This Sunday will mark the seventh annual WWE Extreme Rules pay-per-view show, an event where gimmick matches and brutal brawls are often used to tie up WrestleMania’s loose ends.
Here’s my list of the best matches in Extreme Rules history.
7. John Cena vs. Batista, Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship, Extreme Rules 2010
I’ve always felt that Batista was criminally underrated as a wrestler, and after a great match at WrestleMania 26 the month before, these two put on another exciting brawl here. The wacky duct tape finish keeps this from ranking higher on my list, but Batista’s tremendous reaction was wildly entertaining.
6. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio, Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship, Extreme Rules 2011
Christian would lose the title just two days later at a Smackdown taping, but seeing him capture his first world title, as his friend Edge looked on and applauded, was truly special. He and Del Rio worked hard and did a lot of innovative and scary spots with ladders that I hope to never see again, for safety’s sake.
5. Edge vs. Chris Jericho, Steel Cage Match, Extreme Rules 2010
This was shortly after Edge had returned from an injury to win the 2010 Royal Rumble, and he was not firing on all cylinders physically, nor as a babyface, after being Smackdown’s top heel for several years. Still, this was two solid pros having a really solid match, finding ways to incorporate a lot of innovative spots involving the cage. That sounds like a no-brainer, but think about it. How many memorable cage match spots can you remember in WWE in the last decade?
4. Jeff Hardy vs. Edge, Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship, Extreme Rules 2009
I attended a number of WWE shows all over the United States in 2008 and 2009, and Jeff Hardy was consistently the best performer on every show that I went to. Particularly in the last few months of his final run in 2009, Hardy went above and beyond to give the fans their money’s worth. Paired here with Edge, a performer that I never saw have a bad match, this was another in a long line of terrific WWE ladder matches.
3. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, Chicago Street Fight for the WWE Championship, Extreme Rules 2012
The promo work by both men during this title feud was exceptional, and their ring work wasn’t far behind. After a great match at WrestleMania weeks earlier, the return bout was even better. Jericho was an awesome heel here, even taking a swing at Punk’s sister, who was in the front row.
2. The Shield vs. Evolution, Extreme Rules 2014
Some critics in the wrestling media have espoused the theory that it’s impossible for the WWE to present a bad six-man tag match. That was especially true on this night, as three locks for the WWE Hall of Fame, Evolution, locked horns with the best in-ring trio in WWE, in Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose.
1. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules 2012
Lesnar, fresh off his UFC run, and Cena, the long-term top star in the company, engaged in a wild brawl that seemed out of place in WWE’s PG Era. Lesnar drew blood early, busting Cena open with hard forearm shots to the temple, but eventually fell victim to an Attitude Adjustment on the ring steps. Both men were fortunate to escape serious injury, as Cena feared that he had torn a muscle in his arm, and Lesnar took a nasty spill over the top rope to the floor. Lesnar set the tone for his second WWE tenure, while Cena won the respect of a tough Chicago crowd that had every intention of booing him out of the building. This was a masterpiece, and one of my favorite WWE matches of all time.