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    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Extreme Rules 2018

    For some reason, WWE thinks everything has to go on a pay-per-view nowadays.

    Okay, granted, being on the PPV card will get a wrestler some extra bonus pay, even if they're just on the kickoff. But in a modern era where there seems to be more wrestling than ever before—even if the accessibility is all that's gone up—WWE should be thinking about streamlining their shows and going less, not bloating shows to almost five hours.

    It doesn't even matter if the shows are dual-branded or not; this format is becoming a chore to slog through, and overall storytelling quality is going down. With the exception of a few, handpicked plots every month, storylines and payoffs feel like they're getting rushed, and wrestlers are getting too much saturation.

    The bloat that Extreme Rules—a minor PPV by any standard—came with is just too worrisome. It stacked 12 matches on its card, including the bouts on the kickoff, and that number is usually associated with WrestleMania. By the time we got to the matches that got enough time to be good (which is pretty much most of the second half of the show), we were already waist-deep in stuff that could've happened on any episode of weekly WWE TV. Looking at the card on paper, I could've cut off six or seven matches from the whole card and given the WWE Universe a leaner, meatier show.

    Sure, WWE defenders could point to a company like NJPW, who can put out stretches of three-hour shows for a few days, or a few weeks at most. (The G1 Climax is notoriously hard to keep up with because of the overall volume of wrestling the company puts out in the three-week stretch.) But the difference with NJPW is that every show they do is, for lack of a better word, damn nutritious with the wrestling. WWE's more concerned with writing storylines and shocking the Universe with big moments, always designed to focus more on the "what's next" of the story instead of what's before us now. 

    You can't watch this show and tell me that something like, say, Shinsuke Nakamura destroying Jeff Hardy in six seconds couldn't have happened on this week's episode of SmackDown Live. Or an interesting moment in the B-Team managing to win the RAW Tag Team Championships from the Deleters of Worlds couldn't have made this week's episode of RAW even more special. Or, hell, even the Bludgeon Brothers making quick work of Team Hell No (without nary a trace of the Miz) main-eventing SmackDown. We used to think that it wasn't big-time until it made the PPV card, but now I'm starting to think it's too easy to get on those shows.

    Fans could always argue about the prestige a PPV brings, but lately, with the way the company's been trying to cram everything into a PPV, I'd rather try to make TV must-see with by putting interesting midcard developments there instead of going through three hours of TV-level writing before we get to AJ Styles vs. Rusev or Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins. It's ironic, because the more they try to make these monthly events special, the more they end up watering down the concept of the monthly show where the climaxes are supposed to happen.

    Hell, if NXT can get by just fine with Takeovers once every couple of months, there's no reason why the main shows can't trim the fat.

    Extreme Rules 2018 Final Grade: B

    Match of the Night

    A few matches stood out enough to fight for Match of the Night honors, but in the end I have to give it to the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Rusev. Styles didn't have to, but he did what he always does, and Rusev is now a made man. It's not an NJPW-style 20-30 minute classic, but in the WWE and SmackDown, 15 minutes is enough to get a guy over. Rusev proved what we all already knew: he belongs in the big leagues. If AJ has to go through a gauntlet for SummerSlam, the Lion of Bulgaria should be in the running.

    Other observations

    • All that said, Almas/Sin Cara did deserve to be in the kickoff, and that's just the right spot for them; something in between getting too little time on SmackDown and not being big enough for the main card. I would've rather they gotten that same chunk of time on TV though.
    • Sanity and New Day did the best they could, but I would've preferred they hashed things out on TV as well.
    • I totally didn't see the B-Team's win coming, and now I'm expecting the Authors of Pain to destroy them for the titles sooner than later.
    • Finn Balor beat Baron Corbin. It was a thing, and another match on my "should've-been-on-TV" list for this show.
    • Carmella vs. Asuka was... something we didn't really need unless it's leading to character development for Asuka, who going by this story needs to be laser-focused on winning her matches and not taking her frustrations out on Ellsworth. I feel like the ending would've been fine if it came after a long match, but since everything was being rushed because Ziggler and Rollins were going for half an hour, it just felt like a joke. 
    • The issue now is how are you going to rebuild Asuka now, and why won't you let her win a championship?
    • Hardy/Nakamura/Orton played out like a top-of-the-second-hour SmackDown segment, and that's what it should've been instead of a spot on the PPV.
    • Another should've-been-on-TV match: Owens vs. Strowman. Yes, I get the little nuance that Braun was perfectly content with letting Owens technically win if it means he gets to destroy him, but if you're going to run a cage match in less than 10 minutes, then maybe it should've main-evented RAW this week?
    • What was the whole point of Team Hell No losing to the Bludgeon Brothers if they weren't pushing through with the Miz interference they were all teasing? Don't tell me the whole angle starts on MizTV this week?
    • Lashley/Reigns was actually a pretty solid match, and would've been match of the night if it didn't go up against AJ/Rusev and Ziggler/Rollins. I'm surprised they pulled the trigger on giving Lashley the win over Reigns. My issue with it now is since Lashley got over clean, anything less than a chance to face Lesnar for the title is doing him a disservice. And since it doesn't look like they're ready to put Lashley in front of Lesnar, this feels like a win to pacify the crowd. Then again, they swerved us here, so we could be in for a surprise next week.
    • I think I like the idea of the Intercontinental Championship main-eventing a PPV more than the actual match between Ziggler and Rollins. I mean, it was great, it was logical, but it wasn't anything mindblowing between the two. (It didn't help that it was the very last thing coming on after a long night.) It also kind of takes a shit on the WWE Championship, because even if the Intercontinental title did main-event this show, it would've made more sense if it main-evented a RAW-exclusive show instead.
    • I didn't dig how Seth scored two easy falls in the beginning, only for Dolph to start kicking out of his bigger moves later in the match. Dolph's first two falls made sense after McIntyre's attack, but why or how could he have kicked out of frog splashes, superplexes, and Falcon Arrows but not from the Buckle Bomb or a rollup?

    Photo from WWE


    Romeo Moran (@roiswar) is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Extreme Rules 2018 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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