By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Big Cass Attacked The Dudley Boyz (Kickoff Show)
You had to know Big Cass was going to be involved in the event somehow considering Newark is basically his backyard, but since this was a throwaway segment, I'm glad it was relegated to the Kickoff show. That said, The Dudley Boyz generated good heat and it served its purpose in getting Big Cass more over. I (along with everyone else in the arena) was anxiously awaiting the return of Enzo Amore, but it wasn't meant to be. Hopefully it isn't long before we see him resurface on WWE TV. By the way, why would Cass need Enzo's help if he just took out both Dudley Boyz on his own?
Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler in a No Disqualification Match (Kickoff Match)
I was initially disappointed with this match's placement on the Kickoff show when it was announced on Raw, but in retrospect, it was right where it belonged. The match wasn't bad any means, but it was fairly tame for a No Disqualification match. I guess I should have seen that coming, but a low blow and that's it? Really? On the bright side, Corbin scored the much-needed victory following his unnecessary loss to Ziggler at Payback, so hopefully he can move on to a more meaningful feud going forward.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson def. The Usos in a Tag Team Tornado Match
For a match that wasn't made official for the card until last week's SmackDown (I spoke to people that didn't even know it was on the show), this was a very good match and an entertaining opener. Granted, I expected nothing less from the two talented tag teams, but I figured the fans would grow bored of seeing them against each other seeing as how they've faced off almost every week since Gallows and Anderson debuted in WWE. They made effective use of the Tornado stipulation and I liked the clever ring bell finish. The former Bullet Club members finally scored a decisive victory, and I hate to sound pessimistic, but how long will it be before The Usos get their win back?
Rusev def. Kalisto to Win the United States Championship
The crowd sat on their hands for a majority of the match because we weren't given a reason to care about who won. The feud has been mediocre at best in recent weeks and neither guy has had much momentum. It was fine for what it was and the outcome was what it needed to be. I like Kalisto and believe he has plenty of potential as a singles wrestler, but WWE Creative has done him no favors during his second stint as champion. I'm glad Rusev is getting back on the right track to becoming a monster heel again (or at least more than an undercard competitor), but I fear they put the belt back on him solely so John Cena can beat him for it upon his return next week. Time will tell, I suppose.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day def. The Vaudevillians
The New Day were insanely over inside the arena. In other news, grass is green. In all seriousness, they have been either the most over act or close to being the most over act at every show I've attended since SummerSlam last year, and that was nine months ago! I'm impressed with how they've managed to maintain their popularity, and therefore, there was no reason to take the titles off them here. They contested a well-wrestled match with The Vaudevillians, though I had my guard up for a title change because Xavier Woods wrestled. Usually when that happens, they lose, and that one nearfall with The Vaudevillians hitting their finisher on Woods for a two count was extremely well done. Everyone in attendance thought they had the match won, especially since I don't think anyone has ever kicked out of the Rolling Dervish before. Is this where The Vaudevillians peak? I'd assume so, and I look forward to New Day facing Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson for the titles sometime soon if not at the next pay-per-view.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens in a Fatal 4-Way Match
Hot damn! I've been saying for weeks that this was the match I was most looking forward to at Extreme Rules and that it would undoubtedly steal the show. Looks like I was right after all. The video package that aired ahead of the bout was wonderful and really made the title feel like the most prestigious prize in the company. The in-ring action was absolutely exceptional and everyone involved deserves credit for this bout being as amazing as it was. There were at least five or six points I thought the match was over, showing the suspense of each of the nearfalls. The "this is awesome" chants seemed to be never-ending, either, and the energy in the arena during this match was palpable. As for Miz retaining, I had no issue with it whatsoever. I realize I'm in the minority as a Miz fan, but I enjoy the other three guys just as much, and from a booking standpoint, it's brilliant. He's being doing the best work of his career lately as champion, so why cut that short? Keep the strap on him a little while longer so when someone ultimately beats him for it, it will mean more.
Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match
Needless to say, this was the most polarizing match of the night, which I didn't notice until I went on social media after the show to see what other people thought about it. I'll give you the on-site perspective: the crowd was bored for the first half and that wasn't too surprising. There wasn't anything exciting about Ambrose and Jericho pulling down the various "weapons" and doing nothing with them, but was the intent ever for it to be exciting? I, personally, thought it told a solid story, but I understand people's criticism regarding the match being too long. It definitely didn't need to last nearly 26 minutes. At least they picked up the pace down the stretch and delivered a strong performance in the final ten minutes. I'm traditionally not a fan of thumbtack spots (TNA does it to death in their Monster's Ball matches), but I couldn't tell you the last time it happened in WWE. Plus, the crowd popped huge for it, so I can't complain. I'm happy Ambrose scored two back-to-back victories over Jericho and comes out of this feud better than when it started. However, I'm ready for both guys to embark on to fresh feuds. Is a Money in the Bank win in Ambrose's immediate future?
WWE Women's Champion Charlotte def. Natalya in a Submission Match
One of the major reasons why the Asylum match died a death was because it couldn't come close to the Fatal 4-Way match that preceded it. I respect WWE's decision to put the women's match on second to last to make it a bigger deal, but the crowd was going to be dead for this anyway, so I would have switched this with the Asylum match. Either way, it was a decent match, but we've seen it too many times over the years, so it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Dana Brooke interfering dressed as Ric Flair to distract Natalya and aid Charlotte to victory was a bit overbooked, but I didn't mind it too much because it kept the belt on Charlotte. I like Brooke joining the Flair entourage (can they be called the Blonde-tourage collectively?) because she's far better with a partner (such as Emma who is now injured) than she is on her own, and it adds an extra element to Charlotte's evolving act.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns def. AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules Match
Behind the Fatal 4-Way, this was unquestionably the second best bout of the night. I'd say it was better than their Payback encounter because this was a straightforward Extreme Rules match without all the overbooking we witnessed the first time they clashed. Yes, The Usos and Anderson and Gallows got involved at the end, but that was pretty predictable and I would have been shocked if they didn't. Reigns and Styles have awesome chemistry together and Styles bumped like a madman for The Big Dog. He looked like he nearly killed himself (okay, I'm exaggerating but you get my point) on a few of those table spots. We may have chanted "You still suck" at Reigns (for me, it was because it was funny and his heat was off the charts), but you have to give him props; he constantly has above-average high profile matches and that's been the case for over a year. Did Styles "carry" him? Maybe a little, but Reigns has improved immensely and I wish people would recognize that. At any rate, fans were deflated by the finish with Reigns winning clean, again. Some fans were disappointed Reigns retained, but I think it was more a matter of waiting for something big to happen (i.e. a Finn Balor appearance, etc). Thankfully, we did get that in the form of Seth Rollins making his highly anticipated and rumored return moments after the main event, laying out Reigns with a Pedigree and raising the title high above his head. One of the loudest reactions I've ever heard live for sure. If a double turn isn't in the cards, then I'm convinced WWE has zero clue what they're doing and/or the people in charge are deaf. It was a hell of a way to go off the show and make up for Styles losing in the fashion he did.
I realize this may not be saying much, but in my opinion, this was WWE's best pay-per-view outing to date. My view is obviously skewed because I was there, but look back at the past five shows. Only Royal Rumble comes close as Fastlane was forgettable and mostly meaningless, WrestleMania 32 was a blast yet did nothing to set in motion future storylines (the post-WrestleMania Raw accomplished that), and Payback was enjoyable but buitd toward this show. Furthermore, I haven't seen anyone else say this, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of McMahons at the event, and honestly, that was part of what made this a successful show for me; they didn't overshadow anything. The main event and the Fatal 4-Way were the only matches that truly stood out, but the rest of the card was good and the right people went over for the most part. Oh, and Seth freakin' Rollins! I don't know if he saved the show, but he certainly boosted my overall rating of it and I'm even more excited for the upcoming Raw as a result. It was a very fun experience to be there live, and moreover than anything else, this show kicked off what should be a stellar summer season for WWE.