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WWE Extreme Rules 2017 is not a pay-per-view that will go down in the company’s annals as one of the most explosive or interesting, but it did provide fans a taste of what they can expect to come over the summer months.
Samoa Joe cashed his ticket to Great Balls of Fire on July 9 by winning Fatal 5-Way main event and earning “biggest winner” status for his monumental night.
Bayley, on the other hand, was thoroughly squashed and humiliated in a match she never had a chance of winning. That netted her “biggest loser” status and inspired questions about her ability to succeed on the main roster with this incarnation of her character.
Rich Swann and Sasha Banks brought the fun, Austin Aries’ loss triggered discussion about the purpose of his rivalry with Neville and The Miz captured his seventh Intercontinental Championship to the dismay of Dean Ambrose and fans everywhere.
Why were those aforementioned men and women the most buzzed-about in the wake of Sunday’s WWE Network presentation, and which side of the “winner-loser” argument did each land?
Take a look with this recap of the extravaganza.
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In his first pay-per-view main event as a member of the Raw roster, Samoa Joe seized the moment to earn a shot at the WWE Universal Championship, winning Sunday’s Fatal 5-Way main event.
The Samoan Submission Machine picked his moment, re-entered the squared circle just after Finn Balor delivered Coup de Grace to Roman Reigns and proceeded to choke the Irishman unconscious for the victory.
It was clever booking that played on his recent victory from Raw, which saw him capitalize on Balor’s Coup de Grace to Bray Wyatt by pinning The Reaper of Souls for the win. He was smart, opportunistic and cunning, and the result is a more dangerous Joe than ever before.
The win sets up a dream match of sorts.
At the height of his career, Joe was the unstoppable force who beat everyone in his path. Whether he was in Ring of Honor or TNA Wrestling, no Superstar was safe from the ass-whooping he had in store for them. He was, in many ways, the baddest man in professional wrestling.
Enter Lesnar, who returned from a successful career in MMA to resume his role as The Beast Incarnate. While Joe’s star power and aura had been hurt by years of questionable booking in TNA, he still carried himself like a world-beater and fans still found themselves clamoring for the opportunity to witness The Destroyer square off with The Conqueror.
Thanks to the biggest victory of Joe’s career Sunday night, that match will happen on July 9.
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Remember when Bayley was the surest thing in NXT?
She was the one star who was going to end up on the main roster, an enormous star and role model to young girls around the world. She had that it factor that simply could not be taught in any class offered at the WWE Performance Center. She was special, and the world was hers for the taking.
Fast-forward to Sunday’s event in Baltimore, where Bayley was greeted with a chorus of boos, her goody-two-shoes act wearing thin with the WWE Universe. Poor booking and a complete lack of understanding of her character on the part of WWE Creative have left Bayley a shell of her former self and a wholly uninteresting member of the women’s division.
Then it happened.
Bayley was not so much mismanaged and misused Sunday night, but she was flat out buried in a Kendo Stick on a Pole match that saw her hesitate to use the aforementioned weapon, then wind up on the receiving end of several shots about the back and neck before a DDT from Alexa Bliss brought the match to an anticlimactic conclusion.
Bliss was dominant, and Bayley, the once-beloved character from WWE’s revolutionary brand, was left lying in a heap, her future unclear.
Perhaps it was never more clear that something was horribly wrong with Bayley than after the match, when more eyes were on Bliss as she left than were on the once-sympathetic babyface lying in the center of the ring, her back lashed and her spirit broken.
Bayley is a massively flawed character whose future in WWE is murky after a rough three-month stretch that has done more to damage her credibility and acceptance among the company’s fans than any other Superstar’s.
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There may be no cruiserweight on the 205 Live roster more charismatic and energetic than Rich Swann. The former cruiserweight champion teamed with Sasha Banks to defeat Noam Dar and Alicia Fox Sunday night, breaking the curse of the hometown Superstars.
Swann, a Baltimore native, was greeted with an enormous pop upon entrance and was booked like a star throughout the match, which ended with a jaw-dropping Phoenix Splash to Dar.
Banks also electrified the audience, with her biggest spot coming late in the match when she leaped from the middle rope and delivered a double-knee to the Scot.
After the match, the babyfaces danced, much to the delight of the WWE Universe.
The Banks-Swann pairing works so much better than it has any right to. While most would prefer to see them competing for their divisions’ respective titles, they have an on-screen chemistry that is fun, energetic and a joy to watch.
For the first time in months, it looks like Banks is having a good time. Swann, on the other hand, is getting more television exposure out of the partnership while simultaneously dragging a side out of Banks few knew the oft-confident Boss had.
They make for entertaining television, and at a time when neither has anything else better to do, it may be wise for WWE Creative to consider keeping them together.
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Austin Aries spent months chasing Neville’s Cruiserweight Championship. He was the first Superstar to step up and confront The King of the Cruiserweights, taking the fight to him rather than allowing his oppressive reign atop the division to go unchallenged.
A loss at WrestleMania 33 was easy to explain away. After all, Neville poked Aries’ injured eye and took advantage of it as any good heel would. At Payback, he was disqualified and preserved his title reign for another day.
Sunday night, in a Submission match, Aries had his greatest opportunity to dethrone the Brit.
Aries endured a Red Arrow across the back, then was trapped in The Rings of Saturn and had no choice but to tap out.
The most telling sign is he did tap.
Later in the night, Finn Balor took the fall in the Fatal 5-Way match but was allowed to look strong in doing so, passing out rather than tapping like a coward. Aries was not allowed that same opportunity. The babyface in the rivalry was humbled before our eyes, and Neville continued his monumental run atop of the cruiserweight division.
After the embarrassing and frustrating defeat, Aries tweeted: “And with that, it might be time for some serious life reflection and career reevaluation….”
If the loss leads to further character development or a more permanent position at the announce table, maybe all will be forgiven. For now, though, Aries looked like a chump who rose to the occasion to challenge Neville but never had a successful plan for relieving the champion of his gold.
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The Miz is a seven-time intercontinental champion after Extreme Rules, taking his place among some of the most elite stars in professional wrestling history. The only person with more reigns with the coveted title? Chris Jericho with nine.
The Hollywood A-lister demonstrated why he is such a fantastic heel Sunday, using every possible method of cheating to try to get Dean Ambrose disqualified, which would have resulted in his winning the gold. When referee John Cone proved too smart for him, Miz capitalized on a distraction provided by wife Maryse to deliver the Skull-Crushing Finale and pin The Lunatic Fringe in the center of the ring.
The arrogant, charismatic new champion celebrated accordingly, continuing what has been a career resurgence that began with the brand extension last July.
Arguably the best, most effective heel on the roster, Miz is routinely a joy to watch.
He infuriates the audience, gets every babyface he works with more over than they have been previously and does not concern himself with trying to be the “cool heel,” which has ruined bad guys in professional wrestling. He is himself, amplified by a few thousand, and the result is a compelling and entertaining Superstar.
Some will argue the last thing he needed was another reign with the IC strap, but the fact of the matter is Miz is capable of carrying the entire midcard on his back, so booking him to win that title and letting him carry it until there is a deserving and convincing babyface to take it away was the right step for management to take.