The 2013 edition of Extreme Rules likely didn't blow anyone's hair back, but it was another solid PPV offering from WWE, albeit with two quirky finishes that fans weren't too pleased about. At least, not the ones on my Twitter feed.
The WWE Championship match between Ryback and John Cena, was declared a no-contest after Ryback drove Cena and himself through the stage set-up and, apparently, onto the floor a few feet below. I don't have a problem with the no contest being declared, even though it was Last Man Standing rules, which usually gives you a decisive winner. Both men, essentially, were down for a count of 10 after the big spot. The live fans seemed a little disappointed, since they don't get the payoff, but it was a pretty good spot.
I did think it was hokey that Cena somehow managed to land perfectly on a beam that was about 3-4 inches wide and balanced on that. Literally pulling back the curtain, I'm sure there was padding behind the stage to brace the fall of both men, then they positioned themselves on and around the metal rack set-up backstage while replays were shown until the camera crew got there.
The match itself, I thought, was pretty good with a lot of fun spots, especially once the two started battling in the crowd. But it, and other matches during the show, never seemed to have a great false finish to really buy into. To me, those should be easier to accomplish in a Last Man Standing match because a count of 10 doesn't belittle someone's finisher the way a 3-count pin does.
The other odd finish came in the No. 1 contender's match, pitting Jack Swagger against Alberto Del Rio. During the apparent finish, Swagger cinched in the Patriot Lock and Del Rio's cornerman, Ricardo Rodriguez, positioned himself to throw in the towel. Del Rio waved him off though, but when the referee wasn't looking, Swagger's manager Zeb Colter grabbed the towel from Ricardo and threw it in and Swagger was declared the winner.
Another referee ran out to inform Mike Chioda, the assigned official, of what happened, and Chioda -- get this -- asked for an instant replay. Sure enough, the timekeeper had a monitor to show him what happened. The match was restarted, and Del Rio won when Swagger quit after the Cross Armbreaker.
My two main issues with this were that suddenly we're using instant replay, and secondly, it's an "Extreme Rules" match. Other than a kendo stick (my least favorite weapon because why are there kendo sticks under the ring? Everything else kind of makes sense to be there because it's part of the stuff used by the ring crews) they never really got going with the weapons, and since this was an "I Quit" match rather than a submission match, I was hoping it would focus less on the actual submissions and more on psychology of not wanting to suffer a career-ending injury or seeing your friend suffer injury. In other words, it seemed too simple for he stipulaton and that was a let down.
Back to the instant replay stuff. In theory, this is WWE's first use of an actual instant replay. It's nice that the timekeeper conveniently had a TV monitor to show the referee. Has that always been there and we just didn't know about it? If not, why wouldn't they just show it on the tremendous screen at the top of the stage, or even the small monitors at the announce table? But the more important problem that many astute fans have already pointed out, doesn't the use of instant replay here set a precedent in WWE canon, and now, it should be used pretty much all the time to right wrongdoings? Again, in theory, this takes a lot of tricks out of the heels' playbooks.
The lone "out" WWE might have is Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger screaming conspiracy and them never going to the instant replay use again because of it. Colter cut a great pre-match promo, referencing the IRS-Tea Party and Associated Press supeona scandals, and conspiracies, and went on a Twitter rant after the match about it being a conspiracy as well. This one isn't over, that's for sure.
Beyond the finishes, the in-ring action for both of the matches was good, along with that of the rest of the PPV. I do think that having several "extreme" stipulation matches hurts the undercard bouts, as they are limited in what they can do, lest it take away from big spots later in the card.
Back in the heyday of ECW and the Attitude Era, these extreme matches seemed a little more organic and each one had a "can you top this?" type of feel. In fact, that's a big part of how guys like Edge, Christian and the Hardys got over. Now, I feel like the spots are very regulated and if Cena and Ryback are going to break a table, then no one else gets to use tables during the show. It's probably my biggest complaint about these so-called gimmick PPVs.
I digress. This is the 12th paragraph and I'm just now getting to the main event between Brock Lesnar and Triple H. That's not to say it was bad. Actually, it was probably the best match on the show and the booking made sense. Lesnar sold a knee injury throughout the match, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was done, in part, to write him off television for a few months. Heyman can cut a promo tonight explaining that Lesnar tore up his knee early but not only finished the match but beat Triple H, giving Lesnar a ton of heat.
This was easily the best match of the series of three, and I thought the WrestleMania match was good. Triple H took a low blow from Heyman (who recovered remarkably fast from a Pedigree, but whatever) and Lesnar smacked him with a brutal-looking shot from a sledgehammer that Triple H introduced into the match for the finish. This one actually had those close call false finishes you could buy into. After Heyman initially tried to interfere, and Triple H nailed him with a Pedigree, hit struck Lesnar with the hammer and a Pedigree, and it looked like that might be it. Lesnar kicked out. To me, that took the match up a necessary notch.
They also debuted a new cage, which was a taller -- I always thought the last cage was kind of short, so this was a good change -- but otherwise, there were no real noticable changes.
Randy Orton and Big Show also had a nice Extreme Rules match that was a fun showcase for Orton in his hometown of St. Louis, that saw the return of the punt kick. Orton teased this not too long ago in a TV match, I think, but didn't hit it (maybe it was against the Shield?). Either way, because he hasn't used it in years and it was a no disqualification match, it made perfect sense for him to break it out here.
I started thinking it would've been interesting if Cena-Ryback was an Extreme Rules match -- it would've made the no contest easier to digest -- and this a Last Man Standing match, which would've favored Big Show during the build-up because of his KO punch. You still could've had the punt kick finish, keeping Show down for the count of 10.
I've never been a big fan of the Viper, but he's growing on me as an upper mid-carder. He never impressed me in promos enough to be a true main eventer -- especially as a babyface -- but I've always thought he worked best as a No. 2 or 3 star who will always be popular, but who's job should be putting over guys on their way up. In a way, he should be Chris Jericho.
Jericho got his win back in a solid opening contest against Fandango in which the only thing that was extreme was -- as Jerry Lawler put it -- the dress Summer Rae was almost wearing. Yowsa. Fun opener though with Jericho winning with a sick Codebreaker counter to Fandango coming off the top rope.
All three members of the Shield won gold last night. I really liked the Dean Ambrose-Kofi Kingston match. They worked a fast pace and I liked the finish with Kingston missing Trouble in Paradise and getting caught up in the ropes before Ambrose hit his finisher. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins defeated Daniel Bryan and Kane in about 10 minutes, in another solid but sometimes disjointed match. The finish is awkward to describe -- Reigns held up Bryan in a burning hammer (reverse Attitude Adjustment) set-up and Rollins came off the top rope with kind of a knee to Bryan's throat. It looked great and somewhat dangerous.
In both matches, the Shield won clean while the member(s) not involved stayed backstage until the matches were over. Rare clean victories for heels, which is why these guys come across looking so strong.
The strap match between Sheamus and Mark Henry was a bit disappointing to me. I'm a big fan of both of these guys and I expected a hard-hitting affair. Instead, it seemed like they were struggling to come up with creative ways to use the strap instead of just beating each other up with it. The finish was kind of lame and, was it just me, or did it seem like the strap was too long? If your opponent was down in the center of the ring, you could easily reach all four corners. Shouldn't it be a struggle to do that?
The Miz beat Cody Rhodes in the preshow. The only thing of note was Josh Matthews, who i think they are trying to turn into a heel announcer, ripping the Miz for his struggles to apply the Figure-four Leglock in the past. I couldn't help chuckle when Triple H used the Figure-four during the main event. In the old days, guys would go nuts over someone using their finish as "just another move." Can you imagine Miz going off on the COO backstage? Yeah, right.
Hopefully, we get some resolution to the disputed finishes on Raw tonight. Unlike with Extreme Rules, where there was six weeks in between pay-per-views, we are back to four weeks between now and Payback on June 16. That should make the pacing of the build-up the next few weeks a bit faster.