Welcome to the recap of WWE Extreme Rules 2018, where the only thing hardcore was you for sitting through it.
The question that needs to be asked with every passing pay-per-view in today’s WWE is when the status quo will change? Running so many PPVs a year without discernible storyline advances or changes hurts the product overall. Extreme Rules was exemplary of that.
Here’s how WWE Extreme Rules shook out.
The Deleters of Worlds vs. The B-Team: B-
On paper, Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy are a really good match, especially in their respective gimmicks. While it’s take a long time for them to gell, it was starting to happen — and then the B-Team won.
While the B-Team are still finding their way as a tag team, I’m all in for a shock win in a division that’s been pretty stale. Not to mention, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel are pretty entertaining together. Axel’s “Stretch Armstrong” comment pulled a genuine laugh from me.
The WWE tag team division is still a big a step down from what NXT has offered — yes, I’m an NXT Stan — and it’s pretty sad considering the amount of quality tag talent
Still, it was a pleasant surprise, and sometimes that can be a good thing in a product that’s completely predictable
What’s next: The B-Team gets a fair shake at being tag champs while the Deleters of Worlds work out some issues. It remains to be seen if the finish — which saw Hardy knock into Wyatt — is just a red herring for a break-up or not.
Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin: C+
Balor with (hopefully) one day return to the main event when he belongs. This was a perfectly serviceable and at times good match, but I didn’t really learn much from or about either guy during the match.
I’m not really sure where Constable Corbin is going right now, but I hope he finds something, because he is very talented and has a unique look
My main issue with Balor is that he’s still being booked as the scrappy, resourceful underdog as opposed to a bona-fide wrestling superstar, which he is. Once upon a time in WWE he was billed as being the overseas sensation, an incredibly dangerous competitor with a varied and unique offensive assault.
Corbin, on the other hand, needs to figure out his character. The new look works for him, kind of, but the mean and vicious streak needs to come out more in his matches.
What’s next: The scrappy underdog Finn Balor will continue feuding with Corbin, at least for now. Corbin needs to pick up a win sooner or later.
Asuka vs. Carmella: D
The year is 2018. Sports entertainers are being suspended above the ring in cages.
Novelty matches are cool and all but this is the third shark cage match in two years. Plus, it’s 2018. If you need a shark cage to tell a story in the ring, then you’re doing something very, very wrong.
While I’m all for a Carmella run as “SmackDown” Women’s Champ, it’s a shame to see Asuka has been completely and utterly ruined by WWE. Make no qualms about it — she was a force of utter domination when she came up, but after her loss to Charlotte at WrestleMania, it’s been all downhill like the last 45 minutes of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
While we could be getting all-time classics in Asuka vs. Charlotte and so forth, we’re subjected to Asuka losing matches to Carmella by being thrown into shark cages. This is the state of the product in a nutshell.
What’s next: Please, for the love of God, no more James Ellsworth. It just feels like the window for comeuppance is already closed, and Asuka shouldn’t continue to be used to lose to Carmella in these bizarre ways. It’s a tired act at this point.
Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: A
This match, which lasted all of 7 seconds, was exactly what Nakamura needed for his WWE career. The low blow into the Kinshasa for the U.S. Title victory was a very, very good palate-clenser of the AJ Styles feud.
Nakamura’s feud with Styles left a lot — a lot — to be desired, considering the fans were never given an opportunity or a reason to care about their matches other than, “Hey, this is a dream match!” That’s not a great selling point, especially if fans aren’t familiar with either guy’s work overseas.
That said, it’s time for Nakamura to start winning matches. That started with his quick victory over Hardy. The confusion started post-match, with Randy Orton attacking Jeff Hardy. The never-ending cycle of Orton face/heel turns is nauseating and boring.
What’s next: Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy … yaaaayyy? Nakamura needs an opponent. Maybe a face Rusev?
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens: B+
This match started with a bit of brilliant storytelling, with Strowman yelling at Owens to stop being a coward.
It ended with a bang.
What made this match so great is that it was a love letter to the Attitude Era: Owens crotch chopped — made famous by D-X, of course — and hit a Stone Cold Stunner during the bout. It ended with Owens landing on an announce table 15 feet below.
Owens continues to show why he’s one of the best in the company today — he’s an excellent story teller and understands how to get the most out of his matches and opponents.
This match was exactly what it needed to be, and the added “sweetener” of Owens throwing himself through a table for the entertainment of the crowd was scary and exhilirating to watch.
Hopefully Owens is OK, because he’s another star that the company is sitting on that they may not know they have.
What’s next: It’s hard seeing the Strowman-Owens feud ending, but with the way Owens was launched off the cage makes for some questions as to when he’ll return. I’m interested to see where they go with both from here on out.
Team Hell No vs. The Bludgeon Brothers: C-
The Bludgeon Brothers have the personality of a car crash but are far less entertaining than watching one.
I’m not entirely sure what WWE is doing with Daniel Bryan right now. Team Hell No is still well received, but it will be short-lived with Kane going through hellfire and brimstone to win an election soon.
Bryan, meanwhile, has been strangely utilized since returning to the ring. He was brought in to give a rub to Big Cass — now gone from the company — and potentially to put over the Boredom Brothers. When will he be put in a feud of value?
There are so many matches and feuds for Bryan to have that will easily carry him over into the next year, but for now we’re getting ones that don’t make much sense.
What’s next: The weird Kane-is-injured angle they ran before the match asked more questions than answered them, but it makes sense considering they didn’t want the BBs to go over clean.
Daniel Bryan, at some point, has to be put in a feud of value. Who knows when that will come, but it appears to not be in the cards anytime soon.
Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley: B-
The problem with Reigns vs Lashley isn’t the athleticism or the match quality, it’s that both have no character. It’s been the same story for Reigns for a long time, while Lashley hasn’t been put in a position to give people a reason to care since he’s returned to the ‘E.
The ship has sailed on making Reigns a top guy, as the fans absolutely do not care for him right now. The same can be said for Lashley, though his window is not closed yet.
This was a surprisingly brutal, vicious and physical match which got the crowd invested as it went on. Lashley winning is 100 percent the right decision, as another match with Lesnar right now would be a terrible booking option at the moment. Reigns has routinely put on good matches on PPV with guys not named Brock Lesnar, so it’s slightly sad to see another good match put to waste in a losing effort.
Still, Reigns needs a lot of work if he is the future of the company.
What’s next: The match that people wanted to see over a decade ago seems to be formulating, with Lashley seeming to be angling for a match with Brock Lesnar. Meanwhile, Reigns is going to have to find something to do, as his window for being a top guy seems to be closing. At least for now.
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss: C-
Nia Jax is just so middle-of-the-road that has yet to produce a defining match that really gives her that edge up on the rest of the division.
This match was more of the same of the Jax-Bliss feud: Alexa Bliss is good at playing her character, Rousey is still extremely well protected, though the match was a little sloppy. The right decision was made with Bliss retaining. That’s all there is to it, really. This was a pretty nothing match that had no staying power whatsoever.
What’s next: Rousey will get to exact her revenge on Bliss, at some point. Being in a program with Mickie James — who is still paired with Bliss — will help Rousey. She’s been incredibly well protected and well booked since her debut. If only WWE cared about everything else as much …
AJ Styles vs. Rusev: B
I’d like to preface this by saying I absolutely love that WWE gave Rusev the opportunity a shot at the WWE Championship. Rusev Day has been much too hot and it’s an opportunity to give the fans what they want after being so invested in Rusev’s shtick.
Rusev is a good wrestler who has put on many, many quality matches in his career. This one started slowly and picked up towards the end, with many well-executed spots and decent enough pacing to make it enjoyable.
Rusev proved he can hang with Styles, and that’s what matters here. Should WWE decide to go back to Rusev in the future, no one should frown upon it.
What’s next: If that was indeed a one-off for the WWE Championship, more power to Rusev. he was much too over to miss the boat and the pulled the trigger on him right at the right time. That said, there isn’t much in the Land of Opportunity for AJ to conquer, so we’ll wait and see what develops.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler: B
There are two truths to be had from this match:
1. Seth Rollins should be the face of the company.
2. It’s a shame — and a mystery — that Dolph Ziggler never got an extended main-event run in WWE.
This was a very well booked match. Rollins proved to the world why he’s one of the best on the planet with his over-the-top athleticism and ability to work great matches for extended time. Ziggler consistently reminds us why he’s star material, even if WWE never sees it that way.
I really liked how this match broke the mold of typical Iron Man matches: this one was loaded with falls as opposed to just three or four falls to decide a victory. Also, Rollins locking in a Sharpshooter was a cool nod to the Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels Iron Man Match as in back in the day.
Two things bothered me: The first, the pace of the match was a little rough in the beginning. The second, everyone was hoping for at least another 10-15 minutes once Kurt Angle announced sudden death. The fact that it ended so abruptly was a bit disappointing, regardless of the Rollins loss. Let these guys work a little more and give something more for the crowd to be invested in. Sell me on a Ziggler IC Title run. Let me see why he’s in this spot.
The crowd was just starting to get into the match once it was nearing its end, which is more on the crowd than the workers themselves, but it felt like something good was brewing there.
Side note: How bad was the crowd in Pittsburgh? You’re finally given the opportunity to cheer for a main event for the first time in a long time, and these mouthbreathers want to try and hijack it by counting along with the clock. Be better, clowns.
What’s next: It will never happen, but give me a Rollins Universal Championship run. We may get it one day. One day. Until then, Ziggler and Rollins will continue to feud over the title, maybe culminating in a three-way between Ziggler, Rollins and McIntyre.
Mostly eh. The highlight of the night was Strowman vs. Owens. Both main event matches were pretty good, but nothing that went above and beyond. Lots of stalling of storylines, aside from Lashley vs. Reigns. Not many moving parts, either. Definitely not all that bad from a match quality standpoint, but could have been better, especially the second half.
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