Although the build was terrible heading into ‘Extreme Rules,’ WWE put together an entertaining three-hours last night. While no match was an instant classic, the intensity throughout the last hour of the Pay Per View plus a few stand-out performances created a solid pro wrestling event.
Chris Jericho def. Fandango: This rivalry was decent, and took a turn at Wrestlemania with Fandango’s surprising victory. The back-and-forth in this match was exciting. Chris Jericho does more to put over young superstars than anybody else in the WWE, but I’m happy to see him win here. Plus, his Codebraker from the top rope looked sweet.
Dean Ambrose def. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Title: Really liked that Ambrose sent his “hounds of justice” away so he could win this one on his own. These guys put on a fun, fast-paced match, and the crowd was solidly behind Kofi. No doubt this is good for Ambrose.
Sheamus def. Mark Henry in a Strap Match: While this match slowed down the pace of the PPV, I liked the placement on the card (after two exciting matches), and thought Henry and Sheamus used the gimmick surprisingly well. Going around the outside of the ring was creative, as was Henry picking Sheamus up (and having Sheamus tag the corners without Henry knowing). Overall, while I always hate seeing ‘the world’s strongest man’ lose, I’m glad they ended it the match in a direct fashion – Sheamus brogue-kicking Henry and tagging the last turnbuckle gave the fans something to cheer about.
The Shield: After languishing as main-event filler for the last few weeks (months?), it’s good to see them with forward momentum again. This felt like a logical next-step for this unstoppable team, and I think it opens up a world of possibilities as far as title-defenses and new matchups are concerned. Let’s just hope this turns out better than The Nexus…or Nexus 2.0… or The Corre…
Randy Orton def. The Big Show: Started off a little slow, but really picked up towards the end. Had a good, attitude-era “hardcore” feel to it. I liked seeing Big Show break two different Kendo sticks to really emphasise his power, and was happy to see the return of Randy Orton’s punt (even if it is a heel move). He really played to his hometown crowd here, and the fans went nuts with the win. I would be happy to see him step up into the main-event picture.
John Cena vs Ryback ends in no-contest: I was happy to see a little more offense from Ryback, even though it was mostly more power slam variations. He seems a lot more confident in the ring, and his presence is growing. I still argue he isn’t ready for this heel persona being pushed down our throats, but he and Cena turned a lackluster build into a fun match. This is the kind of brawl these two thrive in.
Now, about that finish – I really liked the visual of seeing them plow through the stage, and the surprise of it all. However, doesn’t this (yet again) completely undermine the gimmick? I’m pretty sure I saw Ryback walk away, so shouldn’t he win? On the positive side, I guess it keeps Ryback looking strong without moving the championship. But, when Cena comes out tomorrow night and delivers his preacher-man speech, and eventually pins Ryback next month at Payback, this will all be for naught.
Brock Lesnar def. HHH in a Steel-Cage Match: Let me get this out of the way: I love the new steel cage. The previous one looked outdated, and compared to the size of TNA’s, looked really small. This one looks major league.
Triple H surprising Brock Lesnar from behind was a fun way to start the match, and I thought both of these guys brought an intensity that’s hard to find in WWE these days. Brock Lesnar sold an early knee injury, and it allowed them to tell an interesting story in the ring. Really liked the hidden sledgehammer. And although Paul Heyman interfering undermines the gimmick, it made for a great moment in the match with the pedigree. Glad to see Lesnar get the win via pinfall, and feel like this was a great way to end the feud.
While I’m not normally a fan of WWE Championship matches coming before a different main event, I think this match deserved to go on last. It had the best build, the best intensity, and truly felt like the final chapter in a 10-month long feud.
The Miz def. Cody Rhodes: This isn’t here because of the quality of the match (which, because of the technical issues, I can’t comment on). Instead, the fact that Cody Rhodes and The Miz have been delegated to what is essentially “Superstars” duty drives me crazy. Two years ago, these guys both had major wins at Wrestlemania 27 – and now WWE can’t give them a real storyline, much less get them on a minor PPV card? Groan.
Alberto Del Rio def. Jack Swagger to become Number One Contender: This match really wasn’t that bad – however, it came in the middle of the card, and seemed to lack that intensity all the other matches had. It felt kind of slow, and put the crowd to sleep. I think the “I Quit” gimmick hurt it, because the ref intervening every little bit really slowed down the pace. And while I liked the Coulter swerve of throwing in Del Rios towel, I think it was better played for laughs than as a legitimate means of ending the match, After all, isn’t saying “I Quit” the whole point of the match? I would have enjoyed this match a lot more on Raw or Smackdown.
The Shield def. Team Hell No for the Tag Team Championship: This is not about the OUTCOME (see above) as much as is it the match itself. I’m never crazy about a Tornado match, because it evokes the same chaos of bad triple-threat for fatal-four-way matches. Also, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns botched their finisher. This one felt hard to follow, and took me out of the moment.
The Use of Instant-Replay: I know this was included to capitalize on the recent baseball controversy, but it sets a bad precedent for WWE. Not that I expect them to follow up with this again, but for fans who watched the match, we now know WWE monitors everything. Why would they EVER let somebody cheat again? Seems false in a business where lying, cheating, and stealing are the norm.
Mid-card Title Situation: Both titles have changed hands TWICE since the Wrestlemania pre-show. It made sense to have two titles when there were two brands, but now they feel even cheaper than TV championships. Where’s the prestige?
Jack Swagger on the Mic: Imagine you’re a professional wrestler, whose job it is to speak intensely and sell matches, and you’re given a manager because you fumble around on the mic and people don’t find you interesting. Now, imagine the only thing you’re ever allowed to say is, “We, the people.” Welcome to Jack Swagger’s world.
Kaitlyn’s Secret Admirer: It’s probably The Great Khali or Hornswaggle. Painful either way.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think! Follow me on Twitter @therealwiseman