WWE The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020 Review feat. Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt

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WWE The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020

For this year’s edition of Extreme Rules, WWE decided to change the vibe of the show entirely. Rather than merely being a showcase of chaotic brawling, this would be The Horror Show, with an experience akin to low-budget thrillers (kind of like WWE Studios’ offerings). But how would The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020 transpire as an overall show, especially one without proper fans in attendance? Let’s delve into the night that WWE went extreme, or should that be extremely horrific?

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tables Match
The New Day vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro

Although the greater focus here was on the horror aspect, this show would not lose its “extreme” personality. And few matches are more closely associated with the idea of Extreme Rules, and its forefather ECW, than the Tables match. So, it was fitting that a Tables match would open The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020, with Big E and Kofi Kingston defending the belts that E won back in April against the combo of Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro (a.k.a. The Artist Collective). And New Day marked the occasion by hurling their entrance gear at Corey Graves, as is now tradition.

This bout stemmed from a previous title defence on SmackDown a few weeks ago, with all four demonstrating chemistry under regular rules. Therefore, on a grander stage (albeit while still in the Performance Center), it made sense that the two teams would once again click to provide an enjoyable match. And that’s what they did, with the foursome generating as much excitement to open a PPV as anyone can achieve in these strange times. Of note, Kingston dropkicked Nakamura hard into the transparent boards at ringside, followed by him hitting Cesaro with a dropkick into the steel stairs. Shin got revenge by almost driving Kofi onto his head off the top rope. Big E’s mid-ropes Spear to Cesaro was another highlight.

In the end, it would be Cesaro and Nakamura who surprisingly left the Performance Center as the champs. They achieved this accolade after a pretty dangerous bump. Cesaro powered out of a potential Kofi hurricanrana off the top ropes, and after a Nakamura boot, Cesaro powerbombed Kingston through two stacked tables at ringside to win a very good opening contest. The crashing sound of the final spot was fantastic. Afterwards, Cesaro noted how they’d proven their point after previously feeling overlooked.

Backstage, Alexa Bliss attempted to help motivate Nikki Cross, Asuka and Kairi Sane. This served a purpose, but it was a bit painful to watch.

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Bayley (C) vs. Nikki Cross

Nikki had earned this title shot at The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020 by winning a four-way #1 contender’s bout. And given the length of Bayley’s reign on top of the blue brand’s female division, this could arguably be seen as Nikki’s biggest bout to date, certainly as a singles competitor. Cross brought Alexa Bliss to ringside with her, while Bayley was accompanied by her own bestie, Sasha Banks. Keep in mind that Bayley and Sasha had previously dethroned BlissCross for the Women’s Tag Team Titles, so these four had a history, with Bayley and Nikki being the central focus on this particular night.

Nikki was still attempting to build her confidence early on, and soon left a statement when she struck Bayley with a hard slap to the face. This was followed by a sudden swinging neckbreaker, which came within an eyelash of ending Bayley’s lengthy run as champion. Two further pinfall attempts came from consecutive top-rope crossbodies, before Cross struck her with a third dive at ringside. Bayley soon regained control by driving Cross’ face into the ringside plexiglass boards. At one point, both competitors ended up scrapping between the ring apron at the same time, which has to be a first. Nikki survived a Bayley-To-Belly Suplex, which raised hopes that it could be Nikki’s night. But Bayley would retain, albeit after controversial tactics. Sasha headed up on the apron to argue with the referee and Alexa, having just handed a custom ring to Bayley. The titleholder then wellied Nikki in the ribs with it, leading to a facebuster plant to triumph in an enjoyable match.

We then had a Firefly Fun House with a suitably horror feeling. Bray Wyatt as the host mimicked some sort of mad scientist from a 1960s movie. He requested footage of something truly horrifying, with Ramblin’ Rabbit inadvertently showing clips from the recent karaoke contest on SmackDown. Wyatt admonished the bunny before vowing to do sufficient damage to Braun Strowman later on.

WWE United States Championship Match
Apollo Crews (C) vs. MVP

We were then meant to see Apollo Crews defend his United States Title against MVP at The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020. However, according to WWE (since I’m not sure if it’s legit or not), Crews was injured at the hands of Bobby Lashley and his full nelson submission hold, thus causing him to suffer a bulging disc in his neck. Therefore, MVP cut a promo alongside Lashley where he essentially declared himself as the new United States Champion in Crews’ absence, adorning his own version of the US gold. We’ll have to wait and see if this title change sticks or if, as I would assume, Apollo faces and beats MVP at a future date.

Eye For An Eye Match
Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins

Ohhh, boy. So, back in May, Seth Rollins went bonkers and attacked Rey Mysterio in an attempt to seriously injure his eye. Mysterio has worn a patch over the eye under his mask ever since. Now, normally, the term “an eye for an eye” is used to simply emphasise one’s desire for revenge. Here at The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020, though, the agreement went a bit further than that. According to the match stipulation, the winner would literally have to extract an eye from the skull of their opponent. What the hell??? Especially in the PG era (assuming that this still is the PG era), this sounds ridiculous. The mere prospect seemed unnecessarily graphic, but at the same time, it did raise intrigue as to how WWE could pull this off … sorry, how WWE could make this happen.

Rollins brought pliers to the ring, adding to the bizarre nature of this contest. The two men went back and forth early on with Mysterio looking strong by attacking Seth from behind to start the bout (even though Randy Orton was deemed to be a right villain for doing the same to Edge at WrestleMania 36). From there, the two men went back and forth, resulting in Rollins nailing Mysterio with an impressive yet brutal Falcon Arrow onto the ring apron (“the hardest part of the ring”, remember).

From there, it was all about each man attempting to use various weapons to remove the other person’s eye (you read that right). A kendo stick, a steel bar, a pen, the corner of the announcer’s table and even a tag rope all came into play. Not forgetting the pilers, though these weren’t implemented quite as viciously as when Triple H removed Batista’s nose ring back at WrestleMania 35 (imagine how a brand new wrestling fan would feel if this was the first match they ever saw).

As the few spectators at ringside bizarrely began singing “Ole!” to add to the ludicrous nature of everything, Rollins pounded Rey with the kendo stick a little bit more. Seth even tied the stick into the ring post to try and send Mysterio eye-first into it, but he avoided the contact. Mysterio then made his usual comeback, which included a Frog Splash. Two brutal sunset flips to Seth into the barricade gave Rey’s fans the belief that he would exact full retribution on the Messiah. This feeling increased when Rey broke up the kendo stick and tried to drive it into Seth’s face with the sharpest end (are we sure that this is the PG era?). A 619 sent Seth to ringside, before he drilled Rollins with a Stomp.

Rey removed his eye patch as he tried to make Seth pay by sending his eye into the steel stairs, as per the original Raw angle. But a low blow saved Rollins, with a superkick knocking Mysterio down before Seth hit his own Stomp finishing move. Seth then completely repeated the Raw assault via the steps, but as Rollins prepared himself for a further attack, he stopped short. That’s because Mysterio’s eye had popped out (yep), and the bell was called. Samoa Joe dead-panned “It’s out”, as we saw a close-up of what looked to be a rather crude false eye (as if he was gonna lose his actual eye) from the reverse position sticking out. Rollins threw up at ringside to add to the baffling nature of events. Commentary and those at ringside fell silent, taking in what we had just seen. The “fans” (okay, the NXT trainees) booed Rollins as he walked away, seemingly shocked that he actually achieved his goal.

My goodness. Well, the match itself was actually rather good, with some great spots and a level of violence not seen in WWE for many years. But the premise of the bout overshadowed everything, and while I wasn’t sure how they would deliver a proper climax, what we saw just felt … weird. At best, it was cheesy as hell; at worst, it was an all-time bad visual, and not because WWE went too far, but because it was simply not believable. The finish will be what this match is remembered for, which is a shame because the action was of a high standard. Incidentally, if any bout in 2020 should have received the cinematic treatment, it would have been this one.

Backstage, Bayley pretended to show sympathy for Rey Mysterio, but instead used his plight as a reason to mock him and emphasise her superiority as a double champion. Sasha Banks joined in the fun, ahead of her upcoming clash. We also had a vignette which showed the Wyatt swamp, along with a Braun Strowman voiceover to discuss his history with Bray Wyatt. If you think that WWE were killing time here, you’d be right. (Incidentally, I should point out that a planned Bar Fight between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy, which could have padded out the running time, was postponed to SmackDown instead.)

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Asuka (C) vs. Sasha Banks

I’m still at a loss to explain how Sasha from SmackDown is able to challenge Asuka for the Raw Women’s Title at The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020, even given that Banks is one half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions. Kairi Sane of the Kabuki Warriors accompanied Asuka, while Sasha had Bayley at her side. Bayley, incidentally, let out a tribal scream that Melina would be proud of while Sasha was being introduced by Mike Rome. As a side-note, so much for Shayna Baszler’s push, as she didn’t even get the opportunity to face Asuka after Nia Jax’s previous failed challenges.

These two proved to have some real chemistry here. The submission counters were of a high quality early on, though the strikes were just as noteworthy, an example being Asuka nailing Banks with a huge kick to avoid a top rope attack. (Incidentally, why does Asuka wear a partially-ripped T-shirt during her matches these days? It stood out like a sore thumb to me during this bout.) Sasha then went to work on wearing Asuka down, which included the targeting of The Empress Of Tomorrow’s fingers. A wicked reverse strike followed by a Codebreaker within the turnbuckles turned the tide back in the champion’s favour. Banks tried to channel Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21 with an attempt to back suplex Asuka off the apron; Asuka also tried this, but to no avail. This spot culminated in Sasha powerbombing Asuka straight into the ringside plexiglass, which had been used often during this show.

A Sasha frog splash led straight into the Bank Statement, as Samoa Joe proclaimed “She’s got it locked on dirty!” Further strong near-falls between both resulted in Sasha impressively back-flipping out of an attempted Asuka back suplex off the turnbuckles. Banks seemed to tweak her knee upon attempting a subsequent attack from the ropes, which may or may not have been part of the match story (I’m guessing it wasn’t). As Asuka tried to lock Sasha in her submission hold, Kairi prevented Bayley from interfering, only for Sane to take a Bayley-To-Belly Suplex. Sasha then got trapped in the Asuka Lock, so Bayley tossed a Tag Team Title into the ring as a distraction. As the referee went to remove it, Bayley ran in to try and attack Asuka, only to taste a kick; somehow, the ref didn’t disqualify Banks upon seeing Bayley in the ring.

Sasha then tried to use the same belt, with the official taking it off her; this confab led to Asuka accidentally spraying green mist into the ref’s eyes. This allowed Bayley to finally hit Asuka with the title, and she then removed the ref’s top and placed it on herself. So, when Banks covered Asuka, Bayley feigned the role of a referee by counting the three and demanded that the bell be rung. Bayley then presented Sasha with the Raw Women’s Title, and the twosome ran off having seemingly collected all of the women’s division prizes. This had a real screwjob ending, which sadly negated the fifteen minutes or so of hard work that went into it. That being said, I’m assuming that Sasha’s win won’t stand, and that Asuka will face and defeat her in a proper rematch (presumably at SummerSlam).

Charly Caruso then told us that Rey Mysterio may have suffered globe luxation, though there’s a chance that he would be able to eventually regain his vision. As for whether this storyline will last long enough for Mysterio to believably regain his sight? We’ll have to wait and see (did you notice what I did there?).

WWE Championship Extreme Rules Match
Drew McIntyre (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler

The story here was that Ziggler wanted a WWE Title shot after his previous partnership with McIntyre helped him to regain his place on the main roster. As a courtesy, Drew offered to allow Dolph to pick the stipulation for his title opportunity at The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020. Ziggler was happy to take him up on that, but he decided not to share the rules of the bout until bell-time came around. Would Ziggler pick a Steel Cage bout? Or a Ladder match? Or even an Iron Man showdown? No. Instead, Dolph revealed that this would be an Extreme Rules match, but with a twist: the anything-goes mantra only applied to him. Therefore, Dolph could do whatever he wanted within the rules of the contest, whereas McIntyre had to avoid being disqualified or counted out. Genius! I mean, a similar stipulation worked out for Carlito at Unforgiven 2007, didn’t it? Actually, no: he lost to Triple H. So it was clear that Drew would still have a strong chance of winning, though Ziggler did add that even if McIntyre got DQ’d or counted out, he would lose the gold to Dolph.

McIntyre still dominated the early going, before Dolph struck with a rake to the eyes. Ziggler brought in a steel chair and dared Drew to use it and get disqualified, but the Scotsman was too smart for that. The bout descended to ringside (as every match seemed to on this night), and once again, the plexiglass came into play. Ziggler brought out a table, with McIntyre having to divert the direction of a suplex to avoid the table causing him to indirectly lose the WWE Championship. As the bout wore on, it felt like Ziggler was out of his league, with even the stipulation only giving him a faint hope of success rather than a guaranteed pathway to victory.

A kick to the balls by Dolph did raise his odds of triumphing, though. From there, Ziggler was able to start using the steel chairs properly, which included several strikes to the back of the Scottish Psychopath. One of those occurred as Drew had his throat over another chair, which almost led to Dolph scoring the shock win. Drew did rebound by hurling Ziggler across the announcer’s table, even if he was still suffering the effects of the chair strikes. His attempt to regain control took a blow when Dolph struck with a Famouser off the announcer’s desk onto the ringside mats.

After enduring further assaults, McIntyre reacted proper with a slingshot to Dolph into – yes! – the plexiglass. A reverse Alabama Slam had Drew setting up for a Claymore Kick, but Dolph responded with a chair to the leg and a Zig Zag for a two-count. Ziggler then hit his big move of the match: a huge elbow off the top rope onto Drew and through the table from earlier on. Drew came close to losing via countout, but he made it in before the ten-count, as Ziggler shouted “NO!” We often say that during your matches, Dolph.

The challenger hit a Famouser, Zig Zag and Uranage (the latter onto a chair) in one combination, yet McIntyre survived it all. Dolph screamed “Why won’t you die?” Ziggler’s title hopes did die moments later, though, as Drew struck with the match-winning Claymore Kick as DZ was lining up a superkick. This was an entertaining clash that told a logical story, but it lacked drama because it was obvious that Dolph wasn’t winning. With a more credible challenger, this could have been a show-stealer. Instead, it was good, yet forgettable. I should note that some of the planted ringside fans totally overdid it when it came to celebrating Drew’s victory.

Swamp Fight
Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt

In the main event of The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020, we had a cinematic battle between the Universal Champion and the man who held the title at the turn of the year. Wyatt had targeted Strowman shortly after WrestleMania 36, though Braun did pin him at Money In The Bank. Wyatt revealed that he wasn’t through with Strowman, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the Firefly Fun House host, or even The Fiend, that would go after him. Instead, it was the old-school version of Bray Wyatt, he of the rocking chair and the flowery shirts, that was going to deal with the Monster Among Men. A Swamp Fight was proposed, with each character being on board for it. And so we headed to Wyatt’s home for this battle.

Sporting a red-and-blue shirt and a black hat, Wyatt sat in his rocking chair as a car pulled up. It was, of course, Braun Strowman, who presumably learned to drive a BMW while on the swamp turf many years ago. As we saw footage interspersed of their previous history in 2015-2016, Strowman said “I’m home”. The lights then went out, and when they returned, Wyatt had gone. Strowman won and got off … only joking. He instead read a sign “abandon all hope ye who enter here”, as if this was a dingo dollar challenge on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! Braun was distracted by animal sounds, which shouldn’t have shocked him since, you know, he lived there. Random onlookers then tried to beat up Braun, while FFH Wyatt acted like a cheerleader to support Strowman. Braun survived this challenge, only to take a shovel to the back. The man who attacked him was … Braun Strowman, circa 2015. A further shovel strike knocked “new” Braun out cold. Keep following me here.

The 2020 Strowman came to inside a barely-lit room while chained to a rocking chair. Wyatt then appeared to his old theme song, carrying his old-school lantern. At this point, it became less of a match and more of a tense discussion, with Wyatt taunting Strowman by suggesting he was already dead, before saying that he missed his old Monster friend. Bray then grabbed Braun by the face while telling him that he wasn’t Strowman’s enemy, and he also discussed the idea of an infection akin to bacteria (what a time to pull that analogy out). Bray then talked bollocks to try and get Braun back on his side, but Strowman wasn’t interested. Eventually, Wyatt told Braun that he would show him something “really scary”. It was … a serpent. And the snake seemingly bit Braun’s face, before the camera cut back outside.

Now, Strowman was by the campfire (I guess Bray hosts a scouting trip on his days off), and he was still pummelling Bray’s, erm, neighbours, I guess? Does this mean that the previous Wyatt segment was fictitious in Braun’s mind? Who knows? Somehow, this led to one of the men being set on fire, as Braun laughed. Strowman is SmackDown’s top babyface, by the way. Then, we heard a voice from a female, which said “come home”. It was Alexa Bliss, Braun’s former Mixed Match Challenge partner. Was she posing as Sister Abigail? Or has she been evil all along? As Braun headed towards her, the hologram disappeared. But Wyatt did reappear, as he gauged at Strowman. Braun reacted by chokeslamming Wyatt onto a canoe (I’m not making this up), and he began to walk away. But he turned around and saw the same lifeboat heading back towards him. Bray is a member of the RNLI as well, I assume.

Instead of just walking away, Strowman returned to the scene, only to see that Wyatt had vacated the boat. Bray then reappeared to use an oar to whack Strowman, as he then tried to drown his former pal. And he seemed to succeed, as both men went under the water. All of a sudden, Strowman resurfaced and attempted to, well, save his life by swimming away; Wyatt had, again, disappeared. I’m sure fans at home were thrilled to see Strowman coughing repeatedly. Braun did swim to safety, with Wyatt again assaulting him at the edge of the swamp. Bray said “look what you made me do”, just like Taylor Swift, who may be Sister Abigail after all. When Strowman returned to his feet, Bray simply laughed. Braun booted him into the water, and Strowman waited to see if Bray would come back up again. Strowman didn’t think he would, and so he said “It’s over”, with the watermark even showing. But a hand came up to drag Braun back down, Mandible Claw-style. Even Bray couldn’t escape this time. The water then turned blood red, with the reappearance of The Fiend, who simply said “Let me in” as the show ended. Those who watched the Swamp Fight for a Fiend cameo had to be delighted at seeing him for the final 20 seconds.

Well, that was something different. Some have heavily panned this online because it wasn’t a real match. Yet the same could be said for the Firefly Fun House scrap between Wyatt and John Cena at WrestleMania 36. It wasn’t anything worth going out of your way to see by any means, but it did meet the expectations of some absolute craziness amidst the weird world of Bray Wyatt, and the Alexa tie-in could be interesting to keep an eye on. Of course, the whole purpose was to set up a Strowman vs. Fiend match for SummerSlam, which seemed to have been achieved. Overall, though, I’d have definitely preferred to see the WWE Title match go on last, because The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020 ending with this (even for The Horror Show) felt rather meh.

Summing this up, then, WWE The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020 was a rather unusual PPV by a company often criticised for failing to take chances. Ironically, its strengths lied in the regular wrestling action, with numerous bouts offering strong performances. I personally enjoyed the Tables match and Asuka vs. Sasha the most, both of which were as traditional as WWE matches can be. The booking was ultimately the real head-scratcher, with the finish to Asuka vs. Sasha being particularly odd.

And of course, we come to the horror aspects (incidentally, couldn’t WWE have saved a horror-themed show to be timed with Halloween in October?). These were incorporated fairly well from a kayfabe standpoint, but I doubt anyone came away from this event thoroughly impressed by WWE’s take on the most terrifying of all entertainment genres. The Eye For An Eye match, with the daft stipulation belying the high-quality efforts by both combatants, will likely be the lasting impression of the night, but not for the right reasons. And the Wyatt Swamp Fight is already proving divisive, but very few have come out and said that they loved it. So, The Horror Show At Extreme Rules 2020 was a really strange card on the whole, though one that at least will be fairly memorable, for good reasons and bad.