** PRE-SHOW **
I wasn't paying attention to most of this but one thing I did pay attention to was Nia Jax's appearance. I didn't like this one bit because everyone- the panelists as well as Nia herself- seemed to be under the impression that the "friendship" between Nia and Alexa is real. When I watched the segment where they established said friendship it seemed clear to me that Nia was only interested in the title and Alexa was only interested in Nia not immediately kicking her ass- and that both women knew what the other was up to and were perfectly happy to use the other- while knowingly letting themselves being used by the other- in order to accomplish their short-term objectives. No one was acting like that in this segment.
Oh. And Nia herself was pretty bad. Otunga is back, though, so that's good. I really don't understand why people dislike him so much. I do think he would be helped by trying a bit harder to establish his own "character" as a commentator. Maybe he could use his law experience to be a kind of pro-heel rules lawyer a la Veda Scott.
KALISTO vs. APOLLO CREWS (w/Titus O'Neil) - 6.5/10
They got enough time to have a good match and were given a very good finish for what they want to do with this situation. That being said, I think there is more potential in Titus helping Crews get the win without Crews' knowledge so that Crews' eventual choice to play within the rules and earn his victories fairly will be a tougher decision to make, thus a better story. The more enticing the temptation, the greater the hero is for rejecting it.
** MAIN SHOW **
INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH IN WHICH THE TITLE CAN CHANGE HANDS ON A DQ: Dean Ambrose(c) vs. The Miz (w/Maryse) - 7.25/10
Great storytelling here, with lots of great twists and turns. Props are definitely due to referee John Cone for doing his part to add to the tension. The only thing that would have made this better was if one of the announcers had explained why the referee thought Dean would have run into him on purpose- because Dean was upset about only getting a two-count on that O'Connor Roll.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS BAYLEY - Steve Blackman got name-dropped! This pretty great promo aside from the whole Wonder Woman bit. It came off as completely forced... and if Bayley is going to be watching wrestling matches to learn how to be extreme or whatever, maybe we can plug, like, Jazz? Or that Trish vs. Victoria match from No Mercy 2002? You know... something that feels a lot more natural than telling everyone that a woman who is a professional combat athlete needs to go see a f*cking superhero movie to feel empowered. In the world of kayfabe, Bayley is a real-life Wonder Woman.
MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH:
Rich Swann & Sasha Banks vs. Noam Dar & Alicia Fox - 5.75/10
I spent a few minutes thinking about this earlier today, and I have officially come to the conclusion that Alicia Fox and Noam Dar's names are too short for there to possibly be a fun portmanteau for them. The match was decently short, but also quite fun. Swann got the shocking babyface win his home town. Dar and Fox are wonderful heels, and I really, really hope that they do some sort of marriage angle at some point because they need to remain together for as long as possible.
THE F*CKING DRIFTER WASTES OUR TIME BY PLAYING A SONG ON PPV - If this doesn't end with that guitar shattered over his head within a minute, I will be very unhappy.
Wait. AMAZING DREAM SCENARIO: Imagine The Drifter starting to play his song but then Natural Born Killaz (or some sort of WWE cover of it) starts to play from the sound system and New Jack comes out and beats up The Drifter and gives him the El Kabong.
So... what was the end result of this segment? NOTHING. No one came out to attack him, he didn't beat up a jobber or anything. Nothing. He just played a song burying the city of Baltimore and hyping up the main event. He did say that he had a "plan," though, which probably means he'll interfere in the main event, so we're getting a run-in finish that will result in THE F*CKING DRIFTER feuding with a main event wrestler.
KENDO STICK ON A POLE MATCH FOR THE RAW WOMEN'S TITLE:
Alexa Bliss!(c) vs. Bayley - 4.25/10
Well... they went in there, they told their story, and they got out. But yeah, this was kind of disappointing in that they didn't really up the level of Kendo Stick use from what I assumed were just supposed to be teases on TV. Also, Bayley failing to get extreme here despite her assuring us that she could and once again losing makes her seem extremely pathetic. Perhaps irredeemably so. Alexa was right: Bayley is just a child in an adult's world.
STEEL CAGE MATCH FOR THE WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Hardy Boyz(c) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro - 6.5/10
Cole plugged the Hardys vs. Edge & Christian cage match for the tag titles from Unforgiven 2000. I, too, will plug that match here because of the excellent telling of a rather unique story.
Well... in retrospect the story there was similar to the story in this match where one Hardy got isolated inside the cage and the other had to try to get back in to even things up except without the door so you didn't have Matt looking like a dumbf*ck for not just letting Sheamus escape. Also, they had some other really cool I idea which I don't want to spoil for you. And, unlike this match, they had a finish that was actually satisfying so go watch that match.
They played a video highlighting upcoming things on the WWE Network, including the Mae Young Classic, which Steph proudly referred to as "the first women-only tournament" in WWE. Really? So I guess the tournament for Divas Championship that Maryse won doesn't count? Or the one to crown a new champion after Trish Stratus retired? Or the one Alundra Blayze won to win the Women's Title for the first time? Or BOTH NXT Women's Title tournaments?
And, aside from Blayze's, all of these can, ironically, be seen on the very WWE Network that they were trying to plug with this very commercial.
SUBMISSION MATCH FOR THE WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Neville(c) vs. Austin Aries - 7.5/10
Lots of good work on the body parts and very good storytelling. Aries' loss felt very surprising, as it feels like there is no one left for Neville to face, but in reality I should have seen this coming because the only natural conclusion to the TJP angle is TJP turning babyface on Neville when he isn't given his promised title shot. That being said, I think I would have rather seen TJP influence the outcome of this match to build to a Triple Threat match next month so that not only would be get a new match-up but also Aries' would be protected in the loss.
FATAL FIVE-WAY EXTREME RULES #1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH:
Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor - 8.5/10
They told an excellent story with the alliance between Joe and Wyatt, and the babyfaces all got some chances to run wild on everyone before Joe eventually choked Balor out, meaning that WE'RE GETTING JOE VS. BROCK! As Corey Graves said, this is a true "dream match."
This was a pretty great show from WWE. Everything that was given time delivered at least decently well (you can maybe argue about the tag title match), and the matches that weren't did a good job of going in there, throwing everything into their story, and going home efficiently. I might not agree that some of the finishes were the right calls, but for where WWE seems to be going, they are all at least solid.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Booker T referred to the Ambrose vs. Miz match as "no disqualifications rules." I know what he meant, but by that definition, EVERY non-gimmick match is contested under "no disqualifications rules."