Place to Be Nation’s staff breaks down all the action from WWE Extreme Rules 2018.
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs, Sin Cara
Brian Bayless: After a short but action-packed match this past Tuesday on Smackdown Live they added a rematch for the Kickoff show. The story here is that Sin Cara helped mentor Almas until Zelina Vega came into the scene and changed Almas.
The match was a couple of minutes longer than what we saw on Smackdown but the action was not as crisp. Sin Cara took control early until Almas sidestepped a tope and sent Cara into the barricade. Almas mostly worked the arm and used strikes while in control then Cara’s comeback went fine until a really bad spot on the apron where he messed up a hurricarana. The finish happened when Vega distracted the referee after Cara hit a frog splash and that allowed Almas to hit a running double knee smash then the hammerlock DDT for the win. On commentary they pushed this as the student defeating the teacher. I liked how Vega was utilized here and this act has been criminally underutilized since being drafted to Smackdown Live. The outcome never seemed in doubt but hopefully this allows Almas to move on to a more significant program.
SAnitY vs. The New Day
Jacob Williams: Like true Patriots, the New Day wanted to celebrate Independence Day with a competitive eating contest centered around their signature pancakes. SAnitY decided to crash it, so here we are. And since it must be eXtreme, we get some tables thrown in.
The match was a quick chaotic six-man brawl. They did a nice job of teasing the table spots, and despite the lack of much storytelling, they kept the action moving through various big spots and not wasting much time fiddling with the tables. Young eventually caught Kofi on the apron and planted him through a table in a cool finish. As a recent NXT call up, SAnitY find themselves in that oh-so crucial window to either establish themselves or risk fading into irrelevance, especially given their gimmick may be tricky to work on the main roster. This wasn’t a star-making match, but it gave them a solid win against an established team in what turned out to be one of the better matches of the night.
The B-Team vs. “Woken” Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt
J Arsenio D’Amato: “There’s nothing strange or unusual when you understand the wisdom” – Corey Graves. The B Team has cooled off since their epic celebration on Raw in May after beating Breezango for their first win as a team. Their joyous celebration was one of the highlights of the year thus far on Raw with their victory lap that culminated with a shared slide down the ramp in a single office chair. Matt Hardy is really banged up, that much is clear, and his hobbling offense makes it difficult for him and Bray to sustain any sort of domination in the tag division. It took a while before the brothers Bo and Bray actually made contact with each other but it did happen here. They kept things short and sweet, ending in a minor surprise as Bo Dallas did all the work at the end causing a collision between Bray and Matt before getting the three count with a neckbreaker. Michael Cole compared the victory to the Pirates four game sweep over the Brewers this weekend, which I appreciated. Charly Caruso aids their celebration on the ramp with their first exclusive tag team championship promo. Axel compares it to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon while Bo says the B in B team stands for the Best. A solid opener.
Finn Bálor vs. “Constable” Baron Corbin
Brian Bayless: The premise of this feud is about appearance with Corbin making fun of Balor for being smaller while Balor makes fun of Corbin’s looks as we saw during a tedious segment on RAW almost two weeks ago.
The match was basic with Corbin hammering away early and acting cocky as the announcers brought up Balor always being able to overcome his size disadvantage. As the match progressed and Balor kept kicking out of his moves, Corbin became increasingly frustrated then ended up losing focus and Balor countered the End of Days with a small package for the win. The action was basic and this feud is not helping either man. Balor is just spinning his wheels while the “Constable” gimmick and new look is not doing Corbin any favors. Corbin looks like either someone James Mitchell should be managing in 2003 TNA or a bartender at a steakhouse. And I think he is showing improvement as a performer too but being Stephanie McMahon’s appointed stooge is not a role that leads to success. And speaking of Balor, he has yet to lose a PPV singles match as a member of the main roster.
Carmella vs. Asuka
Stacey O’Loughlin: So with James Ellsworth locked inside a shark cage, will Carmella finally get her comeuppance at the hands of Asuka? Ha ha ha, of course the heck not! This was pretty garbage, the booking of Asuka and this feud has been atrocious and they keep dragging it out with nonsense like this. The shark cage was rendered useless since he hardly even sold going in, then immediately started cheating anyway and broke out of it within five minutes. Asuka looked like a dork getting bumped into the cage and pinned just like that. The revenge spots she does get are moot when they come after her jobbing like an idiot, again. I really didn’t like any of this.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy
Scott Criscuolo: Well it’s evident that Jeff Hardy is battling injuries as he took a Nak low blow and a Kinshasa and suddenly we have a new US Champion. This is Nak’s consolation prize after the long feud with AJ Styles for the WWF Title that yielded zero victories. After the match the returning Randy Orton came out and…attacked Jeff Hardy with another low blow. Heel Randy Orton is so much more entertaining. As for Jeff, he’s getting his rematch on Smackdown this week but I feel that will be a short match as well. Hard to grade based on how it went down but I will anyway.
Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman
Aaron George: So the premise is that a man that wears a shirt that reads, “fight anyone” refuses to fight the “Monster in the Bank TM.” Owens runs, runs and runs. Handcuffs are brought in. Braun “shockingly” breaks them. Owens gets tossed off the top of the fucking cage! The spot was awesome, the fact that Owens won by hitting the ground first is inspired, the match was just there. Braun is treading water and Owens is completely directionless. Extra points for the spot that you never thought they would do in 2018. Like almost every other match on the card, this wasn’t interesting enough to pull the focus away from three grown men talking about their boring ass lives. If only it had been on at 10:30 where we were all so burned out that we just stared at the screen, waiting to go home.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Team Hell No
Roger Morrissette: Like most folks, I’ve enjoyed the Team Hell No reboot. Since Bryan has returned he has been unable to really find firm footing in any feud/role (Big Cass…. c’mon) and I thought this was as good a way as any to utilize him as we build toward the rumored SummerSlam showdown with Miz. With that said, I felt throwing THN in with the Bludgeon Brothers for the title so quickly didn’t make much sense. There was really no upside for either team… especially once the Bludgeons injured Bryan and Kane before the match.
I actually enjoyed the match itself. I thought Bryan was booked pretty strongly and did well in the handicap portion of the match while the Bludgeons looked good enough to not kill the momentum they have built. Where things went south was when a gimpy Kane came to the ring and THN actually did worse. I thought the finish was a mess and I’m not sure why Bryan is eating that pin. For a guy so universally beloved it is strange to me how weak he is portrayed at times.
Onto bigger and better things for the Bludgeon’s and hopefully back to the retirement home for the Big Red Machine.
Bobby Lashley vs. Roman Reigns
Scott Criscuolo: I was most looking forward to this match because honestly, these two guys can do their thing when they’re motivated and tell a story. Sadly, because Reigns is floating around like a rudderless boat, the juice isn’t totally there. It’s sad when the Brock Lesnar/Universal Title situation is more important that this match. Having said that, there were some solid moments. Reigns is a tremendous athlete, and Lashley is as well. Sadly they did a lot of lumbering around and it slowed the pacing down. I think Lashley winning was the smart move because honestly a Brock/Lashley match is more money right now. I wanted to grade this higher than I’m going to, but I just couldn’t.
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax
Stacey O’Loughlin: In terms of a women’s title match full of gaga, this one was miles better. I really liked how it began with Alexa grasping and clutching at any weapons she could find and Nia swatting them all away like a monster and rendering Alexa helpless. It had a fun cat-and-mouse vibe to it. I also liked Nia recovering from the first flurry of weapon shots by just punching Alexa super hard in the mouth. The press slam onto the trashcan was cool too.
From there it was just one big interference, which was weirdly laid out since Mickie took all kinds of abuse and kept popping back up, while Nattie and Ronda were down forever in comparison. But it is always fun watching Ronda Rousey get mad and destroy some folk, and it was the right result going forward. This was fun enough even if the match itself was cut short.
AJ Styles vs. Rusev
JT Rozzero: Rusev Day. The crowd hot for both sides as this got underway and we got some real good power Rusev offense out of the gate. The Bulgarian Brute really showed off his speed, strength and deep arsenal all while controlling the match. As he worked the champ over, he had good focused work on the back, using that power to target the lumbar where he could. Both studs cut a great pace even during the heat segment and it was great to see Rusev really keeping up like we know he can. Styles tried to comeback a few times but Rusev unleashed some real good cutoffs as well. Both men battered each other with stiff punches and strikes down the stretch, and one of the best spots of the match came with a nice Rusev belly-to-belly suplex on the floor. The crowd was buying in late the bout and they delivered two strong near falls: one on a Rusev kick and a second off a Styles springboard 450. Rusev also survived the calf crusher and kept selling the leg right through the end where the hard hitting match ended with a clean, good win for Styles. I thought Rusev showed very well in his big spot and AJ continues to be the man. This was tight, tidy and crisp, just as you would have expected.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler
Greg Phillips: How important is the crowd to one’s enjoyment of a wrestling match? That was the question I found myself asking during this well-built, highly anticipated match between two of WWE’s best in-ring talents.
It’s been a while since WWE audiences have seen an Iron Man Match, and whether it was that lapse in time or general unrest from the rest of the long Extreme Rules card, the audience in Pittsburgh saw fit to chant 10-second rundowns every minute and make loud, annoying buzzer noises, as if they were at the Royal Rumble. Perhaps once or twice, this may have been cute. When repeated for the duration of the match, it became overbearing and obnoxious, and it clearly disrupted the performers in the ring. We’ll never know how good this match could have been, because every high spot was swallowed by the fans, who were more fascinated by the presence (or lack thereof) of a countdown clock to facilitate their chants.
With that handicap established, the match had a fairly clever story. Rollins built a huge early lead, and Dolph used his “in case of emergency, break glass” option with Drew McIntyre doing enough damage to allow Ziggler to even things up. It was a nice inversion of the typical Iron Man formula. There were some psychological bumps along the way, such as Rollins chasing Ziggler at the end of the match even though they were tied and a countout would secure the IC title, but both guys worked hard. Still, it’s difficult not to view this match as a disappointment, given their **** title change on Raw just a few weeks ago.