Friday, June 30, 2017

WWE Extreme Rules 2016 Review

AJ Styles goes to war with Roman Reigns, while The Miz defends his Intercontinental Title in an insane Fatal Four-Way!!

WWE Extreme Rules 2016
Newark, New Jersey 5/22/16

Kickoff Show

Before we got to our first match of the evening, we got an in-ring segment with The Dudley Boyz. They talked about how they’re more extreme than anyone in the locker room (including the stars of the “New Era”), and then they proceeded to run down New Jersey. Of course, this brought out Big Cass (Enzo Amore was still out of action at this point). He made fun of The Dudley Boyz, and said the stars of “New Era” could do what The Dudley Boyz did in ECW, but better. This led to a brawl where Big Cass eventually stood tall, sending The Dudley Boys packing.

1.) No DQ Match - Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: **1/2

So these two have seeming become the new rulers of the Kickoff Show. Ziggler snuck away with the victory on the Payback Kickoff Show a few weeks prior, and since then, their feud continued, leading to this No DQ Match. I thought this was marginally better than their previous encounter. While the action as fine, they really made poor use of the stipulation. No weapons of any kind were used, and it seemed like the only reason this was a No DQ Match at all was so that Corbin could hit a low blow on Ziggler, which was immediately followed by End Of Days from “The Lone Wolf” for the victory. Again, this was ok, but they didn’t come close to living up to the stipulation.


1.) Tornado Tag Team Match - Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. The Usos: ***

After being The Bullet Club’s primary heavyweight tag team for a good two years in New Japan, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows made their way to WWE, and immediately made The Usos their first target. I thought it was pretty cool that this essentially served as a proxy for the main event, as Anderson & Gallows backed their Bullet Club stablemate AJ Styles, while The Usos are supporting their fellow family member in Roman Reigns. I thought this was a fine opening contest. The stipulation certainly made it a bit more entertaining to watch compared to a normal tag team match. It was by no means spectacular, and it could’ve been a little better, but it was fine for what it was. Anderson & Gallows would pick up the victory after hitting The Magic Killer.

2.) WWE United States Title - Rusev (with Lana) vs. Kalisto: ***1/4

The League Of Nations dissolved shortly after WrestleMania 32, which meant that Rusev was back on his own. That was probably for the best, as Rusev is so much better in a singles environment with Lana by his side. Here, he’s challenging Kalisto for the United States Title. It’s nice to see Kalisto FINALLY get back on a PPV card after being on the Kickoff Show with Ryback on the previous two shows. I thought this was a pretty solid undercard title bout. It didn’t go too long (it was just under ten minutes), but they packed a fair amount of action in that time. Plus. they both played their respective roles well, which helped make this fun to watch. The crowd wasn’t really reacting to this one, which is a shame, because this could’ve been even better if the crowd was more invested. Kalisto gave it his best effort, but “The Bulgarian Brute” was just too much, and Rusev eventually got the win after locking in The Accolade and bending all the way back on it. That looked brutal. After seemingly messing up Rusev for almost a year, WWE turned back the clock to early 2015 with Rusev as the United States Champion. It was the right move, and it was great to see Rusev & Lana back in this position.

3.) WWE Tag Team Titles - The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods with Kofi Kingston) vs. The Vaudevillains: **3/4

The New Day cut their usual promo as they made their way down to the ring. I don’t recall exactly how the situation with Payback was resolved, but The Vaudevillains ended up with this title shot against The New Day, who were being represented here by the combination of Big E & Xavier Woods with Kofi Kingston in their corner. This was a fine tag team encounter, but it was largely a forgettable one. There was some decent action throughout, and they were a few moments where it looked like The Vaudevillains might get the titles, but ultimately, The New Day retained after some involvement from Kofi Kingston. Again, this was a perfectly acceptable tag team bout, but it wasn’t that memorable. It’s the kind of match that you forget about shortly after it happened.

4.) WWE Intercontinental Title - Fatal Four-Way Match - The Miz (with Maryse) vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: ****1/2

This turned into a four-way feud over the Intercontinental Title after Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn inadvertently got involved in a title bout between The Miz & Cesaro. I think most people figured this would be very good (considering who was involved), but it’s fair to say that this match blew away all expectations. This was absolutely awesome!! There was some amazing action and incredible sequences throughout this one (particularly between Cesaro, Owens, & Zayn), and there was never really a dull moment. They also managed to involve a few stories in this one as well. Not only did this continue the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn rivalry, but they told a good story with The Miz nearly sneaking away with the title on a few occasions. He played the role of the heel opportunist, and that eventually paid off for him, as he took advantage of Owens & Zayn fighting each other to pin Cesaro to retain his title. It’s impossible to recap everything that happened here, because there were so many cool things in this match. Everyone involved put forth an incredible effort, and it really showed. The crowd loved this as well, and that just made the match even better. If you haven’t seen this before, you need to go out of your way to check it out. This was easily one of the best WWE main roster matches of 2016, though it would unfortunately be overshadowed by the main event.

5.) Asylum Match - Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho: *

Chris Jericho changed up his attire for this one, opting for jeans instead of tights. Following Payback, the feud between these two escalated, which led to the first-ever Asylum Match (the brainchild, in storyline, of Dean Ambrose). It’s essentially a Steel Cage Match, but with a bunch of weapons hanging a couple of feet above the top of the cage. This was certainly an odd stipulation, but I was willing to give it change. Well, what we got was a dreadfully boring match that was one of the worst WWE PPV bouts of the year. What made it so hard to watch was the length. The action wasn’t totally bad, but the problem was that this just kept going….and going….and going. In total, this match went twenty-six minutes, which was entirely too long. An assortment of weapons were used here, ranging from a barbed wire 2x4, a straightjacket, a mop, a kendo stick, nunchucks, a fire extinguisher, and even a potted plant. It was just an odd assortment of weapons. The crowd didn’t care at all, and the fact this went so long made it incredibly boring to watch. The only time the fans reacted was when thumbtacks became involved. The last minute or two was the best part of this whole thing, as Jericho got dropped onto the thumbtacks, and Ambrose got the win shortly thereafter. Aside from the final moments at the very end, this was terrible. It was entirely too long, and incredibly boring.

6.) WWE Women’s Title - Submission Match - Charlotte vs. Natalya: **1/2

Ric Flair is banned from ringside for this one. If he were to get physically involved, then Charlotte would automatically lose her title. They also made sure to get a referee other than Charles Robinson to be sure that there was no bias from the referee. You know, it’s really sad to see the diminishing returns when it comes to matches involving these two. Their famous match from the first NXT TakeOver in May 2014 was arguably the match that kicked off the rise of the women’s division in NXT, and eventually the main roster. Since then, their matches on the main roster on major shows slowly decreased in quality, through no fault of their own. Here, they were having a fine, back & forth bout, but then (because this is WWE) we got a distraction finish….in a Submission Match. Ric Flair’s music hit, and it looked like it might be “The Nature Boy”, but it was just Dana Brooke in disguise. This distraction was enough for Charlotte to get the submission victory. What an absolutely lame finish.

7.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Extreme Rules Match - Roman Reigns vs. “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles: ****3/4

I mentioned in my review of Payback that these two could’ve had an even better match than they ended up having without all of the shenanigans. Well, they certainly proved that here. We knew they could have a great match, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this to be as awesome as it ended up being. This was simply a spectacular match that was easily a MOTYC in WWE for 2016. From start to finish, this was filled with incredible action, insane spots, and emotional moments, with Styles nearly winning the title on multiple occasions. Some of the crazy spots in this one included Reigns giving Styles a back drop from one announce table through another, Styles getting powerbombed through another announce table, and Styles hitting Reigns with the Styles Clash on a steel chair. Of course, The Club (Anderson & Gallows) and The Usos got involved, but that was expected. This time around, I don't think their involvement really hurt the match too much. In fact, it might've added to it a bit. The action in this one was certainly amazing, but this was fantastic on an emotional level as well. There were so many close near-falls, and the crowd was really invested. A hot crowd can add so much to a match, and that was definitely the case here. As for the performers themselves, Roman Reigns (again, to his credit) did a great job, but once again, AJ Styles proved why he is quite possibly the best wrestler on the planet. He's a phenomenal performer (no pun intended). Styles is great at everything he does in the ring, from his selling, to his moves, to athletic ability, to being a master at getting a crowd emotionally invested in a match. When it comes to big match situations, you know that Styles is going to deliver every single time, and it's going to be memorable. Styles put forth an amazing effort here, but ultimately, he fell to Roman Reigns, who pinned him after spearing Styles out of midair. This was a fantastic main event, and as I mentioned earlier, one of the best WWE matches of 2016.

Roman Reigns was celebrating after the match, but then the crowd erupted as Seth Rollins made his return, and hit the WWE World Heavyweight Champion with a pedigree in the middle of the ring. Rollins stood tall as the show went off the air.

Overall: 8.0/10

I would say that this was slightly better than Payback from a few weeks prior, which might be a weird thing to say, considering that two of the best WWE matches of 2016 took place on this show. Yes, Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles and the Fatal Four-Way Match for the Intercontinental Title were both incredible matches, but at the same time, there wasn't anything else noteworthy on this card. The rest of the undercard had a mix of matches that ranged from solid to average, with one match in particular (The Asylum Match) being really bad. Payback didn't have the spectacular bouts that this show did, but as a whole it was definitely more consistent. If you take out the two MOTYC, it's clear to see that this show would suffer tremendously. Also, you had the return of Seth Rollins, which certainly ended the show on a high note. As a whole, the 2016 edition of Extreme Rules was a rollercoaster ride that featured two tremendous matches and a surprise return, which really helped make it memorable.

WWE Payback 2016 Review

AJ Styles challenges Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Title!

WWE Payback 2016
Chicago, Illinois 5/1/16

Kickoff Show

1.) Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: **1/4

So we have not one, but TWO matches here on the Kickoff Show! I guess that’s what happens when there’s a big segment with the McMahon Family on the PPV. Anyway, Corbin is coming off his victory in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, which was his debut on the main roster. He then started having a feud with Dolph Ziggler, which has led us to this match. I thought it was ok. It can be argued that Corbin was brought up from NXT too soon, but at least he’s started off wrestling a good worker like Ziggler. Corbin got in a fair amount of offense, but in the end, Ziggler rolled him up for the win. Not the best start for Corbin on the main roster. It seemed like they were telling the story of Corbin’s overconfidence leading to his downfall, but the finish still came off as pretty weak. I don’t think it made either guy look particularly good.

2.) WWE United States Title - Kalisto vs. Ryback: ***1/2

Since they were in Chicago for this PPV, “The Big Guy” decided to take a shot at CM Punk (who had taken shots at him in the past). During his entrance, Ryback did CM Punk’s signature “check the watch”/“It’s Clobbering Time!” bit, and also had “The Pre-Show Stopper” written on the weight belt that he wears. These two actually met during the Kickoff Show on WrestleMania 32 a month prior, and had a pretty fun match. Here, they managed to top themselves, and put together a really good title bout. It was by no means smooth, but there was plenty of action from start to finish, and they once again told the “big guy vs. little guy” story well. There was one particular spot that could’ve gone badly for Kalisto, as he came up short on a dive to the outside and almost landed badly on the ring apron. Fortunately, the spot didn’t look that bad, and Kalisto came out of it in once piece. Speaking of Kalisto, he eventually got the win to retain his title after hitting Ryback with Salida del Sol. Again, this was very good. It could’ve easily been on the main PPV card.


1.) #1 Contender’s Match - Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains: N/R

This was the finals of a Tag Team #1 Contender’s Tournament. The winner would get a future shot at the WWE Tag Team Titles against The New Day, who were at ringside eating snacks during this one. Unfortunately, this match had an abrupt and unfortunate finish. A couple of minutes in, Enzo Amore got whipped into the ropes in a very awkward manner, as his head slammed into the middle rope before falling to the floor. He appeared to be completely knocked out, and the match was soon stopped as the medical team came out to attend to him. Enzo was taken out on a stretcher, and I believe he was later diagnosed with a concussion. It definitely looked scary, as Enzo was motionless on the floor for a bit. Fortunately, he was able to make a full recovery, and returned to the ring a month or so later.

2.) Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: ****1/4

What happened in the opener was a very scary situation, and these two were put in a very tough situation by having to follow what just happened. Luckily, if there was any combination that could bring back the crowd, it was this one. I thought this was a fantastic match! It was easily the best match of the night. It’s been so cool to see the story between these two progress through so many different promotions. From the independents (mainly ROH & PWG) to NXT to the main roster of WWE, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn always deliver when the face each other, and this was no exception. This had everything from emotional moments (which fit into the larger context of their storied history) along with some great action from start to finish. You can never go wrong with these guys in a singles match, and they certainly delivered here. The crowd wasn’t as lively as they could’ve been (which is understable, after what happened in the opener), but they were into it by the end. Owens would eventually get the win with his Pop-Up Powerbomb.

After the match, Owens tossed Zayn aside, and demanded that Byron Saxton interview him. He essentially tried to force the interview along, but Saxton was having none of it. Owens said that he beat Zayn just like he promised, and now he was going to focus on the Intercontinental Title. He then joined the commentary team for the next match, which was for that very title he just mentioned.

3.) WWE Intercontinental Title - The Miz (with Maryse) vs. Cesaro: ***1/2

So there’s been a lot going on with the Intercontinental Title in the last month or so. Zack Ryder won the title in a multi-person Ladder Match at WrestleMania 32, but lost it the next night on RAW to The Miz, who now has his wife Maryse (who had been away from WWE for a few years) with him. He’s defending his title against Cesaro here, and it ended up being a pretty good match. Cesaro was (of course) awesome, but The Miz did a fine job as well. While it was a tad slow in the beginning, it certainly picked up in the closing stages. Towards the end, Sami Zayn returned and attacked Kevin Owens (who was on commentary). The two then brawled on the apron, and this distracted Cesaro long enough for The Miz to roll him up for the win to retain his title. Cesaro was on his way to winning the match, and the Intercontinental Title, before the Owens/Zayn brawl occurred. I actually really liked the finish (and the post-match stuff, which I’ll get to in a second), as they seamlessly inserted Owens & Zayn into the Intercontinental Title picture. It also put The Miz over as heel while also protecting Cesaro a little bit.

After the match ended, Cesaro hit The Miz with The Neutralizer. Kevin Owens then took out Cesaro & Sami Zayn. It looked like that The Miz was going to be next, but Maryse pulled him to safety. Owens then posed with the Intercontinental Title.

4.) Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho: ***1/2

If I recall correctly, these two started feuding after Dean Ambrose replaced Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel with The Ambrose Asylum, per orders from Shane McMahon. This match didn’t get off to the best of starts. The first several minutes were relatively average, and the crowd in Chicago seemed to be pretty lukewarm on it. However, things picked up a fair amount in the second-half, and it ended up being a very solid match as a whole. The turning point occurred during a brawl on the outside, when Jericho tossed Ambrose over the barricade from the German announce table. From there, the match definitely got better, and Ambrose got the win after hitting Dirty Deeds. They definitely could’ve shaved a few minutes off of this, but it was still pretty good.

5.) WWE Women’s Title - Charlotte (with Ric Flair) vs. Natalya (with Bret “The Hitman” Hart): ***

Here we have a rematch from the first NXT TakeOver in May 2014, where Charlotte defeated Natalya in a classic match to win the vacant NXT Women’s Title. Ric Flair & Bret Hart were in the corners of their respective family members for that encounter, and they’re back again for this one. Unfortunately, this was nowhere near as good as that aforementioned encounter from two years prior. It wasn’t even as good as their match from a few months prior at Roadblock. The match got off to solid start, and it seemed like it was going along well. They were telling a fine story with Charlotte working over one of Natalya’s legs, and the crowd seemed to be into it. However, there were a few rough spots in the final minutes, and then we had the finish. What we got was essentially a rehash of The Montreal Screwjob for (seemingly) the 1000th time. Natalya had Charlotte in the Sharpshooter, but then Charlotte locked in a Sharpshooter on Natalya. The referee (Charles Robinson aka “Little Naitch”) then called for the bell, even though Natalya never submitted, and awarded the win to Charlotte. That was just an awful finish that induced so many groans and eyerolls. The fact that Bret Hart was there at ringside made ever more cringeworthy. Charlotte & Natalya are capable of so much better, but the finish really hampered them.

After the match, Bret Hart & Natalya would get a measure of revenge when they locked in Sharpshooters on both Ric Flair & Charlotte.

Before the main event, we got an in-ring segment involving Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, & Stephanie McMahon. Back at WrestleMania 32, Shane lost to The Undertaker inside Hell In A Cell. Had Shane won, he would’ve gained control of RAW. What happened the next night? Well, Shane asked his father if he could run RAW for the night, and Vince….agreed. This led to Shane running RAW for a few more weeks after “overwhelming fan support”. Stephanie then came back into the picture, and that raised the question of who would run RAW. The two McMahon siblings stated their cases for running RAW, and Vince’s response was that all of this is really about what he wants (isn’t that right?). He would love to see them “disembowel” each other, but he would also love to see them succeed together. Vince then declared that both Shane & Stephanie would run RAW together, and told them to figure things out themselves. All of this would eventually lead to the 2nd Brand Split a few months later.

6.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Roman Reigns vs. “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles: ***3/4

So after losing to Chris Jericho in his WrestleMania debut, AJ Styles won a Fatal Four-Way Match on RAW the night after to earn a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Shortly thereafter, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (stablemates with AJ Styles in The Bullet Club over in New Japan) made their debut as a team on the main roster. Almost immediately, speculation began with regards to whether Anderson & Gallows would try to help AJ Styles win the WWE World Heavyweight Title. At the time, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but it ended up being a really good match. It could’ve been even better, but we got a ton of shenanigans involved The McMahons. First, the match ended in a count out, and Shane McMahon restarted the match with No Count Outs. Then, the match ended in a DQ and Stephanie McMahon restarted the match with No Disqualifications. This brought out Anderson & Gallows, who tried to help Styles, but they ended up brawling with The Usos (who they had attacked in their debut). Eventually, Reigns managed to put away AJ Styles to retain. These two managed to overcome all of the shenanigans involved with this one. I would say that most of the credit for that would go to AJ Styles, though Reigns (to his credit) did a solid job here as well. If Styles wasn’t involved, I’m certain this would’ve completely fallen apart, and that just speaks to how good he really is. They definitely could’ve done better (as their rematch the next month showed), but for what this was, it still managed to be an entertaining main event filled with some very good action, particularly in the closing stages.

Overall: 7.75/10

As a whole, this was a pretty solid PPV from WWE. Aside from the freak accident involving Enzo Amore, there was a lot to like here. Kalisto & Ryback had a really good match for the United States Title on the Kickoff Show, and the majority of the undercard was very solid (with Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn easily taking Match of the Night honors). The final two matches were good, to varying degrees, but both were hampered by some poor booking. AJ Styles & Roman Reigns were able to overcome the booking in their match, but Charlotte & Natalya had absolutely no chance with another rehash of The Montreal Screwjob. We did have a lengthy segment involving the McMahon Family, but hey, it’s WWE. Are we really surprised? Anyway, the only match on the entire card that was close to being bad was Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler (and even that was still ok). The rest of the show featured matches that ranged from good to great. It definitely could’ve been better, but in general, it was still a fine PPV outing from WWE.