5/22/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Roman Reigns def. AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules Match to Remain WWE Champion
Reigns got his customary reaction from the Newark crowd and Styles got the accompanying cheers. They traded fists and forearms early. Styles went for a chair, but Reigns intercepted him and grabbed the chair for himself. Neither wrestler landed cleanly as they fought through the crowd to the preshow set. Styles jumped off of the table and hit a flying forearm to gain the advantage.
They worked their way back to the outside of the ring. Styles removed the padding from ringside to expose the concrete. He teased the Styles Clash, but Reigns escaped. When Reigns set up for a powerbomb, Styles rifled right hands to his forehead to put him down. Styles ran across the German announce table and Reigns caught him with a backdrop that imploded the English announce table. Reigns brought Styles back into the ring to hit a huge sit-out powerbomb for a near fall.
Styles made it back to his feet and took out Reigns’s left knee as Reigns jumped in the air. He proceeded to suplex Reigns into the turnbuckle to do more damage to the knee. Styles tried a hurricanrana to the floor, but Reigns caught him. He swung Styles into the ringside video board and powerbombed him through the Spanish announce table. Styles sidestepped a Reigns spear and it sent him through the barricade around the timekeeper’s area. The result was that the entire announce area looked like a disaster area.
Styles went for a springboard, but Reigns caught him with a Superman punch. Styles wobbled on the top rope and fell awkwardly to the apron and then the floor. He looked loopy and exhausted while Reigns continued to sell the earlier damage to his knee. Nonetheless, Reigns came around the corner of the right to hit a spear on the floor. The Club came to the ring before Reigns could go for a cover and hit him with the Boot of Doom. They pulled Styles into the cover for a two count.
The Usos, despite injuries earlier in the night, joined The Club in the ring. They hit superkicks on Styles and a Superfly Splash. Reigns got the cover and only a two count. Reigns dished out a Superman Punch for both Anderson and Gallows. He set up for a Spear, but Styles blocked him and hit a Styles Clash for a two count. Styles fought through a backdrop on a chair and hit a Styles Clash on the chair. Jey Uso interrupted the cover just long enough for Reigns to kick out at two. The angrier Styles lashed out with the chair and annihilated both Usos and Reigns. Styles went to the outside for the Phenomenal Forearm. As he jumped into the ring, Reigns caught him with a Spear for the win.
As Reigns celebrated the end of a great main event, Seth Rollins ran in and hit his former Shield teammate with a Pedigree. He posed with the WWE Title over Reigns while the crowd chanted its thanks for him. Although the result was never really in doubt, Styles was so good in this match that he very nearly convinced me that he was going to win. Both wrestlers sold the damage of the match and the exhaustion. As great as Styles is in every big match, Reigns deserves credit for continually showing up in PPV main events. Looking ahead, Rollins is a marquee challenger for Reigns who every fan will want to see. Styles should not be overlooked because he is clearly a top-end star in any promotion.
The Miz def. Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn to Remain Intercontinental Champion
As soon as the opening bell sounded, Zayn raced across the ring to hit Owens with a Helluva Kick. Cesaro sent Miz to the floor, which left Cesaro and Zayn in the center of the ring to do some wrestling. It took Owens several minutes to get back into the match, but when he did, he went straight for Zayn. All four wrestlers scuffled in the corner that led to a quadruple tower of doom, anchored by Cesaro. Zayn followed up with a Blue Thunder Bomb, but Miz intervened with a running boot to prevent a cover on Cesaro.
The creativity continued when Cesaro and Zayn simultaneously locked Miz to hit a tandem German/exploder suplex. Cesaro stayed in control and triangulated an uppercut train to three corners of the ring. His Big Swing setup was cut short when Owens hit a German. Owens saw the remnants of the uppercut train and hit a trio of cannonballs. Zayn’s 50/50 suplex downed Owens. Miz hit a Skull Crushing Finale on Cesaro, but Cesaro shockingly kicked out at two. Cesaro recovered to hit a springboard uppercut and an extended Swing on Miz. He locked Miz in the Sharpshooter and forced him to tap out, only for the referee to miss due to a distraction by Maryse.
Owens tried to take advantage of Cesaro with a schoolboy to no avail. Cesaro tried another Sharpshooter on Miz, but ad libbed to a Neutralizer on Owens when Owens’s frog splash landed on Miz’s knees. The Neutralizer looked to be enough for the three count until Zayn ran in and made the save. Zayn’s sunset flip powerbomb led to an extremely near fall on Cesaro. Zayn tried a Helluva Kick and ran into an uppercut. Undeterred, he hit an exploder on Cesaro, Owens hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb, and Miz pulled him to the floor to hit a Skull Crushing Finale outside the ring.
Zayn came out of nowhere to hit Cesaro with a Helluva Kick. As he went for the cover, Owens pulled him to the outside. Enraged, Zayn went after Owens and they brawled onto the ramp. Miz snuck into the ring to cover Cesaro and get the three count.
With so many moving pieces, it’s exceptionally difficult to put together a great fatal fourway match. Even though I had high expectations for these four wrestlers, I thought it would be more of a spotfest and less of a psychological drama. Somehow, all four men put together a rapid-fire, stiff class that made sense from start to finish. Owens and Zayn somehow elevated their rivalry. Cesaro looked like the star of the match and repeatedly came close to summiting the mountain. Ultimately, Miz continued his great work as an opportunistic, weasely heel. This match lacked nothing. It will be on the match of the year shortlist.
Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho in an Asylum Match
Jericho started the match by trying to escape through the cage door, only to learn that the door does not open in an Asylum Match. Ambrose was the first to reach one of the suspended weapons- a mop- and hit Jericho with it in the ear. Ambrose continued the mop attack, which felt too jocular for what was supposed to be an emotional grudge match. Jericho more strategically went after the barbed wire 2×4. Before he could get it, Ambrose caught him with a back suplex to the mat. They went to opposite corners. Jericho retrieved the 2×4 and Ambrose found a set of nunchucks. Ambrose used the nunchucks to repeatedly whip Jericho in the ribs.
The two men introduced a leather strap and a kendo stick to the match. Unfortunately, there was not enough violence for a hardcore match or enough wrestling for a traditional match. Ambrose retrieved a fire extinguisher. Before he could use it, Jericho threw a strait jacket over his head and kicked him in the head. Ambrose recovered and climbed to the top of the cage to hit an elbow to Jericho for a two count. Ambrose pulled down the bucket from above the ring to reveal a bag full of thumb tacks. Both men repeatedly teased dropping the other on the pile of tacks. Instead, Jericho locked Ambrose in the Walls of Jericho. Ambrose escaped by using a kendo stick. Jericho sprayed Ambrose with the fire extinguisher and hit a Codebreaker for a two count. He hit the dazed Ambrose with the barbed wire 2×4 in the chest and back. He went for another Codebreaker, but Ambrose caught him and dumped him in the pile of thumbtacks. He followed it with a Dirty Deeds that put plenty of tacks in himself to get the victory.
This match was in a difficult position. It came off of the emotional high of the phenomenal Intercontinental Title match. It also started very slowly with too much comedy. Perhaps most importantly, the use of barbed wire and steel weapons without blood was distracting. Even so, the match got better as it built toward the finish and the closing spot was stunning. It was a mixed bag, but at least it redeemed itself in the end.
Charlotte def. Natalya in a Submission Match to Remain Women’s Champion
Natalya got off to a good start and used the appropriate psychology for the stipulation by going for a surf board submission very quickly. Even though Charlotte turned things in her favor, Natalya locked in a triangle choke. Charlotte impressively answered with a powerbomb to break the hold. Charlotte hit a moonsault and a half Boston Crab, but Natalya quickly escaped. After a German suplex, Natalya applied the Sharpshooter. With Charlotte in the Sharpshooter, Ric Flair’s music hit. Dana Brooke came to ringside dressed as Flair. Natalya broke the hold and Charlotte put her in the Figure 8 to get the submission. The finish was bizarre. There was no reason that Dana’s entrance should have tricked Natalya into breaking the hold, let alone allowing Charlotte to apply her submission. As for Natalya vs. Dana? Pass.
The Club def. The Usos in a Tornado Tag Team Match
The Usos met Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson on the ramp to start their show-opening No DQ match. They continued to work the stiffer style that has been characteristic of their recent rivalry with the Japanese imports. Anderson and Gallows turned the momentum in their favor with a Boot of Doom on the floor outside the ring. They targeted Jimmy until Jey made the rescue and helped set up a double team on Gallows. The teams traded signature moves in rapid fire, both in and out of the ring as the tornado rules created a crazy pace.
Gallows tried to punctuate the attack with the ring bell, but Jimmy met him with a superkick instead. Jimmy went to the top rope and attempted a Superfly Splash that landed him on the ring bell. Anderson got back into the ring and they teamed up for a Magic Killer while Jey was still incapacitated to get the clean win. Despite some missteps in their first month in WWE, The Club came out of this match looking like majors stars who pose a serious threat to tag teams and singles stars alike. Rusev cut the rally short when he tossed Kalisto off of the top rope onto the apron.
Rusev def. Kalisto to Become US Champion
Things did not start well for Kalisto. His preexisting injuries allowed Rusev to overpower him and move him from one submission hold to another, all focused on the back and midsection. Even Kalisto’s sleeper was almost immediately countered into a backdrop. Kalisto finally put together a tornado DDT and a hurricanrana for a near fall. He didn’t get the pin, but he was able to use a head scissors to force Rusev head-first into the ring steps. The ringside trainer tried to tend to Kalisto, but Rusev pulled him away and applied the Accolade, which forced Kalisto to tap out almost immediately. To get Rusev back on track, WWE needed to make him look dominant and frightening. This match checked those boxes. The League of Nations didn’t help Rusev, but he is back on an impressive trajectory now. As for Kalisto, the title reign helped to legitimize him, but I have enjoyed him more in the Lucha Dragons than as a singles wrestler.
New Day def. The Vaudevillains to Remain Tag Team Champions
It was nice to see Xavier Woods get a chance to defend the Tag Team Titles alongside Big E with Kofi Kingston looking on. Woods struggled in the Vaudevillains’ corner until he got Big E for the hot tag and a series of impressive suplexes. Aiden English got a near fall when he blocked Big E’s spear through the ropes with a high knee. They put Big E into the ring steps and hit Woods with the Whirling Dervish, but Woods impressively kicked out at two. Big E hit his apron spear on a second attempt, Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise on Simon Gotch with the referee’s back turned, and Woods finished him off with a running knee strike. There was little doubt about the outcome of this match, but New Day did a good job of making the build-up and the execution fun.
-It would be easy to ignore Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler toiling at the bottom of the card and on the pre-show. If you watch closely, though, you can see that Corbin has improved quite a bit and has developed very good chemistry with Ziggler. He used the No DQ stipulation to hit a low blow that set up the End of Days to get the win.
-Big Cass brawled with the Dudley Boys on the pre-show, though it did not result in an actual match. It’s a minor quibble, but it would make sense for the Dudleys to brutalize Cass at some point to make Enzo’s return feel important.