Tuesday 24 April 2012

Extreme Rules preview

Last time WWE went to Chicago to put on a pay-per-view it produced the superb Money in the Bank 2011. In addition to being headlined by the hotly anticipated CM Punk v John Cena WWE championship match that show also featured two exciting ladder bouts that set Alberto Del Rio and Daniel Bryan on their paths to world title glory. It was a very successful show and WWE are going to have to pull out something very special to top it when Extreme Rules rolls around on Sunday.

Placing CM Punk in a street fight with current nemesis Chris Jericho should ensure the hometown boy gets a lively reception. I can’t see the match going on last but it should be high up on the running order. Unfortunately I don’t think the Chicago crowd will be as into this feud as they were with Punk’s war against John Cena. Part of the problem is that ‘The Second City Saint’ is going into Extreme Rules as the champion so he cannot be presented as the underdog.

Another, larger, part of the problem is that the Jericho v Punk programme has been a let-down. Had the two kept their rivalry focused on which of the two is “the best in the world” it would have been far more enjoyable. All the stuff with ‘Y2J’ trashing Punk’s family and smashing whiskey over his head has been too much and not what the feud should have been focused on. They just need to wrestle. That’s it.

I’m hoping Punk wins the match and he’s my official pick but I won’t be massively surprised if the man from Winnipeg leaves with the gold. WWE has a nasty habit of having people lose in their hometowns. Punk dodged that bullet last July, can he do so again at Extreme Rules?

SmackDown’s World Heavyweight title will be defended in a two-out-of-three falls match. Current champion Sheamus will face challenger and former champion Daniel Bryan. While the stipulation may not fall into the extreme bracket it’s still an intriguing aspect to the match. There are a couple of interesting things WWE could do here.

They could start off with Sheamus catching Bryan unaware with the Brogue Kick, as he did at WrestleMania, for a surprise early lead. The trouble there would be that it would place Bryan, the heel, at the disadvantage and make him the underdog, encouraging fans to rally behind him. Considering how popular he is and the fact that the company wants to get Sheamus over as a strong babyface that may not be the wisest of moves.

The other thing I can imagine happening is Bryan and Sheamus getting one fall each with the story of the final fall being Bryan trying to get Sheamus to attack the referee (because it’s been ruled that if Sheamus lays his hands on an official again he will be fired). I’d love to see Bryan regain the championship at Extreme Rules but I don’t think it’s going to happen. That Alberto Del Rio is lined up as a title contender makes me pretty sure Sheamus will be leaving Extreme Rules as champion.

Big Show v Cody Rhodes for the Intercontinental title has been announced but as yet has had no gimmick attached to it. I expect that will happen at the SmackDown tapings or on the night itself. It doesn’t matter what they decide on, I fully expect ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ to keep hold of the belt and for Cody to move on to bigger and better things once the feud has concluded.

Interestingly WWE have announced their pre-show match, something they are not in the habit of doing. Santino Marella will defend his United States title against The Miz. It’s not going to be on the pay-per-view but I’ll give a prediction for it anyway (as it’s been announced and all). I cannot see Santino losing the title because he’s so over right now and a mid-card belt would be a comedown for ‘The Awesome One’. Santino to retain.

Kane and Randy Orton will clash in a Falls Count Anywhere match. I hope this marks an end to their tedious feud. It hasn’t been enjoyable. Their matches are awkward and both would be better served feuding with younger guys, giving the newcomers a boost and audiences something new to watch. I’ll pick ‘The Viper’ to win because Kane (surprisingly) went over at WrestleMania.

The match I’m expecting to go on last is John Cena v Brock Lesnar. I originally thought the match would have no special rules or stipulations added to it but that turns out that was wrong. Not only have WWE decided to make it an Extreme Rules match (hardcore rules, basically) but Monday’s RAW also saw the inclusion of various stipulations should Lesnar win. If ‘The Pain’ overcomes John Cena he will have access to Vince McMahon’s private jet, be able to show up on WWE programming if and when he chooses, and RAW will be renamed Monday Night RAW: Starring Brock Lesnar.

WWE replaced their original poster, featuring Kane, with this. It's an improvement I think

What should have been a simple match has become an overbooked slice of utter nonsense. Had WWE kept this as a regular match or, at a push, merely limited themselves to the Extreme Rules gimmick I think the match would have been more enjoyable. The stipulations could (and should) have been saved for a rematch at Over The Limit or another pay-per-view later on in the year. Lesnar’s been back less than a month and this will mark his official return to a WWE ring: the whole process feels incredibly rushed.

Picking a winner for this match is tough. I’m largely ignoring the stipulations added on Monday because I don’t feel they will have a bearing on the outcome (I can all too easily imagine the Starrign Brock Lesnar tagline being added to RAW for a few weeks before a stipulation match is made to reverse it). I’m thinking more about the fact that Cena, the company’s biggest star, no matter what the Lesnar storyline would have you believe, lost a very high profile bout to The Rock at WrestleMania less than a month ago. He could easily survive another loss to a big name like Lesnar but would WWE want to do that to him? Ultimately I think they’ll want to establish Lesnar as an unstoppable force to set him up for the rest of the year and worry about rehabilitating Cena later.

Lesnar to win then.

That’s the announced card for the show. I’d expect a Divas match to be added to the show. Nikki Bella surprisingly won the title on RAW and could theoretically defend it against any member of the roster on Sunday. Whoever they go with I’d be surprised if a title switch happens so soon. Bella to retain in any match that happens.

There are plenty of options available for additional bouts. Brodus Clay, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and Alberto Del Rio don’t currently have anything announced for the show, and with Christian fully healed from injury it’s possible he’ll crop up for something too. And I’ll be surprised if all of the new additions to the roster (Ryback, Lord Tensai, Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro) are left off the show.

Extreme Rules looks a bit generic on paper, a whopping four of its five announced bouts are WrestleMania rematches and only the Lesnar v Cena contest helping to provide something new. Whether or not it’s a memorable affair may well hinge on whatever additional bouts WWE adds to the show. That’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

Predictions summary:

Brock Lesnar to defeat John Cena
CM Punk to defeat Chris Jericho
Sheamus to defeat Daniel Bryan
Big Show to defeat Cody Rhodes
Randy Orton to defeat Kane
Santino Marella to defeat The Miz

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