Show Opening – Pretty decent. A lot of cutaways and images that set the tone for the night. Video Production for WWE PPVs is usually solid. #extremerules
First Match – The New Day (c ) versus Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro (Tables Match) – SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
Match Notes: From a pace and energy setting perspective, it always seems like a good idea to start your PPV with The New Day. A lot of back and forth action throughout the match including some hard-hitting action outside of the ring early on. Good sequence where the strength of Cesaro and athleticism of Kofi were on display as Cesaro attempted to Military Press Kofi from the ring apron. Kofi slips away and Cesaro catches a spear from Big-E to the outside. The match ends with Kofi attempting to hurracarrana Cesaro through a table, which is blocked by Shinsuke and reversed into Cesaro Super-Power Bombing Kofi though a double-stacked table outside the ring.
Results – Cesaro and Shinsuke are your new Smackdown Tag Team Champions
Post-Match Thoughts – I am impressed by how well Cesaro and Shinsuke seem to compliment each other. Not quite the dominant team The Bar was, but a nice mix of power and athleticism. A little more charisma and they could end up making a significant title run. Also, another good match for New Day, even on the losing end. I like aggressive/angry Kofi and think WWE should incorporate a heel version of Kofi into the storyline in the near future.
Second Match – Nikki Cross (accompanied by Alexa Bliss) versus Bailey (c ) (accompanied by Sasha Banks) – SmackDown Women’s Championship
Match Notes: I’m one of the WWE Fans that applauded the heel turn of the female Macho (Wo)man Bailey (not-so) Savage. However, her playing the villain still feels a little inauthentic at times. Still, Bailey is a great athlete and respectable champion and matches like this showcase her all around talent. Nikki keep this match on a very fast pace early on and had several near falls. Bailey is eventually able to slow the match down and execute her ground game. The between the ring apron bit (where the opponent appears to be stuck behind the ring apron only to get pummeled) is overused in my opinion. Also, some of the move execution was not as clean as it should have been for a championship match. Eventually Sasha interjects herself in the match by sneaking a pair of Boss-Knuckles to Bailey while distracting the ref and Alexa Bliss on the other side of the ring. Nikki gets clocked and you know the rest.
Results – Bailey Retains. The 280+ day reign continues.
Post-Match Thoughts – Sometimes we judge a match by move execution, storyline, or bloodshed. But the greats are always able to make a match that would otherwise seem uninteresting – interesting. Think about it, you’d pay to watch Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels wrestling a broom stick, right? That’s their greatness. That’s also why I applaud Bailey. On paper, this is a Smackdown mid-card match. But in Bailey’s hands – it seemed PPV worthy.
CARD UPDATE – United States Championship Match canceled due to an injury to Apollo Crews.
MVP and Bobby Lashley make their way to ringside. After boasting about injuring Apollo, MVP proclaimed himself the new United States Champ.
Third Match – (The MNM) Seth Rollins versus Rey Mysterio – (Eye for an Eye Match) #eyeforeye
Match Notes: The only way to win this match is to extract one of your opponent’s eyes. Really Florida Athletic Commission? Seth pulling out a pair of pliers’ pre-match was also a nice touch. Nice back and forth early on with tables and kendo sticks introduced within the match’s opening minutes. Rey looked very quick and fresh. Seth hits a falcon arrow on the ring apron that was just brutal. The match slows down from here and Seth begins his methodical ground game. There was a really good selection of weapons introduced including tables, chairs, kendo sticks, and ring ropes. There was also a fair amount of good technical wrestling with Seth and Rey executing and countering several high-risk moves. Rey still executes the tornado DDT to perfection even at this advanced stage of his career. It looked as if Rey was about to end the match the same way he lost his left eye weeks earlier, by gauging it with the assistance of the ring steps. However, Seth was able to reverse out and put Rey in that position. Seth backs up seeming to prepare to lay a stomp on Rey, but then he and the arena realizes the damage had already been done.
Result – Seth Rollins wins, if you can call it that, and further cements himself as Heel of the Year.
Post-Match Thoughts – For me kids, the Hardcore Greatness Benchmark is the I Quit Cage Match between Mangum T.A. and Tully Blanchard (accompanied by Baby Doll– 1985’s Perfect 10) from STARCADE 1985. Hey network subscribers, you should look up that match for reference. Few things for me meet or exceed that standard. This Rey and Seth match is at least worthy of even mentioning the former. The storyline buildup here added an extra special element. The silencing of the crowd post-match was also a nice plus and opens the storytelling doors for any number of potential superstars looking to seek revenge in Rey’s honor. Except for Dominick. He’s not ready just yet, not by himself. Every now and again, WWE gets storyline plus match execution right, as they did in this one. The truth is, that’s not always easy.
Fourth Match – Asuka (c ) (accompanied by Kari Sane) versus Sasha Banks (accompanied by Bailey) – RAW Women’s Championship Match.
Match Notes: Pretty good technical action from the onset with Sasha hitting the Banks statement and Asuka attempting her Asuka lock early on. Pretty crisp move execution with both wrestlers shining during brief moments of control in the match. Banks power-bombing Asuka into the plexi-glass was an eye catcher and tide turner for me. She then follows it up with a frog splash and Banks statement, both of which Asuka escapes. Asuka strikes back with a belly to back and a few German Suplex’s of her own. Sasha kicks out and survives. Asuka attempts a version of the German Suplex from the top rope, but Sasha lands on her feet and seems to have injured her knee. After a few counter-for-counter moves and pin attempts, Bailey interjects herself in the match but is caught by the ref and an Asuka kick to the jaw. Sasha grabs the title and attempts to hit Asuka but is stopped by the ref. Asuka then sprays the green mist, directed for Sasha, but it hits the ref instead. With the ref disposed, Bailey takes the belt, and hits Asuka in the back. She then takes the ref’s shirt, puts it on and counts the three for Sasha.
Result – It appears Sasha is now Two-Belts Banks – but we will see if the decision stands.
Post-Match Thoughts – Asuka and Sasha are as technically sound as they come, both in the Woman’s division and in wrestling period. I don’t believe we have yet to see the best Sasha has to offer. This match ending builds the necessary intrigue to make you want to match RAW to see what happens next. It also allows for further development of this story line, which is the one area where this match suffered. Hopefully this is something WWE will correct in the next few weeks.
Match Five – Dolph Ziggler versus Drew McIntyre (c ) – Secret Stipulation – The WWE Championship
Match Notes: Before the match starts, we finally find out the stipulation – Extreme Rules for Ziggler Only. Plus, if McIntyre gets himself counted out or disqualified, he can still lose the title. This match was spent on the outside of the ring early on with Dolph introducing several weapons including some tables and chairs, which Drew could not use. Dolph is one of the best cheap-shot artists and punishment takers in the business, which makes him remind us of HBK. Ziggler begins working over Drew pretty good with some steel chairs and even hits a chair shot on the back of Drew’s head with his throat over a chair. The two eventually find themselves outside. Drew attempts a Belly-to-Belly on the announce table, but Ziggler blocks and hits a Famous-er from the table. All the while, the ref is initiating a count on Drew, and he beats the count. After regaining offensive control of the match, Drew sets up Ziggler for a Claymore, but its blocked with a chair shot to the leg and followed up by a Zigzag. Ziggler hits a beautiful elbow drop from the top rope into McIntyre into a table outside the ring. The ref initiates another count on Drew, but he makes it back into the ring on the count of nine. Ziggler hits another triple-play (Famous-er – Zigzag and a slam on a chair). McIntyre kicks out. Ziggler begins tuning up the band for some Sweet Chin Music, but in an instance is instead met with a Claymore to the face.
Results – McIntyre Retains the title.
Post-Match Thoughts – It took such a ridiculous stipulation to make this match-up believable. But I must give Dolph credit for turning in a fabulous performance. My frustration with Dolph is that he is the closest thing WWE has to Shawn Michaels and Curt Henning and the way WWE sometimes writes for him suggests he is nothing more than Tito Santana or Doink the Clown. This match was almost reminiscent of HBK versus Diesel and does a lot to further solidify Drew as a legitimate champion.
Match Six – Bray Wyatt versus Braun Strowman (c ) – Wyatt Family Swamp Fight – WWE World Heavyweight Championship. #swampfight
Match Notes: WWE decided that off the success of the Undertaker/AJ Styles WrestleMania match, to produce this match in the same vein. More on this approach later. The match starts with two brutes just slugging it out, back and forth until Braun is hit in the back with a shovel, by evil Braun. Stay with me here. The scene then fades-to-black and then comes back into Braun (the good one) now chained up in a chair and presumably having visions of demonic symbols. Enter old school Bray Wyatt and his lamp. Wyatt begins taunting a chained-up Braun. Bray’s vocal skills keeps this scene interesting. After failing to persuade Bray to rejoin his alliance, a snake (that looked like Jake The Snake’s Damien) is introduced and appears to bite Braun. The scene cuts away again and returns with Braun fighting one of Bray’s minions, who appears to get punched and set on fire. Queue an eerie scene including the face and voice of Alexa Bliss attempting to lure Braun into a trap. Suddenly, Braun is attacked from behind by Bray. Bruan eventually regains control and chockslams Bray into a boat. The boat appears to drift off into the swamp, but then returns. A perplexed Braun approaches the boat to find Bray has disappeared. Just then, he is struck in the back with another shovel and the two engage in a fight in the swamp. Braun is the first to emerge from the swamp and then is met with a shovel wielding Bray. Their fight continues with Bray gaining an advantage, thanks to said shovel. Both men back on their feet, Braun kicks Bray back into the swamp, assured this time it is over. But is it?
Result – I think Braun won.
Post-Match Thoughts – You may probably disagree with me, but I feel WWE is missing a huge opportunity to further develop next generation storylines with this cinematic match approach. WWE is usually the last to the party on these types of changes, but their strength is that when they do embrace an idea, they usually execute very well. It’s hard for me to classify this as a match and is better suited to be critiqued as a story. From a story execution standpoint, they did well. But an action and match delivery standpoint, there is still a lot left to be desired. I do think this was the right approach to produce this match. Rather you care for or like the demonic, eerie, and cult-like character of Bray Wyatt, his ability to sell a story is impeccable. You either fall in love with his character or come to loathe him. He is also so full of personality and versatile, he can be used in a vast array of ways. My challenge with Braun has always been his lack of personality. A character like Bray can help further enhance Braun’s persona, which is what I believe WWE was attempting to do here. All in all, this was a good story and an appropriate end to the PPV.
Overall – A solid PPV. I almost didn’t recognize that they were at the Performance Center with a makeshift crowd again. That tells me the product was solid and not distracting .They also did a good job setting up for future story lines. It should all lead to a very interesting episode of RAW tonight.