PHILADELPHIA — If there was any kind of asterisk attached to Drew Gulak’s WWE Cruiserweight Title victory last month, it was that he didn’t pin then-champion Tony Nese to achieve it during a Triple Threat Match that also included Akira Tozawa. But the events of Extreme Rules Kickoff put any lingering uncertainties to rest, as Gulak stifled The Premier Athlete in a hard-hitting, one-on-one match to keep his reign alive.

Drew Gulak laces Tony Nese with a flying clothesline: WWE Extreme Rules 2019 Kickoff

Drew Gulak leaps off the ring apron to hammer Tony Nese with a huge clothesline during the WWE Extreme Rules Kickoff.

Nese nevertheless put in an impressive performance in the most hostile of territories: Gulak is a proud Philadelphian, and the WWE Universe in attendance had no brotherly love for The Premier Athlete, showering the former champion with vitriol each time he fought his way into the advantage. Nese, who prides himself on in-ring perfection, also wasn’t afraid to switch up his game to a more ugly, effective style: After ruthlessly German suplexing the challenger into the turnbuckles, the champion withstood Nese’s moonsault off the ring post when Nese was strung up in the ropes and fought through the pain of a 450 that saw Nese land knees-first into the titleholder’s sternum.

Gulak, however, was simply unwilling to accept defeat. Gulak’s technical mastery came into play at the end when champion and challenger traded counters on counters (their long history came into play as they each very clearly knew what the other was capable of). Gulak brought the scrap back to his wheelhouse with a simple, yet punishing, stack-up powerbomb, and it was just a short way from there to the Cyclone Crash that ended the match.

Given that Gulak was beginning to get a little wild-eyed right before he administered the devastating maneuver, the message to any future opponents was clear: He’ll accept any challengers and entertain any efforts to defeat him until the second he decides the match is over. From then on, there’s simply nothing to be done.

PHILADELPHIA — If there was any kind of asterisk attached to Drew Gulak’s WWE Cruiserweight Title victory last month, it was that he didn’t pin then-champion Tony Nese to achieve it during a Triple Threat Match that also included Akira Tozawa. But the events of Extreme Rules Kickoff put any lingering uncertainties to rest, as Gulak stifled The Premier Athlete in a hard-hitting, one-on-one match to keep his reign alive.

Drew Gulak laces Tony Nese with a flying clothesline: WWE Extreme Rules 2019 Kickoff

Drew Gulak leaps off the ring apron to hammer Tony Nese with a huge clothesline during the WWE Extreme Rules Kickoff.

Nese nevertheless put in an impressive performance in the most hostile of territories: Gulak is a proud Philadelphian, and the WWE Universe in attendance had no brotherly love for The Premier Athlete, showering the former champion with vitriol each time he fought his way into the advantage. Nese, who prides himself on in-ring perfection, also wasn’t afraid to switch up his game to a more ugly, effective style: After ruthlessly German suplexing the challenger into the turnbuckles, the champion withstood Nese’s moonsault off the ring post when Nese was strung up in the ropes and fought through the pain of a 450 that saw Nese land knees-first into the titleholder’s sternum.

Gulak, however, was simply unwilling to accept defeat. Gulak’s technical mastery came into play at the end when champion and challenger traded counters on counters (their long history came into play as they each very clearly knew what the other was capable of). Gulak brought the scrap back to his wheelhouse with a simple, yet punishing, stack-up powerbomb, and it was just a short way from there to the Cyclone Crash that ended the match.

Given that Gulak was beginning to get a little wild-eyed right before he administered the devastating maneuver, the message to any future opponents was clear: He’ll accept any challengers and entertain any efforts to defeat him until the second he decides the match is over. From then on, there’s simply nothing to be done.