Remember when WWE Extreme Rules used to feature “extreme” matches?
Before 2012, Extreme Rules (or One Night Stand, as it was previously called) was a pay-per-view event that featured big stipulations in every match. In 2012 and 2013, although not every match had these stipulations, a majority of the matches still were considered “extreme.” This year, even if you include the WeeLC match, there are only three matches that have an extreme stipulation to them. Now, that doesn’t mean that this won’t be a good pay-per-view. The Shield vs. Evolution and John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt matches both have the potential to be ones we remember fondly at the end of the year, and Daniel Bryan vs. Kane and the Triple Threat match could be very good as well. But it’s odd to see an Extreme Rules pay-per-view with very few “extreme” matches.
Here’s a look at the show's eight matches, including the preshow action.
Preshow: Hornswaggle vs. El Torito in a WeeLC match
I’m not going to say a lot about this match. It’s going to be a comedy match, probably involving stepladders, tiny tables and tiny chairs. I will say this, though: This feud has been more entertaining than it probably should have been. They need to get 3MB involved as more than just jobbers, because whenever they’re on screen, they can really entertain.
Anyway, the winner of this match doesn’t really matter, and when that happens, it’s pretty safe to go with the face.
Winner: El Torito
Cesaro vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger in a triple-threat elimination match
This match, and the feud, has been constructed in a really interesting way. WWE had seemed set on the Cesaro-Swagger feud, in whcih the fans choose whom to cheer for, as neither was the set face in the feud. Adding RVD makes me think they didn’t like the reception they were getting. I hope it deters them from really doing that more in the future. In theory, it’s a good idea. Fans have relished choosing who to cheer for, so why not have a feud between two tweeners? The problem is that, as wrestling fans, we’re conditioned to certain storylines and certain tropes, which require a face and a heel, except in special circumstances. Fans are fine with cheering for heels if we understand his motives and his characteristics. If we don’t, we get confused as to exactly what we’re watching, and it hurts the feud. And with RVD, there’s at least one set face.
When it comes to the match, this has the potential to be a very good one. All three wrestlers can go, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of RVD’s in-ring work, he can thrive in a situation like this, where he can do a few big spots and either be in the background or serve as a face foil to whoever WWE wants to push as a heel in the future (if not both). When it comes to the winner, it would be very surprising if anybody but Cesaro wins. He’s the only one who seems to be getting a true push among the three, and a loss to either of these guys on this stage would be a pretty severe setback.
Paige vs. Tamina for the WWE Divas Championship
This match is about one thing: the continuing build of Paige. As the weeks continue, she continues to look stronger, which is a good thing. But she needs a feud against someone, rather than just plowing her way through the Divas division. Right now, for fans who never saw her on NXT, she lacks a bit of character. A good feud could do wonders for her, and Tamina would have been a good person to have it against. But maybe WWE is waiting for AJ to return to have that first big feud. Either way, the outcome of this match really isn’t in doubt. I’m excited about what Paige can do over the course of her reign, and a good win here can give her that next step forward.
Alexander Rusev vs. Xavier Woods and R-Truth
It’s nice to see someone who is presumably going to be pushed as a monster heel actually get a feud under his belt, even if it’s a somewhat underwhelming feud. But WWE did a good job here of using both traditional television and NXT to further the storyline between them, and it results in the match. I’m a fan of Rusev and think that, if used properly, he could be a really strong heel. (I had compared him to Umaga a few weeks back). So to give him a semblance of a feud, instead of just having him run over jobbers for two months, is a nice change of pace. The only doubt in this match is how long the match will last.
Winner: Alexander Rusev
Bad News Barrett vs. Big E for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
When Big E won the Intercontinental title back in November, it looked as if it would be the start of a real push — not just for Big E, but for the Intercontinental crown as well. But both pushes stalled quickly. One of the biggest problems with the IC title, in my eyes, is that we haven’t had a strong feud for the belt in several years. You could make the case that the last time there was a truly compelling feud for the title was when Cody Rhodes and Big Show fought over it two years ago around Wrestlemania. While this match seems to serve as the next step for the resurgent Bad News Barrett, I actually hope that this either serves as the starting point for a feud between these two or as an opportunity for Barrett to get into a feud with someone else right after. Even the build hasn’t featured Big E at all, just showing him staring at a TV screen or cutting the occasional promo. That’s what this belt needs: a decent-length feud to start raising the profile of the belt again.
I do think that Barrett is the clear favorite in this match, and should win. But if Big E wins, maybe via disqualification, and it actually leads to a feud between these two, that could be just as beneficial to Barrett. Barrett should end up with the belt sooner than later, but he doesn’t need to win it here. But I do think he wins. I just hope he doesn’t stall out once he does, because his latest repacking has the potential to break him out above where he reached before.
Winner: Bad News Barrett
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in a Steel Cage match
This is one of those matches in which the result matters less than the match itself. This feud, as much as it has highlighted Bray Wyatt and everyone who has raved about him, has been about how John Cena reacts to Wyatt. And that’s the same thing in this match. Everything says Wyatt will win. He’s being pushed, and after losing to Cena at Wrestlemania, this match seems to be one where Wyatt gets his win back. But what will Cena do during the match? Every time he does a feud in which his beliefs start to waver, whether it’s against Kane, The Rock or now Bray Wyatt, people ask whether this is the time when he finally turns heel. And I still say the answer is no. Even with Daniel Bryan and The Shield, there’s such a vacuum left if he does turn heel. Could he potentially snap during this match, though, and remain a face? Now that’s a possibility. Wyatt isn’t necessarily out to turn Cena heel, but simply wants to drag him down. If it wasn’t a Steel Cage match, I’d almost say Wyatt winning by DQ would be a great way to go. However, I think he’ll win, not cleanly, but with a decisive pin.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane in an Extreme Rules match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
I detailed my thoughts on this build a couple of weeks ago, and how Daniel Bryan was in some danger of losing steam. I think that, for the most part, he’s OK, though it’s telling that this is probably the third-most important match of the night. Most people expect this to be a classic Kane monster match, particularly against a smaller opponent, in which Kane dominates before Daniel Bryan rallies and ends up winning. I’d actually advocate for WWE to go another way with this. You can have Kane get his offense in, especially if they want to push him as the monster past Sunday night, but I’d really have Daniel Bryan dominate the match. I’d have him show his — for lack of a better term — “ruthless aggression,” harkening back to that era of WWE. That’s one thing we really haven’t seen a ton of from Daniel Bryan, but he is capable of putting on a match in which he just dominates. If WWE really wants to make sure Bryan doesn’t lose steam, that’s how I would do it. It would be something different to catch the crowd’s attention from the typical underdog role he’s been accustomed to, and what many people expect his title reign to do. However, the result is not in doubt, and the only question is where Daniel Bryan goes from here.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Evolution vs. The Shield
This, in my mind, is the most interesting match of the night, because there are so many different ways the WWE could decide to go with it. First, I do not think that the feud ends here. This has too much potential to simply be a one-shot, particularly as a match that, as of this moment, has no stipulations to it. This feud really should go at least one more pay-per-view, if not more. So, going with that assumption, it would be natural for Evolution to go over in this match, or at least somehow gain the upper hand. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Evolution will win, as they could simply beat down The Shield after the match and stand tall, but I do expect Evolution to have the upper hand. One thing I keep coming back to, however, is the possibility of a defector from The Shield to Evolution. I had touched upon that possibility in an article a few weeks back, and as everything progresses, I could truly see it happening, especially if this feud goes long enough that Batista has to leave to start his promotional work for "Guardians of the Galaxy." Is it a lock that happens? No, especially because The Shield has proven to be so popular as faces. But it’s certainly something to consider. No matter the ending — and the only ending I have a hard time seeing is The Shield winning cleanly and standing tall at the end — I can see this match rivaling any of The Shield’s past great matches.
Any questions or comments? Leave them below in the comments section or find me on Twitter @TheAOster.