By Jason Powell
WWE Extreme Rules Hits
Seth Rollins returns: A cool surprise return to close the show on a high note. Rollins was the most popular man in the building, so it will be very interesting to see how he is positioned on Raw tonight. Sadly, my guess is that he will still be the lead villain. He is a tremendous top heel, but the guy that so many fans want to see in that top heel role continues to be cast as the top babyface. WWE officials seem to have convinced themselves that the John Cena formula will work for Reigns. And while it’s true that Reigns gets a reaction either pro or con, they really need to ask themselves if they are leaving money on the table by not turning him all out heel and slotting Rollins as the top babyface. Reigns sells a lot of merchandise? That’s great. Is there any way of knowing if Rollins would sell even more merchandise if he were featured as the top babyface chasing a true heel Reigns? Let’s see if I feel differently about this coming out of tonight’s Raw.
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules match: A very good main event. The big brawl into the crowd played so much better than the silly hardcore weaponry used earlier in the show (more on that later). I feared this match would be all about the interference, but Reigns and Styles had plenty of time to work the body of the match and they did not disappoint. The clean finish combined with the post match angle would seem to suggest that Reigns is moving on. I am curious to see what’s next for Styles. Will he become the true heel leader of The Club? Will Anderson and Gallows lose faith in Styles and replace him? It should be an interesting edition of Raw for Styles.
The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro in a four-way: The best match of the night, which is really saying something given that the show had such a strong main event. The three challengers all had several moments to shine, and the opportunistic Miz character once again snuck in at the end to retain the title. Owens, Zayn, and Cesaro are great and will get the bulk of the credit from fans for the match, but Miz continues to perform at a higher standard than most want to give him credit for. There was a time when he would have stuck out like a sore thumb in a match with three world class workers, but he has improved to the point that he more than holds up his end of the bargain. Here’s hoping his act becomes more about establishing himself as a top heel rather than continuing to play a mid-card Hollywood wannabe pest heel. By the way, what comes next for each of these men? Will some or all of them compete in the Money in the Bank match?
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows vs. The Usos in a tornado rules match: A good match that was kept short enough that they were able to work at a fast pace without losing steam. Gallows and Anderson going over was the logical choice given that they were tied to the main event challenger and would help him later in the show. Is this the end of the program? If so, what’s next for Anderson and Gallows? I would ask the same about the Usos if I didn’t automatically assume it would be smiles and superkicks without any sense of character development.
New Day vs. The Vaudevillains: A good tag title match that was kept short and had no chance to overstay it’s welcome. It was a bit disheartening to see Xavier Woods kick out of the Vaudevillains’ finisher. It was a great moment in the match because Woods comes across like the weak link of his trio, but I fear that the Vaudevillains were one month challengers who will be moving out of the tag title picture. I’m not sure what is next for New Day, but I was impressed by the Woods and Big E pairing. Woods did a nice job of selling and also had some crowd pleasing offensive moments.
Rusev vs. Kalisto: A minor Hit for the title change. Kalisto deserved better. He was the victim of bad parity booking throughout his title run. The damage was done and it was time for a change. I want this to be a rebuilding moment for Rusev, but I fear he’s just a transitional champion who will drop the title quickly to John Cena. Here’s hoping they have something fresh in mind for Cena rather than going right back to the open challenge.
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler in a No DQ match: A minor Hit. It wasn’t the decisive feud ending win that I hoped Corbin would get. I’m fine with it if the idea is to let Ziggler save face, but I really hope the finish wasn’t designed to drag out the program longer than perhaps one more decisive Raw win for Corbin tonight.
Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon: I assumed they would be all over this show, but WWE placed the focus on what happened in the ring for a change. It was nice to get a break from the McMahon family story if only for one night.
WWE Extreme Rules Misses
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho in an Asylum match: I felt bad for Ambrose and Jericho. They worked hard and put their bodies through a lot, but the match just never got over. I had faith going in that these two would make the match work. The excuse of the four-way match taking place prior to the match doesn’t explain the crowd’s flat reaction throughout the entire marathon match. If the Reigns vs. Styles main event had been put in the tough position of following the four-way, the crowd may have started flat, but I have no doubt that Reigns and Styles would have had the fans with them long before the finish. The Asylum match felt like a Clockwork Orange House of Lethal Lockdown Fun. For those who don’t watch TNA, the Asylum match felt like two bad TNA gimmick matches combined into one. Hardcore wrestling feels passé when it’s done right, and WWE’s campy version of it is downright painful to watch, especially for 26 freaking minutes. This feud just hasn’t clicked from the start and I’m ready for both men to move on to something new.
Charlotte vs. Natalya: A letdown match and it wasn’t just the finish. Natalya looked like she was moving in slow motion on the dropkick to the seated Charlotte spot, and this wasn’t anywhere near as good as we’ve seem from these two in the past. The finish was lousy. It wasn’t Montreal Screwjob in 2016 dreadful, but it wasn’t far behind. The one positive coming out of the finish is that it should set up Dana Brooke in a program with veteran Natalya, which the newcomer will benefit from.
Big Cass destroys the Dudleys: The Dudleys started to get a little momentum with their heel turn, but now they are just bumbling heels who get roughed up by one big man. Are they really going to try to sell us on a feud between the Dudleys and Big Cass and Enzo Amore whenever Enzo returns? We’ve already seen that Cass can manhandle the Dudleys on his own, so that will be a tough sell even for a talented talker like Bubba.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...