It’s not very often, but sometimes WWE makes a really good booking decision, one with ramifications for potential years’ worth of storylines that leave fans enthusiastic about future possibilities rather than foaming at the mouth on social media about cancelling their network subscriptions. At the apex of a truly brutal and overbooked (but in a fun, ridiculous way) fatal 5 way match last night at Extreme Rules, Samoa Joe stood tall over fan favorites Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, and hated Internet whipping boy Roman Reigns, as the number one contender to the Universal Championship.
And if anyone currently on the main roster could believably dethrone the current absentee title holder, the beast incarnate Brock Lesnar, it’d be Joe, whose been smartly booked ever since coming to NXT as a remorseless, cold blooded monster, yet one slavishly dedicated to his craft in particular and pro wrestling in general. I’d imagine that perennial part timer Lesnar’s increasingly vocal detractors on both sides of the business are looking forward to seeing the Mayor of Suplex City taken down a peg or two by a guy that actually shows up for work every week. I know I am.
Elsewhere on the Extreme Rules card, the extremity of said rules left fans scratching their heads at best, and screaming “fuck you, Miz!” (raises hand) at worst. The dumbest match of the night was said Miz (*shudder*) segment, where Dean Ambrose defended his Intercontinental Title, the stipulation being that Dean could lose the championship by being disqualified. Of course this led to a bunch of ref bump bullshit and outside interference involving The Miz’s wife/valet Maryse, and Miz picking up the win, and his 7th IC Title reign, in the process. Ugh.
And there was more weird stipulation shenanigans in the cage match where The Hardy Boyz defended their titles against Sheamus and Cesaro. This started off as a good cage match, y’know, one where you HAVE to actually CLIMB out of the cage to win, WWF Warzone style. No pinfalls, no going out the door. Then the door got opened, so I guess it was okay to go out the door. No disrespect to the participants here, who put on an awesome match, including Jeff Hardy hitting a beautifully executed whisper in the wind off of the top of the cage. But that finish involving the door. Yeah. That sucked. Cesaro and Sheamus win by the skin of their teeth. Hopefully the door to the cage wasn’t the only thing that got #BROKEN.
A mixed tag where Rich Swann and Sasha Banks defeated Noam Dar and Alicia FAWKES and Neville once again overcoming Austin Aries in a submission bout to retain his Cruiserweight Championship were serviceable if unremarkable. Which brings up to the match of the night: Alexa Bliss basically beating Bayley to death with a kendo stick. Is “Singapore Cane” considered culturally insensitive nowadays? Anyway, this is the type of ruthless heel booking that defines careers, and I’m impressed that WWE had the guts to pull the trigger on it.
As always, with the constantly fluid nature of pro wrestling as a whole and especially main roster WWE, everything great about last night could be squandered in the first segment of tonight’s RAW, Samoa Joe, say, losing his number one contendership to Roman Reigns in a “whoever gets the loudest boos wins” match, for example. We remain, as ever, cautiously optimistic.