WWE Extreme Rules 2016
Newark, New Jersey – Prudential Center
May 22, 2016

Watch: WWE Network

WWE Extreme Rules 2016 had a lot of hype going in, as the main event featured a longstanding favorite of the independent & Japanese wrestling scene going up against a WWE establishment pick. Our review team runs down the card, results, and surprises from Extreme Rules!

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler

Alex Wendland: Not the superb opener some of the WWE shows have had this year, but Baorn Corbin has shown he was well protected in NXT. His work since WrestleMania has just kind of been there and that’s exactly what this match was. Not exactly selling subscriptions with this one, but certainly nothing offensive about it. **1/2

Bryan Rose: They had an okay brawl. Corbin won with a low blow and the End of Days, which is pretty clean given it’s a no DQ match. We can all move on now, right? **1/2

Garrett Kidney: Interestingly Ziggler did a better job creating movement and working around Baron Corbin’s considerable limitations than Austin Aries did at the last Takeover. Ziggler, in spite of still delivering solid performances, has been so firmly cemented in his midcard role that it’s become quite sad. Corbin is terrible and will get multiple chances because he’s tall (and you can’t teach that apparently) but those chances will run out eventually. **1/2

Gallows & Anderson def. Usos

Wendland: The Usos are wearing black shorts tonight, so you know they mean business. Gallows and Anderson are also wearing black, so everyone clearly means business. The match itself was short, but evenly fought. In the aftermath, however, The Usos sold it like they had just been beaten through hell. Another “no disqualification” match tonight that didn’t involve much in the way of weapons outside of the clever involvement of the ring bell in the finish. That’s not a bad thing, sometimes “no DQ” should just mean that the match is a fight rather than a wrestling match, and that’s how this felt. ***

Rose: This was fine. The Usos just lack something at this point in the game; they’re perfectly fine as workers but there’s just something off about them that doesn’t make them stand out as like a really great tag team. THE CLUB have it a bit more, but as workers they’re just perfectly fine. Together, they had an okay brawl. I liked the finish with the ring bell, at least. **3/4

Kidney: This match was the best endorsement for the tag team formula in recent memory. That formula has been refined (and occasionally mastered) over the last few decades for good reason – it works. And when you deviate from it in a major way like they did here, what results is a disjointed match that never really felt like something whole. In between moments of entertaining action were stretches of clumsy standing around and waiting. The Usos being booed shouldn’t be ignored, rather it should be embraced but WWE don’t exactly have a great track record of running with certain crowd reactions. **1/4

WWE United States Championship
Rusev def. Kalisto

Wendland: This was exactly the match seemingly everyone on the Voices of Wrestling staff was calling for in various previews and podcasts all week – a Rusev demolition of Kalisto. Unfortunately, it also died a death with a crowd that gave them absolutely nothing. I really enjoyed this since Crushing Rusev is so much more fun than Crushed Rusev. Even with the title change, though, this show felt insignificant to this point, even with a match as fun as this one. This match earned a higher rating than I’ll give it, but the useless crowd brought this one down. ***1/4

Rose: This was really good. Problem was the crowd was pretty disinterested, and I don’t really blame them. Kallisto’s among the worst booked champions in a long time, rarely being on TV and when he is, usually he’s the one losing. Despite being in a tag team with SIN CARA. So yes, it’s no wonder the crowd didn’t react for most of this. The finish was too cute and too weird. The referee kept pushing Rusev away as he dragged Kallisto to the middle of the ring, almost teasing a lame DQ finish, but then just put on the accolade anyway and Kallisto submitted. Maybe the US champion can be on TV now. ***

Kidney: Were it not for the occasionally disinterested crowd, this would have been a really top quality match. As it was it was an extremely well worked match that made Rusev look like the killer we all know he can be (and the killer that he was before he was neutered by John Cena). Kalisto was great as the dynamic, likable underdog and Rusev smashed. If these two characters hadn’t been presented so inconsistently this year this would have soared to even higher heights. ***1/4

WWE World Tag Team Championship
The New Day def. The Vaudevillains

Wendland: Three of the most anticipated matches of the night burned off in less than an hour. I really expected The Vaudevillains to leave with the titles tonight so that the New Day can refocus, get serious and send either Kofi Kingston, or preferably Big E, into singles competition en route to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I don’t know where this trio goes in the tag team division anymore. There’s still Enzo and Big Cass, but they’re losing their edge and their focus. More importantly, The New Day is in danger of losing a sizable chunk of their support. ***

Rose: This was okay I guess? It didn’t last too long. Everyone looked fine. Finish was the right one. Not much more to say beyond that. **

Kidney: The New Day’s schtick is wearing thin for me. I like all three guys and they are infrequently amusing but they feel like they’re trying so hard to be cute and funny. And they’ve basically stopped having really good matches. There is no substance behind the act anymore. Big E is also way too good for it all. He should be playing a much larger role in WWE at this stage. The Vaudevillains as they are now will be Superstars and Main Event fodder before long but this was a solid enough match. It was nice to see Woods get to strut his stuff a little too because he’s great and doesn’t get to show it all that often. **3/4

WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz def. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens & Cesaro

Wendland: Sami Zayn hooked me with the surprise Helluva Kick to start the match and all four wrestlers kept me inthralled the entire time. I can understand if someone found the constant nearfalls cheesy, but it only made it more fun for me. Six months ago The Miz is dragging this match down, but whether it’s a character change or a renewed vigor in his matches The Miz has been spectacular in 2016. We’ve known about the matches Zayn, Cesaro and Kevin Owens can put on for years, but bringing The Miz into the mix and improving the end result is remarkable and noteworthy. Zayn, who had been leading the match, was distracted by his hatred for Owens once again and it probably cost him the Intercontinental championship; the molten blood feud between Zayn and Owens is going to sell a ton of tickets over the next decade. ****

Rose: Great stuff. This was more of a “MOVES” match, but I think that’s the perfect way to book a fatal four way match, selling doesn’t need to be the end all of a match. Everyone looked great here. Miz has improved tremendously as a performer since they added Maryse to his act and seems more motivated than ever, and didn’t look lost here with Owens, Zayn and Cesaro who were all also pretty damn awesome. Loved all the near falls, the hot crowd, the subtle things throughout the match (it’s clear Zayn/Owens are going to go at it somewhere down the line)…just everything about the match was fun and great. No complaints! ****1/4

Kidney: This. THIS! On paper given the four participants this looked like a great match and yet somehow it turned out even better than I could have expected. What a wonderful, smart layered piece of work. Aside from awesome action, brilliantly timed sequences (particularly the one that ended on the Skull Crushing Finale nearfall), fluid Cesaro/Zayn exchanges, and believable Zayn/Owen collisions – what stood out most here was how cleverly the match teased Miz stealing the win a number of times to the degree that you didn’t expect it to happen in the end. It brilliantly played with your expectations of how the match was going to play out only to pull the rug out from under you in the end. All four guys delivered big time. This show needed a match to deliver like this and you should definitely seek this out. ****1/2

Asylum Match
Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho

Wendland: What’s wrong with a cage match? This interminable slog of a match would’ve been more focused and far, far more meaningful. Prop Comic Dean Ambrose has been boring and cartoonish for the better part of a year; tonight may have been the last straw for Ambrose’s viability, but he always has a way of rebuilding himself for a month or two before sliding straight back into a terrible comedy character. As little as I enjoyed this match, the true tragedy is that Ambrose wasted a dive off of the cage (directly onto his knee) and Chris Jericho took a truly vicious bump into the thumbtacks. Those two spots just weren’t enough to save this and using them in a match of this caliber is a colossal disappointment. *3/4

Rose: Where to begin. First off, the concept is so hokey. You have this cage full of dumb weapons like a mop and a potted plant, while hokey music that’s supposed to be creepy is playing and you’re expecting me to be intrigued by this match? So going in, my expectations were already pretty low. The work in the match was solid to start, but the problem was they kept going. And going. And going. And going. They did plodding back and forth brawling and teases to bigger spots for about the first 24 minutes of what I’ve heard was a 26 minute match. Very few WWE title main event matches have gotten that kind of time, let alone a midcard gimmick match featuring two guys who, at best, are pretty inconsistent when it comes to having good matches. Then finally, after teasing thumbtacks for about the last ten minutes, they actually did a thumbtack spot that was pretty cool. Then Ambrose won clean. I can’t say it was a complete and utter disaster of a match because the last spot was pretty cool and they paid it off, but this should have gotten half of the time, tops. Just inexcusable how long this went. *

Kidney: This was a trainwreck on every single level. I don’t even know where to begin. Tonally it was bizarre because they started playing around with a mop and ended with thumbtacks – which was a jarring journey. The match was so long. Unbelievably long. Just way too long. At one stage I questioned whether it was ever going to end. Nothing was novel. Nothing was unique. There were no interesting ideas. At no stage did they ever sell the idea that this was an important grudge match. It wasn’t even entertaining in the way of an Abyss hardcore match, devoid of substance but ultimately watchable. It was rubbish in every regard. They lost me so badly in the opening twenty minutes or so that I didn’t care in the slightest about them falling into thumbtacks or jumping off the cage. Ambrose, once a legitimately popular wrestler, has been derailed by WWE’s insistence to write his character as zany and wacky rather than edgy and unpredictable. Total garbage. *

WWE Women’s Championship
Charlotte def. Natalya

Wendland: Natalya is the most easily distracted multi-time challenger I can remember. She doesn’t seem to care that she’s wrestling for a world championship, much less that she’s continuing one of the great emerging wrestling dynasty rivalries. The distraction finish by Dana Brooke creates a continuation for an undercard women’s storyline, which is always welcome, but why should anyone care about Nattie getting revenge when she’s lost herself the match two or three times now? Outside of the finish, this was a well considered match. Both women went for submission holds frequently and worked their opponent over specifically to set up for their signature holds. The drawback here was the ending and that we’ve seen it so many times before. **1/4

Rose: So you’d think by all these stipulations about Flair being banned from ringside, you’d think there would be a clean finish here. Of course not, and that is exactly why WWE will never get the kind of cred NXT gets when they do the same matches with the same people. Work here was fine, but being put out there after a bad match didn’t help things, they didn’t get a whole lot of time to build to things and the finish was just lame. If you want a reason why you can’t do NXT quality matches in WWE, it’s because emotion and presentation are constantly thrown out the window for fuck finishes and time cuts, plus too much time thinking about these fuck finishes. This feud overall has been nothing but a disappointment because these women can do so much more than this. **

Kidney: The key to any successful submission is not in the technical application of a hold, rather how well that hold is sold. How well does the person on the receiving end of the submission convince you that it’s painful. This was was technically fine, but emotionally bland. And then of course you had the extremely trite distraction finish as the cherry on top of a match that didn’t work. *3/4

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Roman Reigns def. AJ Styles

Wendland: I’m really torn on how to feel about this match. If you remove the time wasting crowd brawl, which isn’t particularly hard to do, it was a really great match; it was probably just a little bit below their Payback match. The problem is that everything Roman Reigns does is boring because you know the outcome before the match even starts. I’m still coming to terms with the idea that you don’t watch WWE for outcomes, but this Reigns reign is case in point for that theory. AJ Styles and Reigns have great chemistry and they’ve shown it over the past two months. Styles is obviously historically great. His run since leaving TNA (when he was “washed up,” by the way) has cemented his place among the all time greats. This WWE run is just icing on the cake for Styles’ career and it’s probably considered a success if this is the highpoint of his tenure, but I don’t think for a second that’ll be the case. Seth Rollins is the clear story coming out of the match, and I wish I hadn’t heard the news before the show started, but it’s good to see Rollins back on the early end of his recovery estimate and, removed from The Authority, his climb should be fun to watch. ****1/4

Rose: This was really great, way better than their match last month. Reigns is just so much better than people realize. He’s not one of the best in the world, obviously, but has picked up a lot of things very fast and when facing one of the best in the world, like AJ Styles, he never looks lost. AJ was so great in this match, everything from mannerisms to taking crazy table bumps (that’s right, two table bumps) to so much more. The first few minutes of crowd brawling was just kind of there, but once they got back to the ring they built it up to an excellent match with a ton of great nearfalls. Even the interference, which you knew was going to happen here, helped the match. The dynamic here is weird, but it always will be as long as Roman is portrayed as a face when most crowds never see him as that. But if he keeps having matches like this with some of the best workers on the planet, who am I to complain? ****1/2

Kidney: It’s impossible to overstate just how good AJ Styles is. Every singles thing he does has that extra little flourish, that extra little touch that helps push him a level above everybody else around him. His selling is elite. He makes you feel and believe every single thing that happens to him. Every nuance. Every punch. Every fall. He brings you into a match on a level that few others do. The result of this match was never in question. Reigns was always winning. Styles was always here to make Reigns look good and deliver a great main event for a “B” PPV. But I believed Styles’ nearfalls. Styles in unquestionably an all time great. He has a body of work to be envied and at 38-years-old with little sign of slowing down he will only add to that. He has succeeded everywhere he’s gone even when it was an uphill battle to do so. He has been best in class for over a decade now. While not to diminish Roman Reigns’ role in this match, this was an AJ Styles tour de force. A masterclass in match construction, nuance and execution to be marveled. AJ Styles isn’t just the best wrestler in the WWE, he’s the best wrestler in the world. ****1/2