This year’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view (The Horror Show at Extreme Rules) was another reminder of why it’s become difficult to watch the WWE. While the show featured some tremendous wrestling, its incredibly stupid finishes, a match that defied every trope of wrestling, and a cinematic match that flopped made this a harsh reminder of why the WWE is lost creatively. Spoilers abound so if you missed the show and plan on watching it (DON”T), avoid the spoilers ahead.
There’s no denying that the WWE has a deep roster of extremely talented wrestlers (so much so that the wrestlers released on April 15 were enough to launch a small promotion), but Extreme Rules showed how the WWE doesn’t know how to use them. With the exception of the Tables Match between the New Day and the team of Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro, the Bayley vs. Nikki Cross match, and the Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler match, the show seemed more like an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event (and I don’t mean the original, but the relaunch of the 2000s).
In case you skipped the show (and count yourself lucky), here’s the entire card:
Kevin Owens pinned Buddy Murphy
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro defeated the New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship in a Tables Match when Cesaro power-bombed Kofi through two tables.
SmackDown Women’s Champion pinned Nikki Cross
MVP defeated United States Champion Apollo Crews by forfeit when Crews was unable to compete due to a storyline injury at the hands of Bobby Lashley.
Seth Rollins defeated Rey Mysterio by taking out Rey’s eye in an aptly titled “Eye for an Eye” Match.
Sasha Banks pinned RAW Women’s Champion Asuka after Bayley clobbered the champion with a title. Asuka had accidentally sprayed green mist in the referee’s face, blinding him and leading to Bayley donning the referee’s shirt and making the count.
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre pinned Dolph Ziggler in a match where Ziggler chose the stipulation: “Extreme Rules” for him, but a normal match with McIntyre where the champion could lose the title if he was counted out or disqualified (in addition to the usual pinfall or submission).
Bray Wyatt (or was it the Fiend?) defeated Braun Strowman in a Wyatt Swamp Fight after Wyatt dragged Strowman underwater and the Fiend emerged victorious and “The Monster Among Men” apparently drowned.
Here are the key takeaways from the show:
1. The WWE must be scripting these shows as they take place. Rumor has it Apollo Crews never made it to the Performance Center so the WWE knew he wouldn’t be there. Rather than booking a replacement, they had MVP walk off with the title. Obviously, the WWE wants fans to tune in to RAW to see what’s going on, but does anyone care about the U.S. Championship? Add in the WWE’s completely asinine finish to the Asuka/Banks match where Bayley took over as referee and fans had to be asking whether Vince Russo has rejoined the promotion.
2. “The Eye for an Eye” Match was another example of the WWE’s inability to maintain the suspension of disbelief. Fans know that wrestling is a world where performers settle their differences by beating their opponent to a pulp, but wrestlers traditionally don’t kill opponents (although there are exceptions like the Undertaker, who always finds a way back from the grave) and while they inflict extraordinary amounts of punishment, they don’t maim their opponent. Not so with the “Eye for an Eye” Match where the object defied every trope of wrestling. Not only that, but this was a sanctioned match?
3. The Cinematic Ship Has Sailed. The WWE’s cinematic matches have been a good way to keep fans distracted from the lack of crowds and to try something different. They’ve been successful for the most part, but the Swamp Battle was the proverbial hot mess. The match just seemed to wander and even though fans seem to be okay with surreal elements (such as the Firefly Funhouse Match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt), last night’s match just seemed like a bunch of segments thrown together. Although the bit with Alexa Bliss as Sister Abigail was inspired, the rest of the match fell flat and was predictable with the Fiend emerging as the winner.
If a recent report at Ringside News is accurate, the WWE is feeling the heat from FOX and the USA Network about the ratings slides for Friday Night SmackDown and RAW. According to Ringside News:
“the story that FOX and USA Network are okay with waiting for people to come back into arenas is bullsh*t.” It was previously thought that bringing fans back to arenas will encourage more viewers at home. We were told that they have lost patience with those low numbers.
Additionally, the return of Monday Night Football is making them worry about the situation. NFL games typically take a chunk out of WWE’s viewership anyway. It is creating a situation in the company where their networks aren’t happy with the current numbers that WWE is bringing in, and they’re concerned about what’s to come.
Please note it was never stated that the networks are going to cancel Raw or SmackDown. That was not part of the conversation, but they are concerned and no longer being patient about things.
The WWE’s desperation is evident by their lack of long-term planning, an unwillingness to take chances on young talent for more than a few weeks, and overreliance on a core group of wrestlers that makes fan burnout inevitable. The Horror Show at Extreme Rules was a show that had the talent to make for a strong outing, but the sloppy execution and questionable elements such as the “Eye for an Eye” Match and the cinematic match turned it into a failure.