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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Extreme Rules 2016




HE’S BACK! HE’S BACK! HE’S BACK!

It’s been almost 24 hours since he made his triumphant return, and I still can’t stop spazzing over Seth Rollins’ return to the WWE! But before we get there, we have an entire Extreme Rules PPV to review.

Outside of this huge return and an absolutely enjoyable and memorable Fatal 4-Way match, Extreme Rules was this close to falling flat on its face. That’s something that shouldn’t be all that surprising anymore since hardcore matches and shows are severely handicapped by WWE’s PG rating. And yet, WWE insists on trying to make this shit work.

Here’s why it doesn’t work anymore for the most part:


Baron Corbin defeated Dolph Ziggler in a No Disqualification Match


The problem of gimmick PPVs like Extreme Rules and TLC is that there are only so many stipulations you can actually do. Add that to the fact that the PG era has severely limited the lengths to which WWE can go when it goes hardcore, and you don’t really have a lot of options for matches in a PPV where almost every match has to have a gimmick.



The Corbin-Ziggler match is a prime example of this. WWE tried to paint a picture of a blood feud between these two, except they didn’t give them enough mic time nor character development to get us invested in these guys. What’s worse is they were put in a No Disqualification match, which isn’t really all that different a stipulation from the main event (more on that later).

Because WWE didn’t want to dilute the main event, they couldn’t really have Corbin or Ziggler go apeshit on the other in their match. What we ended up getting was just a straight-up singles match with Baron Corbin doing his best Draymond Green impersonation at the end. It wasn’t even all that surprising since it was something you could expect from a guy being built up as a heel who does not give a fuck like Baron Corbin.

Can we now move on from this feud?


The Club (Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) defeated the Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) in a Tornado Tag Match


I’m somehow relieved that the Club won the match. Gallows and Anderson needed this win to be established as credible threats in both the tag team division, and in their feud with the Bloodline.




I liked the intensity that the Usos showed early on by attacking the Club even before the match started. It was an edge we haven’t really seen in the Usos in quite a while, and that’s what you get when you give the Usos a well-thought out story and great foils to complement them.

By the end of the match, I wasn’t blown away by either team, but I was satisfied to see the Club get developed further as a ruthless and vicious heels, something we need now more than ever in the absence of the Wyatt Family.


Rusev defeated Kalisto (c) to become the new WWE United States Champion


The story of this match was simple: have Rusev dominate the injured Kalisto and toss him around like a ragdoll, and dominate RuRu did. Rusev had his way with Kalisto, which was a joy to watch just because it gave the Bulgarian Brute the teeth we haven’t seen in him since his undefeated streak. I particularly loved how Rusev completely disregarded the referee’s instructions to leave Kalisto alone, slamming the masked one on the apron.



I also have to give props to JBL for displaying some solid insights at the commentary table during this match. Byron Saxton kept calling out the fact that Rusev was taking advantage of Kalisto, who wasn’t 100%. JBL remarked that as a wrestler, your body is almost never 100% and that a wrestler is a hundred percent of how his body feels when he steps into that ring. I thought that was a great rebuttal, and some solid analysis that we don’t often get from the Wrestling God.

By the end of the match, Rusev showed the ferocity we’ve long missed and he’s now holding the gold he’s long deserved. As I predicted, Rusev is now worth taking seriously as an upper midcard star again just because of how he won the US Championship. Now, Rusev needs to back it up by having a dominant run and several strong title defenses.



Or, he can just keep the title warm for the eventual Cena rematch and title switch.


The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods with Kofi Kingston) (c) defeated The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship


It was an interesting choice to have Big E and Xavier Woods in the match—the last time those two defended the tag titles, they lost them to the Prime Time Players at Money in the Bank 2015. The match wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be, but I did appreciate seeing the Vaudevillains tap into their cutthroat side by relentlessly attacking all three members of the New Day—even Kofi Kingston, who was playing manager at ringside.



I was surprised to see Woods kick out of the Whirling Dervish, but it made sense in terms of putting Xavier over as the gutsy, underrated member of the New Day. The move also allowed us to get rid of the stigma that just because Xavier’s active in the match instead of Kofi, it automatically means the New Day’s dropping the titles. The only thing I didn’t like was how they couldn’t put the Vaudevillains’ finisher over.



Sure, the New Day had to resort to some dirty tactics to retain their titles, but cheating is in their DNA as characters, plus the Vaudevillains did start it by taking Kofi out when the latter wasn’t even in the match to begin with.


The Miz (c) (with Maryse) defeated Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship


We got an absolute Match of the Year candidate and it was so good that nobody can really complain about who ended up winning. Watching these four guys go at it was a great reminder of how and why watching wrestling is even fun to begin with.



You had the two main feuds (Miz/Cesaro and Owens/Zayn), but they were more than open to criss-crossing with one another and just getting in each other’s way. The match started off with a hell of a bang as Sami Zayn nailed Kevin Owens with a Helluva Kick to knock him out of the ring. From there, it was just sequence after sequence of nonstop action that kept both the live audience and myself on the edge of my seat.

I really appreciated how all four guys got to shine equally, and how all of them got the chance to apply their signature moves while keeping them looking strong because there was always a third (and sometimes fourth) guy in there to break the pin. Ultimately, Miz retained it like I said he would, taking advantage of a weakened Cesaro while Sami Zayn was laying the beatdown on KO on the outside.



I’m not mad at all that Cesaro didn’t win the IC title just yet. I’d like to think they’re either building him up for a huge IC title win at a PPV down the road—possibly SummerSlam—or that he’s being primed to be the next Mr. Money in the Bank. Either way, Miz/Cesaro is nowhere close to being done, and neither is Zayn-Owens.



Needless to say, this was the Match of the Night.


Dean Ambrose defeated Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match


I thought I was the only one who didn’t feel this match, but it turns out that neither the live crowd in Newark nor other fans who commented on the internet enjoyed this one all that much. Part of that is because it was incredibly tough to follow that barn-burner for the Intercontinental Championship. The other part is how WWE’s got a tendency to build Dean Ambrose as a crazed lunatic, and yet, he doesn’t really act like one. He just acts like a plucky underdog who doesn’t give up. His match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania was a great opportunity to showcase that in a No Holds Barred environment, and yet, he seemed held back at the time which didn’t help his character’s cause.




This time around, he gets a gimmick match that his character supposedly created, and yet, they spent much of the match meandering about. While Ambrose and Jericho did get to unlatch most of the weapons, they didn’t actually put them to use until much later on, when they’d already lost us. I would have wanted to see more of the unusual weapons like the fire extinguisher and the potted plant. How hard would it have been to use the potted plant as a weapon again when they were already willing to use thumbtacks, for crying it loud?

I liked the use of nunchucks, and you could really feel (and hear) how Ambrose drove welts into Jericho’s body with it. I thought they could have done more with the barbed wire 2x4, but given the limitations of the PG era—and Vince’s outright resistance towards bloodshed—that wasn’t going to happen. Ambrose did his best to sell those shots from the 2x4 like a motherfucker, but it just wasn’t as believable because I didn’t even see his shirt get ripped up.

I felt bad for both guys because the crowd just shat on the match, even going so far as to chant, “WE WANT ROLLINS!” at one point. But the match itself wasn’t all that fun and it took a bag of thumbtacks to wake the crowd up.



When the tacks were spilled onto the mat, it took a while for both Jericho and Ambrose to set up the thumbtacks spot; I thought we’d never see Jericho or Ambrose get slammed onto those thumbtacks. And then Jericho's Codebreaker got countered and he ACTUALLY FELL ON THE THUMBTACKS. WHAT THE FLYING FUCK.

I'm particularly scared of the pain that sharp, pointy objects bring, and the moment Deano let the tacks loose, I felt my stomach drop even though I was just watching this shit unfold in front of me. And then when Jericho actually fell on the tacks?! I got flashbacks to this:


Jericho would end up having 67 tacks lodged into his body, and even more of my undying respect because HOLY FUCKING SHIT, GUYS, FUCKING THUMBTACKS!

By the end of the match, we got the Dean Ambrose we needed to get at WrestleMania. There was the rugged, tough-as-nails loony that just didn’t give a fuck about his opponent. He slammed Jericho on the thumbtacks, and then hit him with a Dirty Deeds later on—even if it meant he’d get tacks on his own body, too.

This win did way more for Dean than matching up against Brock Lesnar did. I just hope they continue to put him in more high-profile feuds and matches so he can build on his stock and get on Rollins and Reigns’ levels. Lord knows Dean needs to move on up and help make that dream Shield triple threat happen.


Charlotte (c) defeated Natalya in a Submission Match for the WWE Women’s Championship


I predicted on the podcast that Dana Brooke would find her way into the Women’s Championship picture. I didn’t imagine she would do it as Charlotte’s sidekick. I first thought the Ric Flair impostor was Charles Robinson because of the impersonator’s size, only for the slow disrobing to reveal that it was Dan all along. It’s funny how she has to be the sidekick to a bigger personality to be relevant instead of having her own feud and actually winning it. Remember Becky Lynch?



Part of me is actually dissatisfied because Dana still has a feud with Becky and she’s already being hotshotted into the title picture now. You can argue that again, fans like me are being worked. But the story just got a twist it didn’t necessarily need. There was another way to make Charlotte look like a despicable heel, while keeping Nattie looking strong, without having to insert any new characters in such a forced manner.



It also didn’t help that this match felt rushed to the point that it didn’t have the time to grow organically.


Roman Reigns (c) defeated AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules Match to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship


As I said earlier in the Corbin-Ziggler review, the main event almost always gets diluted by a match exactly like it in the undercard, and that’s a problem. In yesterday's case, it was the Asylum Match between Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho. That being said, this crowd was hot for AJ Styles from the get-go, which is different from how Ambrose and Jericho started the match. But still, Styles and Reigns had their work cut out for them because of the Asylum Match thumbtacks.

This match would have been way more exciting had it had Falls Count Anywhere rules, because it takes away from all the crazy shit they did at ringside by requiring both guys to return to the ring just for the cover. Instead, they have to beat each other up all over the arena, and then they’ll have to belabor themselves by bringing their opponent to the ring, which is anticlimactic. I wasn’t all that satisfied with the Extreme Rules stipulation either because the match itself wasn’t very extreme. There weren’t any nonconventional weapons put to use, and if there were, it would have just been redundant thanks to the Asylum Match.

For the second straight PPV, AJ Styles made Roman Reigns look like a million bucks, but Roman himself did his fair share. Did you see that Razor’s Edge to sitout powerbomb on AJ Styles?! That shit was fucking amazing. Hate Roman all you want because of how inorganic his rise to the top has been and how hokey he is as “the Guy,” but let’s all stop denying how impressive he’s become since he started working on the flaws in his game. Roman Reigns is one exciting motherfucker on the big stage, and all he needs is the right dance partner to bring that out of him.



I just wasn’t so pleased with the finish because it was the exact same one as the finish of their match at Payback. What the fuck. The only difference was that AJ Styles was already in mid-Forearm mode this time around as to when he was just cocking back his forearm at Payback.

You can argue that WWE seemingly buried the Styles Clash again, but then again, it’s not like it’s the most protected finisher on the roster anyway. You can also argue that it took one lousy Spear to finish AJ off again, but you have to remember that—as it was at Payback—Styles already ate a lot of offense from Roman Reigns. He took all those shots from the barricade, the floor, the announce tables, the steel chair—all of that coupled with his aging back—made the Spear the mere icing on the cake. Besides, we all knew Roman Reigns was going to win this (again).

Now that AJ Styles has lost against Roman one more time, I’m expecting the Club to lay into AJ for not capitalizing on their help. That could also be the beginning of the Finn B├ílor era on the main roster, which is exciting, as it is. As for good ol’ Roman, well...



He’s going to have to deal with the Man: SETH. FREAKIN’. ROLLINS.

Rollins’ unexpected return was more than enough to make me mark the fuck out in my own bedroom, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one screaming and pointing and going bonkers. Rollins has every right to go after Roman given their history, plus the fact that Seth never lost the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It was a feud waiting to happen, and more importantly, it’s a feud that makes sense!

I can’t wait to see Rollins and Reigns go at it, and I’m sure Seth is the one we’ll all be getting behind because he’s the triumphant hero making his comeback from injury not Roman Reigns. No matter what he says on RAW today, Seth is the man we’ve all been waiting for, and his return should be celebrated.

Welcome back, Champ. We’ve missed you.


*****

Extreme Rules
wasn’t the best show WWE could have come up with, but it did have a potential Match of the Year contender in the Fatal 4-Way Intercontinental Championship match, plus the long-awaited return of Seth Rollins. Jericho getting slammed onto the thumbtacks is most probably going to vie for OMG! Moment of the Year, too. But other than those moments, the PPV doesn’t stand out.


That’s a result of having the main attractions diluted by other matches on the undercard and midcard that are too similar to them. That’s why I want WWE to do away with gimmick PPVs and to just go back to PPVs with a name, and then to have the gimmick matches written in when necessary. That way, you don’t force storylines to peak for a big-time match when they aren’t fleshed out yet. The show gets a B- from me.

What do you think of this year’s Extreme Rules? Do you agree with the IC match being a potential Match of the Year candidate? What was your favorite match? Let us know in the comments section below!


Photos from WWE.

*****


Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.

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