Coming off the heels of a very successful Money in the Bank pay-per-view, this year’s Extreme Rules was odd to say the least. The stakes were much lower than previous events, and it simply feels as though WWE is just attempting to kill time until SummerSlam.
Despite the hype being weaker than normal, Extreme Rules 2018 had its moments. The good moments were very entertaining, the bad moments were truly awful, and some moments just left us scratching our heads.
Andrade “Cien” Almas Def Sin Cara (Kick-off)
I normally don’t look at kick-off matches unless a title is being defended. However, with the promise of New Day vs SAnitY, I decided to give it a watch. Before those two teams collided, we were treated to a fairly underwhelming match between the botch-master himself Sin Cara, and the up-and-comer Andrade “Cien” Almas.
Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this bout. It was a pretty basic filler match. There was some back and forth action, Zelina Vega distracted the ref, and Andrade picked up the win. It was innocent enough, did its job, and hopefully Andrade “Cien” Almas can now move on to bigger and better feuds.
SAnitY Def. New Day (Tables Match)
Out of the two Kick-off matches, the New Day vs SAnitY really peaked my interest. Both these teams have established themselves, in one way or another, as forces to be reckoned with. After the multi-team throw-down that occurred on the go-home Smackdown before Extreme Rules, I was quite excited to see these two teams clash in a tables match for the first time. And for the most part, this match didn’t disappoint.
The two teams put on a fun brawl that could’ve gone on longer, but worked well enough to get people hyped up for main show. There were several teases of huge table spots that were avoided one way or another. The New Day put up a good fight, but ultimately, Eric Young overcame Kofi Kingston with a clothesline from the top rope, sending the pancake enthusiast through a table.
With good booking, and any luck, these two teams could potentially have a great feud in the future, maybe even a SummerSlam match. It’s a shame this match was hung out to dry on the pre-show.
B-Team Def. Bray Wyatt & Matt Hardy (Raw Tag Titles)
If you’re searching for more proof Smackdown’s tag-team division is superior to Raw’s, look no further than this match between the B-Team and the “Woken”Warriors. I’m not saying this match, or even this feud are bad. The action was decent, and the right people won, but it simply didn’t feel as prestigious as a title match should.
As entertaining as the Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel are as a team, by always winning via accident they’re more played for laughs than a credible force. Now comedy isn’t a negative attribute in pro wrestling. Some of the best tag teams like The New Day are comedic wrestlers, but they also have a back bone, and can get the job done in the ring. The B-Team, despite picking up wins, never feel like a true force to be reckoned with.
While Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy make a pretty good tag team, teams like the B-Team, Breezango, and the Ascention, make Raw’s tag team division feel more like a joke than that of Smackdown’s tag teams. Again, it wasn’t a dreadful match and Axel & Dallas deserve to be pushed, they just need to start letting them win matches more convincingly.
Finn Balor Def. Baron Corbin
Of all the matches on the main card, this match probably generated the least hype. The entire Baron Corbin vs Finn Balor feud has failed to gain much crowd investment, despite the skill the two possess in the ring. Baron’s “Constable Corbin” gimmick simply hasn’t attracted enough heat to get him over as a credible heel then you have Balor, who has lost a great deal of momentum since Wrestlemania.
It’s obvious WWE wants to push these two, and rightfully so. However, the means by which they are attempting to get these superstars over simply isn’t working for either man. Despite low expectations, the two still put on pretty good battle. Much like Andrade’s bout with Sin Cara, this felt a lot like a TV match. But as far as TV matches go, it did its job rather well.
Corbin dominated the majority of this match, with Balor getting his licks in here and there. Eventually, the fight abruptly ended with a quick roll-up by Balor. Would have been nice to see Balor beat Corbin in a more convincing fashion but it fit for the story they were telling.
Carmella Def. Asuka (Smackdown Women’s title)
Before I get into this, allow me to declare that the shark cage above the ring is one of the dumbest match stipulation ever conceived. Rather than simply banning the accomplice from ringside, you hang them in a gimmicky cage 20-feet above the ring. What mad man thought up such a ludicrous concept? Perhaps the same mad man that booked Jinder Mahal as WWE champion.
Regardless of the cage itself, this rematch from Money in the Bank wasn’t very good. As the two rivals fought, James Ellsworth (the smasher of my dreams) tossed down a series of weapons to Carmella from the cage as Asuka got in a great deal of offense on the champ, Ellsworth himself managed to escape the cage, only to have his pants caught on the edge of the steel. As he hung there, the empress of tomorrow beat him like comedy prop he is.
As she continued her assault on Ellsworth, Carmella capitalized, slamming her head-first into the shark cage knocking her out. This match was both better and worse than their last encounter. The count was stalled thus, Carmella was able to keep the longest reigning NXT women’s champion down for seven seconds.
However, on the other hand seeing Asuka wake up and kick Ellsworth to the ground was a much-needed treat after months of watching her career plummet to the mid-card.
Shinsuke Nakamura Def. Jeff Hardy (US Title)
Hands down, the biggest disappointment of the night was the United States Championship match between Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura. This was alongside the Intercontinental Championship match as one of my most anticipated matches of the show. Nakamura is on the best heel run of his career and Hardy dawned his iconic face-paint. It seemed like a perfect dream match.
Sadly, the match lasted nearly five seconds due to a low blow from Nakamura to Jeff, in the most disappointing Jeff Hardy match since Victory Road 2011. Now I believe putting the belt on Shinsuke Nakamura was the right call, but why couldn’t we get a great match out of two of the best guys on SmackDown?
Somehow, things hot even stranger, as Randy Orton returned from injury to punish Jeff Hardy’s crotch even further. Now if this leads to a SummerSlam match-up between the two, more power to them. But did they really have to tease such a potentially epic encounter only to set up a slightly less epic feud?
Kevin Owens (kinda) Def. Braun Strowman (Steel Cage)
Serving as the blow-off match to weeks of comical nonsense, this probably was the best steel cage match since Braun’s legendary fight with the Big Show. Kevin Owens’ cowardly heel persona, pared with the unstoppable force that is Braun Strowman, made for a very entertaining battle. From Owens trying to escape the cage, to handcuffing Strowman to the ropes only for him to break free, this fight contained several amusing spots.
All of this built to a breathtaking conclusion when the monster among men caught Owens atop the cage. There he delivered the deadliest choke-slam of all time from the top of the cage through the announcers table below.
Technically Owens won the battle as his feet touched the floor first, however it was clear that Strowman won the war. While I believe that Braun Strowman has lost a great deal of his edge since Wrestlemania, moments like these proved that Braun has already cemented himself as one of the company’s biggest stars (literally).
Bludgeon Brothers Def. Team Hell No (Smackdown Tag Titles)
I have real mixed thoughts on this one. For starters, I was looking forward to seeing Kane and Daniel Bryan reunite for an intense tag match with the ex-Wyatt Family. After all, they are the main two stars featured on the Extreme Rules 2018 poster.
However, this match can be more accurately described as Daniel Bryan vs the Bludgeon Brothers in a two-on-one handicap match. After the devious duo of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan assaulted the Big Red Machine backstage, Bryan was left to contend with the Bludgeon Brothers alone.
Despite the disappointment of not seeing much of one of my favorite WWE characters, Daniel Bryan brought the fight to Harper and Rowan and the three put on quite an entertaining match. Eventually, Kane did return towards the end of the bout to assist his exhausted partner.
Despite their best efforts, the Bludgeon Brothers ultimately stood victorious over Team Hell No. It would have been refreshing to see a traditional two-on-two bout as we were promised, but comparing this match to the Raw tag title match earlier, this was entertaining enough.
Bobby Lashley Def. Roman Reigns
Well that was better than anyone expected! Even with little crowd investment the bland baby-face of the past, Bobby Lashley, along with the bland baby-face of the present, Roman Reigns, went out there and put on a very entertaining slug-fest.
Surprisingly, Roman dominated Bobby during the majority of the fight. One spot saw Reigns send the former ECW champion flying out of the ring with a fireman’s over-hook. The fight spilled to the outside of the ring, and the two even battled it out over a pair of steel steps. Towards the end of the match, where normally Reigns would win with a spear, Lashley surprised Reigns with a spear of his own and pinned the big dog clean.
Now Roman Reigns losing clean is about as rare as a funny R Truth segment. So as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised to see Lashley emerge the victor.
Alexa Bliss Def. Nia Jax (Extreme Rules Match/Raw Women’s Title)
Serving as the third match their rather inconsistent feud, Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax was pretty much what I expected it to be. Jax roughed up Bliss, Bliss got her licks in, Mickie James interfered, Bliss retained. But for such a predictable outcome, I found myself enjoying this match more than any other between the two.
There was a humorous moment where Mickie handed a series of weapons to Alexa, only for Nia Jax to rip them from her hand. Jax continued to punish Alexa, slamming the Raw Woman’s Champion through a trashcan. But just as many foresaw, Nia’s dominance was short lived.
Due to the shenanigans of Mickie James, Natalya (for some reason), and even Ronda Rousey, Alexa Bliss managed to once again defeat the irresistible force with a DDT.
While the feud between these two stars has long overstayed its welcome, their Extreme Rules match possessed enough mayhem and excitement to make for a satisfying conclusion to this feud (let’s hope it’s a conclusion).
A.J Styles Def. Rusev (WWE title)
They’re never putting the title on poor Rusev are they? Regardless of my frustration at WWE’s refusal to grant Rusev a main event push, I’d be lying if I said this match wasn’t well put together. The pacing was decent and both superstars put on excellent performances.
Styles targeted Rusev’s leg, which would come into play when he attempted to lock in the accolade on the champ. Rusev dished out plenty of offense, and many times I believed he had the match won. The only real problem I have with this match was the conclusion.
Aiden English unhooked one of the turnbuckles, exposing the steel for Rusev to use to his advantage. His plan ultimately backfired and Styles took advantage of English’s trickery. Then, in a moment that could’ve seen the Bulgarian brute counter the phenomenal forearm, instead A.J hit the forearm as always and retained the title.
WWE’s inconsistent booking of Rusev and Aiden English by refusing to book them like the baby-faces that they are, ultimately ruined the ending to this match. However, the rest of the fight was very entertaining and both men looked like the real deal. All in all, it was good match, even if it ended on a somewhat sour note.
Dolph Ziggler Def. Seth Rollins (30 Minute Iron-man Match/Intercontinental title)
For the first time in seventeen years, an Intercontinental Championship match was the main event of a pay-per view. And that match featured two of the best technical performers on the roster today, Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins. Despite the middle half dragging slightly, the two put it all on the line in what was definitely the match of the night.
Rollins began strong, scoring two falls on the six-time Intercontinental Champion. However, thanks to some interference from Drew McIntyre, Ziggler managed to tie the score. In the end, the match went into overtime, where Ziggler beat Seth to retain his title.
Despite the two putting on an incredible bout, the crowd during the fight absolutely perplexed me. Every time the clock hit 10, everyone in the PPG Paints Arena counted down to one as if it were the Royal Rumble. They even went as far as imitating a buzzer sound. I found this rather amusing, for about five minutes.
However as the match went on, the joke really got old, and changed from humorous, to disrespectful. It wasn’t quite as bad as Rollins vs Balor SummerSlam 2016, but surely in that ballpark. It was a strong conclusion to an overall forgettable show, and it’s a shame that the fans in Pittsburgh couldn’t appreciate it.