The next WWE pay-per-view event is Extreme Rules presented by the Raw brand and it takes place this Sunday night in Baltimore. The main event is a Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match featuring five of Raw’s biggest names with the winner getting a Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar has been absent from WWE TV since the night after WrestleMania two months ago. He’s expected to return to Raw on June 12 to start the build for his first Universal Title defense at the July 9 PPV named Great Balls of Fire. (I laugh every time I type that!) It’s the second Raw pay-per-view without a major title match on it, which certainly hurts the brand because it doesn’t feel like a big show. It feels like another episode of Raw, except we’ll get way more in-ring action and fewer promos. At least the main event should be great.

This show is also going up against Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night. That game will probably have over 20 million viewers in the US. I’m going to watch the NBA game live and Extreme Rules after. I’m sure a lot of WWE fans will do the same. Lucky for us, WWE Network puts shows on demand as soon as they are over. So if you miss it live, you can catch the replay any time you want.

Here’s a closer look at the main event featuring Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns.

The Build

The match was announced on the May 15 edition of Raw. The reason for that is because WWE realized that Braun Strowman would need elbow surgery and would miss this show. Strowman is expected back in mid-July at last word.

If Strowman was healthy then the main event likely would have been Strowman vs. Reigns for the third time with a stipulation. Also, Rollins vs. Samoa Joe and Wyatt vs. Balor were likely to take place at Extreme Rules as well. Due to Strowman’s injury, they shuffled things up and put those remaining five guys in the same match. It’s random, but I give WWE credit for actually coming up with a new match that should be pretty good to watch.

In the build-up to the show, WWE has done various combinations of singles matches, tags and even a triple threat with all five guys. Samoa Joe got wins two weeks in a row, while Roman Reigns beat Seth Rollins clean on last week’s Raw.

The storyline could be better, but it’s really not that complicated. The winner gets a Universal Title shot against Brock Lesnar and the four losers do not.

Crowd Reaction

Balor and Rollins should get the most cheers since they are faces who are well-liked. Sometimes during Rollins’ matches, the crowd dies a bit, but he usually gets them going. Balor has exciting offense that the crowd likes.

Reigns will get the mixed reaction like usual. I think there will be more boos in this match just because a lot of fans probably don’t want him to win.

Samoa Joe is one of the better true heels in WWE. He never tries to get cheered and has the facial expressions that make people want to boo him. Bray Wyatt gets cheered once in a while, but is mostly a classic heel.

Match Quality

I think it will be a great match that will get over 20 minutes and possibly over 30 minutes as well. There’s so much talent in the match that I think it’s almost impossible for it to be a failure. Add in the fact that it’s Extreme Rules, meaning anything goes. That will allow them to use tables, bust out chairs and other weapons to try to cause damage on others. There will probably be two or three table spots as well.

There may be some awkwardness at times with five guys in the match. If four guys are paired off, then the fifth man would have to be laying on the floor for a while to sell stuff. I think all of them are experienced enough in big matches to make it work. I’m just saying five men in a match can be difficult if you don’t plan the spots well.

There should be a lot of believable near-falls as well. That’s a luxury that exists when two guys are involved in a pin and three others can break it up. Look for a lot of those spots where a guy hits a finisher, gets a two count and another guy makes a save. Easy booking.

What’s Next

The winner will get the next Universal Title shot against Lesnar while the other four men will move on to other things.

Roman Reigns is rumored to be feuding with The Miz over the Intercontinental Title. I’m not sure if WWE will still go in that direction or do something different with him.

It’s possible that WWE could go back to the Rollins/Joe rivalry because that’s not over and Wyatt/Balor was teased in the last month as well. It all depends on who wins the match.

If you’re wondering about SummerSlam, the plan is apparently Lesnar vs. Strowman there. Plans can always change, but I think it’s smart move to do that match at that show.

The Winner

It’s not an easy match to predict because Lesnar is a tweener (a mix between a face and a heel), so he could match up with anybody well. I’ll break it down by looking at each wrestler individually.

Roman Reigns – It’s rare to say that he is not going to win a pay-per-view match, but I feel confident in going against him here. The reason for that is I don’t believe WWE is going to have him face Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire in a month. They are going to save that match for WrestleMania next year if they do it. While I strongly believe Reigns will come up short here, I doubt he’s going to get pinned either.

Bray Wyatt – The stop/start push of Wyatt this year has been frustrating. I really enjoyed Elimination Chamber four months ago when WWE finally booked him well with a strong WWE Title win that night. Then he beat John Cena and AJ Styles in a great triple threat. It’s been all downhill since then. Having Wyatt win this could really help. I just don’t see him standing out over the others. Out of everybody in the match, Wyatt is the one most likely to be pinned.

Samoa Joe – I’ve wanted to see Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar for over a decade. It’s nice that we are at a point where it could happen very soon. I think it’s going to happen at one of the PPVs later this year or maybe at next year’s Royal Rumble. I’m not picking him to win here, though. I think there are two better options.

Seth Rollins – There is a bit of a history between Lesnar and Rollins. At Royal Rumble 2015, Lesnar beat Rollins and John Cena in an outstanding triple threat match that was my 2015 WWE Match of the Year. Two months later at WrestleMania 31, Rollins cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase during a Lesnar/Reigns match and became WWE Champion. At Battleground in July 2015, Rollins faced Lesnar in a singles match that was cut short when The Undertaker attacked Lesnar. There hasn’t been a Rollins vs. Lesnar singles match with an ending, so that’s a good reason to do it again.

I’m in favor of a Rollins win because I want to see what he can do with Lesnar in a high-profile singles match. I think it would be awesome. However, I’m going with a different name to win this match.

Finn Balor – I’m going with Balor because the story makes the most sense. Balor was the first Universal Champion who won the gold at SummerSlam 2016 last August. He had to give up the title due to a severe shoulder surgery and hasn’t gotten a shot at the title since his return a few months ago. I think it makes for a great story to have Balor overcome four other great wrestlers to earn his way to a title shot.

There was also a segment on Raw a few weeks ago where Paul Heyman praised Balor heavily for being a great wrestler that Lesnar wasn’t going to overlook. I don’t think that promo was random. It was done with a purpose to have fans believe in Balor as a viable threat to win the match, which he is. Finn Balor is my pick here.

Prediction: Finn Balor wins by pinning Bray Wyatt

Here’s the rest of the lineup for Extreme Rules.

Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz (If Ambrose is disqualified, he will lose the Intercontinental Title)

Both guys have lost a lot of steam since moving over from Smackdown in April. The Miz went from a guy who talked trash a lot, was effective in terms of comedy bits and had credibility to just another midcard wrestler on Raw. The fact that Ambrose, the IC Champion, isn’t in the main event of this show is telling, because you would think a current champ and last year’s top draft pick on Smackdown would be a part of a five-way main event. Instead, he’s wrestling the same guy he’s wrestled many times already on television this year.

I think a title change is going to happen here and it will be very cheap. I know that it’s possible that Maryse could try to get Ambrose disqualified, but I think that finish is too obvious. What’s more likely is Miz will try to cheat with a weapon, Ambrose will get it instead and when the ref takes it away from him, Miz will capitalize with a Skull Crushing Finale to win. It’s about the heel outsmarting the face. Rumor is that Miz will have a IC Title feud with Roman Reigns after this show, so that’s why Miz getting the title makes sense.

Prediction: The Miz becomes the Intercontinental Champion for the seventh time

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley (Kendo Stick on a Pole Match)

The build for this match has been terrible and it’s because of the creative team. Alexa Bliss tried her best to save that awful This is Your Life segment on Raw, but nobody was going to save that disaster. Look at the way Smackdown pushes their women’s division with competitive matches and a very entertaining brawl to set up a big match on a pay-per-view. It’s not that hard to do, yet if you watch Raw, it’s as if they don’t want fans watching their show with the stupid crap they put on.

Speaking of stupid, anything “on a pole” in a match is dumb. I know they are doing it because there will be a big build to see who can get their hands on a kendo stick first. However, it would be better if they just said kendo sticks and other weapons were legal. Put them on the floor or something. Putting an object on a pole isn’t very entertaining.

I’m leaning towards Bliss winning because it’s better to have a heel champion. It’s far from a lock because of how often WWE books title changes in their women’s division. I like Bayley a lot, but nobody on the Raw brand has been hurt by bad booking more than her this year. They put the Women’s Title on her too early (should have waited until WrestleMania) and she is made to look like a loser way too often.

It’s as if WWE has forgotten how to book Bayley as the most likable woman on the show even when her gimmick is hugging people! Once again, this stuff is not that hard to do, but WWE has managed to damage their Raw women’s division.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains the Women’s Title

Raw Tag Team Championships: The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus (Steel Cage Match)

I know a lot of fans probably wanted this to be a ladder match, but with Money in the Bank taking place in two weeks (with two ladder matches) it’s easy to see why WWE went a different route here. Plus, there was a ladder match at WrestleMania. Doing so many ladder matches so close to each other would be a bad move.

Tag team cage matches aren’t that exciting, but this match should feature a big cage dive spot likely from Jeff Hardy because that’s the kind of stuff he is known for. I think the Hardys will retain their titles. Their big feud will be with The Revival probably around SummerSlam. I like Cesaro/Sheamus as a team, but if they split up soon that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

Prediction: The Hardy Boyz retain their titles

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries (Submission Match)

It’s the third straight pay-per-view for this match. Neville retained at WrestleMania and lost by disqualification at Payback, which is what led to Aries getting another title shot. For them to do this match for the third time, it makes me think Aries might leave with the gold. It’s not what I would do because Neville is a great heel champion. There are a lot more face challengers for him down the road than there are heel challengers for Aries.

I’m going with the Aries win because I think WWE wants to have somebody else hold the title. It wouldn’t shock me if Neville wins it back within a few months. Good luck to them in the match because submission matches aren’t as interesting as regular matches. The lack of near-falls definitely hurts. Fans are only going to react to their signature submissions, while other submissions they try likely won’t get much of a reaction. That’s how it always is in matches like this.

Prediction: Austin Aries wins the Cruiserweight Title

Rich Swann & Sasha Banks vs. Noam Dar & Alicia Fox (Mixed Tag Team Match)

My interest is very low for this match since Banks and Fox have wrestled too often in the last month. It feels like the kind of story they are doing just to keep Banks busy while other women are battling for the title. I think Banks will get the win for her team and move on to the Women’s Title picture after this. Hopefully, Banks turns heel within a few months because the face act is boring now.

Prediction: Sasha Banks & Rich Swann win

There will probably be another match or two added, but as of this writing, nothing has been announced.

In Closing

It’s a one-match show in a lot of ways because the Extreme Rules 5-Way should be the longest and best match on the card. The undercard isn’t that bad, though. The problem is that there are four rematches on the undercard, so we’ve seen those matches before. I don’t think WWE did a good job of coming up with creative stipulations for those undercard matches either.

It’s why Raw has been boring for a few months now. I hope things become fun and exciting soon, but I don’t know if I have enough faith in the creative team at this point.

You can watch WWE Extreme Rules this Sunday on WWE Network at 8 p.m. ET with a Kickoff Show starting at 7 p.m. ET as well. I’ll be back on Monday with a review of the show.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He joined The Comeback/Awful Announcing team in 2015. Follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at Cheap pop!