Yes, I changed the title of this review. Some important people in hilarious robes handed me a scroll and then I had a large amount of free alcohol, which is the final step to becoming a Doctor. As a result, everything I say has a lot more clout behind it, which I promise not to abuse by making outrageous claims such as, for example, Shane McMahon is a bastard abortion.
I just can’t get excited about Extreme Rules. This is partly due to Baron Corbin, whose refusal to bow to the prevailing fashion consensus and buy some fucking wrestling gear continues to irritate. I’ve heard the old adage, “dress for the job you want, not for the one you have” plenty of times, and I can’t for the life of me work out why Corbin would rather work as manager of a failing Italian restaurant than continue to be a professional wrestler. The rest of it is probably because it seems like we’re in something of a holding pattern: a fact that multiple repetitions of PPV matches aren’t doing much to alter. We do, of course, get to see Kofi vs. Joe, but everything else seems to either be a carbon copy of last month’s menu or, even worse, a carbon copy of last month’s menu with a stipulation scrawled across it in crayon.
Whatever the reason, and you’d best believe that I can think of more if more are required, I’m not enamoured with this Sunday’s big event.
Still, I’m nothing if not willing to hold out in the hopes of a last-second change of direction, as can be seen by the number of long-term abusive relationships I’ve been a part of, so let’s see whether this show is going to cook us a nice dinner and promise that everything’s going to be different, or whether this is going to be another tense evening spent half-anticipating a sudden frying pan to the face.
How this didn’t turn into a Falls Count Anywhere match is beyond me
The show begins with a flashback of Dolph Ziggler being harassed in the parking lot by Kayla Braxton, who wants to know how things are going with his Canadian sidepiece, Kevin Owens. Ziggler launches into a diatribe against the Big O with the oratory skill of Winston Churchill and the frothing, swivel-eyed rage of Adolf Hitler. Owens arrives in the middle of all of this and deduces that the bile and venom that Ziggler’s vomiting might have something to do with him, the fucking genius.
So now Owens and Ziggler are screaming at each other in the parking lot, like they’re auditioning to be my new parents. And this devolves into a physical altercation, which mostly takes the form of flailing at each other. The B Team and whatever Jinder Mahal’s cheerleaders are calling themselves at the minute break up the fight, and Shane arrives, smelling a segment that he can rub his crusty manhood all over. He tells Ziggler to go to his room and Owens to sit outside and think about what he’s done.
We then zap to an interview with Shane, who reveals that he’s cancelled the planned match between Dolph Ziggler and Kevin Owens, honouring that storied professional wrestling tradition of allowing no physical contact between two men who want to murder each other. Of course, in most other workplaces, that would be a very good policy to have.
We go to the main stage, where WWE security has upheld its sterling reputation by allowing Kevin Owens to slip past them, grab a microphone and get all the way to ringside. Owens is screaming about how the McMahons can form an orderly queue to suck his dick, which is an easy if lazy way to pull off a sudden face turn. He speaks out against Shane McMahon’s tired tyranny, which brings out the greying, red-faced man himself.
Shane cuts off Owens’ microphone, and KO responds by just picking up another one. This prompts Shane to walk over to the sound system and demanding that every microphone but his be turned down. This is the kind of gripping drama I watch this show for: an audio equipment arms race. Oh, wait, Shane didn’t get all of the microphones, just the one that Owens was holding. Seems like an oversight, but if it stretches out this song and dance, consider me well and truly entertained.
Shane, embarrassed by his failure to silence any and all dissent, brings out arena security, who chase Owens out of the arena. Cue KO donning a half-mask and cloak and becoming The Phantom of the WWE. The announce team sycophantically defend Shane and denounce Kevin Owens. Who will speak up for them when Shane’s secret police knock at their door?
There’s a demand for concussions, and Shinsuke’s got the supply
It’s time for Finn Balor vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, which is amazing. Though it’s also annoying because it proves that WWE does, on some level, recognise what its audience wants, making all the other crap they’ve been spewing out far less excusable.
Both men start with some grapple-reverse action before Shinsuke reverts to type, slamming elbows into Finn’s head. Balor manages to respond with a kick to the face, and Nakamura drives him into the corner as we go to a commercial break. When we return, Shinsuke has Finn in a sleeper hold, which the Irishman escapes, starting his comeback with a burst of energy. Nakamura gets a pair of boots stomped right into his chest, tries to kick Finn in the skull but gets caught with a reverse DDT. Balor’s slingblade is countered, and Shinsuke kicks him right in the back of the head before hitting a sliding German suplex.
Shinsuke winds up for the Kinshasa, eats a slingblade instead, but manages to catch Finn on the top rope, hitting a huge knee to Balor’s gut. On the apron, Finn’s hit with a flying knee strike. Nakamura continues to take the Intercontinental Champion apart on the outside, with both men only just beating the count. Shinsuke tosses Finn out of the ring once again, nails him with the Kinshasa and heads back into the ring to take the count-out victory…but Balor scrambles back into the ring at the last second.
Shinsuke is vaguely irritated by this, and he demonstrates this by once again trying to reduce the structural integrity of Finn’s skull with his feet, only for Finn to once again get back into the ring right before the count of ten. Another Kinshasa connects, this time allowing Nakamura to pick up the win.
Surprisingly dominant victory for Nakamura. Hopefully, this feud elevates both men rather than just Shinsuke. 2.5 Stars.
Urgh, clean up on aisle The Feud That Won’t Die. Drew, Elias, and Shane are backslapping and laughing it up backstage. People say that 80% of household dust is dead human skin, and it’s not, but even if it was, I’d feel more kinship with that skin-dust than I do towards Shane McMahon. You know what is 80% dead human skin? The Undertaker. You know what has more right than the Undertaker to be in a wrestling ring these days? Household dust.
Anyway, Dolph Ziggler arrives, and he claims that Shane breaking up his fight earlier was “bogus”. Get back to Ridgemont High, you booger. Shane tells Ziggler that, as he took away his original match, tonight he gets to take on Roman Reigns. There’s no birthday party for Dolph in here.
We’re shown a clip of Kofi flipping off Samoa Joe before introducing him to all the benefits of being violently knocked unconscious. We’re then shown some footage of Samoa Joe, saying that now he has no choice but to marathon the Hannibal series and then go looking for Kofi’s friends and family. It does feel like Mrs. Kingston and the little Kingstons should be in protective custody by now. I mean, not American protective custody, what with them being black, but there should be measures taken.
Alexa Bliss seems like an HR nightmare
Alexa Bliss is clearly discovering how much of her job she can outsource to other people, and this week she’s sending Nikki Cross out to sign the title match contract for both of them. Maybe she’s preparing for the day that Buddy Murphy attracts the attention of Samoa Joe, and it’ll be Nikki’s ravaged body that’s found in Joe’s rape basement.
Kayla addresses everything that’s gone down, asking Bayley her thoughts on the recent bullshit. She makes a final effort to deprogram Nikki, promising that when Alexa loses, she’ll blame Cross. Nikki reveals that she’s not just doing this for no reward, saying that Bliss has promised that they’ll be Co-Champions. Oh Christ, we’re back to LayCool. I’ll see both Alexa and Nikki hanged before I have to suffer through more broken-title-belt shenanigans.
Nikki invites Bayley to stick around and watch what she does to Carmella tonight. The Princess of Staten Island arrives, because how could you turn down that invitation?
What follows is an extended ass-kicking from Nikki to Carmella. The only standout is when Corey implies that Byron’s girlfriend is cheating on him, which is followed by an awkward silence. Carmella finally fires back with some punches and other offence, but Cross shuts that shit down with a spinning neckbreaker after about thirty seconds.
I honestly could have done without even that bit of offence from Carmella; it’s not like she’s up to all that much besides being adjacent to Ember Moon’s thing. Or, if you didn’t want to do a squash match, make it a competitive match against someone who’s currently Women’s Championship calibre. 2 Stars.
We’re backstage with the IIconics now, and oh God, it’s Paige’s accent and, it follows, the rest of Paige. Plus the Kabuki Warriors, if we’re still stamping all over cultural symbols and that’s still what they’re called. I still believe that ‘the Kamikazes’ is a way better name. Basically, the Samurais want their title shot after beating the IIconics in Japan, and the IIconics would rather not. Paige talks down the IIconics and then slaps Billie Kay. Ballsy move from someone who’ll shatter like a pane of glass if she ever wrestles again.
If you missed RAW last night, Shane McMahon is totally fine beating up minority custodial staff, and Cedric Alexander is really bored at work. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns is getting interviewed, asking if engaging in a physical fight with another athlete just days away from Sunday might have an adverse effect on his match. That’s a very easy question, but he still manages to not answer it.
I miss the Bludgeon Brothers
Here come two-thirds of the New Day, who are here to engage in what is being described as a “Tag Team Summit”, as though the New Day, Heavy Machinery and the Planeteers have the ability to make any decisions. Xavier and Big E are all excited about being six-time Tag Team Champions, but they are interrupted by Daniel Bryan and his pet skinhead. Bryan decries the abominable behaviour from the New Day, with their jokes and their laissez-faire attitudes, stating that no-one takes them seriously.
Woods says that they don’t want to hear anything from Bryan, but rather Rowan. They accuse him of working for any Wyatt Family member not named “Randy Orton”, asking Rowan who his daddy really is. Bryan scolds the pair of them, calling them midcarders and Heavy Machinery buffoons.
Ears burning and collars blue, Otis and Tucker arrive. Knight says that they took Bryan and Rowan to the limit at Stomping Ground, that they earned their opportunity to be in this match and that they’re going to take the gold from Bryan and Rowan. He then tells the New Day that they’re going to have to put their sixth title reign on hold for now, then mentions being blue-collar for the seventy-ninth time. You know, in case you weren’t convinced by the denim waistcoats and Otis’ accent.
After a commercial break, there’s a triple threat match between Otis, Bryan, and Woods. Bryan immediately ducks out, letting Xavier and Otis face each other. Woods avoids Otis for a few moments but then runs into a yellow and black wall. Bryan tries to take advantage, but Otis and Woods overcome him before Otis suplexes both men at the same time.
The Heavy Machinery member continues to take on both men by himself before Rowan interjects himself into the match, taking out Otis and Woods. Knight and Big E don’t take kindly to this at all, and they shove the bearded prick over the announce table before the referee ejects all three men from ringside.
After a commercial break, Woods has the upper hand, felling Bryan with a missile dropkick. An Honor Roll is countered in mid-air, with Bryan locking in the crossface. Otis breaks up the hold and pays for it with a volley of kicks. He catches the last one, slamming Bryan to the mat. Woods catches Otis with a kick, but the tornado DDT is countered, with Otis hurling Xavier across the ring before squashing both his opponents in corners.
Otis goes for the caterpillar, connecting, but Bryan rolls onto the apron and hangs up Otis on the top rope. Woods superkicks Otis, gutbusters Bryan but then gets caught with a huge slam from Otis, with the Heavy Machinery member winning the match.
Astonishing amount of faith being put in Heavy Machinery, but they’re certainly making it work. 2.5 Stars.
Meanwhile, backstage, it’s time for “stuff that isn’t worth having a feud about”, starring Ember Moon, Mandy Rose, and Sonya DeVille. Drake Maverick is hiding under a table in catering, which is outstanding. It turns out that the latest crime committed by Fire and Desire is cutting in line for food, so it’s only a matter of time before Ember Moon drags them to The Hague.
Mandy and Sonya challenge Ember to find a tag team partner and take them both on next week. There are still some vague hints at an awkward lesbian romance between Mandy and Sonya, but I’m sure that WWE will handle that with the tact, sensitivity and fine judgement that has been the hallmark of all their best storylines, such as HLA, Trish trying to persuade Viscera to rape Christy Hemme, or Mae Young giving birth to a human hand.
Mustafa Ali is still monologuing on the streets about how he fights evil and is a real badass. Hey Show, it’s Tell; haven’t seen you in a while. Mustafa talks about his desire to stop the bad people of the world with all the earnestness of a seventeen-year-old about to go and destroy a bunch of Horcruxes, then drops the bombshell that some of those policemen that murder innocent people might not be all that great. That’s far more political than I ever expected WWE to get. Maybe one day they’ll let him wrestle.
Speaking of people who aren’t wrestling, here’s Aleister Black. Aleister Black is still in a cupboard. There has been no evidence that Aleister Black has not been in a cupboard for the last six weeks. Aleister Black is a strange human being. Anyway, Black’s being interviewed by the announce team, and he’s sharing this interview with an empty chair. His opponent has refused to identify himself, and because Aleister is still insisting upon his self-incarceration, he’s not been able to stroll along to Vince’s office and ask whom he’s facing on Sunday.
And then someone appears near the chair: someone in a cream suit. This person walks around the chair multiple times before sitting down and…oh shit, it’s Cesaro. That is…a lot better than anything I’d been expecting. Cesaro says that he’s there to pick a fight with Black, and Black says he’ll fight him this Sunday, apparently fighting back a heart attack while doing so. Either that, or he’s caught whatever condition caused Dolph Ziggler to go all Orson Welles for the last few weeks.
The only problem is, Cesaro has just rewarded Aleister’s strange behaviour by giving him exactly what he wants. Now Black’s just going to hide in a cupboard whenever he wants something else, expecting to automatically receive it. Buckle up, Zelina: it’s going to be an odd few months.
Shelton Benjamin is definitely hearing voices. Except we can also hear the voices. I don’t want to call this angle crazy, firstly because I think that’s an offensive and pejorative term, and, secondly, because it doesn’t cover just how batshit, pants-on-head mental it is that someone thought that this was a good idea.
Kayla Braxton is about to interview Kofi Kingston, but she’s interrupted Paul Heyman strutting on by. She shrugs that off, bringing on Kofi to offer Samoa Joe one last chance to ambush him. Kingston says that he knows Joe’s dangerous, but it’s by beating guys like him that he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest WWE Champions of all time. Joe doesn’t attack him. That can only mean he’s outside Kofi’s house. The Kingstons are already dead. Joe’s going to show up on Sunday wearing one of Kofi’s wife’s dresses.
Kevin Owens has had enough
Here’s Roman Reigns, resigned to his role as the current host of this fucking Shane McMahon angle and hoping he can pass the grey-haired parasite on to Kevin Owens before SummerSlam. Dolph arrives, followed by Shane, Drew, and Elias, and the match is on.
Roman and Dolph struggle for control, with Dolph throwing and punch and Roman, amused, smacking the shit out of him for it. Ziggler counters a Samoan Drop, hitting a beautiful dropkick, quickly capitalising, trying to overwhelm Reigns. This strategy works for about ten seconds, after which Dolph leaps directly into a huge uppercut that sends him out of the ring. Roman follows this up with a Drive-By, then gets distracted by Drew and Elias on the outside, who strike when the referee’s back is turned, shoving Roman into the steel post.
Dolph goes on the attack on the outside, throwing Reigns into the barricade before continuing the assault in the ring. Roman manages to catch Dolph with a Samoan Drop, allowing a pause for him to recover in. Ziggler tries a quick DDT, trying to shut down the comeback before it can start, but Roman’s 110% done with anything that’s not hitting Dolph. He readies a Superman Punch, but a distraction by Elias convinces Reigns to pencil himself in some “punch Elias” time. Dolph connects with the Zig-Zag, with Roman getting the shoulder up at the very last second.
Now Dolph wants some Sweet Chin Music, but Roman literally beats him to the punch, by which I mean he Superman Punches Ziggler in the face. McIntyre and Elias try to bundle Dolph out of the ring, leading to Roman diving out onto the pair of them. Shane dashes into the ring, providing a long enough distraction window for Ziggler to superkick Reigns for, but suddenly Owens is behind Shane, and he hits him with a stunner!
Ziggler throws Roman back into the ring, but Reigns counters a Zig-Zag, spearing Dolph for the win!
Pretty good match, with the shenanigans really adding to it. Maybe Owens can somehow save this worthless feud. 2.5 Stars.