Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Extreme Rules: Alexa Bliss defended the Raw Women’s Championship in a match with extreme rules, the Intercontinental Championship match ended up on a dumb technicality, and the big cage match ended with a wacky spot. So, nothing like this year’s show at all!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Extreme Rules 2018, originally aired on July 15, 2018.
Best: The Kickoff
Aside from Sin Cara developing prehensile hips and learning how to do flying armdrags with his pelvic bone (pictured), I really enjoyed the Extreme Rules pre-show. Unlike the rest of the show, it was free from the constraints of overbooking and micromanagement and just sent out a batch of fun, hungry wrestlers to get the crowd hype and make the best use of the very small amount of time they’d been given.
Up first was living pack of Pokemon cards Sin Cara vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas in a rematch of their very good bout on Tuesday’s Smackdown. And yeah, there’s no reason to sign a “rematch” since the first one had a definitive winner and there isn’t anything additional to fight for, but they work well in the ring together, and you might as well spend seven-ish minutes watching La Sombra wrestle in any context instead of watching Renee Young argue with Sam Roberts and Booker T about Extreme Rules.
There’s also an enjoyable tag team tables match betwixt New Day and Sanity, which only loses points for (1) not ending with a Nikki Cross return/debut/run-in to give Sanity the win, and for (2) not making it onto the main card instead of something like Finn Bálor vs. Baron Corbin. The entire build to that match was, “the little guy is making fun of me,” we couldn’t have bumped THAT to the pre-show or the next Raw and given two exciting trios an extra eight minutes to work under a spotlight?
I guess the larger complaint is that they did two good pre-show matches and I don’t have anything to say about them other than that they were good and on the pre-show. Want to show some love to Kofi Kingston for “upping the annie” (™ Byron Saxton) with that double powerbomb double-stomp off the ropes, though, which was so sweet it’d break your fingers if you tried to Too Sweet it.
I haven’t seen a Young Wolfe go down that hard since the Red Wedding!
LOL: The B-Team
You know, I thought Bray Wyatt’s comedic losing streak would end when he turned face, but his entire Raw Tag Team Championship run saw him get injured so Matt Hardy had to lose a bunch of singles matches to build a title feud with two actual jobbers, then be a non-factor in their first actual defense, where they lose the championship to actual jobbers.
Anyway, God bless the B-Team and their extremely 2005 nu-metal entrance theme that makes me laugh out loud; they’re the new Raw Tag Team Champions, won the belts clean, and will [checks notes] definitely not be transitional champs to get the straps on the Authors of Pain. I was gonna type “The Revival” there, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But hey, the B-Team is fun right now and has a little momentum, which are direct antonyms to “Matt Hardy” and “Bray Wyatt.”
THESE BATTLE SCARS! (Seriously, that needs to become the WWE version of Kaze Ni Nare.)
This Is A Perfectly Fine Episode Of Raw
Hour One of Raw rolls on with Great Value Daniel Bryan taking on Comparably Priced Big Cass in a battle of attrition. Read this in the match graphic load screen from a WWE 2K game Michael Cole voice: it’ll be Finn Bálor … taking on … Constable Corbin. This one’s for … all the marbles!
Continuing the trend of the pre-show matches (and the opener, really), it’s another totally fine wrestling match I don’t have shit to say about. I know that’s my job, and Christ, Heaven knows I come up with 3,000 magic words about this shit like five times a week, but there’s only so much I can get out of “smiling man never gets out of first gear and uses an inside cradle to defeat the tall man who didn’t even bother to put on his wrestling gear.” It’s fine, man. I don’t know what Finn or WWE or the WWE Universe are supposed to get out of this. Corbin, sure, Corbin put in some good work considering his limitations (and the limitations of the story being told), but he’s still Express for Men Baron Corbon showing up calling himself the “constable,” posing under a flaming wolf face while wearing a faux Tartan faux vest. The next step in this feud should be Finn living under a hat and controlling Corbin’s movements by pulling on his skullet remnants.
Worst: The Worst Match Of The Year (So Far)
That’s a strong statement and I’m probably incorrect, but less than 24 hours later I’m convinced Asuka vs. Carmella from Extreme Rules is one of the worst wrestling matches of the year. It was like the best version of Jenna Morasca vs. Sharmell from Victory Road 2009 they could make with WWE talent and production values.
The idea is that Carmella isn’t really a champion, she’s a lady who won the championship via magical booking contrivance and defends it by getting help and taking a bunch of shortcuts. Like the moonwalk she does, this would be fine if she was good at it. I think she’s got a lot of character inside of her and sometimes it shines through, but shit, you guys, you can only let someone stay champion so long when their signature moves are “run away” and “let somebody else do all the work for you.” It might even work if they put any effort into organically making those shortcuts make sense, instead of, say, having Asuka stand there for two minutes gawking like an idiot because somebody put on her clothes.
That whole vibe continued at Extreme Rules as James Ellsworth was suspended above the ring in the NXT Crash Cage so he wouldn’t interfere, then immediately started interfering and kept interfering until the match was over. He shows up looking like one of the Young Bucks drank from the wrong Grail and drops Carmella foreign objects from his pockets. As soon as those are gone, he simply picks the lock on the cage and escapes. The only reason he doesn’t get free is because he gets his Rock ‘n’ Roll Express leg bandana I’m pretty sure he never wears otherwise caught and ends up hung upside down.
Because she is a straight-up idiot now, Asuka decides to stand in the middle of the ring kicking James Ellsworth. This would be a fun “payoff” if we didn’t already get the payoff on Smackdown with Ellsworth losing a lumberjack match and getting choked out. It also would’ve been more fun if his jacket hadn’t fallen down and revealed his extremely lame padding. So Asuka’s like, “YEAH, TIME FOR DEATH,” and just stand there kicking him in the fucking pads. This allows Carmella to sneak up somehow, because Asuka has no instincts or peripheral vision, and shove Asuka into the partially lowered cage. Asuka loses, again, and literally every second of that was garbage.
Best: The (Not Really) Best Match Of The Year (So Far)
Before the bell rings, Shinsuke Nakamura casually walks over to Jeff Hardy and punches him in the nuts. The referee doesn’t see this, because he’s the worst Metal Gear Solid soldier ever, and Nakamura’s able to hit a Kinshasa like 0.5 seconds after the bell rings to win the match and the United States Championship.
I was going to praise that on its own, but then Randy Orton shows up. I thought for sure with Hogan in the building they were going to do the WrestleMania IX finish with Hardy as Bret Hart, Nakamura as Yokozuna, and Orton as Hogan — or Hogan as Hogan, don’t put it past them — but then something magical happened … instead of hitting an RKO or threatening the champion, Orton simply stares at Jeff Hardy’s package for like an entire minute and then stomps it.
Did Jeff Hardy show up and pull a Victory Road 2011 again or something? I know the guy’s been hurting lately, but man, losing to championship to a low blow in like two seconds to build to a post-match attack where you get low-blowed is pretty sorry. I hope the next month of Smackdown is those Larry Bird Michael Jordan McDonald’s commercials but for Orton and Nakamura hitting Jeff Hardy in the dick.
The Best You’re Gonna Do: Team No
What is it with poor Daniel Bryan getting booked into these tag team matches where his partner gets hurt in real life at the last second and he has to wrestle most of it like a handicap match? It happened to him at WrestleMania 34 with a near-death Shane McMahon, and now Kane’s getting his leg injured before their Smackdown Tag Team Championship match at Extreme Rules. The scuttlebutt is that the worked leg injury was there to cover for a real one, because the guy playing the unstoppable fire demon is a 50-year old mayoral candidate.
Daniel Bryan vs. the Bludgies in a handicap match is probably the best Bludgeon Brothers match ever, frankly, because I’ve seen Bryan get workable matches out of Alex Riley and know he’s capable of miracles. They have Kane hobble down in a cast and “help” by not really helping to bring some closure to that, I guess, and the Hammer Brothers are able to put Bryan away with a double-team. That Kane injury turned what could’ve been an interesting tag team match into another forgettable obstacle for the Bludgeon Brothers to move past, en route to question mark question mark question mark profit.
A Best Nobody’s Going To Give Them Credit For: Reigns Vs. Lashley
Let’s be honest here: Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley was about 14 minutes long, with about six or seven of that being a really good, exciting, back-and-forth hoss fight. Reigns is eternally underrated as an in-ring performer because his vibe is so toxic, and that good will Lashley built up when he was away from WWE had to come from SOMEWHERE, so here we are. But at the same time, the crowd was NEVER going to give this a chance. At-home crowd included. We are hardwired to react negatively to this, somehow, some way, and it’s never going to be good enough to override that. So like most of the time with Roman, you get a “very good” wrestling match wrestled for the wrong reasons that feels like a corporate decision instead of a fight between two characters, and you end up with the feeling that Stone Cold Steve Austin could show up and end the match by hitting both of them with Stone Cold Stunners at any time.
Earlier in the night, Kurt Angle announced that Brock Lesnar would be given an “ultimatum:” he can either show up to work on Monday, come to an agreement on when his next title defense will be, or be stripped of the Universal Championship. That sounds like “going to work” than an ultimatum, but I’m not a Beast Incarnate. So what happens next? Does Lashley attack Brock on Monday to set up a Braun Strowman cash-in, setting up Lashley vs. Lesnar at SummerSlam and Lashley vs. Strowman for Generic September Pay-Per-View? Does Roman just show up on Monday announcing that he’s the number one contender, even though he lost clean?
The amazing part here is that the crowd actually kinda keep it together for the match, and doesn’t completely shit the bed until the 30-minute Intercontinental Championship Iron Man main event between two guys they’re actually supposed to like watching.
Worst Best: At Least Kevin Owens Is Going To Get That Shania Twain Performance He Asked For
For the first time maybe ever, I spent most of a Braun Strowman match wondering why I should be cheering him. Kevin Owens has been running scared from this guy for weeks, so the general manager that hates him puts him in a steel cage match so he can’t escape. Strowman never really gets beaten up or shows fear or pretends to be challenged in any way by this former multiple-time champion. Then the match happens, Strowman beats him up like he’s fighting Nicholas, and then Owens gets choke-shoved off the top of the cage through the Shane McMahon memorial crash pads at ringside.
Jokes about the crash pads aside — I’m happy to see them, so I don’t have to worry about the actual functional health of these guys — it’s a hell of a visual and continues Strowman’s comic path of dominance. I’m just not completely sold on what this does for Owens. Is it supposed to make him seem tougher, like when Mick Foley threw Randy Orton onto thumbtacks? Are we just supposed to want to see him get beaten up really badly? I’m still not emotionally or alignment steady after that year-long Shane McMahon feud, so it still doesn’t feel earned. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a pessimist who sides with awful fictional people. Kevin Owens throw down go boom.
Anyway, my fantasy booking now is for Owens and Zayn to both stay off television until the Royal Rumble, then show up at #28 and #29 with Winter Soldier arms and beat Braun Strowman to death. We’ll say #30 is Tanahashi, who wins the Royal Rumble but loses the WrestleMania opener to 17-time champion John Cena in five underwhelming minutes because I’ve lost the ability to predict where pro wrestling’s going after 2018.
Best: A Great Day For Rusev
Here’s something I haven’t gotten to type in a while: AJ Styles had the best match of the night, defeating Rusev in a WWE Championship match on pay-per-view that got a lot of time (15 minutes!), involved tons of selling on offense, and ended with an actual pro wrestling move to make the champion look like a fucking champion, instead of like five minutes of contrived, Rube-Goldbergian bullshit.
Rusev was a GEM here, finally having the kind of singles match we’ve become convinced he could and should be having. He manages to realistically sell hamstring kicks throughout a match, having the injury “flare up” when it needed to, and keeping it in our minds until a very good false submission finish even the most jaded of us found ourselves buying. Without the constraint of having to tell a ridiculous story with a half-assed finish to “protect” everybody and “keep the story going,” Styles was able to put together a good wrestling match that played to both men’s strengths, hid their weaknesses, and gave us a WWE Championship defense we’ll actually be able to watch again without slapping our foreheads. Really good stuff, and easily the best wrestling match on the show. This would’ve been the third best match on a TakeOver, but shit, that’s still pretty good.
I think it may be time to split up Rusev Day. Aiden English is great, but his weird confrontational narration half-singing is a lot worse than his Broadway thing, and if we’re gonna get Main Eventer Rusev we’ve gotta cut some of the fat. Let’s claim 215-pound Aiden English is 205 and send him to 205 Live to be the better-in-every-conceivable-way version of Enzo.
When You Think Too Much And It Makes You Like The Show Less
Finally we have the Raw Women’s Championship match — the only match on the entire show to take place under “extreme rules” — and the 30-minute Iron Man Match for the Intercontinental Championship, which everyone in the world said would be the best match of the night if they just let it happen and didn’t overbook it to death. Guess whether or not that happened!
Up first is the Raw Women’s Championship match, which absolutely does not understand its own rules. Alexa Bliss made SUCH a stink over the Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in being “legal,” so why didn’t Mickie James just wrestle the entire match alongside her? It’s legal. There’s no disqualifications, your friend at ringside can cheat for you as much as they want. And then you’ve got Ronda Rousey sitting in the front row, waiting for the opportune time at the very end to hop the rail and help. If she can do that without voiding the suspension or getting in trouble, again, why didn’t she just hop the rail and attack Alexa Bliss right away? Wasn’t that the idea? It’s one of those stipulations where the writers get tunnel vision trying to explain away what they want to do, without taking a second to step back and ask what those choices mean for everyone else.
Rousey’s great. The rest of this wasn’t. Compared to Asuka/Carmella it was … still not good, but pretend I compared it to some old match you like.
Then there’s the main event, which WWE is so obsessed with putting over as “epic” they forgot to take their hands out of it and let the wrestlers do what they do. Seth Rollins has had an almost supernatural understanding of how to get the crowd into what he’s doing, and Dolph Ziggler’s seemingly turned a corner and has some forward momentum as a character and in-ring performer again. Shouldn’t you just set them up with his 30-minute block of great wrestling opportunity and let them do it? Why are you booking your babyface to go up 3-0 and then blow a lead?
There are lots of little questions here, like why Seth Rollins made ANY of the decisions he made. The match is in sudden death overtime and Drew McIntyre just showed up again to try to hit you. Why not let him hit you and win the match by DQ? Maybe Rollins’ adrenaline was pumping and he fought McIntyre off instinctively, but watching him blow 4 out of 5 falls in a row makes him seem pretty stupid. Again, it felt like they were worried about playing against “trope,” and by leaning too far in the other direction fell victim to an entirely separate batch of them.
Just to say it, Rollins and Ziggler are really good at what they do. This had its moments, and could’ve been special. But it felt like getting the “main event” spot brought with it a lot of complicated nonsense and overbooking, which took away the wrestlers’ ability to MAKE it special, and asked them to basically do The Rock vs. Triple H without either of them being The Rock, either of them being Triple H, and none us living in the year 2000.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
WWE: you guys wanna see more wrestling?!?
CROWD: yessss goddd yessss
WWE: fuck youuuuuuuuu
Usually sudden death in Pittsburgh is the result of heart disease.
So we go to PKs now, right?
The Real Birdman
Add countdown clocks to the things WWE fans should lose privileges to
This Iron Man match is such a disappointing mess, I’m pretty sure it’s an Iron Man 2 match.
Please please please send R-Truth to the ring when the countdown hits zero, thinking he’s Entrant #3 in the Royal Rumble.
Well Rusev might not be able to plant…But Big Bartholomew can plant anything! #farmerskills
I hope Ronda doesn’t forget to go back and collect her commemorative Extreme Rules front row chair
IC Champion PdragolphZiggler
What Reigns didn’t realize is that spears are designed to pierce armor.
Owens came crashing down. Probably hurt inside.
One final note …
Worst: The Crowd
Here’s a countdown clock for you to watch. Get it out of your system.
That’s it for this year’s Best and Worst of Extreme Rules. Be sure to drop a comment below to let us know what you thought of the show, share the column on social media to help us out, and be back here on Monday night for the next exciting chapter of BIG DOG vs. COMPARABLY BIG DOG.