This Sunday night at WWE Extreme Rules in Newark, New Jersey, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns defends the coveted title against AJ Styles for the second straight pay-per-view event. It’s an Extreme Rules match, which means that anything goes, with weapons being legal. The first man to win by pinfall or submission leaves as the WWE Champion.
Since there are so many possible scenarios in play for this match, I thought it would be best to put on the proverbial fantasy booking hat to come up with four different scenarios that could work in the main event. The cool thing about fantasy booking is that any wrestling fan can come up with his or her own ideas that might make sense, but everything isn’t likely just because of the way WWE does things. I’d like to think of myself as a reasonably smart WWE fan who writes about the company for a living, so let’s begin with some reasonable fantasy booking scenarios.
Scenario #1: Roman Reigns Turns Heel and Introduces Us to The Roman Empire
Reigns and Styles have a classic, physical match with tables being broken, chairs being used and interference attempts by Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows and The Usos. It’s 20 minutes deep into a classic match. Set up a situation where both Usos are taken out by G&A on the floor. Have Reigns nail Styles with a Superman Punch. When G&A get in the ring, they go face-to-face with Reigns. The announcers freak out, saying there’s no way that Reigns can overcome this because G&A just destroyed his cousins and now they’re going to get him. Then instead of hitting Reigns, the guys attack Styles. They hit their finisher — The Magic Killer — on Styles and even do the Bullet Club shooting hand motion to really drive it home. Reigns hits a Spear to win. It’s not a clean win at all, which builds up sympathy for Styles as the guy that got screwed by his friends.
Immediately after the match, have Reigns grab a microphone with Gallows & Anderson standing behind him. Reigns says that The Club is dead while The Roman Empire is ready to rule WWE for years to come and there’s not a person that can stop them. On Raw the next night, say that Reigns wasn’t always with them, but they earned his respect with the way they fought and that’s why he invited them to be a part of his Roman Empire.
Why it would work: Reigns is already booed by the majority of the audience. Why not embrace it? Give him his own stable with Gallows & Anderson on his side. They could add one or two more guys (even The Usos) to the group in the months that follow that keep it going. Vince McMahon may want him to be “the guy” as the face of the company right now, but with the likes of Styles, Lesnar at some point, plus the returning Rollins and Cena as faces, they don’t need Reigns to be a good guy. There are also guys like Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and Sami Zayn that could be main event level faces for Roman to battle with. Let him embrace being THE bad guy. In seven months, if they want to turn Reigns into a face again in time for the Royal Rumble, they can still do it. Let’s see how he does as a heel, though. It could be the spark that WWE needs right now.
What I would do long term is have Reigns be the heel WWE Champion, then have him lose the title at some point around September or October (maybe to Cena or even Styles). Reigns gets it back in December and then do the first time ever Shield triple threat match at Wrestlemania 33 with Reigns against Rollins and Ambrose. That show can end with Ambrose winning his first WWE Title. If WWE doesn’t want to go all the way with Dean, put it on Seth. Just give us that Shield three-way for the first time at WrestleMania 33 and I’ll be a happy man.
Scenario #2: Hello, Finn Balor
— Finn Bálor (@FinnBalor) February 28, 2016
In a similar situation to the first scenario, Styles and Reigns have a competitive match that has hit the 20-minute mark with no man able to win. The lights go out in the arena, then the music of Finn Balor hits. The crowd pops huge for the music. If they don’t do the lights-out thing, it won’t generate the kind of reaction that is needed for a surprise appearance. It’s just an effective way to leave a positive first impression. With both Styles and Reigns in the ring, they should have Gallows & Anderson standing outside the ring. Everybody should be shocked that Balor is there. As an audience, our first question is: “What is he doing here?”
Balor goes in the ring wearing a black leather jacket, and extends his hand to Styles to help him up to his feet while the announcers can talk about how they were part of the same “club” in Japan. The Bullet Club history was that Balor left the group for WWE and Styles joined right after he was there. Balor and Styles weren’t actually in the group together. Both guys can look at Reigns with smiles on their faces. Then when Styles goes towards Reigns, have Balor nail Styles with a Pele Kick to the back of the head. Everybody is stunned. Balor leaves the ring. Reigns hits a Spear on Styles to retain. As soon as the bell rings, Balor attacks Reigns. When Reigns fights back, G&A help Balor. Balor takes off his jacket to reveal a “Balor Club” shirt. (WWE also has “Bulletproof Balor Club” shirts out so that could be the name too.) They end up beating down Reigns and Styles with Balor hitting his Coup de Gras double foot stomp finisher on both guys.
In this scenario, there’s no promo to end the show. Extreme Rules just ends with Balor handing G&A their “Balor Club” shirts as well. The three men stand tall to end the night, while the show goes off the air wondering what this means. No promo until Raw the next night. For people that watch NXT, they are excited because Balor on the main roster is a significant deal. For people that don’t watch NXT, there’s a significant “who is this guy?” feel to it.
Why it would work: Balor begins his main roster run as a main event guy right away. It also builds up huge interest in his June 8 NXT Takeover title match against Samoa Joe. Does he win that title again? More people might watch it after this. They should have Balor, Gallows & Anderson act as heels although they’re probably going to be cheered against Reigns. All that really matters is that this angle alone can lead to months of Balor vs. Reigns and Balor vs. Styles matches. You could also add others to this group to make it stronger – people that come in from NXT to join it would be the best scenario. Let the crowd react how they are going to react.
With Balor leading Gallows & Anderson, it also could set up a dream summer feud with those three going up against Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose in a Shield reunion. Put AJ with the Shield guys and get a fourth guy with Balor Club (perhaps Samoa Joe), then all of a sudden you’ve got a potential for a Wargames type match at Survivor Series too. There are so many options involving other talent.
Scenario #3: Seth Rollins Returns with a Vengeance
Former WWE Champion Seth Rollins is due back any week now. He tore his ACL/MCL and meniscus back in November and earlier in the week, there was a story saying he was back at WWE’s Performance Centre getting ready with a potential June 6 return date on Raw. That date hasn’t been confirmed by WWE, which would suggest a surprise return. It would be better to bring him back as a surprise at this show in order to build up the Raw audience for this Monday, knowing that John Cena is also back on the Monday after that.
For this scenario to work, they should make G&A and The Usos non factors in the finish. They can try to get involved, but have them get taken out. Do something in the match where Styles has a clear advantage. Since Reigns drove Styles through a table before, have Styles drive him through a table in this match. They go back in the ring with Styles ready to hit Styles Clash when all of a sudden, some guy in all black attire attacks him from behind by jumping the barrier and going into the ring. He’s got some generic black wrestling mask on his head. He picks up Styles, hits the Styles Clash on him on a steel chair and it’s done in a way that makes it look like Styles was knocked out. He’s not moving. Reigns is just sitting against the turnbuckle looking shocked. The masked guy stares at Reigns while he takes off the mask with the camera zooming in on Reigns who is stunned. You hear the crowd cheering, then the masked guy turns around and it’s Seth Freakin’ Rollins with this evil grin on his face. He can do this over-the-top, evil laugh to sell it even more.
(As a side note, I think Rollins hitting the Curb Stomp while he’s still wearing the mask would be even better. However, WWE apparently banned the Curb Stomp last year, so having Rollins steal the Styles Clash for that moment would work.)
Rollins slides out of the ring. Reigns is still sitting against the turnbuckle. Rollins yells at him with the camera close in on them: “That is MY WWE Title! I never lost it and I’m the man that is going to beat you for it.” Even though it was a heel act, the crowd would be cheering all of this just because Rollins is respected by the fans and he’s been missed after being out for seven months. With Styles selling the move in a huge way, Reigns doesn’t even have to hit a Spear to win. He just rolls over Styles, covers him and retains. With the show off the air, people can wonder if Rollins did that to help Reigns or was it just a way to send a message to Styles and Reigns that Rollins is back.
Why it would work: Instead of doing Rollins vs. Reigns right away, you can save it. They can do Rollins vs. Styles at Money in the Bank for the first time ever. They also shouldn’t have Rollins in a match on television before that match. He can work live events, but his first televised match should be the “dream match” with Styles. Fans will have to watch the pay-per-view to see if Rollins is really back or if he’s still hurt.
After Rollins wins against Styles, the next night on Raw it seems like Reigns vs. Rollins is coming at the next PPV. Instead, Triple H makes his return to TV, beats the crap out of Rollins as a way to cement Rollins as a face and it leads to Rollins beating former mentor Triple H at SummerSlam. I’m not sure what they would do for Battleground in July — it’s obvious that SummerSlam is more important. As for Reigns, they should probably put him against Cena or Lesnar at SummerSlam.
As a side note, they could even use this storyline in the Shane vs. Stephanie power struggle story. Have Rollins come back because Shane did flew him into the show without consulting Stephanie. Then a month later, she brings back Triple H to attack Rollins without telling Shane about it. All of a sudden, there’s more fire to that story too.
Patience is key. Build up to Reigns vs. Rollins. No need to rush it.
Scenario #4: AJ Styles Loses The Match And “The Club”
The Club seems like a temporary thing to me. They aren’t even shilling merchandise for the trio, which is a sign that it isn’t going to last. Granted, WWE did sell Y2AJ merch when they ended up breaking up quickly, but that was more than likely a Chris Jericho idea to work the fans.
This one would be more of a basic, simplistic story. You have Gallows & Anderson involved in the finish, where they have completely decimated Reigns. Perhaps they do a Shield-like Powerbomb that drives Reigns through a table. Styles may be out of it and didn’t have any part of it. They hand Styles a chair, tell him to beat on Reigns with it and win the title. Just when it looks like Styles is going to destroy Reigns with the chair, Anderson nails him with a Rocket Kick to head. Styles is out cold. Gallows & Anderson yell at Styles saying he’s out of The Club or something like that. They leave the ring. Reigns hits a Spear and wins. The show ends with poor Styles left alone, while Reigns cradles the WWE Title in his arms after a hard-fought battle.
Why it would work: The end result leaves us with so many questions: Did G&A do that to help Reigns? Did they do it on their own? Is somebody else giving G&A orders? Long term, they should build up to the return of Balor using this angle. Styles should want revenge against both guys, then when it looks like he’s about to finally get it, that’s when Balor is revealed as the leader of the Balor Club or Bulletproof Club or whatever name WWE wants to use. It makes sense to debut Balor after he loses the NXT Title match on June 8.
What WWE gets out of this scenario is more of a slower, long-term build to some bigger angles. It’s important not to rush things and if they were to do it this way, they’re taking their time to tell the story of Styles as this loner who has to find a way to overcome obstacles. It actually adds a lot to Styles’ character, because then he becomes a sympathetic babyface that will have a tough time getting to the top. Eventually, he’ll get there and it will mean something when he does become WWE Champion, whether that’s later in 2016 or next year.
As for Reigns, this keeps him a face, which is what I think WWE wants. He didn’t do anything cheap in the match. He just capitalized on the situation to keep his title. The fans that hate him will continue to do so, while the others will like him for being a resilient champion.
The Scenarios Summary
My personal favorite scenario would be the second one just because I think Balor showing up that way would make him a huge star. The first and third ideas would also be pretty cool because heel Roman or a returning Seth are the kinds of things that could make things hotter in WWE heading into the summer. I think the fourth scenario is the least interesting of the four, but also the one that WWE is more likely to do.
Did you notice that in every scenario, I tried to drive home the point of building something to the next night’s Raw? With WWE’s TV audience numbers going down, they need to do bigger angles to build up Raw more. It’s something they used to do all the time.
In each case, Reigns retains the WWE Title. That’s my prediction for the match on Sunday. I think there’s very little chance that Reigns loses the gold because WWE really wants to legitimize him as the champ and if they were to book him in a two-month title reign, it would do more harm than good. Styles is great. He’s arguably been the best WWE performer so far this year. I just don’t think they are going to put the WWE Title on him on Sunday. The Pick: Roman Reigns
Predictions For The Rest Of WWE Extreme Rules
Asylum Match: Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose
It’s the debut of the “Asylum Match” in WWE, which is where a black cage surrounds the ring and on top of that cage are weapons that can be used to win the match. You can’t win by escaping the cage. You can only win by pinfall or submission.
This feud has been built up well with both guys delivering several good promos, even though there was some silliness involved with a plant being used as weapon as well as a jacket being torn apart. It’s their second PPV match, with Ambrose winning at Payback also. Look for Ambrose winning again, since he’s the younger guy and Jericho’s there to put him over. The Pick: Dean Ambrose
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
This is a difficult match to call because any of the four guys make sense. The Miz has done well as champion, Owens was great as a two-time champion, Cesaro would really benefit from winning the title, and Zayn is a star on the rise that deserves it too. In Owens’ case, he seems ready to move up to that next level, while his rivalry with Zayn can continue without a title.
For the last month, I kept thinking Cesaro would win because he’s such a great performer that would bring credibility. When thinking about it in the last couple of days, I keep thinking that Miz has had the title for less than two months and he’s done a great job. Why end it so soon? In a four-way match, he can get a pin after somebody else hits a finishing move and it can be done in a really cheap way. Miz is doing a great job with wife Maryse at his side, so keep it on him for now. The Pick: The Miz
Submission Match for the Women’s Championship: Charlotte vs. Natalya
It’s another Payback rematch as Charlotte defends against Natalya again, this time without her daddy Ric Flair in her corner to help her win. It seems like they’re going to tell the story of Charlotte getting the job done without Flair to prove that she’s more than capable of doing things on her own. Even though I think Natalya’s very good and should have another title reign (the last one was in 2010), Charlotte will likely retain here while building to a SummerSlam showdown to Sasha Banks. The Pick: Charlotte
Tag Team Tornado Match: The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
A tornado match means all four guys can be in the ring at the same time. They did the match on Monday’s Raw with The Usos winning clean, which is a surprise. This one shouldn’t be a surprise as Gallows & Anderson overpower them to get the win. It would be foolish to have G&A lose again. The Pick: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
United States Championship: Kalisto vs. Rusev
The big man vs. little man story is easy to tell. Rusev is at his best when he’s acting like a bully that is all cocky around smaller guys. Kalisto is very good as the underdog. Leading up to the match, Rusev was my pick because Kalisto hasn’t done much as US Champion. Then Rusev destroyed him on Raw, which made me pause a bit because if a guy looks strong on TV, they often lose on the PPV. In this case, though, I feel like they have to put the gold on Rusev because he really needs it to get momentum back after failing with the League of Nations stable. Plus, with John Cena back in a week, there’s a ready made feud for Rusev. The Pick: Rusev
WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains
This feud has been pretty average with The Vaudevillains as stepping up to the main roster as heel title challengers. It doesn’t feel like the kind of feud that is going to lead to a title change just because there’s Anderson and Gallows looming on the horizon. Have New Day retain their titles here in clean fashion leading to that feud with Anderson/Gallows in the summer. The Pick: The New Day
No Disqualification: Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler (Kickoff Show)
The Kickoff Match means it takes place in the 7 p.m. ET hour, leading up to the PPV starting at 8 p.m. ET. Even though Corbin beat Ziggler clean on Raw two weeks ago, they’re doing it again. Ziggler beat Corbin on the Kickoff Show at Payback, which was a surprise. Could he do it again? Probably not. Corbin’s a big guy whos younger and WWE likely wants to push, so he’ll likely get the win in impressive fashion. The Pick: Baron Corbin
Extreme Rules could be one of the best WWE PPVs of the year because it’s a lineup full of good matches from top to bottom. There isn’t a match on there that will be that bad, assuming they all get a decent amount of time. When you have seven matches on the PPV portion of the show, it means there’s plenty of time to give every match close to 10 minutes at least with the bigger matches getting 15+ minutes. While Raw and Smackdown may be boring at times, Extreme Rules should deliver the kind of quality wrestling action we expect on a pay-per-view broadcast. Let’s just hope there are some twist and turns along the way to add to the stories as well.
If you want to watch Extreme Rules, you can do so on WWE Network starting at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday night. The Kickoff Show starts at 7 p.m. ET and that’s available on the WWE Network as well as YouTube, Facebook and other places. I’ll be back on Monday with a reaction article regarding everything that takes place on the show. Have a great weekend.