What you need to know
Chicago-land was ready to get extreme, and WWE brought the PG version of that concept to the Allstate Arena for a pay-per-view (PPV) last night. And a show that not many fans had high expectations delivered a lot of good wrestling, and the company's usual mix of satisfying and infuriating story beats.
After they inexplicably left Daniel Bryan's status in limbo despite reports that he wasn't even in the area for the weekend, the Intercontinental championship match was finally scrapped a few hours before the opening bell, and Bad News Barrett bumped to the pre-show for a match against his countryman, Neville. The former IC champ and the newcomer put on a fun bout that set the tone for the night, and the high flier picked up his biggest win since coming to the main roster with his always impressive finisher.
Kendo sticks and steel chairs were the order of the day for Luke Harper and Dean Ambrose's Street Fight. Well, those and a sport utility vehicle. We never found out where the two crazed competitors drove off to, but their match started the night before taking a road trip, and wrapped up an hour later when Dean bounced Harper off a pile of chairs to pin him.
While those two lunatics were tooling around Illinois, Dolph Ziggler used a handful of tights to defeat Sheamus and avoid planting his lips on the Celtic Warrior's pasty white buttock. But when The Show-Off tried to make sure the Irishman lived up to the match's rules, the mohawked redhead used a low blow to beat feet rather kiss butt. And we also got the only title change of the evening, when positivity (and some well-timed distractions and interference) finally paid off for The New Day, and Kofi Kingston & Big E defeated Cesaro & Tyson Kidd to became the tag champs.
Being velcroed together - with a steel chain in between their nylon wristbands - kept Rusev and John Cena from living up to their past brawls. But hustle, loyalty, respect and some out of character fan service from Lana helped Cena retain his United States title. Thanks to a post-match meeting with The Authority that the Bulgarian Brute demanded, we already know that they'll battle for the red, white and blue belt again at Payback in an "I Quit" match.
The Divas title match was marred by a lack of build, unlikeable characters and the Bellas cheating to win even through the champ played babyface for much of the match, as Nikki retained over a suddenly ratchet Naomi. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns is finding his groove as a good guy now that everyone knows Vince McMahon isn't handing him the keys to the main event right away. The Big Dog and the Big Show defied everyone's expectations, and overcame the Last Man Standing stipulation, to deliver big spots and a good deal of drama en route to Reigns keeping the Giant down with the help of the Spanish announce table.
Finally, another evening of tension between Kane and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins came to end when the Director of Operations did what was best for business by chokeslammed Randy Orton...but he did the same to the champ. Kane did try to cover The Viper for his fellow Authority member, but when Orton kicked out anyway, the specifics of how exactly the RKO was banned and for whom became an issue, when The Big Red Monster took the move from Randy, who turned into Rollins hitting him with his own finisher. Seth slithered out of the cage, while the announce team openly questioned whether his win would stand up to scrutiny.
What to look out for
WWE heads across the NFC North to visit some cheeseheads and check in to one of Geno Mrosko's favorite places, Green Bay, Wisconsin!
Both The Future and his rival/partner Kane, along with anyone else in Triple H's entourage, had better be on the lookout for The Apex Predator. After waiting more than a year for a one-on-one chance to reclaim the WWE's top prize, Orton will undoubtedly be pissed about how his steel cage match ended at Extreme Rules.
Fallout shows inevitably have some rematches from the PPV, and a prime candidate for tonight is probably the tag team title bout. In addition to being one of the matches of the night, The Brass Ring Club can't be happy with the way they lost the belts. But depending on how this week's just announced King of the Ring tournament plays out, both Cesaro and Kidd could find themselves busy there and unable to pursue their old belts.
We're asking "what's next?" for a few men who were featured on last night's card - and a few who weren't. The Lunatic Fringe finally picked up a singles PPV win and seems ready for something more. Will that be KotR, the IC belt or...? Sheamus lost but got the last laugh, so he and Ziggler seem primed for more. Bray Wyatt got a promo on the pre-show that still shed no new light on his next target - could it be the man who assaulted his real life brother last night, Ryback? Or might the original rumors of a program with Reigns be true?
Find out tonight, and maybe on Tuesday, as WWE has a busy few days planned for the end of their latest free month of WWE Network!
What they should do
The return of King of the Ring has a lot of fans buzzing, including yours truly. Everyone not named Kevin Dunn loves a good tournament, and it's been a looooong time since we've had one on the main roster.
It seems even more nitpicky than normal to complain about such a gift, but it does already seem like a bit of a wasted opportunity that they didn't build to the event in a more meaningful way. Perhaps that can be spun in their favor by tying it into the unfortunate rumor that Bryan will be on the shelf for at least another month. Surviving a tournament with a legacy like KotR to claim the Intercontinental title enhances the idea that the white and gold strap is a fighting man's championship.
The two concepts have never been linked, but the last few times we've crowned a king, there hasn't be a clear benefit for the winner besides a new nickname and a crown. Seeing as its been five years since the last one, maybe whoever emerges from Tuesday night's live special should also succeed Daniel Bryan as Intercontinental champion until such time as he's cleared to return to fight again?
What we're afraid they will do
After a solid showing in Chicago and the news of a tournament, we will cut them a little slack here.
But, man, they sure could have promoted the return of King of the Ring better, huh? And, while we're at it, please don't book Big Show or Kane to win it.
Who would you like to see become the first King since Sheamus in 2010?
Give us your pick below, and check back throughout the week to find out who will wear the crown - and everything else that happens on Raw!