(SPOILERS for this past Sunday's Extreme Rules pay-per-view)
“Predictable. Cautious. Extreme.” the opening moments of the show inform me because for some reason no one proof reads these things out loud. It was... kind of fitting, though.
Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz: Intercontinental Championship
(The Miz wins)
I question the logic of opening Extreme Rules with a match where the only stipulation is “ if the champion gets disqualified, he loses his championship”. That's actually a more vanilla match than usual and not extreme in any way. It could have worked, though, at another event and if Ambrose was not constantly losing his rag and on the verge of whacking the Miz with a chair. I genuinely think Ambrose could benefit from a proper, technical showcase if only to prove he can do it. He's a talented man and even if he needed carrying a bit in the absence of his usual set pieces then the Miz is absolutely the right person to carry him. The Miz is the right person to carry anyone.
I did love the moment with the exposed turnbuckle, though, where Ambrose had to stop himself slamming Miz's head into the metal fixture the Miz himself had exposed. On the subject of the Miz, though, they had him try for a chair shot and have to break a figure four leg lock at a four count but he should have been constantly flying close to disqualification just to goad Ambrose.
And it should have been on another show.
Even then it was so nearly a brilliant match and then Maryse slapped the Miz with the ref actually understanding what was happening. The official should have disqualified the Miz as she was interfering on his behalf, then there was the ref bump which “should” have had Dean disqualified and then there was a pin anyway. Bit of a mess, frankly.
And it should have been on another bloody show.
Noam Dar & Alicia Fox vs. Rich Swann & Sasha Banks: Cruiserweight Mixed Tag Match
(Swann & Banks win, Swann gets the pinfall)
First, Noam Dar deserved to get slapped for getting in Sasha's face. Second, bloody hell are mixed tag matches a terrible bloody idea. I mean, since they can't have the wrestlers of different genders in the same ring at the same time its just two different matches happening concurrently in the same ring. I adore Sasha Banks, I think Alicia Fox is great, Rich Swann is a fantastic cruiserweight and Noam Dar... I don't have much opinion on him, I don't watch much 205 Live, sorry pardon.
Also, “Noam Dr stole Alicia Fox...”. When did this become 2004 and the likes of Alicia Fox got reduced to an object for men to steal from each other and compete over?
And it had a sudden finish, which seemingly is a sexually transmitted disease that the Women's Division has passed on to the Cruiserweights. Speaking of which...
Bailey vs. Alex Bliss: Kendo Stick On A Pole Match
(Alexa Bliss retains)
It is such an awful stipulation: here's a kendo stick on top of a pole and whoever gets it down gets to use it. Thrilling.
Also, where does Alexa get off saying Bailey isn't extreme, she was in the first Ironwoman match! She has more experience with extreme rules than Alexa has. Why all this crap about “will Bailey use it?”. All that hesitating and chasing around and... why, oh why am I bored watching a Bailey match? And why wasn't Alexa using the stick a DQ offence when the stipulation, battered into us in the clips package, was that only the person who brings it down gets to use it? That was Bailey.
And I wasn't the only one bored. Bailey and Alexa looked pretty bloody unengaged during the whole affair. All this and a sudden finish as well. The clips package ran longer than the match!
Still, this match was useful for scientific purposes as we finally know what a bad Bailey match looks like.
The Hardy Boys vs. Shamus & Cesaro: Steel Cage Tag Team Championship Match
(Shamus & Cesaro win)
Man, Cesaro is agile, isn't he? The way he just jumped more than halfway up the cage in one bound was amazing. Escape only is a good stipulation, even if it means a lot of repeated spots of one guy getting most of the way up and being dragged back down.
Its actually a good match but there just isn't that much to say about it. People climbed up, people were pulled back down, Matt ended up on his own against Cesaro and Shamus and that was a great bit. I'm not sure when they stopped locking the door on these things and just allowing people to wander in and out of the cage at will but that generated a few pretty cool spots at least. I mean, everyone was a tactical ignoramus at some point or another but you can forgive that in a wrestling match so long as it looks cool.
And, honestly, the ending looked cool with the Hardys leaving via the door but not fast enough to beat Cesaro and Shamus climbing down the other side of the cage.
I am very much looking forward to the rematch.
Neville vs. Austin Aries: Cruiserweight Championship Submission Match
Now this is how its meant to work: an interesting juxtaposition of championship and stipulation. All the “flippy shit” of the Cruiserweight Division is meant to tire and batter the opponent to get a pin. So a submissions only match has an interesting dimension, helped by the fact that these are two of the most muscular men in their division. There was still plenty of the high flying athleticism that makes this weight class great but it all revolved around weakening the opponent to make a submission move more painful.
Aries struggling backwards to get a foot on the ropes when Neville had him in the Rings Of Saturn was a particular highlight. Neville tapping out but outside the ring so it doesn't “count” was a good way to allow him to retain without harming Aries' momentum. Also, it didn't drag on too long after the false submission so it didn't matter that it made the conclusion a little predictable.
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns:
Fatal Five Way Number One Contender Match
(Samoa Joe wins)
AKA the reason I unsubscribed to What Culture Wrestling because this is the second main event they have spoiled for me with the bloody thumbnail of a What Just Happened? video. Sorry, Plumpy and company, but I can search for your stuff and have some control of what I see then.
Anyway, Joe wins and I knew that going in. I was hoping for Bray Wyatt because I have this pie-eyed notion that the most charismatic man in the room whose entrance relies on the audience loving him should probably be kept in the main event scene. However, I can hardly argue that Joe doesn't deserve it. He's had to make a long journey up to this level since joining the company and I can see why WWE want him facing Lesnar for the Beast's first defense (about six weeks after the 30 Day Rule stipulates it should be but since when has simple maths mattered?).
Roman deserves all the props for the wonderful comedy bit of just standing in the corner alone and then wandering the ring unmolested as the other four beat the crap out of each other. His look of bemusement as he strolls is just perfect.
Joe won't win it, not at a PPV called (good grief) Great Balls Of Fire. I'm absolutely convinced by the rumours that Lesnar will retain right up to 'Mania. I think it should be Balor who eventually beats Lesnar, by the way. As was pointed out a lot here, he never lost that title and he should win it again to restore the natural course of history. That said, I do like that Joe wins with a submission move (he is the Samoan Submission Machine, even if he seems to have left that nickname behind) and that could be a good thing to emphasise in the build-up to the Lesnar match.
He won't win but it should be an interesting technical match with Lesnar's massive power game versus Joe's submission style.