Paul Heyman warned us, but even he couldn’t prepare us for what happened.
WWE actually gave us a fitting Brock Lesnar moment to close one of its better pay-per-views.
A portion of the fan base is sick of Lesnar being champion. So it’s understandable why The Beast cashing in his Money in the Bank contract — which Heyman teased he would — to beat Seth Rollins for the Universal championship at Extreme Rules Sunday night would anger some. Love it or hate it, the moment accomplished one very important thing: It gave us a SummerSlam story to get behind.
Rollins will likely spend the next month chasing Lesnar and the championship he lost all the way to Toronto. Whether he wins it there or down the road, Rollins getting retribution or maybe Braun Strowman finally receiving a chance to beat Lesnar is something fans can get emotionally invested in. It is why, despite losing his championship, it was a good night for Rollins.
His winners-take-all mixed tag match with girlfriend Becky Lynch against Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans went better than expected, thanks to an entertaining final five minutes. They took advantage of the extreme rules, using tables, chairs and kendo sticks. Both pairs also had plenty of solid team moves, including Rollins and Lynch leaping one right after the other onto their opponents, who were laying on tables outside the ring.
Any worry of Rollins behind left in Lynch’s shadow was also put to rest. He’s more than “The Man’s Man.”
Corbin hit Lynch with End of Days, infuriating Rollins. He responded by viciously attacking Corbin and using three Stomps to get the pin. Though Rollins may not have left with his belt, he did defend Lynch’s honor and acquired a potentially hot SummerSlam feud.
Kofi Kingston, whom WWE continues to make look strong, heads into the summer in the opposite position. He has his championship, but his feud with Samoa Joe left Philly ice cold. Joe dominated Kingston for much of their WWE championship match, but never really put him in believable danger of losing.
Kingston’s Trouble in Paradise finishing move is becoming like an RKO: It comes out of nowhere and is effective on the first try. Kingston used it again to get a win. Another Samoa Joe attack, no matter have vicious, doesn’t seem enough to revive this feud.
Kingston’s New Day partners now join him as champions. Xavier Woods and Big E won their triple-threat match for the SmackDown titles to become six-time tag team champions and got a big pop from the crowd.
These teams were given time, and it paid off with a frenetic ending. Daniel Bryan and Rowan had a solid run as champions, but it may be time to get Bryan back as a singles wrestler. Heavy Machinery came oh-so-close to becoming champions as Otis and Tucker continued to prove they belong at the top of the division.
Bayley is still at the pinnacle of hers. It’s hard to make a 2-on-1 handicap match look good, and Bayley, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross did a solid job with it. Cross and Bliss used teamwork that made sense, as did Bayley’s offensive retaliation. Getting the knees up on Twisted Bliss opened the door for Bayley to hit the diving elbow from the top rope on Cross to win the match and look good doing so.
There is plenty of open-ended storytelling here. Bliss and Cross looked very much like a team and could be used in the women’s tag division. Cross getting pinned and not Bliss certainly opens the door for her to turn on her “friend.” Bayley needs to move on to bigger and better things.
Speaking of better, we have the Undertaker. He and Roman Reigns beating Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre (and Elias, as it turned out) set an excellent tone in the main-card opener. Undertaker looked as good has he had in a while. It was a much-needed boost after the disaster with Goldberg at Super ShowDown.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor give us the exact opposite on the kickoff show. This one deserved to be well up the card. The strong-style-type outing had drama and a great pace, ending with Nakamura winning his first Intercontinental championship. Let’s hope the belt can rise to prominence again.
AJ Styles over Ricochet to win the United States championship
WWE is all in on The Club. Styles and Ricochet put on a fun match with plenty of mano-a-mano offense and some aerial excellence. Still, it feels like these two have another gear. Styles finally gained the upper hand thanks to interference from Luke Gallows and hit Ricochet with a Styles Clash from the top rope. It’s pretty clear how dangerous The Club is.
Braun Strowman over Bobby Lashley in a Last Man Standing Match
Now this is how two hosses have a last-man-standing match. While it did feel a tad long for a match with little stakes, Lashley and Strowman delivered a memorable, carnage-filled outing. There were broken barriers, tables, T-shirt stands and Strowman powerslamming Lashley off the bleachers. This could be the start of Strowman’s push back up the card now that Lesnar is Universal champion.
The Revival over The Usos to retain the Raw tag team championships
The match was good for what it was and most importantly propped up The Revival. When they meet next, WWE must give time to build something more.
Aleister Black over Cesaro
Black, who won via Black Mass, was looking for a fight and got one from Cesaro. They had a technical, hard-hitting strikefest with just the right amount of aerial spots. Cesaro lifting Black by the knees from on top of his shoulders into a European uppercut was a sight to see. The whole match felt like a style we don’t see enough of in WWE.
Kevin Owens over Dolph Ziggler
Here was your time-saver match. Owens hits a Stunner, scores the 20-second win and cuts another promo verbally flipping off Shane McMahon. More of this KO, please.
Drew Gulak over Tony Nese to retain the Cruiserweight championship
The hometown boy Gulak goes over as the cruiserweights continue deliver quality matches. There was a rolling-counter sequence in this one that will make plenty of highlight reels.
Biggest winner: The New Day
Biggest losers: Samoa Joe, Dolph Zigger
Best match: SmackDown tag team championship