By Chuck Carroll
The WWE Extreme Rules card is headlined by AJ Styles defending the WWE Championship against Rusev, but the true main event will see Daniel Bryan and Kane challenge The Bludgeon Brothers for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. The reunion of Team Hell No has been a long time in coming, and it is clear that the chemistry remains with pro wrestling’s version of The Odd Couple. The question is whether that chemistry will be enough for the former RAW Tag Team Champions to add the blue belts to their respective trophy cases.
On the women’s side, Alexa Bliss will defend the RAW Women’s Championship against Nia Jax in an extreme rules match. Ronda Rousey, who is serving a storyline suspension, will be sitting in the front row, making it a forgone conclusion that she’ll be getting involved in the finish of this match.
Another tasty offering on the card is a steel cage match between Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens. With two big men clashing in a cage, this one has the makings of a brutal brawl. And in what could be the match of the night, Seth Rollins will seek to reclaim the Intercontinental Championship from Dolph Ziggler in a 30-minute iron man match.
So what about the rest of the card? Joining me to sort it all out and make their picks are veteran wrestling journalists and my Press Slam Podcast co-hosts Scott Fishman and Aaron Oster. Aaron and Scott each had six correct picks at last month’s Money In The Bank pay-per-view, while I had five. For the year, I maintain a slight lead over them both.
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AJ Styles (c) vs. Rusev
Chuck: On paper this match seems to be the easiest to pick. And honestly, I can’t see a shocking outcome here, given that this isn’t one of the major pay-per-views of the year. Thus, the title stays where it is. Pick: AJ Styles
Scott: I’m happy Rusev is finally getting a WWE championship opportunity, building on the success of Rusev Day. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if AJ Styles continues his reign into SummerSlam. After all, he is gracing the cover of WWE 2K19, and 2K tends to do big media events around SummerSlam time. So, I’m sure they would want him wearing the title. I hope they keep Rusev in the title picture though. Pick: AJ Styles
Aaron: I’d love to see a token run for Rusev here. It would be fantastic for his character, and his legacy going forward. But it’s not happening. AJ Styles wins, and probably moves on towards Samoa Joe. Pick: AJ Styles
Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley
Chuck: This isn’t the easiest match to pick. WWE has been building Lashley up to be a legitimate threat, and a victory would serve him well following his loss to Sami Zayn at Money In The Bank. However, it still appears that WWE is playing long ball with Reigns to set up another shot at the Universal Title. That would get derailed with a loss. Pick: Roman Reigns
Scott: The odds of Reigns losing here aren’t the best. Although a win would certainly help Bobby Lashley. But WWE seems dead set on another Reigns and Brock Lesnar match considering the controversial finish at the Greatest Royal Rumble. This one can go either way, but definitely leaning toward WWE’s “Big Dog.” Pick: Roman Reigns
Aaron: This is a weird one, since there’s no stipulation involved, plus the fact that we have no idea what’s happening with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. For me, I can’t get away from the fact that they have put a ton of time into Lashley over the past few months. Why do that just to have him lose in his first big match? So I’m going with Lashley, probably heading towards both of these guys being in the title match at SummerSlam. Pick: Bobby Lashley
Steel Cage Match
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens
Chuck: Watching the build to this match has been a treat. Owens has played the scared heel role magnificently, while Strowman looks like the absolute beast that he is. This one is a coin flip, but Strowman is going to stay strong, as long as he has the Money In The Bank briefcase. Pick: Braun Strowman
Scott: It’s too predictable for Braun Stroman to win. It’s also a scenario where Owens can win, but Strowman can remain strong. After all, he isn’t getting pinned or submitted. He is also still “Monster in the Bank.” There is no harm in having Owens escape by the skin of his teeth somehow. Make Shania Twain happy. Pick: Kevin Owens
Aaron: Strowman is in the match, so it could set up for Owens getting a coward win. But… Strowman isn’t losing any time soon. Pick: Braun Strowman
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Team Hell No
Chuck: How great is it to see Team Hell No back together? They haven’t missed a beat, and I can see the nostalgia run continuing with a title change. This is a coin flip, and I’m going with Daniel Bryan and the demonic future mayor. Pick: Team Hell No
Scott: With Kane’s mayoral aspirations, and we are clearly building toward something more with Daniel Bryan, winning the tag titles don’t seem in the cards. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if The Miz cost Team Hell No the gold. SummerSlam seems like a natural place for much anticipated Miz versus Bryan showdown, especially if we aren’t quite sure of Bryan’s future in WWE after his contract expires later this year. Pick: The Bludgeon Brothers
Aaron: I’ve been going back and forth on this one. It almost feels too quick for Team Hell No to win. For a dominant team like the Bludgeon Brothers, there should be a chase involved. But Team Hell No shouldn’t be losing either. So I think a DQ finish is very much in play here, and Team Hell No wins the match, without taking the titles. Pick: Team Hell No
Intercontinental Championship – 30-minute Iron Man Match
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Chuck: As I mentioned previously, this match should be the show-stealer. Ziggler has plenty left in the tank for this title run, especially with Drew McIntyre in the picture, and a loss wouldn’t be too detrimental for Rollins. Pick: Dolph Ziggler
Scott: I’m keeping hope alive that Seth Rollins gets elevated back into the Universal title picture. And I think it would take away momentum Ziggler is creating with Drew McIntyre. Rollins doesn’t need the gold at this point. The championship is helping Ziggler’s presentation with McIntyre by his side. Pick: Dolph Ziggler
Aaron: This one is tricky, because it doesn’t seem like it should really matter who wins. They seem like they’ll continue fighting. In fact, I think a draw is somewhat likely. But I do think it makes more sense for Ziggler to walk out with the title, so I’ll pick him. Pick: Dolph Ziggler
United States Championship
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Chuck: This match screams title change to me. Nakamura has been backpedaling of late, given his string of losses to AJ Styles. Watch for a low blow to slip by the referee and Hardy to fall. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Scott: I think Shinsuke Nakamura as Intercontinental would be fun and help him get back on track after losing to Styles. It’s a good base for the “King of Strong Style” to work his way up. There is more money in Hardy’s chase than staying champion at this point. A win over Hardy is, quite frankly, what Nakamura needs at this point. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Aaron: Nakamura can’t be the guy who loses every big match. If you want to say he loses by DQ because he low blows Hardy, well, fine, but really he should be getting a big win here. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
RAW Women’s Championship – Extreme Rules Match
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
Chuck: I would say this one would go to a no-finish, but it’s an extreme rules match, so somebody’s gotta win. With Ronda Rousey sitting in the front row, she’s going to get involved one way or another. But I don’t think her interference will cost Bliss the title. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Scott: After her Money in the Bank cash-in, I don’t see Bliss dropping the title this quickly back to Nia Jax. I expect some sort of interaction with Ronda Rousey, maybe Mickie James and Natalya as well. This could be brewing into some sort of multi-women match at SummerSlam or just Rousey getting a solo title match. Regardless, Bliss is going home with the gold. Pick: Alexa Bliss
Aaron: While I think there’s a logical case for Nia to win to set up a triple-threat at SummerSlam with Ronda Rousey, it feels like the Extreme Rules stipulation was set up to get Alexa a credible way of winning. Pick: Alexa Bliss
SmackDown Women’s Championship – James Ellsworth in Shark Cage
Carmella (c) vs. Asuka
Chuck: As of late week, Asuka is favored to win this one. The problem for her is that Carmella may be ready for Asuka, given that James Ellsworth will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage. I can see this ending in one of two ways. His interference will either give the win to Asuka via DQ or guide Carmella to victory. Either way, the title stays put. I’ll go with the first one. Pick: Asuka
Scott: I think heading into SummerSlam we have the potential of another money match between Asuka and Charlotte Flair, who should be back by then. I also think Asuka losing once again on Pay-Per-View would hurt what WWE has built with her. Most times the person with the person in a shark cage, like the one James Ellsworth will be in, ends up winning somehow. I’m going in the other direction, maybe bucking the trend. Pick: Asuka
Aaron: Asuka shouldn’t be losing another match. However, when is the last time the person with their manager in a cage actually lost the match? It doesn’t happen. Thus, Carmella wins. Pick: Carmella
RAW Tag Team Championship
“Woken” Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt (c) vs. The B-Team
Chuck: Oh, how I wish The B-Team would pull off the upset here. They’re underdogs with oddsmakers and basically everyone else. It’s great, though, to see Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel continue to shine after leaving The Miztourage. But I fear this will be the end of their road. Pick: Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt
Scott: As much as I’ve loved the B-Team’s rise and think it would be fun to see them tag team champions, I’m going with Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt to retain. But stranger things have happened. I’d like to see more with this rivalry, and keeping B-Team in the chase does that more for me. Pick: Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt
Aaron: I think the B-Team should win here. They’re far more over than Hardy and Wyatt, and giving them a run would give the crowd a boost. But I’m looking down the road, and if the Authors of Pain are winning the titles soon, a win against Wyatt and Hardy is more impressive. Pick: Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt
Finn Bálor vs. “Constable” Baron Corbin
Chuck: Bálor’s stock has been plummeting of late. I think it speaks volumes that he was sent out with the undercard guys at the top of RAW to break up the brawl between Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns. Meanwhile, Corbin’s stock is on the rise with his new position of power. Pick: Baron Corbin
Scott: Finn Bálor has kind of faded into the backround, and a win over Constable Corbin can start bringing him back to the forefront. Corbin is in more of a non-wrestler role these days, so it benefits Bálor more to defeat him. It’s more detrimental for Bálor to lose in this scenario quite frankly. Pick: Finn Bálor
Aaron: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Constable Corbin as a character is hotter than Finn Bálor. There’s every reason to have Corbin win this, so I’m going with him. Pick: Baron Corbin
The New Day vs. SAnitY – Tables Match
Chuck: It’s a smart move by WWE to put a tables match on the kickoff show to entice last-minute subscriptions to the WWE Network. Business aside, SAnitY has been booked strongly since their arrival and have breathed fresh air into the tag division. Could a feud with Team Hell No be coming? This would be a good start. Pick: SAnitY
Scott: SAnitY is new on the scene and needs to cement themselves as a viable threat for the tag team titles. A win over New Day will do that, while also keeping the losing trio strong because it’s not a scenario where they get pinned. Pick: SAnitY
Aaron: This is SAnitY’s first pay-per-view match. Even though their characters thrive on chaos, and don’t really need wins, and the table match can set up a loss without really losing, I think they should win here. Pick: SAnitY
Wrestling 350 Days A Year
I caught up with WWE Hall of Famer JJ Dillon ahead of the release of the new documentary 350 Days. The title references the average number of days wrestlers were on the road every year back in the days of territories and the dawn of monster promotions such as WWE. Promotional material for the film describes the documentary as offering a “behind-the-scenes look at the grueling life they led on the road and the effect that lifestyle had on their marriages, family, physical and mental health.”
Also featured in the film are former world champions Bret Hart and “Superstar” Billy Graham, Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, Abdullah The Butcher, Wendi Richter, Bill Eadie, Nikolai Volkoff, Lanny Poffo, Stan Hansen, Angelo Mosca, and Lex Luger. The late George “The Animal” Steele and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka are among the others profiled.
The film will screen in theaters nationwide for one night only on July 12th.
JJ, I want to ask you about this documentary. You fell in love with wrestling as a 16-year-old kid. Did that seem like a glamorous thought to you at the time, being on the road that much, or did that seem excessive?
As a fan, you tend to go to events, either in your hometown or within driving distance. You would attend a number of matches in a period of a month, but what you really don’t grasp is that the guys are appearing basically on the road, doing one nights stands basically all over the country. The 350 days is a pretty accurate number in terms of the days when you’re on the road, away from home, away from your family, because wrestling is all over the country, all over the world. If you go on a tour in Japan … it’s particularly big in Germany and has been in France and in Great Britain at times.
I wrestled in Australia. I went over there and spent an entire year wrestling full time and living there. And I worked in New Zealand for a month or two on the way over. Then, after Australia, I went back to New Zealand for another month or two.
The movie, 350 Days, is meant to be an honest appraisal of somebody who makes the commitment that they want to be a full-time professional wrestler, but those were for me the glory years, when we were on the road, if you looked at the year, 350 days of the year. But there’s that old saying that if you’re doing something that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Yes, there was the travel, being away from home. You’re going to be in a physical encounter, different kind of guys every night, different rings every night. Some are maintained better than others. There’s a risk of being on the highway 100,000-plus miles a year. The risk of having an accident is much higher than if you didn’t travel that amount of time and just the fact of getting in the ring. It’s a physical encounter, no matter how experienced you are, because some times there are guys that come in that you’ll interact with who aren’t as experienced. This level of injury is higher in those situations.
I go full circle back to a young kid, because that this is what I discovered on television and dreamed I wanted to do. When I got a chance to do it, I never hesitated and never looked back. Then, all of a sudden, 20 years is behind me, and I retired [as an active wrestler] and then managed. I got a chance to go places in the world that I would not have otherwise been to and to see things. I really believe that one of the big educational experiences in life is being able to travel and experience other cultures and live among the people.
News & Notes
WWE is promoting several appearances by Daniel Bryan after his current contract is expected to expire. It’s unclear whether this means that he will re-sign with the company, but it is a positive sign for WWE fans.
WWE Superstar Sami Zayn has launched the #SamiRelief benefit for Syria. The fundraising effort will help provide mobile medical care and much needed medicine for the 350,000 Syrians who have fled their homes due to escalating attacks in Dara’a.
Former WWE Superstar Kaitlyn is returning to participate in the second Mae Young Classic. She last appeared in a WWE ring in 2014.
Goldust and Fandango are both sidelined after undergoing surgeries in Birmingham, Alabama recently. The 49-year-old Goldust had an undisclosed procedure on both knees, while Fandango had a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The latter is expected to be shelved for a minimum of six months. It’s unclear when Goldust will return, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
Flip Gordon will challenge Nick Aldis for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship at Ring of Honor’s “Honor For All” event in Nashville on June 20. Cody Rhodes vs. TK O’Ryan, Matt Taven vs. Marty Scurll, and Young Bucks vs. The Briscoes vs. The Addiction are also on the card.
New Japan Pro Wrestling star Hiromu Takahashi has been released from a San Francisco area hospital and returned to Japan after sustaining a scary neck injury during the promotion’s G1 Special on July 7th. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reports he suffered a broken neck, although NJPW has not confirmed the extent of the injury.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.