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Following in the wake of a successful Payback show, Extreme Rules features mainly return matches from the previous show, as WWE looks to set up their major summer storylines. With the return of John Cena, Seth Rollins and Randy Orton set to come back into the company, it will be interesting to see who WWE decides to keep in the limelight and who will be replaced by the returning major stars.
At the top of the card is the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Roman Reigns and AJ Styles, in the eponymous Extreme Rules match. When Roman Reigns won the world title to a chorus of boos at WrestleMania, WWE really needed to have some brilliant booking to salvage Reigns' title run and avoid it being a total disaster. To their credit, they have mostly done it with the introduction of Anderson and Gallows into the company and the genius of AJ Styles inside the ring.
The current storyline, of Anderson and Gallows supportive of Styles to the point that they will get physically involved in his matches, and Styles reluctance to take advantage of his friends' interference. What I like about the storyline is that Styles doesn't come across as an idiot, he isn't completely blindsided by Anderson and Gallows interfering in his matches and he doesn't really yell at them for doing so. He hasn't endorsed their actions—yet he is frequently thankful for their support and friendship. Styles ended up using a steel chair to take out Reigns, but he only did that after Reigns had used a chair on him during a previous encounter. That kind of booking can get some heat on Styles, but it avoids turning him heel, which is crucial for the success of the feud.
Styles is way too popular with fans to justify a heel turn, he gets probably the biggest pop of the night at every RAW with the possible exception of Shane McMahon. In addition, his popularity and the popularity of Anderson and Gallows, had aided Reigns in his quest to be a long-term world champion because the fans genuinely support Styles. I think part of the reason Reigns was booed so viciously around WrestleMania time was because the hardcore fans didn't really like Triple H as much as they despised Reigns. With Styles, the hardcore fans who generally would be against Reigns are supporting Styles, which keeps them more engaged in the feud because they support someone, not because they are disgusted with someone.
WWE seems committed to making Reigns a long-term champion, potentially setting up a huge main event for SummerSlam between Reigns and Cena. I think it is extremely likely that Reigns retains at Extreme Rules, maybe thanks to help from The Uso's, but probably cleanly. If I was booking the show I would consider giving Styles the title, even if it was for only a month or so, because it would extend what has been a very beneficial feud for both stars and it would add a twist to the storyline. That probably isn't likely because of how protected Reigns is (he is a Cena-esque 55-3 in 2016) and how important it is for Reigns too look unstoppable.
Following the main event is Chris Jericho vs Dean Ambrose in the first-ever Asylum Match. I'm not sure how I feel about the match—the strength of the feud has been the exchanges between Jericho and Ambrose and the matches feel secondary. The match, which appears to be a standard cage match, except you can't win by escaping the cage and various weapons are being hung from the top of the cage. Jericho and Ambrose's match at Payback exceeded my expectations, but I'm worried about the match relying on some typical Amrbose hokiness. The weapons are kind of strange Ambrose has a history of winning/losing matches via strange occurrences (remember the exploding TV?) and I'm concerned we might see a strange finish that could undermine a good match.
Charlotte and Natalya closed RAW on Monday to set up their match, a Submission match for Charlotte's Women's Championship. Unfortunately the main event spot was really just a vehicle for the real stars of the show, Shane and Stephanie McMahon, to be in the main event and very little was really said about Natalya or Charlotte. Charlotte's heel turn has been strong and I think she will certainly retain her championship on Sunday. Natalya is a really good wrestler and she could totally be a great champion for WWE, but I think the most important thing for WWE as they rebrand the Women's division is that they focus on the women who are newer to the company, and that means keeping the title on Charlotte until someone like Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks or maybe Bayley dethrones her.
The match of the night will probably be the Intercontinental Fatal-Four-Way match with The Miz defending against Cesaro and Sami Zayn. WWE has given the men in the match plenty of time on RAW to get the match over and the feud has developed on multiple levels. Owens and Zayn will continue to define their feud and I'm certain at the next PPV they will meet in some form of singles match. In addition, Cesaro and The Miz and Owens and The Miz have been going at it, so the Intercontinental Championship and the champion are still a huge part of the feud. People may joke about The Miz being a former WrestleMania main event talent, but there is no doubt the man is a competent heel and knows how to work an audience.
The tag team titles will be on the line with The New Day taking on The Vaudevillians. The Vaudevillians have been kind of flat since debuting on the main roster and they seem like a weak opponent for the charismatic New Day. I love the Vaudevillians, but that is probably because I'm a weirdo and I love goofy gimmicks if they are handled correctly and taken seriously. It is a shame that Enzo Amore has gotten injured because the feud between The New Day and Enzo and Cass would be incredible and hopefully we will see it soon.
Kalisto will defend his United States Championship against Rusev. Kalisto started with the title with high hopes, but WWE has managed to reduce him to what the United States Championship has been for years when it is not being held by Cena; a forgettable match on every PPV. I think the match could be very good, and Rusev might be the favorite to win the title. I wouldn't rule out Rusev capturing the title and then be thrown into a feud with a returning Cena.
The last match on the main card will be a Tornado tag team match between The Usos and Anderson and Gallows. I really like the idea of this being a Tornado tag team match because both teams are at their best when they work a fast pace and it allows them to have a lot of near-falls and high-impact moves. I'm not sure why WWE had The Usos beat Anderson and Gallows on RAW last week, but I imagine they get their win back on Sunday.
In a perfect world I would love to see Styles topple Reigns and have that feud continue to drive the product. Unfortunately I have a bad feeling we may see the end of that feud on Sunday. WWE has top names coming back who need prime spots on the roster and if the rumors of Stephanie and Shane getting even more TV time in the future are true, we might be seeing the last of AJ Styles at the top of the card for the time being.