Updated: Jul 24
There is something to be said about truth in advertising for this one. The Horror Show at Extreme Rules was a wild affair, as the typically named Extreme Rules is. With a spookier, kookier motif, a grisly stipulation match, and a guaranteed cinematic brawl, this precursor to SummerSlam suffered from lots of last-minute changes, as well as the ongoing state of affairs. Unfortunately, with several non-finishes, as well as controversy surrounding two RAW championships, this show left a hell of a lot more questions than answers, and may not exactly warrant a sequel come this time next year.
Kickoff Match - Kevin Owens def. Murphy
For a match that was booked hours before the kickoff show started, this match couldn’t not be good. Murphy can go, and Kevin Owens is one of my personal favorite workers in the game today. These guys really made something of the time that they had, even when it felt a bit rushed at points, like when Owens hit his corner Cannonball signature around three minutes in. Murphy’s Brainbuster on Owens was a nice show of power from the weight-class defying cruiserweight, and a BME (Best Moonsault Ever) from Owens was a great moment of high-flying greatness. Owens wins with the Stunner, and while I doubt this match had much effect on the Eye for an Eye match, as commentary tried to put over, it was good by main roster standards, and great by kickoff match standards.
Like I said, there was no way this match wouldn’t be good, but even then, it was better than anyone hoped for.
Tables Match - The Artist Collective (Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura) def. The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The main show starts off with the Tag Team Tables match, and it’s worth noting that the ring announcer mentions that only one person needs to go through a table for the match to end, as opposed to some variants on this stipulation requiring every member of a team to win. At least this doesn’t lead to a situation where commentary has to remind the viewers of the rules every minute or so, as some complicated stipulation matches end up requiring.
Much like the kickoff, this match had four excellent workers, and even with the shaky Tables Match stip, this was bound to be well-worked. Several moments saw the teams using the table as a weapon without the threat of putting someone through it, like when Kofi dove to the outside, only to take a stood-up table to the dome courtesy of The Artist Collective. Even with this spot, Kofi was on fire here, as I don’t know that I saw him this vocal or hyped since he held the WWE Championship last year. While this match didn’t explicitly need a stacked table spot, the finish of the assisted Powerbomb through two stacked tables was a great visual, and it gave The Artist Collective their first Tag Team Title, Nakamura his first, and Cesaro his seventh individual reign.
A tag team match is a tried and true opening contest for a supercard like this, and it worked. Letting this match open The Horror Show was absolutely the right call.
Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Asuka, and Kairi Sane hype each other up before the two Women’s Title matches tonight
Before the two Women’s Title matches, Bliss Cross Applesauce and The Kabuki Warriors hype each other up in what I guess you could call Gorilla position. The weird part for me is that Asuka isn’t carrying her title here. On one hand, she may be trying to look no more important than her allies, but on the other, she’s the RAW Women’s Champion. She’s defending her title. I don’t get it.
A little bit of foreshadowing comes when Kairi insists that even if they don’t end up winners, they can all still be friends, right? Alexa gives a look like “yeah sure, whatever you say,” but considering how good of a hell Bliss can be, it feels like we could get another singles heel run out of Bliss down the line. Maybe not yet, cuz admittedly her work with Nikki Cross is fun to watch, but maybe in the fall or thereabouts.
Bayley def. Nikki Cross to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Lo and behold, the women’s matches were the best matches of the night by a country mile, especially given the psychology and storytelling on display. Nikki hits her Purge neckbreaker early and nearly gets one over on Bayley, and that puts the champion on notice (and the attack) for the rest of the match. The underestimation of Nikki leads to glimmers of her old SAnitY days, with the apron trap beatdown spot a particular highlight.
Shenanigans ensue as Sasha passes one of her knuckle dusters to Bayley, who cracks Nikki in the ribs for the cheap win. While I really wanted to see Nikki win the title here, it was a great bit of storytelling, as Bayley literally had to resort to cheating to retain her title. It’s classic heeling, and capped off a great performance from all involved.
As much tag team work as either woman has had lately, we forget how good of singles workers Bayley and Cross are, and they set the bar damn high in this one. It sets up a lot of intrigue for the RAW Women’s Title match later in the show, and makes you wonder if Sasha will get her just desserts in her challenge against Sasha.
Bray Wyatt talks about his greatest creation: Braun Strowman
In a Svengoolie-esque Firefly Fun House segment, Bray Wyatt dressed in Victor Frankenstein cosplay to talk about how he must destroy his greatest creation: Braun Strowman. The hilarious nudge and wink to the god-awful Karaoke Showdown was a great bit of comedy and self-awareness as well. Really, the only black mark on this segment was its fake out. It felt like the Swamp Fight was going to be next, since they’re giving us this segment, but not quite. Either way, it was another character ripple for Wyatt, and while he doesn’t need such a ripple, it hurts nothing.
MVP declares himself the new United States Champion after Apollo Crews is not medically cleared to compete
Speaking of hurt, the CEOs of The Hurt Business make their way to the ring, which sees the new United States title belt on a pedestal. It comes out that Apollo Crews, the reigning champion, didn’t pass a pre-match physical, and so he won’t be wrestling tonight. MVP declares himself the winner via forfeit, puts the new title belt around his waist and walks out.
Talk about a letdown. Now, this is allegedly because Apollo may have tested positive for COVID-19, and if so, 1) damn, and 2) get well soon, sir. But with Ricochet and Cedric Alexander carrying water for the champ in the weeks he’s been off television, why couldn’t they have one of them challenge MVP on the legitimacy of the forfeit? They already had one match thrown together hours before, and if they knew that Apollo might be sick heading into the show, why couldn’t they throw another match together, especially one for the second biggest title on RAW? Plus, if MVP wins, by shenanigans or otherwise, doesn’t that make a stronger case for the on-screen figureheads to be like “yeah, alright, you can have your forfeit win?”
I get that it’s a tricky situation all things considered, but they handled it by not handling at all, and it’s frustrating to see. The new title belt gave me hope for the rebuilding of the prestige of the US title, and this immediately pissed that hope away.
Seth Rollins def. Rey Mysterio in an Eye for an Eye Match
Oh boy, this match. Here’s the problem with this stipulation. It comes off very much like the Scaffold match stipulation from the Jim Crockett/NWA days, insofar as the bell-to-bell action means precisely nothing, especially the threat of grave bodily harm being not only encouraged, not only being sanctioned, but being the deciding factor of the match. It is the crescendo, the climax, the final peak of the contest.
Which is a goddamn shame, because the wrestling on display was actually really good. Granted, we’re dealing with Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio, so the workrate was bound to be solid, but these guys made the most of what they were given to work with. Seth’s threatening pliers during his entrance immediately set the tone for anyone who wasn’t up to speed. The first spot came in a callback to Rey’s PPV debut back at SummerSlam 2002, when he attacked Seth from behind while his entrance music and TitanTron played. The fact that these two had dialogue that could easily be picked up, given the small, intimate setting, it added to the drama, especially the two utterances of “You son of a bitch!” by Rey.
While I was surprised that these two were trying to have an honest match, I’m not mad about it either. Between spots and what I guess we can call near falls (i.e. going for the opponent’s eye, either with bare hands or the help of an object), we had great moves like Rey’s slide out of the ring into a sunset flip powerbomb, as well as a Falcon Arrow onto the ring apron by Rollins that had to suck to take. Perhaps the best close call of the match was the drop toe hold by Rey into the corner of the announce table. Rather than some long, drawn out move, it felt like that sudden counter could actually be the thing that did the Monday Night Messiah in. A special mention goes to the propped-up kendo stick in the corner that could have turned Mysterio’s eye into a shish kabob, with said kendo stick being broken over Rey’s knee and turned against Rollins for another near fall.
The finishing sequence was great… to start. Rey using the Stomp against Rollins was pop-worthy, and it felt like the end was near for Seth. But after a low blow, a kick that put Rey’s head between Seth’s boot and the barricade, and a Stomp, the gouging would commence, as Seth gave us an encore of the process against the sharp corner of the steel steps. As he goes for one more Stomp, Rollins stops and gags, seeing the fruits of his vicious labor. And those fruits were… I mean. Look at it.
When I first talked about this match, I suggested that this match could be cinematic. They could have gotten away with a bit more if they did even a pre-taped segment, a couple of minutes in the backstage area using some improvised weapon to finish the job. Instead of a Halftime Heat finish, we ended up with a bush league prop for a stipulation that yeah, we didn’t really think WWE would deliver on well, but the fact that they were doing it at all was reason enough to tune in. Even Rollins’ selling of the act via upchuck at ringside wasn’t enough to redeem this one. It worked, it was a bit of character development, but it wasn’t sufficient to save this one. When cinematic storytelling and Tom fucking Savini are in your back pocket, it seems like either of those would be the pick to accomplish the visual that the Eye for an Eye stipulation evokes. With this ending, the writers booked themselves into a corner and promptly shat in it.
Dominik Mysterio, Rey’s son, comes in just a little too late to be effective, instead helping his father to the back along with paramedics. What kills me with this is that there’s no blood, there’s no real clear shot of the “wound” beyond the blink and you miss it shot before the bell sounds. Even Samoa Joe’s call of “It’s out!” on commentary felt subdued and reserved. Like, we just saw a man get his fucking eye taken out of its socket. We’re at an event called The Horror Show and we have no screams, no blood, no way to sell what is objectively the most gruesome, savage, fucked-up segment of the show?
Rating: Who fucking cares? A great match was undone by an absolutely weak finish. This one was going to live and die on the finish, and die a horrible death it did.
The RAW Women’s Championship Match ends in controversy, as Bayley intervenes on Sasha Banks’ behalf
After Bayley heels on what just happened, because that feels like the right thing to do, we get another tease for the Swamp Fight, and for the second time in the night, it feels like it’s next. Instead we get the RAW Women’s Championship match with Asuka and Sasha, and sweet Christmas, would it suck to follow that ending we just saw. I mean, we’re well past the point of the women’s matches being relegated to the death slot, but as I said before, this match probably should have gone on last. Anything trying to follow the eye removal we just saw is going to look poor by comparison, even if it’s the craziest finish ever.
And well. It was, but we’ll get to that.
This match is set up as a ground game, as Sasha goes after Asuka’s arm and hand to set up a potential submission. At this point I thought, “Hey, we might get a submission finish to this” and immediately got excited. It’s also worth noting the crazy spots that came in this war, including a couple of deadlift German suplexes by Asuka, as well as an attempted German from the apron to the arena floor. Side note: whoever was in the crowd screaming “NO!” at that spot, as if it was actually going to happen, wins the show. Everyone else go home.
And when the match did go home, it stumbled into the neighbor’s house by accident. After a mid-ring slugfest, Bayley tries to interfere. Kairi Sane tries to keep The Role Model in check, only to eat a Bayley to Belly for her troubles. Sasha looks like she’s going to use one of the tag belts while the referee is still trying to do away with one that Bayley threw in, but in the fracas, Asuka goes to spray the Green Mist at Sasha, only for her to duck and let it blind the referee instead. Bayley slugs Asuka with one of the tag team titles, grabs the referee by the shirt, strips him of said shirt, and counts the pinfall. Sasha escapes with the belt, even though no formal announcement was made declaring her the new champion.
Rating: 4/5, but could have been higher
As Adam Blampied of WrestleTalk put it, this was an NXT match with a WWE finish. While non-finishes have their place in booking, this one took away from the stellar match we got. It was a massive letdown that such a great contest was tarnished by a batshit finish, as this could have been match of the night were it not for that.
Charly Caruso provides a medical update on Rey Mysterio following the grisly end to Eye for an Eye
Backstage, outside the trainer’s room, we get an update on Rey Mysterio. What happened to Rey is being dubbed a “globe luxation,” meaning that while the eye was removed from its socket, the optic nerve is intact, and if enough blood vessels can be mended, Mysterio will be able to keep the eye and his sight.
While a medical update after a result like that feels compulsory, it was proof that WWE had no intention of truly delivering on the stipulation. They booked themselves into a corner, shat in it, realized what they’d done, and shat on top of that too. Even if the rumors are true, and Vince McMahon himself shot down any CGI or cinematic magic to get out of this one, it really takes the piss out of what could have been a unique moment for the company. When you’ve got Tom Savini in your back pocket, it feels weird not to utilize him.
Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE Championship
The stipulation is… Extreme Rules! But only for Dolph. And if Drew gets counted out or disqualified, he can lose the title. Sweet Christmas, they actually saved this one.
Early on, Drew is absolutely trucking Dolph, even if he is tempted by steel chairs or tables. The handicap stipulation makes for interesting near falls, as Drew has to worry about getting counted out, and it works here. Maybe half of the match takes place on the outside, and they make use of the ten count in many spots, whether having Drew roll in and then back out to reset the count, or having him narrowly beat the count after a big move on the outside. Speaking of, both the Fameasser off the announce table to the floor and the elbow drop through the table had to suck to take, and had me wondering if Dolph was actually going to pull it off.
After a moment where Dolph busted out his best Austin Powers impersonation, screaming “Why won’t you die?!” at the Scotsman, McIntyre kips up and clatters him with a Claymore for the win. The timing was impeccable, and capped off an admittedly awesome match.
This match was the least enticing one for me going into the show, but it wound up being my favorite of the night, next to the SmackDown Women’s title match. It exceeded expectations, and actually gave us a creative stipulation that could see some repeat value down the line. Hopefully not anytime soon, but hey, the ratings are flagging so...
Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman in the Wyatt Swamp Fight
To be honest upfront, this feels like the weakest cinematic match we’ve gotten so far this year. It was very story-driven, but even then, a couple of the scenes went long in the tooth, especially Bray’s stupid long monologue as Braun was chained to a chair.
Though that scene did give us a moment of Bray’s old theme music, so I’m not totally dumping on it.
As a snake bites Braun, in a callback to when “The Viper” Randy Orton was part of the Wyatt Family, Braun wakes up at a campfire, and considering my expertise with games involving campfires, I’m betting this doesn’t end well for anyone involved. Sure enough, a stand-in for one of the former Wyatt Family members gets set on fire, and somehow that feels less impactful on a show where someone’s lost an eye.
Insert Toru Yano shrug here.
But before that, we get a great bit of continuity, as the enigmatic Sister Abigail is represented by Braun’s former tag team partner Alexa Bliss. Believe me when I say that wrestling Twitter lost its absolute marbles when this happened. The fight spills onto a dock, complete with disappearing and reappearing boat, before a TakeOver-style fakeout gives us a great stinger moment. Bray reaches out of the murky water with a Mandible Claw, dragging Braun into the drink. After the water turns red, The Fiend emerges, which suggests that neither Bray nor Braun won, but since The Fiend is part of Bray… I’m saying he won. Even though the implication that the Universal Champion has been drowned by his adversary is not only mind-boggling, but somehow still has less impact than when a man lost his eye not an hour and a fucking half prior.
‘Nother shrug here.
Weak as the match may have been, it was dumb fun. It was Starship Troopers, an awesome dumb clusterfuck that had plenty of references, nods to the past, and an admittedly clever finish, grave implications aside. Plus, I mean, the copyright graphic fake-out leading us to believe that it was game over for Wyatt was a great touch.
Final Thoughts on The Horror Show at Extreme Rules
While the show had some great moments, it was unsatisfying on the whole. While B-shows are more likely to have non-finishes or screwy circumstances, this one proclaimed that we should hold its beer without realizing our hands were full with the ones it asked us to hold not twenty minutes ago. It had a lot of exciting things happen, but little chance for the madness to really breathe. If this was to be an anthology film, it would have one or two segments genuinely worth it, and the rest could be wiki’d or IMDb’d.
My biggest complaint, in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, is the placement of the Eye for an Eye match. How can anything be more impactful, more brutal, more horrific than someone losing an eye? Shitty execution aside, I feel like that should have been either the semi-main or main event, if only because the Swamp Fight could be the only thing to follow the madness of Eye for an Eye. Fight fire with fire, follow madness with madness. Also, ending with Eye for an Eye, and leaving the status of Rey’s eye for first thing on RAW the next night would be just the cliffhanger needed to, oh, I don’t know, pop the ratings they so desperately want to pop.
I don’t think I can recommend the full show, but the Tables Match, SmackDown Women’s Championship match, the Eye for an Eye match (even with the crap prosthetic eye), and the WWE Title match should be seen at least once. The rest can be left to the more diehard fans and completionists among us.
The Horror Show at Extreme Rules is available on-demand on the WWE Network. All clips come from WWE's official YouTube page.