On 4th June, WWE aired Extreme Rules 2017, as a RAW exclusive PPV on the WWE Network from the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. The show featured Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe in an Extreme Rules Fatal Five-Way match for a shot at Brock Lesnar's WWE Universal Championship, Dean Ambrose defending the WWE Intercontinental Championship against The Miz in a match where if Ambrose was Disqualified he'd lose the title and Austin Aries challenging for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Neville in a Submissions match, as well as appearances from RAW Tag Team Champion The Hardy Boyz, Sheamus & Cesaro, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Alicia Fox. But was it any good? Let's take a look.
- VT - The opening focused on the "Extreme" nature of a number of the stipulations for tonight's matches as well as looking at the competitors in the Fatal Five-Way #1 Contender's match.
- VT - A look at Dean Ambrose and The Miz's feud over the Intercontinental Championship, as well as the specific rule regarding Ambrose losing the title if he gets disqualified.
Miz def. Ambrose to win the Intercontinental Championship
Whilst the gimmick of Dean Ambrose being able to lose the Intercontinental Championship by disqualification was probably the least extreme stipulation there has ever been, Ambrose and The Miz managed to work with the stip to make their seventh match in twelve months engaging throughout. The majority of the contest was focused on Miz trying to get Ambrose DQ'd through a number of different methods, including repeatedly slapping the champion as well as introducing a steel chair and getting Maryse to slap him, whilst referee John Cone reminded the Lunatic Fringe what would happen if he was DQ'd. Mixed into that story, you had Ambrose injuring his leg whilst jumping off the top rope and The A-Lister taking full advantage, targeting the knee in the corner, before locking in a figure four leglock after sliding through a sunset flip from Ambrose. The champion is a great seller and kept going to the injury at any relevant moment, whilst the sequence building to Ambrose locking in a Figure Four of his own got a strong reaction, after a number of slick reversals.
The finish of the match had a good narrative that flowed well from moment to moment as after being unable to put a Busaiku knee and Ambrose escaping a number of Skull Crushing Finale attempts, Miz went all out trying to provoke the Lunatic Fringe into getting disqualified, getting more and more desperate after each attempt. The conclusion saw Maryse being kicked out of the arena and with the referee distracted Miz shoved Ambrose into the ref, knocking him out of the ring. With the champion pleading with the referee on the outside not to DQ him, Miz snuck up behind and finally landed the Skull Crushing Finale to gain the pinfall and the Intercontinental Championship. It was cool to see the DQ stip used to progress the story of the match, without having it used to swap the championship, as it created some interesting scenarios throughout the contest, but wouldn't have done much for anyone if the title had changed hands that way. Miz can now boast about pinning Ambrose, whilst there's the idea that he wouldn't have been able to do so with the unique stipulation, which should be perfect for his arrogant heel character.
- Backstage - Charly Caruso interview Bayley, with the Hugger explaining that she's been watching Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman and Steve Blackman to prepare for the Kendo Stick on a Pole match and she's willing to do anything to retain the RAW Women's Championship.
Banks & Swann def. Fox & Dar
Well, this certainly was a match that happened on the show. The hometown crowd for Rich Swann gave the bout a little something extra, but the match itself wasn't anything to write home about. Noam Dar and Alicia Fox hugged a lot, Swann had a wicked hot tag and Sasha Banks hit a meteora onto Dar on the outside. Beyond that it was a mostly fun of the mill, mixed tag match with the girls doing a lot of hair-pull brawling and the guys portion was mostly Dar taking a flurry of moves from Swann (still love that front-flip fameasser). I like the act that Dar is doing at the moment, but I'm sure if WWE quite gets what to do with it and whilst there was nothing wrong with this match, it didn't warrant a place on the PPV, especially when Akira Tozawa and The Brian Kendrick had a superb Street Fight on 205 Live recently that would've been more suited to the event.
- Advert - KFC promised to launch their Zinger sandwich into space, which was nice of them.
- In the Arena - Elias Samson did a little song on his guitar and got some decent heat for it, whilst the crowd went nuts with the lights on their phones. The song was mostly cheap heat about Baltimore being a shithole, but also some intriguing content about the main event and Brock Lesnar.
- VT - Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss, focusing in on the idea of whether Bayley was capable of "going extreme". This went quite long and actually followed the story week to week, concluding with the dire This is Your Life segment.
Bliss def. Bayley in a Kendo Stick on a Pole Match to retain RAW Women's Championship
Man, I feel for Bayley, she's been booked horribly for months, going back to the handling of her winning the title, through the This Is Your Life and segment and now being made to look like a complete dweeb in this match with Alexa Bliss. The whole story heading into the bout was about whether Bayley had it in her to "go extreme" and using a kendo stick, which is lame enough in itself, but surely we'd get the pay off here and finally see Bayley get the upperhand on Alexa. Nope, because that would make too much sense. What we actually got was both girls reaching awkwardly for the stick for two minutes, before Bayley spent a minute or so looking at the kendo stick as if it were a loaded gun and then a few more minutes of Bliss going nuts with the stick before pinning Bayley with a DDT in just over six minutes. The gimmick sucked, the story telling was piss poor and the only proper spot of the match looked clumsy. This feud should have been hot, but whilst it's had the odd moment of brilliance, those have almost always been overshadowed by terrible writing.
Sheamus & Cesaro def. Hardy Boyz in a Steel Cage Match to win RAW Tag Team Championship
Let's start of by saying that the escape the cage stipulation is a pile of shit. Always has been and always will be. A steel cage match is supposed to happen at the peak of a feud, when nothing else can contain the anger two (or more) men have for each other, to suggest that one would even want to win without pinning their opponent or making them tap out is weak and dissatisfying to watch. Having escaping the cage as the only way a match can end is even worse. Even more so when both members of tag team have to escape and their feet be on the floor at the same time. Not only is that pretty confusing and overly complicated, but it's not conducive to producing an entertaining wrestling product. Yes, you have to get creative in a tag steel cage to work out pinfalls and such, but the two teams had to get even more creative just to breath a little bit of life into this. Having Jeff escape on his own and then get back in when he realised his brother couldn't fight two men that are bigger than him, made the Charismatic Enigma look like a fool, before the finish of Matt pulling his brother out moments after Sheamus and Cesaro jumped down on the other side made the contest feel like bargain basement obstacle course.
Bless these four lads for working so hard and managing to produce some creative spots against the tide of the gimmick. We had a pair of Poetry in Motions with the heels sandwiched in between the ropes and the cage, Cesaro holding onto Jeff as he dangled outside of the cage leading to Jeff's initial escape, a double-team Pale Justice to Matt and a top rope assisted White Noise to the no longer Broken one (the fixed one?). All good spots, but of course it wouldn't be a Hardy Boyz cage match if Jeff didn't do something stupid off the top of the cage and boy, did that lad jump off a high thing again. With Jeff realising that his brother was getting battered, he decided to climb back in the cage and do a Whisper in the Wind off of it and knacker himself as well in the process, because jumping off high thing is painful. Similar to the Bliss v Bayley feud, we've seen flashes of greatness between these two teams and there was plenty on display in this match, but the way they are being booked is making me lose interest.
- Ad - The WWE Network is thing, if you weren't sure what you were watching the show on.
- VT - Austin Aries v Neville is up next and there's a lot of Geordie words in this.
Neville def. Aries in a Submission Match to retain WWE Cruiserweight Championship
I feel like I write this a lot when discussing WWE's Cruiserweight division, but this was a really good match, let down by the crowd who seemed to have decided they weren't interested in purple ropes. Neville managed to get a decent reaction at points, but mostly the crowd were silent, which I think is more to do with WWE's presentation of the Cruiserweights rather than the in-ring action. I think the biggest compliment I can give the match is that it felt a lot shorter than it actually was, mostly because the two kept shifting narratives and worked in a couple of different stories to follow. Neville went after Aries' knee after a dive to the outside and then his arm (great commentary from Corey Graves here), with some lovely selling from the challenger, we'd then see those injuries play into the submission attempts as Aries' unable to keep hold of Neville in a Figure Four, whilst Neville later went for his Rings of Saturn on the injured arm. Some storytelling motifs didn't work for me, specifically Austin pleading with the ref not to DQ Neville after the Geordie grabbed the ref whilst in the Rings, as whilst I enjoyed the nod to the finish of their Payback match, I'm pretty sure there are no DQs in a submission match. Inside the story the two had a number of super crisp sequences (as well as big strikes for Aries), with the highlight being Aries hit a sunset flip powerbomb then transition straight into the Last Chancery, keeping hold of the move when Neville rolled to the outside and actually getting a submission from the champ (which obviously didn't count because it was outside the ring).
Neville winning after dodging a lope suicida, hitting a Red Arrow to the back before concluding with Rings of Saturn, left the storyline without a satisfying conclusion and with the feud already feeling tired three matches in, I can't see that we're going to get one. After we'd seen Aries get thumbed in the eye at WrestleMania Kick-Off and then Neville get himself disqualified at Payback, it would have made total sense to have Aries manage to overcome Neville here in a match where the rules (should have) been in his favour. I'm not quite sure where this leaves Austin on a show like 205 Live and how WWE will go about placing him on that show, whilst also keeping him away from the title picture. Perhaps a trip to NXT for matches with the likes of Kassius Ohno, Hideo Itami, Johnny Gargano and others would benefit him, before moving over to SmackDown. As for Neville I'm intrigued to see who he's placed with next after months with Aries, a feud with Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik or Cedric Alexander would be fresh, but revisiting issues with Jack Gallagher or Rich Swann could be effective also.
- VT - The Fatal Five-Way Number One contenders match is up next, the package highlights each competitor, pretty basic stuff.
Joe def. Wyatt, Rollins, Balor and Reigns in an Extreme Rules Fatal Five-Way Match to become #1 Contender to the Universal Championship
There really should have been no doubt in anyone's mind that this was going to be fantastic main event. Five of WWE's top tier talent going at it for almost half an hour should have been incredible and the match didn't disappoint. All five lads put a shift in, as everyone got a time to shine and all looked like stars as the Baltimore crowd lapped it up. Finn Balor in particular came out of the match in a much better position than how he entered it.. In his first PPV match since getting injured at last year's SummerSlam, Finn was superb in this match. He sold a beating from Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe like a trooper, gasping for air after taking a pair of running sentons with a steel chair on his chest, before he later made a roaring comeback getting revenge on Joe and Wyatt with the chair and flying round the ringside area like a madman. He may have ended up taking the fall after being choke out in the Coquina Clutch by Joe, but he'd just downed Roman Reigns with a Coup de Grace, after dodging a spear moments earlier, so even that won't hurt the Irishman.
I mentioned Wyatt and Joe working together above and that partnership really was the driving force behind the bout, providing a robust backbone for which the rest of the match could build on. After Wyatt had saved the Samoan Submission Machine from a Reigns' drive-by kick, the two dominated the competition, grabbing hold of the steel steps and cleaning house. Seriously the two big blokes wandering around ringside with the steps and just clattering into whoever they came up again was much more fun than it perhaps should have been. Their dominance continued for some time, but there was always something being introduced to keep things interesting, if two big lads battering people wasn't enough. Wyatt added some nice little touches like randomly standing on Rollins, whilst potential comebacks from Rollins and Reigns were quickly thwarted as Seth took a DDT onto the steps and Reigns took a uranage onto the announce table (both from Wyatt). The build towards the inevitable falling out between the two was well handle, with Wyatt initially turning a turn earlier in the match, before Joe would end up getting pushed in front of suicide dive from Rollins. The straw that broke the camel's back however was Joe breaking up a pinfall moments after Wyatt hit Sister Abigail on Rollins, with the two taking big ass shots at each other, which was much more exciting than it would've been without the build.
Around the Joe and Wyatt spine you had plenty more high octane action that just seemed to keep on coming and coming. The highspots were placed well through the contest, with each weapon shot feeling like it meant something as part of the wider whole. The biggest and best spots were saved for towards the end, as Reigns speared Joe and Balor into the timekeepers area, whilst moments later Rollins came flying off the top rope and through the announce table with a Frog Splash to Wyatt. The set-up for both spots was wonderfully handled, with Balor's comeback on the outside being cut short by Coquina clutch from Joe, heading into the spear. The moment directly after the big spots was also a really well put together piece of work as Reigns and Rollins dragged themselves from the wreckage, with both selling terrifically, before engaging in some of the best one on one action of the entire match. The two had a cracker on the go-home episode of RAW and went back at it with a series of back and forth sequences.
The closing sequence saw Wyatt and Rollins falling by the wayside, Balor countering a Reigns spear into a slingblade, nailing a Coup de Grace, only for Joe to catch him in the Coquina Clutch and get the victory. These last few minutes were a thrilling watch with the momentum switching back and forth between all five of the participants as the match headed towards it's conclusion. Using a similar finish to what we saw on RAW in the three way with Balor, Joe and Wyatt was a neat touch, with the match having a lot of similarities to that triple threat, but this time around we had Joe looking much stronger as he took the initiative and forced Balor to pass out. The fact that we'll be getting Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar on WWE show this year is marvellous. Imagine someone suggesting this match in the early 2000s, when Lesnar was killing it in WWE with The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero and Joe was rocking it in ROH with CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries and Low Ki, or later when Lesnar shifted MMA and dominated the likes of Randy Couture, Frank Mir and Shane Carwin, whilst Joe was climbing the ranks in TNA with Angle, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Christian Cage. It's gonna happen and it's gonna be good.
ATPW Scale Rating - 6.28/10
Before the main event, this was probably an average wrestling show, with the fights ranging from good to poor. The Cruiserweight Championship and Intercontinental Championship coming at the right end of the scale for me, whilst the Women's title and mixed tag towards the other end. The main event however pushed the event much higher, as it was just that damn good. It was thirty minutes of pure wrestling entertainment that carried the rest of the show across the finish line.
It wasn't particularly extreme and a number of the gimmicks held back the competitors, however as an entire package this was a mostly fun and creative event.