Welcome to a special edition of the weekly rundown, where we’ll break down everything that happened at this year’s edition of Extreme Rules. WWE touched down in Pittsburgh for their last major stop before next month’s Summerslam event. Although Universal Champion Brock Lesnar was not in the building, fans were treated to championship matches for every other title from both Raw and Smackdown to make up for his absence. Let’s take a look at the highs, the lows, and everything in-between from this year’s Extreme Rules.
The Dawn of Sanity
Nearly a month after their main roster debut, Sanity picked up their biggest win thus far by toppling former champions The New Day on the card’s pre-show. While the match may not have been the most memorable, a victory over the New Day establishes Sanity as a legitimate threat in the Smackdown Tag division. The New Day are bulletproof at this point and can afford the loss, while the victory shoots Sanity to the top of the division. Look for the trio to turn their sights toward the Tag Champion Bludgeon Bros, utilizing the numbers advantage en route to a meeting at Summerslam.
I Love It When A Plan Comes Together…
Following the departure of the Miz from Raw to Smackdown Live, the story of the “B-Team” of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas learning to stand on their own and fighting their way up the ladder has been the best thing to happen to the Raw tag division all year. With Braun Strowman laying waste to much of the division leading up to Wrestlemania, and the reign of Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt being underwhelming at best, now was the perfect time to put over the underdog babyfaces. It will be interesting to see if Bo and Axel are able to keep the momentum rolling, or if their story will be a flash in the pan similar to that of Heath Slater and Rhyno’s run on Smackdown.
Monster in the Cage
With the MitB briefcase firmly in his grasp, Braun Strowman is undoubtedly the most dangerous superstar currently on Raw. Since Universal Champion Brock Lesnar is nowhere to be seen, the Monster has turned his attention to Kevin Owens, destroying his undersized foe every opportunity he could. The storytelling in this match was great, with Owens being forced to confront Strowman in the steel cage after weeks of trying to run from the Monster. Watching Owens throw everything he had at Strowman before ultimately resorting to using the handcuffs was brilliant as well. The final spot was the best booking of the match, as Strowman’s sheer power and strength was on full display, while Kevin Owens was still able to pick up the win. Expect this feud to continue in the weeks leading up to Summerslam until Lesnar makes his return.
The Roman Empire Has Fallen
Leading up to Extreme Rules, there was no other match I was less interested in than the one between Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley. By the end of the clash, the two competitors had won me over, delivering one of the best matches of the night. It’s always nice seeing Roman actually take a loss every now and then, and both men put on a hell of a bout. Though this match delivered, and definitely surprised many pundits, there’s still a strong feeling that neither man deserves to be facing Lesnar at Summerslam. The people want Strowman.
Sunday Is Not Rusev Day
The Rusev Day gimmick has garnered the most momentum that Rusev has seen on the main roster since just before his US Championship match against John Cena at Wrestlemania. As a result, Rusev would earn his first crack at a WWE world championship, and the Bulgarian Brute would not disappoint. Rusev gave WWE Champion AJ Styles everything he could handle and then some. Ultimately, it was interference from hype-man Aiden English that would result in Rusev’s downfall, allowing Styles to retain his title. It is likely that Rusev will blame English following the defeat. Expect Rusev to continue going after Styles as his friendship with English slowly crumbles. This will likely lead to a scenario which sees Rusev taking on English, while Styles moves on to a more high profile matchup for Summerslam.
Iron Sharpens Iron
The Iron Man match between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins for Ziggler’s Intercontintal Championship served as the evening’s main event, surprisingly taking the headlining spot over the WWE Championship match between Styles and Rusev. Seth Rollins has proven week in and week out that he is the best performer on Monday Nights, and his spot in the main event is more than deserved. Unfortunately, the main event was hijacked by restless fans who love making the match about themselves, insisting on counting down the 30 minute clock with each passing minute. The audience’s disinterest in the bout had a noticeable effect not only on the wrestlers, but on the pacing of the match as well. Luckily, Rollins and Ziggler are two of the best showmen in the company, and they delivered the story they had to. Ziggler came out on top, once again relying on the aid of his muscle, Drew McIntyre, while Seth Rollins fell just short, all the while proving to be one of the gutsiest competitors on the roster. It seems that Rollins is set to leave the IC title behind and move on to the Universal Title, although Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley seem to stand firmly in his path.
Big Hog In A Shark Cage
Pretty much any time you have a match with someone suspended above the ring in a shark cage, you can set your expectations at a minimum. The Smackdown Women’s Championship match between Carmella and Asuka was beyond bad, focusing almost entirely on the antics of James Ellsworth; first, providing the champion with a various assortment of weapons, before ultimately dangling helplessly from the cage and serving as a distraction. Sadly, Carmella retained her title, picking up the pin fall after shoving Asuka head first into the shark cage. Hopefully this is the end of this feud, as it has served to do only three things: 1. Completely bury Asuka and end all of her momentum, 2. Take any heat Carmella had gained and put it on Ellsworth, and lastly 3. Removed all the legitimacy the Smackdown Women’s Championship had gained following Charlotte’s Wrestlemania victory over Asuka. This may very well have been the worst championship match of the year for WWE, for a handful of reasons.
New Champions? Hell No!
Did anyone really expect Team Hell No to just show up out of nowhere and win the Tag Titles? Where did Kane come from, a dusty shelf in the attic? The Bludgeon Brothers have been painted as absolute destroyers since winning the Tag Titles. While Daniel Bryan plays the “underdog” better than just about anyone, the fact that Kane came into this bout injured, complete with a walking boot, left very little doubt over the outcome. Ultimately, the match was flat, the feud was unnecessary, and hopefully we can see Daniel Bryan move on to more high profile matchups with guys like the Miz, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles, while the Bludgeon Brothers prepare for a date with Sanity. As for Kane…he can rot in hell, aka Knox County.
The Constable Crumbles
Something about this feud reminds me of the Daniel Bryan vs Big Cass feud we just witnessed on Smackdown. The whole “big man trying to dominate the smaller, craftier, more technically sound little guy” shtick. While the feud didn’t seem to work for Bryan and Cass, and ultimately led to Cass being fired, Corbin and Balor seem to be having slightly more success with the angle. The match was good, not great, and it’s hard to tell where this feud is going, but for now, it served it’s purpose. Balor picked up a sneaky win over Corbin via roll up, which will keep the Constable angry, while continuing to give Balor a slight edge.
Shinsuke Captures Gold
After coming out on the wrong side of his feud with AJ Styles, Nakamura turned his attention to US Champion Jeff Hardy. Swagsuke seized his opportunity, striking Hardy will a low blow before the bout and finishing the champion off with a Kinshasa to claim the title for himself. Following the bout, the Viper Randy Orton would emerge, seemingly laying his claim as the first challenger for Nakamura’s US Championship. The outcome was fun, albeit quick, and the speculation of an Orton vs Nakamura bout at Summerslam could be very entertaining.
Things Just Got Rowdy
The Raw Women’s Championship match at Extreme Rules was largely overshadowed by the fact that Ronda Rousey was front row ringside. It didn’t take long before Rousey jumped the guardrail and got herself involved, igniting the audience as she battered Mickie James and chased Alexa Bliss. A kendo stick would serve as the equalizer, subduing Rousey just long enough for Bliss to score the pinfall over Jax and retain her title. Once again, Rousey proved to be the best part of the segment she was involved in. Her interference here seems to set up a future bout against Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship, while also effectively removing Nia Jax from the main event scene. A strong showing from Rousey, but a run of the mill match in every other regard.
Extreme Rules delivered one of the stronger WWE cards this year, with the exception of one or two hiccups. A plethora of championship bouts, including a couple of title changes, were plenty to keep fans entertained. Unfortunately the antics of the live audience hurt the card, while other matches were hindered by dull stipulations “cough cough shark cage”. WWE has adjusted nicely to the dual brand format, seamlessly going back and forth between Raw and Smackdown matches. With Summerslam just over a month away, expect many storylines to kick into full gear for the annual end of summer spectacle.
Thank you for reading and make sure to tune in every Wednesday for the Wednesday Afternoon Rundown, when we cover all the top stories from Monday Night Raw and Tuesday’s Smackdown Live, with expert analysis on what storylines to keep an eye on moving forward.