The Horror Show at Extreme Rules PPV

WWE Performance Center, Orlando, Florida

Billed as a Horror Show, WWE’s Extreme Rules lived up to its moniker but was it for all the right reasons? Rushonrock’s King Of The Ring, Andy Spoors, attempts to break down a bizarre and eventful night of action.

There’s no way to sugar-coat it, 2020’s edition of Extreme Rules has not gone down well with the masses. Social media channels are still abuzz with comments slating the fourth behind closed doors PPV of the year. But, let’s be honest, such is the jaded state of much of the WWE Universe, the company seems to be battling perceptions before a bell is rung.

The claustrophobic and poisonous nature of Twitter seemed grossly unfair as a reflection of an event that had as many high spots as it did low points. For wrestling fans there appears to be two schools of thinking when it comes to PPVs: either PPVs are the culmination of a rivalry or they make you want to invest in the Superstars and see what happens next.

So where does Extreme Rules fall? Emphatically in the latter camp. In an era where PPV buy rates are a thing of the past and TV ratings are king, WWE seem focussed on creating talking points. With a number of curious incidents littered throughout, the company certainly did just that.

The in-ring action over the two and a half-hour running time was arguably the best in weeks for Raw and Smackdown Superstars. As predicted in our preview, Asuka and Sasha Banks put on a wrestling clinic until an over-elaborate finish – to keep both women strong in the future – muddied the waters.

As the match drew to a close, Asuka inadvertently sprayed her green mist into the referee’s face. Sensing an opportunity to help her tag team partner out, Bayley stripped the referee of his shirt, before donning the black and white stripes and counting Banks as the winner and new champion. It was a messy and convoluted way to finish a potential match of the year contender.

Bayley defended her Smackdown Women’s Championship earlier in the night against a game Nikki Cross. Bayley and Banks are currently running roughshod over the women’s division and across all three brands. In the same month WWE has celebrated the fifth anniversary of the women’s revolution, it seems fitting that two of the major players in that movement continue to steal the headlines.

Further confusion reigned as MVP announced himself the new US Champion when current champ Apollo Crews was unable to compete in their match – still feeling the effects of Bobby Lashley’s Full Nelson submission a few weeks ago. A real sign of the times, the fact that MVP is anywhere near a title in 2020 shows how limited the roster really is at present.

Cesaro and Nakamura captured the Smackdown Tag Championships after driving Kofi Kingston through a double stacked set of tables. New Day are now free to kick on towards celebrating double digit tag championship reigns but capturing gold could be exactly what Cesaro and Nakamura need to kickstart careers that have begun to stagnate.

All the talk before the PPV, focussed on how WWE would pull off the finish to Seth Rollins vs Rey Mysterio’s Eye For An Eye Match. We will get there but the bout itself was a tremendous Extreme Rules match. Without the albatross of having to extract your opponent’s eye from its socket, both men could have delivered something special. But the execution was as poor as people feared. 

Shots soon circulated around Twitter of Rey Mysterio holding his ‘extracted eye’ – a prop  that proved to be no more than a red sharpied ping pong ball. WWE would do well to remember in show business, less is more. The shock factor was non-existent, as fans waited for a moment that was effectively a rerun of the same spot carried out last month.

To close out the show, Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman’s Swamp Match continued the recent trend of cinematic matches as the main event. Credit where it’s due, WWE has really hit their stride and embraced this new style of presentation. Closer in kin to a budget B- horror movie, very little wrestling actually took place. Instead monologues, smoke and mirrors and, of course, a swamp featured in a trippy ride through the history of the Wyatt family. Finishing with Strowman seemingly drowned by The Fiend, questions will float around until Friday Night Smackdown: further evidence the company is trying to encourage fans to watch the TV product and create buzz for the next PPV, Summerslam.

We’ve been here before. WWE is in dire need of a lightning bolt to strike. The hardcore fans are starting to turn, the casual fans are long gone and even the fence sitters are starting to wobble. If ever there was a time for a 3:16 promo, a CM Punk pipebomb, a new Yes Movement it is now. Someone needs to create some magic that has people excited to tune in again. The over-elaboration needs to end and in its place Superstars need to step up.

With no crowd for the foreseeable, gauging fan opinion can only come from the same social media outlets that are currently awash with their harshest critics. Next month sees the company’s second biggest PPV of the year, SummerSlam and bosses have to be worried about exactly who will be left to watch whichever matches can be put on. It may not have been their intention but the current situation WWE finds themselves in? Boy, now that is a true horror show.