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After another polarising Big Four Pay-Per-View let down (Royal Rumble 2021 remains this year’s sole high spot for WWE’s biggest four PPVs) in a wonky SummerSlam, we were hoping for some electricity as WWE went extreme with the stipulation-heavy PPV Extreme Rules. Yeah, about that. This show was already being mocked somewhat online as ‘Regular Rules’, as there were virtually no stipulations announced for any of the night’s matches, barring a last minute addition to the main event (announced more out of necessity really). Like their Hell in a Cell event, one wonders if WWE should do away with events themed around gimmick matches and just let those stipulations happen organically as feuds dictate, y’know, like they used to?
Anyway, let’s see if some low expectations could be overcome on the night…
On The Kick-Off show, New WWE Champ Big E and The New Day came to blows with AJ Styles, Omos and enraged former champion Bobby Lashley. A Six-man tag was consequently announced to open the main card of the show.
1. Liv Morgan vs. Carmella (Kick-Off Show)
Relegated to the kick-off despite being announced weeks prior, this match was being bigged up as a huge moment for Liv Morgan, hopefully suggesting a push for her to come. The match was decent, if not something we have already seemingly endlessly seen on the weekly shows, and hopefully big things lie ahead for Liv, who has put some serious work in and got a victory here.
The show opened with a big video package and what not, you know the drill with WWE.
2. Six Man Tag Team Match
The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) vs. Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles, Omos
A good energy mustering start to the show, as Big E and his New Day brothers got a great win over their game foes. This was back and forth action, and the meat of th at action was undeniably centred on Lashley and E’s confrontations. This was good stuff, that escalated into an up and down war and opened the show well. And it was rather a shock to see E get the win over Lashley with the Big Ending to finish up the match. Though better things would come the next night on Raw…as post-match interviews set up a title clash between Big E and Lashley.
3. WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match
The Bloodline (Jimmy and Hey Uso) (c) vs. The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins)
Another good showing here, in a highly competitive title match built around Montez Ford’s injured ribs. Ford is great at selling and here, he took it to great heights and even had you believing he and Dawkins had the titles in their grasp but the ferocious and fast Usos would overpower their hearty challengers.
4. WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Charlotte (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Hands down the best feud Alexa Bliss has been a part of since this new iteration of her character. The build up to it was great, with the Lilly doll mind games knocking The Queen’s often iron-clad confidence. And the match itself was fun too, with good action and pace, and a few moments making you think the evil would not be all that would be Alexa’s but the title would too. Sadly it was not to be as The Queen would reclaim her throne and then leave Alexa an enraged broken mess, as she tore her beloved friend Lilly to shreds post-match. Mixed feelings on that, as it is once again a case of WWE possibly erasing actual distinct characters on their shows.
5. WWE US Championship Triple Threat Match
Damian Priest (c) vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus
Great to see Jeff Hardy here, as he has deserved far better than his recent treatment on Raw. And despite some rougher moments and slip ups, this triple threat delivered. Damian Priest got the right call win by pinning Sheamus but the crux of the energy was centred on Jeff Hardy’s “can he do it” story, and the charismatic enigma came bloody close. These three worked well together and there were fun moments within (Sheamus’ top rope mockery of Hardy for instance) and the match ended with Priest’s snatched victory and a nice show of post-match respect between he and Hardy.
6. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch (c)
To be completely honest with you, I was not into this one. Becky Lynch has not lost her touch and Bianca Belair was game but I felt like this dragged a tad and that there was a higher level it could go. Bianca looked set to get her title back until an interfering Sasha Banks saw to it that a no contest result was the final outcome. I feel like the forthcoming Triple Threat between these ladies will be infinitely superior to this and much like Roman Reigns and John Cena this was solid if unmemorable thanks to its aftermath. Though Becky’s heel thumbs up (already a meme’d moment) was a laugh.
7. WWE Universal Championship Extreme Rules Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/Paul Heyman vs. The Demon Finn Bálor
Up until a certain point, this was the match of the night. Reigns and “The Demon” Finn Bálor had a heck of a fight and the Philly crowd by this point were absolutely gasping for the event to live up to its name, so these two got a great response with some table spots and Singapore came bits and brawling. The through the crowd action (where Roman masked up) was especially fun. Problem is, this match had one of those endings that just overshadowed everything, in fact it overshadowed the entire evening. Going in, WWE booked themselves into a corner with Balor’s undefeated Demon persona facing a champ that surely cannot lose ahead of his already announced Crown Jewel Brock Lesnar match. So they pushed the BS button, with achingly predictable Usos interference and a head shaking ending that saw an arena audio heartbeat resurrect a downed Demon, who was set to win before the top rope snapped sending him to the ring mat, where Roman capitalised with a spear and pinfall win, then looked up to the heavens and thanked god. And that’s your show. Yes, really?
Overall, Extreme Rules is a hard show to rate because it really offered some good ring work but did not deliver one bit on its title promise. And the ending was absurd and cheap. This show was not extreme, it was a sign that the era of gimmick PPVs needs to end if the company are not going to bother committing to it with their build. The night also was a further sad sign that modern WWE may be embracing create-a-wrestler templates over distinctive or unusual characters, especially after that climax extinguished The Demon in favour of moving on to the pre-announced Saudi show commitments. The night had its good points but just felt a bit like an obligatory PPV, that was already scheduled and they had to do, before actually being able to get to the angles and shows they wanted to do.
Plus, despite decent regular matches, they were just that. As good as some were, they could have been on any weekly show. An extreme named show has to be judged by its extreme content, and this stuff wouldn’t even make grandma wince. Call it a harsh score, and I may have even gone to 3/5, had it not have been for the fact that after SummerSlam, WWE needed a big win here, but (maybe its the ending or the whole feeling of ambivalence I had during and after) I just look back on this show and think, I’d have missed nothing had I slept through it (a feeling I had often back in some of the most forgettable 2010s WWE shows, some of which people discuss and I have no memory of whatsoever). In fact my feelings as a fan at the moment remind me of an early series of Family Guy, where they had a Stephen King gag where he desperately says to his publisher his new book is about a killer desk lamp, the publisher responds “you are not even trying anymore are you?”, before sighing and saying, “when can I have it”.
Dare we hope Crown Jewel will turn the tide, as well as the return of King of the Ring and the new Queen’s Crown tournament? Fingers crossed.
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