by Frank Lucci
It’s the time of the year where WWE gets as extreme as the PG rating will allow, and the company is trying to carry some momentum into the critical Summer season.
The second Pay-Per-View of May, Extreme Rules is wedged between Payback and Money in the Bank (which has essentially become the Royal Rumble of the Summer). Throw an NXT TakeOver special into the mix and it would have been understandable for the WWE to sit on their laurels and phone it in for Extreme Rules (TakeOver won’t be happening until June 8). However, the influx of new talent has made the WWE and Raw in particular much better since WrestleMania. While there have been some hiccups, Extreme Rules has the potential to be a very good show.
Kickoff: Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin (No Disqualification Match)
At Payback, Ziggler managed to get the sneaky pin on The Lone Wolf, but all signs point to Corbin getting the win here. While falling short in their previous pre-show match, Corbin has been very aggressive since his debut and needs a decisive win to help put him over with casual fans who missed his NXT work and his ‘Mania victory in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Ziggler can make anybody look like a million bucks, but after doing the favors for Corbin he can hopefully go back to being main event cannon fodder.
The New Day (c) vs. The Vaudevillians (WWE Tag Team Championships Match)
The New Day remains one of the most entertaining elements of WWE, but they’ve lost a step since becoming full-blown babyfaces. For one thing, losing at ‘Mania to a faction that no longer exists and not having a match at the following Pay-Per-View doesn’t help. Secondly, not being squirrely jerks anymore means they can’t fully commit to being the perfect trolls we fell in love with.
While The Vaudevillians are doing far better than most expected on the main roster, they’re potentially tag team filler while Enzo Amore recovers from his scary concussion at Payback. The New Day retains in a good match.
Kalisto (c) vs. Rusev (United States Championship Match)
With Ryback seemingly on his way to being “future endeavored,” Kalisto has found a new massive monster trying to capture his title.
The better half of the Lucha Dragons has become the master of making something out of nothing, as his U.S. championship run has consisted of him pulling off great matches with little build. He pushed Ryback to new heights with his downright amazing moves and Rusev’s own freak athleticism has me almost thinking this could be the sleeper hit of the night (if only we could get a real effort from the WWE to promote the U.S. title again like last year).
Kalisto gets the win: 50% based on Rusev being a recent lame duck and 50% is me holding out for Sin Cara to betray Kalisto and challenge for the title before he sinks too far into the Jannetty realm.
The Usos vs. The Club (Tornado Tag Team Match)
First off: THE CLUB??? THAT’S THE BEST WWE CAN DO??? A million different options and the WWE decide to make Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson sound like they go to AJ Styles’ basement and drink mojitos while playing Team Fortress 2.
Since their debut, the two have been losing a disturbing amount to Roman Reigns (which is understandable given that he’s champ) and The Usos (who have not done shit all year) all well acting as pawns to the larger Styles/Reigns feud. That being said, they have been putting on good matches (albeit mostly reruns) and I see them winning at Extreme Rules to add more intrigue to the main event.
Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya (Women’s Championship Submission Match – Ric Flair is banned from ringside)
After the frankly downright embarrassing ending to their Payback match, these two women are facing off again with the added stipulation that Charlotte’s father Ric Flair is banned from ringside (presumably Nattie’s uncle Bret Hart does not need to be banned from ringside since he openly didn’t want to be at Payback and therefore wouldn’t be caught dead at ringside for the rematch).
It’s easy to forget that this is the third PPV match between the two (if you count Roadblock) and WWE has made some questionable moves such as Ric saying he doesn’t think his daughter can win without him (watch out Titus we got a new father of the year here) and THE FUCKING SCREWJOB FINISH IN 2016. I will scream if Charles “Little Naitch” Robinson is again the referee for this match. Charlotte wins because we all know her versus Sasha Banks is going to happen.
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose (First-Ever Asylum Match)
Strait out of WCW it’s the debut of the Asylum Match! This twisted match (that can only be won by pinfall or submission) features weapons lined all along the top of the cage, giving it a unique flavor beyond typical vanilla cage matches. The problem is that a) this is the PG era and b) Jericho is unlikely to take big bumps this late in his career. Add in WWE’s desperate attempt to show how “ka-raaay-zee” Dean Ambrose is and this will be a well worked match that is instantly forgettable.
The Miz (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens (Fatal Four-Way Intercontinental Championship Match)
While many are disappointed the Owens vs. Zayn feud is not getting a true Extreme Rules continuation, the addition of Cesaro and The Miz has been done very well. Merging the two separate feuds makes sure this will get the proper time on the PPV and lead to a stellar match.
Everyone has played their parts well and special mention goes to The Miz for being the perfect smarmy Hollywood champion (along with his equally perfect real-life wife Maryse) who has shown his ability to hang with three of the biggest indy darlings in the WWE.
The only wrinkle in the buildup is the WWE insisting that we see these four go at it over and over again – meaning this actual match between the four already feels like it has been going on for several months rather than weeks. This is a toss up, so I will say The Miz retains due to some type of Maryse related shenanigans.
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles (Extreme Rules Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Since Payback the WWE has continued to play it smart with these two. Styles has been pushed into acting more aggressive and gelling with Gallows and Anderson, but only after several beatdowns from Reigns and The Usos. This is essentially the match we should have gotten at Payback, seeing as that one eventually became a “No DQ” anyway.
Styles is more of a natural underdog here, but if The Club takes out The Usos earlier I see a situation where he is given a chance to go full heel but refuses, leading to his defeat once again. Seeing this, The Club then turns on their friend for being weak – instantly making Styles the white-meat babyface the company desperately needs.
As for Finn Balor, it seems like talk of him jumping to the main roster has cooled, so I doubt he will be much of a factor here. On top of that, Balor is scheduled to face Samoa Joe inside a steel cage at the next NXT TakeOver event (making his arrival at Extreme Rules even more unlikely).
With Reigns vs. John Cena rumored for SummerSlam and Styles a prime candidate for a Money in the Bank win I see Reigns keeping his championship in a big brawl.