The art of professional wrestling is one of the most socially active mediums of entertainment across the world. Millions watch men and women grapple for championships, financial success, accolades, celebrity status, and supposed immortality within the squared circle. The Hype Train provides a glancing review of WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night RAW, and its latest pay-per-view offering Extreme Rules, evaluating the show itself, and then commenting on the good, the bad, and everything else in-between. All aboard.
WWE Extreme Rules Review: 04/06/2016
Kurt Angle would be proud. Well half of him would. The wrestling half (not so much the entertainment half). Every year the most 'extreme' evening of the night will actually be remembered for several encounters that embodied the more technical elements of wrestling, than the hard hitting weapon shots that put ECW on the map in the mid nineties. Kurt Angle, the RAW General Manager, has his on-screen personality valued on the quality of matches and the entertainment of each show, and for the most part, Extreme Rules was actually a very good show. Having read back through several review we've done of WWE events, aside from praising SmackDown live events, there is very little we have praised about RAW. By no means is the show where we want it to be, but the live crowd and viewers at home and abroad, should be pleasantly surprised by the show.
Paced at 2 hours and 44 minutes, Extreme Rules opened with the two RAW workshorses, Dean Ambrose and The Miz, putting on a solid opening encounter, which woke the crowd up from the get-go. The stipulation leading into the match was that Dean Ambrose could lose the Intercontinental Championship by way of Disqualification. The pair teased Miz getting himself intentionally disqualified with Maryse slapping her husband, and by exposing the turnbuckle on the camera facing side. The will he, won't he dynamic, worked for Ambrose, to a point. The only downside to the match was the referee playing god with the decision of a DQ. Openly screaming at Ambrose not to get himself DQ'd, this goes against what a referee is obliged to do - just relay what happens, instead of playing match-maker in the ring with the title holder. The Miz winning was perhaps the right decision, especially given as the pair have taken over the roles of Jericho and Owens, who had the workhorse role before, but we worry that Dean Ambrose is going to get lost in the waste-side. The Lunatic has had a very rocky road since The Shield split up, and the backslide continues for Ambrose.
The next match to bring a tear to Kurt Angle's eyes would have been the excellence in execution during the Cruiserweight Championship match. Neville stamped his long-standing authority as the be-all-and-end-all of the division with an emphatic hsubmission victory over Austin Aries. The allure of a submission match meant the pair were left jostling on the the ground, instead of soaring through the air, as advertised in the 205 Live division, and it worked. The duo have had great chemistry working together, but a refreshing thought for the future is where Neville is taking the Cruiserweight title next. There's a locker-room of fresh talent for Neville to take on next, and it could open up 205 Live and RAW to good matches in the future.
Third, and perhaps the match that fit the bill for the 'extreme' event of the year, saw Sheamus and Cesaro reclaim the Tag Team Championships from the Hardy's. Flying about the cages and using the steel to its full advantage, the 4th Steel Cage match for the Tag Titles will be one that will be fondly remembered, and not for Matt and Jeff. The newly turned heel tandem of Sheamus and Cesaro have seen their stock rise. Starting with attacking the Hardy's at Payback, and spending five weeks trying to get one over the Hardy's, the pair finally got one over the Hardy's in the most dramatic way, by literally inching their way down the steel cage as Matt dragged Jeff across the ring. The fan reaction of the foreign pairing being announced as the new champions was worth the moment. For the thousands, it was heartbreaking to see the Hardy's to lose, something that Sheamus and Cesaro can build on.
The cherry on top of the cake was of course the main event. Filled with faced paced shots, and plenty of signature moves, finishing in chaotic fashion, the WWE made the right call by having Samoa Joe prevail. It's been four months of mediocrity for Joe since debuting on the main roster, which was capped with a defeat to Seth Rollins. Joe needed the victory, and the WWE delivered when needed most. The next pay-per-view sells itself, with a dream match on the cards with Brock Lesner now waging war with another athlete who will rip the head off the champion is given a seconds notice.
Everything else at Extreme Rules? It's the WWE formula right now to have the good with the bad, and there was a huge helping of that due to Bayley's continued slide down the card. We're not surprised though, given how quickly Bayley ascended to the top of the card. Where else was she going to go after losing the belt to a deserving Bliss? Sure, the angle that she is scared of weapons is ludicrous, given that she is a wrestler and all, but if you didn't see the fall from grace for Bayley, you've been oblivious to how WWE just can't keep momentum up. She was in the wrong position at Mania, and in the wrong position now, so it's been nearly six months of mismanaging a potentially great asset for the red brand, but for now they'll have to settle for a very capable champion in Alexa Bliss.
On the whole, we usually find an edition of Monday Night RAW or an accompanying pay-per-view, almost unbearable to watch at times, but Extreme Rules overstepped very mild expectations and has set the stage for future rather well. It's still not got the momentum and hype and quality that SmackDown delivers on a weekly basis, but for once it is refreshing to see RAW's top talent deliver on the big stage.
So, what's the plan for Universal Champion, Brock Lesner?
The Beast has been absent from TV, and in truth, it's not a bad thing. The Universal Championship is a hideous looking belt, but on the back of a legitimate athlete, it has an upped value, that against Samoa Joe will create added revenue and spectacle when on television. Lesner against Joe is a dream match that Jim Cornette recently said on a Table for 3 (on the WWE Network) would be his dream Wrestlemania main event match. However, what if this is just the first of a few 'dream' encounters for Lesner, that will lead him perfectly into Wrestlemania?
Samoa Joe's victory supports the idea that Brock Lesner will use this match as a stop-gap until Summerslam, and it will have Lesner used quarterly against a top guy from RAW until he will probably drop the belt to Roman Reigns at Mania next year. The build up with Lesner will be dispatching the best in the industry, with an accompanying promo package, showing a year of dominance for Lesner. If WWE wants to keep a longevity with its most legitimate champion (potentially ever), and keep the Universal title half desirable, the only way to do it is to have the red brand continue to use Lesner sparingly, taking on opponents of choice until that day comes when he will concede the title (and yes, as previously mentioned, it will most likely be to Roman Reigns in the very distance future).
We're big fans of what is to come with Samoa Joe, with the main event match already selling the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view, so Extreme Rules was a win, if not just for what it has set up. A potential classic.
RAW Extreme Rules Results: 04/06/2016
Kickoff Show: Kalisto defeated Apollo Crews (with Titus O'Neil)
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (with Maryse) defeated Dean Ambrose (c)
Rich Swann and Sasha Banks defeated Noam Dar and Alicia Fox
WWE RAW Women's Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) defeated Bayley
WWE RAW Tag Team Championships: Cesaro and Sheamus defeated The Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy) (c) by escaping the cage
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) defeated Austin Aries via submission
Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match to determine the #1 contender for the WWE Universal Championship: Samoa Joe defeated Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor, and Bray Wyatt
Who is on the RAW Hype Train?
Sheamus and Cesaro: The newly turned heel tandem have been exceptionally good as a pairing in their feud with the Hardy's, and are well deserving of reclaiming the belts. A cage escape also helps keep the Hardy's look strong without the belts.
Titus O'Neil: The Titus Brand is particularly entertaining, with O'Neil's alignment to the charisma vacuum Apollo Crews proving a good venture to pull Crews out of his comfort zone.
Neville: The Cruiserweight Champion has had a stellar reign as champion, and put to bed a good series of matches with Austin Aries. It will be good to see where Neville goes next with the belt.
Samoa Joe: One win can turn around a career, and it's been a slow burner for Joe, who after four months on the main roster with very little to do, has had his big breakthrough.
Stray observations from Extreme Rules 2017
- Bayley has never looked weaker, an action which is a result of being pushed too early as the top baby face on RAW in the Wrestlemania period.
- There are no disqualifications for a submission match, but Aries and Neville didn't seem to understand, and nor did the referee for the match. There were ample occasions when the referee tried to disqualify, even though the only way to win is via submission.
- There's a fan in the front row who is ruining the view on each pay-per-view, with a hideous lime green shirt. Can't deny his enthusiasm for WWE live shows... But what if these guys are just plants in the crowd, hence all the cues to the crowd?
- Biggest pop of the night was the Hardy's entrance, and the dive from Jeff Hardy from the top rope. The biggest lull? When Sheamus and Cesaro were declared as the new Tag Team Champions.
- Roman Reigns destroying everyone at the end of the Universal contendership match is why a lot of hardcore fans just hates professional wrestling at times. He no sold everything as he downed Wyatt, Balor, and Rollins, as if nothing.
- Braun Strowman's presence was sorely missed at Extreme Rules.
- Finn Balor got a bigger reception at the pay-per-view, with this one off crowd providing the Irish grappler with a greater sense of importance.
- Having the Universal belt off RAW so long has actually been good, which has made Lesner's next appearance even more compelling.
- Whoever thought of the 'Great Balls of Fire' PPV name is either a genius for having Vince McMahon sign off on the event, or somebody has been fired. It's quite possible the worst event name, right out the WCW bag.
- Aries and Austin put on a clinic of grounded submission wrestling, but the crowd were dead throughout the conflict.
- The announce team introduction was given a longer billing time than Samoa Joe's entrance, the winner of the main event.
- What do you think the odds of Lesner beating all of these 'Dream' opponents, leading to a big Wrestlemania main event match?
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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015 specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), and professional Wrestling, providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, television, live music, festivals, and any relevant topic in the public eye.
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