KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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WWE EXTREME RULES 2019 KICKOFF
JULY 14, 2019
REPORT BY MIKE F. MEYERS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Panel Members: Jonathan Coachman, Charly Caruso, Renee Young, Beth Phoenix, Sam Roberts
After a match rundown for tonight’s PPV, the panel cut to a video package of Roman Reigns’s recent involvements with Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre. Back on the panel, Sam indicated that McIntyre would embarrass the Undertaker similar to how he embarrassed Kurt Angle on Raw in November of 2018.
Jonathan announced that the first match of the Kickoff would be Finn Balor defending his Intercontinental Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura – a match that was added to the card three hours prior to the event.
Backstage, Lacey Evans was hanging out with Baron Corbin and a tea set. Corbin laid out his plans to destroy Seth Rollins tonight with a steel chair, a table, or a teapot. Evans objected to the latter. Evans predicted that the Rollins / Lynch relationship would end in heartbreak tonight.
Announcers: Corey Graves, Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
(1) FINN BALOR vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA – WWE Intercontinental Title match
After a stalemate lockup, Balor struck Nakamura with a hard right, then immediately used Nakamura’s “Come on!” taunt against him. Nakamura drove his knee through Balor’s midsection, then Balor knocked Nakamura off the corner with a right kick, sending Nakamura to the floor. Balor dove over the top rope and knocked Nakamura down with a somersault senton. Balor proceeded to throw Nakamura into the ringside barriers before rolling him back into the ring.
In the middle of the ring, Nakamura sneakily locked in an arm bar, but Balor scooted over and got a rope break. Nakamura laid in a series of knee strikes and a knee drop to the prone Balor, then pinned for a two-count. Nakamura applied a chinlock.
Balor nearly broke free with shots to Nakamura’s midsection, but Nakamura screamed and dropped him back down to the mat in a front chancery. The crowd clapped and urged on Balor. Balor hoisted Nakamura up onto his shoulders but Nakamura immediately slid down and clocked Balor with a strong right, sending him reeling. As Balor fell to the mat, he also landed an overhead Pele kick, which knocked down Nakamura.
Both wrestlers writhed on the canvas, but Balor was the first to his feet. Nakamura charged in but was met with dual boots to the face, then Balor landed a low drop kick, then took Nakamura down with an elbow across the chest and throat area. Balor executed the Slingblade, but Nakamura immediately retaliated with a kick to the face. Balor returned the favor, knocking Nakamura to the mat. Nakamura then knocked Balor down again when Balor attempted to scale the corner ropes.
In the corner, Nakamura poised to strike while waiting for Balor to get to his feet. When Nakamura charged in, Balor leaped skyward and landed a stomp on Nakamura’s chest. Balor climbed the corner again, looking to land the Coup de Grace proper, but Nakamura rolled out of the way, leveled Balor with a running knee strike to the rear of Balor’s head, then landed the Kinshasa from the front side. Nakamura covered Balor for the three count and victory.
WINNER: Shinsuke Nakamura to capture the Intercontinental Title match.
(Meyers’s Analysis: WWE continues its trend of nonexistent buildup and storytelling with this unannounced rematch from Smackdown, which itself was unannounced. The match itself had great action, as much as you could ever hope for on a pre-show. Balor landing the stomp against a running Nakamura is a complicated timing move that requires all the skills these men possess. That is to say, this match (and this championship) is too good for any pre show. A foolish waste of talent and effort by what should be two top stars.)
The New Day was interviewed via video backstage. They were arranged vertically in a totem pole fashion. Kofi indicated that at the end of the night, the New Day would be wearing all of the gold. Charly explained that they have a 33% chance of winning. Woods didn’t object to this analysis, and even expressed an optimistic happiness with the odds. Moving on to Kofi’s match against Samoa Joe, Kofi recapped how he told Joe how he felt last week, while Woods made some not-so-subtle hand gestures referring to Kofi’s middle finger attack.
Announcers: Nigel McGuinness, Vic Joseph, Aiden English
(2) DREW GULAK vs. TONY NESE – WWE Cruiserweight Title match
Before the bell rang, Vic explained that we were just over 15 minutes away from the start of Extreme Rules, suggesting some sort of precognition that this match would conclude by then.
With the time constraint established by the announce team, the match got off to a rip roaring start. The action moved from in-ring to out, and Gulak violently leveled Nese on the floor with a flying lariat from the ring apron. Gulak covered Nese for a two-count back in the ring, then locked in a chinlock. Nese broke free, but Gulak quickly took him down again with a clothesline before re-applying the chinlock. Nese escaped again and slammed Gulak to the mat and covered for a two-count.
Gulak got the upper hand briefly and landed a few kicks while holding a wristlock, but Nese suplexed Gulak backward into the turnbuckles. Nese set up Gulak in an awkwardly unlikely position across the middle rope, then moonsaulted across Gulak’s chest – a move that required Gulak to hold himself upright with his hands in order to provide Nese with a flat landing target.
Nese climbed to the top rope and successfully landed a 450 splash onto Gulak. He overshot the move and his knees, rather than his torso, struck Gulak. Nese covered for a two-count.
The wrestlers exchanged blows and chops in the middle of the ring. They provided some quick back-and-forth action culminating with Gulak power bombing Nese to the mat then covering for a two-count. Gulak got to his feet and nodded enthusiastically then executed the Cyclone Crash on Nese – a move good for the three-count.
WINNER: Drew Gulak by pinfall to retain the Cruiserweight Title.
(Meyers’s Analysis: Nese lost the Cruiserweight title at the last PPV in a triple threat without being pinned, so this rematch stands to reason. The match was fast, furious, and brief. The final sequence included interesting reversals of maneuvers that these two would come to expect from one another, which made for a cool in-ring story.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Both of these matches deserved more attention than they got on a pre show that most viewers skip, in an arena still filling with fans. Maybe an argument could be made for the Cruiserweight match not being on the main card, as the 205 roster is never featured on the main roster shows, but it’s shameful how flippant WWE is with Intercontinental matches and title changes, as seen on tonight’s Kickoff show.