WWE more than held its own in a week filled with professional wrestling, putting on the best special-event card of any promotion on Sunday night in Philadelphia. Extreme Rules showcased top-tier action along with plenty of the company’s typical sports entertainment elements, delivering four title changes and a cash in attempt by Money in the Bank holder Brock Lesnar.
With two additional matches added hours before the show and the surprise Lesnar cash in, there were 13 formal bouts held during the event — as many as a typical SummerSlam card rather than a B-level pay-per-view like Extreme Rules. Considering that SummerSlam — WWE’s second-biggest PPV of the year — is just four weeks away and new executive directors are taking over the company’s television programs this week, we are very much left up in the air as to what is planned going forward.
As far as what happened Sunday night, CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with results, grades and highlights. Be sure to subscribe to the State of Combat with Brian Campbell podcast for a full breakdown of Extreme Rules and a look at WWE’s weekly TV product on Wednesday’s show.
2019 WWE Extreme Rules results, grades
Intercontinental Championship — Shinsuke Nakamura def. Finn Balor (c) via pinfall to win the title (Kickoff Show): Much like Nakamura did in his win over Balor, the champion utilized the ringside barriers to rough up the challenger. The bout started slow but picked up late once Nakamura hit Balor — seated on the second rope — with a sliding powerbomb. Balor bounced back with a double stomp and dropkicked Nakamura into the corner. However, when Balor went for the Coup de Grace, Nakamura dodged out of the way and drilled Balor with a Kinshasa to the back of the head and then another to the front of his face.
This marks consecutive losses for Balor to Nakamura and what feels like a rushed title change considering this match was not even booked until a couple hours before Extreme Rules and suddenly wound up on the kickoff show. (It could’ve been on the main SummerSlam card!) Perhaps we will get a rematch if WWE decides to go the way of the Balor-Lashley feud by taking the title off the popular Balor only for him to win it back at one of the company’s biggest shows of the year (as the Demon even). This was not as special as it could have been due to booking and card placement. Nakamura is the third man to hold the WWE and NJPW intercontinental titles (MVP, Chris Jericho). Grade: C+
Cruiserweight Championship — Drew Gulak (c) def. Tony Nese via pinfall to retain the title (Kickoff Show): Nese did not execute it well, but he did hit an interesting moonsault onto Gulak, who was hanging between the middle ropes on the ring apron. The challenger followed with an extremely impressive 450 — driving his knees into Gulak’s chest for a two count. Once he recovered, Gulak hit Nese with a powerbomb and a Cyclone Crash for the 1-2-3. It would not have been fair to expect much out of Gulak after his war with Matt Riddle on Saturday night, but this did not live up to the quality of prior cruiserweight showcase matches. Grade: C
Roman Reigns & The Undertaker def. Shane McMahon & Drew McIntyre via pinfall (No Holds Barred): The crowd erupted for Taker every time they had a chance, particularly when he hit Old School early. A staredown with McIntyre moments later provided a potential SummerSlam preview. Taker later got his move set in against McMahon and prepared to powerbomb him into an announce table … until Elias appeared out of nowhere and drilled Taker in the back with his guitar. McIntyre hit Reigns with a Claymore outside the ring and followed with another to The Undertaker, who was distracted as he choked Elias. Taker was then placed onto the table and driven through it by McMahon, who hit his patented elbow drop from the top turnbuckle. McIntyre and Elias dragged Taker back into the ring, propping him up in the far corner with a trash can in front of his so McMahon could hit Coast-to-Coast. Reigns woke up and hit Elias with a Superman punch only to be taken out by McIntyre. Taker was dragged into the middle of the ring but immediately sat up and hit chokeslams on McMahon and Elias. With Taker’s back turned, McIntyre prepared for a Claymore, but Reigns intercepted him with a spear. Reigns then threw a wounded McMahon into Taker for a Tombstone Piledriver and the victory.
Taker stared Reigns down after the match, the two nodded at each other, and Taker slapped him on the chest as a sign of respect and approval. Taker held his head high and was given a featured spot in the center of the ring to receive adulation ffrom the fans. “We don’t know how many more times we are going to be able to enjoy what we witnessed tonight,” Michael Cole said. Predicable booking can be good booking, and Reigns saving the day was certainly predictable (as was the table spot with Taker considering the noticeable additional padding). Still, the crowd was hot for the entire match, the action was constant and Taker looked the best he has in years. Great start to the main show. Grade: B
Raw Tag Team Championship — The Revival (c) def. The Usos via pinfall to retain the titles: These teams got going at a breakneck pace, but the match slowed down considerably with The Revival on offense looking to wear down Jey Uso. A hot tag to Jimmy Usos livened the pace up again, but Dash Wilder countered his flurry with a sit-down powerbomb for a 2.5 count. A corkscrew off the top rope and assisted Samoan drop got a similar count for the Usos, but a brainbuster from Scott Dawson followed by a superplex splash combination from the Revival would have resulted in the fall if Jey had not broken it up with a splash of his own. Dawson grabbed Jey’s leg as the Usos attempted a double dive outside the ring, distracting Jimmy and giving Revival an opportunity to hit him with Shatter Machine for the win. Classic, quality tag team wrestling that suffered from a crowd reaction standpoint due to it following the Undertaker. Grade: B
Aleister Black vs. Cesaro: Attempting Black Mass at the opening bell, Black instead was dealt a blow by Cesaro, who mocked his competitor’s sit-down pose. That angered Black, who immediately tossed Cesaro outside the ring, hit him with a moonsault and sat down himself. Black drilled Cesaro with a meteora early, but when attempting it a second time latter, Cesaro caught him and hit him with an elevated European uppercut for a near-three count that was only avoided because Black grabbed the bottom rope. A leaping Cesaro was caught with a knee strike to the chin, giving Black an opening to concentrate on Cesaro’s injured left knee with kicks and a knee bar. The men then traded uppercuts in a tangle that Cesaro won, but after Black avoided a Gotch Neutralizer, he caught Cesaro with Black Mass for the sudden 1-2-3. Pitch-perfect PPV singles debut for Black, and Cesaro proved to be the right opponent to help him shine. Grade: B+
Backstage gift exchange: With R-Truth and Carmella searchign for Drake Maverick, Bliss was shown giving Cross one of her T-shirts as a gift. The Street Profits were shown in the background mocking being touched by the moment and then asked the ladies “where the party at?” after Bliss becomes champion. Bliss corrected them that she and Cross would be co-champions, which led to the Profits to laugh hysterically at the notion. Cross yelled at them before they hit the ring.
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Bayley (c) def. Nikki Cross (via pinfall) and Alexa Bliss to retain her title (2-on-1 Handicap): Stuck between the ring apron and the ring, Bayley fought back against Cross, who dominated the start of the match. Bliss ran in with a baseball slide to drill Bayley in the back before demanding a tag from Cross. After Bliss hit Bayley with the handspring double knees, Bayley turned aggressive; she dove through the ropes to take out Cross and then snapped Bliss on the same rope. Cross tagged herself in, but Bayley locked her in Jaime Noble’s old Trailer Hitch (a “deathlock” submission) move before dodging a flying Bliss, who attempted to interfere. Bayley locked Bliss in the crossfafce simultaneously in a cool spot, but Bliss bit Bayley’s hand to escape. Bliss interfered again to break up the submission on Cross and kept jumping into the ring, giving Cross an opening to hit a tornado DDT for a 2.5 count. Bliss got tagged in, but Bayley blocked Twisted Bliss with her knees; Cross tagged in and Bayley drilled her with a knee before hitting an elbow drop for the underdog win.
This match was better than the crowd gave it credit for being, especially the ending, though Bayley does need to go back to the Bayley-to-Belly (Kairi Sane does the elbow drop so much better) and probably should have won with the double submission. That said, there was no return by Sasha Banks, nor was there a turn between Bliss and Cross … so it kind of felt flat as if fans were waiting for something to happen. Grade: C+
Braun Strowman def. Bobby Lashley by 10 count (Last Man Standing): Lashley attacked Strowman before the match began and got the first long count after the bell following a spear at ringside. The two brawled into the crowd, up the stars into the merchandise area before coming back down the stairs into the arena. Lashley picked Strowman up and drove him through the barrier into the ringside area (opposite way it normally goes). Lashley then shoved Strowman into the announcer’s table, which fell over due to his size; Strowman got back at him by catching Lashley flying over the barricade and using his momentum to throw Lashley into the international announcers area. The two eventually climbed stairs again and wound up on a seating platform. Strowman kicked open a small gate and lifted Lashley for a powerslam into darkness (a padded box placed at an entryway into the arena floor. Fans chanted “E-C-W” as Strowman punched through the box and Lashley was counted down. Great, physical match between these two with an ending that suffered some for the TV viewer because the massive padding was so visible. Definitely delivered a nice follow-up from the Raw shocker a few weeks ago, though one wonders if putting Lashley over would have been a better idea. Grade: B
SmackDown Tag Team Championship — New Day def. Daniel Bryan & Rowan (c) [via pinfall] and Heavy Machinery to win the titles: After a Caterpillar by Otis and slingshot slam by Heavy Machinery on Byan, Big E tagged himself in suffered a cross body suplex from the team. Big E recovered and speared Bryan off the ring apron to the outside, leading Otis to feign a suicide dive only to step through the ring ropes and splash the rest of the competitors below; Tucker followed with a splash. Back in the ring, Heavy Machinery hit Big E with the Compactor, but Xavier Woods broke it up at the last minute. Moments later, Bryan blind-tagged Rowan and got the jump on Big E, hitting him with a flying headbutt and then putting him in the LeBell Lock, which he only escaped by scooting far enough under the ropes. Rapid kicks to Big E’s chest only angered him as he rose and dared Bryan to slap him; Big E caught the last slap and responded with a lariat. He then caught a flying Bryan and tagged Woods with Bryan wiggling in his arms as New Day landed Midnight Hour to become six-time tag team champions. This was a tremendous match with a great finish and fantastic reception for the new champs. Grade: A-
Paul Heyman makes a declaration: As New Day celebrated in Gorilla position, Heyman grabbed a microphone and hit the stage. “I am Philadelphia. I am the entire concept of ‘extreme.’ So I will be damned — and I probably will be damned anyway — but I will be damned if I leave Philadelphia tonight on an extreme show without being part of history,” he said. Heyman then promised Brock Lesnar will cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase but said it would probably make him stupid to do so. “Am I telling you the truth … or am I Paul Heyman?!”
United States Championship — AJ Styles def. Ricochet (c) via pinfall to win the title:Before the bell rang, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows attacked Ricochet as he posed in the ring. Styles pulled his fellow Club members off the champion but laughed as he was able to dominate the early portion of the match against the now-injured Ricochet. It took a while, but Ricochet eventually got some offense in by flipping off of Style’s chest and hitting a step-up enziguri. He then splashed The Club and hit Styles with a springboard moonsault followed by a Northern lights suplex into a corkscrew suplex. Ricochet avoided a Phenomenal Forearm and Styles Clash but eventually got caught by a Pele kick. Ricochet then hit the challenger with a brainbuster, but when he went for another, Styles countered with the same move for a near fall. After hanging Styles up on the top rope, Ricochet hit a shooting star press from the top rope (not the turnbuckle) and would have won had Anderson not pointed out to the ref that Styles’ foot was clearly under the bottom rope. In an attempt to knock Ricochet off the top rope, Anderson succeeded in distracting both the champion and the referee. This allowed Gallows to knock Ricochet down from the top rope. As the champion was hanging off the top turnbuckle back-first into the ring, Styles locked him in the Styles Clash and hit it backward off the ropes to take the title.
This is exactly what the Balor-Nakamura match should have been earlier in the card — taking a good television match to another level with a phenomenal (pun intended) PPV bout. This was Ricochet’s best match on the main roster to this point and one of Styles’ best since during his WWE tenure. It delivered in every conceivable way with the only demerit being WWE’s continued hot-shotting of the U.S. title. That aside, this was a tremendous match and precisely what WWE should be presenting on its PPVs. Grade: A
Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall: As soon as the bell rang, Owens and Ziggler began jawing with each other. Ziggler slapped Owens in the face, so he responded with the stunner for the 1-2-3 and a 16-second victory. Owens immediately grabbed the microphone and said he would not be silenced. He called McMahon out for his loss to Taker, saying now that McMahon has taken the Tombstone Piledriver, he can “kiss my ass and go straight to hell.” Clearly this is setting up a match at SummerSlam between the two. Ziggler is a bit too high of a level of a performer to go down that easily, but the crowd popped for it. Grade: C
WWE Championship — Kofi Kingston (c) def. Samoa Joe via pinfall to retain the title: Playing off Kingston giving him the bird on SmackDown, Joe worked on the champion’s middle finger early in the match and even placed it between the steel steps before jumping on them. Joe taunted an injured Kingston, who gave him another finger in response and evened out the momentum with a cross body. Kingston escaped a crossface from Joe and hit the challenger with an S.O.S. for a 2.5 count. Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch, but as Kingston attempted to break it, Joe slammed him backwards to the canvas with a uranage and hit a senton for his own 2.5 count. As fans dueled “we want Lesnar” and “no we don’t,” Kingston caught Joe with Trouble in Paradise. Though the match was entertaining with Joe again looking like a legit main event title challenger, it is another instance of him losing a world title match (1-5 with the lone victory a disqualification). The finish also came a bit out of nowhere and felt somewhat lackluster. That’s a shame because a title change was likely the way to go here — or at least a finish that would have given Joe a reason to demand a rematch at SummerSlam. Grade: B-
Universal & Raw Women’s Championships — Seth Rollins (c) & Becky Lynch (c) def. Baron Corbin & Lacey Evans via pinfall to retain the titles (Winners Take All — Extreme Rules): Evans felt up Rollins’ chest early in the match, which led an infuriated Lynch to drill her with a kendo stick a dozen times; Rollins grabbed one and did the same to Corbin. Chairs were introduced next with Lynch hitting Evans with a Beck-sploder suplex onto two and a leg drop onto another. Lynch then hit a Van Daminator dropkick into Corbin after he caught a chair tossed by Rollins. Evans responded with a nice moonsault onto Lynch, though the champion dodged the Woman’s Right. The champions setup some tables but did not use them immediately as Corbin grabbed new kendo sticks; he and Evans teed off on Rollins’ back and then hit the champions with stereo chokeslams for two counts. After a double suplex outside the ring, the champs laid the challengers on the tables; Lynch landed a leg drop on Evans from the second rope, while Rollins splashed Corbin from the top rope.
Corbin caught Rollins’ ensuing Stomp attempt and powerbombed him, following with Deep Six for a near fall until Lynch broke it up. Lynch tossed Evans out of the ring, so Corbin shockingly picked up Lynch and hit her with End of Days, enraging Rollins, who grabbed a kendo stick and unloaded on Corbin. Rollins did the same with a chair, fell back into the corner and hit the Stomp but did not go for the fafll. With tension building, he hit it twice more for the 1-2-3 to send the crowd home happy … or so we thought … Grade: B
Universal Championship — Brock Lesnar def. Seth Rollins (c) via pinfall to win the title: Just as Rollins’ theme began playing, Lesnar’s music rang through the Wells Fargo Center speakers. Lesnar hit Rollins with a pair of German suplexes, and Heyman formally cashed in the contract with the referee. As the bell rang, Lesnar hit Rollins with an F5 to take the title with little fuss. The Philadelphia crowd cheered the surprise but booed the title change. After holding the title for 659 days since April 2017, Lesnar is once again champion following a 99-day run by Rollins. It seemed unnecessary for WWE to pull the card at the end of a four-hour PPV that had already delivered exceedingly well. Now we are back at square one with Rollins and Lesnar likely squaring off again at SummerSlam. Grade: C