Winners: Andrade Cien Almas, SAnitY, The B-Team, Finn Balor, Carmella, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, The Bludgeon Brothers, Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles, and Dolph Ziggler.
Andrade Cien Almas and Sun Cara went at it again on the kickoff show that was apparently all about getting the crowd riled up for the pay-per-view proper, which is interesting because when was the last time Sin Cara was relied on to energise a crowd? Anyway, luckily, we put 50/50 booking aside to give Almas another win. Hopefully he can move away from this drudgery and towards the path towards the United States Championship but, considering all of the predications and arm-chair-booking I did for that belt with SmackDown! Live’s mid-card, I’m sure he’ll end up disappearing into obscurity until the WWE randomly decides we should care.
Going hand-in-hand with the fast-paced action of that match, we get our first taste of anarchy as SAnitY and The New Day get into a tables match that was full of fun spots and, more importantly, saw SAnitY pick up what I am sure is their first main roster win. More chaos like this from these guys, please!
Extreme Rules officially kicks off with Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt putting the Raw Tag Team Championships on the line against the B-Team; unfortunately, there was only the briefest of moments where Bray and real-life brother Bo Dallas were in the ring together before Curtis Axel tags in and ends up taking some heat. Despite Matt and Bray largely being in control, Bo hit that Draping Neckbreaker deal he does and they only won the damn match! I mean, sure, the crowd are into the B-Team but so bloody what? They didn’t deserve this match or the belts after lucking into the shot so I am looking forward to the Authors of Pain murdering them later down the line.
After Kurt Angle demands that Brock Lesnar shows up on Raw or be stripped of the Universal Championship, Finn Balor and Baron Corbin worked pretty much every big man/little man match you’ve ever seen. Corbin dominated with his power and strength and talked a lot of smack, playing his new role of the big guy bully pretty well, and Balor bounced around like a ragdoll. Even better, Balor got the better of Corbin by countering the End of Days into a cradle and stealing the win, which is great for Finn but makes Corbin look like a lumbering fool. In fact, when was the last time he lost a match due to anything other than a surprise rollup?
James Ellsworth was suspended above the ring in a shark cage (because the WWE paid for that cage, dammit!) for the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship match; despite this, he still dropped shit into the ring to edge the match into Carmella’s favour. In the end, Ellsworth escaped the cage, nearly fell on his head, and the distraction allowed Carmella to take advantage and pin Asuka in what was a pretty terrible affair.
Speaking of terrible, Shinsuke Nakamura hit a low blow on Jeff Hardy before the bell rang for the United States Championship match; he then landed the Kinshasa and won the belt. Afterwards, Randy Orton randomly returned and, eve more randomly, attacked Jeff; I get that Jeff is working injured but it’s kind of lame that Nakamura couldn’t do the same thing to win the WWE Championship over the last few months.
Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens went at in a steel cage match, which Owens obviously tried to escape from at every opportunity. Interestingly enough, once he actually fought Braun, he put up a pretty good fight since Strowman is a bit more top heavy. In the end, Owens handcuffed Strowman and tried to escape but Braun broke the cuffs and casually tossed Owens off of the top of the cage and through the announce table. I mean, sure, it meant that Strowman lost the match but I don’t think Owens will be messing in his business again any time soon.
Earlier in the night, the Bludgeon Brothers attacked Kane and Daniel Bryan backstage and “broke Kane’s ankle” (he’s got some other, presumably less serious leg injury), so Bryan came out alone for his shot at the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship. I mean, okay, but I never like it when one guy, no matter who they are or how popular, takes on the Tag Team Champions alone. In this case, despite the size, strength, and numbers advantage, Bryan held his own and was actually doing pretty well. Kane did eventually limp out to help but couldn’t really contribute much and ended up being shoved into Bryan; the Bludgeon Brothers then hit the Doomsday Device to win. This was hardly the dominating victory that Harper and Rowan needed but that’s what happens when you have sudden injuries.
Thank God that cooler heads prevailed as Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns didn’t get the main event spot; that would have been absolutely retarded, to be honest. Lashley dominated with suplexes in the early going but, surprisingly for a Reigns match, Roman took control with some ringside brawling. Eventually, though, Lashley took control and the slow, plodding, methodical beat down we’ve come to expect from every Reigns match began. Lashley, though, is apparently a bit more cerebral than Lesnar, though, and, rather than allow Reigns to spam his signatures and finishers, cut that shit off and pinned him with a Spear. I honestly did not think that Lashley would win here; if anything, I expected a double count-out or something. You would think that this win puts Lashley next in line for a shot at Lesnar but, as we’ll see on Raw, that is apparently not the case just yet.
Extreme rules finally comes to Extreme Rules for the Raw Women’s Championship match; Alexa Bliss had Mickie James in her corner so Natalya came out with Nia Jax because Nia is now, awkwardly, a face or something again. Anyways, in the end, everyone got involved and it all broke down a bit, which allowed Alexa to hit Nia with a DDT onto a chair and retain the belt. Next…
AJ Styles put the WWE Championship on the line against Rusev, which the crowd was super hot for to begin with. This was another methodical, calculated big man/little man match as Rusev dominated Styles with his strength and technique; every time Styles rallied and tried to build some momentum, Rusev world shut him down, so Styles ended up working over Rusev’s leg with the Calf Crusher. Aiden English exposed a turnbuckle but Rusev ended up running into the steel bolt and falling to the Phenomenal Forearm in what was a really good match for the belt; I’d love to see Rusev stick around for a triple threat at SummerSlam against AJ and Samoa Joe.
Finally, in a surprising turn of events, the Intercontinental Championship Iron Man match got the main event slot! When was the last time a mid-card belt main evented a pay-per-view? Given Lesnar’s shitty, part-time schedule, I’m surprised and annoyed that it hasn’t happened more often. The big story about this match was the piece of shit crowd, who childishly counted down to the end of every minute and basically hijacking the match, which is really weird as they normally save that kind of bullshit for Roman Reigns and John Cena matches. To chant and talk shit over a Seth Rollins/Dolph Ziggler match in the main event probably does nothing other than allow Vince McMahon to believe his own shit about the crowd booing Reigns for fun! Anyway, this was actually a pretty quick, almost rushed affair for a thirty-minute Iron Man match, as Rollins and Ziggler traded wins throughout the run time; Drew McIntyre interfered to beat the crap out of Rollins and help Ziggler get a leg up but, in the end, the time ran out with the score tied. Kurt Angle restarted the match for sudden death and Ziggler instantly won with the Zig-Zag to cap off an overbooked main event made all the more worse by the crowd and their bullshit.
Good on his word, Kurt Angle opens the show to strip Brock Lesnar of the Universal Championship; kind of stupid that it took this long to go down this path but whatever, Brock ain’t showing up any time soon. Instead, Paul Heyman comes out to agree that Lesnar will defend the belt at SummerSlam, quickly followed by six men who all believe they deserve a shot: Bobby Lashley (yep, after his win he’s logically the number one contender), Drew McIntyre (nope, he hasn’t really done anything to earn a shot), Seth Rollins (I guess so, since he lost his Intercontinental Championship rematch), Elias (um…no? What has he done lately/ever?), Finn Balor (sure, he never got his rematch and got a decent win at Extreme Rules), and Roman Reigns (fuck no, he lost at Extreme Rules and has been beaten by Lesnar more times than I can remember). To settle it, Angle books two triple threat matches and the winners will face each other next week to determine the number one contender…even though it should have been one triple threat match between the former champion who never got his rematch (Balor), the man who defeated Reigns (Lashley), and the former Intercontinental Champion (Rollins) but whatever.
The first triple threat match pitted McIntyre, Balor, and Reigns against each other; don’t get me wrong, I like Drew being involved in the title picture, but at least have him get a significant singles win or two first. Plus, what kind of rubbish main roster return plan is that to team up with Ziggler, though not go after the Raw Tag Team Championships, and then randomly help him become the Intercontinental Champion so you can try for the top belt? Anyway, this was all action right from the bell as Balor and McIntyre worked each other over and took the fight to Reigns, because of course Reigns has to get beaten down and look like a big dumb underdog. The man is built like a house, just have him dominate, kick ass, and look cool doing it not constantly get his ass handed to him! But it’s Reigns, so of course he rallies, takes out McIntyre with the Superman Punch and unceremoniously Spears Balor for the win in what was an otherwise bad-ass triple threat.
Dolph Ziggler runs his mouth about his win at Extreme Rules, so Bobby Roode interrupts and challenges him to put the belt on the line so Ziggler allows him to get a non-title match which doesn’t go too well for Roode. Despite working pretty well together, the crowd wasn’t much into it and this isn’t that far removed from their less-than-stellar series on SmackDown! Live a while back and Roode fell to a Superkick. I think I mentioned this back in the day but wouldn’t it be better for Roode and Ziggler to be a narcissistic heel tag team?
Mojo Rawley is back in the ring, this time against Tyler Breeze, in a match that he actually wins with no bullshit. I guess he’ll face Fandango next week and then randomly team up with Baron Corbin to face them both later down the line. Afterwards, Bayley and Sasha Banks teamed up against Alicia Fox; despite their counselling sessions not really working out and it appearing as though they’ll never be friends, Sasha and Bayley lost but Sasha says she loves Bayley. Christ, this is stupid!
The B-Team are no longer fluke winners; instead, they make chumps of the Ascension and get an undisputed win. You know it’s bad when the Ascension are jobbing to Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Afterwards, Angle officially books Alexa Bliss to defend the Raw Women’s Championship against Ronda Rousey at SummerSlam, which I could’ve sworn was already a lock in but anyway…More squashing as the Authors of Pain make short work of Titus Worldwide, before Ember Moon finally loses her winning streak when Liv Morgan distracts her and costs her a match against Sarah Logan; it’s too bad that the Raw Women’s Championship will be tied up in Rousey’s shite soon enough.
Elias, Seth Rollins, and Bobby Lashley get the main event to decide who will face Roman Reigns next week. I still don’t quite understand what Elias has done to get this opportunity but I guess Raw is low on credible heels? Anyways, this was mainly about Elias and Rollins trying to stave off Lashley and get into it but Lashley soon puts a stop to all that nonsense by kicking some ass and hitting the Spear on Elias to get the win. I’m glad that Lashley is winning matches with the Spear again, though I suspect it’s just to add fuel to his issues with Reigns, but why the hell should Lashley have to face Reigns, win a triple threat match, and then have to face Reigns, of all people, again just to prove that he’s the number one contender?
Jeff Hardy and his damaged balls opens the show, vowing to win back the United States Championship in his rematch later in the night, before AJ Styles (the WWE Champion, may I remind you) gets the first match of the night against Andrade Cien Almas. Interesting that Almas went from weeks of nothing, obscurity, and fighting Sin Cara and now, randomly, gets an exhibition match against the WWE Champion. As if to illustrate that, this finally gave Almas the opportunity to showcase the talent that made him the centrepiece of NXT for a while; working with Styles obviously helps but it’s good to see Almas getting the chance to shine and his hearty effort before having no choice but to tap to the Calf Crusher paints him as a believable star on the main roster.
Becky Lynch continues the little streak she’s been on lately, getting Mandy Rose to tap out, and then vows to become the SmackDown! Live Women’s Champion again, which impresses Paige so much that she gets a chance to earn that shot next week.
Tye Dillinger is back on television!!
Samoa Joe all-but-murders him in a match that went less than two minutes; at least Tye got on TV and showed some guts and fire before Joe choked him out. Afterwards, the Miz talks shit about Daniel Bryan and Kane, so Bryan attacks him to help stoke the fire of what should be an intense feud.
Eric Young gets a singles match against Kofi Kingston, with all other their respective stable-mates at ringside, in a match designed purely to keep the feud between the new Day and SAnitY alive…which is fine but SAnitY won pretty definitively at Extreme Rules so I would have preferred to see the New Day attack SAnitY in retribution instead to keep things going. Either way, Young gets the win after that Wheelbarrow-Neckbreaker he does, which is even better as I would love to see him veer towards the United States Championship.
Speaking of which, Shinsuke Nakamura puts the self-same belt on the line in the main event against Jeff Hardy. Jeff took control to begin with but Nakamura weathered the storm and grounded him, before the started trading blows and bigger and bigger moves. Jeff ended up countering the Kinshasa into the Twist of Fate, landed the Swanton Bomb, but got attacked by Randy Orton for the disqualification win. Orton than proceeded to kick his ass at ringside. You know, I’m torn about this; I liked the United States Championship getting the main event and focus but the message here seems more to be that Orton is more important than both of SmackDown! Live’s singles titles and that just shouldn’t be in 2018.