In the face of mounting competition from AEW, WWE put on an unimpressive pay-per-view on Sunday in the form of Extreme Rules. The show featured no bad matches, but no great match either. More importantly, the two headlining bouts -- Roman Reigns versus Finn Balor, and Becky Lynch versus Bianca Belair -- both had confounding endings.
In the case of the Universal Championship match, Balor and Reigns were on their way to a stellar finish when things got strange. Balor, after being Speared through a barricade, was brought back to life by his theme music playing. As he set Reigns up for a Coup de Grace, the top rope snapped for no reason. Reigns then Speared him for the win.
As for the SmackDown Women's Championship, Becky Lynch retained via disqualification. Like the main event, the two performers built to a tremendous ending but were letdown by bad creative. Belair countered Lynch's Disarmer armbar into a KOD, but Sasha Banks returned after a month of unexplained absence, attacked both women and caused a disqualification.
The show was certainly not without highlights. Almost every match was at least solid, including the surprise 6-man opener that pitted Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods against Lashley, AJ Styles and Omos. Alexa Bliss also had her best match in forever against Charlotte Flair. But with both main event matches having such unsatisfying endings, this was a weak showing for the WWE.
Some news from the show: Big E will defend his WWE Championship against Lashley on Raw.
Read below for full results and analysis from Extreme Rules 2021.
Roman Reigns retains against "The Demon" Finn Balor
Roman Reigns handed "The Demon" Finn Balor his first loss after a weird match. Balor had Reigns beat with a Coup de Grace before the ring ropes snapped, allowing Reigns to spear and pin Balor.
This being an Extreme Rules match -- the first and only one of the night -- it wasn't long before Kendo Sticks come out. Reigns took out a stick, only for Balor to extract from under the ring a collection of several Kendo Sticks bunched together. He struck Reigns with them multiple times.
Throughout the match, the announcers exclusively called Balor "The Demon", as if Finn Balor and his Demon getup were two different entities. It was extremely annoying.
The crowd had chanted for tables the whole night, so popped huge when Balor brought one from under the ring. Reigns cut him off and pushed the table back, getting loud boos. It was a game of cat and mouse, with Balor pulling the table out again, but Reigns stopping him. Later, after the two brawled in the crowd, Balor finally succeeded in setting up the table -- but was then immediately slamed through it by Reigns for a two count.
Reigns clocked Balor with a Superman Punch and moments later countered a Shotgun Dropkick into a spear. Balor kicked out by low blowing Reigns, a mirror of how Reigns kicked out of the Coup de Grace on SmackDown a few weeks back.
Balor managed to land a Shotgun Dropkick and Coup de Grace, but the Usos ran interference to save Reigns from the 3 count. The Usos hit Balor with a double Superkick on the outside and setup a table. Balor fought back and powerbombed one of the Usos through the announcer's table, but once he got up, Reigns speared Balor through the barricade. The crowd chanted "holy shit!", as it was a sick spot.
This is where everything goes wrong.
Balor's "Demon" music plays, and he begins spasming on the floor. He then is brought back to life as the arena is enshrouded in red light. With the music still playing, he blitzed Reigns with chair shots and dropkicked him through the table the Usos just setup. Balor had Reigns setup in the ring for a Coup de Grace, but then the... top rope snapped. Balor fell to the ground clutching his knee, then ate a huge Spear from Reigns for the finish.
Rating: 3.5 stars. The wrestling was good, but under the level of a usual Reigns main event. That's mostly because Reign's pay-per-view matches usually crescendo to terrific finishes, but the finish here was the worst part. It was arguably even the worst part of the show, since it wasn't explained at all.
Yes, we may get a followup on Friday's SmackDown, but in the moment it felt like a cheap finish -- which is especially insulting after the way Belair versus Lynch ended.
Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair ends in DQ as Sasha Banks returns
The SmackDown Women's Championship bout is one of the biggest of the show, being Becky Lynch's first true match since April 2020. Lynch and Bianca Belair had an excellent match, but it had a disappointing ending: Sasha Banks ran in to cause a DQ.
As the match began, a solid "Becky!" chant broke out -- but then we got a much bigger "E.S.T." chant. Lynch immediately tried a Man-Handle Slam, the move she used to beat Belair at SummerSlam, but Belair countered into a KOD. Lynch was able to slip out, then the crowd produced duelling "Let's go Becky!" and "E.S.T." chants.
The crowd had been into the whole show, but was by far more into this than anything prior. It's great to have Becky back.
As with Belair's previous title bouts, her long braid was integrated into the action. Belair mounted Lynch on the turnbuckle and was clobbering Lynch with the illustrious 10 punches. Lynch slipped out from underneath, grabbed Belair's hair and pulled her off the turnbuckle. That initiated a tug-of-war over the hair, ending with Belair pulling Lynch into an atomic drop.
That kicked off a string of offense from Belair, including a Fallaway Slam a la JBL. Belair went for a cradle pin, but Lynch countered into a Disarmer armbar. Belair managed to grab the ropes. On the outside Lynch drove Belair into the ring steps, then landed a top-rope Leg Drop for a two count.
We then got a great sequence that saw Lynch attempt a Man-Handle Slam, but Belair countered it into a suplex -- which Lynch countered into a small package, which she then transitioned into an armbar. Belair wriggled out, then powered Lynch up into a modified spinebuster.
Belair and Lynch then exchanged punches, and then tried to pin each other will rollups. Lynch locked on the Disarmer, but Belair used her power to lift Lynch up and put her in position for a KOD. As the crowd began to rise for the spot, Sasha Banks hit the ring and attacked both women for the DQ.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Great match, bad finish. On the upside, Becky Lynch looked fantastic in her first proper match since returning. It's nice to see Sasha Banks, as always, but it was a weak way out of a big pay-per-view bout.
Damian Priest beat Jeff Hardy and Sheamus
The first chunk of the match followed a similar sequence: Priest and Sheamus would brawl with one another, then Hardy would fly in out of nowhere and take one out. Jeff Hardy isn't moving as smoothly as he once did, I can only imagine how his body must be feeling after so many years of jumping off ladders.
There was one moment where Priest was on the apron and attempted Sheamus' 10 clubbing blows onto Sheamus himself, but Priest slipped off the apron onto the floor. The crowd didn't make much of the botch, but the announcers mentioned it. Before you could dwell on it, Hardy came out of nowhere with a big dropkick on Sheamus.
That wasn't the only botch of the match though, as Hardy countered Damien Priest with an attempted Twist of Fate -- but someone tripped over in the middle and it looked more like a reverse DDT. Corey Graves covered, saying Hardy was going for a Dragon Sleeper, but Hardy picked Priest up and successfully hit the Twist of Fate. He then tried to follow up with a Swanton Bomb, but Sheamus pushed him off the top rope.
Sheamus lines up a Brogue Kick on Priest but missed, ending up hung up on the ropes. Priest then planted Sheamus with a top-rope Chokeslam, but Hardy interrupted the pin with a Swanton Bomb. That generated huge "Hardy!" chants. There were two teased Hardy victories, with Sheamus hitting a nice pump knee to Priest and Hardy tossing out Sheamus to attempt a pin on Priest, following by a rollup nearfall on Sheamus himself.
Sheamus then took out Hardy with a Brogue Kick, allowing Priest to roll up Sheamus for the win. After the match, Hardy shook Priest's hand.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Charlotte Flair pinned Alexa Bliss
This was a shortish match, at just over 11 minutes, but it was a lot of fun. It's the first Alexa Bliss match that wasn't embarrassing to watch in a long time, although the post-match angle was grim. Charlotte pinned Bliss and tore up the Lilly doll, which caused Bliss to cry on the rampway in anguish. That part sucked, but the bout that preceded it didn't.
There was a scary spot early on where Bliss Hurricanrana'd Flair into the bottom turnbuckle, which looked like a painfully awkward landing. Flair got her back though, hitting a big swing on the outside that slammed Bliss into the barricade.
We got plenty of great back-and-forth action once the match got going. Charlotte went for a moonsault but Bliss moved away, leading to a standing moonsault from Charlotte. She went for the Natural Selection, but Bliss rolled out and then clocked Charlotte with a great looking knockout punch. The women then traded rollups, climaxing with Charlotte turning a rollup into a huge powerbomb. Bliss then hit a Sunset Flip Powerbomb (or a Code Red), which the crowd loved.
The finish came when Flair grabbed Lilly, Bliss' doll, and threw it at Bliss. The distraction allowed Charlotte to barrage Bliss with a wicked flurry, including a big boot and a great-looking Natural Selection, for the 1-2-3.
After the match Charlotte tore up Lilly. Bliss then attacked Charlotte, but Charlotte demolished her and threw her over the announce table. Bliss then cried over her doll for about a minute, but it felt like forever.
It looks to setup a rematch which will feature more of Bliss' "magic". Hooray.
Rating: 3.75 stars. I was dreading this match, but it ended up being a lot of fun. There was little psychology, but plenty of tight action. These two worked together extremely well. It's an indictment of Bliss character and WWE's creative that I'm so surprised to have enjoyed an Alexa Bliss match, but here we are.
The finish was a bit silly, with Bliss being so easily distracted by the doll, but on the scale of Alexa Bliss matches, which are usually extremely cringe, it was easy to forgive.
The Usos retained their SmackDown Tag Titles
The Usos successfully defended their SmackDown Tag Team Championships by defeating the Street Profits in a very good showing. It all centered around Montez Ford's injured ribs, which were damaged by Roman Reigns on SmackDown.
Ford begins the match with wrapped-up ribs, but the Usos rip it off. The crowd is into the Profits, chanting "We want the smoke!" as the confrontation begins. Classic tagteam psychology here, with the Usos cutting the injured Ford off from partner Angelo Dawkins, building to an explosive hot tag.
Dawkins did get the tag, and he did run wild, culminating with a superplex into a twisting neckbreaker. (Not as cool as Seth Rollins' superplex into a Falcom Arrow, but still very cool.) We saw a great spot where Dawkins sets up for a Doomsday Device, hoisting Jimmy Uso on his shoulders, but instead of a splash Ford planted Jimmy Uso with a neckbreaker. It's not news, but man Ford can jump high.
With Ford once again the legal man, he attempted a top-rope splash but Jimmy Uso got his knees up. When Dawkins moments later set up another Doomsday Device, Ford was too injured to scale the turnbuckle, which allowed Jimmy to counter. They trade cradles and rollups before Dawkins is tagged in, but he eats a superkick and Uso splash for a nice nearfall that gets a "This is awesome!' chant.
The Usos then attack Dawkins on the outside, but they're interrupted by Ford, who hit a sick moonsault dive over the turnbuckle. He threw one of the Usos back in the ring and lands a massive Frogsplash for another great nearfall, which gets another "This is awesome!" chant.
It was not to be for the Street Profits though, as Ford gets clocked with a superkick to the ribs and then is taken out by stereo Uso Splashes for the pin.
Rating: 3.75 stars. These four got the crowd into this match, but it suffered from following the previous tag bout which featured some similar spots. The star here was Ford, who sold great and also got in that memorable over-the-turnbuckle moonsault.
The New Day beat Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles and Omos
This six-man match, which was announced minutes before Extreme Rules began, kicked off the main show. It climaxed with Big E pinning Bobby Lashley following a Big Ending.
The New Day cycled in to begin with, with the crowd popping for a brief showdown between Big E and Lashley. Things slowed down when the bad guys got heat on Kofi, beating him down and cutting the former WWE Champion off from his New Day partners. Things got even slowed when Omos was tagged in. After a lumbering few minutes, AJ is tagged in and the crowd gets behind Kofi. Before Kofi can tag Big E, though, Lashley knocks Big E off the apron and throws him into the steel steps.
Kofi found himself alone in the middle of the ring, but eventually managed to tag in Woods. Woods has a great hot-tag flurry on Lashley, culminating with a tornado DDT. He's eventually cut off by The Almighty Lashley, though, but Woods managed moments later to tag in Big E as Lashley tags AJ Styles.
The match picks up here: Big E and AJ work fantastic together.
After some outside shenanigans, which saw Kofi swatted down in mid-air by Omos, Lashley had Big E down in the ring but, before he could end things, AJ tagged himself in. Lashley was annoyed, but swapped positions. As AJ went for his Phenomenal Forearm, Lashley tagged himself back in. Lashley went to spear Big E, but Big E moved, leading to Lashley inadvertently spearing AJ. Big E then hit the Big Ending on Lashley for the win.
Rating: 3.75 stars. A solid opener, though it went longer than it needed to. Big E shined in the match, and displayed great (and needed intensity). It's part of the road to a rematch between Big E and Lashley, but the best part of the whole bout was definitely Big E's clash with AJ Styles. That's the match I want to see.
Also, good to see Big E get a win after losing twice on Raw.
Kickoff Show results
In the Extreme Rules Kickoff Show, Liv Morgan defeated Carmella in an 8-minute match. Morgan pinned Carmella after planting her with her Oblivion finish.
More importantly, it was announced that Big E would be appearing at Extreme Rules. He'll team with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods in the opening match against Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles and Omos.