Of course the easy dig at anything the WWE calls “Extreme” these days would be to say that Extreme Rules 2018 could only ever be the “PG” (sanitised) version of what wrestling fans could consider to be “Extreme”. More so than ever this year however, the Extreme Rules moniker seemed a misnomer.
A steel cage match, an iron man match and a match that they merely called an “Extreme Rules” match was all that was gimmicked on the main card (plus a Tables match on the kick off show). I may complain about overkill from time to time on these “themed” shows, but that was hardly the promise of an anarchic night of over the top brutal action was it?
The Iron Man match headlined things on the night. There was high hopes for a thirty minute match between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins and finally the WWE were giving the fans what they apparently wanted…even if only by omission of NOT having Roman Reigns in the main event. Sadly the match was neither great, nor well received. Fans didn’t even give it a chance, with inane chanting in an attempt to, well, amuse themselves. As I say the match was decent, rather than great, and the ending was a huge anti-climax but at times “fans” really don’t help themselves. If there was one time to get behind WHATEVER was happening in the ring, this might well have been it. But as someone who simply wouldn’t pay his hard-earned cash to go and watch a show with the mindset I was going to hate it, what would I know?
The Steel Cage match between Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman seemed to exist purely for the tribute to Mick Foley that finished it when Braun threw Owens from the top of the stage through the ringside tables. It was one hell of a bump but it was ultimately meaningless. I have said in the past that a full-time member of the roster who could actually benefit from doing some insane stunts was a better way to go on big shows than having Shane McMahon coming in for one night, being allowed to do something daft that no-one else is allowed to and then no-selling any effects two days later on Smackdown. Obviously I was wrong. People certainly won’t be talking about this match in twenty years time.
Still, it was much better than the Raw Women’s Title match. Maybe gimmick matches of this nature simply aren’t Alexa Bliss’ thing. (See, my defence of her doesn’t hide away from her faults). Maybe it was just that the whole thing revolved around Ronda Rousey whose appearance at ringside was intended to overshadow anything else that was going on.
The only match on the undercard that really salvaged any quality was the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Rusev. Although it would have been an upset of Jinder Mahal proportions for Rusev to win and walk away with the title this was still a dramatic and heated match which proved both that Styles is the best wrestler in the WWE (with a Randy Savage-esqe ability to put on great matches with opponents of any style) and that Rusev deserves much more than the relative punishment he gets for having the temerity to get himself over when he shouldn’t have. A hard-hitting, back and forth affair that even protected the loser with the exposed turnbuckle twist, even if that all became somewhat irrelevant when we realised after the show that this was clearly a one-off for the Bulgarian Brute.
Lashley and Roman Reigns, in a mid-card spot, certainly made the effort and the mildly shocking win for Lashley should have been a moment to savour. But with a combination of his return being shockingly handled (the idea that he’s been punished for the way he left the WWE all those years ago sticks firmly out) and that fact that the win here was rendered meaningless a couple of weeks later on TV this was merely a decent match, with ultimately no repeat viewing meaning.
The other undercard title matches were distinctly average. Again, a mildly surprising win for the The B Team in the Raw Tag Team Championship match over Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt was tempered by the fact that very little had been done to prepare the challengers for the accolade. It’s one of the frustrating anomalies in the WWE Universe. They condition us to the idea that wins and losses don’t really matter…but then expect a team or individual to be accepted as worthy champions as a result of a couple of arbitrary wins in the weeks leading up to their coronation (see Jinder Mahal).
Mind you that match was a million miles above the Smackdown Women’s Title and the United States Title matches. No-one is pretending Carmella is up there with Manami Toyota for in-ring ability but saddling her with the “Ellsworth in a Cage” gimmick here but then spending all the match with him trying to get out of it and cheat on her behalf did no-one any favours. Least of all challenger Asuka, who now has irretrievably had her aura stripped away. Sure, the WWE will push her towards a title again (and she may even win) but the magic has gone. Perhaps in the same way that Shinsuke Nakamura’s has evaporated. Quite what a seven second win over Jeff Hardy achieved is open to question, especially when Hardy didn’t really disappear afterwards (most presumed he was banged up and couldn’t wrestle a longer match) and when it was followed by Randy Orton’s irrelevant return post-match. People will tell me this “new” dangerous Orton is a welcome return; all I see is the same coasting talent doing the bare minimum he’s been for years.
The Smackdown Tag Team titles match had heat, largely thanks to the presence of Daniel Bryan. Whilst you may be cynical about the reasoning, I actually don’t mind that Bryan’s comeback hasn’t seen him straight away thrust into rolling off the dozen (or more) dream match scenarios you could pit him in. But pretending that the reuniting of Team Hell No here was anything other than a cheap shot of nostalgia simply won’t cut it. The undercard was rounded off by a passable Finn Balor / Baron Corbin match that no-one really wanted to see.
The extras add the two kickoff matches. Andrade Almas against Sin Cara is decent enough but NXT fans will have seen a lot better from Almas. The Tables match between Sanity and the New Day is fun but nothing more. We also get a couple of Raw/Smackdown segments and a Raw match between Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens.
If fans considered that the return to dual brand PPV’s would ramp up the quality, evidence so far has shown that not to be the case. Whilst an improvement on the pedestrian Backlash, Extreme Rules failed to sparkle and whilst it has it’s moments, they are too few and far between to put this fully into thumbs up territory.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Extreme Rules 2018 which is out on DVD Monday 3 September. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here