Thursday, 26 May 2016

PPV Review: WWE Extreme Rules 2016 - Jericho vs. Ambrose (Asylum), Reigns vs. Styles (Extreme Rules), Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Zayn vs. Miz

On 22nd May 2016, WWE aired Extreme Rules 2016, sponsored by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, live on PPV and the WWE Network, from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose looked to put their feud to bed in the first ever Asylum Match, Roman Reigns put his WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line against AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules match and Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Sami Zayn all had a shot at The Miz's WWE Intercontinental Championship...but was it any good? Let's find out! 

extreme rules 2016 match card

Match 1 – Tornado Tag Team 
The Usos: Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Match 2 – Singles for WWE United States Championship
“The Bulgarian Brute” Rusev with “The Ravishing Russian” Lana vs. Kalisto ©

Match 3 – Tag Team for WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day: Big E & Xavier Woods © with Kofi Kingston vs. The Vaudevillains: Aiden English & Simon Gotch

Match 4 – Fatal Four-Way for WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. The Miz © with Maryse

Match 5 – Asylum
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose

Match 6 – Submission for WWE Women's Champion
Natalya vs. Charlotte © (If Ric Flair comes to ringside, Charlotte will forfeit WWE Women's Championship)

Match 7 – Extreme Rules for WWE World Heavyweight Championship
AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns ©

John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Michael Cole & Byron Saxton

Funky Extreme Rules 2016 hype package, with a focus on there being “No Rules”, whilst looking at a handful of matches on the show's card “Tonight we go extreme”...

gallows and anderson defeat the usos 

The show opened with an enjoyable Tornado tag team bout, that utilised the rules of the bout to create a different feel that suited the feud between the two teams. Before the bell had even been rung I was into the bout as The Usos went straight after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, as they attempted to get a modicum of revenge on the team that had cost them their place in the WWE Tag Team Championship Tournament a month or so prior. The contest kept up a strong pace, with lots of dives to outside from Jey and Jimmy, whilst Gallows and Anderson brought their powerful, brawling style. I was particularly into the finish where Gallows looked to introduce the ring bell into the match, before a couple of twists and turns allowed the heels to hit their Magic Killer finish and pick up a fairly comprehensive victory. Personally, I'd have liked the bout to go on a little bit longer, but it's clear that WWE was looking to showcase both Gallows and Anderson here, against a recognisable WWE tag team, and this match definitely managed to work towards that aim. Judging by the crowd reaction to them, it's time to freshen up The Usos, perhaps a heel turn or anything that gives them a bit more character development than being "Roman Reigns' cousins" 

rusev defeats kalisto to become wwe united states champion 

I'm not sure I enjoyed this match all that much. I say I'm not sure, because there were parts of it that I thought were really quite cool, but then there were other parts that really ground on me, for just being a bit shit. Obviously, the contest was a Power vs. Speed type affair, so you had Rusev attempting to dominate Kalisto early doors, getting near falls of an elbow drop and a clothesline, before locking a couple of submissions. Bear hug, yeah I'm having some of that, Rusev is a big lad and can squeeze the shit out of Kalisto. Torture Rack, um, nah mate. Whilst The Bulgarian Brute chatting shit whilst having Kalisto in the rack was pretty funny, it just made it harder to buy Kalisto being able to get out of the hold. Kalisto's sleeper hold then looked like a pile of wank stained rags, thus making Rusev look like a burk for having to sell a poorly applied sleeper hold by a smaller man. 

Where the match did work was when Kalisto had the momentum and was scoring a couple of close pinfalls. Rusev provides a solid base for "The King of Flights" aerial offense and he made sure that each of Kalisto's moves looked as good as it possibly could have. With Michael Cole and JBL proclaiming that this was "Fun to watch", the finish of the bout was the most interesting part of the entire contest. Rusev sent Kalisto crashing off the top rope onto the apron, with the commentary team reminding us of the injured back and pentecostal muscles Kalisto had suffered recently, even if the spot itself didn't look all that devastating. The angle with Rusev refusing to let the doctor look as Kalisto and repeatedly attempting to lock in the Accolade, before eventually ignoring the referee and just locking it on was played well and made the Bulgarian Brute look like an utter cumbasket. However, in kayfabe, shouldn't the referee have disqualified Rusev for not letting the ref check over the injured opponent?   

new day defeat the vaudevillains to remain wwe tag team champions 

Despite being disappointingly short, I found a lot to enjoy in this WWE Tag Team Championship bout. Going just over six minutes, the match quickly became a spot-fest, skipping past a brief face-in-peril run from Xavier Woods. One of the best things about The New Day's babyface turn has to be Big E's hot tag, which is always a brilliant watch and Aiden English and Simon Gotch took those bumps like bosses. The finish was done very smoothly, with a number of moving parts, building towards Woods hitting a Shining Wizard for the win, after Big E had nailed his signature spear to the outside and Kofi Kingston taking advantage of a distracted referee with a well-timed Trouble in Paradise. The main talking point heading out of the match has to be having Woods kicks out of the Whirling Dervish, The Vaudevillains finishing move. It allowed for a great near fall, as I don't remember anyone kicking out of the move to this point, but having someone kick out of a teams finish just a few short months after their debut is a rather a strange decision. Perhaps, WWE has a new finish in mind, or perhaps they just wanted to put over the New Day, and especially Woods super strong? Either way, the kick-out added to the match, but could prove to be a mistake over the next few months.

miz defeats cesaro, owens and zayn to remain wwe intercontinental champion 

This was all shades of good. A big fat, bowl of tasty wrestling flakes, covered in sports-entertainment milk (other breakfasts are available). From the opening-bell, I knew that we were in for a treat with this one, as Sami Zayn nailed Kevin Owens with a Helluva Kick. It was a massive surprise, garnering a big pop from the Newark crowd, but made perfect sense. Zayn and Owens have been feuding for some while, and we've seen Zayn's frustrated at not being able to get his revenge for everything Owens has done to him, so why would he take his opportunity to hit him with his finisher from the very beginning! Lovely stuff. The fact that Cesaro then nailed Miz with a running uppercut in the opposite corner, allowing Zayn and Cesaro to go at it for a bit was the icing on the cake.

Fatal Four-Way's can often become fairly systematic, becoming basically a rotating singles match, and whilst there were plenty of opportunities for one on one action throughout the match (Cesaro and Zayn at the start, of course), the match felt like it was really making the most out of having four talents in the ring at the same time. A personal highlight was Owens putting a stop to attempted Tower of Doom spot by the other three men, which got some decent heel heat out of Newark, before Owens himself ended up at the top of a similar spot on the other side of the ring minutes later! A brilliant spot involving Miz going to hit an Exploder Suplex on Zayn, only for Cesaro to hit the WWE Intercontinental Champion with a German Suplex that sent both men flying, also deserves a mention. 

Where the match really took advantage of it's numbers was in it's near falls and false finishes. With a tonne of moments that had the crowd convinced it was over, it was difficult not to get swept up in the action, with Zayn's performance in particular standing out as he fought to get the victory. A wicked sequence of action involving Zayn hitting a Half and Half Suplex on Owens, Cesaro nailing Zayn with a Pop-Up Uppercut, before Miz hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Cesaro, only for The Swiss Superman to kick out stands out as particularly thrilling string of action, and also gave Cesaro a cushion for when he'd take the pinfall later in the match. Following lots of pinfalls being broken up, the close of the match was again spot-on with Zayn losing his cool with Owens for stoping his pin on Cesaro and Miz taking advantage of Zayn's previous Helluva Kick to Cesaro to pick up the victory. A perfect end for the four characters involved, that gives Zayn and Owens feud some extra fuel (if it needed any) to drive towards the next PPV (and perhaps beyond), whilst strengthening Miz's reign as a heel champion. Also, note the symmetry of having the match begin and end with a Helluva Kick, very nice stuff. 

fast-forward...The Kick-Off Panel of Renee Young, Booker T, Jerry “The King” Lawler & Corey Graves talked about the show so far, including The Miz retaining the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Rusev winning the WWE United States Championship and more...

ambrose defeats jericho 

The debut of the Asylum match...a Steel Cage with various weapons and objects and stuff dangling above it...this match was going to be the shit, right? Right? RIGHT? Umm, well, no. And maybe also yes. I don't know. This match was confusing. I didn't know if I was enjoying it, I didn't know if anyone in the crowd was enjoying it and I don't check Social Media during PPV's so I had no idea if anyone viewing was enjoying it. It was a near half hour of weirdness, taking in a variety of different styles and trying to mash them into one coherent story. 

Let's start with the things I didn't like about this match. It was way, way, way, too long. Over 25 minutes. There was no need for the match to go this long that I can think of. It felt like for a long time that the match didn't progress, the two pulled down a number of weapons and went through the motions with them, but it didn't feel like there was anything that was driving the match. Take away ten minutes and the match actually becomes much more interesting. The pacing would have become tighter and the story would have progressed at a much more satisfying rate. You also wouldn't have had a bored crowd chanting for Seth Rollins! 

I talked about the match trying to mix in a couple of different style above, and the one that I found the most...interesting...was the matches use of comedy. Obviously, Jericho and Ambrose's feud has had a strong comedic streak over the last couple of months, involving talk shows and potted plants, but trying to work that into the match itself proved to be a little difficult and didn't sit well with a match of this length, in my opinion. From the surely unintentionally hilarious "creepy" music that accompanied the cage lowering from the roof, to Ambrose "looking to mop up Jericho here in this match" as Michael Cole described it, followed up by Jericho shouting "You hit me with a mop", "Y2J" pretending that a Kendo Stick was gun on top of the cage and then shouting "You're gonna get it" at the ref for not counting the pinfall and JBL shouting "For the sake of Fozzy, get out of there" when Ambrose introduced the bag of thumbtacks, I got a fair few chuckles out of the match, but those chuckles felt like they were detracting from the match itself and the hatred that was supposedly between the two men. 

Where the match really kicked into gear for me was Ambrose's elbow drop off the top of the cage on Jericho. Following the first big spot of the match things started to get a little more interesting. It wasn't long before the thumbtacks were out and the duo made the most of the fact that this weapon has been seen rarely in WWE over the last few years, by teasing numerous spots before shifting away to something else. After Jericho had patted Ambrose with a Barbed Wire wrapped 2x4, the spot where the thumbtacks got used was very satisfying indeed. Ambrose blocking the Codebreaker before dumping Jericho onto a big pile of tacks. A Dirty Deeds later and the debut of the Asylum match was over. Will we see the match again? Maybe, maybe not. But if it does come back, I hope that it takes the positives mentioned here and empathises them, and shaves at least ten minutes of the length! 

fast-forward...Upcoming WWE Network shows trailer...

charlotte defeats natalya to remain wwe women's champion 

Charlotte and Natalya put on another solid match here, as they have a number of times this year. The two are clearly very talented performers and managed to string together some quality sequences of action, almost on auto-pilot. I couldn't fault the pairs ability Despite that, I couldn't help but feel like the match was missing that special something that could have pushed it to the next level. Perhaps it was an over-reaching narrative or idea to drive the action, as despite there being a couple of story elements involved in the bout, nothing felt like it went anywhere. Charlotte injured her arm was played up for most of the bout, with the Champion selling her arm shoulder well through most of the match, only to forget about it later on and this stands out as a microcosm for the whole match. Lot's of ideas, with very few going anywhere satisfying. 

The Submission part of the match often felt like it was a bit of an after-thought, with the real stipulation of the bout being Ric Flair being unable to appear at ringside with his daughter. This was made completely obvious when Flair's music would hit with Natalya holding Charlotte in the Sharpshooter. Dana Brooke siding with Charlotte was an interesting twist, that I hadn't seen coming, which I suppose is a positive. Charlotte is a strong enough heel that she can use another cheap victory to her advantage but at the same time it means that her feud with Natalya seemingly comes to a rather unsatisfactory conclusion with no one really gaining anything from the two month outing. Side note - Charlotte forgetting to sell her injured arm at the end of the match bugged me a lot! 

reigns defeats styles to remain wwe world heavyweight champion, rollins returns

A world-class main event here, as Roman Reigns and AJ Styles worked hard for each other and the crowd to produce an exciting clash that sprawled around the arena. The first part of the match, with just Styles and Reigns going after each other was great to watch, with the duo heading out into the crowd and making the most of all the areas available to them, including scrapping out by the Kick-Off panels table (which I'm pretty sure has never been done before). A back-body drop from Reigns that sent Styles flying through an adjacent announce table was breath-taking as "The Phenomenal One" was almost sent into orbit by Reigns before crashing back down. Gaining a little of an extra thumbs up from me was Styles beginning to target Reigns' right leg, with the commentary team jumping straight on this by explaining all of Reigns' offense that this would effect, whilst "The Guy" sold the injury well throughout the rest of the match.

The next part of the bout was when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson arrived to aid Styles, before The Usos were out to help their cousin Reigns. This would produce some brilliantly worked near falls, taking advantage of the number of bodies involved in a similar fashion to that off the Fatal Four-Way earlier in the bout. After both teams had dragged their man into a pinfall, we got my personal favourite moment of the match which was Styles' Styles Clash onto a steel chair, that managed to produce two false finishes that got huge reactions from the Newark crowd. Firstly, the initial cover was stopped when one of the Usos attempted to pull Styles off Reigns, before "The Phenomenal One" went for another cover after kicking Uso away, only for Reigns to kick out at two! 

The finish, for me, didn't quite live up to the rest of the match as after Styles had gone ape-shit with a Steel chair on The Bloodline, Reigns managed to catch Styles in the middle of the Phenomenal Forearm attempt with a Spear for the win. It looked good and would have been a cool way to finish a regular match, but with all the creativity that had gone before, the finish needed to at least match that with a spot that suited the Extreme Rules match-type. However with the pinfall not being the exclamation point on the PPV, maybe it was decided to keep the finish a little more low-key as a way of making the most of the surprise return at the end of the bout? That surprise return was that of Seth Rollins, who has been out injured since last November. The crowd went nuts for Rollins as he nailed Reigns with a pedigree and brought Extreme Rules 2016 to an exciting close. 

atpw scale rating - 6.42/10

The highest ATPW Scale Rating for a WWE PPV this year. Which is interesting because the overall card probably isn't as strong as the previous PPV, Payback, with a lot of the undercard matches and even the marquee Asylum Match being average (with perhaps the exception of the opening tag bout). The weirdness of the Asylum match definitely dragged the score down and had that match been shuffled around and the time shared between some of the shorter bouts (The tag title match standing out as the most likely candidate) then this show would almost certainly have got an even better rating. 

However, what this PPV had that Payback didn't, was two outstanding, world class matches. The Fatal Four-Way and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match were both superb encounters, that whilst sharing some similarities, were different enough that both provided excellent viewing throughout their screen time. Both matches are worth checking out this PPV for alone and therefore, Extreme Rules was the best PPV of 2016 so far. 

1 comment:

  1. Roman Reigns is perhaps the best wrestler nowadays, keep up the good reviews ;)