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No more count-outs. No more disqualifications. No more restarting the match to prevent a technicality from deciding the result. Just Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and whatever is at their disposal in an Extreme Rules Match at WWE Extreme Rules to decide it all.
That’s a big jump for Reigns and Styles to make considering their first title match at WWE Payback was predicated on Styles having “the match of his life” in order to unseat Reigns’ self-proclaimed status as “the guy” around these parts. But with the introduction of Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson as potential accomplices to an unwitting Styles, it quickly became clear that Reigns’ first title defence of the New Era wasn’t exactly going to be first fall to a finish.
Even so, nobody expected quite how out of hand it was going to get. Things got so messy at WWE Payback that it took several restarts of the match by both Shane and Stephanie McMahon to eventually get to a fall at all, and only when the match had mutated into a No Count-out, No Disqualification contest was Reigns able to seize his win. That’s hardly a decisive victory, though, and it was almost immediately decided among the McMahons that drastic measures would be taken to protect the return bout, so here we are with an Extreme Rules Match to show for it.
As for the Superstars who’ll battle to the extreme? Reigns is still indeed “the guy,” if you consider holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to be a signifier of such a status. Some — including Styles, who really did have the match of his life — would just say he’s a guy, and a lucky one at that. Some — again, including Styles — might say that The Phenomenal One is the uncrowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and Reigns leaned on a loophole when the chips were down to beat him.
The WWE Universe seems to fall somewhere in the middle on that. Depending where Reigns is, it often seems as though there’s two detractors of The Big Dog for every supporter he has, or vice versa. For what it’s worth, Reigns has claimed he would rather have the respect the title brings than the affection accompanied by a bare waist. He’ll clearly do whatever it takes to keep the prize he clawed for a year to achieve. In an Extreme Rules Match, he’ll be free to do so. Then, perhaps, the WWE Universe will finally see if “the guy” is the better man.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
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WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte has twice needed help to make it past Natalya: once from Ric Flair on Raw, and once from Flair’s referee doppelganger Charles Robinson at WWE Payback, who called for the bell before Charlotte could tap and initiated the “Chicago Screwjob” of 2016. At Extreme Rules, the champion have either of those luxuries, and to beat Natalya, she’ll have to flat-out tap her out, because the rule for their rubber match is a straight-up, no-frills Submission Match, with Flair barred from involvement. The first Superstar to make the other cry uncle will be crowned the winner.
As challenges come, that’s a seemingly insurmountable one for Charlotte. Not because she can’t win the match fair and square — she pinned Natalya outright in their first confrontation over the NXT Women’s Championship in 2014 — but because since coming into her own as a champion, the young prodigy has leaned increasingly on her father’s “coaching” (i.e., interference) to retain her title.
With WWE Hall of Famers Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Ric Flair at ringside, Natalya and Charlotte battle for the WWE Women’s Championship: Courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.
All of this is a welcome development for Natalya, but lost in the narrative of Charlotte’s support system (or lack thereof) is the question of whether The Queen of Harts can get it done. For all her claims that she can beat any woman in the world in a straight-up contest, Natalya has yet to manage it against Charlotte when the chips are down. Her and uncle Bret Hart pretzeling the Flairs into twin Sharpshooters at WWE Payback was fun, but it didn’t fill up her trophy case, and it’s not hard to imagine Natalya being shuffled to the back of the line should she fall short on May 22.
Luckily, it’s doubtful she’d have it any other way. As the daughter of WWE royalty, Natalya is always up for a fight. Give her a ring to compete in and an opponent to tap out and she’s got a shot. As for Charlotte? Well, she is the daughter of WWE royalty, too, but she’s been content to play daddy’s little girl over the last few months as she hides behind her father’s interference. At Extreme Rules, she’ll have to put up — and grow up — or give up.
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WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day have dominated the tag ranks since claiming the titles last August, but at Extreme Rules, the pillars of positivity will face a new threat: The Vaudevillains.
Former NXT Tag Team Champions Simon Gotch & Aiden English have been on a roll since debuting in WWE in April. The gentlemanly brawlers cleaned up in the No. 1 Contenders’ Tag Team Tournament, sponsored by Booty-O’s, overcoming The Social Outcasts and The Usos before facing Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady in the final, which the referee stopped after Amore suffered an injury.
With the all-important title opportunity slated for Extreme Rules, Gotch & English say they will make a mockery of the decidedly un-booty tag team champions. Old-school eccentricities aside, The Vaudevillains boast an unorthodox offensive style and impeccable teamwork, and they pose a very real threat to Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods’ Freedbird-esque reign.
Yet, The New Day have not held onto the titles for as long as they have — 273 days by the time of Extreme Rules — because of luck. The bulldozing strength of Big E, jaw-dropping speed and agility of Kingston, and ring savvy of Woods have forged a powerful pact. Come May 22, The New Day might just make The Vaudevillains eat their words … and their Booty-O’s.
Prediction: The New Day
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The Miz will be joined by a star-studded ensemble cast when he defends his Intercontinental Championship against Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Sami Zayn in a blockbuster Fatal 4-Way Match at WWE Extreme Rules The first Superstar to claim a fall will walk out of as champion when WWE’s most unpredictable night of the year fades to black.
Just like any great cinematic thriller, these four Superstars were connected by several separate and distinct plotlines that ultimately intersected and fused together into one, starting at WWE Payback 2016.
The stage was initially set there when, after a thrilling back-and-forth contest, Owens defeated Zayn. Following his victory, Owens declared that he was shifting his focus to regaining the Intercontinental Championship, taking a seat at the commentary desk to watch The Miz’s title defence against Cesaro in the following match. While Owens cracked wise at ringside, Miz and Cesaro wowed the WWE Universe until Zayn reappeared at ringside to continue his onslaught against The Prize-fighter. Their ensuing fistfight spilled into the ring and distracted the referee, causing him to miss The Miz tapping out to Cesaro’s cross face,
By the time the official reset, Miz took advantage of the chaos and rolled up Cesaro, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
A No. 1 Contender’s Match between Cesaro and Owens Raw ended inconclusively the next night on Raw, thanks to interference by The Miz. Order was restored the following week with the announcement of a Fatal 4-Way Match which Zayn earned his way into by defeating The Miz in non-title action.
How will Miz respond to not even having to be involved in the decision to lose his title? What impact will these Superstars’ individual rivalries mean in terms of the strategies they implement during the match? And will the Fatal 4-Way rules of no disqualifications and no count-outs prove to be a combustible element for these scene stealers on WWE’s most extreme night of the year?
Prediction: since it is a fatal four way and to give myself a fifty-fifty percent chance, I am naming either the Miz to retain or Cesaro to win it.
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United States Champion Kalisto faces a new gigantic challenger when he battles former U.S. Champion Rusev at WWE Extreme Rules. Tom Phillips broke the announcement today during a Facebook Live interview with Kalisto.
The Bulgarian Brute earned the championship opportunity by being the last man standing in a No. 1 Contender’s Battle Royal on the May 2 edition of Raw. While Superstars like Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and former League of Nations cohorts Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio were thrown to the wayside, Rusev endured the multi-Superstar brawl and ousted runner-up Zack Ryder for the win.
After securing his place as the No. 1 contender, Rusev vowed to win back the title that he contends rightfully belongs to him. (Let it not be forgotten that The Bulgarian Brute did, after all, dominate the division for five months starting in late 2014, mocking America while holding its namesake title captive.) Days later, in a sitdown interview with Michael Cole, Rusev took his vitriol to another level, promising to eat Kalisto’s “big heart.”
Yet, to suggest Kalisto has been anything other than a fighting champion would be a grave mistake. Since capturing the stars-and-stripes title, The King of Flight has fearlessly defended it against any competitor who comes his way, no matter the size. Can his streak against bulldozing superheavyweights continue when he meets Rusev at WWE Extreme Rules?
Prediction: now on paper, Rusev has this one in the bag but Kalisto is turning into another Ray Mysterio in the underdog, with big a heart who can pull off major upsets and I maybe setting myself up for a fail here but I’m going with the underdog – Kalisto to retain…
You know that old expressions about inmates and asylums? Looks like life is about to imitate adages at Extreme Rules, because noted maniac Dean Ambrose has not only plumbed the depths of his mind to concoct the first-ever Asylum Match, he’s also convinced Chris Jericho to be his opponent in it.
Granted, he didn’t exactly explain what the match was when he challenged The Ayatollah of Rock ’n’ Rolla. All that was clear was that their rivalry had gotten so heated that “The Best in the World at What He Does” would have gladly accepted any kind of contest The Lunatic Fringe placed before him. Still, even by the standards of the extreme, this Asylum Match is a nightmare: The bout is, in essence, a Steel Cage Match, but with various weapons suspended above the structure that encases the dueling Superstars. The “escape the cage” stipulation is also off the table; the only way to win the Asylum Match is to pin opponent or make him submit.
The accommodations sound right up Ambrose’s alley, if not quite his opponent’s. Jericho has been more concerned with preserving “The Gift of Jericho” by batting away perceived social media slights than reinforcing his reputation in the ring (his last contest was actually his loss to Ambrose at WWE Payback), but the inflation of his ego has made him a riper target than usual for Ambrose’s insanity. And even though Ambrose’s insults have varied toward the petty — shredding Jericho’s jacket was hardly a career-ender — the former Intercontinental Champion has shown he can be very creative when provoked, and Jericho likely coaxed the true madness out of Ambrose when he trapped Dean in a straitjacket on SmackDown.
Now, with the blessing of Shane McMahon, Jericho may well have to pay for it. The Lunatic Fringe has free reign to do whatever he wants to Jericho and, thus far, seems to have chosen his strategy wisely by first targeting his pride. Jericho can and will be provoked to new planes of cruelty by a few well-placed insults, but pain is what takes Ambrose to the next level. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this Asylum Match is that The Lunatic Fringe is free to receive and give punishment in turn, and he’s more than happy to do both. When it comes to sadistic, unrelenting brutality, it’s entirely possible that history will look back on this match and say that Ambrose may as well have invented it.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose.
Extreme Rules will waste no time living up to its dangerous name this Sunday when Dolph Ziggler squares off against Baron Corbin in a No Disqualification Match on the Kickoff at 7 ET/4 PT, live on WWE Network.
The bruising Lone Wolf has kept The Showoff in his sights since WWE Payback, where a costly mistake cost Corbin a win against Ziggler. Instead of pouncing on his prey, Corbin prematurely celebrated his victory, and the ever-sly Ziggler capitalized on the error and snared victory.
The end result was different when the two Superstars met in a rematch on the May 9 edition of Raw. After a fiercely contested match, Corbin reigned supreme against the former World Champion, downing Ziggler with the End of Days.
With the score tied at one win apiece, this Sunday’s No Disqualification Match has the makings of a no-holds-barred rubber match. Though the circumstances would seem to favor the street-fighting, skull-collecting, biker-tough Corbin, the WWE rookie lacks Ziggler’s experience. Will The Showoff’s considerable moxie move him past the towering Lone Wolf?
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler