By Chuck Carroll
Looking at the WWE Extreme Rules card, it seems that a lot of the winners are foregone conclusions. The intrigue from those matches is how the “extreme” angle play out. Case in point: Alexa Bliss and Bayley are wrestling for the Raw Women’s Championship in a kendo stick on a pole match. I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you that Alexa Bliss is going to retain. However, the intrigue is in how she will win. Will the women channel The Sandman from ECW and go bananas with the stick? That’s what will make the match fun to watch.
Where things get a little tricky is with the Fatal 5-Way for the right to face Brock Lesnar at WWE Great Balls of Fire. You actually have five formidable opponents worthy of squaring off with The Beast. A feud between Lesnar and Bray Wyatt would be interesting, and the match itself would be a good old-fashioned stiff brawl. We’ve already seen Roman Reigns and Lesnar go at it, so that would get a lukewarm reception at best.
However, the gamble of a chilly reaction from the fans could still pay off. By setting up a Reigns vs. Lesnar match, WWE would have an easy way to reintroduce Braun Strowman when he returns from his injury. If he’s cleared and healthy by July 9 — the next PPV — it would be great to see him come out and get involved. It would simultaneously continue his feud with Reigns while setting up a feud with Lesnar.
But then there’s Finn Bálor, who presents and intriguing possibility. It would be a David vs. Goliath scenario — and who doesn’t love a good underdog?
So who’s it going to be? Wyatt? Reigns? Bálor? Maybe someone else? Joining me as always to flip a coin on these matches are my two top rope cohorts: Aaron Oster from Rolling Stone and Scott Fishman TV Insider.
Extreme Rules Fatal 5-Way Universal Title No. 1 Contender’s Match
Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Samoa Joe
Aaron: I’ve been going around in circles on that one. I’d be somewhat surprised if either Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns won. I believe they’d save the Reigns match for a bigger show, and Rollins doesn’t quite have the heat right now. I do think that Bray Wyatt or Samoa Joe are both strong possibilities, particularly if the plan is to have Lesnar go over at Great Balls of Fire. However, after the promo between Paul Heyman and Finn Bálor, I think that’s the direction they’re going. It’s a fascinating matchup that creates many possibilities, especially with Heyman’s on-screen admiration for Bálor. Bálor wouldn’t be killed with a loss to Lesnar, and the idea will be out there that the Bálor Club could indeed beat The Beast. So for that, I’ll lean slightly towards Bálor. Pick: Finn Bálor
Chuck: The logical choice here is Finn Bálor. There’s no two ways around it. Frankly, he’s due, since he never technically lost the Universal Title to begin with. The idea of a Brock Lesnar vs. Bálor match is intriguing and one that I think would garner a lot of interest from WWE fans and probably even just some casual observers. My only hangup here is that we’re trying to talk about logic and WWE, and they mix like oil and water a lot of the time. Still, I’m going with my gut. Pick: Finn Bálor
Scott: The stage has been set for Bálor to go on to face Brock Lesnar. The seeds were planted with Paul Heyman a few weeks ago on RAW and the way he has been positioned. Although the Samoa Joe or Bray Wyatt option would be good, too. I just get the feeling a David vs. Goliath battle is on the horizon, which will be fun to watch. Fun because it’s a match we haven’t seen before. Pick: Finn Bálor
Intercontinental Championship – Title Can Change Hands On Disqualification
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz
Aaron: They’ve telegraphed the big spot in this match. Maryse is going to do something to try to get Dean Ambrose DQ’d. Do they just run with that, or do they have a swerve around it, where Ambrose catches a slap or something, preventing the DQ, and then eventually winning? Right now the IC title is in a bit of a lull, and if they’re going to keep the belt on Brock Lesnar in the future, they need to elevate the IC title. Thus, I have Miz winning here. Pick: The Miz
Chuck: Dropping the Intercontinental Title wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Dean Ambrose. It would give him a chance to hit the reset button a little bit. Plus, The Miz has arguably done the best work of his career this year; the man is on fire. There’s no way Maryse doesn’t get involved in the finish and somehow get Ambrose DQ’d. Pick: The Miz
Scott: The Miz has been on a roll this year with Maryse, and it will be a good feather in his cap to get another reign with the Intercontinental championship. Although I’m sure there would be some shenanigans here involving Maryse and whatever it takes to get Miz gold. Pick: The Miz
RAW Women’s Championship – Kendo Stick on a Pole Match
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Bayley
Aaron: It would be stunning if Bayley won this. Alexa has all the momentum right now, while the WWE needs to figure out exactly who Bayley’s character is. I fully expect Bayley to grab the kendo stick, get some licks in on Alexa, and Alexa to find some underhanded way to get the pin. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Chuck: Frankly, coming off of that debacle “This Is Your Life” segment on Monday the RAW Women’s Champion needs a victory to get back on track. That was God awful. A friend of mine in the business suggested that this type of match is reminiscent of a horribly conceived Vince Russo gimmick, but I disagree. This is a new era for women where their athletic talents are appreciated and respected. The playing field has been leveled, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Alexa and Bayley bring to the table. I don’t think they’ll disappoint. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Scott: We will see Bayley go “extreme” to a certain extent, as that is the story WWE has been telling heading into this match. Bliss just won the title and is great in the role as champion. We’ll pretend “Bayley, This is Your Life” never happened. So I would hate for Bliss’ title reign to be cut short. Pick: Alexa Bliss
>>MORE: From the world of Pro Wrestling
RAW Tag Team Championship – Steel Cage Match
The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro
Aaron: Sheamus and Cesaro have lost to the Hardys in some form consistently for seven weeks now. If they lose again, they’re meaningless as a tag team. Jeff Hardy is going to do something crazy off the top of a cage that will end up costing their team the win, and maybe setting them down the path of brokenness once again. Pick: Sheamus and Cesaro
Chuck: You would think with the PPV being “Extreme Rules” Matt and Jeff Hardy would be shoo-ins. They’re on the poster, that must count for something! Still, many are picking Sheamus and Cesaro to win here. It would make sense, but I’m not sold it’s happening. The way I see it, it makes more sense for The Hardys to drop the titles to a less-experienced team to help get them over. Until we know who that team will be, I’m sticking with the Hardys. Pick: Hardy Boyz
Scott: With the cage stipulation, I think it opens the door for Sheamus and Cesaro to win the titles while still keeping the Hardy Boyz strong. There will still be interest in this rivalry, especially with Matt and Jeff in the challenger’s slot. Pick: Sheamus and Cesaro
WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Submission Match
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries
Aaron: I was so certain this was going to be Aries before this week. RAW made things interesting though. To have Neville tap decisively, and look so dejected after, is an odd decision if you’re going to have him tap again at the pay-per-view. At the same time, would you really have Austin Aries miss his chance at the title for the third straight show? That would do irreparable damage to him. I think they still have plans for Aries, so he needs to win this. Pick: Austin Aries
Chuck: The cruiserweight division could use a tune-up. 205 Live isn’t generating nearly the buzz it did when it debuted. At least in the short-term, a title change always helps. My concern here is that Neville tapped out to Aries on RAW this week. I’ve found that the person who wins the go-home match heading into a PPV tends to lose at the PPV. This time will be different… I hope. Pick: Austin Aries
Scott: If Austin Aries doesn’t win the championship from Neville in this match, then it’s really doing him a disservice. There are only so many times one can be a bridesmaid. Plus, he has a book coming out, so finally getting the cruiserweight title over the “King of the Cruiserweights” will be a nice story to go along with it. Perhaps TJ Perkins will come into play in this one. Pick: Austin Aries
Mixed Tag Team Match
Rich Swann & Sasha Banks vs. Noam Dar & Alicia Fox
Aaron: At first glance, this seems like an obvious match. However, dig a little deeper, and there are a couple of interesting things about it. For one, Rich Swann is home in Baltimore, and we all know how the WWE treats faces when they are competing in their hometown. Secondly, what exactly are they doing with Sasha Banks? If the idea is for her to lose some cheap matches to eventually snap and turn heel, then she needs to keep losing. However, I’m going to keep it simple and say Sasha and Rich Swann win because they’re the two more relevant people in this match. Pick: Rich Swann and Sasha Banks
Chuck: It seems random to put Sasha Banks in here, doesn’t it? Going from one of the premier main-eventers in the women’s division to doing a mixed tag match with the cruiserweights seems like a demotion. But, as I mentioned above, 205 Live is stale, and the logic is that Banks will draw in more viewers. I can’t see them bringing her on only to lose. That would defeat the purpose of bringing her in. Pick: Rich Swann and Sasha Banks
Scott: As much as I love Alicia Fox and Noam Darr and how Noam says ‘Alicia Fox,’ I’m going with Sasha Banks and Rich Swann. I feel they want to give Banks a win here to keep her strong within the women’s division. I give WWE credit for taking some of the 205 Live crew out of the cruiserweight bubble to a certain extent. Pick: Rich Swann and Sasha Banks
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.