Just three weeks after Payback, WWE was back on pay-per-view for Extreme Rules – a show that at least looked good on paper, even if the top three matches were all rematches.
Curiously, when the show started, we got a good view of the unusually tardy WWE crew finishing off the Asylum cage for the main event. Our action started with a pre-show promo from the Dudley Boyz, on how they’re “more extreme” than the rest of the locker room combined. Of course they get ECW chants, and they egged on the crowd, before getting boo’s for plugging the WWE Network (great heel work!). The Dudleyz took credit for killing off ECW, then predicted the same would happen for most of the “New Era” guys. Given WWE’s record with new talent, they’ll probably not be wrong. Bonus match time! No Enzo here, so we get Big Cass making fat jokes at Bubba Ray, and the Dudleyz jump Cass two-on-one, before Cass ducks a clothesline, and nails the East River Crossing (swinging side-slam) on D-Von.
No Disqualification: Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
The fact that Baron’s done two pre-shows since his WrestleMania debut tells you everything about how much thought was put into his initial call-up, doesn’t it? Ziggler shoved Corbin into the ringpost almost immediately, but Corbin retaliates by whipping Ziggler out of the ring and taking a cameraman down with him in the process. Back inside, Corbin keeps on top of Ziggler, whipping him chest-first into the turnbuckles, before tying the former World champion up in the ropes.
A cobra clutch keeps Ziggler grounded, but a jawbreaker frees himself and we get Ziggler’s usual rapid-fire comeback. Corbin avoids an elbow drop, but falls to the move at the second attempt for a two-count. Ziggler almost saw a Famouser turned into a powerbomb, but he was able to roll through for a near-fall, before Corbin scored a two-count from a Deep Six.
Corbin looked to finish off Ziggler with a powerbomb, but Ziggler punched himself free and leapt onto the turnbuckles, hitting a tornado DDT and Famouser for a near-fall. The end came when Corbin ducked a superkick and smashed Ziggler with a low blow, and it was all elementary from the End of Days, as the Baron won. It was what it was – now, can we expect to see Corbin actually on the next pay-per-view? **½
Tornado Match: The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
The main show kicked off with the Usos getting booed – can we call them the Boo-sos from now? The Usos meet the not-Bullet Club in the aisle, before dropping Gallows with a pair of Stinger splashes and a double clothesline to the outside. Anderson retaliates by back body dropping Jey Uso into the crowd, leaving Jimmy to take a two-on-one assault on the floor. Jey returned with a dive, and scored a near-fall with a cross body block off the top for a near-fall.
The not-Club dropped an Uso with the Boot of Doom off the apron, but only got a near-fall back in the ring, before Jimmy Uso knocked off Anderson as they went for a Doomsday Device. Jimmy then caught Anderson as they went for a Boot of Doom, before the Usos knocked down Gallows with double superkicks. Anderson got cheers for shoving an Uso off the top rope, as did a missed corkscrew moonsault, before Anderson scored a near-fall from a spinebuster.
On the outside, Anderson prepped for a running big boot to Jey, but just ran into a superkick, before taking a hip attack by the security boards. Gallows went outside for the ring bell, but ended up taking a superkick as he tried to hit Jimmy with the bell… but Gallows rolled out of the way as Jimmy went for a big splash, landing on the ring bell. One Magic Killer later, and the not-Club get the win. Good, wild opener **¾
WWE United States Championship: Rusev vs. Kalisto (c)
Rusev gets the long entrance this month so they can show you that the Portuguese, Russian and Japanese announce teams exist.
Kalisto starts chopping away at Rusev’s legs with kicks, but gets shoved away as he tried a corkscrew forearm off the middle rope. From there, it was fairly one-way as Rusev flattened Kalisto with elbows, before squeezing the champion down to the mat with a bear hug. That’s followed up with a torture rack, but Kalisto manages to knee himself free and slip into a sleeperhold, before Rusev just bounces back and squashes Kalisto with a flat back bump.
Kalisto fires back with a corkscrew forearm and a short hurricanrana, before low-bridging Rusev to the outside and following it up with a headscissors through the ropes, sending the challenger into the ring steps. A springboard frog splash gets Kalisto a two-count, but a Salida del Sol is blocked as Rusev powders to the outside, where he’s met with a moonsault press.
Rusev caught Kalisto on the top rope and threw him onto the apron, and it was pretty much over from there, as Kalisto was dragged into the ring, and forced to tap to a torque-laden Accolade as Rusev became a two-time champion. Good match, although I’d guess they’re not doing rematches like with del Rio… ***
WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) (c) vs. The Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch & Aiden English)
Kofi got the night off here, as Big E and Xavier tagged together, as Big E came out with a pair or hoes. The garden tools, not the Godfather’s ladies! The joke: they’re going to put a couple of hoes in the ground – that being the Vaudevillains.
Woods and English start out, with Woods taking down English with a headscissors, before he tagged out to Gotch, who went to town on Woods. Woods fought himself out of a headlock, before making the tag in to Big E, who threw English around with two overhead belly-to-bellies, then a normal belly-to-belly suplex.
English elbowed Big E as he went for the Big Ending, before drilling him with a knee as he went for the spear through the ropes. A modified DDT got English a near-fall, but it took Gotch to run in to save English from the Midnight Hour. The Vaudevillains hit the Whirling Dervish on Woods, who kicked out, before Big E wiped out English with a spear through the ropes. As the referee got distracted by looking at the aftermath of that, Kofi Kingston hit a kick on the apron to Gotch, and a Xavier Woods knee sealed the win. That felt like a real throwaway, Raw match… hell, I think the New Day’s pre-match promo ran longer than the match itself! **
WWE Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. The Miz (c)
Cesaro’s shoulder is still taped up, and Zayn starts the match by giving Owens a Helluva kick as soon as the bell goes. And then there were three. Cesaro uppercuts Miz, and now we’re down to two.
Cesaro does the Will Ospreay-like kip-ups to escape a wristlock, before the two have a brief encounter, ending with Zayn low-bridging Cesaro to send him out of the ring. Miz returned but didn’t last long, being sent to the outside with Zayn diving on Miz and Cesaro on the floor. Back in the ring, Miz worked on Zayn in the corner, and they worked on a tower of doom spot, before Owens sprung back in to pick up the pieces and go after Zayn. A back senton flattens Zayn, but only gets Owens a two-count, as he goes off to knock the Miz off the apron, before Owens uses Zayn as a battering ram to knock Cesaro down to the floor again.
Owens manages to defend himself from Miz and Zayn on the top turnbuckle, before Cesaro returns as they hit the tower of doom superplex/powerbombs, with Cesaro getting a pair of near-falls as a result. Zayn drilled Cesaro with a Blue Thunder Bomb, but got caught with a knee from Miz before he could even make a cover. The trio worked together as Cesaro caught Miz with a release German suplex as Miz went to hit an Exploder on Zayn in yet another innovative four-way spot.
Cesaro goes to town on the other three with uppercuts, finally knocking down Miz as Cesaro appeared to start bleeding from the forehead. Head shaving cuts are nasty, as I can attest to! Canonballs from Owens on everyone else now, before Zayn countered a pop-up powerbomb with a Tiger suplex. Cesaro hit a pop-up uppercut on Zayn, before taking a Skull Crushing Finale for a near-fall from Miz. A corkscrew uppercut from the second rope follows for Miz, as Cesaro goes for the Giant Swing, Cesaro locks in the Sharpshooter straight after, but Miz makes the ropes, and ends up tapping after he’d been pulled off… but the referee missed it, and counted a two as Owens rolled him up. More madness follows as Cesaro tried for a Giant Swing, only for Owens to hit a frog splash on the Miz, before Cesaro dropped Owens with the Neutraliser for a near-fall.
Zayn scored a two-count from a wacky roll-up that ended with a sunset flip, but Cesaro caught him with an uppercut as Zayn ran in for the Helluva kick. A second attempt was intercepted by Owens, who ended up taking a Skull Crushing Finale on the floor, and we went through more near falls, culminating in Owens pulling Zayn out of the ring, as the director completely missed the Miz crawling into the ring, cutting back at the last second as he got the three-count on Cesaro. A really good match, with a lot of interplay between each of the four guys – can we have more of this? ***¾
Asylum Match: Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose
So, this is a cage match with weapons. And by Lord, it went LONG. The Asylum was a normal steel cage, with various weapons raised above it… like a potted plant, a strait jacket, a fire extinguisher, some nunchucks… Plunder!
In the opening minutes, Jericho tried to leave the cage via the door, then climb up to escape. Guess that showed how much he listened, since the main selling point of the Asylum was that it was pinfalls or submission only! Ambrose tossed Jericho into the cage walls, before looking up to the heavens for a weapon, but Jericho cut him off as he went for the mop and bucket. Jericho got the mop, but Ambrose stole it and used the handle to prod Jericho in the ear and down to the mat. A dropkick out of the corner floors Ambrose, but only for a count of one, as Jericho whipped him with a mop, before climbing up for a 2×4 with barbed wire on it. Ambrose catches him and dumps Jericho to the mat with a Razor Ramon-like back superplex.
They were successful the next time, with Ambrose getting nunchucks and Jericho the barbed wire board, and it was the nunchucks that were used first, but after taking a pasting, Jericho leapt to the top to escape the cage. Ambrose again caught him, and dragged him back into the ring, only for Jericho to grab a kendo stick and hit Ambrose back into the ring with it. The next item down was a leather strap, with Ambrose being given a good ol’ fashioned Canadian whipping, before Ambrose yanked Jericho off the top rope via the strap and returning the favours.
Aside from the weapon shots, this crowd largely remained dead, as Jericho again had a go at a referee for refusing to open the cage door, before he gets crotched across the top rope. A strait jacket came into play, and was thrown in the face of Ambrose as Jericho avoided a shot from a fire extinguisher, before he tried to put Ambrose into the strait jacket.
Jericho scores a near-fall from a tiger driver into a backbreaker, but Ambrose recovered with a bulldog out of the corner, then going up to the top of the cage for an elbow smash. Ambrose went up again to grab a bucket, but inside it was a bag of thumbtacks that ended up scattered into the corner of the ring. Jericho took that as a cue to exit, but he caught Jericho, who escaped an electric chair drop with a victory roll for a near fall. Ambrose saw a bodyslam attempt blocked, then an Alabama Slam as Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho. Ambrose tried for the Dirty Deeds in the tacks, but Jericho reversed into the Walls again, with a kendo stick freeing Ambrose from the hold.
A fire extinguisher blast from Jericho and a code breaker gets him a near-fall, before using the barbed wire 2×4. The crowd then woke up as Jericho’s code breaker attempt was caught, as Ambrose dumped him into the thumbtacks, before the Dirty Deeds into the thumbtacks ends it and gets Ambrose the win. Thank God that was over – the highlights of this will be entertaining, but at 26-minutes long, unedited, this felt like a chore to sit through at points. **
WWE Women’s Championship: Submission Only – Natalya vs. Charlotte (c)
The stipulation before the match is that Ric Flair is banned – and if he appears at ringside, Natalya immediately gets the title. Given how bad a finish that would be, I have a bad feeling this may actually happen.
Natalya scores a few headlock takedowns early on, before Charlotte reverses a leglock into an STF. Charlotte takes a slingshot back suplex by landing on her ass, as Natalya goes for a Mexican surfboard, but Charlotte is able to roll through out of it. Charlotte took the action outside the ring and delivered some chops to Natalya, who retaliated by sending the champion into the ring post to what I could only describe as an indifferent reaction.
Natalya rolled through a figure four attempt and switched into an armbar attempt, but Charlotte punched free and dropped the challenger with a sit-out powerbomb, before catching Natalya in a reverse figure-four (Jamie Noble’s old trailer hitch), at least until Natalya grabbed the rope.
Charlotte suplexed Natalya into the ropes (and if this were PROGRESS, we’d get a “that’s what ended the career of Rick Martel” reference here), before landing a moonsault, and transitioning into a single-leg Boston crab. Natalya escaped and got the Sharpshooter locked on… only to be distracted by Ric Flair’s entrance music. Only, it wasn’t Ric, it was Dana Brook in a really bad costume, and Natalya let herself fall for the distraction, and ultimately tapped to the Figure Eight.
This was way too short for a submission match of this importance – did we really need nearly half an hour for that Asylum match? Although we now have a Dana/Charlotte pairing (a bit of an upgrade for Dana, since Emma’s out with a back injury), it again leaves Natalya looking a bit dim for falling for distractions yet again. ***
Post-match, the heels celebrated, as we found out that Dana really didn’t know how to do the Ric Flair/Fargo strut…
Extreme Rules – WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns (c)
They started out fairly evenly, with Reigns getting the first big strike, with a knee to the chest that sent AJ to the floor and scrambling for a steel chair. AJ rolls out of the way as Reigns tried to use the chair on him, before ducking as Reigns ended up smashing the chair into the ring steps.
After that, Styles attacked Reigns on the German announce table, before clotheslining him into the crowd. They fought throughout the crowd, and into the pre-show panellists area, before Reigns tossed AJ onto the table in the set. Cue loud “Roman sucks” chants, and AJ retaliated with the Phenomenal Forearm off the table.
Back in the ringside area, AJ peeled back the protective mats and tried for a Styles Clash on the concrete, but Reigns punched free, before losing a powerbomb attempt on Styles onto the German announce desk. A Styles Clash attempt on the table is blocked, and AJ is punched into the crowd, before his effort at a Phenomenal Forearm from the crowd back in saw Reigns back body drop AJ through the English announce desk.
Reigns drilled Styles with a crucifix powerbomb for a near-fall in the centre of the ring, before Styles clipped Reigns’ knee as the champion went for a Superman punch. Styles capitalises with a running knee off the apron to Reigns’ face, before the champion caught a hurricanrana attempt and swung AJ between the ring and security fence, before finally dumping AJ through the Spanish announce table.
Reigns tried to follow up with a spear, but AJ slumped out of the way, with Reigns connecting with nothing but a security wall. In the ring again, AJ went for another Phenomenal Forearm, but was swatted down with a Superman Punch and out to the floor. Reigns dove over the ring steps with a spear as he kept up the assault, before Gallows and Anderson make the trip to ringside to take out Reigns with the less-than-effective Boot of Doom.
Despite that move, Reigns kicked out at two, as the Usos came out to even things up, with superkicks to Styles and a top rope splash that seemed to mark the Uso’s heel turn to the Newark crowd. AJ kicked out at two after all that, before Anderson and Gallows ate a pair of Superman punches, but AJ kicked away a Spear and landed the Styles Clash on Reigns for another near-fall.
Styles went for the Styles Clash again – this time on a chair – but Reigns blocked it and backdropped AJ onto the chair. A Pele kick blocks the spear, as AJ succeeds with the Styles Clash on the chair, only for the Usos to interfere to prevent AJ from getting the cover. AJ flipped after that, wiping out Reigns and the Usos with repeated chair shots, before setting up for one more Phenomenal Forearm, but Reigns met him in mid-air with a spear, and got the win. Great match, and I’ll say (through gritted teeth) that Reigns more than played his part, even if the crowd remained indifferent until the later stages. ****
The after-match was where the big story was though, as Reigns staggered to his feet with the WWE title, only to be caught by a returning Seth Rollins, drilling Reigns with a Pedigree. That woke the crowd up!
Extreme Rules ended up as a two match show – and if it weren’t for the Intercontinental and WWE title matches, this would have been a throwaway event. The Asylum match ran needlessly long and killed the crowd aside from the Pavlovian responses, whilst the women’s match didn’t get a chance to get going and revive the crowd. I can’t recommend the whole show, but try and book out 40 minutes or so to see the two top title matches at least.