July 16, 2018
The first-ever July edition of Extreme Rules took place in Pittsburgh Sunday night inside the PPG Paints Arena. With this pay-per-view being the last before the biggest event of the summer in August, SummerSlam, I was looking for some storylines to end and storylines to begin coming out of this particular pay-per-view.
While many believed Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley would headline this show [including me], WWE surprisingly had the Iron Man Match for the Intercontinental Championship go on last. It’s a spot where Rollins and Ziggler are very comfortable with, so I was excited to see how the match placement played out after Reigns vs. Lashley.
While the pay-per-view started off slow, the last two matches made it worthwhile to stay tuned in. Let’s get to it.
These two had a fantastic match earlier in the week during SmackDown, but this match was a little too much for the pre-show, if you know what I mean. There was one crazy looking spot with Almas almost busting his head on the ring apron, but in general, this looked like a producer telling those guys not to do anything too hot to hype the crowd too much.
Almas pinned Sin Cara with a hammerlock DDT.
I found it interesting that SmackDown creative would pit these two teams together so quickly, but it didn’t mean their segments and this specific match weren’t entertaining. Some big spots, and some near falls through a table, and of course, Kofi Kingston is ridiculously good inside a wrestling ring. Actually, he’s good outside of the ring, too. However, his team fell to Sanity after quite a spot.
While Xavier Woods – who was on the ring apron – and Alexander Wolfe were dueling, Eric Young perched himself on the top rope and while Woods was in a precarious position, Young dropped an elbow through Woods and through a table that was set up on the outside.
The B-Team’s been on a roll lately on Raw. That propelled them into a Tag Team Championship match no Sunday night. I didn’t think Axel or Dallas had yet built up the clout for a title win, but I wanted them to win. And they did.
As Wyatt and Hardy set Dallas up for a double Sister Abigail, Axel distracted Wyatt, who went to throw him back out of the ring. Hardy then was shoved by Dallas into Wyatt, who was thrown out of the ring. Dallas then hit Hardy with a hanging swing neckbreaker and pinned him to win the titles.
I’m digging the Constable Corbin character, but Bálor just isn’t the guy to mess with, I guess. The two had a pretty good match, and when Corbin went for the End of Days, Bálor countered and rolled him up in a small package for the win. Not great, not bad.
For this match, James Ellsworth was suspended above the ring in a shark cage. These types of matches usually always have nefarious antics attached to it, and this one was no different.
Ellsworth, who apparently wasn’t patted down, had a chain that he threw down to Carmella. Asuka saw it coming, but then Ellsworth threw down some spray… and Asuka saw that coming, too. Ellsworth then somehow got a key to unlock the shark cage and then tried escaping. He “got stuck” though, and wound up hanging from the cage with one foot. Asuka took liberties on his prone body before “help” came in to try and lower the cage. Asuka got rid of the help, but when she was loading up to possibly kick Ellsworth in his no-no’s, Carmella shoved her from behind and her head rammed right into the cage.
Carmella pinned Asuka to retain the title.
After the match, Asuka beat up Ellsworth and left him laying in the ring after an Asuka Lock.
Before the bell rang and the referee’s back was turned, Nakamura hit Hardy with a low blow. The ref asked Hardy if he was good to go, and he said yes. The bell rang and Nakamura hit the Kinsasha milliseconds later and pinned Hardy to win the title.
After the match, Randy Orton’s music hit and he made his way out to the ring. He stared down Nakamura, who was now on the outside, and then proceeded to give Hardy another low blow himself. Then he walked away. Cool, good talk.
After Braun Strowman owning Kevin Owens for the last month or so, I guess it was a smart way to put both inside a Steel Cage when, in storyline, Owens clearly wasn’t 100%. That part didn’t lose me, though. Owens was very entertaining in this match, even giving Strowman a Stone Cold Stunner that dropped him.
Owens would handcuff Strowman to the ropes and taunt him with a crotch chop as he was preparing to escape the cage by climbing over it on the opposite side of the ring. Strowman broke the cuffs, chased Owens to the top of the cage, then proceeded to chokeslam him from the top all the way down through an announce table.
Owens did the stretcher job because it was a hell of a bump, but he came away the victor in the match.
Earlier in the pay-per-view, the Bludgeon Brothers attacked Kane and Daniel Bryan backstage, leaving them both injured. However, the match was not called off, and Bryan was the only one to enter for the start of the match.
He held his own against Harper and Rowan, and once he looked to be in real trouble, Kane arrived… with a walking boot. He didn’t look very menacing, and his presence was merely perhaps a way to continue a Kane/Bryan storyline that ends in a match between the two. Bryan was shoved into Kane in the corner, then ate the pin after the Bludgeon Brothers delivered a top rope clothesline/powerbomb combination to retain their titles.
These two had a very good match with a lot of back-and-forth action and near falls. I’ve come to expect a lot of near falls in Reigns matches, especially on pay-per-view. There were some creative spots, including what amounted to an Attitude Adjustment by Reigns to Lashley outside of the ring. That move could’ve easily injured Lashley’s shoulder and/or collarbone. It seemed like he was okay after the big bump.
Lashley was able to kick out of a Superman Punch, and on the outside of the ring, almost sent Reigns through an announce table with a belly-to-belly suplex. When the two were back in the ring, Reigns hit Lashley with a Superman Punch while Lashley was on the top rope. Looking like he was going for a spear, Reigns ran to the ropes and then right into a spear by Lashley, who covered The Big Dog for the win.
While Ronda Rousey was suspended from appearing on Raw for 30 days by general manager Kurt Angle, Rousey was a spectator on Sunday night as a ticket-buying consumer. She had a front row seat for this match, as the winner would likely be her next opponent.
This match included garbage cans and steel chairs, and… one kendo stick. During the match, Mickie James and Bliss were double-teaming on Jax, which was legal due to the Extreme Rules nature of the match.
Rousey couldn’t take it much longer looking from the stands, so she hopped the rail, destroyed James and almost destroyed Bliss, who knocked Rousey out and away from the action with a couple shots to the back. Then James hit Jax with a steel chair multiple times, and Bliss hit her with the DDT onto a steel chair to get the pin.
This would be Rusev’s first singles shot at a World Title since his main roster debut, and I did not expect to see such a great match out of him and Styles. This was the first time they’ve really had the spotlight on them, but Styles is so good at what he does, I should’ve known Rusev was in good hands.
Rusev showed that he belonged with the big dogs – no pun intended – and that he could absolutely be a main eventer in WWE for the foreseeable future. Now, will WWE do that? It’s entirely up to them. But Rusev was absolute gold in this match and deserves future main event slots.
It looked like Rusev would walk away with the title after hitting Styles with a kick to the head, but Styles kicked out. Aiden English, who was in Rusev’s corner, took off the turnbuckle padding of one of the turnbuckles, and of course, Rusev’s face found its way into it. Styles would hit a 450 splash off the ropes, but Rusev kicked out.
Styles then took out English with a baseball slide to the outside, then hit Rusev with the Phenomenal Forearm to get the pin. But make no mistake, this was, for me, all about Rusev.
These guys got the main event slot, and it was well-deserved. Both are fantastic performers and the storyline has been pretty good considering all the inept creativity we’re forced to watch week in and week out. However, the crowd decided to try and overtake this match, and I didn’t think it helped any of the performers out, nor viewers watching at home. I’ll get to that a little bit later.
Within the first five minutes, Rollins went ahead 1-0 after a buckle bomb to Ziggler and then cradling him for a pin with 25:26 left. With 22:02 left, Rollins took a 2-0 lead after hitting Ziggler with The Stop.
So, less than eight minutes in and the babyface is up 2-0? Interesting booking. But there was a lot more to come. After going up 2-0, Drew McIntyre decided to attack Rollins, which put the challenger up 3-0 on the champion. Even though the referee banished McIntyre to the backstage area, there was a psychological edge to it, as it allowed Ziggler to pin Rollins to score a fall with 19:37 left. He then hit Rollins with a superkick to pull to 3-2 with 18:52 left, and then wound up tying up the match 3-3 after hitting Rollins with the Zig Zag with 17:509 left.
Ziggler would get the edge 4-3 after hitting Rollins with a palm strike during his suicide dive attempt to the outside. Ziggler quickly got in the ring and used the ropes for leverage to pin Rollins with 15:54 left.
Over 10 minutes of close calls later, Rollins was able to pull even at 4-4 after launching Ziggler into the steel post and rolling him up for the pin. Three minutes later with time winding down, Rollins hit a superkick but couldn’t pin Ziggler in time before the clock struck zero.
The match ended in a draw, which meant Ziggler retained. However, Raw’s general manager Kurt Angle came out and said there would be sudden death and the next fall would win. I guess that meant McIntyre could return to ringside, because he did and distracted Rollins after the bell rung, allowing Ziggler to get in the ring and hit Rollins with the Zig Zag, pinning him to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
As for the crowd chanting down from 10 seconds to one every single minute, I cannot really think it was a smart, playful reaction by the Pittsburgh crowd. Yes, we all know wrestling shows in 2018 are way too long. WWE isn’t the only company that puts on shows that are way too long. Most companies do it. For the most part, I think wrestling crowds can be funny and creative with their chants during segments they don’t like. A lot of times, it’s warranted. However, counting down every single minute from 10 seconds to one during the Iron Man Match took the focus away of what the story was during the match that featured two guys that are mostly, if not universally, loved by the hardcore wrestling fans and casual wrestling fans. It just didn’t fit.
You know what did fit? When the Royal Rumble was in Philly, nothing was happening in the ring or backstage, and they had the clock on the screen counting down to when the show actually started. Yeah, that was funny. We don’t do it in the middle of an Iron Man Match that’s in the main event of a pay-per-view with two of WWE’s good/great workers.
Maybe stay away from Pittsburgh for a while, WWE. At least for pay-per-views.
Follow Nick Piccone on Twitter: @nickpiccone