Tag Team Championship Match
New Day vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c)
A trio of performers the fans seem to have turned face vs. a three that we've turned heel - well, two thirds of each, anyway - battle for the brass eagle belts on the free pre-show!
The Road to Extreme Rules
This program actually has its roots in pay-per-view (PPV) Kickoff history, since part of The Brass Ring Club's rise to the top was a victory over the then-ignored New Day before Royal Rumble in Philadelphia. For Tyson & Cesaro, that set the stage for a Fastlane win over The Usos which gave Kidd a WWE title nearly five years after he'd last held pairs gold with his Hart Dynasty partner David Hart Smith.
Xavier Woods, Big E & Kofi Kingston have experienced a rocky road, but the mountain top may finally be in sight for them. A Nation of Domination-esque faction was allegedly scrapped due to real world tension created by police treatment of communities of color, and WWE's response was to give them as blandly stereotypical a schtick as possible. The smiling, singing, dancing church folk routine was an instant dud with audiences in arenas and at home, and the trio seemed destined to remain jobbers on Superstars - just in matching outfits as opposed to one their own ring gear.
In Santa Clara last month, Catsaro defeated three other teams (including The New Day) in a fourway battle for their belts. WWE is now painting that victory as "overcoming the odds" like they would for a good guy duo. That's partially because Cesaro & Tyson's NXT pedigree, in-ring excellence, tag maneuvers and goofy charm make them fan favorites. But it's also because crowds, and one crowd in particular, forced the company's hand with regards to Kofi, Xavier and Big.
The Raw after WrestleMania crowd has their issues, so it's hard to tell if they were voicing their displeasure with The New Day's lot or just being jerks, but chanting that the group "sucks" during another fourway title match prompted a change in tone from the three men. Lead particularly by Big E, New Day would now heel-ishly insist that they were bringing positivity to the ignorant, incesssantly negative masses - whether they liked it or not.
Where once the trio had danced their way to the ring in silence, New Day was now being passionately jeered. They followed up social media jabs at the fans with outight cheating to win a match against crowd-pleasers Lucha Dragons. A follow-up victory over Kalisto & Sin Cara the Monday after that made them #1 contenders to the Swinging Cats' crown.
What's at Stake?
Jey Uso's shoulder surgery has left a power vaccuum at the top of the tag team division. The Usos have either held the titles or been in the hunt for them for years now. The next month or so will probably determine if one team takes their place or a wider array of talent will get a chance to shine in their absence.
The colorful luchadors from NXT possess the high-flying moves and generic characters that made Jimmy & Jey the safe choices to lead the tag scene, and they might even be more marketable. Continuing to get a big reaction from the Allstate Arena crowd may be even more important than who wins or loses tonight's match.
Equally important for the card is that all four men (Kofi Kingston & Big E will represent New Day in the ring) are good workers capable of spots that will fire up the crowd before the main show starts.
It seems a little early to pull the trigger on a title change, but either way, these two groups are headed in the right direction.
Watch the Extreme Rules Kickoff to see these teams develop, and find out which one leaves with the belts. And watch it along with the best wrestling fans on the internet, right here at Cageside Seats!