At Sunday night's Extreme Rules, it seemed as if the story of the night would be that the WWE put the Intercontinental title in the main event, finally acquiescing to the fans' desires. Instead, it was yet another pay-per-view in which the discussion was about the fans.
Yes, Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler in an Ironman match for the IC title was the main event. Roman Reigns had wrestled in the middle of the card, and it seemed as if the WWE would finally get a main event focused on the wrestling. And the match started decently, if a bit unorthodox.
Seth Rollins picked up his first fall just four minutes into the match, with his second point coming just a few minutes later. In the meantime, however, the crowd found something new to keep their interest. Every time the clock ticked below 10 seconds, fans started chanting the way they do at the Royal Rumble, capped by a buzzer sound. They did it for every minute for the rest of the match. WWE tried to cut them off by removing the clock from the video boards in the arena, but that just led to the crowd randomly doing the countdown, bothering the wrestlers enough that Ziggler was caught saying, “This is worse than when the clock was up” midway through the match.
The chanting clearly got to both wrestlers as the match progressed. Drew McIntyre got involved, intentionally causing a disqualification to give Rollins a point in order to beat him down. Ziggler quickly got three falls after that to tie the match at 3. However, the match went into a lull, as the wrestlers tried to figure out what to do to get the crowd focused on the match. You could tell that they tried to time big moves to correspond with the the countdown and shake the crowd off of it. But nothing worked, and they just decided to go ahead with the match.
In the end, the match ended in a tie. While it was initially ruled a draw, and Ziggler retained his title, Kurt Angle came out to announce that the match would go to sudden death. McIntyre made a return (he had been tossed from ringside after the DQ) and distracted Rollins, so Ziggler picked up the quick final point to get the win.
What needs to be done at this point for a WWE audience to care about a main event? There are plenty of rationalizations for the behavior. Firstly, the shows are incredibly long. If the crowd entered when doors opened, then they were in their seats for about five hours before the main event ended.
The show wasn't the best outing from WWE. Plenty of matches were short, or outright bad. While some matches did shine, including the Reigns/Lashley matches, you could tell the crowd was getting antsy. However, the WWE likely isn't changing its mind on the length of the show. So is there anything that can be done? Or is the message that it doesn't matter what the main event is, since the crowd is going to be too tired to care? If that's the case, should the WWE just put Roman Reigns in the main event every month? After all, it makes sense to put the man that the audience doesn't want to see in the match that people don't care about. We're getting to a point at which the criticisms of what's in the main event don't apply as much.
It's a tough situation. I'm not sure what the reasons were to move the PPVs to four hours. Obviously, the combined brand PPVs were part of it, but there's a way to do it while still keeping it close to three hours. Either way, WWE needs to figure it out.
The Rest of Extreme Rules
» AJ Styles successfully retained the WWE title against Rusev.
» Alexa Bliss beat Nia Jax after serious interference by Mickie James and, later in the match, Ronda Rousey. Rousey ended up jumping the barricade after Bliss and James started attacking Natalya, who was also on the outside, despite that she was “suspended” and “just a fan.” She ended up being attacked from behind by James with a kendo stick to put her out long enough for Bliss to get the win. It raises an odd question in the WWE world, but a question that probably will go unanswered.
» Bobby Lashley beat Roman Reigns in a match that was much better than many expected. Despite the crowd being completely against it at the start, the action was able to turn the crowd somewhat, and the crowd popped at the somewhat surprising finish.
» The Bludgeon Brothers successfully retained the Smackdown tag titles against Team Hell No. Earlier in the night, the Bludgeon Brothers ambushed Kane, attacking his ankle and taking him out for most of the match. While he would eventually make his way to the ring midway through, the 2-on-1 that occurred for most of the match was too much for Daniel Bryan to overcome, and he was pinned.
» Kevin Owens “beat” Braun Strowman in a steel cage match. I use the quotes because the finish involved Owens getting tossed off the top of the cage through one of the announcers tables. So, yes, he hit the ground first and won.
» Shinsuke Nakamura beat Jeff Hardy to win the U.S. title. Before the match, he hit Hardy with a low blow. He then quickly hit a Kinshasa for the win. Randy Orton came out after the match, and while he looked as if he'd go after Nakamura, he turned and attacked Hardy.
» Carmella beat Asuka after Asuka was distracted by Ellsworth finding a way to get out of his cage. Asuka attacked him and everyone around him before being caught by Carmella.
» Finn Balor beat Baron Corbin with a rollup.
» In possibly the biggest surprise of the night, the B-Team won the RAW tag titles from Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt.
» Sanity beat The New Day on the pre-show in a tables match.
» Andrade Almas beat Sin Cara once again, also on the pre-show.