The Paul Heyman era has arrived on RAW. Eric Bischoff is about to take creative control on SmackDown. And Extreme Rules is the last Pay-Per-View standing between us and WWE's second-biggest show of the year SummerSlam (or I guess third-biggest if you believe the Saudi money marketing hype). Plus WWE is also following two rather fantastic AEW events that proved competition is as real as we all hoped it would be.
This sets up Extreme Rules to be a potential gamechanger. Paul Heyman's influence has already echoed through Monday Nights, so hopefully that carries into Sunday. Stories on the SmackDown brand are about to be shaken up anyway, and maybe these results set up some of those changes. Or maybe not, and Extreme Rules proves to be business as usual, just another brick in the WWE Network wall.
Either way, the card is solid, the stakes are high, and Extreme Rules is probably a show worth checking out.
Shane and Drew have gotten so many wins lately that this feels like it could finally be their comeuppance. In fact, if Roman Reigns loses yet AGAIN, I'll be convinced that Vince McMahon is just (very belatedly) responding to the fans "go away" boos from 2016, or trying to make up for that mildly-unfortunate WrestleMania 33 main-event.
But Reigns is in a good place with the fans so a win finally propels him forward to fresh blood. You toss in an interference from Kevin Owens (right?) and it gives Shane something to do afterwards as well. And while I think Taker ultimately gets the pin, a post-match McIntyre beatdown sets these two up for sparks at SummerSlam.
WINNERS: The Big Dog & The Deadman (w/ an assist from KO)
EXTREME RULES "WINNER TAKES ALL" MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH
Seth Rollins (c) & Becky Lynch (c) vs Baron Corbin & Lacey Evans
If Corbin and Evans lose, they can no longer challenge Rollins and Lynch for the championship
Here's something I never thought I'd say: WWE has managed to make Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, the faces of the company and reigning World Champions, two of the un-coolest people on the roster. How? By shipping 'em. And the way WWE has portrayed these two as being playful lovers of one another (gag) has taken away any edginess that surrounded The Man & The Man's Man. It's completely killed Becky's punch-first IDGAF aurora that carried her through late-2018 and early-2019.
But fortunately, they're going up against two people who are even lamer than they are right now. Baron Corbin has never been taken seriously as a main-even threat, despite hanging around the Universal Championship for months, and picking up a solid victory of Kurt Angle at WrestleMania (you already forgot about that one, huh?). Lacey Evans can't pick up a solid win to save her life. Plus, the Southern Belle gimmick just hasn't resonated with fans - it feels like a persona, not a person.
WWE has almost painted itself into a corner with the stipulation. But the caveat - that Corbin and Evans can't challenge Rollins and Lynch specifically - is more of a "we won't give you this feud again" promise from the creative team. And I'm still expecting some Brock Lesnar shenanigans… just not a cash in. Yet.
WINNERS: Seth Rollins & Becky Lynch
Kofi Kingston (c) vs Samoa Joe
Now things get interesting.
WWE has for many moons been reticent to give Joe a top title (if you exclude his fantastic NXT Championship reign and brutal feud with Shinsuke Nakamura). Kofi Kingston has been one of the best stories of 2019, and probably the best looking, well-received World Champion the company has had in years. Now that Kofi has put his middling feud with Dolph to rest, many assume he's just biding time until Brock inevitably crashes the party on SmackDown LIVE: The FOX Sessions.
But Joe's intensity here has been fantastic (as always), and Kofi can't ride the coattails of good vibes & feel-good story forever. So I think Joe has upset potential here. Not only that, I think he does it by Kokina Clutch. This gives Kofi something to do moving forward (remember: a chasing babyface going after a monster heel almost always has more interesting story potential), and finally gives Joe the big title win that's so far eluded him.
One more prediction here? This is the best match of the night. Everybody is looking to Ricochet and AJ Styles to tear down the house, but Joe and Kingston have great contrasting styles, and something to prove with the fans.
WINNER: Samoa Joe
SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP HANDICAP MATCH
Bayley (c) vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
With the rumors of Bliss's sickness and changes being made to the match, this could go any number of directions. But I don't think it will. Cross and Bliss will inevitably feud (likely, because Cross accidentally costs Bliss the win tonight?), and Bayley will go on to feud with a bigger name heading into SummerSlam.
Outside prediction on that bigger name? Sasha Banks shows up after the match to lay out Bayley.
UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
Ricochet (c) vs AJ Styles
Aw, snap! This match could be an all-timer. At the very least it could be a star-making performance for Ricochet who, so far in his time with WWE, hasn't been given the spotlight he deserves.
The creative team has done a great job of giving this story some legs and weaving AJ Style's Club-Reforming Heel Turn into the championship picture. By proxy both Ricochet and the United States Championship already feel like bigger deals. As a result I think this match could go any number of ways… but I'm inclined to believe due to the sheer number of beatdowns Ricochet has suffered lately, that he finally walks away with the win. But barely. I'm talking school boy roll up, cradle pin, grabbing the tights, something. And then he barely escapes yet ANOTHER beatdown.
RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
The Revival (c) vs The Usos
This has been an interesting feud, no? It's gone from being one of the worst-received things in recent memories, with UCY-Hot and slightly-homophobic back shaving segments, to being one of the key indicators of a direction change with The Revival's surprise championship win a few weeks back.
All that being said, this should be a barn-burner of a tag-team contest focused on who is the best tag-team, not on who's doing what in the locker room, and I'm all for that. The Revival are still fresh as champions and I think they retain.
WINNERS: The Revival
SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
Daniel Bryan & Rowan (c) vs The New Day vs Heavy Machinery
There's been a whole lot of focus on Heavy Machinery lately. WWE seems high on them, the fans are getting behind them, and they can go in the ring.
BUT… the timing doesn't seem quite right yet. Especially not when you consider The Viking Raiders are receiving an equally-sizable push over on RAW, and it seems unlikely WWE would put both of its recent call ups front-and-center. Besides, Daniel Bryan is too damn valuable to play second-fiddle to anybody right now.
WINNERS: Daniel Bryan & Rowan
Aleister Black vs Cesaro
He who knocks first, knocks loudest… or loses first. Or whatever. Listen, it's strange that Aleister Black has been sitting in a room, quoting Shakespeare, waiting for an opponent to come greet him when there's a PERFECTLY GOOD wrestling ring where people typically conduct this sort of business. But I disgress.
Cesaro has been gaining some momentum lately, and could legitimately be a main-eventer. But Aleister Black needs to be re-established on the main roster as someone other than "NXT Tag-Team Sidekick #310," and I think they use Cesaro to do it.
WINNER: Aleister Black
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH
Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley
I've gone back-and-forth on this match - mostly because both of these men should already be dead after that recent RAW stunt, so going into this past week I assumed this would be the most authentic Last Man Standing of all time (i.e. neither aka the most literal casket match WWE has ever offered) but then Bobby Lashley had to prove his Almighty moniker right by showing up without a scratch, bruise, nada. Guess those lacerated spleens heel pretty quickly?
And now that I'm typing this out, I think it only makes sense that Braun wins. He hasn't looked strong in months and WWE needs to re-establish some status-quo on its "Even-Steven Booking Meter." And then maybe Lashley can go feud with Brock heading into SummerSlam? Pretty please?
WINNER: Braun Strowman
WWE CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Drew Gulak (c) vs Tony Nese
A ton of great stuff is happening in the WWE Cruiserweight division, and almost all of it is being ignored by the mainstream fans. Which is an absolute shame. Tony Nese is a great talent but Drew Gulak is a recently-crowned champion who can cut a promo, deliver in the ring, and carry this division on his shoulders to new heights (or not! Because of the whole No-Fly Zone thing). Gulak retains, people continue to ignore 205 Live, and the world keeps spinnin' round-and-round. C'est la vie.
WINNER: Drew Gulak