We have a new Intercontinental Champion, New Raw Tag Team Champions, and at Great Balls of Fire, a dream match in every sense of the word. Brock Lesnar vs Samoa Joe for the WWE Universal Champion.
A crowd of over 11000 people packed into Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore Maryland for the Raw Exclusive PPV Extreme Rules, and well…it wasn’t really that extreme. The first thing to note is that the show only went for just over 2 hours and 44 minutes; that is 15-30 minutes shorter than your average weekly episode of Raw. Add into that the fact that from the start of the coverage it took about 10 minutes for the first match to actually start, and questions can immediately begin to be raised.
The Pre-Show saw Kalisto beat Apollo Crews after taking out Titus O’Neill whilst hitting his finisher. Absolutely nothing to see here, this feud is going no-where in a hurry.
The first match saw The Miz become the Intercontinental Champion for the seventh time beating Dean Ambrose. The pre-match video package really made the Miz seem like a babyface here, with him talking of how important the title is to him and how he will restore the title to the prestige it deserves. The stipulation was that if Ambrose was Disqualified, he would lose the title, perhaps the least “Extreme” stipulation imagine; Ambrose must follow the rules exactly, or lose his title. How this is extreme I have no idea. The two men do have great chemistry in the ring however and put on a solid 20minute match. The Miz tempting Ambrose to break the rules and get disqualified and Ambrose struggling to control himself was great storytelling, the Miz telling Maryse to slap him to force the DQ, only to have Maryse thrown out was smart. Miz pushing Ambrose into the ref, who for some reason took a long time to decide if he was to DQ Ambrose or not, causing the distraction for Miz to hit his finish and win. Unfortunately, however it does seem this feud is not over, as Ambrose to be fair has a legitimate claim for a rematch here. A solid start to the show with although a ridiculous stipulation, some very good storytelling.
Rich Swann received a hometown reception from the Baltimore faithful, and he and Sasha Banks picked up a convincing win over Noam Dar & Alicia Fox, breaking the recent ‘Hometown’ curse. Nothing really of note here, except Booker T saying on commentary that essentially this match means nothing to Swann, which is just not what a commentator should be saying about a PPV match. Again, it is hard to buy a Mixed Tag Team Match as an “Extreme” stipulation.
Elias Samson was in the ring for what was nothing more than absolute filler. Why this was on the show no one knows. Why not give this time (and more) to some of the matches on the card that needed it? This kind of segment does not belong on a PPV, and does nothing but devalue the PPV to nothing more than another episode of Raw.
Bayley was interviewed before the Kendo Stick on a Pole Match for the Raw Women’s Championship and at least it can be seen that WWE is acknowledging how awful the ‘This is your life’ segment was this past week on Raw. While more “Extreme” than anything that came before it, one can’t help but laugh at the concept of a Kendo Stick on a Pole Match, this one is straight out of Vince Russo’s playbook. The highlight here was Bayley’s inflatable tube men not inflating properly, and that’s about it. The match only lasted just over 5 minutes, getting the Kendo Stick off the Pole really didn’t mean anything as Bayley was the one who got the stick down, yet Alexa Bliss was the one who used it. This was nothing more than an absolute squash match, and leaves us wondering what on earth is happening to Bayley. Personally I was expecting to see Nia Jax here particularly after her pre-show appearance, but that wasn’t to be. This squash serves to make Alexa Bliss look even more dominant than before, but where it leaves Bayley is yet to be seen, she looks beyond weak here and a rematch does not seem justified based on her performance. The two options moving forward in the Raw Women’s Division seem to be either to go further all-in with Alexa Bliss having her hold the title for a very long time, perhaps pairing her with Nia Jax who is in desperate need of some direction, and could thrive with Alexa as her mouthpiece in a protector role. Or alternatively they can insert Alexa Bliss into a feud with a still babyface Sasha Banks, have Sasha win the title as a babyface before turning heel on Bayley, all building to the biggest feud that WWE has in its Women’s Division, a heel Champion Sasha Banks vs Bayley for the title, perhaps at Summerslam. Although it seems time may be too short on this option at the moment. Most likely to see Alexa hold the belt through the summer before dropping it to Sasha and ultimately build that Bayley Sasha feud for Wrestlemania.
The Raw Tag Team Titles changed hands inside of a steel cage in what was the first match that, at least kind of, lived up to the PPV name ‘Extreme Rules’. Easily the best match of the night up until this point, the new stipulation that both men in a team must be touching the floor at the same time, with no pinfalls or submissions made for a sometimes confusing, although interesting dynamic. The idea that as Jeff was on the outside, Matt was being double teamed created a situation not yet seen which was refreshing. Jeff Hardy returned to the action going off the top of the cage in absolutely spectacular fashion, with the grace that only Jeff Hardy can achieve. Although a slightly anticlimactic and weak finish, having Cesaro & Sheamus go over after their heel turn is undisputedly the right move, and they did so in a way that made the Hardy Boys look as strong as possible in the process.
Neville and Austin Aries renewed their rivalry in a submission match which although some may say isn’t really ‘Extreme’, definitely suited the story that was being told. Despite there being some confusion over whether the competitors could be disqualified or counted out, the two gems of the Cruiserweight Division put on a great wrestling match. Aries made Neville tap out again but only on the floor outside the ring, meaning the fall did not count. Neville quickly turned the tables hitting a spectacular Red Arrow and transitioning beautifully into the Rings of Saturn for the victory. The fact that Aries did indeed make Neville tap at some point, and the character work of Aries after the match would indicate this feud is not finished after-all, although a fourth match is beginning to feel like a stretch, and some fresh feuds could really help the Cruiserweight Division. Aries could move onto feud with TJP fully, while Neville could defend his title against the likes of Jack Gallagher, Mustafa Ali or Cedric Alexander. Any one of those challengers would make for a wonderful feud and some excellent matches with the King of the Cruiserweights.
The Main Event was home to the match of the night. An Extreme Rules Fatal Five Way match to determine the number one contender to the Universal Championship. Although all multi-man matches are No Disqualification which is essentially all extreme rules is, at least it’s something right? Roman Reigns vs Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins vs Samoa Joe vs Bray Wyatt on paper looks amazing, and for the most part it was. Going almost 30 minutes, the match began with Roman Reigns just observing the other four men attacking each other, before laying out each man one by one; just to stir up the crowd, who cheered everything Roman took a hit. Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt formed an unholy alliance, they ran rampage with the steel steps before a steel chair was introduced. This is awesome chants before definitely the two biggest spots of the night. Joe had Balor in the Coquina Clutch as Roman speared both men through the barricade, just before Seth Rollins hit a frog splash from the top rope putting Wyatt through the poor Spanish announce table. Each man hit their finisher before it looked like Balor had the match won on Reigns, before Samoa Joe out of no-where locked in the Coquina Clutch and become the number one contender. At Great Balls of Fire (I still can’t get over that name), finally, a match many thought we would never see. With 5 weeks before the match there is plenty of time for a proper build and a proper feud to develop. There is no one who can complain about this, a dream match in every sense. Brock Lesnar (c) vs Samoa Joe for the WWE Universal Champion.