Our Kickoff Show started with WeeLC… which wasn’t as horrible as some people made it out to be. Still, that doesn’t mean it was worth much. Both Hornswaggle and El Torrito were impressive for the number of unique things they tried, and hats off to all men (especially Jinder Mahal) who took some nasty bumps. But it still set the wrong tone for an event titled ‘Extreme Rules.’ When men are flying through tables, ladders, and chairs, and the announcers have to chime in with a short joke every two seconds (along with that awful, awful Michael Cole laugh), it undermines the evening’s intensity.
Having Cesaro, RVD, and Swagger open the main card turned out to be an excellent decision. These three men didn’t have any outlandish stipulation (besides an elimination rule that apparently nobody knew about), but they used numerous highlight spots to tell an exciting in-ring story. It’s obvious now that WWE doesn’t know how to utilize Swagger without Cesaro. So expect Rob Van Dam to Challenge the “King of Swing” at next month’s Payback, and possibly start laying the foundation for an eventual Heyman/Cesaro split.
Wade Barrett has finally found a gimmick that works. He captured the Intercontinental Championship from an increasingly irrelevant Big E in a solid outing. The real story here was how jazzed the crowd seemed to be about a Barret victory, and how Big E barely registered a blip on the audience noise radar. Let’s hope Barrett stays injury-free, and WWE at least gives Big E a chance to shine elsewhere.
There’s no doubt The Shield defeating Evolution was the story of the night. Not just for the fact that Evolution lost (cleanly), or that this match didn’t occupy the main-event spot. These two teams had chemistry that’s impossible to fake. This match had a little bit of everything – a few dangerous high-spots, brawling through the crowd, and an exciting crescendo. It was perfect. Most importantly, it made Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns look like stars. Kudos to WWE for making the right choice here. Even if you missed last night’s “Special Event,” make sure to pick this up.
Looking across the Twitterverse, it seemed like Bray Wyatt vs John Cena in the (not-blue) steel-cage was divisive. Some people praised it as the match that solidified Wyatt atop the company, while others thought the hokiness undermined the entire feud’s tremendous build. Yes, the demon-child missed the mark. Still, what did you expect after the reaction fans had last Monday night? Creative obviously saw the positive press for Wyatt’s “Children of the Corn” symphony and decided to bleed a turnip till it ran dry. Besides the final segment, this match was mostly non-offensive in its execution. The company needs to draw the line between “reality” and “storytelling” a little bit better. And it needs to stop having its wrestlers, commentators, whoever else, come out and praise the steel cage for ‘keeping people out’ – because they all look dumb afterwards.
Paige put out a solid effort against Tamina. But WWE needs to treat Paige more like a star if they want to rebuild the Diva’s Divison anytime soon – and that includes quality feuds, not just generic time filling.
Daniel Bryan and Kane was my biggest disappointment of the night. These two really did act like they wanted to tear each other apart, but the whole thing seemed a little bit choppy. I appreciated the attitude-era style backstage brawling. I even thought the forklift was a fun diversion. But I really wanted these two to bring a certain kind of magic. For Bryan’s first title defense, it reminded me a lot of the way CM Punk started out his 434-day run against mid-card opponents in unforgettable matches. And as a result, it took Punk months before his “Best in the World” slogan finally took hold. Let’s hope WWE has something bigger planned by ‘Money in the Bank.’
Overall Show was good. I had a few connection issues down the stretch – lackluster quality, buffering, things that didn’t happen with Mania – but I think WWE was smart to play it safe last night. This WWE Network revolution is a marathon, not a sprint. I just hope creative brings a few more fresh ideas into the fold next month.
For complete coverage of WWE Extreme Rules, be sure to check out our Live Post-Show, where we broke down matches, results, and what this means to the product moving forward. And let us know what you think in the comments below! You can also follow Between the Ropes on Facebook and Twitter for everything Pro Wrestling & MMA.