Three weeks between Pay Per Views is a bad idea, because it generally doesn’t give enough time to book a card that is anything more than 90% rematches. And while Extreme Rules at least offers the addition of gimmick matches in order to add some spice to those rematches, it almost exacerbates the fact that this PPV could have essentially been subtitled “Payback With Weapons Added”. Actually, given the choice, we’d probably just pretend Payback never happened, because Extreme Rules was an overall better show. And frankly, it should have been, given that they’d basically run the dress rehearsal just three weeks earlier.
10. The Feud So Hot, Only The Pre-Show Can Contain It
It’s fair to say that WWE had absolutely no plans for two of their big post-Mania NXT call-ups and only brought them up to have some surprising debuts, which is why Apollo Crews has disappeared into the mists of syndicated shows and Baron Corbin has fought Dolph Ziggler roughly 4,291 times in the past month and a half. Frankly, we thought this feud was over when Corbin cleanly pinned Ziggler on Raw, but WWE went back to the well one more time, because like we said, they have no plans. Where Corbin goes after beating Ziggler definitively yet again is impossible to say, a testament to how much WWE has made him into “just another guy” in the weeks since his WrestleMania debut. At this point, why would anyone want to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal? In three years, it’s never led to anything good.
9. A “Dream Match” We’ve Already Seen
To be fair, the Tornado Tag match between The Usos and (sigh) The Club was far better than their first match, which leads us to think that maybe this should have been Anderson and Gallows’ actual debut match in WWE, rather than having fought the Usos on several occasions already in the three weeks between Payback and Extreme Rules. Meanwhile, JBL desperately tried to make us believe that this was a “dream match”, despite the fact that it has already happened multiple times, and that no dream match we’ve ever thought up has ever involved The Usos. Also, when we’re thinking of highly-anticipated matches, we’re not going to go with one that was added at the last second to fill out a PPV card and had no real consequences. Sure, they tried to pretend that The Usos might have been beaten up enough to not interfere in the main event, but everyone knew that would never be the case.
8. The One Big Difference From Payback
Well, rest in peace, Kalisto’s totally ignored reign as United States champion, which took almost entirely on Pay Per View pre-shows, and mostly revolved around a guy who doesn’t work there anymore (and who is making increasingly delusional Twitter statements these days). At least Rusev got the impressive spot of breaking Kalisto in half with the Accolade to win the title, and hey, we’re pretty sure that WWE just essentially pretended that the last year didn’t exist for the Bulgarian Brute. After all, Rusev’s got Lana back at his side (and she’s back in conservative hairstyles and business suits), he’s once again wearing gear with Russian flag colors, and he’s about to lose the United States title to John Cena again. Oh, don’t look so shocked. It’s happening, and probably as early as Cena’s return, which coincidentally occurs on a holiday that’s all about honoring the American military (although we could see the feud igniting there, with the inevitable title win happening at Money in the Bank). There’s good news to erasing Rusev’s last year (perhaps he borrowed Xavier Woods’ time machine), because it means that we can pretend that whole thing with Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae never happened!
7. A New Day Promo Disguised As A Match
We have nothing against The Vaudevillains, and in fact, we’re the last people who are going to say “No, don’t play a crazy old timey gimmick where you have awesome moustaches and cool hats and stuff”. However, there was basically zero chance that English and Gotch were walking out of Extreme Rules as the Tag Team Champions, and the match, decent as it was (and also, the second non-gimmick match in a row on this PPV that originally was sold on every match having a gimmick), was mostly just a back-drop for The New Day cutting hilarious promos about fake time machines and Xavier Woods trying to get people to send him DM’s on Twitter (we suspect he already regrets that, much like the time Kofi asked the world “What’s fanfiction?”). That’s not a complaint, per se, but the story of the New Day’s title reign has become one where nobody can really match up with them because they’re a level above the division, and it hurts their feuds a little. Hopefully Enzo isn’t on the shelf too much longer, and we can see some great promo battles in the near future.
6. In Shocking News, Great Wrestlers Have Great Match
In case you were looking for the reason to watch this show, WWE had the bright idea of putting three of the best wrestlers on the planet (and The Miz) in a match and letting them try to kill each other with awesome moves. There is literally no combination of the wrestlers in the Intercontinental title match that won’t result in a good match, and even with The Miz getting another undeserved victory, it was still pretty much the greatest thing we saw all night. Plus, Sami loses a legitimate chance to win the title because he is just so tired of having Kevin Owens in his life that he basically abandoned the match to try and end that feud once and for all (and heaven help us the day those two finally stop fighting each other, because wrestling will be the lesser for it), and that can’t help but lead to good things. Also, Cesaro looked like an absolute beast, and when he finally takes the title from The Miz, that will be a great day.
5. Of Course, Dean Ambrose Knows How To Use Nunchucks
The entire concept of the Asylum match was, let’s face it, pretty silly, and entirely in character for this feud over competing talk shows, $15000 jackets, and revenge for a potted plant named Mitch. It also went way too long, and had to follow four guys absolutely tearing the house down just before it, so the match was behind the 8-ball from the start. Ambrose and Jericho were clearly trying to do something with the concept, and on a certain level, it was a call-back to the dumb hardcore matches of the Attitude Era, full of nonsensical weapons being used to hit people in lieu of actual wrestling, ending with an unbelievable spot that raises the level of brutality just a little too much. In this case, it was the return of Mick Foley’s infamous bag of thumbtacks, and the image of Jericho’s arm pierced with a handful of the little devils while blood slowly began flowing from the pinpricks is not one we thought would make it onto the PG-era of WWE (and probably won’t ever be shown on TV). The thumbtacks made for a hot finish, and overall, the match had some fun stuff, but again, it really dragged on far too long for something involving such relatively low stakes.
4. Ric Flair Interferes, Even When He Can’t
All right, we think it’s finally fair to say that Ric Flair interfering in matches to preserve Charlotte’s title reign has officially gone way too far. When it was just Flair interfering, at least there was always the unspoken promise that at some point, something would happen to counter his interference and the end result would either be the end of Charlotte’s reign or, at least, she’d be forced to prove that she could win a match without his help. But at two straight Pay Per Views now, steps have been taken that should have neutralized Flair, and somehow Charlotte still won both matches thanks to distraction finishes. This time, it’s Dana Brooke dressed like Flair, which makes all sorts of no sense, but the rest of the division is injured anyway, so at least Brooke has something to do. Seriously, though, why couldn’t Charlotte just beat Natalya cleanly? It’s not like anyone expected Nattie to win the match in the first place, but WWE keeps passing up an opportunity to give Charlotte a clean victory out of some weird need to have Ric Flair involved as much as possible in the Women’s division.
3. The Anti-Climax
Let’s be clear from the start, there was no ending to Extreme Rules that didn’t have Roman Reigns retaining the WWE World Heavyweight Title. And to be entirely fair, Styles and Reigns put on a great brawl that would have been Match of the Night on a show that didn’t have that Intercontinental Title match on it. That said, much like Payback, WWE had a dozen different options to take their main event in a crazy new direction, thanks to the intrigue that still swirled around Styles and The Club, and instead they chose to just have Roman win and move on to something else. In addition, not only did Reigns win, he kicked out of everything Styles threw at him, including multiple Styles Clashes, a Phenomenal Forearm, a knee injury suffered midway through that match that Reigns basically forgot to sell after roughly thirty seconds, interference from The Club, and a sequence where Styles beat the absolute hell out of Reigns and the Usos with a chair (an act which was actually the entire focus of the set-up for the match), then hit a single Spear and won. You could literally hear the crowd deflate at the finish, which did a massive disservice to the good match that had occurred up to that point. Which leads us, as always, to the real problem…
2. The Fans Are Passionate (About Not Liking Reigns)
WWE can mess with the crowd audio all they want (and they clearly do), and they can have JBL yell over the boos about how much fun the audience is having, or how “passionate” they are in their response to Roman Reigns. But the fact of the matter is that Roman Reigns can painstakingly claim to not be a good guy all he wants, but WWE is clearly still portraying him as their #1 babyface, despite the fact that the crowd clearly thinks otherwise, to the point that anti-Reigns heat has spilled over onto basically everyone closely associated with him (which might be why Ambrose has been keeping his distance lately). And realistically, the fans aren’t even very passionate, because the boos are the result of a percentage of the audience starting chants and the rest of the crowd playing along because it’s fun. Meanwhile, Raw’s TV ratings have dropped nearly every single week since Roman Reigns won the WWE World Heavyweight Title the first time back in November, and at a certain point, conclusions need to be drawn that maybe he isn’t actually driving the business like WWE clearly believes he is. And with John Cena a week away from returning, the Reigns issue is going to become even more apparent in the very near future.
1. On The Bright Side…
Speaking of wrestlers that shine the light on just how much people don’t care about Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins (minus the ridiculous yellow streak in his hair) made his somewhat shocking return to a hero’s welcome after the main event, driving Reigns to the mat with a Pedigree while fans roared in approval. You have to remember, when Seth Rollins suffered his injury, he was playing a weak, whiny WWE World Heavyweight Champion who was so annoying that even his benefactors in The Authority seemed to take a perverse pleasure in messing with him. But when put up against Reigns, fans treated him like the second coming of Steve Austin, and it will be interesting to see how WWE responds to that fact. Will Rollins go right back to playing a slimy heel against Reigns, despite the fact he will almost certainly be cheered? Or will WWE finally make the right choice, and stop pretending that Roman Reigns is seen as anything more than an entitled jerk, and not the hero of millions they wish he could be? Heck, given Reigns’ mannerisms during the match at Extreme Rules, even he knows that the money is in him as a heel, so how long before WWE stops justifying his actions with rants about “passionate fans” and desire to win, and embrace the fact that they’ve accidentally stumbled onto what could be one of the hottest heels in the business?