WWE Extreme Rules Review: A Horrifyingly Mixed Bag

WWE The Horror Show at Extreme Rules promised to be the most unique show fans have seen in quite some time. From an Eye for an Eye bout to a Wyatt Swamp Fight, this pay-per-view offered several compelling matches. WWE’s latest cinematic match continued the company’s trend of enjoyable, fresh and theatrical content. Otherwise, WWE Extreme Rules was horrifying for all the wrong reasons.

The show began with a title change, as The New Day lost the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. Perhaps the best reaction to Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura’s victory is, “Huh…okay.” Cesaro and Nakamura have languished on the blue brand, especially without Sami Zayn has their mouthpiece. But, in the last few weeks, the duo has quickly risen to the top of a thin SmackDown tag division. A victory over The New Day led to a paint-by-number feud between the teams. It seemed evident that the conflict was just WWE giving the champions something to do. Instead, Cesaro powerbombed Kofi Kingston through a table, so we have new WWE SmackDown Tag Team Champions.

Even with the win, the tag division needs more fresh blood. Other than the Lucha House Party and The Miz & John Morrison, the blue brand is lacking quality duos right now. Heavy Machinery barely teams up anymore, and The Forgotten Sons have been…well, forgotten. Hopefully, the victory on Sunday will lead to more prominence for Cesaro and Nakamura, two of the most talented wrestlers on the roster. Or maybe that’s just one fan’s naive optimism in the face of WWE’s perpetually passive attitude toward the tag division.

sasha banks bayley
Photo Credit: WWE

“Why’d You Have To Go And Make Things So Complicated?”

The two Women’s Championship matches felt like narrative complements, so we’ll discuss them together. Bayley and Sasha Banks have been dominating WWE programming for months, and the duo’s direction was one of the most intriguing aspects of this pay-per-view. A showdown between the two has been rumored for a long time, so many fans wanted to see the next step in that direction. WWE could have advanced this story by having one or both of the competitors losing a championship on Sunday. Both women leaving WWE Extreme Rules as the respective Women’s Champions of WWE RAW and WWE Friday Night SmackDown was an unlikely outcome, but that’s technically what happened.

Once again, Banks helped Bayley cheat to retain her championship. This time, Bayley defeated Nikki Cross, who would have been a believable SmackDown Women’s Champion, given her recent momentum. Then, though Banks and Asuka had a solid match, it broke down into overbooked chaos at the end. A referee bump and excessive interference soured an enjoyable contest, and the conclusion was infuriating. Bayley stole the referee’s shirt and counted Banks’ pin of Asuka. Bayley then gave her partner the RAW Women’s Championship. WWE has confirmed that Asuka is still the rightful champion, so it’s hard to see the point of this development. Maybe it’s a cheap attempt to boost ratings for the first episode of RAW after the show. Maybe it’s a way to give Sasha a taste of the gold, which could push her to challenge Bayley when the RAW Women’s Championship is returned to its owner. Either way, WWE overcomplicated this story and cooled off what was becoming a hot program for SummerSlam.

rey mysterio
Photo Credit: WWE

Eye Can’t Believe This!

Nobody questioned the likelihood that Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio would put on a good wrestling match together. At the same time, everyone wondered what, exactly, an Eye for an Eye Match would entail. Some rumors that WWE could use CGI to enhance the horrific image of someone’s eye getting ripped out added more buzz to that curiosity. Ultimately, the detached “eye” turned out to be a cheap prop. Naturally, many fans were disappointed, as it felt like WWE cheaped out. Mysterio’s usage of what looked like a ping-pong ball for a fake eye could have worked in the ‘70s. But in 2020, it was a laughable attempt to do something “different.” The wrestling product and cinematic technology have evolved substantially, so WWE should have been able to give fans a more satisfying conclusion to the Eye for an Eye Match. Instead, the absurd moment and the picture of the “eyeball” have already been immortalized in memes.

Mysterio and Rollins deserve credit for doing their best. Rollins looked like a violent madman; he came to the ring with pliers, and he sank to some deplorable depths in his mission to blind Mysterio. (He tied Mysterio to the ring ropes, and he also utilized everything but the kitchen sink.) Rollins’ bloodthirst may have been a callback to his attempt to destroy The Fiend during their infamous Hell in a Cell match. (Or maybe that’s just one fan filling in the gap.) Meanwhile, Mysterio was driven by his own quest for vengeance, and he used just as many brutal tactics. Rollins’ performance was also commendable because he vomited at ringside after he “won” the match; this reaction sold this sheer disgust, which added an unexpected wrinkle to the match. It’s unclear where the two superstars go from here, especially given Mysterio’s lack of a contract. It’s likely that we haven’t seen the last of the legend, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Drew McIntyre
Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images

You’ve Got No Chance…

No matter what stipulation Dolph Ziggler chose, the outcome of the WWE Championship match was never in doubt. Sure, Ziggler and Drew McIntyre put on a good match, and McIntyre did his part to sell the story by looking as vulnerable as he could. But there was never a shadow of a doubt that the Scottish Psychopath would be leaving the show with the title. So even with the attempted suspense of having Ziggler’s delayed reveal of the stipulation, the match could only do so much to draw the viewer in. Of course, Ziggler chose a stipulation that bent the rules in his favor and he even had the champion on the ropes for a minute. But WWE keeps making it clear that Ziggler is a textbook example of a “jobber to the stars.” With this utter lack of doubt in the match’s outcome, we’re left wondering why the company chose to go this direction.

Why not have McIntyre face Bobby Lashley in a rematch from WWE Backlash? Lana’s botched interference in that match paved the way for Lashley to demand another shot at the champion. Instead, Lashley has been MVP’s muscle while Ziggler, with ice-cold momentum after several unsuccessful feuds, received a high-profile title match.By facing an inadequate contender, McIntyre actually came out of the match looking weak by extension. If a rumored title match with Randy Orton at WWE SummerSlam is truly in the cards, WWE can still salvage McIntyre’s reign as the WWE Champion. If not, what should have been the beginning of a new era for the company could quickly fade into obscurity. 

bray wyatt the fiend
Photo Credit: WWE

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

The climactic Wyatt Swamp Fight was a fitting finale to The Horror Show. This cinematic match wasn’t quite as chaotic as the Firefly Fun House Match, and it may not be remembered as fondly as the Boneyard Match. But WWE still presented a creepy confrontation between two rivals that would have been right at home in a horror movie. 

Wyatt stole the show with his best performance since he returned in 2019; he delivered his eloquent dialogue with the charisma of a seasoned actor. His powerful words, combined with Wyatt’s subtle mannerisms, offered viewers the perfect chance to fully experience this character more than ever before. Wyatt’s maniacal laughter and his Jason Vorhees-like persistence were masterful. Wyatt emotionally describing how he’s never going back to the way he used to be and how he’s not Strowman’s enemy were incredible, too.  By comparison, Braun Strowman’s performance wasn’t as remarkable, but he still played the role well. Strowman also successfully conveyed the match’s narrative, in which a man returns home to face and (hopefully) overcome his demons. Strowman failed to vanquish Wyatt; the return of The Fiend clearly suggests that this rivalry isn’t over. Though this ending was predictable, sometimes the clearest path forward is the best one. It’s likely that Strowman will defend the WWE Universal Championship against the Fiend at WWE SummerSlam in what should be a thrilling conclusion to their rivalry.

Three Count:

  1. As expected, the Wyatt Swamp Fight featured plenty of shenanigans. One element of the match particularly stood out. Wyatt used his mysterious powers to play with Strowman, which allowed him to tempt the Monster Among Men with a message from Alexa Bliss. But Bliss was dressed like Sister Abigail while she begged Strowman to come home. Though this bit could be dismissed as nothing more than Wyatt’s games, Bliss’ presence offers room for further growth. She could play a role in this feud on the road to SummerSlam; now that The Fiend is free, Wyatt could use his powers in the “real world,” which could allow him to again employ her against Strowman. If nothing else, the impressive creativity surrounding Wyatt’s character remains a highlight of WWE programming.
  2. The scheduled WWE United States Championship match between Apollo Crews and MVP didn’t happen. MVP explained that Crews was unable to compete due to an injury he suffered last month, when Bobby Lashley attacked him on WWE RAW. Right away, something didn’t add up. Given the circumstances in the real world, it’s fair to doubt that Crews is legitimately injured. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time WWE has run a fake injury angle. But the whole segment felt odd, and now two of WWE RAW’s championships are shrouded in controversy.
  3. It was a small moment, but Big E’s interaction with Brother Devon on the Kickoff Show was golden. Sure, Deacon Batista didn’t work out, but can’t you just see it now? Devon and Big E preaching the power of positivity while Big E rockets his way to a world championship. No? Well, I’ll keep dreaming,.

WWE Extreme Rules did what it set out to do; it gave fans a horrifying Swamp Fight. The Eye for an Eye Match missed the mark, at least with its ending. Otherwise, some questionable creative choices lessened what could have been an enjoyable show. Solid matches sprinkled throughout the card made this a fairly enjoyable show, but it’s hard to look past some of these narrative missteps.

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