Now that two new MITB Ladder match victors have been crowned, it’s time to get “Extreme.”
Come July 15, the Raw and SD Live brands will present their Superstars in a more hardcore setting. Extreme Rules 2018 is set to feature a match that “Rusev Day!” fans have been waiting for – a WWE Championship opportunity for Rusev! “The Bulgarian Brute” is set to do battle with the Blue Brand’s #1 Superstar, AJ Styles. Along with that major matchup are a slew of other title bouts featuring the Raw Women’s Championship (Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax) and the Raw Tag Team Championship (“Woken” Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs. The B-Team).
Special stipulation matches your thing? Then this annual PPV is probably your most anticipated. Before Extreme Rules 2018 arrives, let’s break down each matchup and predict who’ll come out of this PPV with their head (and title) held high.
Sin Cara vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Predictions & Winner: Nice to finally see Almas get featured on a recent PPV. Yeah, we know – it’s the Kickoff portion of the PPV. But the man has practically been forgotten on SD Live for the past couple weeks. He popped back up to continue his lucha pride feud with Sin Cara, which led to both men putting on a pretty decent match. Almas prevailed in that one and that’s exactly the same result we’re going to get here. Just add on a few minutes to the match they just had on SD Live, add in some Zelina Vega interference, and there’s your entire breakdown of this rematch.
The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods) vs. SAnitY (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain) (Tables Match)
Predictions & Winners: The rainbows and unicorns of The New Day are now set to clash against the fiery doom and gloom of SAnitY. This clash of beliefs is as black and white as they come. What we have here is a clearly defined Tables Match between the bright and bubbly babyfaces and insane and always vicious heels. Even though this match has been relegated to this event’s Kickoff Show, I’m expecting great things from this 6-man encounter.
The New Day seem to be in a position where they’re used to entertain the audience with skits instead of vying for major titles. That’s not a bad thing, per se – they had an good run as tag team champions on SD Live and got involved in one of the best feuds of 2017 against The Usos. With all the new blood debuting on the Blue Brand, it seems like The New Day are put against new teams in order to get a good match out of them and put them over big.
The glory days of The New Day’s tag team dominance are likely behind them, which is why I think they’ll be doing the honors for the new duo of Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, and Killian Dain. SAnitY’s going to need a major match in order to make them a true threat on the main roster. That match is this one and the victory they’ll attain here will take them farther up the SD Live tag team ranks.
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens (Steel Cage Match)
Predictions & Winner: Oh no. As if being shoved off the stage while trapped within a porta potty wasn’t enough, Owens now has to confront Strowman inside a Steel Cage. Out of all the storylines that have been building up to this event, I’ve gotten the most fun out of this one. Strowman has done several unimaginable things to Owens over the past few weeks. Owens’ life has now been relegated to a weekly torture session. Both men may have enjoyed one happy moment as unlikely tag team partners, but Strowman and Owens have been feuding as foes ever since.
With Sami out rehabbing his shoulder, Owens has no one to count on to aid him. And seeing as how Strowman is the current holder of the Men’s MITB briefcase, it wouldn’t make much sense for him to take such a big loss. This match is going to feature Owens pulling off some maneuvers with the assistance of the cage that are meant to take the “Monster Among Men” off his feet.
He’ll get in a few good licks and even look to be on the verge of victory. But Strowman will hulk up and proceed to play around with his prey once he gets his hands on Owens. A few slams into the cage sides, some big man offense, and one Running Powerslam later will lead to Strowman standing (and screaming) at this bout’s end with his hands raised in victory.
“Woken” Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt (c) vs. The B-Team (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel) (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)
Predictions & Winners: So far, the eccentric duo of “Woken” Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt have been a slight disappointment. Here I was expecting some hilarious skits featuring the two speaking nonsense at the Hardy Compound. What we’ve been treated to instead is a host of uninspired tag team title defenses and lackluster promos.
It’s quite the shock to see that Miz’s former running mates have gotten a push that has resulted in more TV time, a legit tag team moniker, and a few respectable victories. This unexpected ascension has now led to The B-Team getting a tag team title shot. Bo and Curtis are a fun act, no doubt. But I believe WWE still sees a lot of value in seeing Matt and Bray continue on as the the strangest tag team champions in the company. The “Woken Buzzards” of Raw will manage to retain their titles over a duo that seems more like “flavor of the month” challengers.
Finn Bálor vs. “Constable” Baron Corbin
Predictions & Winner: Shout out to Baron for finally embracing his receding hairline and cutting off his locks. Now that he’s been appointed “Constable” of Raw by Stephanie McMahon, he’s managed to rub a few people the wrong way. The biggest example of that is a man he had a hard time staying tagged up with – Finn Bálor. Their lack of chemistry and distaste for one another led them to put hands on each other and eat a countout loss to Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens. All that in-ring drama led to some verbal trash talking, which now leads us to this grudge match.
I honestly couldn’t care any less about this bout. Watching Finn go from barnburner matches with Rollins for the IC Championship to this is a major step down. Baron is a tad bit more entertaining in his new role, but his gimmick change won’t result in his in-ring quality increasing by any means. With Finn in there with him, this match goes from passable to decent. This filler match is just an excuse to get Finn on PPV and give him a win. I hope this is a one-time occurrence and not a feud that gets extended to SummerSlam. Finn wins and (hopefully) moves on to something better come August 19.
Carmella (c) vs. Asuka (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Match with James Ellsworth Suspended Above the Ring in a Shark Cage)
Predictions & Winner: Props have to go out to Carmella for her SD Women’s Championship run. She plays up her gimmick to obnoxiously annoying levels and gets the crowd to despise her more and more as each week passes. While her in-ring work leaves a lot to be desired, Carmella still makes it a habit to rub folks the wrong way and remain as the top women’s act on the Blue Brand. She competed in a bout against Asuka at MITB, which ended horribly and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.
Asuka should have no problem destroying Carmella on her own. But there’s the always present obstacle of James Ellsworth to contend with. I feel like he’ll rear his ugly head once again during this championship rematch. We all saw how Jericho still interfered during an Owens vs. Reigns matchup, so expect Ellsworth to do something similar.
Asuka will be the one dishing out the most damage to the SD Women’s Champion, while Carmella will get her licks in from time to time due to some underhanded means. Basically, this rematch will resemble their MITB matchup and feature Ellsworth’s annoying assistance. As for the result, it will also be more of the same – Carmella shall retain.
The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan) (c) vs. Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Predictions & Winners: THE RETURN OF THE HUGS! I didn’t realize how much I missed Team Hell No until Kane randomly ran out to save Daniel Bryan from a Bludgeon Brothers beatdown. I enjoy a good shock from my wrestling every now and then, so watching Kane and Daniel Bryan hug it out again did a lot for me. Turns out their reunion has pushed them into a SD Tag Team Championship bout against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
This match should garner the loudest crowd response of the evening (besides the WWE Championship match, of course) due to the babyface duo. While Team Hell No will garner a ton of fandom, it won’t be enough to push back the threat of The Bludgeon Brothers. Harper and Rowan still have a lot left in the tank and I don’t see them dropping the straps until SummerSlam. A Bludgeon Brothers vs. SAnitY matchup seems like something we’ll see sooner rather than later.
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Seth Rollins (30-Minute Iron Man Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship)
Predictions & Winner: Ever since Rollins captured the Intercontinental Championship at ‘Mania 34, I figured he’d be going on an epic run. His match against The Miz at Backlash 2018 was the only bright spot on a very underwhelming show. Plus he’s built the title’s credibility back up due to his excellent performances on Raw. And then out of nowhere, he dropped the strap to Ziggler of all people. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why they’d go back to the “Ziggler Midcard Title Run” well again. Then rumors of him not signing a new WWE contract yet sprung up, which led me to believe that this random title win is just WWE’s way of trying to convince him to stay.
If those rumors are true, then that’s a pretty stupid way to keep Ziggler in WWE while ending a Rollins’ IC Championship run that just started revving up. The matches both men have had are good to great and I have no problem seeing them go at it for 30-minutes straight. While I wish it was Drew McIntyre in Ziggler’s current title holder position, I’m still looking forward to what Rollins and Ziggler will deliver during this title rematch. I think Ziggler’s latest IC Championship run will be short-lived. This minor bump in the road for Rollins will soon be forgotten once he recaptures the IC title after a hard fought victory.
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE United States Championship)
Predictions & Winner: Now this is the match that intrigues me the most. Before Nakamura’s last WWE Championship match against AJ, Nakamura crossed paths with Jeff. That first time meeting led to both men building up some bad blood between them. Ever since Nakamura failed in his latest bid to defeat AJ, him and Jeff are finally slated to settle their issues. And this time, another title will be on the line – Jeff’s United States Championship. The eccentric personalities of both men have added extra fuel to the fire for this bout. Nakamura’s entertaining heel antics are mixing quite well with Jeff’s excursion back to the dark side (with face paint on, of course).
Now there’s been a lot of reports stating that Jeff isn’t 100-percent. He’s been dealing with a few injuries that have caused him to alter his in-ring style (just look at the way he’s opted to pull off the Swanton Bomb now). He’s had a decent run as US Champion and is one of the main bright spots on SD Live. But if you’ve been watching ROH over the past few months, you know that that wrestling fed was forced to switch its main title over to another competitor.
And that’s because the former champion was in pretty bad shape. I brought that whole situation up because that’s what’s going to happen here. Jeff’s going to go on a brief hiatus to deal with his injures after dropping his US Championship to Nakamura. And I’m very much looking forward to a heel Nakamura running through the midcard while he has a stranglehold on the US Championship.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax (Extreme Rules Match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
Predictions & Winner: Miss Bliss climbed back up to the top of the Raw Women’s mountain with her MITB briefcase in hand. Her cash-in during the match between former champion Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey was a definite jaw dropper. Bliss’ actions have made an enemy out of Rousey and forced the former MMA star to dish out a swift beating to the new champion. That exciting moment ended up getting Rousey suspended for 30 days, which leaves Bliss to deal with the other woman she angered during her MITB cash-in – Nia Jax.
I feel like Nia’s Raw Women’s Championship run was nothing but a bust. Her inspiring victory at WrestleMania 34 was done for all the right reasons, but everything that followed that moment was just…weak. Bliss is, hands down, the most entertaining part of the Raw’s Women’s Division.
She’s going to keep that title around her waist for another epic run. With the added benefit of an Extreme Rules stipulation, Bliss has this match in the bag. I say all that to say this – Nia is being relegated to a stepping stone during Bliss’ latest tenure as the champ. After Nia falls to Bliss, Bliss will move past her former ally and be forced to deal with the “Rowdy” one at SummerSlam.
Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley
Predictions & Winner: Instead of watching Zayn and Lashley struggle to get through their creative (and I use that term loosely) skits, this is the feud that should have begun Lashley’s WWE return. After losing decisively to Lesnar at ‘Mania 34, it would have made a ton of sense to see the former Universal Championship’s #1 Contender have to reclaim his title shot against Lashley. It took a while to get to this point, but at least we’re finally here. Due to the confusion surrounding Lesnar’s SummerSlam 2018 status, a multi-man matchup that was planned to crown his challenger changed into this one-on-one war.
So what we’re getting here is Power vs. Power. The Battle of the Spear Users. Vince McMahon’s current Cash Cow vs. his former Chosen One. I’m actually looking forward to this first time matchup since Reigns always delivers in big-match situations. Same goes for Lashley. I followed his Impact Wrestling run and became a believer in him as a main event performer.
Even though a lot of people are expecting Reigns to be the victor here, I see WWE going in a different direction by allowing Lashley to get the shocking victory. Lesnar needs a fresh challenger, so putting Lashley over is just a better option instead of yet another Reigns vs. Lesnar title match. If Lesnar’s SummerSlam 2018 plans finally get ironed out, then Lashley will be the next one to step up to him and his Universal Championship challenge. Reigns will fall to the wayside after this loss, but not for long.
AJ Styles (c) vs. Rusev (WWE Championship)
Predictions & Winner: TOOK LONG ENOUGH! I lost all hope in seeing Rusev get a push worthy of his crowd adoration after his loss at ‘Mania 34. BUT RUSEV DAY SHALL NOT BE IGNORED! When he laid waste to The Miz during a recent Gauntlet Match, I legit lost my mind. Rusev is getting a WWE Championship opportunity and it’s well warranted. He’s garnered a huge following thanks to his social media presence and noteworthy catchphrase.
I’m very much looking forward to this bout because both men are uber talented in the ring. AJ Styles is arguably the smoothest athlete competing in the WWE, while Rusev plays up his big man offense well. It’ll be amazing to see just who the crowd will back more when the bell for this bout finally rings.
AJ tends to do perform well against competitors who are larger than him, which is why I’m expecting this bout to be a great one. This match has obviously been set up to give Rusev’s rabid fanbase everything they’ve been asking for…except a WWE Championship win. AJ will hold onto the title, but make sure to show Rusev the respect he deserves once the dust settles. WWE 2K19’s cover star ain’t dropping the WWE Championship anytime soon.