GREENSBORO, USA—I have to give credit where credit is due: WWE seemingly learned its lesson in switching up its post-WrestleMania pay-per-view order at the last minute.
Extreme Rules, always the first post-Mania show since it replaced Backlash some handful of years ago, was always hamstrung by the fact that there were almost always new feuds brewing. Most of them didn’t need a forced extreme stipulation, and that’s why Backlash was the perfect fit—it was tabula rasa for new feuds to keep building and old feuds to have hot rematches. Switching up Extreme Rules with Payback (recently the annual May PPV, until this year) allowed Payback to perform the role Backlash used to play and all narratives to flow smoother.
Now that the new feuds that have bloomed after ‘Mania are escalating into high gear, Extreme Rules is the right stop for them to culminate in a big way. Let’s take a look at all the matchups going on this Sunday (US time).
Dolph Ziggler vs Baron Corbin in a No Disqualification Match
After a baffling loss at the Payback pre-show, Corbin looks to exact his revenge and get his win back in a No-DQ match. Their angle hasn’t really been the most sensible, as they’ve just been pitted against each other with no real rhyme or reason, so there’s no use in pontificating too much on this match. Corbin gets the win and finally moves on to something else. Maybe not something more tangible. Just something else.
Winner: Baron Corbin
The Usos vs The Club (Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) in a Tornado Tag Match
This is the match we never knew we wanted to see until now.
The entire time since the Club debuted, they haven’t really been involved inside the ring. That’s normal, as their built-in story with AJ Styles and whoever he’s involved with was still being set up, but it carried on for too long that we as an audience kind of subconsciously marked the Club in our heads as non-factors. That’s not true, of course, as Gallows and Anderson make up one of the best tag teams in the world right now, and I think this match is the first step in establishing this fact in the WWE Universe’s eyes.
We haven’t had a tornado tag match since Team Hell No defended the tag titles against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns aaaall the way back at Extreme Rules 2013. That match was fun, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be just as fun at the hands of 4 of the most experienced tag wrestlers in the WWE. That said, the Club really, really need the win here, as they’ve been made to lose ever since they got here.
Winner: The Club
Kalisto vs Rusev (with Lana) for the United States Championship
As much as I—and the rest of the Universe—love Kalisto for how awesome he is, the U.S. Championship scene with him at the top has gotten stale (although I can’t blame him).
While he’s been booked pretty strong, he hasn’t been booked meaningfully—that is to say, the U.S. title never felt like a compelling story the way it’s been with John Cena. Hopefully Rusev, with all his charisma, gives it the shot in the arm it really needs. (And hopefully Cena doesn’t win the belt back too soon when he returns.)
Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match
Yes, it’s TNA’s Lethal Lockdown match (weapons hanging from the top of a cage), and yes, it’s pretty silly, but allow us—and them—to have a little fun with this.
This match might very well be the catharsis Ambrose didn’t get to have with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. The notion sounds juvenile (as this whole feud has become) but I trust both men to turn it up and make it work now that it’s time to, and Ambrose has to take the win to come into Money in the Bank looking strong.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Charlotte vs Natalya in a Submission Match for the Women’s Championship
The good thing about building a top champion is that you can easily classify the contenders who legitimately have a shot at ending the streak and those who are just there to pad the resume.
Natalya, obviously, is the latter. She’s good, but she isn’t as hot buzz-wise as someone like Sasha Banks or even Becky Lynch could be. That’s not entirely her fault; she’s been saddled with wishy-washy booking up until the RAW after WrestleMania, and she’s going to need some time to be built up to a level in which she could comfortably be seen ruling the women’s division.
Of course, there’s always a sliver of a chance that she could steal it from Charlotte and benefit from the feat of ending a potentially record-setting title reign. That chance exists, but it won’t be enough.
Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens vs Cesaro vs The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship
There are two stories currently going on in here, and I’ve already described how they’ve melded seamlessly into one.
For the record, neither Sami Zayn nor Kevin Owens need the win here. Not to say that they don’t deserve it, but they don’t need it right now. They’re already big enough on their own—with each other—without the white belt around their waists, and with clever enough booking they can permanently extend their feud without it ever feeling stale.
The Miz doesn’t need the championship, too. At least, not now, not after he’s stolen it from Zack Ryder. He’s already proved that he’s one of the best heels in the game, interestingly serving in the right position in the WWE midcard. He’s proven that he can be compelling without the title.
Meanwhile, Cesaro is a main-eventer waiting to happen. And while it hasn’t happened yet, he’s going to need something to build his legitimacy and momentum, and that something is a really good Intercontinental title reign. Miz is good, but he’s not going to have as much range in good opponents as Cesaro will. Can you imagine all the matchups waiting to happen if the Swiss Superman becomes champ? Cesaro vs. Owens, vs. Jericho, vs. Zayn (again), vs. Del Rio, vs. Sheamus, vs. Styles—all of that is possible, and all of that is best for business. Unless, of course, he’s slated to be Mr. Money in the Bank next month.
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
It’s pretty funny to think that everyone (at least everyone who’s somewhat savvy) knows this entire storyline isn’t building up to an eventual world title win for AJ Styles, but rather the debut of one Finn Balor.
I’ve already covered this in my post-Payback column, but I’m laying it down here: if it doesn’t happen on Sunday night, then it’s happening on RAW. There’s no way Styles is winning it—unless a miracle happens in New Jersey—and why would he? We’re only a little under two months into the Roman Empire, and despite his pedigree, Styles is not going to be the guy that makes it fall.
Winner: Roman Reigns
What do you think? Who have you got for Extreme Rules this Sunday? Let’s talk about it! Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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