In spite of a couple of feuds that never hit their stride, WWE’s Extreme Rules had enough solid matches and creativity to make it a worthwhile PPV.An uneven first half gave way to two entertianing main events that worked especially well under their harcore stipulations.
Brock Lesnar def. HHH in a Cage Match
Surprisingly, this non-title match went on last and had to clear a high hurdle after the impressive finish to the WWE Title match. The action started immediately when HHH attacked Brock Lesnar during his entrance and threw him into the newly-designed, sturdier version of the steel cage. Lesnar treated HHH like a ragdoll early in the match, but drove his knee into a support beam for the cage as he tried a running knee lift and it hobbled him for the duration of the match. HHH targeted the knee for the rest of the match, but Lesnar kept up a good offensive output with an F5 and a Kimora lock. HHH fought back and further taxed Lesnar’s knee with a Figure Four and a Sharpshooter later in the match. Lesnar tried to pull himself out of the cage without putting any weight on his knee. When he got to the top, though, HHH slammed his weakened knee with a chair and caused him to fall back into the ring. HHH pulled out a silver spray-painted sledgehammer that he hit in the cage structure. Before he could use it, Paul Heyman got into the cage and HHH gave him a Pedigree then did the same to Lesnar for a two count. Heyman regrouped enough to give HHH a low blow and Lesnar took advantage by hitting him with the sledgehammer and delivering another F5 to win. It was an entertaining battle even if the early injury made the pace a little slow. They achieved a good balance of using weapons to heighten the intensity without going overboard in a way that made the match seem cartoonish. On top of that, the result positions Lesnar for a shot at the WWE Title, which is a very compelling story.
John Cena and Ryback Wrestled to a No Contest in a Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Title
My favorite match of the PPV successfully maintained Ryback’s image as an unrepentant badass while keeping the WWE Title with John Cena. Ryback was all over Cena early in the match as he preyed on Cena’s injured ankle. He hit a powerbomb, a jaw jacker, a fall-away slam through a table, and a big spinebuster before Cena got any offense going. Cena eventually hit Ryback with a powerbomb to start an exchange of big moves including an Attitude Adjustment and Shell-Shocked, none of which kept either man down for the ten count. After the finishers, they moved to the outside and a missed chair shot by Ryback allowed Cena to tackle him through the barricade. Ryback took the advantage as they brawled through the crowd then hit Cena with a section of the hockey boards for a near victory. Out of desperation, Cena put Ryback in a sleeper and propped him on a table to deliver an elbow drop out of the stands through the table to nearly win the match. As Ryback got up, Cena chased him onto the entrance stage with a fire extinguisher, spraying him and hitting him twice with the can. He picked up Ryback to try an AA off the stage, but Ryback escaped, picked up Cena, and drove him through the LED lighting wall that was part of the set. The referee called for paramedics and ruled the match a no contest as Cena was helped out on a stretcher. It was an impressive finish to an entertaining match that raises the stakes for another showdown between these two. Cena gets lots of credit for putting on good PPV matches, especially with these types of stipulations. Ryback also enhanced his reputation for being extremely dangerous.
A Big Night for The Shield
Dean Ambrose faced Kofi Kingston in the night’s second match and it was a bit of a surprise that Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns did not accompany him to the ring. Ambrose avoided Trouble in Paradise less than a minute into the match and got a big boot and a nice clothesline to stun Kingston long enough to put him in a cross-face chickenwing. Later, he hit an excellent double-underhook superplex for a near fall. Kingston retaliated with a kick in the corner and a cross body that set up for Trouble in Paradise, but Ambrose fell to the floor to prevent a cover. Kingston missed another attempt and Ambrose countered with his reverse DDT finisher to win the U.S. Title.
Later in the show, Rollins and Reigns took the Tag Team Titles from Team Hell No in another good match. The tornado stipulation kept the match moving at a fast pace. Reigns nearly powerbombed Daniel Bryan off the top rope until Bryan turned the move into a hurricanrana. A series of finishers including a top rope headbutt, a No Lock, a chokeslam, a spear, and a top rope knee drop led to covers that were broken up. The Shield finally got Kane on the outside long enough to put Bryan on Reigns’s shoulders for Rollins to hit a flying kick off the top rope to get the pin. The celebration following the match was yet another high point for The Shield. Everything The Shield has done so far has felt important and it will be a service to them and the titles they hold to continue that booking.
Chris Jericho def. Fandango
Chris Jericho’s win over Fandango might be the most surprising result of the show and it probably means Jericho will be with WWE for at least a while longer. He was extremely aggressive in the match and took a big risk with a big cross body off the top rope to the floor. Fandango looked good with a leg drop from the apron and a superkick, but Jericho countered an attempted body scissors into the Walls of Jericho then nailed a Codebreaker when Fandango came off the top rope. The loss gives Fandango a chance to fight through adversity and show more aggressiveness as he works to get his heat back.
Alberto Del Rio def. Jack Swagger in a #1 Contender “I Quit” Match
The St. Louis fans seemed to have trouble choosing sides in a match that was wrestled well but was not especially exciting. The referee constantly asking each man if he wanted to continue broke up the action too much and should have been reserved for when they were actually close to quitting. After liberal use of kendo sticks, the wrestlers exchanged submission holds. Ricardo Rodriguez nearly threw in a white towel and when the referee looked away, Zeb Colter stole the towel and threw it in, resulting in the referee calling the match for Swagger. Another ref came down and convinced him to watch an instant replay, the match was restarted, and Del Rio won with a Cross-Armbreaker. JBL acknowledged that watching replay is a big departure for referees. Imagine how many results in wrestling history would change if video replay was allowed.
Randy Orton def. Big Show
The hometown crowd was solidly behind Randy Orton and he played well to them in one of his better performances in the last year. An RKO was not enough to pin Big Show, but when he hit another RKO, he measured up for a punt and kicked Big Show to knock him out and win the match. It may seem like a chance for Orton to reestablish himself, but not every crowd will be as sympathetic as his hometown fans.
Sheamus def. Mark Henry
Strap matches are usually more clumsy than entertaining and this one was no exception. They took turns trying to pull each other, whipping each other, and eventually just wrestling at close proximity. The match ended when Sheamus tagged three corners then Brogue Kicked his way through Henry to get the fourth. I strongly suspect to see more of this feud as it would be a waste to squander Henry’s momentum on one loss like this one.