Brock Lesnar is bringing WWE back to the future.
After successfully cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on Seth Rollins, Lesnar is now the Universal champion for the third time in WWE history, marking his seventh overall reign as world champ.
The Universal title change concluded the Extreme Rules show in Philadelphia, which featured a card with the potential to be the pay per view of the year. Though it fell short of that goal, Extreme Rules delivered a string of solid matches, including four title changes and the next step in the progression of Kevin Owens’ fearless new character.
This weekend in wrestling included the continuation of New Japan’s G1 Climax tournament, All Elite Wrestling’s Fight for the Fallen show and an EVOLVE special that was broadcast on the WWE Network. The abundance of wrestling leads to a short memory, but this Extreme Rules card should not go overlooked.
Highlights included the SmackDown tag title match, especially during the Daniel Bryan-Big E sequences; a tremendous opening match pitting The Undertaker and Roman Reigns against Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre; the main roster pay per view singles debut for Aleister Black, who wrestled the vastly underrated Cesaro; and another step toward dominance for The Club, as AJ Styles stole the United States title away from Ricochet with help from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.
WWE also announced that next week’s Raw will be a reunion with some of the company’s most popular stars of all-time, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Monday's Raw will focus on the fallout from Extreme Rules, which added significant heat to WWE’s summer.
Here are the results:
• Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Finn Balor to win the Intercontinental title on the pre-show
• Cruiserweight champion Drew Gulak successfully defended his title against Tony Nese on the pre-show
• The Undertaker and Roman Reigns defeated Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre to open the show
• The Revival defeated The Usos
• In his first-ever singles match on a main roster pay per view, Aleister Black defeated Cesaro
• Bayley retained her SmackDown women’s title in a handicap match against Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
• Braun Strowman defeated Bobby Lashley in a Last Man Standing match
• The New Day became six-time tag team champions by defeating Daniel Bryan and Rowan as well as Heavy Machinery in a triple threat match to win the SmackDown tag titles
• Benefitting from outside interference from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, AJ Styles defeated Ricochet to win the United States title
• Kevin Owens defeated Dolph Ziggler with a stunner
• Kofi Kingston was victorious over Samoa Joe to retain the WWE championship
• Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch defeated Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans to retain, respectively, the Universal title and the Raw women’s title
• Brock Lesnar cashed in his Money in the Bank title contract and defeated Seth Rollins for the Universal title
And here are my five takeaways from the show that will shape the remainder of WWE’s summer:
1) Extreme Rules closed with Brock Lesnar regaining the Universal title from Seth Rollins.
For some additional context, Rollins defeated Lesnar for the very same belt in the opening match of this past April’s WrestleMania 35. The win ended the 156-day title reign for Lesnar, who also held the title for 504 days after his WrestleMania 33 victory over Bill Goldberg. Lesnar was an absentee champion, rarely appearing on weekly television. Incredibly, he hasn’t wrestled on Raw since 2002. Heading into this past WrestleMania, Rollins promised to shift the entire paradigm in WWE by defeating Lesnar and representing all virtue he did not.
In the days leading up to WrestleMania 35, Rollins told Sports Illustrated: “This match at WrestleMania solidifies the work I’ve put in has meant something. I got into this business because I was inspired by champions who were out there giving it their all every single night. Shawn Michaels inspired so many performers to get into this industry and push it to the next generation. That’s the kind of champion I want to be, and that’s the kind of champion we need for the future of our industry.”
Rollins won the battle, crushing Lesnar at WrestleMania, but now appears to have lost the war.
Lesnar regaining the title is an exciting yet curious decision. It is a pipe dream to think we will see more of Lesnar, as his part-time schedule is not changing. So will Rollins receive a rematch at SummerSlam? Or will a new challenger, like Braun Strowman or Roman Reigns, be introduced into the title picture?
As soon as we know the answers, Vince McMahon changes the questions.
2) Kevin Owens made quick work of Dolph Ziggler, walking away victorious from the squash match after a stunner.
Owens’ ascension into a modern-day “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the single most interesting development in WWE. He took advantage of Shane McMahon being laid out by The Undertaker, cutting another biting promo after his win over Ziggler.
Since his return this past April, Owens has played no real significance. Yes, he challenged Kofi Kingston for the WWE championship, but never appeared to have a legitimate shot at winning the title.
Making Owens the voice of the fans is brilliant. He is a phenomenal wrestler, but he's been severely underused as of late. I see more of Dusty Rhodes in Owens than I do Steve Austin, but regardless, the product is about to heat up this summer every time Owens appears on screen.
And his match against Shane McMahon at SummerSlam should be an old-school bloodbath.
3) Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Finn Balor to become the new Intercontinental champion.
With the win, Nakamura joins Chris Jericho as the only two men to ever wear the Intercontinental title in WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling (the others currently with the best chance of achieving this feat are Andrade in WWE or Jon Moxley in New Japan). Jericho has 10 reigns in all with the IC title, nine with WWE and one with NJPW, to Nakamura’s six.
While Jericho is one of the best IC champs in WWE history, Nakamura’s role with the title in New Japan cannot be understated: he gave meaning to the title shortly after it was first introduced in 2011.
The fact that this match was on the pre-show was befuddling, but not nearly as bothersome as the fact that Balor and Nakamura weren’t given at least 15 minutes to work their magic. The match finished in under eight minutes. Since Balor and Nakamura have captured the interest of the audience with a limited build, hopefully they will be given significant time to tell their story in a rematch at SummerSlam.
4) The Undertaker is one of the greatest headliners in the history of WWE, so it was out of the ordinary to see him open the card at Extreme Rules.
The Undertaker moved well and fit perfectly with his partner Roman Reigns. After Taker delivered a Tombstone piledriver onto Shane McMahon to win the match, the staredown between Taker and Reigns was well done, and it closed with Taker giving Reigns a slap on the shoulder as a sign of approval.
The match helped remove the stain of Taker’s Super ShowDown match against Bill Goldberg, which was a certified disaster. And if the match was an audition for McIntyre to see whether he should wrestle The Undertaker at SummerSlam, then the “Scottish Psychopath” aced his exam. McIntyre made Taker look three steps quicker than he was in Saudi Arabia.
A singles match next month at SummerSlam would be a perfect opportunity to give McIntyre the massive victory that he needs to re-establish himself as one of the most dominant threats on the roster. Taker should be used as a special attraction that puts over the right talent—and there is no one better for that role than McIntyre, who has an extremely bright future in WWE.
The end sequence, with McIntyre speared by Reigns while he was attempting to Claymore kick The Undertaker, who had just hit a Tombstone on McMahon, was executed flawlessly. During a weekend that was overloaded with wrestling, this served as the best opening match, as well as one of the most exciting matches of the weekend.
5) Daniel Bryan and Rowan dropped the SmackDown tag titles to Big E and Xavier Woods, which marks the sixth tag title reign for The New Day.
Heavy Machinery was also involved in the triple threat match, but by far the most exhilarating moment in the match came as the match transitioned into its end sequences. Bryan outsmarted his opponents by tagging into the match when no one but the referee was looking, and that high-level of mental acumen allowed him to clamp the LeBell lock onto Big E.
The monstrous Big E broke the hold and withstood more of Bryan’s punishment, including some stiff slaps to the face, before unleashing his own array of power onto Bryan. That led to the finish, as Big E and Woods hit the Midnight Hour on Bryan for the win.
Bryan also shined alongside Kofi Kingston in the WWE title match at WrestleMania 35, which was, by far, the match of the night. Bryan needs to re-enter singles competition as soon as possible, as does Big E—watching that same sequence in a singles match for the WWE title needs to happen in 2019.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.