This Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment presents it’s annual Extreme Rules pay-per-view event at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, pitting Superstar against Superstar in matches with some extreme stipulations. This event continues several storylines from the Payback pay-per-view last month, with an A.J. Styles and Roman Reigns rematch for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship headlining the event in an Extreme Rules match. In addition to the top title, all of the gold that can be earned in the WWE is up for grabs tonight.
While WWE has done a good job crafting storylines recently and keeping fans out of the loop as to which side characters will take, it’s becoming clear that WWE Creative isn’t able to stop putting the same competitors in the same matches week after week. The Usos vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows has been a common theme for both Monday Night RAW and Thursday Night Smackdown shows over the course of the past month, and while it makes sense to have these two teams fight to generate hype for tonight’s main event, it’s clear that WWE thinks that replaying an old record will make things interesting, while in reality does nothing more than alienate the fans.
Let’s dive into what Extreme Rules has in store for us tonight.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
No Disqualification Match
In a rematch from Payback’s pre-show last month, Ziggler and Corbin meet in a No DQ match on a second consecutive kickoff match.
Not that long ago, Baron Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal over 19 other competitors at WrestleMania, the company’s flagship event of the year. An accolade that, while it truly doesn’t mean that much to have won yet, should have landed Corbin a better position on match cards than working on the pre-show and failing to impress fans as he did in NXT. WWE has reduced him to worse than that of a midcard talent in recent weeks, seeming to share a similar fate to his NXT fellow Tyler Breeze, who was unable to rise to any prominence after his debut.
Having Ziggler be the one to wrestle Corbin isn’t a bad call, but having the same match on two consecutive pay-per-views just carries a stale air to it that doesn’t get fans interested. The only hope for Corbin at this point is to pull off the victory over Ziggler and hope that Creative has a plan to get him back on his feet in the business and become the monster that he was in NXT once again.
Prediction: Baron Corbin defeats Dolph Ziggler.
Result: Baron Corbin defeats Dolph Ziggler with a low blow followed by the End of Days.
The Usos vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Tag Team Tornado Match
The promoted main event of several Smackdown tapings recently, Jimmy and Jey Uso fight Anderson and Gallows on pay-per-view in a tag team tornado match.
This match stipulation is one that isn’t pulled out of WWE’s pocket all that often, but has proven to produce some very memorable matches over the years. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins of The Shield back in 2013 won the Tag Team Championships from Kane and Daniel Bryan, helping to raise the faction to the top of WWE’s radar years ago. But, as this match is also most likely going to air on the pre-show, it’s highly unlikely that many memorable moments will come out of this one.
This match serves as a momentum builder for the winning team: whoever wins here will essentially give the commentary team something to talk about when the main event of the night airs. If the Usos win, they will be mentioned as striking a blow to the morale of A.J. Styles, and if Anderson and Gallows win, Roman Reigns will have less confidence. It’s not really a huge momentum boost, but it is still significant to the story of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. And because WWE is unlikely to hand the belt over to Styles, it also seems unlikely that Gallows and Anderson will walk out with a win.
Prediction: The Usos defeat Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows.
Result: Anderson and Gallows defeat the Usos with a Magic Killer after Jimmy missed a top-rope splash and landed on a steel ring bell.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains
A match that takes place after a botch from Enzo Amore at Payback last month, the New Day will defend their Tag Team titles against Simon Gotch and Aiden English.
The botch in question took place during the finals of the WWE Tag Team Championship tournament to determine the Number 1 Contender for the titles, and Enzo Amore slipped on the ropes and was knocked unconscious with a concussion after hitting first the ring apron, and then the floor, with this neck and head. Clearly, this wasn’t any part of WWE’s plan for the match, and perhaps they even had Amore and his partner Colin Cassady to win the bout and start a feud with the New Day. Regardless, The Vaudevillains now find themselves with the opportunity to claim the titles for themselves, as they did in NXT.
While giving Gotch and English a push this big would be monumental for their careers, having them win the WWE Tag Team Championships from a team this popular with the WWE Universe seems a little too fast, considering they just debuted on SmackDown less than a month ago. Now, WWE has done some crazy things in the past with Superstars, Divas, or teams winning gold in their first match, but the Vaudevillains aren’t a secret to the WWE Universe and aren’t really all that over or known to fans yet. It’s already a good push to have them in a Tag Team title match in the first place, but for the moment, tonight is not their night.
Prediction: The New Day defeats The Vaudevillains to retain the Tag Team Championships.
Result: The New Day defeats The Vaudevillains with help from Kofi Kingston at ringside.
United States Champion Kalisto vs. Rusev
In an attempt to reclaim the United States Championship after never getting an opportunity for a rematch a year after losing it, Rusev becomes another monster to challenge Kalisto for the belt.
The battle lines have been drawn, but it’s hard to discern just who is the face and who is the heel in this scenario. Lana was involved with a previous storyline with Dolph Ziggler as a face, having turned her back on Rusev months ago, but then returned to his side after WWE decided to have their real life engagement get in the way and change up their whole dynamic.
Kalisto and his Lucha Dragon teammate Sin Cara have also been less than fair recently, using tactics that are seemingly more sinister than usual to help Sin Cara get a win over Rusev on RAW a few weeks back. While we can assume that Rusev is the big, bad monster looking to take the gold from a beloved champion, things could certainly be switched at Extreme Rules.
The United States Championship has lost so much prestige recently ever since Alberto Del Rio took it from John Cena in his return to the company. It is a relief to see it on the main card of a pay-per-view rather than on the pre-show (as it has been for the past few months), but it still doesn’t change the fact that seeing Kalisto defend it also starts to look stale. However, handing the belt back to Rusev seems as though WWE can’t come up with anything else for Rusev to do other than hold the championship, so a defense by Kalisto here seems a little more plausible than him dropping the gold back to the Bulgarian Brute.
Prediction: Kalisto defeats Rusev to retain the United States Championship.
Result: Rusev defeats Kalisto with an Accolade to reclaim the United States Championship.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
Fatal 4-Way Match
In what is certainly one of the most intriguing matches of the night, The Miz must defend his Intercontinental Championship against three other hungry competitors in a Fatal 4-Way contest.
First of all, The Miz holding the title is no longer an entertaining concept, due to the amount of star power in this match. Secondly, whoever becomes the new champion will set the stage for who has the chance to win the gold briefcase and title shot contract at the Money in the Back pay-per-view next month. If Sami Zayn or Cesaro is to win the title, that opens up Kevin Owens to move in and claim the contract, and the prospect of him fighting Roman Reigns (or whoever is champion) at a PPV for the WWE’s top prize is a very tantalizing one. If Owens wins back the belt, then Zayn or Cesaro have that chance, but because Owens has been on a role in both his character and his fighting styles recently, and the amount of time he has spent on the main card compared to Zayn or Cesaro makes their potential wins a little less meaningful. In addition, Cesaro’s credibility with the fans is a little more than Zayn’s, so having him win the title, especially after having lost his chance at Payback due to interference from Owens, allows his storyline for the belt to come to a close.
No matter who wins the match, it is sure to be a star-studded affair. Owens and Cesaro are both wonderful performers and are sure to make both Zayn and The Miz look incredible, and Owens and Zayn have always put on incredible matches. One thing is for sure, though – The Miz will not be the Intercontinental Champion at the end of the match.
Prediction: Cesaro defeats The Miz, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to become the new Intercontinental Champion.
Result: The Miz pins Cesaro for the win after Zayne knocked Cesaro out with a Helluva Kick.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
We saw it at Payback, and we’re seeing it again – The Lunatic Fringe gets to battle The Best In The World At What He Does in an asylum match: a steel cage match with a sinister twist.
First, escaping the cage does not result in a victory – the match must be won by either pinfall or submission. Secondly, weapons are customarily not used in the match, unless thrown in by outside parties or hidden within the cage by competitors, but now weapons are suspended above the cage, giving Ambrose and Jericho incentive to climb the cell to retrieve them. It’s one of the more extreme-seeming matches on the card, and if performed right, could produce some of the highlights of the evening. Leaps off the top of the cage with weapons, uses of more straightjackets (as jackets have been one of the highlights of the feud), action outside the ring after both competitors climb over the top…this stipulation essentially gives both men the chance to get creative with their offense to the point of no return.
While Ambrose and Jericho have great chemistry on the mic, it seems as though having the two face off again at a pay-per-view brings the same stale air as several other matches on the card. It’s almost as if WWE is putting fans through these repeated matches as a means of keeping their big plans for the future aside and saving them for SummerSlam in August. But adding this new element of a steel cage match with toys gives fans more of a reason to be interested in the bout, so give WWE credit where it is due: at least it’s not a normal one-on-one contest like they had last month.
Ambrose pulled off the victory last month, and with rumors circulating about Jericho’s departure from the company, don’t be surprised if Ambrose wins again tonight. However, if Jericho were to win, it could set up one more rematch to settle the score at some point down the road.
Prediction: Chris Jericho defeats Dean Ambrose.
Result: Dean Ambrose defeats Chris Jericho after a brutal match and a Dirty Deeds onto a pile of thumbtacks.
WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte vs. Natalya
Submission Match; Ric Flair Banned From Ringside
In a match that could see another championship changing hands, Natalya challenges Charlotte in a match that sees Ric Flair banned from ringside, signaling a more fair contest than Charlotte’s competitors have seen in the past.
It’s pretty clear that Charlotte’s validity as Women’s Champion only exists because of interference from her father. At WrestleMania, he prevented Sasha Banks from interrupting Charlotte while she had Becky Lynch in a submission hold, and at Payback, he bought off the referee to allow yet another title defense for his daughter. Now, with Flair not allowed to intervene in the contest, it creates the possibility of a fair title change and, if it happened, would show that Charlotte is weaker than previously thought and is only able to win thanks to her father’s interference.
On the other side, though, Natalya’s inclusion in the contest makes even less sense. Why can’t Paige be included in the title picture, rather than being reduced to losing matches on SmackDown? Why have Lynch and Banks essentially been absent since WrestleMania? And what has Natalya really done to deserve a spot in the match?
These are questions that WWE has chosen to ignore in favor or promoting the contest as one of “Legacy vs. Legacy”: the Flairs vs. the Harts. And as if the horrible finish to the two’s first contest at Payback last month wasn’t enough of a heads-up, the story of the Women’s Championship has become one of cheating and the inability to have clean finishes. Do not be surprised if Ric still finds a way to intervene to allow Charlotte to retain her championship.
Prediction: Natalya wins due to Charlotte being disqualified, allowing Charlotte to retain the title.
Result: Charlotte makes Natalya submit with the Figure 8 after interference from Dana Brooke.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns vs. A.J. Styles
Extreme Rules Match
The end of the Extreme Rules event always has a main event with an extreme stipulation, and now Reigns and Styles write the next chapter with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line.
With rumors still circulating about Anderson and Gallows’ possible betrayal of Styles and the debut of Finn Balor on the horizon, it looks like most of the attention is still on The Club and their activities rather than whether the title will change hands or not. Roman is still being portrayed as the face here, despite massive fan backlash, and now WWE has opted to begin portraying Styles in a more desperate and aggressive light, suggesting a potential heel turn.
The buildup to the bout hasn’t been all that great: keep putting Reigns in the main event of RAW, whether it be in tag matches with The Usos or in singles competition against members of The Club, have him win the match, and then chaos ensues at the end of the night. It serves as yet another example of stale booking, but one that could become more interesting with Finn Balor’s debut date leaked as being the night after Extreme Rules.
As mentioned before, it’s highly unlikely that WWE will allow the man who used to be the face of a rival promotion to walk out with their top championship, but with the potential for big story changes on the horizon, it looks as though Reigns winning the match will be less important than what becomes of Anderson, Gallows, and Styles’ partnership at the end of the night.
Prediction: Roman Reigns defeats A.J. Styles to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Result: Romain Reigns defeats A.J. Stlyes with a Spear, and is then immediately attacked by a returning Seth Rollins.