Brock Lesnar is set to make his pay-per-view return an event whose utter laughingstock of a name is very baffling until you remember the owner of the company was born in 1945, Great Balls of Fire. But before that show arrives, the superstars who actually show up to RAW on a weekly basis have to fill out their hardcore prerequisites and get extreme. Extreme Rules originated as a tag-on for One Night Stand back in 2008, raucously soundtracked by a rocking Rev Theory song, and has since become its own show with the same premise: matches with hardcore stipulations attached. One of the matches on this card spits in the face of that very concept, but we’ll get to that. And for a PPV that’s supposed to excite fans with the thought of kendo sticks, tables, and various other big boy toys coming into play, I can’t say I’m personally all that excited for the show. However, unlike RAW’s previous PPV outing, Payback, it’s not going to feature any horror movie fights filmed in a house that’s almost as abandoned as the McBarge, so that’s a plus. Let’s see what it will feature, however.
Mixed Tag Team Match
This stipulation is about as extreme as eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos without a glass of milk or ice water on standby. Here we have Sasha Banks, who less than a year ago put her body on the line in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell Match, teaming with groove machine Rich Swann to take on the beautiful Alicia Fox (saying it like this is optional), who was once rammed through a barricade by Nia Jax, and her on-screen boyfriend Noam Dar. It was much more easy to point out Sasha and Alicia’s brief brushes with getting extreme than it was to point out Swann’s and Dar’s; they haven’t gotten extreme at all and won’t have the chance to here. It’s a regular, not-extreme Mixed Tag, so don’t expect any intergender action like Candice LeRae or Veda Scott have been known to do. The always scheming Dar and Fox looking to fend off Banks and Swann, who aside from being the same race and having both won championships in 2016, only really seem to have dancing in-common. Therefore we have no idea if they’ll have the chemistry and trust that Fox and Dar been able to form.
Who I Want to Win: Alicia Fox & Noam Dar. I’m still not sold on Sasha Banks & Noam Dar as a duo, so why would I want to see them beat a duo who might be in it for the long haul in comparison?
Who Will Win: Alicia Fox & Noam Dar; their chemistry is on-point, and even though Sasha will be contending for the Women’s Title again down the line I see her notching a few losses along the way, this one included.
Cruiserweight Championship Submission Match
This is about the only thing relevant happening in the Cruiserweight Division right now. There are other stories happening on 205 Live such as The Brian Kendrick‘s “lessons” for Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander‘s return, and the issues that are to be resolved in the aforementioned Mixed Tag. But none of those angles have recieved near the level of heat and attention on RAW that this one has. Partly because the championship is in the middle of it and partly because the Cruiserweights involved are some of the few who fans seem to care all that much about. And it’s been going on since before WrestleMania. The Show of Shows was about two months ago; Austin Aries has been chasing the title that long. Neville has been able to live up to his name of “King of the Cruiserweights” for most of the year yet Aries’ chase for it is not over. This time around, the match can only end on a submission; not the most extreme stipulation, but at least it’s something. Either the Rings of Saturn or the Last Chancery will be the difference between the continuation of the current regime in the Cruiserweight Division or the rise of a brand new conqueror.
Who I Want to Win: Neville; look, I like Austin Aries, but I would still prefer that if the King has to eventually be dethroned, a built-up Cedric Alexander is the one to do it.
Who Will Win: Neville; Aries may have gotten the better of Neville in their more recent encounters, but this is where he’ll step up – or get help from TJP – and keep the keys to the kingdom fair and square.
Raw Tag Team Championship Steel Cage Match
WWE must not have wanted fans to experience ladder fatigue given that Money in the Bank, a Smackdown-exclusive show, is taking place later on in the month. So rather than place the Hardy Boyz in the match type that they most popularized, they’re facing Sheamus and Cesaro in a steel cage instead. Even more confusing is the fact that the Hardys themselves picked the stipulation. Kind of makes you wonder if this version of Matt is as off his rocker as the #BROKEN version. But nevertheless, he and Jeff will face off against Cesaro and Sheamus, who are now 100% villainous following Payback, inside the famed steel structure. All of these men know what it’s like to fight with steel walls surrounding the ring, be it the steel cage, Hell in a Cell, or Elimination Chamber, so presumably, no one will have a notable advantage over their opposition. But with that said, who will come out on top?
Who I Want to Win: Cesaro & Sheamus; the Hardy’s nostalgia run can’t last forever, and sooner or later, they have to start booking them in other stories. I’d love if they used this match as a catalyst to do so, which brings me to…
Who Will Win: Cesaro & Sheamus; you can’t trust Jeff Hardy in a steel cage; the guy will try to climb out of the cage, but allows his daredevil instincts to take over and dives. He’s done it not once, but twice. And I feel like he’ll do it this time and cost the team the titles.
Women’s Championship Kendo Stick on a Pole Match
Presumably, Vince Russo didn’t book this. (Or maybe he did?) Still, a fan would be forgiven for assuming that he did, because who else would think that an “…On A Pole” Match of any kind in 2017 would be a good idea? These kinds of matches were derided in their heyday for having stupid concepts (Viagra on a Pole, Judy Bagwell on a Forklift) or faulty execution; Piñata on a Pole, for the record, represents the worst of both worlds. And WWE has also done it a few times in their past, usually for the women, having stuck everything from a paddle to a giant gold star to fuzzy dice to mistletoe on a pole for them to grab over the years. This time, it’s a kendo stick, and while the “…On A Pole” element still seems like a groan-inducing idea, Alexa Bliss has shown in recent weeks that she finds mouth-watering pleasure in swinging that bamboo on flesh. Hopefully, we can all forget that miserable “This Is Your Life” segment ever happened (even WWE is already trying to and THEY WROTE IT) and be treated to a decent match between the two.
Who I Want to Win: Alexa Bliss. I hope they don’t hold this past Monday over her head and cut her reign short because she’s still a brilliant heel and there’s potential in keeping Bayley away from the title for now and readying Alexa for Nia or Sasha down the road.
Who Will Win: Alexa Bliss; Bad Luck Bayley is here to stay for now. And presumably Nia Jax, who’s been M.I.A. lately because reasons, could get involved and be effective backup for Alexa.
The logic of this match is totally backwards within the context of this PPV. Why, on a PPV that originated as an ECW homage and that to this day still encourages Superstars to use weapons and get hardcore, would a match be booked where one of the wrestlers is NOT ALLOWED to use a weapon and get hardcore? None of that makes any sense, but WWE booked it anyway. Also not helping is the fact that it’s another reminder that the Jon Moxley persona that so many people know and love will likely never emerge in the WWE and we have to settle for Dean Ambrose. I’m fine with that; I like Looney Tunes Ambrose a lot more than I should, even if the feeling on the character isn’t mutual among most of the online pro wrestling fandom. But him getting hardcore on Extreme Rules would be a joy to watch. Sadly, if he uses a weapon in this match, he loses the Intercontinental Championship to The Miz. This match will likely be good, but I have my doubts on whether it’ll be memorable.
Who I Want to Win: The Miz. I stated that I am a Dean Ambrose fan, but I’m a supporter of The Miz just as much. He’s been one of the best things about WWE lately, and even though he’s already held the IC Title six times, I’ll settle for that if they don’t want him anywhere near the Universal Title.
Who Will Win: Dean Ambrose; it’s not going to be easy, but Dean Ambrose is probably going to be able to control himself and retain. The only way he wouldn’t is if he uses a weapon while he thinks the referee is down and accidentally ends up getting caught. That’d be quite a swerve, huh?
#1 Contender Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules Match
Kind of a sad commentary when the main event of a PPV is for the #1 contendership for the World (or in this case, Universal) Championship rather than the actual championship itself. Brock Lesnar hasn’t been seen since RAW After Mania; like Carmen Sandiego, Waldo, and recently Taylor Swift, Brock just up and disappeared from the map, taking the cosmetic catastrophe to the corneas known as Universal Championship with him. Nothing new for him as he did this back in 2014 as well when he won the World Championship and broke the 30-Day defense rule numerous times. Brock doesn’t like showing up unless he really needs to, but they already announced he’ll be defending the time on WWE Immaculate Spheres of Flame, so now they have to determine who his challenger will be. We have a demon with a healed-up shoulder, a hillbilly who stopped scaring people a while ago, a superman whose feud with Braun Strowman is on hold, a submission specialist who could really stand to be booked better, and the architect who called out Brock in the first place (yes, that happened). And weapons are all legal.
Who I Want to Win: Finn Bálor. I wanted to see The Demon face The Beast long before Paul Heyman hyped it up, but now I want to see it even more.
Who Will Win: Using deductive reasoning: Wyatt has animosity with Joe and so does Rollins; Strowman could be back soon and he’s supposedly not finished with Roman yet. Because of this, I’m convinced that Bálor might actually take this one. And if so, let’s pray for him come WWE Should-Be Bad Blood.