Extreme Rules has the supreme displeasure of being the weird, “between important stuff” event, filled to the brim with matches and feuds that have long overstayed their welcome.
At the same time there’s some genuine intrigue in regards to the Intercontinental and United States title matches. The former has what I consider to be WWE’s grade-A talent, assuring a classic match for as long as redundant booking stays away from the match finish.
The latter and lesser title is in need of revitalization. As much as I love Kalisto, there is only so much you can do with a guy who has been pegged as the “small guy.” The Lucha Dragon member was given that mantle months ago with Ryback, assuring that JBL and Cole will never let him live that role down.
Let’s get this thing going: Straight from…. New Jersey… Here’s the Backlog Review for Extreme Rules 2016.
Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler
This was billed as a no disqualifications match, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t see a single application of said stipulation, besides the low blow at the end.
Going into this match, I felt it was important for Corbin to come out the winner, overcoming the 50/50 booking that he and Dolph were saddled with since WrestleMania.
Ziggler as an opponent is everything Corbin has needed in a feud. Not only has Baron gotten in better shape, but I think working with a guy like Ziggler has made his moves more crisp. Comparing this match to their first one months ago shows a world of improvement for The Lone Wolf.
Alas, this is just another example of what Creative considers as Ziggler’s role in the company. With Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett now officially gone, someone is going to have to move into that role of jobber to the mid-card stars.
Dolph’s number is up, in that regard.
This final match was good for what it needed to be: Ziggler as the scrappy veteran being bulldozed by the new brute in need of a solid win. Perfect pre-show material.
The Finish: Baron hit Dolph in the Zigglers, following up with the End of Days.
The Time: 7:10.
The Good: The right guy won and Dolph did everything he could to make Corbin look like a threat. Props to Baron for finally show improvements in the ring, looking as smooth and strong as a guy with a stomach face can.
The Bad: This feud should have ended last month, and Ziggler is going through the motions at this point.
The Rating: ** out of *****
We continue on with the pre-show and it’s evident that Booker T must not like Corey Graves.
The main show starts and WE’VE GOT TAG TEAM TORNADO ACTION, MAGGLE.
Bullet Club def. The Usos
Remember what I said about feuds that have gone on too long? Yeah.
I’m split on the booking of Gallows and Anderson in WWE thus far. The smart fan that I am wants to scream and shout about how many times the duo has been made to look like chumps, all for the sake of putting over Reigns and the Usos.
On the other hand, I’ve come to accept the roles of the wrestlers involved, along with the admission that this match is a clear cut extension of the Reigns/Styles feud. Bullet Club getting the win here says a lot about their narrative placement, though that comes into question now that Reigns is moving on to a new feud and Styles may or may not be out due to injury.
The match in question was a Tornado Tag Match, one of my favorite tag team match stipulations. There’s something fun and hectic about having all four guys going at the same time. For the most part, the four are successful in going out there and warming the crowd up.
That said, The Usos are far too by the numbers for me at this point, not to mention they completely lack a character outside of being tangentially related to The Guy.
Bullet Club are on to better things, and I’m not sure what or who The Usos are without being needed as Roman’s sorta-heel bodyguards.
The Finish: One Uso, Two Uso, Slammed Uso, Pinned Uso. BC hits the Magic Killer on one of the Usos (I don’t know which one, to be honest) for the pin.
The Time: 8:22
The Good: The Usos being booed to death amuses me greatly. It appears that Gallows can’t leave his Festus days behind, grabbing the ringbell like a long-lost friend. Anderson continues to impress.
The Bad: All four teams are nothing more than extensions of Reigns and Styles, making none of this matter. It’s ironic that The Usos are stealing all of The Young Bucks superkick spots against Gallows and Anderson.
The Rating: **1/2 out of *****
The New Day/Vaudevillains feud has been worth it, if for only this segment:
Lucky us: It appears that anyone can still slide right into Xavier Woods’ Twitter DMs. Whew.
The NEEEW DAAY def. The Vaudevillains (Tag team titles)
Never did I think that English and Gotch would become a credible threat to the tag team titles while on the main roster. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Vaudevillains guy. At the first NXT show outside of Florida, in Columbus, I wore a Vaudevillains shirt.
Even still, I never thought they’d get called up. Further, I expected a Tyler Breeze-like station. I’m glad I’m wrong. New Day have been responsive and giving in this feud, making the chaps from the bygone era look and feel like actual heels.
This match shook up the typical formula in ways I enjoyed. Having Xavier as Big E’s tag team partner was a great bait and switch, helping to play along with the false finish for the Villains near the end.
Given that New Day had to win with the help of Kofi, I wouldn’t be shocked if their next feud is against a team. Or… A club. Of some kind.
The Finisher: Kofi bops a hipster, allowing Xavier Freaking Woods to hit a sweet Shining Wizard and pick up the win.
The Time: 6:20
The Good: Xavier looked great and Big E was moving with speed and purpose not seen before. Gotch and English are both efficient and clean workers. That Shining Wizard was PRETTY.
The Bad: A bit too short, and yet another New Day match involving interference.
The Rating: *** out of *****
I recommend going back and watching the Ask Rusev segment from the pre-show featuring Tom Phillips, Lana, and Rusev. The couple is back in fighting form, funnier than ever.
Tom Phillips: So, here’s our first question from the WWE Univ–
Rusev: No. Ask third question.
Tom: The FIRST QUESTION…
Brilliant. Now, let us enjoy a large European man smashing a tiny guy in a mask.
Rusev def. Kalisto (United States Title)
This match was everything it need to be: Kalisto needed to sell the speed angle and Rusev desperately required a match where he could re-establish his role as a hulking, dominant competitor.
The injury ending was a great way of returning Rusev to form, reminding fans that Rusev is more than a fish-chucking, game-playing second banana.
The Finish: After taking a spill on the apron, Rusev takes advantage of the ringside doctor checking on Kalisto, locking him into a modified version of The Accolade and becoming a two-time United States champion.
The Time: 9:10
The Good: Lana and Rusev were back to their old selves. Rusev is in incredible shape, finally using a varied moveset, and in general looks like the killer he should be. Kalisto does the big man/small man match better than anyone right now.
The Bad: Lana continues to dress like a confused stand-in from a Freaky Friday sequel.
The Rating: **1/2 out of *****
Kevin Owens gave the greatest look when Cesaro came out with his suit-ripping entrance:
Someone get that man a briefcase.
The Miz def. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro (IC Title)
As soon as the bell rings, Zayn sprints across the ring and DESTROYS Kevin Owens with a Helluva Kick. I mean, really. Wow. It was the best kick he’s done since being called up.
The start of the match was a great indicator for the action that followed.
This four-way was electric, bell to bell. Everyone involved deserves credit, including some continued great work by Maryse, perfectly complimenting Miz in every way.
Owens and Zayn deserve extra credit for going hard on each other at every point. Zayn looked dead after taking a late match savate kick to the face. In the end, the Owens/Sami feud is continued, as Zayn’s hatred of Kevin causes him to lose sight of the prize and allow scummy heel Miz to take advantage and get the appropriate win.
Find this full match; it’s one of 2016’s best so far.
The Finish: Zayn doesn’t keep his eye on the prize, going after Owens on the outside and allowing Miz to sneak in a pin on Cesaro.
The Time: 18:10
The Good: This was Zayn’s best match to date and he shined throughout. The opening match kick, his selling, and THAT INSANE YOSHI TONIC ON CESARO DEAR LORD. Extra credit to Maryse for being a great manager.
The Bad: The camera work was spotty at best, which included missing the final pin.
The Rating: ***** out of *****
During the next match, this exchange took place:
Rachel: So… Are you telling me this feud is purely about inanimate objects?
Me: Yup! With any luck a potted plant will explode in Dean’s face and cost him the win!
Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho (Stupid Gimmick Cage)
Boy, this was a terrible idea.
I don’t just mean the continuation of this useless, stupid feud. I realize that this may have been their only recourse, given they have no other place for Ambrose and Jericho had dates to work off. Still, the feud that nobody asked for got a blow-off match that nobody wanted.
Thus leading to this… wank-fest.
I haven’t been this bored during a wrestling match in a LONG TIME. Whoever thought that a cage match filled with gimmick weapons in an age where WWE doesn’t allow blood or headshots should go for 26 minutes deserves to be fired.
What’s worse is that Jericho took a completely unnecessary bump into hundreds of legit thumbtacks, all for nothing. Sure, the crowd reacted; but it was too little, far too late. What makes even less since is that there was a hardcore bump like that and they still mostly refused to show Jericho bleeding.
I don’t know who convinced Chris he needed to take that bump, but he should be quite cross with them. This match was dead on arrival and no amount of Ambrose with nunchucks could save it.
Don’t watch, just burn it with fire.
The Finish: Ambrose dumps a ton of tacks, teasing a back and forth over them until Jericho finally takes a shirtless dive into the metal. Dirty Deeds follows, ending this abomination.
The Time: Something I can never get back. I could have been watching Preacher. Sigh.
The Good: That it wasn’t longer.
The Bad: Jericho is at peak dad bod, and no amount of Bunkhouse-style kneepads over jeans is going to bring him back.
The Rating: Zero out of *****
Well, now that the useless gimmick match in a dead feud is out of the way, let’s move on to…. a useless gimmick match in a dead feud.
Charlotte def. Natalya (Submission Match, Women’s Title)
The only thing that has shined through in this feud is that Nattie is out of her league.
For the longest time Natalya was the woman wrestler being held down by the Diva-Centric system. “If she could just get the spotlight you’d see that she’s the best!” they would say.
I don’t think Nattie was ever as good as people thought. I’d say that it’s easy to look good when compared to the likes of Rosa Mendes, the Bella Twins, and Cameron.
Now that the division has changed for the better there just isn’t a place for Natalya. This isn’t to say she’s the problem in this match; Charlotte deserves just as much of the scorn. However, it is safe to say that the Nattie experiment is over and she was found wanting.
This match was garbage, and yet another women’s title match that ends in shenanigans. Why?
Sigh. Sasha: Where are you?
The Finish: Dana Brooke confuses teenage boys everywhere, coming out dressed like Ric Flair (which, for some reason causes Nattie to drop the sharpshooter and watch like a moron.) Charlotte gets the submission win and helps Dana beat down the confused dominatrix.
The Time: 9:30
The Good: Ugh. I’m glad Dana Brooke hasn’t been forgotten about in the wake of Emma’s injury. That’s about all I can say.
The Bad: Yet another interference finish, combined with Charlotte’s inability to sell or figure out ring psychology. Where’s Becky?
The Rating: * out of *****
Boy, those last two matches have just left the crowd comatose. Here’s hoping AJ Styles can kill himself over and over while Roman no-sells chair shots.
Roman Reigns def. AJ Styles (Hardcore match, WWE Title)
Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with this match. In a vacuum I’d even go as far as to say that it’s very good. However, the reality of Creative’s “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” booking decisions in regards to Roman Reigns hurt the overall product in a way that won’t be easily solved.
At this point Roman is more of a superhuman destroyer than John Cena ever was, even at his most Super Cena. For three straight events we’ve seen Roman shrug off multiple finishers, table spots, and moves onto and off of various objects, all while standing back up and bravely continuing on.
Meanwhile, Styles busts out a Styles Clash on a chair, a move that was so protected in Japan that it was considered holy, only to have Roman kick out. Sure, that kick out involved an Uso playing the role of confused heel/face, but the fact remains that at this point I don’t think there’s a believable way for Roman to be pinned.
The same isn’t for Styles, who uses every move in his arsenal, only to eat a single spear and be pinned. All the credit in the world to AJ here for taking every ridiculous bump in the book, all in the name of making Roman look good.
As for Reigns, this was his standard match where he uses the same handful of power moves alongside his signature attacks. Roman isn’t a bad wrestler, he isn’t a good wrestler, he’s just a former football player who happens to be really strong.
Which is to say that his matches rely completely on his opponent. Let’s hope that the returning Crossfit Jesus can continue the trend.
The Finish: AJ uses his entire Super Meter, hitting all of his attacks and a dozen or so chair shots, only for Roman to pretend that ring psychology isn’t a thing and stand up immediately. Spear. End.
The Time: 22:13
The Good: AJ was a man possessed and Roman kept the botching to a minimum.
The Bad: Why have Bullet Club or Usos run in? It served no point, other than to dilute both team’s characters.
The Rating: ***3/4 out of *****
Rollins hits the ring afterwords, planting Reigns with a Pedigree. I’m screaming at the TV for Reigns to stop getting up and actually pretend like he’s hurt.
Seth’s new shirt is killer. I look forward to many recaps from Crossfit Jesus.
That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading.
Will Harrison is a journalist in Toledo, Ohio who writes about the video game industry. Find him on Twitter, at The Toledo Blade, on YouTube, or on Twitch.