John: Welcome to our preview of WWE Extreme Rules, which takes place this Sunday night in Newark, New Jersey. You can watch it on WWE Network. Have they let us know that? Yes they have. A few times.
It’s a show that is heavy in terms of gimmick matches, there are several rematches from the Payback event that took place just three weeks ago and every title that’s on the main roster is on the line as well. I’m optimistic that it will be an above average show just like Payback was.
Joining me for the preview are Matty J. Douglas, Heather Hickey and Mike Holland. As always, the match order isn't the order that we necessarily think will happen on the show. It's just a format to use for this preview. Here are some thoughts from Heather and then we’ll get to the first match.
Heather: Given the resemblance of this card to Payback, one might be tempted to complain of stagnant storylines. But let’s remember that it’s only been three weeks between big shows, and this slow-burn approach to the current feuds allows wrestlers to sink their teeth into the matches themselves. Which is fitting, because Extreme Rules should be about putting on a wild show, more so than advancing storylines (beyond that of the main event, in this case). I’m happy to watch these matchups again, in hopes that the participants will take advantage of their stipulations and the fact that they should now be quite familiar with their dance partners. As Booker T would say, “If you can’t get along, let’s get it on!”
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No Disqualification: Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin (Kickoff Match)
Matt: I wish that I cared.
Sorry Dolph and Corbin.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Heather: Ziggler needs to trick Corbin to score the victory. And he could do it. But he won’t. I’ve decided that Dolph is actually so filled with self-loathing that he purposely sabotages his own success (it would also explain all the selfies). Dolph is faster, wilier, and more resilient than Baron Corbin, who is a big guy but doesn’t seem all that intelligent or menacing. So the only kayfabe explanation for how this is going to end is that Dolph Ziggler is having a crisis of confidence, and can’t close the deal. The good news is that he and Corbin have decent chemistry in the ring; the feud has simply lacked motivation for the fans to CARE about who wins.
I’m not sure how the No-DQ stip will come into play, but I wonder if Dolph will try to find leverage against Corbin by using foreign objects from around the ring, making Corbin look all the better when he flattens the Show Off.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Mike: In the first of quite a few rematches from the last time we got together and did this, the Ziggler/Corbin feud of follicles and testosterone continues into another event. There are plenty of things to be irritated about in this encounter, from the fact that both guys are getting relegated to the kickoff show to the idea that presenting this thing as a "no disqualification" match is somehow different or more extreme than the other fifty versions of that same match. Call it what you will, but it will be decidedly physical.
The WWE threw me for a bit of a loop when they booked Dolph to defeat Baron at Payback, as I fully expected Mr. Ziggles to do his earthly best to make the NXT standout look fantastic. Creative then hedged their bets as usual by having Mr. Night at the Improv lose to the Lone Wolf on Raw, so we can consider this the rubber match and hopefully the end of this feud. The same logic still applies, however. Despite the attempt at a detour, this train is only going one way and it's not in Ziggler's favor. Corbin wins decisively.
Winner: Baron Corbin
John: I know that three weeks ago we were here predicting Payback and we all picked Corbin to win that match, which didn’t happen. Then they had a match on Raw shortly after that with Corbin winning clean and that seemed to be the end of it. They weren’t even on Raw this week, yet they’re having another match with a No Disqualification stipulation. I think the only reason to do this match is to put Corbin over strong. He’s the younger guy that’s seen as a star on the rise, so he should win this one convincingly. I feel bad for Ziggler being stuck in this spot that he’s in. Turn him heel or do something to give him that spark back again.
Winner: Baron Corbin
WWE United States Title: Kalisto vs. Rusev
Matt: I truly don’t understand what story they were trying to tell heading into this match. Since Rusev won the Battle Royal to earn this championship opportunity, everything that has happened on Raw has seemingly been done to get me less interested in seeing this match. Rusev lost to Sin Cara, Kalisto’s Tag Team partner (due to outside interference from our plucky underdog hero, Kalisto). They followed that up with Kalisto losing to Alberto Del Rio this week on Raw. Why are we not watching Sin Cara vs. Alberto Del Rio for the United States Title?
The match should be good. By all accounts Kalisto had a really fun match with Ryback on the Payback pre-show, and I feel that Rusev is a much better performer than Ryback, thus this should be even better. With all that said, I really wish the storytelling served to make this bout more interesting. Great matches are a dime a dozen these days. I need more.
Winner and New United States Champion: Rusev (because Kalisto has lost all steam)
Heather: I’m happy to see Kalisto facing someone who can fulfill that Goliath archetype to a far more compelling degree than Ryback could. Rusev is a lone wolf who is well rid of the League of Nations, and it seems like he’s been revitalized by this liberation. I love watching him yell at Kalisto in Bulgarian, and in English, his trash talk is a concise delight. Rusev is a brute in both name and deed, the perfect opponent for the soft-spoken lemur who is Kalisto. When they collide, Kalisto is going to go down every single time, so the game is in avoiding collision and somehow wearing down Rusev. No stipulations here, and none needed. I want to see Kalisto dip deep into his bag of Lucha trickery, and befuddle the Bulgarian for the win. However, I suspect Lana will get involved… which is tiresome, but hey, that’s wrestling, kid.
Winner, and New United States Champion: Rusev
Mike: While not technically another rematch from Payback, this really might as well be. Rey Mysterio Lite Kalisto, fresh off sending Ryback's merchandise to mothballs, defends his US Title against another hulking behemoth in Lana's Bulgarian Brute, Rusev. Kalisto has done an admirable job to this point fending off all comers, and the underdog story is always an easy one to tell, but it pretty much feels like we've hit the ceiling here.
As for Rusev, he can most certainly relate. He's been stuck in neutral since the implosion of the ill-fated League of Nations, and putting a title on him won't help matters. That said, it makes sense to me from a storyline standpoint, and it has less to do with the current champion than it does with the next one. John Cena returns on Memorial Day Monday, and I can't help but think that rekindling a feud with Rusev over the title would be the obvious choice here. Kalisto can go back to his team with fellow Luchador Sin Cara, and Cena can have the special moment that his horrid reality show didn't offer. What's that expression Gorilla Monsoon had about going to the well once too often?
Winner (And New US Champion): Rusev
John: I’m surprised that Kalisto has held the US Title for as long as he has. It started out as a fun thing, but then the last few months it has really dragged. It’s been one of those long title runs that doesn’t end up meaning anything because of how boring it’s been.
For the last three weeks my pick in this match was Rusev. Then I saw Raw with the way Rusev dominated Kalisto with an extended Accolade submission. It made me think of the trusted “look strong on TV, lose on PPV” phrase I’ve been using for 15 years of writing these damn previews. It makes me think that Kalisto may win by disqualification to set up a rematch and then Rusev wins the title in that match. I’m still going to pick Rusev here – I just think it’s harder to call than most people think.
Tornado Rules Tag Match: The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Matt: Listen, this match is going to be a lot of fun. These four guys can wrestle and the Tornado rules are going to make for a wild environment. Despite that reality, I can’t say I’m looking forward to this match that much. It’s not that I don't want to see it, it’s that I’m not that excited to see it again. These guys have faced off literally every week since Anderson and Gallows have arrived in the WWE. I’m ready to see something new from these guys after this match.
Winners: Anderson and Gallows (because they need to look good coming out of Extreme Rules)
Heather: Given how much double-teaming happens when these four are together in a standard tag match anyways, the Tornado Rules stipulation doesn’t seem all that revolutionary. But it’s something, and it will allow for plenty of action at all times – think Fatal Four-Way but with factions. It will push the boundaries of what these particular wrestlers are used to, so I’m curious to see how the pace and flow of the match will play out. Just like the first two matches already covered, this is a case of high-flying versus hard-hitting. I think it will be fun, but the big question is: will the main event participants have cause to get involved here? Will Reigns come out to assist his cousins, only to have Styles even the odds (remember, no DQ in this match)? I believe this will end with The Club looking strong, setting the stage for later that night.
Winner: Anderson and Gallows
Mike: WWE's booking of the much-ballyhooed Gallows and Anderson team has been puzzling to say the least, as they rode in with a lot of steam and fanfare and haven't done a heck of a lot other than getting laid out weekly since then. They, along with Reigns's blood relations The Usos, have been used as a revolving supporting cast around the far bigger implications of the World Title bout, and it's to their detriment. Monday's Raw saw The Usos getting the upper hand in this affair, and that's been all too common over the course of events.
This match will be tornado rules, which unfortunately does not mean that everyone gets to use Kerry Von Erich's finisher. All four men will fight each other without needing to tag, so I'd expect this to be wild and fairly brief. Leaving the silly-sounding Bloodline and Club monikers out of it (except to say it sounds like a really awful infomercial), all four men are expected to make a reappearance later in the evening and Gallows and Anderson need a definitive win to justify their reputations. WWE has been pretty upfront in presenting them as pseudo-heels, and heels own this kind of match. Deuces, Uses.
Winners: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
John: There’s really no reason to do this match again other than to put over Gallows & Anderson in a dominant fashion. I thought it was stupid to have them lose clean to The Usos on Raw, but when I saw they were doing this tornado tag I understood why. The problem is that WWE is so keen on their 50/50 booking that they don’t realize that loss on Monday was damaging to G&A. They’d be much more intimidating if they were an undefeated tag team right now.
Look for G&A to get the win. They’ll probably be the team that beats The New Day for the Tag Team Titles at some point in the next three months too.
Winners: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Submission Match for the WWE Women’s Title: Charlotte vs. Natalya
(Ric Flair is banned from ringside and if he appears at all then Charlotte is stripped of the title.)
Matt: I feel like I’m going to sound like a broken record but, this match will in all likelihood will be very, very good. Both of these women are good wrestlers, and the build up to this match (awful screw job reinvention aside) has been okay. It’s main failing is that it still feels very much like a holdover rivalry. It feels like there’s something bigger down the road for Charlotte and that Natalya isn’t going to be as much of a factor in the Women’s Division following this match.
Winner and Still WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte (because she is meant for bigger things down the line)
Heather: I thought Natalya would be gone from the title picture by this point, but we are all the better for her sticking around. Here’s why:
1. Though many members of the Women’s Division use submission finishers, Natalya and Charlotte both use “waist-down” submissions (that would be the Sharpshooter and the Figure-Eight Leglock, respectively). This provides an opportunity to tell the story of both women needing to wear down her opponent’s submission-vulnerable legs. The only issue I see here is that both Charlotte and Natalya wrestle at a more methodical pace than many of the other women, so taking their legs out from them may slow down the match too much. They can atone for this with creativity and emotion. With the court jester being detained from ringside, we can focus on the grappling.
2. Natalya has shone as a guest at the announce table during Charlotte’s matches. She sounds calm and confident. She has shown her own personality and she has built Charlotte as a heel without going so far as to diminish her skills. Best of all, Natalya’s disdain for Ric Flair echoes that of every woman who’s had a musky-breathed codger try to dazzle her with his charisma.
So how will Charlotte retain her title, without her creepy father at ringside? By wrestling.
Winner: Charlotte. (And we’ll see less of Ric Flair in the weeks to follow.)
Mike: Payback's match between these two ladies was fantastic in its absurd horror, and its head-scratching finish left plenty to be desired. One of the few positives about that ending was that it allowed for the feud to continue, and the Figure Four (or Figure Eight) versus the Sharpshooter is an enticing idea that makes a submission match a smart choice for an extreme card. The kicker is that Nature Boy Ric Flair is not only banned from ringside, but cannot risk making an appearance without costing his daughter dearest her hard-fought gold.
Needless to say, such a stipulation paints Nattie Neidhart in a strong light. It's rays of false hope, however. As I've mentioned before, any situation in which Sasha Banks is not the one to wrest control from Charlotte is invalid at this point. While I can't explain Sasha's absence from television, it hasn't made me rethink the outcome one bit. Natalya will undoubtedly be booked strongly in this match, but some sort of swerve will prevent her from trumping Charlotte and allow for the female Flair's next big challenge. Plus, some Flair vs. Flair undertones. If you think Slick Ric was chewing scenery before, just you wait.
Winner (And Still Women's Champion): Charlotte
John: I’m excited for this match even though it’s not an easy task to pull off a Submission Match because sometimes a crowd may be a bit lethargic. In a regular match, the spots that earn the big responses are typically the nearfalls, right? Well, in this match there are no nearfalls. Both women have submission finishers that are over, so hopefully the crowd is into it. I have faith in Charlotte and Natalya to keep the crowd interested. They’ll probably get 12-15 minutes and should do a great job in the time given.
During the Payback preview I wrote that Natalya should win the title because that’s what the story called for. She was screwed out of the first title match on Raw due to Flair and with uncle Bret there it would have led to a great celebration. Obviously WWE didn’t feel that way because it looks like Charlotte is going to hold the gold for nearly a year since she won it last September. It seems like Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks will be the next major women’s story with a title change at SummerSlam, so look for the champ to find a way to retain here.
WWE Tag Team Titles: The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains
Matt: The Vaudevillains, despite their somewhat ridiculous gimmick, have been quite enjoyable to me since coming up to the Main Roster. Their “party like it’s 1899” line was gold heading into Payback, and their gimmick as bygone era enthusiasts can actually be more nuanced and interesting than it has any right to be.
With all that being said, I have a big problem with the build to this title match. It has exemplified all the problems I foresaw with turning The New Day babyface. I love those guys and their funny antics, but at the end of the day, their Tag Team is built upon and inherently unfair advantage. There are three of them, and all the teams they’ve faced only have two members.
As heels their unfair advantage lends to getting cheap wins, and staying one dastardly step ahead of the babyface teams trying to play by the rules. As a babyface trio, I can’t help but think that they are inept, constantly being out maneuvered and beaten down by English and Gotch in this rivalry. It’s going to be a problem going forward too. The thing that empowered them as heels lends to their ineptitude as babyfaces. It’s not great
Winners and Still WWE Tag Team Champions: The New Day (because New Day Rocks!)
Heather: Because I have barely seen The Vaudevillains in action, I cannot comment in much detail about this match, other than guessing it will be the comic relief of the evening. Asylum mop buckets aside, the rest of the card has a pretty serious tone. I would LOVE to see a surprise return for Enzo, if only to wipe the smirks off the Vaudevillains’ faces and give Enzo a boost from the fans’ reactions. But I don’t know what his status is, and will settle for a hip-grinding, Booty-O brandishing victory dance from Kofi, Xavier, and E.
Winners: The New Day
Mike: What's that you say? The WWE Tag Team Titles are actually going to be defended? While I personally felt it was always in the cards for the Vaudevillains to be the ones to square off against the New Day, the unfortunate injury suffered by Enzo Amore made it crystal clear. I admit I'm somewhat shocked that this match isn't taking place in a baby pool filled with Booty O's or with unicorn horns on poles, but the contrast of styles between the two teams has made for both entertaining viewing and some prime singing.
The Vaudevillians are a throwback act, and I for one enjoy the heck out of their presentation, but the universe isn't ready for it just yet. It would strain credulity for me to think of them escaping with the gold, and a potential rematch with Enzo & Cass looms large in the possibility meter. As for New Day, the heirs apparent to their thrones are without question the Club, and that's the battle fans are clamoring for. I expect this to be nothing more than an entertaining diversion for the current champions. The villains will be vanquished.
Winner (And Still Tag Team Champions): The New Day
John: I think this will be a pretty standard tag match with the champs retaining. While I’m happy for The Vaudevillains being in this spot, they don’t seem like the team that’s going to beat the champs for the titles. There’s a ready made feud that can pick up when Enzo Amore comes back because The Vaudevillains have trash talked Big Cass, so that’s their next direction. Keep it simple with Kingston getting worked over for much of the match, hot tag to Big E, hit the double team Big Ending and it’s over after about ten minutes.
As a side note, I'm optimistic about WWE's long term future with the tag team division. Between the talent on the main roster and what they have in NXT, there's a lot to look forward to in terms of tag team wrestling right now. I think American Alpha is the best team right now, but New Day certainly rocks too.
Winners: The New Day
Asylum Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
Matt: I feel as though the WWE is going out if their way to make sure that I don’t love Dean Ambrose anymore. He is literally one of my favourite characters on their program, because when he’s on he bring a very real menace to his performance, as well as a sense of unpredictability and fun. Oddly enough, the only time I don’t find him fun or funny is when he’s booked in wacky segments like the Ambrose Asylum, getting mad about the destruction of a potted plant, or fornicating with a mannequin dressed like Seth Rollins.
He’s Loony Toon. He’s Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, when he should be more like Raven, Roddy Piper and Brain Pillman. I know that there is some inherent goofiness to those characters, but the true menace always shone through, while here, I feel like it’s being obstructed with props and cartoon hijinks. Anyway, a match between Ambrose and Jericho should be really good. Hopefully they make interesting use of the stipulation. I can’t help but feel disappointed, because I feel like Ambrose has unfinished business elsewhere.
Winner: Dean Ambrose (because if he loses, this Saturday morning cartoon rivalry continues)
Heather: Given how much fun Ambrose had during their match at Payback, there are worse things he could be doing at Extreme Rules. This is the most gimmicky stipulation of the night, and I want to see how far Jericho is willing to go with it (because we know Ambrose is all-in). This won’t be the most thrilling spectacle, given the participants’ need to climb the asylum in order to retrieve any of the weapons. But it’s an opportunity to showcase their personalities and bring this feud to a close. I suspect the highlight of the match to involve Mitch the Plant II avenging his predecessor’s demise. I’m just not sure how it should end, but Chris Jericho should feel justifiably smug for the excellent job he’s done here. Drink it all in, baby.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Mike: I'm pretty stunned by the fact that the build for this feud has involved the death of a potted plant and the destruction of a light-up jacket, but such is what suffices in the world of soap opera creative. What it does speak to is the fact that these two gentlemen can take anything and make it red hot, to the point where this match is one of the most anticipated on the entire card. What appears to be liberal sampling of TNA's Lethal Lockdown (perhaps WWE isn't worried since TNA itself is currently in one) boils down to a bunch of random weapons stuck on top of the old favorite steel cage match. I for one look forward to the use of the mop.
With Ambrose defeating Jericho at Payback, this one could in theory go either way. It wouldn't be out of the question to see Y2J pull something out of his incredibly large bag of extreme tricks to even the score, and that would allow for the feud to continue. I envision Ambrose using his creation to demolish Jericho, however, and likely put him out of the WWE entirely for another extended sojourn in order to nurse his wounds.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
John: They are two of the best talkers in WWE, so I’ve enjoyed the promo exchanges between them. Sure, it’s been dumb at times with the potted plant and a ripped up jacket, but they’ve been able to make it work. The rivalry makes a lot of sense to me with Ambrose wanting to prove himself against a veteran guy while Jericho wants to show that he’s still got it. I liked their match at Payback and feel like this “Asylum Match” with weapons surrounded by a cage should be pretty good too. They'll probably do some silly spots, but it will be a serious match as well.
Here’s another prediction that is tricky because their last interaction on television saw Ambrose with the major advantage on Smackdown. Does that mean Jericho’s going to win? Not sure. When this feud started I figured they would get two PPV matches and wrote that Ambrose should win both. He needs to win a feud in a decisive way after losing feuds to the likes of Rollins, Wyatt and Lesnar in the last year. WWE could see it differently because if Jericho gets the win here then the rivalry is at 1-1 in PPV victories leading to a third match. I just think Ambrose winning is better for him especially with Money in the Bank up next with Ambrose in a spot where he could be considered a favorite.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Fatal 4 Way for the WWE Intercontinental Title: The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
Matt: This match feels like the most substantive match on the card. Four great characters, all with a desire to be Intercontinental Champion, demonstrating that desire for weeks leading into the big match. All have had a show where the shone brightest. There were interesting curveballs thrown in near the end (of course I’m talking about the very smart and fun decision to have them compete in a tag team match where they were partnered with their biggest rival),and more importantly the Intercontinental Championship remained the biggest driving factor for every man involved. This build shows me that they have the capacity to put together interesting stories if they really try.
This match should be great. It should be fast paced, hard hitting and all around insanity. It’s biggest strength is that regardless of the winner, I think I’ll be satisfied. It’s refreshing change of pace.
Winner and New WWE Intercontinental Champion: Cesaro (because he deserves a run with the belt)
Heather: I couldn’t easily find the clip anywhere, but there’s an interview segment from WrestleMania IV, I think, in which Bobby Heenan crows, “HOW’M I DOIN’??” because his stable of wrestlers is on such a roll. I think of The Miz saying that when he wakes up every morning lately, because he is killing it. What Damien Sandow did for Miz in terms of entertainment value, Cesaro/Zayn/Owens do for Miz in terms of relevance. I’m not saying The Miz doesn’t have merit on his own - his being in the same conversation as the other three, and not totally looking the odd man out, is something he’s earned – but this story has elevated The Miz in a way that the main event at WM 27 never could.
I waver on how this match should end, because without the title, Miz gets chewed up and spit out by the other three. If it goes to anyone else on Sunday, I’d give it to Kevin Owens. His brash demeanor will summon all manner of challengers, but first, we’ll get to see him have re-matches will each of his opponents here. Lots of great moments to be had all summer long. Let’s do it.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Mike: Fortune doesn't favor The Miz to retain his I-C Title here, as any of the three competitors involved with him can walk away with the gold without the Real Worlder even being involved in the decision. This is a fact that will be hammered into all of our skulls more often than a Camp WWE promo, so you might as well get used to it. It also leads one to believe The Miz is likely to retain. Payback saw him use real-life wife Maryse's chicanery to retain, so why mess with a good thing?
The flies in the proverbial ointment come in the forms of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, whose feud has frankly been one of the best things going in wrestling for quite a while now. While Zayn capturing the gold would be a wonderful moment, there's actually little need to do it here. He and Owens don't need gold to make their feud exquisite, and what goes on in this match likely ensures the two tangle until SummerSlam. That leaves Cesaro, who's managed to tweak his presentation just a bit and somehow get the crowd even more on his side. That's enough momentum to give him the surprise victory.
Winner (And New Intercontinental Champion): Cesaro
John: This will be a really good match because WWE has done an excellent job of booking all four guys in such a way that they’re all at around the same level. It’s not like the IC Title match at WM when Sin Cara was in there even though you knew he had no chance to win. Then again, they did put Ryder over there for reasons I still don’t understand. Anyway, the point is that they all belong in this match and they all would be believable as the winner.
The Owens/Zayn rivalry can continue without the title being involved. It feels like Owens has moved on from being at the IC Title level anyway. Cesaro would be a believable IC Champion especially because he hasn’t held singles gold since the US Title in 2012. Miz is very good in his role too. I think the match quality will be great even with the “guy hits big move, other guy makes the save” predictable spots that happen. These guys are too good to have a bad match.
As for my pick, I’ve officially changed my mind from what I wrote in the Raw Deal last week and what I said on the TJRWrestling podcast recorded on Wednesday. My pick was Cesaro, but when I really thought about things it makes more sense for The Miz to retain. I just think Miz is in a good place right now with his lovely wife Maryse by his side. Their act really works right now. They can go back to his feud with Cesaro in a month or two if they want to do a title change. It just seems like it would be too quick to take the title off Miz since he won it less than two months ago. Give him more of a chance.
Winner: The Miz
Extreme Rules Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Title: Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
Matt: I’ve enjoyed a lot of what they've done in the build up to this match. They’ve really made this rivalry heated and put on display each man’s desire to win and prove that they are the best. They’ve showcased AJ’s accomplishments around the world and dangled the WWE Title as the major accomplishment that eludes him. They’ve put on full display that while Roman isn’t nearly as accomplished as AJ, he still has the only piece of hardware that AJ has yet to acquire, which in his mind makes him better than AJ has ever been. They are really using AJ’s journey through several promotions and around the world to get to this point, as well as the relative ease with which Roman has sauntered to the same place, building up that these two men are in complete contrast with one another.
This match has also built up chair shots, which I thought couldn’t be done. I thought the days of chair shots seeming lethal were over; but these two have brought it back! The match will be great. AJ will come incredibly close, but he will lose, and the WWE will not let Roman turn heel, even though that would be the best role for him. The main question I have heading into this match is what comes next for both men? Hopefully we get a glimpse of that on Sunday.
Winner and Still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Roman Reigns (because it’s just obvious)
Heather: You may know by now that I have an affinity for Roman Reigns getting pulverized. The expressions on his face, from “What in the hell is happ--“ to “Oh CRAP” to “Not again, please no” to “AURGHHSSLSLL” with his eyes retreating to the happy place in his head where The Shield arrived in a helicopter that time. Roman Reigns is really good at big-move finishers, but he excels at taking punishment. It’s a beautiful coincidence that AJ Styles specializes in doling it out, and the Extreme Rules stipulation means Styles will punish Reigns all over the arena. Reigns will retain the title, but the real question is, what’s that smell coming from The Club? Is it betrayal?
Winner: Roman Reigns
Mike: If you're noticing a rematch theme with this card, well done. "The" guy Roman Reigns (what a tagline) goes up against AJ Styles in a match where anything goes. Considering plenty of that already occurred at Payback courtesy of the dueling McMahons, you might be wondering how this battle will be different. The short answer, naturally, is that it won't. Both guys are more than capable of putting on a solid show, but everyone in the building will be waiting for the outside interference from both factions to commence. That will lead to some serious back and forth, with the addition of the extension of the current looming plot thread as to whether AJ Styles will succumb to the influence of his old friends and turn the page to full on heel.
While anything is possible, Styles has hit the ground running and become a huge fan favorite in his short tenure working for the competition. Whether Titan Tower scripted it that way or not, it would seem ludicrous to change course with him now and have him align with the Club, especially with a guy named Finn Balor waiting anxiously in the wings. As for the long-awaited Reigns heel turn, I'm not convinced it will happen at all and even less convinced it happens at Extreme Rules. There's way too much going on to expect a blatant cheat from the current champ. The imminent return of Seth Rollins also adds some complexion to this match, as it can be assumed he will be headed toward a showdown with the Roman Empire.
It would be incredibly brave and forward thinking to have Styles win this rematch, and so you can imagine it's with dead certainty that I say it's pretty much out of the question. The bigger story will be what they do with AJ coming out of this match, but there's some other returning marquee names that might have something to say on that score. Pencil Roman in to retain in what will likely be Styles's last association with his former Club.
Winner (And Still World Champion): Roman Reigns
John: The main event has the best story going into it and is likely going to be the best match on the show as well. That’s how it should ALWAYS be, right? The reality is that doesn’t always happen, so when it does work out that way we should be even more excited about the match.
I think WWE has done an excellent job of pushing Styles to the top in a relatively short time since he’s only been there for less than four months. Does that mean he is leaving Extreme Rules as WWE Champion? I don’t think so. I’m just happy he’s already being used as a top guy instead of just some midcarder because he’s a special talent that deserves to be in the main event scene for several years.
As for Reigns, he’s better than his haters think and he’s not as good as WWE upper management probably thinks. I still think they are smart to invest in him long term because he’s shown in this feud that he’s capable on the microphone when he has a good storyline. He's done well in big matches too.
What intrigues me the most is the booking of the match because there are several ways they can go with it. I’d love to see Finn Balor pop up or even Seth Rollins. I actually wrote four different booking scenarios in a fantasy booking column for The Comeback that you should check out. I really enjoyed writing that.
The finish I’m going with is having Gallows & Anderson show up to attack Styles in a way that costs him the match, but it doesn’t put them with Reigns and Balor doesn’t appear. Maybe they "accidentally" hit Styles with a weapon except that it's not really an accident. I just think you can do a slow burn to something bigger happening down the road. This angle with “The Club” seems like a temporary thing especially since WWE isn’t selling merchandise for them. I know that Y2AJ had merch, but that’s more of a Jericho thing because he loves to work people. Keep G&A a clear heel team, let AJ be a face and Roman is still a face that gets booed, so call him a tweener if you want.
In the end, Reigns gets the win after an awesome 20+ minute match where Styles comes close many times, but isn’t able to get the job done. It would be too soon to take the title off Reigns because he’s already had two short WWE Title reigns in his career. No need for another short one right now. This will be fun. I’m excited for it.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Mike: I confess to having a soft spot for Extreme Rules since it's the only thing WWE does that harkens back to those good old ECW days. Even in this PG era, you can expect your share of "wow" moments on Sunday and several of the matches have the potential to be stellar. It's good to see all titles being defended (as it should be) and that has compensated somewhat for a card comprised of many things we've already seen before quite recently. I don't see the so-called New Era kicking off quite yet. Also, please join me and the cast of thousands on Sunday for the Main Event Madness preshow on BlogTalkRadio.com. You can also (as always) send recipes, vaguely threatening missives, and drunken ramblings to my Twitter handle @DharmanRockwell where I'll be happy to chat about everything Extreme Rules. Enjoy the show!
John: I like the card and I think it will be one of the best PPVs of the year, if not the best at this point. I think there will be better PPVs later in the year especially with Rollins, Cena and Orton coming back soon. It would be nice if Raw and Smackdown were more interesting shows on a weekly basis, but I think in terms of PPVs WWE is doing well because they are smart enough to give the good matches a lot of time and the talent on the roster is excellent right now. Keep that momentum going.
I plan on writing about Extreme Rules live on Sunday night at TJRWrestling.net, so check out my thoughts during the show or after it’s over.
Matt - @MJDP_GSE
Heather - @kickyhick
Mike - @DharmanRockwell
John - @johnreport
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