WWE Extreme Rules 2016: Most Intriguing Storylines to Track on Road to PPV
WWE is about to get extreme. That's what the company would have fans believe, but the fact is that the event's name has little do with extreme wrestling. These days, it's just a tagline to hype the pay-per-view, and fans are well aware of it.
But that does not mean there's nothing to look forward to here.
It's a new era for WWE, a time in which fresh faces and different storylines are finally seeing the light of day. It's a moment that many fans likely believed would never happen, but now that it's here, there is much to be optimistic about.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are tearing the house down and bringing back the old-school pro wrestling feud in the process. The New Day is the hottest act in WWE and shows no signs of slowing down. AJ Styles is the No. 2 man in the company right now, second only to WWE world heavyweight champion Roman Reigns.
Overseeing it all is Shane and Stephanie McMahon. Times have changed.
Gone is The Authority—at least for now—while Randy Orton and John Cena are both still on the shelf. The old guard of the company is still alive and well, but it seems to be sidestepping in favor of today's new crop of stars.
Evolution is inevitable, especially for WWE.
New talents will only go as far as the storylines they're booked in, and WWE has a nice amount of those happening right now. As long as the company continues to look ahead and give everyone involved the opportunity to impress, things will only get better from here.
It's up to WWE to keep everything on track.
5. The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains
This is likely not the match that fans wanted.
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady were primed and ready to go for Payback's WWE tag team title No. 1 contenders' match. The two NXT standouts had been on fire since debuting on the main roster, and now they had a chance to impress in what would have been the biggest match of their careers to that point.
But then it all went south.
Enzo went down hard on an awkward baseball slide and suffered a scary concussion as a result. The match was immediately stopped, and the duo's hopes of securing the title match at Extreme Rules were quickly dashed.
The Vaudevillains got the nod and the title shot.
Therein lays the intriguing part of this particular storyline. The fact is that Enzo will be back, and he will take issue with the way Aiden English and Simon Gotch mocked his injury. Big Cass has been fighting the war for his fallen partner, but the time will come when the two will be reunited.
Could that reunion happen at Extreme Rules?
The Vaudevillains have a great opportunity to step up and show what they can do against WWE's hottest act, and they can do it on the worldwide stage. The two teams pair up well, and The Vaudevillains will be given plenty of spotlight on the way to May 22.
Cassady will likely continue to be a thorn in their sides, and he could potentially affect the outcome of the title match at Extreme Rules. If that happens, this championship feud could quickly become a three-team affair.
If Enzo returns in the meantime, it will heat things up even more.
4. Charlotte vs. Natalya
Charlotte is the standard bearer for the women's division and one of the most physically gifted talents to ever wear the belt. She brings intensity, athleticism and fire to her character and the matches she works.
But she's not bringing her father to Extreme Rules.
Ric Flair has been the ultimate coach, the ringside guru that has led his daughter to championship glory. He constantly gets involved in Charlotte's matches and has affected the outcome of more than one title defense on her behalf.
That will not happen on May 22.
The Nature Boy is banned from ringside this time out, which automatically gives Natalya a fighting chance to win. Many fans are hoping for a title change at Extreme Rules, and Natalya is a deserving challenger.
But some real drama could unfold before the match happens.
The primary point of interest here is the dynamic between father and daughter. From the moment Ric was paired with Charlotte on TV, fans have been wondering when the two will split. It's only a matter of time until they do, of course. After all, the heel mindset is to never trust anyone and never take responsibility for one's own actions.
That way of thinking will eventually seep into this tandem as well.
The frustration could begin soon and will likely only worsen before Extreme Rules. If Charlotte were to lose the title in this submission match, which plays to both women's signature moves, an implosion would take place.
Of course, if Charlotte retains the title, she could suddenly have an epiphany and realize she no longer needs her father around. Either way, this combo is sure to dissolve sooner rather than later.
3. Shane and Stephanie Run the Show
Shane McMahon was the favorite to inherit Monday Night Raw.
He gets a great pop, he has a character that's well-suited for TV and, best of all, he never gets in the way. The program is never about him; it's about the action in the ring, and that's the way it should have always been.
But now, not so much.
Stephanie McMahon is running the show alongside her brother, and that has led many fans to believe that The Authority is on the way back. The heel faction that has ruled WWE on the air since 2013 has been nearly indestructible since its formation, though many hoped a new day had come for the corporate side of WWE.
That may not be the case now.
Raw is once again becoming more about McMahon family drama, and fans should have expected it would at some point. The fear here is that this storyline will eventually eclipse all others on Raw, and the situation will become much worse than when The Authority was draining mic time every Monday night.
This storyline is still a work in progress, and anything could happen before Extreme Rules. But if it continues on its present course, a showdown is imminent, and it could happen soon. That showdown would likely involve The Game.
Triple H will have something to say about Shane's rise to power in The Authority's absence. It's uncharacteristic of Hunter to remain silent during all of this, and that could mean he will be back at Extreme Rules.
The McMahon family saga will always be alive and well, and that is due to the company's belief in the drama. As long as fans are interested enough to tune in, this storyline will always come back in some form. Shane vs. Triple H may or may not happen, but the foundation for that match could be laid on the road to Extreme Rules.
2. Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
Roman Reigns could not have asked for a better opponent.
AJ Styles has never looked better, as he has taken advantage of his opportunity in WWE. The Phenomenal One is proving every night why he deserves that moniker, and he earned it in the minds of fans at Payback.
On that night, he took his place as an elite main event player in WWE.
AJ looked great that night, and he elevated Roman in the process. Reigns held up his end of the match, but he has arguably never looked this good against anyone else. He's been pushed to a new level by Styles, who is bringing out the best in the champ.
But that's not all to this story.
WWE's continued focus on Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows denotes something big is on the horizon. That something big may be the formation of The Bullet Club in WWE, though that has not happened as of yet.
But Anderson declared on Twitter that the band is back together again, and if that's the case, this storyline is about to explode.
Fans have been waiting for this moment, and while it remains to be seen whether or not The Bullet Club name will actually be used, there is much to be excited about here. AJ is a babyface right now, but WWE has teased a heel turn against Roman, and this angle could be the realization of that turn.
But what about Finn Balor?
Finn is another Bullet Club alumnus, and if he debuts on the main roster soon, he could be the X-factor in this storyline. Finn is a babyface as well, however, so it's unclear how WWE would handle his turn. But despite what happens, there is no doubt that WWE has a winner on its hands with this storyline. Fans are into it, the guys involved are making it work and there is enough intrigue around it to fill an entire pay-per-view.
1. The Intercontinental Championship Heats Up
The Intercontinental Championship never got a chance.
Fans were happy to see the United States title rise back to prominence thanks to John Cena. But they were also waiting for the same to be done to the IC title. The belt itself has a lot of history behind it and has been a fan favorite for years.
But it hasn't received the prize treatment that it deserves.
While Daniel Bryan was forced to give the belt up and walk away from the game after WrestleMania 31, the fans he left behind have never given up hope for the intercontinental title. They believe the belt deserves more, and for the first time in a long time, WWE agrees.
The belt is getting red-hot, and that's a good thing.
Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Cesaro all want it, but The Miz is the one that has it. That means a four-way dance could be on the horizon, and that match could happen at Extreme Rules. If that is the case, there is plenty for fans to be excited about.
Cesaro is finally getting a real shot at stardom in WWE. The Swiss Superman has been the favorite of many fans for a long time, but this is the first real indication that WWE wants to elevate him to a legitimate level.
Miz has done it all in WWE but has been floundering somewhat in recent months. This title run is allowing him to get back on track while also giving WWE another strong heel to promote and hype on TV every week.
But the real story here is Owens and Zayn.
These two gave a tremendous match at Payback, and they're only just getting started. Their feud has the potential to become the highlight of 2016 for WWE, and fans are only getting a taste of what's to come. By expanding their rivalry to include Cesaro and Miz, WWE is increasing the likelihood that Owens and Zayn will continue to thrive without being overexposed.
That means this angle and potential match have a lot to offer fans. The fact that the Intercontinental Championship is finally getting the recognition it deserves makes it that much better.
Tom Clark can regularly be found on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here