Friday, 10 June 2016

Catch-Up: WWE Extreme Rules

As we continue our marathon catch-up session we’ve finally entered WWE territory as we find out how A.J. Styles got on against Roman Reigns in the main event of Extreme Rules, shown recently on Sky Box Office here in Britain.

The show began with tag team action, with the Usos taking on Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows in a tornado match.

I think fast and furious would be the best way to describe this particular encounter. Normally when I review a tag match I make mention of the all hell breaking loose segment, but in a tornado match that segment begins as soon as the bell sounds.

This is the first time I’ve managed to get a good look at The (Bullet) Club boys as a unit, and they impressed the hell out of me, and judging by the way the fans cheered everything they did I wasn’t the only one. It seems that the Usos, just by being in the ring with them, were the default heels in this one.

So with a ton of fast-paced moves it was kind of difficult to pick out a favourite, but the moment when Gallows tried to bring the ring bell into the equation was more or less the beginning of the end for the Usos. Having thwarted the big man’s attempt to use the item as a weapon Jimmy went up top in preparation for the superfly splash. The only problem was that by the time he hit Gallows had moved out of the way and Jimmy had crashed into the ring bell. The newcomers then quickly seized their opportunity as they took their man down with the legend killer for the winning pin. Impressive stuff.

The first title match of the evening saw Lana guy Rusev challenging Kallisto for the United States title.

Now this was your typical speed versus power battle, and it was a pretty good match. Despite the difference in size these two matched up perfectly, with the masked man providing the excitement with his high-flying offence, and the Bulgarian brute finally getting back to his best.

It was a simple enough story. Kallisto came into the match having sustained a couple of injuries at his challenger’s hands a few days before, and although he pulled off some good moves at first it wasn’t long before the big man took control, using his power to good effect.

But perhaps the best spot, and most brutal, moment of the match came while Kallisto was making his comeback when Rusev stopped him coming off the top rope and slammed him down onto the hard ring apron.

That particular moment was the beginning of the end of Kallisto’s championship reign. The referee asked the ringside doctor to check on the masked man’s condition, but despite being threatened with a disqualification by the official Rusev wanted the match continue. For a moment it looked like the referee was considering stopping the match, but the big Bulgarian took that decision out of his hands when he finally locked in his accolade finisher. The champion had no choice but to tap out, giving Rusev the submission win.

The championship action continued when the Vaudevillains, Aiden English and Simon Gotch, challenged the New Day’s Big E and Xavier Woods, accompanied by their buddy Kofi Kingston, for the Tag Team titles.

This match may have been a little short on time but it certainly delivered. Woods began the match for the champs, but it wasn’t long before Gotch and English were giving him the punching bag treatment, looking pretty decent as they went about their business.

Woods eventually made it back to his corner so Biggie could clean house a little, but a spot of outside the ring brawling left Woods alone against the two throwbacks. He managed to hold his own until Biggie recovered enough to take English out with a spear through the ropes, and while the referee was otherwise occupied Kingston took Gotch down with a trouble in paradise kick from the ring apron, setting him up perfectly for Woods’ shining wizard and the title-retaining pin.

Yet more championship action followed as Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Sami Zayn challenged the Miz for the Intercontinental title in a fatal four way match.

So where do I start with this one? Well, I suppose the beginning would be a good place, because when Zayn took Owens down with a helluva kick as soon as the match started it was a sign of things to come because, to borrow a phrase from the fans in attendance, this was awesome.

This was one of those matches you just couldn’t take your eyes off in case you missed something. It was filled with an absolute ton of great action, put together by four men at the very top of their game, and it was a masterpiece.

I could probably go on forever about how good this was. The one-on-ones made for great viewing, the big holy you know what moves were great, and the countless near falls and break-ups were a joy to behold. In fact there was so much that was great it would probably take me an age to list it here.

As for the ending, Zayn looked like he was going to take it all when he took Cesaro down with a helluva kick, but when Owens pulled him out of the ring as he made the pin their ringside brawl was all the Miz needed as the champion fed off Zayn’s scraps to take the winning pin.

After that exceptional match it was on to the Asylum Match between Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose. What exactly is an Asylum Match? Well, it’s basically a cage match with weapons hanging above the ring, with victory only attained by pin or submission.

A match of this kind could have been a show stealer, and although it featured plenty of great action it really suffered because it was too long and it was right after a potential match of the year.

The performances of Jericho and Ambrose certainly can’t be faulted. Jericho played the part of the cowardly heel to perfection, while Ambrose was his usual crazy self, but the action just seemed to drag early on, and even though the use of the toys was quite entertaining the crowd was dead for the most part.

Things didn’t really pick up until Ambrose introduced the thumb tacks into the equation. It became a case of just who would take the big fall onto them, and as these two went back and forth it was Jericho who took the crazy fall when Ambrose countered his code breaker attempt with a simple slam onto the tacks. He then sealed the deal moments later with the dirty deeds DDT onto the tacks for the winning pin.

The penultimate match saw Natalya challenging Charlotte for the Women’s title in a submission match, with Ric Flair banned from ringside.

This is probably the most technical women’s match I’ve seen in years. These two spent a great deal of time tying each other in knots, and even though the fans in attendance didn’t seemed thrilled by all of this this writer really enjoyed it, and the absence of old man Flair only made this match better.

At one point it looked as if we were going to get a new champion at one point when Nattie had the sharpshooter locked in tight. Then that familiar music hit as everyone thought that Flair had arrived on the scene. Thankfully for those of us who are growing a little tired of his antics it was Charlotte’s new BFF Dana Brooke in disguise.

This distraction was enough to throw Nattie off her game, and although the Anvil’s baby girl was able to fight her off it left her open to a sneak attack by Charlotte, who soon locked in the figure eight for the submission win.

The main event saw A.J. Styles challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE World title in an extreme rules match.

Now this was good, real good. From start to finish these two gave us one of those matches that you couldn’t avert your gaze from, the proverbial slobber knocker as they beat the proverbial out of each other over the biggest prize in the business.

All of the ingredients were there, the somewhat rabid fans, the brawl through the crowd, the crazy bumps through two announce tables by the challenger, countless chair shots, as well as the cameo appearances from Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and the Usos. Yet despite all of this, despite all of the hard-hitting action, neither man could put the other away. It made for incredible entertainment.

Finally, after over twenty minutes of carnage, as Styles came off the top rope looking for the phenomenal elbow Reigns speared him as he came down. A three count later and the champion had retained his title.

Then, it happened. As the referee helped Reigns to his feet and raised his arm in victory Seth Rollins, the man who was never beaten for the title, stormed the ring and took his former Shield brother down with a pedigree. He then stated his intent by grabbing the title belt and raising it in the air as he stood over the fallen champion.

In conclusion – you know, I think I’m going to have to go with the general consensus on this one, because Extreme Rules was a pretty enjoyable show.

Almost every match delivered here, some of them a hell of a lot more than others. The Intercontinental title four-way was a tremendous outing for all concerned, while the main event between Styles and Reigns was another great chapter for their rivalry, with Rollins’ return afterwards played to perfection. However, things were let down a little by the Ambrose/Jericho Asylum match, for the reasons I gave earlier.

As for my prestigious match of the night no-prize there are a couple of contenders, and while many will go for the efforts of the Miz and company I’m going for the Reigns/Styles main event.

So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give this year’s Extreme Rules the thumbs up.