Andrade "Cien" Almas def. Sin Cara (Kickoff Match)
These two had a fairly fun match on Tuesday's SmackDown Live, so I was happy with the rematch happening on the Extreme Rules Kickoff show, if only because if gave Almas more exposure. Granted, it was hardly a full arena by the time the matchup started, but the crowd came alive for the big spots and it was another nice encounter between them on the whole. Sure, Almas shouldn't have needed Zelina Vega to win, but it put more heat on him and cheating is what heels do, so it didn't bother me too much.
SAnitY def. The New Day (Tables Kickoff Match)
I'm not a fan of how this feud just started and already we're getting a gimmick match with them, but then again, it's that time of the year where every match on the show has to have some sort of stipulation (even though that wasn't the case with some of the other matches on this card, but whatever). At any rate, the six Superstars made the most of the time they were given by putting together a very enjoyable Tables matchup that had just enough suspenseful "nearfalls" to keep the crowd engaged. The finish was what it needed to be, but we'll see whether WWE allows SAnitY to maintain momentum coming out of this or if they will lose their next televised match on SmackDown.
The B-Team def. "Woken" Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt to Win the Raw Tag Team Championship
It was wise to position this as the opener for the event since I don't think the audience in attendance would have reacted at all if it took place later in the night. At least there were dueling chants for The B-Team at one point. Other than that, this was largely a formulaic tag team affair that had no crowd heat until the last minute or so. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas capturing the tag titles genuinely shocked me, and while I would have kept the straps on Hardy and Wyatt, the Raw tag team division couldn't be in any worse of a state at the moment. Maybe The Deleters of Worlds will get the belts back on Monday's Raw?
Finn Balor def. Baron Corbin
With nothing on the line and this feud being as lifeless as it has been, there was zero reason for anyone to care about this contest. It was well-wrestled, but beyond that, the crowd was flat for it and I don't blame them in the slightest because it didn't matter who won. In the end, Balor was the better choice because Constable Corbin does nothing for me, but I doubt this victory will launch him up the card where he belongs. Considering Corbin was beat by a roll-up, I wouldn't be surprised to see this feud continue, unfortunately.
SmackDown Women's Champion Caremlla def. Asuka (James Ellsworth Was Locked in a Shark Cage)
Man, and I thought their match at Money in the Bank sucked. This was absolutely awful. WWE has done the shark cage gimmick to death over the past two years and it wasn't any less stupid here with Ellsworth interfering in the outing at various points and basically rendering the cage pointless. Even without all the shenanigans, the matchup itself was just plain bad and the finish made Asuka look foolish for the second straight pay-per-view. Remember when she was an undefeated badass for almost three years? On the bright side, this should allow Becky Lynch to take the title from her at SummerSlam, or so I hope.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Jeff Hardy to Win the United States Championship
This was one of the few matches on this show I was actually looking forward to because how well they worked together the last time they clashed. Well, I can't say anything about the match because it lasted all of five seconds with Nakamura low-blowing Hardy before the bout and then immediately hitting him with his finisher as soon as the bell rang. Perhaps Hardy is more banged up than was originally rumored and he couldn't work a full-length match, but if nothing else, Nakamura is finally a champion in WWE after failing to clinch the WWE Championship so many times between 2017 and 2018. Plus, Randy Orton resurfaced afterward (did anyone honestly realize he was gone?) and seemingly turned heel by attacking Hardy. Color me intrigued.
Kevin Owens def. Braun Strowman in a Steel Cage Match
The entire feud between Strowman and Owens has been built around comedy, which is the last thing the Raw brand needs right now, but at least Owens has been entertaining throughout and that was once again the case here. Granted, it was fairly forgettable as a match, but Owens was the MVP by selling how scared he was of Strowman and then taking that insane bump off the top of the cage and through the commentators' table. I'm interested to see if he'll be on Raw to gloat about the victory or he'll be kept off programming for a few weeks to play up how hurt he is.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bludgeon Brothers def. Team Hell No
Anyone who was excited for a full-on Team Hell No reunion against The Bludgeon Brothers must have been slightly disappointed given Kane was only around for a few minutes before the finish, but I wasn't too bothered by it. Bryan is better when he has the odds stacked against him, so I was fine with the Handicap match format early on because the crowd was behind Bryan, anyway. Although it was a good matchup with a logical layout, it wasn't anything worth writing home about. Please let Team Hell No losing mean that this was a one-and-done type deal and Bryan can return to singles competition.
Bobby Lashley def. Roman Reigns
I was fearful coming into this contest that it would be a massive dud, but both men put forth an excellent effort even though not everything they did was super smooth. The crowd reaction was underwhelming for the first half, but they picked up the pace a bit down the stretch and the clean win for Lashley was what really made this worthwhile. Reigns winning would have accomplished virtually nothing, whereas Lashley reigning supreme firmly places him in contention for the Universal Championship and establishes him as a top player on Raw.
Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss def. Nia Jax in an Extreme Rules Match
As one of the night's sole stipulation matches, this was less "extreme" and more overbooked than anything. It didn't last long and that might have been for the better because Bliss and Jax have never had the strongest chemistry. I was hoping the incorporation of the weapons would help them, but sadly not. Ronda Rousey was beloved by the fans, though, and the part she played in this bout clearly served as a preview of what to expect from her and Bliss at SummerSlam when they likely do battle for the Raw Women's Championship.
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. Rusev
With this being Rusev's first ever one-on-one opportunity at the WWE Championship, this was his chance to prove he could hang with an elite wrestler such as Styles and I'd certainly say he passed with flying colors. Rusev wasn't considered a heavy favorite to win despite being built up as a formidable threat in recent weeks, but the crowd bought into some of his nearfalls nevertheless and he had a solid performance in defeat. Aiden English exposed the turnbuckle post that ultimately cost Rusev the victory, so it'd be a shame if that led to the two breaking up in the near future.
Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler def. Seth Rollins in a 30-Minute Iron Man Match
It was cool that the Intercontinental Championship headlined a WWE pay-per-view for the first time in many years, making the title feel even more important in the process. I had high hopes for this matchup given the stipulation and the competitors involved, and while it was the Match of the Night, the first half was horribly executed. Seven falls in 15 minutes was ridiculous since their last match against each other went nearly 30 minutes with no falls, so why would this be any different? They lost the crowd due to that and they chanted for the damn time clock to keep themselves awake. That was a letdown, but at least they got them back by the end. The screwy finish protected Rollins in defeat I suppose, but I'm more curious what's next for Rollins if the plan isn't to put him in the Universal title picture heading into SummerSlam.
If it wasn't already apparent, the Extreme Rules pay-per-view gimmick needs to be abolished because it doesn't have the same appeal it did years ago. When less than half of the matchups on the card are "extreme," it doesn't pack as much of a punch, especially when the rules are being broken, regardless. Many of the matches on this show featured fluky finishes, which completely defeated the purpose of the pay-per-view. The last two matches were above-average, and Reigns vs. Lashley managed to exceed expectations, but beyond that, this was an extremely mediocre (see what I did there?) event. It baffles me that with such a stacked roster WWE can't produce a string of quality shows, usually allowing their bad booking habits to get in the way of what could have been something so much more.