Coming off a lackluster go-home Raw, WWE put on their Extreme Rules pay-per-view on Sunday night. The show, broadcast live from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, is traditionally built around gimmick matches that fall outside the “rules” of normal professional wrestling contests. This year’s was no exception and featured match-types including no-disqualification, submission, and even an “asylum” match.
The show kicked off with a Tornado Tag Team match between the respective allies of main event competitors Roman Reigns and AJ Styles, The Usos vs Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. The match, won by the latter team, was a solid if uninspiring contest Neither team strayed too far from their comfort zone, though I did like seeing Gallows and Anderson get a strong victory in their first PPV match. The following two matches featured Rusev capturing the United States Title from Kalisto, and New Day successfully defending the Tag Team Championships against Vaudvillains. Each of the matches was passable, though not much better than what one would see on a typical episode of Raw.
The fourth match of the night was the four-way match between Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Miz for the latter’s Intercontinental Championship. The match immediately stood out as a Match Of The Year candidate, and was in retrospect the highlight of the show. All four men put on textbook performances that electrified the crowd. The ending was a work of storytelling beauty, as Zayn and Owens’ obsession with each other allowed Miz to slide in and steal a pin on Cesaro. As good as that match was, the following “asylum” match between Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose was bad. The two plodded their way through a cage/weapons without either telling any kind of story or featuring many weapons. Ambrose won after a vicious looking thumbtack spot but it couldn’t make up for the everything before it. The final match on the undercard was an underwhelming submission encounter between Women’s Champion Charlotte and Natalya. The champion retained thanks to interference from Dan Brook, however no one in the match really stood out.
The main event was the highly anticipated WWE Championship rematch between Reigns and Styles, and it lived up to the hype. The two engaged in a highly physical no-disqualification match featuring numerous high spots and believable near falls. Styles sold fantastically, and the match played to Reigns strengths as a monster instead of the ill-fitting, baby face in peril role he’s been stuck with in recent months. After interference from both the Usos and Gallows & Anderson, the match saw Reigns victorious with a spear. My only complaint about the climax would be that Reigns kicking out of a second Styles Clash onto a chair was one finisher kick out too many, but in the end that’s a minor complaint. The show concluded with former champion Seth Rollins, whose been out with a legitimate injury since November, returned to lay out Reigns much to the delight of the crowd. Personally, I’m ecstatic to see Rollins back and in the title picture, as he’s be sorely missed.
In the end, Extreme Rules was made by two outstanding matches. The IC and WWE Title matches are both in the Top 5 WWE Matches of the year and are worth sitting through the rest of the show, including the putrid Ambrose/Jericho, match to see.