squared off against Becky Lynch or if Lacey Evans taunted Seth Rollins to hit her or something like that early on. I guess we got something like that when Baron Corbin hit End of Days on The Man near the end. But this was something that they should’ve been doing all along as this is a No Holds Barred match!
Anyway, this did lead to the finish as Seth Rollins got incensed by this act. He did a beatdown on Corbin and, I will admit, I laughed when I saw Lacey Evans just sneaking back up the ramp like she didn’t want any part of this. Three Curb Stomps later and Rollins and Lynch retain their respective titles. But it’s not over! Brock Lesnar attacks Rollins after the match and cashes in Money in the Bank! An F5 later and Brock Lesnar is your NEW WWE Universal Champion!
There’s just a lot of things to hate. Chief among this is the lack of No Holds Barred rules. Yes, they used weapons but what’s with the men vs men and women vs women thing, huh? Brock cashing in and becoming the WWE Universal Champion once again was something I was dreading ever since he won Money in the Bank. The pacing was off and it would’ve worked better if it was just a traditional Mixed Tag match. Possibly the thing I really loathed about it was how it “de-manned” Becky Lynch. She just became the catalyst for Seth Rollins’ wrath. They could’ve made her do her Dis-Arm Her on Corbin for revenge or something to win. Terrible match and lots of potential wasted.
Even though the main events sucked, the rest of Extreme Rules’ card was more than decent. It carried the entire thing and did make the lousy main events easier to swallow. I can’t say I walked away from Extreme Rules totally satisfied because of how it ended but at least getting to that point was a blast… even though it did feel like a lack of “extreme rules” in general.
What did you think of this year’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view? Let me know in the comments section below!