Posted June 4th, 2017 by 1Wrestling News Team

By Don Murphy

I had the good fortune to experience Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) at the height of its popularity. It was edgy. It was controversial. And, above all, it gave the wrestling fans something that they considered different from the standard fare. While a good part of the edginess that made ECW popular is now a thing of the past, once a year, WWE likes to push the envelope a bit and capture a small part of the hardcore mindset that ran rampant over twenty years ago. Their latest offering takes place this Sunday night, as the Raw brand presents Extreme Rules, emanating from the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. While most of the matches feature some kind of hardcore stipulation, there are also several intriguing stories at play. The most notable one will play out in the main event, as the winner of the “Fatal Five-Way” will become the Number One Contender to the WWE Universal Championship at the “Great Balls of Fire” show on July 9th, in Dallas, Texas. I’ll also be interested to see how they pay off the Bayley-Alexa Bliss story. For the past couple of weeks, Bayley has struggled with the idea of going “extreme”, so it will be interesting to see how they build to that moment in the match. If done right, it will get a huge pop when the moment finally happens. Finally, three matches on the show should be culminations to feuds that have been going on for several months. Will the stories end here? Or, will it be another chapter in the journey? Let’s run down the card….

Main Event: Fatal Five-Way Extreme Rules Match between Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe

*The winner will meet Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at the Great Balls of Fire Show on July 9th in Dallas, TX*

Analysis: Normally, when you put five of your top talents in one match, it’s considered lazy booking. And, I suppose you can make that argument here. But, in the buildup to this match, the creative team has done a solid job in creating several sub-plots, while keeping the fans guessing who the winner will be. For me, up until about a week ago, I was fairly confident that Finn Balor would emerge victorious, particularly given Paul Heyman’s endorsement of him on Raw two weeks ago. But then I thought about how things might play out in the long-term. Balor is poised to be one of the WWE’s top stars for years to come, so a match against Lesnar now would be too premature, since there are no signs that they’re taking the belt off of Lesnar anytime soon. So, losing to Lesnar now would put Balor in a limbo state that I don’t think he can afford at this stage. You could make the case for Roman Reigns, but I believe they’re holding that match until WrestleMania. Don’t be surprised to see a returning Braun Strowman take Reigns out of the match. Furthermore, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the Seth Rollins-Samoa Joe program, so that likely takes them out of consideration. This leaves Bray Wyatt. Now, Wyatt-Lesnar isn’t the most attractive main event for the July show, but it makes sense when you consider that Wyatt is one of the few talents on the roster that can absorb repeated losses and still be credible in the main event slot. Also, it’s likely that Lesnar will be facing Braun Strowman at SummerSlam. As Strowman is positioned as a monster heel, it would be logical to build Lesnar’s babyface status by facing Wyatt first. In addition, you can build in the past relationship between Strowman and Wyatt.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Bray Wyatt wins the Fatal Five-Way

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Dean Ambrose defends the WWE Intercontinental Championship against The Miz

*If Dean Ambrose is disqualified, he will lose the WWE Intercontinental Championship*

Analysis: Usually, stipulations in championship matches tend to favor the babyface. In a somewhat rare circumstance, this stipulation favors the heel. I like the way they built to this on Raw, with Ambrose cheating to defeat Ambrose. Normally, a babyface shouldn’t have to cheat, but the Ambrose character isn’t your typical babyface and reminding the fans that he’s not above rule-breaking will serve them well later when they eventually decide to turn him heel. Given the way this match is laid out, I see Ambrose keeping the title. Unfortunately, the Miz character is stronger with a championship and I am worried about where they go with him from here. I thought his potential had a much better upside on Smackdown, and I fear that he’s going to get lost in the shuffle on Raw. With Ambrose, there’s the possibility that they move him into a program with Elias Samson or another mid-card talent, in an attempt to build someone up. So, while I think the result of the match is predictable, the real intrigue comes in the aftermath.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Dean Ambrose retains the WWE Intercontinental Championship

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match: The Hardy Boyz defend the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship against Sheamus and Cesaro

*This match takes place inside of a steel cage*

Analysis: This program has been going on for the last two months, and while in most cases, it would be stale by now, the creative team provided a nice twist with the Sheamus and Cesaro heel turn. And, with the Hardys defeating them in each meeting, I think we’re due to see the heels win and take the titles. Now, I think the use of the steel cage here is a bit misplaced. Usually, it comes into play when there have been issues with interference in past matches, or the babyface has a hard time keeping the heel in the ring. Nonetheless, this should add some juice to the match, and with the Hardys losing, it sets up their transition back to the “Broken” characters that were so popular last year. We’ve already seen hints of this transformation and I think a loss here will fully put things into motion.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Sheamus and Cesaro win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss defends the WWE Raw Women’s Championship against Bayley

*This match features a kendo stick on a pole. Whoever gets the stick first can use it*

Analysis: Since moving to the main roster, I’ve felt that the creative team didn’t fully “get” the Bayley character and how to position her. I thought that they missed the opportunity to have her win the title and end Charlotte’s streak on WrestleMania’s big stage. But, I think they channeled a bit of what made her popular in building this story. She’s a fan-girl. She’s a bit shy and gullible. And, above all, she’s nice. She could never bring herself to use a weapon on an opponent, but recent attacks by Bliss may push her over the edge. My hope is that they tease this moment several times during the match, with Bayley becoming increasingly conflicted, before finally exploding. I think the finish will see Bayley become consumed by rage in going after Bliss, leaving her vulnerable to some kind of trickery, leading to the challenger’s defeat. Bliss is one of the highlights on Raw right now, and I don’t see her dropping the title in the short-term, especially since this is a much better story, with Bayley in chase mode.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Alexa Bliss retains the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Neville defends the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Austin Aries

*This match can only be won when one of the participants makes his opponent submit*

Analysis: This is another program that has sustained several chapters. Each time, Aries is poised to win the title, only to have Neville find a way to win. It’s a great formula. For this match, I think there’s two things to watch out for. I think we’ll see TJ Perkins play a factor in the outcome. Neville has promised him a championship match, in return for his help. Neville hasn’t lived up to his end of the deal as of yet, so I think after this match, we’ll start to see the beginning of that feud, as Perkins will have had enough. With Aries, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an eventual heel turn out of frustration, after failing to win the title. Both make good use of submission holds, so the stipulation here makes logical sense.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Neville retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship

Mixed Tag Team Match: Sasha Banks and Rich Swann meet Noam Dar and Alicia Fox

Analysis: I like the use of the talent in this one. Swann and Dar have feuded for months, and it hasn’t been the most compelling feud. The addition of Banks into the program gives it a needed boost, while taking Banks away from the title picture for now and giving her eventual program with Bayley a chance to build. I also think Fox’s talents are misused, so working with Banks gives her some much-needed credibility. This match will be a pretty standard win for the babyface team, but will help serve all involved in the longer-term.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Sasha Banks and Rich Swann defeat Noam Dar and Alicia Fox
Follow me on Twitter: @don424

Category: Wrestling.

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