Monday 27 April 2015

WWE Extreme Rules 2015 review

The Extreme Rules card didn't do much to fill me with positivity in the weeks leading up to the show. There were some odd stipulation choices and a handful of matches that seemed hastily put together to fill up the minutes. The announcement hours before the show that Daniel Bryan would not be defending his Intercontinental title as advertised didn't help matters, although it did at least see the New Day v Cesaro and Tyson Kidd match bumped up from the pre-show to the pay-per-view proper. All four men deserved that and it was nice to see but it wasn't enough to change my feelings on the show.

The replacement pre-show match pitted (don't call him Adrian) Neville against Bad News Barrett. Nev won with the Red Arrow. The PPV got underway with the Dean Ambrose versus Luke Harper street fight. It struck me as an odd choice for the opener but I can't really say why. Both men are established in their respective roles, with Ambrose being particularly popular, and the stipulation allowed for a crowd-pleasing, arena-touring brawl. Part of the reason for the decision became clear around ten minutes into the fight. After using chairs, ring steps, and kendo sticks on one another the pair brawled up the aisle, through the Gorilla Position and into the backstage area where Harper hijacked a car and drove off with 'The Lunatic Fringe' dangling out of the window. The commentary team feigned incredulity and laboriously conjectured that the match would continue because there were no count outs in a street fight. Meanwhile the crowd chanted for CM Punk.

Backstage Triple H asked Kane to go and find Harper and Ambrose. 'The Game' neglected to say how he expected Kane to accomplish this. Not that that matters: Kane didn't interact with Harper, Ambrose or Tripper again on the show. Rollins showed up and bickered with 'The Big Red Machine'. Trips took Seth's side and said he wanted to be able to rely on Kane as "the gatekeeper". Kane said he'd do what was best for business. Basically Kane was set up as a face. Because what 2015 needs is Kane in a world title feud.

Get your roots done, Ziggler mate.
The "Kiss Me Arse" match went on second. Jojo did a wonderful job of butchering the pronunciation. She'll go far. The match was slow in places, the result of a few too many rest spots, but on the whole it was good. Ziggler and Shaymo work well together, their respective super-selling and slobber-knocking offence meshing nicely. In a surprise result it was 'The Show Off' who got the win with a desperation small package, Sheamus having dominated the match.

Sheamus did an amazing job of selling the loss. His facial expressions were perfect. After a great deal of stalling and teasing that he'd go through with it, during which the audience chanted "Pucker up!", Sheamus got down onto his knees and gave Ziggler a low blow and a Brogue kick. He then rubbed the unconscious Ziggler's face against the cheek of his backside and wandered backstage. He got heat for attacking Ziggles but the crowd cooled off a little for the "kissing". Maybe this isn't the guaranteed heat generator it was a decade ago, guys. Try something a bit less ridiculous.

That wasn't followed by a tedious advert for WWE Network programming, including a Jerry Springer show "too hot for TV", a Mick Foley comedy special, Jericho's nauseating podcast, and the return of the King of the Ring tournament. In what must come as a surprise to absolutely nobody JBL, Cole and 'King' were excited by all of this. Sadly, they stopped short of having Lawler talk about he likes things that are too hot for TV.

I'm a big fan of Natty.
Match number three was for the tag team championships. Heat magnets New Day, represented by Big E and Kofi Kingston, challenged Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, accompanied by a fetishwear-clad Natalya. This was the match of the night. With no silly stories or stipulations to work with the four men in the ring, and Natalya and Xavier Woods outside of it, could concentrate on telling a fun story using the fact that New Day are genuinely disliked. This is what WWE's mid-card should be like all the time. It's depressing that they so rarely get it right.

It was great to see Kofi feeling to play heel after he's apparently wanted to try that out for years, while Big E looked more confident than he has since his time as Ziggler's bodyguard. A highlight of the match saw Cesaro catch Big E in mid-air, drop him with a suplex and then give him a firm double stomp. He followed up with a subtle "Heeeeeey!", a treat for the more hardcore fans in the building. Kidd was as proficient as always, making Big E's big spear off the apron look particularly good.

The finish played into New Day's new found willingness to cheat, getting over their characters and giving people another reason to hate on them. Cesaro and Kidd blasted Kingston with the drop kick-Big Swing combo. Woods leapt onto the apron to distract the referee, saving the match for his team, before being pulled down to the floor and slapped by Natalya. Kidd, Big E and Cesaro eliminated one another from proceedings before Kingston finished things off with a roll up and a handful of tights on Cesaro. This was the right result with the right finish. New Day are a hot act and WWE are right to capitalise on that. Cesaro and Kidd should work nicely as the chasing babyfaces.

C-Z-dubb! C-Z-dubb! C-Z-dubb!
As the new champions cut a promo backstage with Renee Young (they were happy, obvs) a car pulled up and Luke Harper tumbled out. New Day gathered round him as Dean Ambrose leapt off the car. Harper ran off and New Day took Ambrose's elbow. The pair headed back into the arena and filled the ring with chairs. Harper power bombed Ambrose onto one. Ambrose kicked out. Harper buried him in chairs then lumbered to the top rope for a splash but Ambrose scrambled to his feet, threw him onto the pile of chairs (well, sort of) then gave him Dirty Deeds (not on a chair) for the win.

The Russian chain match was up after that. The rules were that the chain was legal (clearly) and that the winner would be the first man to touch all four ring posts in succession. To help with the clarity of the ring post-touching lights were installed, lighting up to signify who'd touched what. Rusev's light was red, naturally. Because he's a communist. Good work, creative team!

The match did not match up to Cena and Rusev's previous two PPV encounters. It wasn't drastically worse though. And I enjoyed it more than the awkwardly split street fight. Around five minutes before the match was won the audience started chanting for Lana. She got up onto the apron and waved. This incensed Rusev, who ordered her backstage. Lana, like Sheamus earlier, did a superb job of making the moment work with her facial expressions. She looked genuinely distraught and suitably chastened.

It's the immoveable object versus the immoveable object.
After the pair had run through the Five Knuckle Shuffle routine and Cena had hit an AA, Rusev locked on the Accolade. Cena broke it by powering to his feet and slamming Rusev into two turnbuckles. This led to a teased Rusev victory as the breaks had counted as corner touches. Moments later there would be a similarly forced tease. Ultimately it was Cena who won: he and Rusev touched three corners apiece and had a standoff. Rusev, that foolish, impulsive communist, dashed for the final corner. Cena, that smart, plucky American, pulled him back to the centre of the ring using the chain and flattened him with an AA, allowing him to touch the turnbuckle and win.

In the back Roman Reigns told Renee Young he could get knocked down but couldn't be kept down. It was one of his better promos, which isn't to say it was especially good. Be'lee dat.

Nikki Bella and Naomi had a sloppy but energetic match for the Divas championship. Despite being faces the Bellas cheated to win: Brie gave Naomi a roundhouse kick, allowing Nikki to hoist her up for a Rack Attack. Perhaps the most notable thing about the match was that newly established face-heel dynamic between Nikki and Naomi was accepted. That bodes well for both women, especially when you consider that they were in Chicago, a notoriously awkward town for less appreciated performers like Nikki.

That was followed by a backstage segment in which Rusev screamed at Lana, presumably for being a daring to acknowledge the audience's chants for her instead of standing at ringside and offering him encouragement. He stormed off and Lana went and knocked on The Authority's door. How do I know it was their door? Because not only did it say so, it had a little coat of arms attached to the wall.

This does not keep Roman strong.
Big Show and Roman Reigns' Last Man Standing match was not the brisk, one-sided affair it should have been. That would have done Reigns a lot of good, establishing him as a focused, efficient ass-kicker who can demolish mere mortals who aren't in his league (and we're meant to see Show as beneath Reigns, despite WWE's weird booking choices). What we got instead was a near twenty minute affair that saw the 29-year-old powerhouse Reigns dominated for lengthy stretches by the 43-year-old slouch Big Show. Despite the use of tables and Reigns spearing Show through the crowd barrier the highlight of the match was Show seeing "Big Show needs to lose weight" written on JBL's notepad and shouting at him about it.

The finish was memorable, if fairly ridiculous. Reigns speared Show through the Spanish  announce table then tipped the English announce table on top of him. He then stood on it to stop 'The Giant' from getting up. Apparently this is supposed to encourage people to buy into Reigns as a credible headliner.

The tease of a Kane face turn continued after that. Randy Orton got in his ear, reminding him that he's a monster and that The Authority are just using him to keep the world title on Rollins. It was a nothing segment. I only mention it because it played into the main event.

Before that main event Bo Dallas walked to the ring and cut a spectacular cheap heat promo on Chicago. Ryback came out to save the city's honour. That was risky considering the comments made about 'The Big Guy' by beloved Chicagoan CM Punk but it worked out okay: the audience chanted "Feed me more!" and popped for Ryback's spinebuster. I really wouldn't be surprised if part of the reason this was booked was to show Punk that Chicago could be enticed into cheering for a guy he doesn't personally rate.

The filler continued with Lana informing Rusev that his feud-ending encounter with Cena would come at Payback in an I Quit match. 'The Super Athlete' was very pleased with this. He said that this stipulation will allow him to demonstrate that the USA is a country of quitters. He didn't specify how it would allow him to do this though. My early thoughts on the match are that it could be pretty good but that it's not really necessary. Cena has beaten Rusev in two of their three matches. The feud is, to all intents and purposes, over and Cena's won it.

The Orton v Rollins cage match was not as good as I'd hoped it would be. With a bit of effort this could have been a memorable match. As it was it didn't even get match of the night honours. The pace was closer to the Orton norm than the Rollins norm, meaning it had a lot of stalling and rest holds. This was particularly disappointing given that they were in a cage (traditionally a more wild environment, jarring with the sleeper-fest) and they're both capable of very athletic showings. Plus they were going for pinfalls, something I'm never a fan of in cage matches. It should be win via escape or nothing.

The match was also bogged down with Kane-related foolishness. He first got involved when Noble and Mercury appeared at ringside and asked to be let into the cage. He told them no so they tried climbing in. Orty disposed of them by throwing Rollins into the cage and knocking them to the floor. Next he glared at Orton when Orton went to leave the cage. Orton glared back and turned around to give Rollins a draping DDT and a Pedigree. The latter was one of the nicer touches of the match, both playing into the stipulation that the RKO was banned and Orton's history with on-screen boss and Rollins endorser Triple H.

Orton went for his punt kick but 'The Future' moved and gave him a Pele kick. Kane opened the door when Rollins asked him to but Orton gave him a backbreaker before he could escape. The door was closed, quite politely considering the circumstances, when Orty tried to walk out moments later. Then Rollins ruined everything by diving into the cage door and knocking Kane over. Because if there's one thing a twenty year wrestling veteran doesn't like it's being knocked over while standing at ringside.

Seth wins lol.
Orton and Rollins fought in the doorway as Kane got back up and smashed the door on their heads. 'The Devil's Favourite Demon' got into the ring and loomed over Rollins. J&J tried stopping him but got double choke slammed. Kane then choke slammed Orton and Rollins and pulled Rollins on top of Orton. 'The Viper' kicked out, which seemed to surprise the crowd. Orton got back up, escaped a Tombstone attempt and dropped Kane with an RKO. Then Rollins gave Orton an RKO and rolled out of the cage to retain his title.

The show ended with JBL, Cole and 'King' bickering about whether the RKO was legal. JBL felt that the move was legal for Rollins while Lawler and Maggle felt it had been banned from the match as a whole. This confusion sums up how I feel up Extreme Rules: how did it end up this bad?


Results summary:
Dolph Ziggler defeated Sheamus
New Day defeated Cesaro and Tyson Kidd to win the tag team championship
Dean Ambrose defeated Luke Harper
John Cena defeated Rusev to retain the United States championship
Nikki Bella defeated Naomi to retain the Divas championship
Roman Reigns defeated Big Show
Seth Rollins defeated Randy Orton to retain the WWE championship

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