WWE – Extreme Rules 2018 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 217 minutes approx.
It’s time to get extreeeeemmmme!! Sort of. The annual multi-stipulation/gimmick match card is back to being a dual-branded affair after being the exclusive property of the RAW brand in 2017, but with more matches via for space on this near four hour card and the danger of diluting the various crazy provisos only a handful of the bouts contested here.
Most of them aren’t particularly extreme however, limited to a steel cage match and the eponymous gimmick reserved for the RAW Women’s match, which in itself was merely a backdrop for a Ronda “No preferential treatment” Rousey appearance.
Extreme Rules event took place on July 15th 2018 at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before 11,500 fans with commentary from Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton for the SD Live matches and Graves with Michael Cole and the garrulous goon Jonathan Coachman for the RAW matches.
As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results or major spoilers, expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches.
WWE RAW Tag Title Match – The Deleters of Worlds (c) vs. The B Team
“Who?” and “Who?” you may ask. Well, the reigning champs are the tandem of Woken Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt, paired together after their interminable feud left them with nowhere else to go. The B Team is the former Miztourage Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, left behind on RAW when The Miz was drafted to Smackdown.
They starting doing a comedy gimmick where they finally – and accidentally – won a match and going overboard with their celebrations and lawks-a-lordy, it got over! So they lucked into a title match after winning a Battle Royale and here we are. The only real standout moment was the tease of brothers Wyatt and Dallas going at it (their father is Mike “IRS” Rotunda) otherwise the match was just there.
Finn Bálor vs. Constable Baron Corbin
In an attempt to make Boring Corbin more excitable he cut his hair off and showed up on RAW announcing himself to be Big Steph’s personally appointed “constable” to ensure that Kurt Angle was running the show properly, because god knows we need ANOTHER heel authority figure in wrestling. However, the job seems to consist mostly of Corbin undermining Angle and threatening to tell Steph about it.
After making jokes about Bálor being short, and Finn returning fire about Corbin being dressed like a waiter, this match was made. Corbin wrestles (debatable) in his shirt and trousers work clothes immediately making him look silly and taking us out of the match. At least Corporate Kane took his shirt off. Another match that was just there but at least Bálor got to do his stuff.
WWE Smackdown Women’s Title Match – Carmella (c) vs. Asuka w/ James Elsworth in a Shark Cage
After Elsworth made his spectacular return at Money In The Bank to distract my Goddess Asuka and save Carmella from impending death, he once again became a thorn in the women’s division side, competing in inter-gender matches against Asuka. To prevent Elsworth from interfering in this match SD GM Paige insisted Elsworth be suspended over the ring in a shark cage because banning him from the building would be too easy.
Thus the whole focus of the match was when – not if – Elsworth would escape the cage which was just as well as Carmella just can’t stand toe-to-toe with Asuka and the old smoke and mirrors was required to distract our attention away from this. Remember, Asuka’s two and half-year winning streak was sacrificed for this moment and the jury is out as to whether SD head booker Road Dogg is completely clean and sober.
WWE US Title Match – Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Well, this happened. Somebody else made their return and erm… that’s it.
Steel Cage Match – Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens
Our second gimmick match of the night is the result of serious ass-backwards booking in this feud. Owens is the heel yet Strowman has been stalking him and making his life a misery, not limited to destroying his car and locking him in a portaloo that was shoved off the RAW stage. Yet, whereas Angle suspended Ronda Rousey for *gasp* fighting and being a bad ass, Braun is punished by being put in the cage with his victim Owens.
Aside from Owens doing his Attitude Era tribute act with certain moves this is basically what you’d expect from a Strowman match. However it is the finish that is much talked about – not necessarily because what happened but how it essentially became a throw-away spot and not the epoch making shock moment its more famous predecessor of 20 years ago was.
WWE Smackdown Tag Title Match – The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Team Hell No
No this isn’t 2012 again, Team Hell No are back again after Kane (last seen on RAW) waddled out to help Bryan on SD when he was beaten up by the Bludgeons and they reunited with a hug. Unfortunately the new Mayor of Knox County was suffering from tendonitis to his left heel, so earlier in the show, they had the Bludgeons attack their challengers backstage and “break” Kane’s foot.
So this is a handicap match between former partners – remember when Bryan joined the Wyatt Family in 2014? I think WWE want us to forget that disastrous angle too – but this is Daniel Bryan so it was at least mildly entertaining while it lasted, and the fans got behind him as the plucky underdog. Whither Team Hell No?
Bobby Lashley vs. Roman Reigns
Up until late in the day, this was scheduled to be the main event but common sense prevailed and rather than repeat the mistake of Backlash, it was shunted to this mid-way spot instead. What was originally announced as a multi-man match to determine the next challenger for Brock Lesnar became this singles match when Reigns and Lashley both argued over who deserved the title shot more.
A solid big hoss match, the fans tried to crap all over it at the start but lost interest quite quickly, partially because it’s becoming a passé thing to do and because Lashley’s return hasn’t exactly set any arses on fire. They did still boo Roman though so some old habits don’t die hard. There was one nasty bump Lashley took to the outside and a next overhead suplex onto the announce desk but nothing really memorable.
WWE RAW Women’s Title Extreme Rules Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
So, Nia, who was he heel in the last feud against Rousey – who was sitting at ringside having bought a ticket to circumvent her suspension – is now a face again after Alexa cashed her in MITB case and won the title from Nia, having thwarted Rousey’s title shot. This all happened on the quiet so we are to believe that Nia and Rousey somehow made up between the two PPVs, despite Rousey being suspended. Got that?
Bliss had Mickie James in her corner whilst Nia had Natalya, but you know Rousey will get involved somehow. The match featured all the usual “hardcore” shortcuts like kendo sticks, rubbish bins – there’s a great spot where Nia press slams Bliss then drops her onto a bin – but does little to end the trend of rushed and unspectacular matches this card has provided so far.
WWE Championship Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. Rusev
It seems no matter how big the pops are or how frequently the chants of “Rusev Day” appear in other matches, the Bulgarian Brute is still being booked as a heel. The latest attempt to quash this organic fan support is to pit Rusev against uber popular champion Styles. That has to work, right?
Remarkably this is Rusev’s first ever World title shot on either brand, which he earned by winning a gauntlet match on SD. The fans seemed a bit torn as to who for root for so the heat was a little tepid here, not to mention the fact the show was almost at the three-hour stage (excluding the two match, 1 hour pre-show). Good action and decent work but again nothing to text home about, especially as this was a token title defence for Styles.
WWE IC Title 30-Minute Iron Man Match – Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Arguably a worthier main event over the Reigns match, there is a caveat of the iron man concept that works against it, that being a tired crowd knowing they have to sit through 30 whole minutes rather than an indeterminate time limit which is part of the drama. This match is not alone in suffering from this but the plus side it isn’t a 60 minute bout.
Worse still, the fans were bored so they decided to amuse themselves by counting along with the clock whenever it reached the 10 second mark ahead of the next minute. WWE TV producer Kevin Dunn was infuriated by this and had the clock pulled from the screens in the arena so the fans chanted “Where’s the clock?” and carried on counting anyway until Dunn relented and put it back up again to a big pop.
Also working against this match is the booking. Having seen these two go 20-plus minutes on RAW when Ziggler won the title (with Drew McIntyre’s assistance) the idea that so many falls could occur inside the first 15 minutes dilutes the notion that any future rematches with no time limit can go so long if they can go be beaten so quickly. Added to the fact some of the decisions were devoid of logic what could have been a ostensible wrestling clinic was half-hour head scratcher.
The only thing extreme about this show was the headache it left us with by the inane booking. With the possible exception of The B-Team, who are currently posited as a comedy act being pushed somewhat reluctantly after inexplicably getting over, nobody comes out of this show any better than when they entered it. One major match had a surprise result but fans knew it meant nothing as certain plans were already set in stone, thus it was quickly forgotten, and the victorious wrestler is back to treading water again.
As ever it is really not the fault of the wrestling talent and their efforts can’t be brought into question but like an actor working with a poor script, a great performance can’t save a lousy story. There was a time when Extreme Rules meant something as the stipulation heavy card offered variety and excitement but this latest instalment has relegated it to an interim B-show that can be missed and nothing will be lost.
Best Match – AJ Styles vs. Rusev (by default)
Extreme Rules Kick-Off
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Sin Cara
Tables Match – The New Day vs. SAnitY
Monday Night RAW July 2nd 2018 – Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens
Monday Night RAW July 9th 2018 – Extreme Rules Comes Early for Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley
Smackdown Live! July 10th 2018 – The Miz Welcomes Team Hell No to MizTV
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black