This Sunday, we see the Horror Show at Extreme Rules unfold on the WWE Network. As of last night’s SmackDown, there have been eight matches formally announced for the event, including one guaranteed cinematic match in the Wyatt Swamp Fight, one rumored cinematic match in the grisly Eye for an Eye Match, a Bar Fight, and five championship matches. Some of the stipulations and oddities found on this card could really only happen in times like these, but for once, every match on this card feels like a proper Pay-Per-View level showing.
As CryptTeaze’s resident wrestling expert, here are my picks for this Sunday’s Horror Show at Extreme Rules.
Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP for the United States Championship
Since his non-title victory over Apollo Crews several weeks ago on RAW, MVP has positioned himself as not only the CEO of “The Hurt Business,” but as a viable contender to the US Title. Somehow, though, I don’t believe that the numbers game will be in the Hurt Business’ favor, though, as Apollo has had Cedric Alexander and Ricochet in his back pocket in recent weeks.
Even if MVP unveiled the new United States title belt, I don’t believe he will walk out of The Horror Show as champion. I do believe, however, that Apollo’s days with the belt are numbered, as Bobby Lashley’s stock has only been raised after an acclaimed WWE Title match against Drew McIntrye at last month’s Backlash. I have no doubt that this will be a well-worked match, but I don’t see this as MVP’s time to hold gold.
Asuka (c) vs. Sasha Banks for the RAW Women’s Championship
Asuka needs a big win. A decisive win. After winning the title at Money in the Bank in the titular Ladder Match, the title has seen screwy finishes for its defenses, including a double count-out against Nia Jax at Backlash. The only real win Asuka has seen as champion came when she defended the title against Charlotte Flair on RAW, but even then, Flair wasn’t at 100%.
To WWE’s credit, Sasha Banks looks like a credible contender, having been a 4-time former RAW Women’s Champion, as well as one-half of the current Women’s Tag Team Champions, the Golden Role Models. She also picked up the fall in last Monday’s Tag Title match, submitting Kairi Sane to the Bank Statement. I just don’t know that I see Sasha taking the title from Asuka. Perhaps we are about to see the long-awaited separation between Sasha and Bayley, leading to a SmackDown title showdown at SummerSlam.
Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus in a Bar Fight
This storyline has been uncomfortable, to put it gently, but a match such as this, with the competitors involved, is bound to be fitting of the moniker Extreme Rules. If nothing else, this match will be fun hardcore nonsense. I could see this match as a cinematic one, given the locale in which it’s slated to take place, but given what else we’re seeing on this card, that may be all the reason needed not to do a cinematic showing.
Given how long this feud has raged on for, you’d be forgiven if you forgot that this is Sheamus’ first major feud since returning earlier this year. And while the Universal Title picture seems to be set for the next show SummerSlam (we’ll get there), I could see the winner of this match going on for AJ Styles’ Intercontinental Championship down the line. AJ has had a streak of great title matches as of late, against opponents like Matt Riddle, Drew Gulak, and Daniel Bryan, and a showdown with either Sheamus or Hardy would be a welcome addition to that list.
That all being said, given the content and context of this storyline, it would look terrible for WWE to put Sheamus over here. He’s bullied Jeff for his problems with addiction and suckered him into a bar room brawl as a result. While I could totally see WWE doing such a low-hanging fruit thing, I hope I am simply not giving enough credit. My thought is that Jeff Hardy takes this one, preferably with a Swanton Bomb off the bar.
Bayley (c) vs. Nikki Cross for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
The Role Model has just crossed 280 days holding the blue brand’s Women’s strap, and has been one of the best things in the women’s division across any of WWE’s programming. Frankly, Nikki Cross has felt like an afterthought, especially given her lack of involvement in any of the most recent segments involving Bayley, Sasha, or even her tag team partner Alexa Bliss. I stand by the idea that Nikki could have and should have held the NXT Women’s Championship when she flew solo there, and I still say she could be a credible threat, were she to hold the SmackDown belt.
Given what we’re likely building to, though, I don’t know that I see Nikki winning the title. The only situation I see her winning in is one where Sasha, accidentally or otherwise, costs Bayley the title, and even then, that would start Nikki’s reign off on the wrong foot. As much as I am a fan of Nikki and her work with Alexa Bliss, I don’t know that I see her walking away a champion this Sunday. At best, I see Bliss and Cross taking back the Women’s Tag Team Titles leading up to SummerSlam, and while that’s nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t feel like enough.
The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) (c) vs. The Artist Collective (Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro) in a Tables Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
As captivating as The New Day are, and as much as I love seeing Cesaro and Nakamura work, I am the least excited for this match. Tables matches aren’t usually that compelling or exciting, and the tag team variety less so. Given that The New Day have been so pervasive in the tag team title picture for quite some time, I want to see The Artist Collective win, just to get some variety. The blue-strapped nickel belts have become afterthoughts, and second only so to their RAW relatives, and it’s a shame.
Even if Cesaro and Nakamura win, it feels like a consolation prize, as both men are accomplished singles stars. Not long ago, Nakamura was Intercontinental Champion, and Cesaro has yet to get an honest singles run that he can hang his hat on, even as a former United States Champion and the inaugural winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. And with the recent heat on their tag partner Sami Zayn, it feels like this tag team version of The Artist Collective is what we’re stuck with for some time.
I feel awful talking so negatively about some of the best workers that the company has right now, but so be it.
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship (Stipulation TBD)
After defending the title against Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley, turning in great showings on both occasions, this match feels like a step down. While Dolph Ziggler might be the best wrestler on the current roster that has yet to hold the WWE Championship, he was silently traded from SmackDown to RAW following the transfer of AJ Styles. He showed up to RAW, challenged McIntyre, and tried getting under his skin in an admittedly great segment involving Drew’s former 3MB teammate Heath Slater.
With the Wyatt Swamp Fight not being for the Universal Championship, this is the biggest men’s title match on the card. The workrate will be great, and might even save this match, but the big elephant in the room is the choice of stipulation. If all of this build and intrigue is for an Extreme Rules match, which feels less exciting now that we have a match where someone’s fucking eye is going to be pulled out of their skull, then this match will be dead before we get there. Both guys may help each other look like a million bucks, but this match will be a nickelodeon overall if we’re lucky.
Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt in a Wyatt Swamp Fight
While Braun Strowman is certainly benefitting from not only the brand split, but also circumstances surrounding the chaos of WrestleMania, having his first major title feud be against Bray Wyatt was a rare great moment of continuity. Now that we have the revival of the cult leader, “Follow the Buzzards”-era Wyatt back in the spotlight, we have what appears to be the “Three Faces of Wyatt,” and I am here for it. Because this match is non-title, it would allow Bray to win without having to take the title away from Braun. Besides, we’ve seen this iteration of Wyatt hold a world title before, and we know how that ended up.
It feels a given that we’re getting The Fiend vs. Strowman for the strap at SummerSlam, and as such, Wyatt needs a win here. Follow the buzzards, and then we’ll happily let him in.
Seth Rollins vs. Rey Mysterio in an Eye for an Eye Match
If this match doesn’t go on last, I would be shocked. Are there more prestigious matches on this card? Sure. But how the hell is anyone going to follow someone having their fucking eye taken out? Yes, that’s the second time I’ve put that phrase in italics, and if that hasn’t driven home how bonkers batshit crazy this stipulation is, I’m not sure what will. I’m not even sure that it matters who wins. The only reason I personally have any vested interest in this match is to see how they’re going to pull this off.
Ok, poor choice of words.
In any case, given the rumors of Rey Mysterio working past the expiration of his contract, it feels like his losing might be a foregone conclusion. But they’re already taken one eye out in an angle on RAW, and it feels like we’ve used up all of our “kick a man while he’s down” points on the Bar Fight. That said, having a one-eyed Seth Rollins, with his talk about sacrifice for the greater good, could be the thing to sell this whole “Monday Night Messiah” gimmick.
Oh god, am I coming around to this idea? This idea of someone getting their eye taken out of their fucking head?
I am going to decline picking a winner for this match, as it feels like it doesn’t mean a damn thing for the winner. I just want to see how WWE are going to make this happen, whether they do the rumored CGI or call in someone like Tom Savini, who designed “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt’s mask and custom Universal Championship, to do some practical FX. Pardon the pun, but keep a close eye on this one.
The Horror Show at Extreme Rules airs Sunday, July 19th on the WWE Network, starting at 7pm EST / 4pm PST, and will be available on-demand following the event.
And while you're at it, check out the event's Midsommar-inspired poster art featuring Sasha Banks as "The July Queen," below!