WWE’s first pay-per-view since SummerSlam will take place Sunday night as the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, hosts Extreme Rules.
The 2021 edition of Extreme Rules largely exists as a bridge between SummerSlam season and WWE’s biggest events of the fall. The WWE draft, WWE’s return to Saudi Arabia and Survivor Series are all taking place over the next two months.
The first match for October’s Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia has already been announced, with Roman Reigns set to take on Brock Lesnar. But before that happens, Reigns will defend his universal championship against “The Demon” Finn Bálor in an Extreme Rules match in the main event of Sunday’s PPV. The match should be excellent, but much of the intrigue for it revolves around whether Lesnar will be appearing at Extreme Rules.
Lesnar returned to WWE by confronting Reigns at SummerSlam. Ever since Reigns aligned with Lesnar’s former advocate Paul Heyman, a feud between the heel Reigns and a babyface Lesnar has made sense. The story is an easy one to tell. Can Reigns trust that Heyman is really with him and won’t go back to Lesnar? Reigns has questioned why Heyman didn’t know that Lesnar would be at SummerSlam. Extreme Rules could further fracture that relationship if Lesnar shows up despite Heyman saying he won’t be there.
Extreme Rules will also follow up on the most controversial moment from SummerSlam. After Becky Lynch’s surprise 26-second victory over Bianca Belair to win the SmackDown women’s championship, the two will meet in a rematch Sunday.
Lynch vs. Belair may be the most anticipated match of the night at Extreme Rules. This is an opportunity for Lynch and Belair to have the type of extended match that didn’t happen at SummerSlam. Aside from that lightning-quick bout, it will be Lynch’s first televised match since announcing her pregnancy and taking time away from WWE in May 2020.
The way that Belair lost at SummerSlam was a dubious decision, but it’s led to her getting a lot of sympathy from the audience. If Lynch had to turn heel, winning the title from Belair in the manner that she did was the only real shot of it working. Belair is already established as one of the top stars in WWE, but this feud with Lynch could take her to an even higher level. The crowd dynamic for their match will help tell whether Lynch’s being a heel has long-term potential.
Here’s a look at the first six matches announced for Extreme Rules, along with predictions for each bout.
Universal championship match: Roman Reigns vs. “The Demon” Finn Bálor (‘Extreme Rules’ match)
Of the matches that have been announced for Extreme Rules, Reigns vs. Bálor is the only one with a hardcore stipulation. That stipulation, the reemergence of Bálor’s “Demon” alter ego, and the possibility of Lesnar appearing all add some interest to a match where the result isn’t in any doubt. Though WWE has said that Reigns vs. Lesnar at Crown Jewel will be a nontitle match if Reigns loses the universal championship to Bálor, there’s no shot of that actually happening.
Hopefully Bálor doesn’t get lost in the shuffle after losing to Reigns. It’s understandable that Reigns vs. Lesnar is WWE’s priority, but Bálor is one of the best wrestlers in the company and should be a consistent main eventer. A move to Raw in the WWE draft, which begins less than a week after Extreme Rules, could help Bálor get over this loss quickly.
Prediction: Roman Reigns retains
SmackDown women’s championship match: Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair
Belair has to defeat Lynch at some point soon. If she doesn’t, Belair losing in 26 seconds at SummerSlam will have unquestionably been a mistake and will do a lot to hurt her credibility. A loss like that only makes sense if Belair gets her win back.
But Extreme Rules probably won’t be where it happens. It would be difficult for Lynch’s heel persona to work if she loses in her first real match. Instead, it would be best for Lynch to cheat to get the victory. Another illegitimate loss won’t hurt Belair too much if she gets a decisive win against Lynch in their next meeting.
Prediction: Becky Lynch retains
Raw women’s championship match: Charlotte Flair vs. Alexa Bliss
The two women’s title matches at Extreme Rules are polar opposites of each other. While Lynch vs. Belair is a match that could main-event WrestleMania, Alexa Bliss’s character shouldn’t be in the title picture. The build to Extreme Rules has seen Bliss and her doll Lilly try to play mind games with Charlotte Flair, including Bliss giving Flair her own “Charly” doll. It’s the type of feud that fans of Bliss will like, but it turns off all viewers who aren’t interested in her character. Bliss plays the role well, but there’s no reason for the Raw women’s championship to be involved in what she’s doing.
The SmackDown women’s division has outclassed Raw’s for a long time. The draft will be a good opportunity to balance things out and get Flair more challengers to work with.
Prediction: Charlotte Flair retains
United States championship match: Damian Priest vs. Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy
Damian Priest won the United States title by defeating Sheamus at SummerSlam. This was set to be a rematch until Jeff Hardy was added to make it a triple threat. The addition of Hardy, who Priest has already defeated during his title reign, seems like it may be a way to extend Priest and Sheamus’s feud past Extreme Rules.
Priest’s transition from NXT to the main roster has been among the most successful call-ups in recent memory. This isn’t the time for Priest to drop the U.S. title. He should lose it only when WWE is ready to push him into the world championship scene.
Prediction: Damian Priest retains
SmackDown tag team championship match: The Usos vs. The Street Profits
The Street Profits defeated The Usos twice leading into Extreme Rules, but both of those wins came via disqualification. This match will hopefully have a better finish.
The Usos and The Street Profits are the two top tag teams on SmackDown. If The Street Profits aren’t changing brands in the draft, they should be the team to take the SmackDown tag team titles from The Usos.
Prediction: The Street Profits win
Liv Morgan vs. Carmella
A featured singles match on pay-per-view will shine a deserving spotlight on Liv Morgan. She’s ready to take a step forward and become a star in the women’s division. Depending on which brand she ends up going to in the draft, Morgan would make a good challenger for either Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair.
Prediction: Liv Morgan wins
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