WWE – Extreme Rules 2019 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 228 minutes approx.
It might not be a complete accident that this year’s iteration of the stipulation heavy show known as Extreme Rules should emanate from the Home of Hardcore, Philadelphia where a certain indy promotion under the guidance of one Paul Heyman shook the wrestling industry in the mid 90’s.
But that was then and this now, and judging by the attendance for this show being double that of the previous PPV Stomping Grounds, the Philly fans were hoping Extreme would rise again. Then again, Baron Corbin is in the main event for a second PPV in a row meaning it will be brutal in other ways.
However only a handful of the matches on this card have some sort of caveat or gimmick attached to them, partly to avoid wearing out a good idea but mostly because it is a way to distract our attention away from the fact they are all rematches of rematches.
Extreme Rules took place on July 14th 2019, at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before 12,800 fans with commentary from Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton for the SD Live matches and Graves with Michael Cole and Renee Young for the RAW matches.
As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results or major spoilers – the DVD back cover gives everything away, including the big surprise ending – expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches.
No Holds Barred Match – Roman Reigns & The Undertaker vs. Drew McIntyre & Shane McMahon
After Shane beat Roman in Saudi Arabia and Roman beat Drew at Stomping Grounds, the two Macs beat up Reigns on RAW in a handicap match when none other than The Undertaker appeared out of the blue to make the save for Roman. Given how Taker’s last few matches were unmitigated disasters, especially against Goldberg at the Saudi show, this didn’t seem like a wide move on his part, but it was clear Taker felt the need to make amends for his prior failures.
Limited to the role of tag partner meant that Taker could do just that, leaving Reigns and McIntyre to carry the load while Shane flooded the building with his sweat. Actually, Shane took some nutty bumps as ever and wasn’t completely terrible (though he did botch the finish, which has been edited here – listen for the obvious audio change) but was clearly the weakest link. Surprisingly solid affair all told which the crowd was hot for which helped make this an acceptable enough opener.
WWE RAW Tag Title Match – The Revival (c) vs. The Usos
We’ve seen this one a few times now, both sides trading wins but this time it is for the belts, which The Revival won in a three way on RAW from champs Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins (remember them?). Unfortunately, no matter how hard both teams worked here the crowd was still coming down from the opener thus this was a flat match heat wise, though it was another typically solid encounter from them.
Aleister Black vs. Cesaro
Having been split from semi-regular tag partner Ricochet, Black was moved to SD Live in the Superstar Shakeup, doing nothing but cutting promos from a dark room begging for some to knock on the door and face him in a fight. After two months of this, Cesaro from RAW accepted the challenge, suggesting everyone on SD Live is too spineless to do so.
Just as well as this was a hard-hitting clash, barely 10 minutes but didn’t let up, with both guys giving no quarter at all. Black used many kicks but is capable of much more but as this was essentially a showcase for him – but by no means a squash – this wasn’t just about being flash, it was also getting him over as a serious bad-ass. Mission accomplished.
Smackdown Women’s Title Handicap Match – Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Disc two kicks off with the latest chapter in the Bayley-Alexa-Nikki saga. With Alexa unable to wrestle (again) Nikki carried this feud on TV, winning matches on Alexa’s behalf so she could challenge for the title again (!), then beating Bayley in a non-title match to earn the right to pick the stipulation, choosing the handicap match since logically Nikki should have been the rightful challenger, but Vince + blondes…
The story of the match should have been whether Alexa and Nikki would fall out at any point given the build up but it never came to that, so instead we got a cohesive team beating up Bayley for 10 minutes. At least it wasn’t as bad as the squash Bayley suffered at the hands of Bliss at Extreme Rules 2017, and Bayley did at one point break out a cool double submission spot.
Last Man Standing Match – Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley
Remember when it looked like Strowman was going to be the next big thing in WWE? Seems like an age ago. Anyway, he and Lashley have been engaged in a series of strong man challenges on RAW, like tug of war and arm wrestling, and the occasional match, such as a Falls Count Anywhere match in which Lashley speared Braun through the video wall, complete with huge pyro explosion.
So, we have two bug lugs battling around the arena, trying to keep the other down for the 10 count, their size meaning the usual shortcuts are harder to workaround, so they go big with the silliness. Kudos to Lashley as he was working injured, which is why he has disappeared from TV for the moment, especially some the bumps he took, including the creatively dangerous finish.
Smackdown Tag Title Triple Threat Match – Daniel Bryan & Rowan (c) vs. Heavy Machinery vs. The New Day
For this writer’s money, the tag match between the champs and Heavy Machinery stole the show at Stomping Grounds so this bout had a lot to live up to. The New Day earned the title shot first by beating the champs in a non-title whilst Heavy Machinery were added after defeating the makeshift team of Owens and Ziggler.
It is fair to say, with numerous title reigns to their name The New Day don’t really need the belts but they are by association basking in the glory of KofiMania so they need to be more than sidemen. Truth be told, their addition to this feud paid dividends; after some pedestrian standard tag action, things broke down and the fun began, with a superbly executed finish. Great fun all round.
Paul Heyman comes out for a quick word with the Philly faithful to deliver a spoiler for the rest of the evening regarding his client, Bork Laser or whatever his name is, which makes me wonder if Heyman is in charge of the DVD artwork since they always spoil the shows too.
WWE US Title Match – Ricochet (c) vs. AJ Styles
Styles is a heel again having reunited with Anderson and Gallows, which, if you recall was exactly the same way he turned heel the first time in 2016, joining his erstwhile Bullet Club brethren in beating up John Cena. The truth is, after not being used for two years, Anderson and Gallows were holding out on signing new contracts with WWE, who didn’t want them joining AEW or going back to New Japan, but reforming the trio with Styles and a renewed push led to them resigning after all.
After a decent TV match, Styles turned on Ricochet leading to the title rematch. Another very good bout but not one that reached the point of being great, which it could have done. Both are capable of much more and if this was happening in NXT or Japan, it probably would have been mental, but still a hard worked match and better than a lot of bouts on this card.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
It’s hard to put into words just how amazing it is that they were able to give us such a five star epic match at such short notice, given it wasn’t even advertised ahead of the show. The most we got was the tease of a feud on SD Live that saw Kevin Owens turn face (again) after falling out with old foe Shane McSweatface.
Of course, I am joking. This lasted 10 seconds and was a time filing (time wasting?) angle rather than a proper match, designed to clarify Owens as face, which seems to be working.
WWE Title Match – Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Samoa Joe
In the days of elaborate angles to set up title matches, they went old school with Joe, having him attack Kofi after a match on RAW – simple as that. The thing is, Joe is a credible bad ass and could carry the role of champion but Vince just won’t pull the plug on him, and with KofiMania still in a healthy state, what probably would have been a squash for Joe a few years back is now advantage Kofi in 2019.
Yet, in many ways this was a quash for Joe, the bulk of the match being him meting out violent attacks on Kofi leading to a few hope spots here and there. The crowd was tired at this point and after Heyman’s “spoiler” earlier starting chanting “We Want Lesnar/No We Don’t” by the end. Okay for what it was but hardly dramatic title match quality despite Joe’s brutality.
WWE Universal Title & RAW Women’s Title Winner Takes All Extreme Rules Mixed Tag Match – Becky Lynch (c) & Seth Rollins (c) vs. Baron Corbin & Lacey Evans
One of the worst kept secrets in wrestling was finally exposed in the build up to the Stomping Grounds PPV when WWE publicly acknowledged the real life relationship of Lynch and Rollins on RAW. This led to Becky saving Seth’s behind at the PPV when Lacey was the special ref in his title match against Corbin, and to this mixed tag match, with the stipulation that if either one the champs is pinned they both lose their titles, but if they win Evans and Corbin can never challenge for the belts again.
The matching yellow and black outfits of Becky and Seth and the multiple team spots was to dispel criticisms of their onscreen chemistry being non-existent (which it is). The smoke and mirrors gimmickry of the Extreme Rules format meant this match wasn’t as horrendous as it could have been given the green Evans and gormless Corbin, though at 20 minutes was a bit of drag too.
However, it is what happened after the match that will live on in infamy as most of Vince McSenile’s decision of late do, so prepare yourself to roll those eyes one more time…
Much like a film, book or TV series it is the ending that makes the all the difference to how you enjoy it and for the second time this year, Vince has gone back to an old booking crutch that has proven more detrimental than beneficial to the product. The problem is that yes, it gets a good pop when it happens but that is because the crowd are seeing something big occur before their eyes, so they are naturally excited.
Unfortunately, this is taken as read by Vince that these pops vindicate his ideas whilst the numbers don’t lie, and fans are tired of the same old stuff being regurgitated when the current roster can do so much more. Obviously we‘ll have to see what the endgame is, but it seems like a constant retreading old ground which doesn’t do anybody any favours.
As for the show itself, it didn’t need to be four hours long, proven by how the undercard was better received by the fans that the main events who were bored by that point, but this is a regular complaint that WWE just doesn’t want to listen to. Everyone worked hard as usual, take what you will from the results, and if this isn’t working for you, there is always NXT and NXT-UK, while for the truly disaffected, AEW will be here soon….
Best Match – Aleister Black vs. Cesaro (by default)
Disc 1 only:
Extreme Rules Kick-Off Show Matches
WWE IC Title Match – Finn Bálor (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Drew Gulak (c) vs. Tony Nese
Monday Night RAW July 1st 2019 – Undertaker Has A Message For Shane McMahon & Drew McIntyre
Smackdown Live July 2nd 2019 – Kofi Kingston And Samoa Joe Face Off
Rating – ***
Man In Black