When considering an overall grade for Sunday's WWE Extreme Rules pay-per-view, it's hard to look past how consistently entertaining the nearly four-hour show was from start to finish. Not only was the 10-match main card booked perfectly with a series of short matches early -- giving way to the more important pairings late -- the 30-minute iron man match between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins received surprised placement as the main event.
But while the good news for Sunday's card is that very little of it was bad, it's hard to look past how little of it was anything more than good. While Extreme Rules continued to move angles along on the build to SummerSlam in late August, it lacked major moments or matches worthy of watching a second time. Outside of the tease from Raw general manager Kurt Angle regarding Brock Lesnar, there was very little that left Monday's episode of Raw feeling must-see.
The PPG Paints Arena crowd in Pittsburgh played more than a small role in the disappointing side of things on this night. Yet overall, the show was solid if not spectacular, which in most cases is better than the alternative. Grade: B
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Sunday night with results, analysis, grades and highlights from WWE Extreme Rules. The results and analysis can be found immediately below with a full slate of highlights in the application at the bottom of the page. Don't forget to subscribe to WWE podcast In This Corner with Brian Campbell for ongoing coverage of professional wrestling.
2018 WWE Extreme Rules results, grades
Andrade "Cien" Almas def. Sin Cara via pinfall -- Kickoff Show: If the goal of this match was simply to get Almas and manager Zelina Vega over as despicable and opportunistic heels, consider it job well done. Sin Cara rallied late with a series of high spots. He pushed Almas off the top rope, which caused him to hit his back on the apron. Sin Cara then hit a hurricanrana from the top rope onto the floor and followed with a frog splash from the top rope inside the ring. But the pin never happened as Vega distracted the referee by jumping on the apron. Alma's followed with a dropkick, running knees to the face and his hammerlock DDT finisher for the 1-2-3. Nothing too special here outside of classic heel psychology, but it was effective. Grade: C+
SAnitY def. New Day (Tables Match) -- Kickoff Show: Despite a short running time to close the kickoff show and a predictable outcome with the newcomers earning a big win, consider this a good piece of business. The match featured plenty of teases for big table spots that would've won the match but never came to fruition. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston combined for a nice double Tope Con Hilo spot outside before Killian Dain followed with a suicide dive taking both of them out. The somewhat abrupt finish came when Kingston and Alexander Wolfe were tied up on the apron, attempting to push the other through the table set up on the floor behind them. Wolfe went as far as biting Kingston's hands to force him to give up his grip and as Kingston was teetering, Eric Young hit a clothesline off the top rope to put Kingston through the table. Grade: B
Raw Tag Team Championship -- The B-Team def. Deleters of Worlds (c) via pinfall to win the titles: The unbeaten Cinderella run for the former Miztourage continues. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas recorded the kind of freak and almost accidental victory that was similar to their recent string of wins on Raw. The only issue, per se, was that the match failed to sizzle, featuring far too many rest holds and slow-moving sequences for a traditional PPV opener. Despite a smart early tease, we also saw very little of real-life brothers Dallas and Bray Wyatt squaring off. The finish came when Matt Hardy and Wyatt's attempt to hit their finisher on Dallas was interrupted by Axel jumping on the ring apron. Dallas smartly pushed Hardy into Wyatt, who was sent flying into Axel, sending both out of the ring. He then hit his elevated neck breaker finisher while Hardy's legs were draped on the top rope for the pin. Grade: C
Kurt Angle issues an ultimatum to Brock Lesnar: In a backstage interview, the Raw general manager said he was sick of Lesnar and advocate Paul Heyman refusing to defend the title and messing with his plans. He also lambasted Lesnar for showing up at UFC 226 and challenging Daniel Cormier. Angle then issued an ultimatum to Lesnar, giving him three options: show up Monday night on Raw, negotiate his next universal championship match or get stripped of the title.The crowd erupted at option No. 3 with commentary putting over their reaction hard afterward in order to drive it home with the viewer.
Finn Balor def. Baron Corbin via pinfall: Don't look now but Balor is back in the win column. After a tough stretch of booking in recent months, Balor rallied for a surprise victory in this short but intense match which saw a strong use of escalating heat as Corbin became more upset after each near fall. Corbin twice fought off attempts from Balor to hit his Coup de Grace finisher by knocking him off the ropes. After the second time, Corbin set him up for his End of Days finisher until Balor countered with an inside cradle for the finish. One can certainly expect the Constable's anger to likely boil over with a vicious attack against Balor on Raw. Grade: B-
Team Hell No attacked backstage: Just as WWE was preparing to introduce the next match, cameras cut to the backstage area where it was shown that Bludgeon Brothers had attacked Team Hell No without warning. Daniel Bryan was thrown into a garage door, and Kane had his leg crushed with a mallet. SmackDown GM Paige eventually showed up to calm everything down.
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Carmella (c) def. Asuka via pinfall to retain the title: So much for the former unbeaten Asuka getting back on the winning track. Per the stipulation, Carmella's sidekick James Ellsworth was suspended above the ring in a shark cage. He didn't last long in that spot, however. After an early attempt to drop a can of spray to Carmella went awry, Ellsworth picked the lock of the cage and attempted to exit but got his ankle caught and hung upside down into the ring. Asuka took advantage with numerous kicks until a trio of ring workers ran in to attempt to dislodge Ellsworth. Asuka laid out all three in what was easily the best moment in this train wreck of a match. She continued to assault Ellsworth until Carmella pushed her from behind with Asuka hitting her face on the hanging cage. Carmella then stole a victory with a pin and hightailed out of there, leaving Ellsworth to be badly beaten by Asuka, including him tapping out numerous times to the Asuka Lock. The only good thing about this match was that it was short. Grade: D
United States Championship -- Shinsuke Nakamura def. Jeff Hardy (c) via pinfall to win the title: Talk about a strong and simple piece of booking. The heel Nakamura waited for the referee's back to turn before the match started and laid Hardy out with a low blow. After a weakened Hardy worked back to his feet and nodded at the referee to start the match, Nakamura instantly hit his Kinsasha for the 6-second victory.
Out came Randy Orton for the first time in two months. He stared down Nakamura, who stood up on top of the announce table. But Orton then returned to the dark side by stomping on the groin of Hardy and walking away as Nakamura gave a puzzled look. While the ending was purposely cryptic save for the obvious nature of Orton's heel turn, the quick match was perfect -- not only because Hardy is battling injuries in real life but because Nakamura is just about batting 1.000 in his interpretation of what a heel should be. Grade: B+
Kevin Owens def. Braun Strowman via escape (Steel Cage Match): As far as victories go, it's unlikely there has ever been one as painful as the manner in which Owens secured the win. In a dangerous high spot that won't soon be forgotten, Strowman escaped from being handcuffed to the top rope by ripping himself free and quickly climbing to the top of the cage to catch Owens. With both standing on the top of the cage, Strowman chokeslammed through a ringside announce table. The match featured plenty of smart psychology and fun trash talking throughout. Owens not only hit Strowman with the Stone Cold Stunner but also gave him a DX chop while handcuffed. However, it was the creative finish that gave KO the victory and added yet another unique highlight to Strowman's main roster reel. Grade: B+
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- Bludgeon Brothers (c) def. Team Hell No via pinfall to retain the titles: Bryan was forced to work 1-on-2 for most of the match following the aforementioned backstage attack. He creatively rallied and appeared close to pulling the upset until Rowan pulled Harper out of the ring as Bryan secured in the Yes Lock. Out came a limping Kane in a walking boot and for a brief rally which included a pair of chokeslams. A second Bryan rally had the champions on the ropes again until Rowan saved his teammate again. Bludgeon Brothers then hit a double-team finisher as Harper landed a clothesline off the top rope as Rowan held Bryan up. While the match was far from offensive considering Bryan carried the workload well, the finish didn't necessarily leave the feeling that this feud is headed anywhere interesting. And could it have killed 50-year-old Kane to take the fall in this case? Kane was later written off with a broken ankle. Grade: C
B-Team tries to motivate Roman Reigns: Shown walking backstage by himself, a stoic Reigns was approached by the boisterous new Raw tag team champions still celebrating their victory. B-Team tried to get Reigns energized, telling him if they can win the titles, he can certainly beat Lashley. Reigns paid them no mind, and the crowd booed. At that point, he smirked.
Bobby Lashley def. Roman Reigns via pinfall: Despite early chants of "Rusev Day" and "Roman sucks" from pre-conditioned fans in what has become a new norm, Reigns and Lashley combined to produce a match worth watching again. Not only was their in-ring chemistry a bit stronger than expected, the action and physicality was on point. After a somewhat slow start, the second half was escalated perfectly. But in an era where "death, taxes and Reigns wins in the main event" is all but expected, both the placement on the card and the booking of the finish were refreshing. Anyone expecting Reigns to pin Lashley clean en route to a universal title match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam now need to re-calibrate their fantasy booking.
The match featured a series of dramatic near falls and big-time reversals late. It also featured a brutal bump as Lashley was thrown over the top rope and landed hard on his side. Reigns kicked out of Lashley's vertical suplex finisher, and "Bob" returned the favor by beating the count on a Superman punch. After Lashley countered Reigns' spear attempt on the floor by suplexing him over the announce table, Reigns reversed a follow-up attempt from the top rope by hitting Lashley with another Superman punch. But after Reigns stood over him yelling "my yard," Lashley countered a final Superman punch attempt with a stiff spear for the pin. Will Lashley be the new No. 1 contender? Grade: B+
Raw Women's Championship -- Alexa Bliss (c) def. Nia Jax via pinfall to retain the title (Extreme Rules Match): Ronda Rousey has been at ringside the entire show, primarily for this match. Rousey's front-row tickets came in handy in terms of adding some excitement to this no-disqualification match, even if the finish was a bit clunky. Bliss had Mickie James by her side, while Jax was represented by Rousey's friend Natalya as Rousey finishes out her 30-day Raw suspension for attacking Bliss and Kurt Angle. Weapons came out early in this match as James pulled everything from kendo sticks to garbage cans from under the ring.
Eventually, Bliss and James teamed up on Natalya outside, which caused Rousey to jump the barricade and even the sides. Rousey threw James into two barricade walls and a ring apron before hitting a judo slam and throwing James into and over the announce table. An angered Rousey then gave chase to Bliss, who attempted to run from ringside. But James came alive to take out Rousey with two kendo stick shots to the back. James then ran in to prevent Jax from hitting her Samoan Drop finisher on Bliss by attacking with a chair. After two more chair shots, Bliss hit Jax with a DDT on top of a chair for the pin. While Rousey was more than believable in terms of her intense attack, the fact that she was so easily taken out by two kendo shots while James essentially no-selled the entire beating she took from Rousey was hard to look past. Grade: C
WWE Championship -- AJ Styles (c) def. Rusev via pinfall to retain the title: Despite the WWE's most prestigious title failing to get main event status once again (it's now been two years since it main evented a dual-branded show), Styles and Rusev combined to empty the tank in an entertaining match that took the Pittsburgh crowd a long time to get behind. Rusev took an awkward bump on the ring apron early after falling from the top rope and sold a left leg injury throughout that prevented him in storyline from applying his Accolade when Styles was hurt. Styles had similar trouble locking in his calf crusher as Rusev routinely countered or worked his way to the ropes.
Aiden English made his presence felt late as he removed the top turnbuckle pad behind the referee's back. But after Rusev attempted to force his injured leg into working long enough to apply the Accolade, Styles countered and Rusev ended up hitting the exposed steel face first. Styles then hit a springboard 450 splash but could only get two. After taking out English with a basement dropkick, Styles hit his Phenomenal Forearm to defend his title. Grade: B
Intercontinental Championship -- Dolph Ziggler (c) def. Seth Rollins 5-4 in sudden death to retain the title (30-Minute Iron Man Match): Given a surprise main event slot, Ziggler-Rollins had the opportunity to produce an instant classic of a match. Unfortunately, it never lived up to expectations -- in part because of a dreadful performance from the Pittsburgh crowd and also because WWE overbooked the heck out of it. What was produced, instead, was a fun and entertaining match which furthered the overall storyline on the build to SummerSlam. But that doesn't mean WWE didn't come up short, during a time when in-ring competition from promotions like New Japan Pro-Wrestling are producing a different and fresh style.
Instead, Ziggler-Rollins felt very much like a WWE main event, for better or worse. But speaking of worse, it's hard to look past the performance of the crowd. Instead of celebrating the speed and intensity in which the two performers traded seven falls over the first 15 minutes of the match, the crowd spent 30 minutes going into business for itself. Along with counting down the final 10 seconds of every single minute, as if it were the Royal Rumble, the crowd also chanted Daniel Bryan's "YES" at completely inopportune times. Showing a unified front of dislike for, say, Reigns in a non-title main event or another case of forced booking would be one thing but the Pittsburgh faithful failed to give this match a chance to become a classic and deserve a large deal of the blame.
As for the match, the falls came at a breakneck pace. Rollins packaged a buckle bomb with an unique inside cradle for an early pin (Rollins 1-0). Just minutes later, Rollins kicked out of a rollup and instantly hit his stomp (Rollins 2-0). Things only got crazier from there as Drew McIntyre attacked Rollins to force the disqualification (Rollins 3-0). McIntyre then brutally beat up Rollins outside the ring before hitting a Claymore and getting ejected by the referee.
Ziggler instantly took advantage with a quick pin (Rollins 3-1). After the restart, Ziggler hit a superkick for another pin (Rollins 3-2). Rollins blocked a second super kick merely seconds later until Ziggler reversed into a Zig-Zag to pull even (tied 3-3) with 17:50 remaining. Two minutes later, Ziggler stopped a suicide dive with a forearm and pinned Rollins with his feet on the ropes to take his first lead (Ziggler 4-3).
The final 15 minutes of the match saw the pace slow and near falls become the norm. If you're looking to question the booking, look no further than Ziggler kicking out of both a frog splash and a superplex/Falcon Arrow combo in the final five minutes despite being part of so many quick falls early. With just under three minutes to go, Rollins slingshot Ziggler into the corner and rolled him up (tied 4-4).
Rollins was unable to force a tap in the final minutes on both a sharpshooter and a crossface. Ziggler hit hit a Fameasser for two in the final minute before Rollins countered a super kick with one of his own, flooring Ziggler with seven seconds left. But Rollins crawled too slowly to the pin attempt as time ran out. After the match was announced as a draw with Ziggler retaining his title, Angle came out to announce the match would continue in sudden death. McIntyre reappeared on the apron to distract Rollins and Ziggler instantly hit a ZigZag to win the match. While the finish had more to do with building heat for the future, it would've been great to see both performers given a chance at a pure classic. Grade: B+
2018 WWE Extreme Rules highlights
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