The WWE builds for months and months towards the pinnacle of sports entertainment: WrestleMania. There's undoubtedly a lull in action following the event, much like the peace of the week after the Super Bowl. So, what can a company with no offseason do for an encore?
Of course, I can only speculate on this, but, Extreme Rules is a nice way to ramp the intensity back up and commence the road to the next year's "showcase of the immortal." Notorious for WrestleMania rematches, this year, the WWE took a different route and gave us, largely, new programs.
Let's dive right in to the results, review, and analysis of the WWE's night dedicated to hardcore wrestling.
Pre-show WeeLC Match: El Torito feat. Los Matadores defeated Hornswoggle feat. 3MB
I'm largely laughed amongst my fellow grown-ass men wrestling fans when I say this, but I am genuinely impressed with the skill that El Torito possesses. The little bull adds an element of humor to Los Matadores, and honestly, helps get the total presentation of the team over with audiences.
Seeing him bounce and float all over the ring is pure entertainment, but throwing him in a TLC match displayed his true abilities as a talent.
The crowd was in and out of this match, but for the most part, it was good for a few laughs and several broken tables. It fairly set the tone for the rest of the night.
Grade: 1.5/5 stars
*Comedy has a place in wrestling, but it's always a shame to see such talented performers as Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, Primo, and Epico wallowing in mediocrity.
*Poor Drew McIntyre. At one point he was the "chosen one" appointed by Vince McMahon himself...now, he's relegated to Hornswoggle matches. He took easily the roughest bump of the match when he front-flip bumped over the top rope, through a table, outside the ring....*sigh* and it was during a little person ladder match.
*I like Heath Slater's gimmick, he's a solid wrestler, and his persona in the ring is great....but man.....he's ugly. He looks like he's straight out of the trailer park, and that could be his biggest hindrance from being a steady, midcard heel.
OPENING CONTEST: Elimination Triple Threat: Cesaro defeated Rob Van Dam and Jack Swagger
It's safe to say just about all of us pretty well saw this as a simple way of putting Cesaro over. That part came true. Thankfully, by virtue of the elimination stipulation, RVD had his moment as well when he pinned and eliminated Jack Swagger after a 5-Star Frog Splash.
All parties were made to look good, and this match served 3 purposes:
1) Cesaro's momentum continues. He will undoubtedly be main eventing shows by the end of the year.
2) Extreme Rules opened to a strong, entertaining match.
3) The door is closed on Cesaro/Swagger (seemingly), and the door is just opening on Cesaro/RVD
Grade: 3/5 stars
*RVD has clearly lost a step....maybe it's rust, but he definitely looked a tad slower and definitely winded compared to the impeccable cardio-conditioning of Cesaro.
*When Cesaro dodged the 5-Star Frog Splash, and RVD landed on the trash can, he was busted open the hard way.
*After all that's transpired over the past year, Jack Swagger's window as a potential main eventer seems to have closed. If you stayed tuned for the Extreme Rules Fallout special, Zeb Coulter expressed interest in finding a new tag team partner for Jack Swagger to continue the Real Americans moniker.
Handicap Match: Alexander Rusev defeated R-Truth & Xavier Woods
Rusev attacked Xavier Woods and R-Truth before the match officially started, throwing Woods into the metal brackets of the ring itself, effectively knocking him out. He then made relatively short work out of R-Truth before winning with The Accolade.
The contest was booked perfectly. Rusev was made to look reckless and ruthless, and more importantly, still undefeated. WWE creative staff protected the young talent in Xavier Woods by having him knocked out before the match started, and protected one of their most over early to midcard faces in R-Truth by not having them squashed in the ring at the same time.
My gripe with this match? This is something you give away Monday night on Raw, not on a big show such as this one with only 7 matches (limited card space). I would've much rather seen Sheamus or The Usos get this spot on the card. If Rusev is going to be on the special (they're no longer referred to as pay-per-views...get with the times, lame-o!), having him tested would be something truly spectacular.
Grade: 1.5/5 stars
*The best part of this match? Lana - easily. Good gracious.
*Rusev really reminds me of one of the prototypical "foreign monsters" from the mid to late 2000s - i.e. Umaga, Great Khali, Vladimir Kozlov. The thing that makes Rusev stand out is his ability to work. If he can stay fresh, he does have a chance at longevity.
Intercontinental Championship: Bad News Barrett defeats Big E
A nice mix of wrestling and brawling, Bad News Barrett and Big E went out and nearly stole the show. Of course, nobody kicks out of the Bull Hammer! The title change was somewhat expected. Barrett has really found his way in the 'Bad News' character, and Big E's championship run was starting to grow stale.
While there is clear direction for Wade Barrett, character development for Big E in the near future is crucial. He could easily slip into nothingness, or he could take the next step. It all depends on his performance and the decision-makers' faith in his ability.
Grade: 3.5/5 stars
*The WWE Universe continues to support true talent rather than whoever is simply forced down our throats. Wade Barrett has clearly found the element he needs to be a main eventer in the future, and the crowd appreciates that 100%.
*Big E showed a little personality in the post-show press conference. Mocking the so-called reporters' questions, he was visibly agitated and bitter. This was a nice change of pace for his character, and hopefully, he will be allowed to do more of this.
Evolution vs. The Shield
Wow....easily match of the night, and a top 5 contender for match of the year. I wasn't necessarily surprised that The Shield won, but I was surprised that Batista was the man that was speared by Roman Reigns and pinned cleanly.
In case you haven't noticed, things really haven't panned out the way Batista thought they would upon his return.
Still, The Shield established themselves as main event caliber talent. Each man has a definite future in the business.
Grade: 4/5 stars
*I almost feel bad for Batista. He wasn't necessarily the cause for the fans to boo him, merely the catalyst. The Universe was just plain sick and tired of part-timers coming in and stealing the spotlight from those more deserving.
*I still feel like Roman Reigns has a bit of John Cena in him. Hopefully, they will push him in doses and we won't be smothered by him.
*Dean Ambrose's style in the ring is phenomenal. He is like a combination of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Brian Pillman.
Steel Cage Match: Bray Wyatt defeated John Cena
This had to happen, or else the company was going to risk Ryback-ing Bray Wyatt. He deserved the win, and has come out of this rivalry a star. Still, we should be thankful that the story of this program is good.
Because the wrestling has just been so-so. Last night, with all 3 members of the Wyatt Family either in the cage or around it, it was booked to seem as though Wyatt still had trouble beating Cena. Should it have been a 3-on-1 beatdown? No, of course not.
But, it was a rare instance where Harper & Rowan's appearance made Wyatt look weaker than he should have. It looked too hard for all 3 of them to beat down Cena.
Also, the pacing of the match was painfully slow. Thankfully, the creepy finish, and Wyatt's win helped keep the show on track (though it never truly recovered from the peak that was Evolution vs. Shield).
Grade: 2/5 stars
*The Undertaker steps down, and Bray Wyatt steps up. I've been saying for a few months now that Wyatt is the next Undertaker, and really, it's simple. For years, Undertaker was one of, if not the, best performers in pro wrestling. His character didn't translate well to mainstream culture, so he was never seen as "the guy" the way Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock were. Still, he won several WWE Championships, and became a steady favorite in wrestling lore. He was known as the conscience of the WWE. Should he stay healthy, Wyatt could play a similar role.
*I won't be surprised if we see an edgier, grittier John Cena after all is said and done...maybe not full on heel, but darker. The man sells too much merchandise for the company to have him turn on his young fans.
*Oh yeah - that kid was creepy.
Divas Championship: Paige defeated Tamina Snuka
What could've been a good contest was marred by a botched finish. Still, Paige is over and looks to be the second coming of Lita.
She's the anti-diva, and is over with the crowds. Give her some more time, and she'll continue to impress. But on this night - meh - let's just give her a do-over.
Grade: 1/5 stars
*I've never been a fan of divas not having last names....it's weird. You'd never in a million years see Randy Orton come out, and have nothing but 'Randy' show up on the graphic at the bottom of the screen. It just. doesn't. make. sense.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan defeated Kane
A true throwback to the golden era of hardcore - Daniel Bryan's character as champion continues to evolve, and yes, Kane still has good matches left in the tank.
These two beat each other all over New Jersey - and honestly, it was a nice change from the typical stale WrestleMania re-matches. Not only did the match provide a new, tougher dynamic to Daniel Bryan, but it made Kane look like a legitimate threat to become champion.
The finish is not one fans will forget any time soon, considering the visual of Kane flying through a flaming table.
If you watched the post-show press conference, Bryan really dug into Kane and showed a nice tenacity that will add depth to his character if he's given better chances to on air.
Grade: 3.5/5 stars
*Daniel Bryan's headbutt off the forklift is one of those signature superstar moments. They'll be playing it for years to come.
*Kane sat up and stared down Bryan after the match - suggesting that the program is not over. If you haven't read the reports, some are suggesting that the two will meet in a Buried Alive match at Payback.
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In terms of overall presentation, Extreme Rules earns a score of 3.5/5 stars. Not as good as it could have been, but still, a really good show considering the stale slates of rematches we've seen in past years.
As wrestling fans, we are in the midst of the next great shift in talent. There are a lot of similarities to the brewing of the Attitude Era in today's WWE landscape. Soon enough, cards will be dominated by fresh faces who audiences are eager to support.
If you don't believe me - look at the winners of each match: Cesaro, Alexander Rusev, Bad News Barrett, The Shield, Bray Wyatt, Paige, and Daniel Bryan.
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