WWE Extreme Rules 2017: Updated Match Card, Predictions for Fatal 5-Way and More
WWE Extreme Rules is coming up on Sunday, and once again the company has loaded the card from start to finish.
Only six matches have been booked thus far, but four of those are title matches. The main event features five of the red brand's top stars, and the winner goes on to challenge for the WWE Universal Championship.
The absentee champion is waiting to return once again.
Brock Lesnar has of course been missing in action since the night after WrestleMania 33. He has yet to defend his Universal Championship, but the company has kept moving without him. The Monday Night Raw roster has pressed forward and has a chance to impress at Extreme Rules.
The competition between Raw and SmackDown Live definitely exists, and fans have benefited from that competition.
Though every event can't be WrestleMania, there are always high expectations from the WWE faithful. Extreme Rules represents another opportunity for Raw to represent, deliver a great night and leave fans wanting more.
That's especially true of the main event, which could very well be the best match of the night.
Sasha Banks and Rich Swann vs. Alicia Fox and Noam Dar
While fans understood that Sasha Banks couldn't feud with Charlotte forever, they likely didn't expect The Boss to fall out of title contention.
That certainly seems to be the case now, as she will team with former cruiserweight champion Rich Swann to take on Noam Dar and Alicia Fox. It appears to be a throwaway match for Banks, who probably should be booked in a much more important spot on the card.
But maybe critics of this storyline are missing the point.
Banks has to reset. She has to recharge and she has to eventually resume. That means that she can now relax and just have fun once again. While she is indeed a competitor and would surely love to be back on top again, she now has a chance to just get in the ring and entertain.
Pairing her with Swann may have seemed like an odd idea at first, but the two complement each other quite well. Dar and Fox had nothing in common either, but they've made the best of it so far. This match may not be the most important bout booked, but it's good for the 205 Live stars to get some additional spotlight.
The fact that spotlight comes with Banks is an added bonus indeed.
Neville vs. Austin Aries (Submission Match for the WWE Cruiserweight Title)
The war between Neville and Austin Aries isn't over yet.
The two men have been feuding since before WrestleMania 33, and it's only gained steam since then. Their storyline has involved other talents as well, including TJP and Jack Gallagher. The stars of 205 Live have indeed been represented very well so far, and the same will certainly be true at Extreme Rules.
The submission stipulation only adds more spotlight to this one.
It's a great idea for this match, as it grounds the high-flying action. Though fans love to see the guys go airborne, the cruiserweight division has a tendency to use that too much. Mat wrestling brings the action back down to earth and gives fans a reason to invest in the match.
When guys go too fast and don't sell well enough, the crowd checks out. The only way to connect is to take the match down to its simplest level.
Of course the animosity between Neville and Aries has fueled their rivalry to this point. That's the reason why fans are watching, and the action in the ring only brings more drama to the feud. But it's clear that Aries is building Neville with each match they've worked so far.
Neville is a dominant champion, and Aries has only strengthened his title run. Their match could steal the show on Sunday.
Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro and Sheamus (Steel Cage Match for the Raw Tag Team Titles)
If it's not broken, break it.
Matt Hardy continues to be a hybrid of his Impact Wrestling character and the Version 2 model that older WWE fans are familiar with. Though he's obviously capable of so much more, it seems WWE is content with leaving him alongside his brother Jeff.
So far it's been a hit with fans.
Matt and Jeff have reacquainted themselves with longtime fans and have connected to younger fans in the process. Their legacy as innovators is well-known throughout the industry, and now the brothers will once again get extreme.
But this time, it will happen inside a steel cage.
This is the environment that many fans want to see The Hardy Boyz compete in. It's their playground, and they're sharing it with arguably the most polished duo on Raw.
Sheamus and Cesaro can brawl, they can wrestle, and they do it all with style. The team that was thrown together has gotten over more than perhaps anyone could have imagined in the beginning. Now they're poised to reclaim their Raw Tag Team Championships.
But Matt and Jeff won't go down without a fight. Perhaps this match will be the one that fans are talking about long after Extreme Rules is over.
Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley (Kendo Stick on a Pole Match for the Raw Women's Title)
Alexa Bliss is on fire right now.
She delivers scathing promos on her opponents, she's good in the ring, and she is extremely comfortable in her character. Bliss is everything a heel champion should be, and many WWE fans love every minute of it.
She's supposed to be booed out of the building, but that doesn't always happen because fans have really connected to her.
That's especially true now, as Bayley has taken somewhat of a backseat to her Extreme Rules opponent. Bayley has been the good-natured babyface since arriving on the Raw roster, and she continues to have a dedicated fan following.
But there's something about Bliss that causes Bayley to be overlooked. That should not be the case Sunday.
The match stipulation is a bit silly, but it can be very effective if used the right way. Bliss should dominate this match, take every cheap shot she can and rally the crowd behind Bayley. Fans should decide that Bayley has had enough, and she should finally strike back.
When that moment happens, she will have the crowd on her side and a red-hot champion standing in her way. Bayley will indeed get extreme, and she will likely gain serious credibility points with fans in the process.
Dean Ambrose vs. the Miz (Stipulation Match for the WWE Intercontinental Title)
While The Miz has made a fine intercontinental champion in the past, some fans are probably upset that he didn't get booked in the main event.
The WWE Universal Championship is a title that Miz has earned the right to compete for. He's perhaps the best heel in the company right now, and he's proved himself to be arguably the most entertaining character in WWE.
But instead of competing for the right to face Brock Lesnar, Miz is indeed challenging for Dean Ambrose's intercontinental title. But Miz does happen to have an edge this time out.
If Ambrose loses by disqualification, the title changes hands. That may seem like a stipulation that fits better if Ambrose is the heel, but it could be the perfect way for Miz to slide in and steal a win. For a heel that's as devious as he is, Miz could definitely find a way to make that stipulation work to his advantage.
The best part about this match is the chemistry between Miz and Ambrose.
Their styles mesh very well together, as Miz is more refined and Ambrose is rough around the edges. It's apparent that both guys are very good at what they do, and they are capable of putting on a clinic in the ring. Their match may not be the flashiest on the Extreme Rules Card, but it could be the most well-wrestled bout of the night.
Miz does indeed deserve a shot at the top title, but his work for the intercontinental title only adds more value to that belt. The same will definitely be true at Extreme Rules.
Extreme Rules Fatal 5-Way Universal Title No.1 Contender's Match
The Fatal 5-Way match at Extreme Rules is a who's who of main event guys.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe are top stars all over the world, and they will lend that star power to Extreme Rules. There's an abundance of talent in the match, and that talent is surely ready to impress.
WWE has thrown everything it has at this match and with good reason.
This is the top tier of Monday Night Raw, the hottest assortment of main event talent the red brand could muster. There's no limit to how impressive this match can be, and there's also no limit as to how much all five guys are willing to do to make it a reality.
After all Brock Lesnar is waiting for the winner.
The Universal Championship is indeed in trouble thanks to Lesnar's absence, but if this match delivers everything it should, then the desire to see the belt defended once again will definitely be there. The best of Raw will compete, but only one man can win.
That man is Finn Balor.
Balor should win at Extreme Rules, then go on to perpetrate some serious psychological warfare against The Beast Incarnate. Lesnar has faced and defeated every type of gimmick in the past, but Balor's Demon King is unlike anything the champ has seen before.
Balor needs the win at Extreme Rules to make that match possible, and he only has to go through Raw's other top guys to get there. But it's Balor's time now, which means Extreme Rules belongs to him.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com.