By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
ProWrestling.net Live returns today at 3CT/4ET with Will Pruett and I taking your calls coming out of WWE Extreme Rules and Impact Wrestling Slammiversary at PWAudio.net. If you can’t join us live, email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WWE Extreme Rules Hits
Big E and Kofi Kingston vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro in a tables match for the Smackdown Tag Titles: This is about as good as a tables match can be. Both teams worked hard and the match built nicely to the impressive double decker powerbomb spot at the end. Nakamura and Cesaro should send Jaxson Ryker a thank you note. If it wasn’t for his poorly timed political tweet, they probably wouldn’t have been placed in this feud with New Day to begin with.
Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship: The stipulation that Ziggler chose was logical in terms of giving himself an advantage while putting the champion at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a stipulation that would have convinced the masses that Ziggler had any chance of winning the WWE Championship. The Hit goes entirely to the efforts of both wrestlers, who worked hard to deliver a quality match.
Bayley vs. Nikki Cross for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: Good action from start to finish. Cross continues to be a likable babyface who stands out because she’s unique in every way. Bayley’s title reign has suffered from predictability in that fans just assume that she will hold the title until they finally get around to doing the breakup angle with Sasha Banks. I thought we would see a big move toward the split on the show to set things up for SummerSlam, but there’s still no sign of friction between the Bayley and Banks characters.
Kevin Owens vs. Murphy: A quality Kickoff Show match with the fan pleasing finish heading into the pay-per-view. Owens and Murphy worked really well together. In fact, Murphy seems to work well with everyone. I like the idea of making Murphy a disciple for Seth Rollins, but the creative forces really need to be start developing an actual character for him.
WWE Extreme Rules Misses
WWE Universal Champion Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt in a non-title Swamp Fight: A lousy mini movie with the original Friday The 13th horror movie finish. I’m admittedly not big on the cinematic approach to pro wrestling, but I have enjoyed some cinematic matches more than others. WWE loses me whenever they start incorporating hocus pocus nonsense in cinematics or even in normal times. It damaged the original version of Bray Wyatt, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson by taking the same approach with The Fiend. This cinematic didn’t leave me looking forward to Strowman vs. The Fiend at SummerSlam, it made me dread what type of bad cinematic the creative forces will come up with next.
Asuka vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: Someone in the industry I spoke with this morning nailed it when they said this match finish would have been acceptable on a more straight forward card. Yet because the show was filled with horror themed nonsense, it just added to the negativity. Basically, you can get away with one oddball finish on an otherwise good show, but you can’t get away with the same match finish on a show filled with so much nonsense. I am curious to see how this will be handled on Raw. Vince McMahon has a track record when it comes to his reaction to sinking ratings. There’s usually a creative shakeup, which has already happened. He also brings in legends, which has also happened in the form of Ric Flair and Big Show. And when all else fails, we usually get the return of a McMahon or three as television characters. Given the finish in the Raw Women’s Championship match and with MVP claiming to be U.S. Champion even though he never won the title, I wonder if they are setting things up for a McMahon or a legend to play an authority figure role to rule on these matters.
Seth Rollins vs. Rey Mysterio in an eye for an eye match: Both wrestlers deserve a ton of credit for working hard and attempting to make this awful concept work. Of course, it failed miserably because the stipulation was atrocious, but that’s through no fault of the in-ring work of Rollins and Mysterio.
Overall show: WWE officials should be embarrassed. The wrestlers worked hard from top to bottom on this event, but even their efforts were not enough to save this from being one of the company’s worst pay-per-views in recent memory. The cinematic match was ridiculous, the eye for an eye stipulation was pathetic, and this was a just plain disastrous example of stunt booking. Of course, there will be defenders. There always are. But everything from WWE’s slumping viewership totals to social media reaction to our own poll results for this pay-per-view speak volumes. It’s time for a change. Stop attempting to reach the casual audience with over the top spectacle matches because the viewership of the weekly television shows indicate that those fans are not interested in pro wrestling during the pandemic. WWE’s freak show approach isn’t going to change that. The focus should be on pleasing their base audience during this empty venue era rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel in hopes of playing to uninterested casual fans.