WWE Extreme Rules 2017 is setting up to be an explosive event, a WWE Raw-branded show that features four championships being contested at Royal Farm Arena in Baltimore.
If WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar had not been on hiatus, it could have been one of the most anticipated cards on the calendar. Even without him, though, this pay-per-view figures to be a high-impact show.
The current championship lineup for WWE Extreme Rules 2017 includes:
Austin Aries vs. Neville for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship (the title can change hands on a disqualification) Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women's Championship (Kendo Stick on a Pole Match) Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Hardy Boyz for the Raw Tag Team Championships
History tells us that of the four titles on the line, at least one will wind up on a new Superstar. At least one championship has changed hands in four of the last five years.
With the newly minted Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view the following month, WWE could flip a championship or two now with the idea of building longer feuds that would culminate at SummerSlam in August.
Let's take a look at the titles most likely to change hands at this year's edition of Extreme Rules.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Of all the titles on the line at Extreme Rules, the Intercontinental Championship is most likely to find a new owner.
Say what you will about The Miz, but his recent intercontinental championship reign was one of—if not THE—best part of WWE programming over the last year.
Dean Ambrose, for all of his antics and energy, is not the champion The Miz was, or can be. That much has been clear since he claimed the title from The A-Lister in January.
Ambrose was the second-best Superstar in his short-lived feud with Baron Corbin, and the decision to not award The Lone Wolf's meteoric rise with an Intercontinental Championship reign at WrestleMania 33 remains one of that show's biggest misses.
The Miz cheated, slithered and bamboozled his way to victories during his title reign, making fans loathe him and wife Maryse more and more each week. He was a perfect heel champion who found new ways to hold on to his championship. His unadulterated commentary—whether in the ring, backstage or on Talking Smack prior to the Superstar Shakeup—was in a class of its own.
Plus, WWE seems to have bigger plans for the IC title. According to Billi Bhatti of Wrestling Inc., the company is planning a program between The Miz and Roman Reigns. Having the intercontinental title as part of that program is a no-brainer.
As Bleacher Report's Ryan Dilbert noted, there is an "innate appeal" to The Miz versus Reigns:
"Reigns needs a rival who he can lean on for the verbal side of a feud. He's best suited to being concise and intense, as well as issuing more punches than quips. The Miz is a perfect match in that way."
Putting the title back on The Miz at Extreme Rules—especially should a feud with Reigns take shape immediately afterward—would once again put the spotlight on the brand's secondary title, especially when Lesnar returns to action.
WWE needs to make sure that title remains in the forefront as much as possible, as Lesnar's presence could essentially dwarf the rest of the roster.
Ambrose has shown he doesn't have the capability to elevate that belt. The Miz, on the other hand, has proved he can.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The reintroduction of The Hardy Boyz at WrestleMania 33 was a great feel-good story and an exciting moment from The Grandest Stage of Them All. Having the duo capture the WWE Tag Team Championships made sense, and their current run has been a fun ride.
But Extreme Rules is a perfect time for this story to end. WWE has a great thing going with Cesaro and Sheamus, especially since their heel turn at Payback.
WWE needs to keep the momentum going for Cesaro and Sheamus, or else risk ruining another heel tag team like it has with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.
As Jesse Borek of FanRag recently wrote: "Cesaro and Sheamus seem to have now found both a gimmick (tough-talking heels with bomber jackets) and in-ring style (rough and bruising) that work for them ... The match will not serve as the be-all, end-all for the grouping, but a loss will severely hamper their ceiling."
Losing the titles, especially to a duo that has shown no remorse or restraint from attacks on the champions, can also help morph Matt and Jeff Hardy into what the WWE Universe has long been waiting to see—their broken alter egos.
Of course, there are hurdles to that endgame: PWInsider.com reported negotiations are stalled (h/t Nick Hausman of WrestleZone). The desire to see a Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero in WWE is certainly appealing, especially after Matt's stated desire, in an interview with SPORTBible, to face Bray Wyatt as his broken self.
With or without a character change, though, Extreme Rules should be a time to change the narrative in the tag team division. Having The Hardyz become predators instead of prey is a good start, which means dropping the belts to the Raw brand's newest bads.
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