Perhaps a little blame could go WWE's way since a show that borders on five hours (pre-show matches included) that *isn't* on the level of a WrestleMania is going to thoroughly exhaust fans, leaving them punchy and agitated. Extreme Rules wasn't a great show by any means, with enough built-in annoyances to unsettle any positive feeling there could've been. Was it as bad as Backlash? Probably not, but it's still not a good sign that two of the last three extended-play "best of both worlds" pay per views have led to crowds openly amusing themselves, while the ones watching at home can't help but comment on everything except for the handful of positives.
Here's what we learned from watching Extreme Rules 2018.
10. There's Plenty Left In The B-Team Tank
With the B-Team's victory over The Deleters of Worlds, Bo Dallas becomes the fifth member of his family to win a Tag Team belt in WWE (joining grandfather Blackjack Mulligan, uncle Barry Windham, father Mike Rotunda, and brother Bray Wyatt). Maybe Kendall Windham can make it a six-pack via the world's most unlikely career resurrection (at least, this side of Glacier).
Judging from the overall construction of the match, it's perhaps a good omen that neither Dallas nor Curtis Axel did the played out 'dress like Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt' comedy bit at the PPV, which had become the entirety of their gimmick over the last four weeks. It was funny once, and then painfully ho-hum each ensuing time (mirroring the trajectory that the Police Academy movies took). The B-Team's gimmick is that they win despite themselves, and cannot believe their suddenly-endless luck, not that they impersonate their rivals for weeks on end. Let *that* part of their gimmick be what shines, not humourless cosplay on loop.
9. Size Still Matters In WWE
So the bickering between Baron Corbin and Finn Balor went on for weeks, where Balor was like, "You're dressed funny," and Corbin's like, "I'm taller than you", and back and forth and back and forth, and a handy check of Wikipedia was needed to verify that both men were, in fact, in their thirties. We were so close to Corbin employing an underhanded tactic and Balor resorting to calling him "Cheater cheater pumpkin-eater."
But the size element did play a part in the match, as Corbin took what felt like 90 per cent of the offence before Balor used a nifty counter to the End of Days to score the pin. This was a sticking point for a few folks, though Balor could always beat him decisively at a later date. While it didn't exactly hurt to have Corbin look strong (especially when he's going to be getting plenty of camera time each week as an authority figure), fans waiting for Balor to look like a main event-level world beater were left waiting once more.
8. Asuka's Not Ready For Distractions
Ever see one of those NBA games where a player from the road team is shooting foul shots, and the fans are waving balloons and wiggle sticks as a means of trying to mess up the shooter's concentration? It's a good thing Asuka doesn't play basketball, because were she to ever attempt even one free throw after a made lay-up, she'd never get the shot off. She'd be so transfixed by the wiggle sticks being shaken by fans that she wouldn't realize the arena was on fire behind her.
Asuka loses for the second straight month to not just a distraction, but a distraction that lasts longer than most holiday weekends - unless she figured that battering James Ellsworth like a chinless pinata had more entertainment value than getting a palatable match out of Carmella, to which not many people could blame her.
7. We Smash Nuts On Tuesday Nights
So hey, good news, Shinsuke Nakamura isn't allergic to WWE gold, as he was able to defeat Jeff Hardy in the shortest pay per view match allowable by law to become the United States Champion. Nakamura's celebration would be short-lived as a returning Randy Orton (who apparently just wears his trunks and hoodie everywhere, since he wasn't scheduled for a match of any kind) entered the ring and stomped Jeff Hardy's plums like the gas pedal on a Mustang.
Apparently, SmackDown is where all the low blow enthusiasts go. Maybe the blue brand can dredge up Andrew Golota and his below-the-belt punches. If history is any indicator, Nakamura and Orton's shared love of crushing walnuts will lead to Orton falling under Nakamura's spell, only to burn down his house at a later date. But I've been wrong before.
6. Stuntman Bumps? What Are They?
The Steel Cage Match between Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens managed to be pretty entertaining in its truncated amount of time, which was practically a godsend for a show that's destined to go too long. The finish was a pretty awesome visual as well, with Strowman throwing Owens off the top of the cage through the announce table, sacrificing a win just to watch Owens crash and burn. The bump itself was pretty spectacular, even by 'we've seen it all' standards, too.
It's a shame, however, that little to no mention was made throughout the night about Owens, seeing as in the moment, Corey Graves made sure we all knew that Owens showed no movement. It kind of undercuts the meaningfulness of such stunts when they're written off with a sudden turn of the page. As it is, Owens' plunge was a nice visual, but one that will be all but forgotten two or three sleeps from now.
5. Wrestling On A Broken Foot Is Apparently Impressive By Kane's Standards
Kane sure has been through a lot in his life: survived a funeral home fire, as well as several other immolations, a few attempts on his life (Shane McMahon comes to mind), that sort of thing. When you've been presented as Satan composed into human flesh for two decades, able to defy thermodynamics without breaking a nail, it's expected that it takes a lot to put you down.
That's why it was a bit odd to hear the announcers express surprise that Kane would try to fight on a freshly broken foot. That'd be like the counsellors at Crystal Lake lobbing off one of Jason Voorhees' fingertips, and then acting all astonished when he still stalked after them, machete in hand. Is Kane a demon or is he a human with the same threshold for pain that you or I have? Side note: couldn't Kane have gotten a walking boot that accessorized better for him? Like one with a black-and-red flame-print?
4. Lashley Vs. Reigns Was Better Than You Want To Admit
It didn't take long for the crowd chants to fizzle out like cheap fireworks, did they? "We want beach balls" and "Rusev Day" were heard early on, as well as a "boring" chant that was softer than a cotton ball rubbing up on a sliver of felt. The match ultimately turned into one of the better bouts of the night, although to be fair, it wasn't exactly a high standard to live up to.
If Lashley/Reigns had the intensity of, say, Lesnar/Reigns from WrestleMania 31, we may have seen something much more special than the mere 'pretty enjoyable match' that we got. Two 'mean guy' heavyweights that can deliver that sort of wild brawl/athletic stunt show hybrid match are always welcome to do so, but I just wish that one of these days they'd have a hot crowd to feed off of.
3. Mickie James Will Never Age
What's the difference between the leather-clad Mickie James that accompanied Alexa Bliss to the ring on Sunday night, and the Mickie that won the hearts of the world with her performance against Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22? Aside from 12 years in age, not much else. Mickie trended on Twitter during the Women's title match, and it's a safe bet that most of those mentions weren't complimenting her performance as a meddling ally.
It's funny that on two different occasions, Mickie was mocked as being "overweight" by Michelle McCool, and eight years later for being "too old" by current ally Alexa. If she shows up in WWE 15 years from now for a one-off match, it's almost guaranteed that she looks exactly the same.
2. Rusev's Not Allowed To Be A Babyface
No matter how much fans openly enjoy the cheerful absurdity of Rusev Day, it doesn't matter. Vince McMahon sees Rusev as little more than a foreign brute, despite the fact that Rusev's amiable sense of humour can't help but manifest itself in ways that aren't befitting of the one-note European menace that he's expected to play.
It was pointed out by a number of sharp-eared viewers that in the promo video for the Rusev-AJ Styles championship bout, that canned boos were piped in for the mentions of Rusev Day, and the like. It's one thing to keep a popular wrestler as a heel, despite the cheers he receives, but to sweeten the audio of a throwaway video package to fit the narrative that very few people see (except those who "matter") just seems needlessly silly.
1. Crowd Silliness Can Go Too Far
CM Punk chants, batting around beach balls, booing the company-appointed babyface hero - all are now time-honoured traditions that some wrestling fans revel in. Others find their employment to be crass, but it is subjective - some will chant for Punk during a stretch they find sucky, while others find that such chants ruin their viewing experience.
It's possible that no crowd hack has ever been as instantly reviled as the Pittsburgh crowd using the Iron Man match's display timer to do mock Royal Rumble countdowns, completely with grunting buzzer sound. Doing it once may have been charming, but every single minute? Bryan Alvarez of Figure 4 Weekly reported that once WWE took down the clock, fans in the arena were loading the WWE Network PPV feed on their phones (now *that's* meta) so that they could count down that way. Frankly, I think if Seth Rollins gets to main event a pay per view in a match that has potential to build into a great one, the least you could do is pay attention. Or, at least, not be so insistent on finding ways to get around WWE's tempering of the distractions. Just an idea.