Sunday night I sat down with my son and began to watch WWE The Horror Show at Extreme Rules. I can usually gain the effectiveness of an event, match, or wrestler by how it keeps my 12 year olds attention. I have been a lifer since I was 10 years old. The first time I watched the Ultimate Warrior full sprint down the aisle with that intense drum beat music I was hooked. There were great characters, the battle of good vs. evil and impressive athletic ability. Over the years wrestling has had its heights of popularity and its rebuilding periods as has my fandom. From the golden era in the 80’s, to the late 90’s attitude era, and the Ruthless aggression era in the 2000’s, all these era’s had a common theme larger than life superstars who are adored by the fans. Fans can make a good match, great and a great match, legendary. However, in today climate wrestling is missing a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The premise of The Horror Show at Extreme Rules already was confusing. The Extreme Rules PPV typically has matches with some sort of stipulation. This year’s version had some of that but also inexplicably had regular matches. In the unprecedented times of no fans during a worldwide pandemic makes booking matches extremely difficult (no pun intended). Since the AJ Styles vs. Undertaker Match at WrestleMania 36 cinematic type matches have become a part of the card at most PPV events. Some have been entertaining, some have been like watching a horror movie, and others have been just a swing and a miss. The entire wrestling industry is trying to figure out a way to entertain with no fans. Even for minds like Vince McMahon and Bruce Pritchard this is no easy task because like most live entertainment they have never been through this before.
The event had some great matches. However, this felt much more like a Monday Night Raw than a PPV. The finishes were very hokey. The Raw Women’s Championship match between Sasha Banks and Asuka was an excellent, athletic contest that told a good story. The finish though was nonsensical. Bayley, Smack down Women’s Champion, took the shirt of the referee, put it on herself, and made the 3 count. This finish left the match empty and was clearly a ploy to have you find out who the real champion in the next night on Raw. I would have rather them gave me a stipulation I cared about in the match or further heightened the tension for the eventual split between Sasha and Bayley.
Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio feud had come to a crescendo in the Eye for an Eye match. The match itself was excellent as expected with the caliber of performers of Rollins and Mysterio. I think they missed the mark on this one by not putting it in the cinematic format. I mean the stipulation of the match was to take an eye out of your opponents head to win the match. If they had put this in a backstage setting similar to the boiler room brawl back in the late 90’s and for the love of God let us see the eyeball! As gruesome as it sounds with all the technology and effects at their fingertips they could have made what I believe to be Mysterios final match more dramatic. Even a heel turn by Rey’s son Dominic could have made sense as he could have joined Rollins as one of his disciples. The match just needed more as the end was anticlimactic with Rey just holding his face screaming in pain. No blood, no gore, and damn it no eyeball!
In contrast to the rest of the event, the WWE title match had an excellent formula and was the best match of the night. WWE Champion Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler had an action pack match that took you on a roller coaster ride. It was an extreme rules match but only for Ziggler which put great sympathy on the baby face champion, and gave you the against the odds aspect that puts you on the edge of your seat. When the conclusion of a match is in doubt, it adds a layer of excitement. During the course of the match the champion was faced with dilemmas. Whether it was of using chair or a table, each time he had to make those split second decisions. The psychology of the match was very sound and Drew continues to be built extremely strong in these matches. My prediction of Ziggler going over in the match and Otis cashing in his Money in the Bank contract didn’t come to fruition but the actual finish to the match was excellent. Ziggler lined up McIntrye for sweet chin music only to be beaten to the punch and get throttled by the best finish in the industry today, the Claymore. Sign me up for a rematch between these two.
Finally, the Braun Strowman versus Bray Wyatt match, which was set in the swamp and had the aforementioned cinematic setting. This one was a huge miss for me. First, the Universal title was not on the line but you don’t know that as the match begins. The backstory of the Wyatt family relationship with the two wrestlers is solid but the scenes dragged on too long without giving you anything you didn’t already know. As the match came to an end, if you could call it a match, Bray Wyatt rose from the swamp as the Fiend character. The Fiend, when there was still fans in the stands, was an extremely over heel. He would garner a ton of cheers from the WWE Universe even when facing a baby face. This match felt like a trailer for Summer Slam or more like I know what you did last Summer…….Slam.
This event left me with more questions than answers about current product but I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. WWE has some young superstars that are ready to take off. Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, The Street Profits, and Mustafa Ali have skills in the ring, on the mic, and the “it” factor. Those up and comers combined with the already established stars like McIntyre, Rollins, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, and Daniel Bryan could make for some entertaining matches and great story telling. As both AEW and Impact Wrestling continue to build their rosters and sports begin their restarts seemingly all at the same time, WWE has to step their game up. This is lowest point wrestling has been in for quite some time with low TV ratings and other content taking more eyeballs (just show the eyeball already) away from the product. If the WWE is patient, builds these young stars the right way, and fan restrictions begin to loosen, they’ll be poised to transition out of the rebuild into a new era. Time will tell.