WWE's Horror Show at Extreme Rules came to a fitting ending in the swamps ruled over by Bray Wyatt on Sunday. After battling all over the property, through mud, fire pits, swamp ground and lakes, against doppelgangers, masked lackeys and mysterious specters of familiar friends, Wyatt's "Fiend" persona emerged from the water having bested Braun Strowman, lit in red light, pleading to the world once more to "let me in."
Through the best and worst of Sunday's WWE pay-per-view, the company once again leaned in to a cinematic approach for its main event. Although it didn't have the impact or decisive ending of the Boneyard match at WrestleMania, it drove the story between Wyatt and Strowman forward in a way that other matches on the Extreme Rules card struggled to.
From the moment Strowman drove his truck up the driveway to Wyatt sitting in his rocking chair, it was clear that there wasn't going to be much in the way of a traditional match on tap for their confrontation in the swamp. Bray teleported away in the darkness, leaving an empty chair, and slid comfortably back into his swamp preacher persona.
Strowman was attacked by proxies dressed very similarly to the now-departed (from WWE) Harper and Rowan before being struck on the back by a shovel. In a twist, a dazed Strowman stared up at the Wyatt Family version of himself wearing a black sheep's mask. A second blow, viewed from the audience's perspective, knocked Strowman out for the first time.
It got weirder from there. Strowman woke up chained to a rocking chair inside a shed, surrounded by children's toys and masks. Wyatt went on for several minutes talking about being a passive persona in his own body, watching everything through his eyes while being unable to move, pleading for Strowman to come back to his side.
He eventually had Strowman bitten by a snake, forcing a second blackout. Strowman woke up at fireside.
Wyatt's replacement lackeys struck again, and one was lit on fire as Strowman laughed. A vision of Alexa Bliss appeared in the shadows, hidden behind a black veil. As flashbacks to the Mixed Match Challenge flashed before his (and the audience's) eyes, the figure beckoned him into the mist, pleading for Strowman to come home.
From there, Wyatt charged out of the mist, and Strowman chokeslammed him into a boat that might or might not have been reminiscent of a landmark on Matt Hardy's compound. The brawl between Strowman and Wyatt went under the water and eventually onto a dock. Strowman kicked Wyatt through a railing and back into the water, and as the end-of-show bug popped into the lower right corner, Strowman broke one of the cardinal rules of horror movies as he said, "It's over."
Wyatt popped back up, locked on the mandible claw and dragged Strowman into the water. Wyatt briefly surfaced, struggling to pull himself out of the water, but was pulled back down again. The surface of the water was calm, but then everything bubbled up and turned red. The masked Fiend emerged from the water to stare down the barrel of the camera as the broadcast faded to black.
It was B-movie horror throughout, but unlike most of the night, the ending was satisfying. The same cannot be said for otherwise great matches that ended with eyeballs being plucked out or the belief that putting on a striped shirt makes you a licensed referee.
Rest of the card:
(c) - indicates defending champion. Recaps by Tim Fiorvanti and Sean Coyle.
WWE championship: Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler have a lot of history. Upon his return to the main roster in the WWE in 2018, McIntyre associated himself with Ziggler. The duo had their share of success winning tag team gold, but it isn't 2018 anymore, and McIntyre's stock has skyrocketed. He won the 2020 Royal Rumble and defeated Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania to become the WWE champion.
Ziggler claims to have been the catalyst for McIntyre's recent success and had his sights on Raw's premier title. On top of that, Ziggler earned the right to name the stipulation to the match, which he revealed only once in the ring. He announced that this bout would be an extreme rules match -- but only for Ziggler. He added that if McIntyre were counted out or disqualified, Ziggler would become champion.
As Ziggler immediately searched for weapons under the ring, McIntyre caught up to him and began the onslaught. He smashed him into the ring post and, back inside the ring, delivered a belly-to-belly suplex. An eye gauge opened the door for Ziggler, who snagged a chair, but as he swung, McIntyre caught it and threw it out of the ring. McIntyre flat-out dominated this match early on.
Ziggler managed to create some separation and introduced a table to the match. McIntyre almost suplexed Ziggler through it, but if he had, he'd have been disqualified and lost the title. Instead, he suplexed him on the outside of the ring.
As they returned between the ropes, Ziggler caught McIntyre with a low blow and repeatedly struck the champ with a steel chair. McIntyre continued to push through, despite taking a Famouser on the outside of the ring.
The challenge of the extreme rules limitations began to aggravate the champion. McIntyre couldn't use the ropes to break a Ziggler sleeper in the ring. The odds were stacked further against him when Ziggler finally got a chance to utilize the table he set up on the outside of the ring. After Superkicking McIntyre on top of the table, he jumped off the top of the turnbuckle post and onto McIntyre with an elbow drop. McIntyre still made it into the ring at the count of nine.
McIntyre's persistence was illustrated more and more as the match went on. After Ziggler caught him with another Famouser and a Rock Bottom (a clear reference to The Rock, who gave his approval for a Ziggler title reign on social media) onto a steel chair, McIntyre still kicked out at two.
As Ziggler set up for another Superkick, McIntyre charged and connected with a Claymore. That was all she wrote.
What's next: After defying the odds, McIntyre's rivalry with Ziggler would seem to be over. It's time for a new challenger. There are a number of options. Perhaps when Randy Orton finishes his program with Big Show, he'd be in line for a shot. Seth Rollins won his match tonight and is another candidate.
Raw women's championship: Sasha Banks def. Asuka (c)?
On a card in which the WWE simulated one man plucking an eyeball out of another man's head, that wasn't the most poorly written ending to a match at Extreme Rules.
After an absolute in-ring masterpiece between Asuka and Sasha Banks, a series of unfortunate events and mind-numbingly poor writing decisions cast a long shadow over all of the hard work Asuka and Banks put in up to that point.
Asuka had Banks tapping out to the Asuka lock when Bayley introduced the tag team title belts as weapons. Through a series of distractions, the referee pulled the belt out of Banks' hands just in time to have Banks slide out of the way of Asuka's green mist spray. Bayley attacked Asuka in the meantime, and rather than an automatic disqualification or a second referee running out, Bayley ripped the referee's shirt off, put it on herself, slapped the mat three times and forced the timekeeper to ring the bell.
Bayley and Banks absconded with the Raw women's championship in a finish that is almost certain to be reversed or lead to the title being vacated.
Sometimes simpler is better, rather than trying misdirection for misdirection's sake, and it's unfortunate that a match that would've had any arena in the world loudly cheering in unison had one of the more unsatisfying endings in recent memory.
Banks and Asuka put their everything into this match. Banks targeted Asuka's arms early and often with submissions from each and every angle. Asuka delivered devastating knees, hip attacks and suplexes throughout the match, including a pair of German suplexes late in the bout that seemed to drop Banks directly on her head.
Everything flowed, with no unnatural breaks or contrived, overly choreographed sequences. There were several moments in which it seemed that the match was racing toward its end, only to hit another gear. Asuka hit a codebreaker with Banks draped over the middle rope. Banks powerbombed Asuka from the apron into the plexiglass.
When Asuka tried to German suplex Banks from the top rope, Banks flipped out of it and landed on her knee. After double running knees to the corner, Banks showed the damage to her knee when she fell from the top rope clutching her leg. "I have to be champion," bellowed Banks, infusing the match with a desperate energy that was palpable.
Both women fought for submissions. Asuka earned a tapout victory when the referee wasn't looking. It was a match that earned a decisive finish and a decisive answer. It's a shame that it didn't have that level of closure.
What's next: In all likelihood, a rematch on Monday Night Raw. It's one of the rare instances when not having a definitive authority figure on Raw hurts from a storytelling perspective. Whether Asuka wins or is somehow illogically bamboozled out of the title by having Bayley's three-count stand, there are only consolation prizes after Sunday's match.
Eye for an Eye match: Seth Rollins def. Rey Mysterio
Well, this stipulation wasn't expected. After Seth Rollins and his cohorts damaged Rey Mysterio's eye on the corner of the steel ring steps a couple of months ago, Mysterio, his son, Dominik, Aleister Black and Humberto Carrillo at times have sought revenge. Mysterio earned the right to pick Sunday night's stipulation, but instead of selecting a more traditional street fight or steel cage match, he chose ... an Eye for an Eye match. The stipulation was billed exactly the way it sounds: To win the match, you must remove the eye of your opponent.
As if that weren't graphic enough, Rollins made his entrance with pliers in his hand, but as he waited for Mysterio to make his entrance, Mysterio snuck up and blindsided him. That allowed Mysterio to snag Rollins' pliers and make an unsuccessful attempt at Rollins' eye. The attempts were frequent throughout the course of the match.
Rollins introduced a kendo stick, used that to his advantage and, a few sequences later, delivered a falcon arrow to Mysterio on the edge of the ring. Rollins proceeded to gouge at Mysterio's eyes and attempted to use the corner of the steel steps again, but Mysterio squirmed away.
Rollins was in complete control at this point and made a number of attempts at Mysterio's eyes. He used a pen, the kendo stick and tools from a tool box. He even tried to tie Mysterio to the bottom ring rope with some netting from the tool box so that he could gouge his eyes. None of the attempts was successful, so Rollins took his frustrations out by whaling at Mysterio with the kendo stick a couple more times.
Mysterio found some life, however, and connected with a seated senton off the top rope, which allowed him to hit a frog splash. Shortly after he delivered a picture perfect tornado DDT, but that wasn't going to win him the match, so a couple of powerbombs into the barricade, Mysterio snapped the kendo stick in half and jammed it into the face of Rollins. He then delivered a 619 and caught Rollins with his own curb stomp on the outside of the ring.
As Mysterio looked to be sticking the corner of the steel ring steps into the eye of Rollins, Rollins snuck in a low blow followed by a super kick. That was the turning point. He followed that with a curb stomp of his own. "You did this to yourself, Rey," Rollins exclaimed as he pushed Mysterio's face, once again, into the ring steps. Rey covered his face in agony as Rollins turned away in disgust and vomited -- yes, vomited. The match was over.
What's next: Rollins, again, got the better of Mysterio and did more damage to his eyes, so a possible scenario could be that Dominik avenges his father's injury.
SmackDown women's championship: Bayley (c) def. Nikki Cross
Bayley's record-setting run as SmackDown women's champion has passed the 280-day mark, and after her victory over Nikki Cross at The Horror Show at Extreme Rules, it's likely to reach a 300-day milestone.
The amount of time that the partnership between Bayley and Sasha Banks will last is likely to be considerably shorter.
That isn't to say that Banks' support wasn't a key factor in Sunday's SmackDown women's title match. On the contrary, Banks slipped Bayley her diamond-encrusted knuckleduster bearing the word "Boss," which Bayley employed to hit Cross in the stomach before landing her arm-trapped headlock driver to pick up the pinfall victory.
As she has in each of her limited singles matches in the spotlight, Cross stepped up and brought the energy in this title challenge. She used every part of the ring and the ringside area to land spinning DDTs, spinning neckbreakers and multiple flying cross-bodies from the top rope, apron and anywhere else from which she could launch herself.
Each embraced the idea of getting in each other's head, from utilizing their opponents' moves to Cross using an old Bayley standard by calling back to her wacky, waving, inflatable arm-flailing tube men.
Cross never quite had victory lined up, but she made a good showing and pleaded her case for more such opportunities in the future.
What's next: Banks helped Bayley pick up the victory, and whether Bayley returns the favor later in the night, when Banks challenges Asuka for the Raw women's championship, could well set off the most highly anticipated storyline heading into August's SummerSlam pay-per-view.
Tables match for the SmackDown tag team championships: Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura def. The New Day (c)
Big E and Cesaro battled in the opening match of SmackDown this past week for the right to name Sunday night's stipulation. With an assist from his tag partner, Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro landed his neutralizer, and the challengers gained the upper hand. They named a stipulation such that they wouldn't need to pin or submit the New Day to become champions -- a tables match.
The match was tornado rules, meaning all four competitors battled at the same time without tags. Neither team wasted time, and a brawl was on. New Day seemed to get the better of their challengers early on, as Kofi Kingston executed dropkicks to both Nakamura and Cesaro on the outside of the ring. As such, they set up the first table, but Nakamura saved his partner from taking the plunge.
The challengers set up the next table inside the ring and went to work on Kingston. They appeared set to double suplex Kingston through the table, but Big E made the save. Big E proceeded to spear Cesaro through the ropes to the outside of the ring.
The next big spot occurred when Big E elevated Kingston from the inside of the ring to the outside, hoping to land on Cesaro, who was placed on a table. However, both Cesaro and Nakamura were waiting for it and slammed Kingston with the table as he descended.
The New Day fought back. Kingston leapt off the top rope onto Nakamura on the outside, and Big E connected with a belly-to-belly suplex on Cesaro inside of the ring. That allowed them to set up two tables, stacked up on each other on the outside of the ring. That would come back to haunt the champions.
As Kingston appeared poised to deliver a hurricanrana to Cesaro and send him through the double-stacked structure, Cesaro blocked it and, with an assist from Nakamura, power bombed Kingston through both tables. We have new SmackDown tag team champions.
Impressively, this makes Cesaro a seven-time tag team champion in the WWE, with three different tag team partners.
What's next: The most logical direction would seem to be a rematch. The New Day weren't pinned to lose their titles, so perhaps another encounter arises based on that premise.
Kevin Owens vs. Murphy
Kevin Owens vs. Murphy kicked off the action for The Horror Show at Extreme Rules in a clash that left open the possibility of some consequences for the Eye for an Eye match between Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio later in the night.
Owens continued his winning ways, finishing Murphy off with a Stone Cold Stunner. He found success with the move that earned him a victory over Rollins on Raw in recent weeks -- but only after failing to land the move early against Murphy on Sunday.
There were, predictably, several stunning high points throughout the match, including a vicious DDT by Owens that spiked Murphy right on the top of his head, a brainbuster that put Murphy's raw strength on display and an effortless-looking Owens springboard moonsault. Owens ultimately used a superkick to set up the stunner and pick up the win.
What's next: It's tough to tell, really, without having seen Rollins vs. Mysterio. Murphy will likely continue to follow Rollins regardless, but Owens feels poised to shift into a higher-profile match as attention turns toward SummerSlam.