The WWE held their annual Extreme Rules pay-per-view on Sunday night in East Rutherford, NJ. The card for the event, which is the last, tenuous link to the late, much-beloved ECW, was derided by some prior to the event for not focusing enough on the "Extreme" portion of the name, but all those fears were put to rest by the night's end. There were destroyed cars, rampant destruction of ringside property and even a flaming table.
So what was the end result of all this mayhem? Read on and find out.
WeeLC Match: El Torito def. Hornswoggle
In the WWE Network-exclusive pre-show match, Hornswoggle (accompanied by 3MB) and El Torito (accompanied by Los Matadores) waged war in a "WeeLC" match, which featured tiny tables, tiny ladders, tiny chairs, a tiny referee, tiny ring announcer and even a tiny version of the three-man broadcast team of JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry "The King" Lawler (behind a tiny announce table, of course). 3MB and Los Matadores got involved, of course. The end result was a wild match recalling the heyday of the Hardyz and Dudleyz. El Torito won with a springboard seated senton through a table for the pinfall.
What we learned: That the WWE continues to be woefully behind the times when it comes to certain (okay, many) things. They've come a long way since, say, brazenly homophobic gimmicks like Goldust in the mid-nineties, or with their vastly improved (most of the time) treatment of women since the Attitude Era. You don't see gimmicks like Chuck & Billy or Eugene anymore. But they're still tone-deaf when it comes to a lot of stuff. I watched this match with the sound off, which I'm very grateful for. I expected to be bombarded by "short" jokes from JBL and Lawler the entire match, but as soon as I saw the miniature announce crew, I knew we were in for a different animal altogether.
The match itself was tremendous fun, much more of a trainwreck-in-the-good-way than I expected. Hornswoggle and El Torito (and their respective factions) may move on to something new or they may continue the feud; it doesn't matter. It's just there for entertainment. (And yes, I get that the surrounding hullaballoo of this "WeeLC" match was not for me. A great many people on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet were tickled by the "humor." I wasn't. Subjectivity!)
Triple Threat Match: Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam and Jack Swagger
Good God Almighty
Good God Almighty
Cesaro, who seems to be a few months away from a main-event-level push, picked up a win in a match that was announced last-minute as single elimination. RVD eliminated Cesaro's former tag team partner Swagger first, then was pinned by Cesaro after whiffing a Five-Star Frog Splash and hitting a trash can, then being given a Neutralizer onto the same trash can by Cesaro. (Oh, also the match was apparently no disqualification.)
What we learned: That we're still going to have to wait a while to see Cesaro do a Giant Swing on two opponents at the same time. That Swagger and Cesaro probably still haven't settled their feud in a definitive fashion. And that Cesaro can have much better matches than this and needs to get onto a solid feud with real stakes before he can continue his ascent to the top of the card.
2-on-1 Handicap Match: Alexander Rusev def. R-Truth & Xavier Woods
In true handicap match fashion, the "Bulgarian Brute" easily dismantled both of his opponents and locked on his Accolade camel clutch finisher on R-Truth for the victory.
What we learned: That Twitter looooooves Rusev's manager, Lana. But of course, we already knew that. We also learned that Rusev, similar to Cesaro, needs a real feud. Taking out two performers who are currently viewed as also-rans (at best) is neat, but let's hasten Rusev along to a nemesis.
Intercontinental Championship: Bad News Barrett def. Big E (c)
Bad News Barrett, a heel with the crowd thoroughly behind him due to his fantastic gimmick and undeniable charisma, won the Intercontinental Championship for the fourth time after dispatching Big E with the Bad News Bullhammer elbow strike. We're all hoping this reign goes better than the previous three, where Barrett seemed to do nothing but lose non-title matches every week.
What we learned: That Big E needs to be repackaged in a hurry, because the live crowd did not care about him AT ALL. Which is really a shame, because Big E was amazing in NXT, showing tons of personality, impressing in the ring and working a gimmick where he demanded a five-count instead of the standard three. He hasn't been allowed to show much, if any, personality in the WWE and has no gimmick to speak of, nothing at all for the crowd to get behind.
Justin Henry said it best during the match:
Let's hope this ushers in a new golden age and renewed importance for the once-prestigious Intercontinental title. And a new golden age for Big E as well.
The Shield def. Evolution
A match that was pretty much positioned as being the main event of Extreme Rules ended up being solidly in the middle of the card. And absolutely stole the show. The six men in this match tore the house town and held nothing back. Seth Rollins bumped like a madman and did a suicide dive off a balcony. Dean Ambrose ran across both announce tables and socked everyone in the mush. Roman Reigns took everyone's finisher and still managed to stand tall, nailing Batista with a Superman punch and a spear to get the pinfall for the Shield.
What we learned: That the Shield can do absolutely no wrong. Every single match these three have had as a team has been lights-out phenomenal, for months on end. Evolution somewhat shockingly went down to the young guns in what felt like a legitimate, substantial changing of the guard. Batista is reportedly taking some time off soon, but seeing three long-time main event players being handed such a decisive loss felt fresh, exciting and important. The sky is the limit for the three members of the Shield right now. It will be thrilling to see where they go from here.
Steel Cage Match: Bray Wyatt def. John Cena
After a long, mostly-awful match that defied every shred of common sense in the name of creating false tension, the lights went out just as John Cena was about to walk out of the cage for the win. A young boy appeared, terrifying Cena (and everyone watching) with some creepy singing. He was so startled that he fell prey to a Sister Abigail, allowing Bray Wyatt to walk out of the cage and pick up the win.
What we learned: That the status quo with regard to John Cena is catastrophic and needs a shake-up about four years ago. And that the WWE has absolutely no idea how to construct a cage match in the current, blood-free era. I would need a whole new column to explain the problems with this cage match, but here are just the main bullet points:
- John Cena asked for this cage match, ostensibly because he wanted to get Bray Wyatt alone, without the interference of the other two members of the Wyatt Family
- This is an inverse of the original conceit of the cage match, where a babyface wanted to put the cowardly heel in a position where there was no escape
- Somewhere along the line, the original conceit of the cage match (a place where the heel can't escape, is bound to the confines of the ring and forced into either a pinfall or submission loss) became a situation where the participants are racing to escape the cage first
- This particular match on Sunday night, however, was pinfall, submission, OR escape-the-cage rules
- Regardless of that, Cena kept trying to escape the cage, again and again and again, even though the members of the Wyatt Family were waiting to intercept him outside the cage at every turn
- So the match just became a series of men climbing OUT of the cage and INTO the cage and OUT of the cage and INTO the cage, with the members of the Wyatt Family getting involved the ENTIRE TIME
- Which is what John Cena was trying to avoid
- Which is why he asked for this match
- So he probably should have tried for a pinfall or something I guess
- I quit
Divas Championship: Paige (c) def. Tamina Snuka
Okay, I'm back. Paige had her first PPV defense of her burgeoning title reign, defeating the bruiser of the Divas division with the modified Scorpion Cross Lock.
What we learned: That Paige is awesome (which most of us knew) and needs to start taking on some of the NXT women's division talent that is badly in need of a call-up. And that referees can still screw up, too. The referee in the match counted three on a pinfall at one point, then tried to play it off like he only counted to two. Whoops! Hope you don't get fired, referee! (I really hope he doesn't. He must feel lower than dirt right now.)
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Extreme Rules Match: Daniel Bryan (c) def. Kane
In a berserk, intense brawl that seemed lifted directly from the Attitude Era, Bryan and Kane battled all over the ringside area and well into the bowels of the arena. They smashed up car windows and windshields, beat one another with plunder and eventually Kane was transported back to the ring via pallet, borne on a forklift driven by Bryan. Bryan then hit a flying headbutt from the top of the forklift and across the distance of the ring, which was a visual that you'll likely see for years. Kane got the upper hand and produced a table, which he set on fire. He ended up being put through the table (because of hubris) and then hit with a busaiku knee for the pin as Bryan retained.
What we learned: Sometimes a cheesy, nonsensical "hardcore" brawl can turn out great, when the right people are involved. And that we don't have to worry about Bryan being a lame-duck champion who won't headline pay-per-views. The ending of the event, with Kane sitting up and furiously staring down Bryan, seems to indicate the feud will continue, but they may very well just have a blowoff match Monday night on "Raw." We'll see where it goes from here, but it was a great way to end a surprisingly bonkers evening. Nothing could top the Shield-Evolution match, but not for lack of trying. This was the correct way to cap off the show. Most people should be excited to see where all of this goes from here.
For the first time in a long time, nothing coming down the road seems in danger of being boring. Well, except John Cena, maybe.