- Category: Idiot Box
- Created on Thursday, 03 May 2012 12:15
- Written by Romeo Moran
- Hits: 1330
Wrestlemania 28 was a strange beast, as I reviewed earlier this month. A strange, controversial beast that, in its conclusion, ended a couple of its most interesting storylines and preserved some that weren’t as hot. In its wake, the company has tried to create new ones while continuing the others in the wake of a new WWE season, and that is what Extreme Rules has to work with.
There was really only one major storyline heavily promoted going into the show, and that is John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar. That particular feud’s company-imposed sense of enormity easily overshadowed most other goings-on up and down the card, and perhaps that understatement definitely helped those other match-ups exceed the low expectations with which they were undeservedly saddled, as we’ll see in just a moment.
Randy Orton def. Kane in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
The company finally learned from their two-fold mistake at Wrestlemania: one, you shouldn’t put the World Heavyweight Championship match as the opener, but that’s a much more minor issue than two, you should definitely not open a PPV with a squash match. For Extreme Rules, they went ahead with the good match that should have opened the biggest show of the year, and it doesn’t disappoint. This is also exactly the type of match they should have had at Wrestlemania, given Kane’s ruthless nature.
A Falls Count Anywhere match has a standard formula. You start the match in the middle of the ring, brawling away, but within five minutes, you have to spill over to the crowd because falls count anywhere. It’s predictable, but from experience, I know that it’s always a hit with the live crowd because they get that sense of involvement; even though they can’t touch any of the wrestlers, the mere fact that the guys have taken the brawl right in front of them, right before their very eyes gets even the coldest of smarks giddy. This was no different.
Zack Ryder also joined the fray for a little bit as the fight went to the area where the other Superstars were watching the show on a monitor, and I was disappointed that he didn’t get more offense in after Kane tried to chokeslam him. Given their brutal history (which was clearly in favor of Kane) earlier this year, you’d think Ryder would’ve done a whole lot more to screw Kane over.
The brawl ended back up in the ring, where both men “smartened” up the fight by hitting their signature moves, ending with Orton reversing a Kane tombstone piledriver attempt onto a chair by hitting an RKO on that chair for the win. Serviceable opener that had good action, although it definitely could have been more creative, and it helps that the electric, pro-Orton Chicago crowd was sufficiently amped up, too. However, even though this was the match that better suited the feud, I felt that their outing at Wrestlemania was better.
Brodus Clay def. Dolph Ziggler
This was an impromptu match that wrapped up the short Brodus vs. Ziggler feud that had been going on for the past three weeks, and to be honest, it was an impromptu match nobody minded seeing. It was a quick match, clocking in at only around four minutes or so, but that’s a damn marathon in Funkasaurus time.
Ziggler tried his hardest to take down the Funkasaur, but he was just too big for him, losing to Brodus after a What the Funk splash. Not too much to write about; Ziggler isn’t as good as Christian or Daniel Bryan yet in working a David vs. Goliath match, and on top of that, they weren’t given too much time to get out of first gear anyway. Brodus’s next program should be against someone bigger who could work a solid WWE style; Drew McIntyre is the best guy for that.
Cody Rhodes def. Big Show (c) in a Tables Match to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship
The stipulation for this match was chosen on the pre-show (where Miz lost his U.S. title match) using the infamous roulette wheel.
I thought this feud shouldn’t have gone beyond a typical rematch on SmackDown, but here we are now. Show should have just used this PPV spot and shine to put over an up and coming talent (perhaps a competitor who is… Very European) and Cody should be messing around, trying to get into the World Heavyweight title picture. But no, here we are now.
The actual match itself is nothing to write home about, with just one cool spot (the table-assisted Disaster Kick) and the finish was even worse. Recalling the anticlimactic and borderline ambiguous of the WWE Championship match back at TLC 2009, where Sheamus pushed Cena off the top turnbuckle through a table as they were jockeying for position, Rhodes makes Show’s foot accidentally go through a table, costing him the match and the championship. Show gets angry and drives Rhodes through a table after the match.
It was a forgettable match with a forgettable finish; one would think that a tables match given such short time to play out would see at least a memorable spot, but alas. Rhodes tried to make do with it, but it’s hard when nobody else wanted to put any effort into salvaging it. The worst part is that the feud looks like it still has one last grudge match before being officially over.
Sheamus (c) def. Daniel Bryan in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship
It’s safe to say that this is the match we’ve been cheated out of at Wrestlemania… and then some.
After everything that’s happened now (if you haven’t seen RAW this week yet, I won’t spoil you), what was originally a bad thing for Daniel Bryan turned into something amazing. The 18-second squash turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise; however, it was also at the expense of Sheamus, whose popularity suffered slightly because he was the one chosen to administer and benefit from Bryan’s dismantling. Sheamus eventually gets relieved of that stigma, but we’ll get to that later.
The 2-out-of-3 falls stipulation was not only a safeguard that would assure the audience that the match would not end in 18 seconds again (although it’s certainly possible to still have it end in under a minute), but it was also a safeguard that nobody backstage would ever even think of pulling that kind of stuff again. And they didn’t.
And the best part out of all this is that after subjecting Bryan to the worst loss of his life, they went out and made Bryan look like Sheamus’s equal, even bordering on being his superior. Not only did Bryan manage to evade Sheamus’s first attempt at a Brogue Kick, but he also managed to kick out at two when Sheamus actually did nail it. The match was back-and-forth until they started building up to the first fall, which was Bryan getting a DQ when he wouldn’t stop kicking on Sheamus’s arm in the corner – which obviously does not make either man look weak in any way.
Then Bryan evens up the score by forcing Sheamus to pass out while in the YES! Lock. Again, a move that makes neither look weak. At this point, Sheamus looks really shaken up from the beating he took, but he manages to come back, partly thanks to Bryan’s showboating. The match goes back to being back and forth again as they build up to the decisive final finish, and Sheamus finally manages to put Bryan away with one last Brogue Kick, retaining the championship.
Again, it was everything the Wrestlemania match should have been, and so much more. Bryan, whose fans had always feared might be treated as an afterthought, was made to look highly competent, devious, and hard-hitting. Championship worthy, to be exact. Sheamus could have been the rival to truly legitimize his title reign, but since he isn’t the champion anymore, he’s only legitimized as a true contender, and that’s not a bad thing. Bryan also helped Sheamus in fully shaking off the stigma he attained by having been the one to squash Bryan on his way to being champion by overcoming the guy deemed the near-universal favorite in an impressive and satisfactory fashion. Everyone wins. Some more than others, too.
Ryback def. two local jobbers
Not much to say here, as the Ryback gimmick continues even on PPV. I haven’t been all caught up in his TV squashes for the past three weeks though, and I must say that his execution is really looking crisp and tight. He just needs an iconic finisher if he really wants to be seriously considered in the same breath as Goldberg.
CM Punk (c) def. Chris Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight to retain the WWE Championship
One word: amazing.
Some of my wrestling buddies on Twitter have derided this match for a number of reasons: poor pacing, unsatisfactory spots, little chemistry, failed psychology, things like that… but I simply don’t see it. I see none of that. I watched this match twice; the first time, as a mark (highly recommended) and the second time as a smark. I still didn’t see it. This was billed as a street fight, and I expected both men to truly beat each other up. That is what they did, and that is what we got. And damn it was so much fun.
The crowd was also highly electric for this match, and why wouldn’t they be? The hometown hero is here, and he’s not playing any games after the way Jericho has gone after his family, personal demons be real or not. Punk and Jericho looked to both kick each other’s ass and lay their bodies down on the line doing so, and again, that is what they did.
The fact of the matter is, you’re not supposed to overthink a hardcore match, because it was designed to optimize risky spots. When you do, you’re just going to drag down the experience for yourself. The story of the match – which is that they simply hate each other at this point – was there; its existence, even as it was being progressed, was understated so that the action may emerge to the forefront. Everything Punk did felt natural because he was drawing from the anger he’s supposed to have, and you don’t question it because you know this is the kind of stuff you would do when somebody insults your family. Even contrived events such as Punk’s sister getting a slap in on Jericho felt natural because it made the simplest of sense, playing into that line of logic. Everything Jericho did was also fueled by his personal motivation of clinging to that moniker Punk has co-opted in his absence.
Let’s address some of the smark issues. I don’t see how this match is paced poorly – my barometer of poor pacing is the Undertaker/Triple H series, where their brand of storytelling is comprised of slow, drawn-out, methodical, yet brutal brawls. Between Punk and Jericho and the hardcore stipulaton, I kind of expected that it would follow along those lines, but their match was always moving, there was always action, and again, the contrivances were kept to a minimum, and the few that were there felt natural and logical. The issue of chemistry and styles clashing is highly arbitrary, because I felt both men meshed together very well. I’ve seen much worse hardcore psychology in a Kevin Steen match, and I love Kevin Steen. And if the spots they pulled (the fire extinguisher, the elbow to the announce table, etc.) don’t get a rise out of you, then perhaps you’re just asking for too much.
I’m digressing here, my bad. Seriously, though, this match really was a lot of fun. It’s not either man’s greatest match and match-up of all time, but it stands up well as a solid piece in their respective bodies of work. I’ll even call it a Match of the Year candidate, along with Bryan/Sheamus. The bottom line is that it delivered in every way.
Layla def. Nikki Bella (c) to win the WWE Divas Championship
Before the match, advertised challenger Beth Phoenix was pulled due to not being medically cleared to compete, leaving the Bellas with a surprise opponent that was also specified to be not Kharma. Instead, it was the returning Layla.
And damn did she not miss a step. Layla’s been gone for a year, but you wouldn’t know it at all from watching this match. Virtually no signs of ring rust. Before Layla got injured last year, I thought that she was already able to carry herself in a match and be a competent Diva in the division, and this match just reinforced that. If not Kharma, if not Beth, if not even Natalya, then I certainly don’t mind Layla being a champion. The Divas division is deeper than most realize – or even give credit for.
John Cena def. Brock Lesnar in an Extreme Rules Match
The opinion was split on the outcome, both potential and realized, of this match.
While most were in agreeance that Cena was put in a bad spot after the loss to the Rock at Wrestlemania, the consensus was still that Brock needed to win for a variety of reasons, the simplest being that he was a big, if not bigger name and he had just returned to the WWE. I personally thought that John needed to win if he still wanted to be taken seriously as the top guy of this generation in the near future. Despite that, I still predicted the Brock win.
And Cena did win, after a pleasantly unusual beast of a match that was the love child of MMA and pro wrestling. Lesnar forced an MMA style of match, which Cena clearly wasn’t prepared to do (nor could he ever be) and the tension of Cena being caught with his guard down, not knowing how to go about it made for a great story. Lesnar rained stiff shot after stiff shot, and tried to break Cena’s left arm with a series of legit-looking Kimura armbars. Whether they were real hooks or Cena was just good at selling them remains to be seen.
But Cena did win, and he did it using much less effort: a stiff shot to Brock’s face with his old-school chain wrapped around his fist and an F-U later, he scored the pinfall to much controversy. I personally marked out for the victory, knowing how much Cena’s gone through lately at the hands of the Rock, the WWE (for having him lose to the Rock), and the fans. Chicago celebrated too, finally seeing how much of a trooper Cena was for having taken such a beating and still winning. Super Cena was forgotten that night, if at least by the crowd in attendance.
The ethics and implications of having Cena go over Brock is a debate that’ll be too long for this review, so I won’t go into it right now. The match was solid because it was unusual yet naturally believable (due to Brock’s stiff style) and thus, it was easy to sink one’s teeth into. You won’t ever see anything like it, but on the other hand, if Cena was allowed (or if Brock allowed Cena) more offense to make it look more like a competitive match than an MMA-style one-sided affair, then it could be better.
All in all, a very memorable PPV that definitely snuck up on the Universe. Three possible Match of the Year candidates (Sheamus/Bryan, Punk/Jericho, Cena/Lesnar), a decent enough match (Orton/Kane) and filler that largely didn’t detract from the show make up for a great PPV that will get revisits here and there. If you’re able to buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray somehow, do so. It’s definitely worth keeping.
Overall Rating: A
*images from WWE.com