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WWE wrapped up a massive wrestling weekend with Extreme Rules, a show that was easy enough to watch by WWE standards, and ended with Brock Lesnar cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on Rollins, regaining the Universal Championship.
Rollins' reign as Universal Champion was a bit disappointing; after a solid first program with AJ Styles, his momentum stalled during a long feud with Baron Corbin, who failed to ever come across as a major threat to the title. Rollins did come into the title with a lot of momentum as a babyface by defeating Lesnar at WrestleMania, but today he feels like a different performer. The feud with Corbin didn't help; and a forced romance angle with RAW Women's Champion Becky Lynch has rubbed some fans the wrong way; taking two of the most independent people on the roster and teaming them up in a soap-opera angle.
As for Lesnar as champion; fans popped for his cash-in but over time the same frustration fans have had over Lesnar in the past; rarely appearing on WWE television, short matches when he does appear, will surely return. WWE pushed heavily the angle leading up to WrestleMania that Lesnar was a lazy and inconsiderate champion, and Rollins was the conquering hero, but now Lesnar is the champion again and fans are basically going to be encouraged to be frustrated with him again.
That being said, WWE isn't happy with their current television viewership, nor are they happy with live attendance. When their new TV starts this fall, there is a lot of pressure on them to deliver big. We know that Vince McMahon is very comfortable with Lesnar as the champion, so I expect that Lesnar is going to get a lengthy run with the title. Maybe this was just an angle for SummerSlam, and Rollins will win the title back, but the Rollins-era as Universal Champion didn't return great results, for whatever reason.
Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch vs Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans: **3/4
This was an Extreme Rules match; but it didn't feel like a really big, PPV main event match. They did a lot of chair shots to the back, Kendo stick shots, and a table spot; all stuff you might see on RAW. They did do the bit with Corbin hitting End of Days on Lynch, which led to Rollins snapping and...hitting him with a Kendo stick again. The rules where all over the place; it was supposed to be a match where almost anything goes; but also had strict rules about who the legal man/woman could be. It wasn't the worst match in the world, and the idea of both titles on the line created some novelty, but this wasn't a blow-away, EXTREME match that it probably should have been.
Kofi Kingston vs Samoa Joe: ***
Kofi ended up going over clean with his finisher; you can't say that WWE hasn't given him a serious run as the world champion. The crowd as a little slow getting into the match, but they started to get into it later in the match...and then it ended really quickly. I'm surprised that Joe lost so quickly, so cleanly. A good argument could be made that Kofi has run his course as champion and that Joe can bring something new to the title as a legit heel who has a great presence in the ring.
This ended up being better than expected; given how bad his match was against Goldberg, The Undertaker looked a lot better and was able to pull off almost everything he was asked to do without a hitch. The crowd was really into The Undertaker and helped the match greatly; so tonight was a big win for The Undertaker.
The match was centered around Shane McMahon; which wouldn't be that big of a problem but the problem here is that Drew McIntyre continues to be marginalized as a side-kick for Shane, as opposed to being pushed as the top heel. Tonight Shane was given almost all of the key spots and Drew was just a guy who occasionally got some offense in. Each week that goes by, it feels more and more like McIntyre is just becoming another guy on the roster, and not a special star.
AJ Styles vs Ricochet: ***1/2
From a technical standpoint, this was the best match on the show. Despite the fact that this felt like a dream match for some fans, I thought the crowd heat was disappointing, especially in Philadelphia, a city with a great reputation for its hardcore fanbase. I don't know if it was because it was later in the show, or because fans have seen the match recently on RAW, but it didn't feel like a really big deal that these two guys were wrestling. AJ had to win because otherwise it would have been pointless for Styles to have turned heel and teamed with Anderson and Gallows. They should have a better match soon.
Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley: **1/2
I didn't really like this match that much; but bumped its rating up a bit because the finish, with Strowman breaking through the barricade was really well done and a peak monster moment for Strowman. That being said, Strowman hasn't been 100 percent in a while and it kind of showed here, Lashley really carried him, taking all of the major bumps and doing most of the athletic work, while Strowman kind of lumbered around after him. I'm sure it was funner live, but the match at home just felt like guys brawling and awkwardly moving around the arena, culminating in a powerslam into some sort of structure that was impossible to see on television.
strong>The Usos vs The Revival: ***
The work here was pretty solid, but for some reason the match never got that much heat from the audience. Perhaps it was because The Revival had been made out to be jokes in the past, or the crowd needed a break after The Undertaker match; but they never got into this match that much and that probably hurt the heat The Revival were trying to get.
The crowd wasn't really into this match at the very beginning, but all three teams worked hard and by the end the crowd was rocking. Big E really came across as a big star in the closing moments and got the glory spots as New Day recaptured the tag titles. Heavy Machinery has done a nice job getting over after coming up from NXT, which we know doesn't always happen. One negative is that I think Bryan needs to go back to more of a singles position because he is a really big star and it kind of feels like he is being wasted in the tag team division, especially if he isn't the champion.
Bayley vs Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross: *1/2
This, like most handicap matches, felt stupid. Bayley got beat up by the heels for most of the match, but rallied back towards the end as Bliss and Cross clumsily had to figure out a way to lose a match they had a tremendous advantage in. The whole storyline with Cross is weak; Cross comes across as someone that is really stupid and the only person that can't figure out Bliss is using her. Bliss has some popularity, but I've never bought her physically as a threat to win anything.
Aleister Black vs Cesaro: ***1/4
Black and Cesaro probably could have had an even better match if they were given more time, but this match was supposed to do that. It was supposed to give Black a convincing win to re-introduce him to the fans, and that is exactly what they did. Given the time they got, they made the best of it and had a fun, physical match and Cesaro didn't lose much despite being pinned.
Kevin Owens vs Dolph Ziggler: DUD
Owens came back as a babyface, then he turned heel, then he turned back babyface, apparently ditching Sami Zayn in the process, and is now doing a Steve Austin impersonation, dishing out stunners and yelling at a McMahon. Owens is as talented as anyone on the roster, but has been victimized a bit by start-and-stop pushes and an inconsistent character. He still has a ton of potential, but its hard to really get behind him because the company seems to change their minds on what they want to do with him every week.
Must Watch Matches
Will Ospreay vs SANADA: **** - NJPW G1 Climax 29 Tag 3
KENTA vs Hiroshi Tanhashi: ****1/2 - NJPW G1 Climax 29 Tag 3