By Haydn Gleed
Well, another month, another WWE network special. This card doesn’t look as strong as Payback did on paper, but with the “extreme” stipulation to the matches, it could surprise us all with how good it turns out to be. Without further Apu (the cartoon character, spare my editor any correction emails), let’s get cracking at looking at my thoughts for the show.
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in an Extreme Rules match: Both men delivered a very good main event to Payback, but I’m expecting this match to be completely different. With the Extreme Rules stipulation (let’s be honest here and call a chair a chair, it’s a hardcore match), and with the fact that WWE has built this match to a reasonable level that the feud feels it deserves an aggressive stipulation, we should see some tricks and violent moments in this match.
If nothing else comes out of this feud, it has shown WWE management that AJ Styles doesn’t feel in over his head at the main event level. It’s not to say he has blown anyone away (see his average mic skills), but he has shown that he belongs in and around that level. Hopefully, management will see that he belongs at an upper mid-card/can be slotted into the top of the card role going forward. Given AJ’s age and mic skills, it’s probably where he belongs at this stage.
Roman has again shown that when he is in the ring with a guy of above average skill (and in the case of AJ, outstanding in-ring skill) he can put on a good main event. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a long way to go, but if nothing else it feels like he is improving all the time despite the rejection he is facing. I still feel that WWE is peeing into the wind by pushing Reigns too hard against the tide of people who, despite what WWE officials may believe, are not reacting because they like or don’t like him, but rather are reacting because they just want him to go away. With that being said, I can’t see past Roman retaining here. If he loses and has to win it again, he would be a four time champion with a total of roughly three months of actually holding the title. That’s not just damaging to Roman, it’s damaging to the title.
Prediction: Roman Reigns retains (try saying that three times quickly when you are drunk) the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
As for anything AJ Styles/The Club/A N Other, I’m not sure. There has been so much speculation about someone coming in as the leader of the group that people have convinced themselves it’s happening. If my memory is not failing (which is a possibility), I can’t really remember anytime they’ve played up the possibility that “The Club” are working for someone other than AJ. With the way Gallows and Anderson have been positioned and essentially defined down at this point, I’m starting to wonder if maybe they have either changed course or completely abandoned any idea they had. If they were going to do this, surely they would keep the element of danger around Anderson and Gallows, not make them feel like everybody else or just another wrestler combo. If there is going to be a big reveal at some point of “who’s behind the invaders” (who haven’t really invaded or been made to look strong), then I can see a moment where The Club cost AJ the match. When AJ confronts them on Raw, out comes Seth Rollins or Randy Orton.
Charlotte vs. Natalya for the WWE Women’s Title in a submission match: I really had an issue with the hype for this match closing the show on Monday. Before you all write or tweet me, let me explain my reasoning’s. Firstly, this is not the main event of the PPV, and my own personal philosophy is that the final image coming out of the flagship show should involve the main event, because if everybody has done their job properly that’s what sells the network special.
Secondly, and I know this is going to be somewhat of a controversial view, but it felt to me that WWE was doing it so they could turn around and boast that they showcased the women as the most important thing on their flagship show. I have no issue with the theory of ladies ending the show. My problem is simply that this is essentially “Charlotte’s challenger of the month” which is fine, but looking at it from an equality stand point, it doesn’t merit being pushed over all the other matches. There was no reason to put these two, based on the feud, in the show ending segment except so that WWE officials could pat themselves on the back for being a good 2016 company, and to me that’s somewhat patronizing. Save that honor for a truly main event caliber feud.
Aside from that, I am looking forward to the match from the standpoint of the in-ring action. Payback was not a good match between these two surprisingly, so there is an element of pressure on both women, but they have worked so well together in the past that I’m sure they can make up for it here. I don’t think the Ric Flair stipulation will play into the finish as I see Charlotte going over, but I can see this as feeding the ego that is driving a wedge between father and daughter as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.
Prediction: Charlotte retains the WWE Women’s Championship.
The Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Title: I know I’m not the only person who is really looking forward to this match, as this should be the show stealer. This four-way feud has been built up so well, with everybody having an issue with one other. It has been some of the best and most entertaining viewing on the main shows as I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.
The Miz has to retain here because he is such the perfect person to hold that title at the moment. To make a title feel important, you not only have to demonstrate top level wrestlers going for it, but you also want the crowd to be desperately wanting the champion to lose it to their favorite. The Miz is just a heat magnet. At the Smackdown tapings in London last month, he took a tired crowd and had them wanting to see his blood with just a five minute promo in the dark segment, and he demonstrates that week after week on Raw. Thus, I don’t think it’s time for him to lose it.
If he were to lose, I could see them going with Cesaro, who is still riding the crest of the returning superstar as well as being somewhat of an internet darling. The guy is still incredible in the ring, and his strength is just phenomenal, but I still don’t know enough about him as a character to understand what he is about. I want to know what his motivations are, why I should like him aside from his crowd friendly moves, and where he gets his suits/stripper outfit from as I want some of those bad boys (I may or may not be kidding about that last one).
I can see a moment between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, but I want them to cool off their feud somewhat so that Sami can establish himself a little more as an individual on the main roster before going back to the feud, which I think will permanently link each other in WWE (as well as in their prior history on the indies of course). This is something that would be fascinating if it’s done well as it’s not really something we’ve seen since the Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels in the ’90s.
Prediction: The Miz retains the Intercontinental Title.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match: I am ready for this feud to be over. Chris Jericho has played an old school heel really well and I’ve enjoyed the way he’s managed to turn crowd after crowd against him. I’ve also enjoyed the interactions with Dean Ambrose a lot more than most people, but now it’s starting to feel stale to me and it’s starting to worry me how many times I’m saying that about a feud involving Dean Ambrose.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it feels strange to me that with a character that I hugely like, by the time Ambrose was coming to the end of his feud with Seth Rollins I was also ready to move on. And by the time he was coming to the end of his feud with Bray Wyatt, I was also ready to move on. I believe it’s just the formulaic approach they take with his feuds. Heel upsets Dean, Dean goes all crazy and does some out there “funny” stuff, heel beats Dean down, Dean shows he has more guts then brains, 50/50 booking, and then we move on to another feud. I want WWE to shake things up and, if I had my way, turn him heel.
As the for the match itself, it’s going to be different to anything else on the card, and will probably feel more like it fits in with the title of the event. After reading Jericho’s last book, and knowing the trouble he got into in a match against Batista, I don’t think we will see any color in this match. However, I do expect both men to take a beating. My natural instinct tells me Jericho will lose this feud ender, but I would have thought the same about AJ Styles and Jericho at WrestleMania. THe sensible option here is for Ambrose to get the victory.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose wins.
The Usos vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows in a tornado match: I expect this match to be crazy and something a little out of the norm to what we are used to within “tag team” wrestling. I think it will give us a massive clue as to what is happening in the main event, as based on what I wrote about above, if Anderson and Gallows go over strong here, I expect them to get involved in the ending of the match in some way that will lead to an angle tomorrow on Raw. If it’s more of a back and forth match with a fluky victory for The Usos or The Club, then I think it pours cold water on the invasion/heel faction idea. Not to say it won’t happen, but they desperately need Anderson and Gallows to look strong in this match for any faction to look strong and to place them as danger sidekicks to any leader.
Prediction Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows win.
The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains for the WWE Tag Team Championship: I’m finally starting to understand the appeal of New Day. I have been rather outspoken about the act over the last 12 months, because while they made me laugh, I didn’t think they had any depth as characters. I thought long term it wouldn’t work. I’ll eat crow and say I was wrong. I still don’t think the act is as strong as it could be, but now I’ve stopped worrying about that I am enjoying what they are doing to some degree.
I do get a massive kick out of The Vaudevillains. I wish I could explain to you why, but ever since they debuted on NXT, I’ve just enjoyed the hell out of the act. The strange side of my personality just thoroughly enjoys their characters. Unlike New Day though, the act won’t work long term and soon enough they will need to mix it up big time or slip down to Superstars level. I will enjoy the act while I still can. With that being said, I can’t see past New Day retaining here, but I can see the feud continuing on for a little while longer.
Prediction: The New Day retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
Kalisto vs. Rusev for the U.S. Title: *sigh* Kalisto should mean so much more, Rusev should mean so much more, the U.S. Title should mean so much more, but each of those is a blog topic in themselves. Given how I can’t see past the popular theory that John Cena will come back and take the U.S. Title from Rusev, I’m going to go with the big Russian/Bulgarian to come out victorious to become the only new champion on this show, which will give me three new blog topics for the coming weeks.
Prediction: Rusev wins the U.S. Title.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin in a No DQ match: Simply put, if Dolph wins here, then WWE officials have lost their minds. They are desperate for heels and Baron can fill that role beautifully. He’s a big guy with a big mouth who backs it up with power in the ring, but if he loses to Dolph again you might as well give up on Corbin before he even starts because people won’t see him as big of a threat as they should.
Prediction: Baron Corbin (please!).
As always, feel free to get in touch either through twitter @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org