Extreme Rules 2018, Predictions and Analysis

World Wrestling Entertainment presents it’s July pay-per-view, Extreme Rules, live from the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the WWE Network. The show is packed with action. Ten matches featuring both Raw and Smackdown Live talent will perform. Seven of ten bouts are championship matches. It’s hard not to view this show as a building block towards Summerslam. The card looks like it could be a four-hour show. Sanity versus The New Day was just added to the kick-off program. I am hoping they move some of the other matches to this slot. I’ve decided to focus this article on the matches and feuds I find interesting and where I think the WWE Creative Team intends to go.

Disclaimer: Yes, I can enjoy the show even if I try to figure out what the intentions of the stories are.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Team Hell No

The tag-team division just a few months ago seemed very strong. The Usos had been on a tear both verbally and physically. They changed up their personas, killed it on the mic and the intensity translated to their performance in the ring. The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) were really effective as a team. But I can see why the WWE needed to shake things up. I understand why the WWE is trying to build the Bludgeon Brothers act. They were lost after separating from the Wyatt Family. Squash matches and relatively quick contests have helped them build momentum to where winning the Smackdown Tag-Team Championship fit. It’s been fun to watch the recent reunion of Team Hell-No, but with Kane (aka Glen Jacobs) running for Mayor in Tennessee and dirt sheets reporting that Daniel Bryan’s contract is coming up for renewal, I don’t expect this nostalgia act to last very long. Daniel Bryan remains one of the most popular talents on the roster, even after being out of the ring for more than two years. I think the match will be fun to watch, but Kane will ultimately get pinned and put the Bludgeon Brothers over. It’ll help the champs gain more credibility and won’t damage the credibility of Bryan or Kane.

WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Rusev

Happy to see Rusev getting more airtime. His ‘push’ came to a dramatic halt back in 2016 after he broke kayfabe on Instagram announcing his engagement to Lana. At the time, Lana was in an on-screen relationship with Dolph Ziggler and the news made it impossible to suspend. In the months to follow, he went from being an unstoppable heel to taking loss after loss. He took it in stride though and decided to let his naturally, zany and goofy personality show through on programs like Total Divas and Up Up Down Down. It humanizes and makes him extremely likable. His popularity is 100% organic and he has worked hard to connect with the fans. Aiden English can at times be annoying, but he fits the sidekick role very well. The two make an interesting combo, and a few months back I would have pegged them to win the Smackdown Tag-Team Championship. Even if they held it for a week or two it would have been a great feel-good moment for the fans who invested in the duo. But it was clear that the WWE had other plans (see Bludgeon Brothers above). Rusev isn’t winning the WWE championship this weekend. I think this current storyline is about building A.J. Styles up and seeing if Rusev can do what he’s asked and play the heel. The problem is, fans want to cheer him, whether WWE likes it or not.
I’m glad they slowed the A.J / Shinske feud for a bit to give the fans something fresh. How many times can you watch someone getting punched in the groin anyway? Expect Aiden to take a bump, Rusev to come close but ultimately get pinned. No one loses credibility here.

United States Champion Jeff Hardy vs Shinsuke Nakamura

This championship run has been a bust and Nakamura needs a big win.
A heel champion to balance the top babyface champ always works. I could even see a title vs. title, winner takes all at SummerSlam with either one going over. Hardy doesn’t need the win or the prestige. His popularity is strong and he continues to remain a fan-favorite and big merchandise seller, despite what happens off camera. I would like to see WWE do something fresh with him. I’ll save that for another post.

Raw Tag Team Champions “Woken” Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs. The B-Team

I don’t know how you go from The Bar to the B-Team in a matter of months, but here we are. Something isn’t working with the Hardy/Wyatt pairing for me. That’s not to say they aren’t good together. I simply think they need to work on the chemistry. I know people want to cheer Hardy, but it might be better if the team were maniacal and sadistic heels. Less schtick, more sadism. The B-Team (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) could actually be the first legitimate babyface team we’ve seen in a while. I don’t care for the fact that they’re portrayed as goofs. These two are the offspring of “Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig” and Mike Rotundo. They’re second and third generation wrestlers. Why WWE won’t build on that is baffling. I am sure there’s a way to make them unique without having them use their family name to gain credibility.

Other Matches Include:

  • Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley
  • Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins (30-Minute WWE Iron Man Match)
  • Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax (Extreme Rules Match)
  • SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella vs. Asuka
  • Finn Bálor vs. “Constable” Baron Corbin
  • Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens (Steel Cage Match)

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    July 3, 2018

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