WWE Extreme Rules 2017 – Review

The build to RAW’s latest PPV wasn’t a smooth affair. Okay, put simply – it was underwhelming. The ratings don’t lie but a number of factors are at play. As ever, we can point fingers at WWE “Creative.” It’s also easy to say that the forever MIA Brock Lesnar hiding the much-derided Universal Championship doesn’t help.

The worst offender in recent times has been lazy bookings. Back to meaningless or repetitive matches and title changes signposted with future plans no longer a surprise.

This being said, the opening bout – the Intercontinental title match between Dean Ambrose and The Miz – should have been a damp squid. We’ve seen this mix months previous on SmackDown Live and those in the know have told us The Miz is being lined up for gold in order to play sacrificial lamb to Roman Reigns further down the line.

The stipulation here went against the ethos of the PPV. Instead of doing anything, it was a case of Ambrose losing the title should he get a DQ. That – obviously – played a large part of the narrative. As it should. But congrats to WWE for avoiding some contrived way to get Ambrose disqualified. Sure, they hinted at it, and made out he was close to doing something silly. But he didn’t.

The action in between these teases was good. The Miz really deserves all his props lately. He has always been strong on the mic, now he mixes it like a champ in the ring, and does bring prestige to belts.

He took the gold here by way of distraction. Not the obvious Maryse one. It was her expulsion to the back that allowed The Miz to throw The Lunatic Asylum into the ref and allow the official to debate his intention.

A skull crushing finale later, and we had a new IC Champ.

Extreme The Miz

That was a solid base to the show. The filler that came was weak, topped with a healthy bun.

So why did the show fail between curtain opening and shutting?

It was a mix of things, individual to each match.

Take Sasha Banks and Rich Swann v Naom Dar and Alicia Fox. This one failed for a few reasons. First off, the style and pacing was something you’d expect to see on Main Event. In doing so, the joint-best female performer, Banks (Charlotte is the other), is degraded to making Alicia Fox look like an almost equal.

That’s like asking Roman Reigns to beat Undertaker then go twenty minutes with Heath Slater the next night.

Except here, the match was thankfully short. It wasn’t PPV billing, nor PPV class.

Alexa Bliss v Bayley didn’t actually fail for the reason some are crying about (crying like Bayley). It was wise to make Bliss look so dominant. She has been given the baton and the WWE needs to let her run with it.

It failed by allowing Bayley to go stale before our eyes. When she’s on screen, a feeling not dissimilar to the Cena effect occurs. But she doesn’t have his backing – just impending disconnect. There should have been a post-squash match change in attitude displayed by Bayley.

The steel cage match for the Raw Tag Titles was all about too many matches between the opponents in the weeks before, and tepid action once it began. It doesn’t help that the Hardyz are being begged to turn Broken by the WWE Universe. A cage match teased that chance.

Instead we got a few certainties. A Whisper in the Wind from the top of the cage and a Sheamus and Cesaro win. See, in wrestling, if a superstar (or team in this case) win too much en route to a PPV, it means the ones that seemingly have no momentum win.

They cash in the jobber tax (not to be confused with Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion, that’s the Jobber Lotto coming up trumps).

A final nail in this match’s coffin was how the idea of both teammates escaping didn’t fully explain the rule about reentry (which invalidates the initial escape).

Refer to Payback 2017 review regarding the Cruiserweight division. As a side note: if I were to offer any review for Neville v Austin Aries in their submission match for the gold, I’d have said it was very good. A good advert for 205 Live (which shouldn’t be a RAW element).

The Fatal 5-Way to become number one contender was a lift that brought the event back to the level The Miz and Ambrose set – and took it on a few more notches.

After a generic start – wrestlers taking it in turns to fight, hide, and showcase – an alliance of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt formed. This better controlled the traffic from Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor. It wasn’t long after this partnership broke down that Bálor went on the rampage.

Samoa Joe Bray Wyatt

The kick Reigns took to the face from The Demon King from the ring apron looked legit and painful. As did a multiple body pile-up spear through the barrier from Reigns, and a Rollins splash through an announce table.

Reigns and Rollins was teased as the finishing pair before it became Reigns and Bálor. As the Big Dog ate a Coup De Grace from the Irishman, Joe snuck up behind and locked in the Coquina Clutch.

A well-balanced packed main event and a good choice of winner moving forward. He may be visiting Suplex City to take a defeat but he’ll still leave looking strong.

5/10

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WWE Payback 2017 – Results and Review

To some degree, this year’s edition of Payback manages to live up to its name. Also, we got matches that went against the predictions of many fans and pundits.

To kick us off was the United States title bout between former best mates Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Beforehand two things were continually repeated. The first was it’d be match of the night. The second, there was no way Y2J could beat Owens.

Not because he’s not good enough or worthy, but because he’s leaving WWE again soon to tour with Fozzy and it’d undo putting KO over at WrestleMania.

Don’t cha just love it when a certainty goes the other way.

It was a good match – as expected. The story of the characters translated into clever spots. Owens reading the Jericho playbook and pouncing with various counters. And the finger stretch of KO. Well, that happened again and it made Jericho go ballistic.

Jericho Owens Payback 2017.png

An injured finger meant no ability to reach the rope and Jericho secured gold with The Walls. Expect him to drop the title on SmackDown Live this week.

New rule for these WWE PPV reviews: unless it’s a 205 Live event, I refuse to comment on the Cruiserweight Division. With such a strong identity, it shouldn’t be present on RAW or its PPVs.

No problem welcoming The Hardy Boys (or Boyz, whatevs). They defended the tag gold against Sheamus and Cesaro. This was a better match than expected. Matt took the ring to start and the crowd once again shouted “Delete.” This time he acknowledged and used the chant himself.

Whether this means WWE has given permission or if Broken Matt Hardy is willing to face legal trouble, is something we’ll find out in the passage of time. We’ll also see if the heel turn from the contenders after their defeat means their beatdown will be a catalyst for The Hardys becoming broken in the WWE.

Broken Matt Hardy.png
Broken Matt Hardy?

Another shock result was Alexa Bliss beating Bayley. The smart money was on Bayley retaining but with the heat growing between these two. It’s easy to see why Vince wants to pull the trigger on Alexa’s push. She has a good look and is convincing in the ring. The problem WWE has now is the RAW Women’s Division feels flat.

Alexa Bliss Payback Champion.png

This match summed it up. It wasn’t bad but it won’t live long in the memory.

Unlike the House of Horrors match. It was horrific, alright. Okay, elements were conceived well. The music was eerie, the camera work decent (apart from when you could see the cameraman’s shadow, d’oh) but this wasn’t the supernatural fright fest Bray promised, we expected, and the match needed.

A reincarnated Sister Abigail? Nope.

Monsters coming out of walls? Nope.

Dangerous props hurting Randy Orton at will? Nope.

A dirty kitchen with a heavy refrigerator? Er, yeah, that’s about the sum of it.

WWE House of Horrors.png

Maybe Bray Wyatt loves watching reality TV shows where filthy houses get cleaned and he sees messy ones as horrible? In this case, it was a House of (cleaning) Horrors. But a scary place Randy “can never leave”? Please. It’s best for everyone concerned if we leave the concept fast.

Wyatt jumped in the limo back to the arena.

To fill the gap, The Kingslayer faced one of HHH’s henchmen, Samoa Joe. These two are a great example of wrestling in this world of entertainment. No doubt that Seth Rollins is the more agile but Joe holds his own.

To tell the match they went down the old path of Rollins still suffering from a dodgy knee. It’s a leveller and gave Joe something to focus on. It gave us a Texas Cloverleaf to admire – and we just don’t see enough of those nowadays.

Rollins won as expected but with a clever reversal into a pin from a submission position. It was intelligent and doesn’t harm Joe at all.

What isn’t intelligent is the continuation of the House of Horrors match, as per the stipulation – it ends in the ring. Why was Wyatt still staggering around after a cosy limo drive to the arena? I mean, no matter the beating, you ain’t so bad after 30 mins of chilling.

Michael Cole trying to big-up the House as a place of purgatory is almost as laughable as the match itself. And guess what . . . yeah, Randy made it back from that place and looked fresh as a daisy. At the match restart, only one thing was expected – RKO from Outta Nowhere.

We got that but also Jindar Mahal with the WWE Championship as a weapon. That same title Bray Wyatt has suddenly lost interest in when it comes to the rematch he is owed. WWE messed up transferring him to RAW. It robbed him of a legit WWE Title rematch and all of his momentum.

This meaningless win just places him in further limbo.

Two men far away from that are Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. They faced off with the former Shield man heavily bandaged. There’s always the fear with Roman this means he’ll suffer only to look like even more of a Superman.

Roman Reigns Braun Strowman Payback 2017

 

But this match showed WWE Creative can listen at times. The best way to keep Reigns face (although, why on earth do they want to?) is to garner sympathy. He suffered through this match with only a slight comeback. Strowman’s victory came from a clean pin. Reigns kicking out with one surprise before falling.

After the match, more shocks came. Strowman took the steel steps into the ring, stood them tall on their side, and dropped Roman onto them. Then – this was the kicker – he picked them up, lifted them tall over his head, and slammed them into a defenceless Reigns.

The blood was pouring from Roman, and even the chants of “Thank you, Strowman” didn’t take away from the impact. This was brutal and even I felt sorry for Reigns.

Overall, a decent PPV.

7/10

Roman Reigns Payback 2017

 

WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 – Review and Results

Soon after the Royal Rumble, SmackDown stars found themselves heading into the Elimination Chamber PPV. Unlike the Rumble, where the winner could have come from several angles, this year’s Chamber was easier to predict. This was the final cog in the machine before solidifying months of storytelling and the WrestleMania main event.

Not to belittle the earlier matches, but this wrestling fan was itching to see the main event. That’s not to say what preceded it was pointless. The SmackDown women’s division hasn’t eclipsed its counterpart on Raw like the men’s main roster has achieved since the brand split. This comes down to the fact Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks are the best two female in-ring performers on the planet and are captivating characters.

So it was intelligent that WWE placed the returning Mickie James on the blue brand. What wasn’t so clever was David Otunga claiming she had ring-rust after being absent for seven years. In that time, she’s been TNA champion and wrestled on the independent circuit. WWE has no problem referencing characters fighting in, say, Japan or Mexico, so why does it continue to ret-con TNA out of existence?

It’s not as if TNA is an actual threat to WWE.

The match she was in was against fan-favourite Becky Lynch. While being a solid affair, and the Irish Lass Kicker’s victory won’t damage James in any way, it leaves the question as to where this rivalry goes from here. Is it just a case of wasting time until a slot higher up the card becomes available?

Next was a 2-on-1 handicap match, Apollo Crews and Kalisto versus Dolph Ziggler. Did I mention I was eager to get to the main event? This just heightened the urge. I mean, come on. From the kayfabe taking out of Kalisto, to his valiant return, there was little fresh or engaging here. Nothing relevant, either.

The meaner Ziggler does nothing to reinvigorate his character. Wrestlers usually need a change when they’re not over with the fans or need to mask a lack of in-ring performance. Every crowd loves and appreciates Dolph and his technical ability is second-to-none. Fact.

He languishes in the mid-card (with a meaningless defeat here) due to poor handling by WWE “Creative.”

If the SmackDown Women lag behind their red brand sisters, the blue tag division is virtually redundant. There are enough teams to make it work but not enough time spent developing them.

tag-turmoil

A turmoil tag match for the titles saw teams come out one at a time, face elimination, then the next in line to challenge.

Former champs Heath Slater and Rhyno saw off Breezedango and then The Vaudevillains first. Both of those teams should have been built up to credible threats by now. Although, Breezedango did dominate.

The Usos finished Slater to square off against American Alpha. The reigning champs are hope to teams leaving NXT that they will continue to be booked as powerful forces. They overcame the veterans but it took a surprise small package to do so.

Enter The Ascension, the reason NXT Superstars worry about life on the main roster. Once booked as the modern-day Road Warriors, the promotion turned them into jobbers. Could this be their chance to profit from The Usos hard work?

No. They still tasted the familiar cuisine of defeat.

Next was Nikki Bella against Natalya. The former deserves props for becoming a legit performer, the latter, commiserations for being overlooked when her ring technique was being under-utilised for too long. By now, in the twilight of their careers, chasing the main prize has passed.

The New Era means these sorts of matches are thank you and farewell. As a contest, it was good. Bella took the bumps that the Canadian can so easily provide. A double count-out just means we’ll see more of them together as we stroll toward Nikki’s retirement. The backstage spat later just a reminder these have unfinished business.

In an absolute given of a result, Randy Orton defeated Luke Harper in their 1-on-1 match. Orton just had to win. Had to. Otherwise the WrestleMania main event would have been devalued. Also, Harper taking him to the edge, with only an RKO Outta Nowhere able to see him off, was a given.

Harper needed to be booked strong in defeat. The match had good flow. Even a superplex from the top rope, not easy with the size of Harper, added to the action.

The question remains: how will these two operate within the Wyatt Family dynamic now, especially with the Chamber match still looming?

In a night of easy to predict results, the Women’s Championship match threw a curveball. Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss. It looked like this was a placeholder bout before Bliss got a real WrestleMania opponent but no, WWE made Naomi the hometown champ.

naomi-bliss-chamber-2017

What made it worse (not that the result is that bad, but we’ll get to the problem in a minute) was the botched finish. High octane matches drain the body and allow mental fatigue to creep in. This was a perfect example and further highlights why Charlotte and Banks are leagues above everyone else.

The crowd didn’t seem to mind (they chanted their approval) but it all feels contrived. From the dance music and glow stick style paraphernalia from European raves of the late 90s and early 00s (something I’m very familiar with), to the feel good story of Naomi going home as champ, none of it felt authentic.

She looks as comfortable holding the belt as she does trying to dance to music she’s culturally unaware of.

Also, how is it she is still going to be champion come WrestleMania? Does Bliss not have a rematch clause or has WWE done away with those now, as even the men seem to be passing them up?

A hollow victory.

Then came the Elimination Chamber.

AJ Styles and John Cena started, The Miz, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose in pods, waiting for their chance to steal Cena’s gold.

The match was in the “new” chamber. The difference: there’s safety mats in place of the unforgiving chained surface, and squared off, larger pods. A PG chamber for a PG era.

Styles and Cena gave us an abridged version of their previous encounter. A look at the clock showed we wouldn’t get a long chamber match so they quickly got the main spots and near falls. We knew Cena would drop the belt, and 99% certain it would be to Wyatt, Styles was the 1% chance for a surprise of sorts.

The Lunatic Fringe was first to leave his temporary prison and his contribution early on was to enable Cena to deliver a double German suplex. Ambrose was never going to win here. The commentators remarking a victory would make him only the second man after Ultimate Warrior to hold both the Intercontinental Title and the WWE Championship ensured he’d fail.

A minor surprise came when Wyatt was second to emerge from the pods. It was safe to assume he’d appear late and snatch a victory. Now it meant he’d have to work for one. But he did a good job of still taking shots a champ should avoid.

Corbin came next and ran riot, clearing the ring. He has been booked to look strong. The Chamber match was all about reinforcing the view he’s a future threat before selling him short. That happened with a cheap Ambrose roll-up. Once eliminated, he took immediate revenge on Ambrose.

Future IC Title match booked for WrestleMania. Easy pin for The Miz on Ambrose.

The Miz also ran riot. He mocked Daniel Bryan by using his kicks, followed by a double drop kick on Cena and Wyatt. You could see it pained Cena to sell them well. Then Miz took turns on all three men in each ring post.

He has been Superstar of the year (perhaps tied with Styles) and this was his just reward. He could never win the match – not many mainstream fans would buy into Miz/Orton as a WrestleMania main event – but he deserves to be considered as a future WWE Champion.

So it is immensely frustrating that he was removed from the match after receiving zero punishment and one AA from Cena. The crowd booed and rightly so. It undoes all the work of making him look like a real contender.

Down to the final three.

In a result that shouldn’t come as a shock, the nature of Wyatt’s victory was. There was no Orton or Harper appearance. He made this writer Tweet: #SisterAbigailOuttaNowhere, when he eliminated John Cena first. So, we knew a new champ was happening. And the 1% became 40% all of a sudden.

But another Sister Abigail wrapped up months of storytelling.

bray-wyatt-champion

It’s an occasion that the obvious result is okay. But now WWE needs to ensure it avoids obvious WrestleMania resolutions. The glaring one would be to have Orton turn and backstab a title win at the Grandest Stage of All.

What makes more sense is to have Harper emerge at WrestleMania (with Erick Rowan, would be even better) to ensure Bray keeps the belt. The story would be more powerful if it emerges the Wyatt Family knew Orton was going to cross them, so tricked him instead, proving their cult has an unbreakable bond.

Overall, a decent Elimination Chamber.

7/10