The standard overdramatic PPV intro video for Extreme Rules stated that “rules are made to be broken” which they seemed to prove by not letting things like pre-agreed rules get in the way of certain people winning. First, before the rundown of the event, I want to talk about the preshow match of Bad News Barrett vs. Neville. Initially, the tag title match was to be on the preshow, but it soon transpired that Daniel Bryan is injured and wouldn’t be able to compete. It’s tough being a Bryan fan. I’d hate the Intercontinental belt to be the second title he’s stripped of due to injury. I love seeing the guy in the ring, but every slightly dodgy looking landing he takes makes me wince slightly. I hope he returns to full strength soon.
Anyway, the match itself was way better than it had any right to be, considering it was made at the last minute and was shifted to the preshow. Barrett’s brawler style was a great foil to Neville’s acrobatics and the match was incredibly enjoyable. People will complain that Barrett lost again, but Neville needs these wins early in his career to sell him as someone to cheer for. I like the fact that he hasn’t said anything since his WWE debut. I’m not sure whether this is because he has a thick Geordie accent and people might not be able to understand him, but it’s working for now. It’s created a bit of mystique around him that ties into the whole superhero-esque gimmick. Both wrestlers came out of the match looking good and this may be the start of Neville’s involvement in a title chase. It was a great way to kick things off.
Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper in a Chicago Street Fight
Ambrose and Harper are two of the most hardcore wrestlers on the roster and I was looking forward to a no disqualification scrap between them, despite the overall PG rating neutering any of the really fun stuff. The action soon spilled out of the ring and into the backstage areas. Despite backstage fights always being a bit crappy, I like them a lot. Perhaps it’s my memories of the backstage battles I used to have in the Smackdown PS2 games messing with my critical faculties. It also reminds me of the Hardcore title and the insane unconventional matches they used to have. Things got very Attitude Era when Harper stole a car and Ambrose leapt in through the window causing Harper to drive off, Ambrose’s legs still dangling out of the side. As there were no count-outs, the fight continued unseen whilst other matches went on. We got part two of the brawl later on in the show, with the ring being covered by thrown chairs at one point. Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds and picked up the win. It was a fun enough match, but there weren’t as many weapon spots as I was hoping. With all the powerbombing going on in the lead up, I expected at least one broken table.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus in a “Kiss Me Arse” match
Despite the stupid stipulation, this one turned out well. The match was well booked. Sheamus is a powerhouse and Ziggler can sell brutal moves with the best of them. One criticism of Ziggler is that he’s always getting beaten up in his matches because that’s what he does best. It did get pretty ridiculous. At one point in time, it seemed a standard Ziggler fight consisted of Dolph rolling around in pain for 90% of the match. That note seems to have been taken on board. Ziggler wrestled aggressively and held his own against the always aggressive Sheamus. It was a great match. It was fast and visceral. Ziggler won after a surprise roll-up pin and Sheamus was forced to realise the consequences of setting up such a dumb match. What followed made me glad that I watch wrestling on my own as I’d have been at a loss for words when it came to justifying it. We had a good five minutes of a mohawked man not wanting to kiss another man’s arse. After much fretting (and a fantastic audible referee command of “get in the ring and kiss his ass!”) Sheamus hit Ziggler with a low blow, attacked him for a bit and then grab the stunned Ziggy by his spaghetti hair and rub his face on his white bum. Wrestling, ladies and gentleman. To be fair, WWE have done dumber matches, but I’m not quite sure of the point of this one. I hated the fact that commentary never seemed to understand what the phrase “kiss me arse” meant. It led to Michael Cole saying a bizarre pre-match line about Ziggler possibly having to “kiss me arse of Sheamus” which is a sentence so full of broken syntax I’m surprised it didn’t cut him as the words tumbled out of his mouth.
The New Day vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro for the WWE Tag Team Championship
This was my favourite match of the night, hands down. In one match, WWE fixed several persistent gripes with their tag division. Firstly, The New Day cemented their status as a proper heel team. I like all of the separate members of New Day (Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston) but I’m glad Creative have realised they were only fooling themselves when they expected people to unironically cheer for a happy-clappy tag team. Just by flipping their motivations, New Day can keep the whole gospel thing going because now it’s meant to piss you off. It also gives the three talented guys some personality outside of the “aww shucks, I’m just happy to be here” babyface stuff they must have been suffocating under. The fact that they won ensures that not only is there probably going to be a great rivalry between them and Kidd & Cesaro but they’re going to get more heat than ever. Secondly, Kidd and Cesaro are now legit babyfaces. People have been wanting an excuse to cheer for them and now this is it. I love Kidd and Cesaro and now they’ve been dispossessed of the titles, their underdog status makes me like them even more.
And that was just the stuff outside of the wrestling. The match was a corker. There were so many good bits, it’s hard to remember them all. I know commentary always make a big deal about it, but Cesaro really is freakishly strong. The way he caught the brick shithouse that is Big E out of the air was amazing. I’m so glad this match ended up on the main card.
John Cena vs. Rusev in a Russian Chain Match for the United States Championship
This one had a decent build up, despite Rusev waiting until the next PPV to invoke his rematch clause, leaving Cena to have the Open Challenge thing he does. I always like the idea of strap matches, but they tend to be quite unsatisfying. This one was alright, but nothing special. The basic idea of the match being that Cena and Rusev are linked by a chain and the objective is to incapacitate your opponent long enough to be able to touch all four corners of the ring consecutively. Cena eventually managed to win, but I was confused as to why his three lights remained on, allowing him to hit the fourth after AA-ing Rusev. As a result, I didn’t feel much when the match was over. It could be me misunderstanding the rules, it could have been an error, it could have been bad conveyance of the rules or a combination of all three. It might have even been a return to bad Cena writing habits when you feel like there’s no danger of him dropping the title. At least we will have a continuation of the open challenge on Raw, which is working well.
Nikki Bella vs. Naomi for the Divas Championship
I’m a fan of Naomi’s recent show of ballsiness. She’s got a new look and new entrance music to go with her sass and I think it’s great, especially the colour-changing neon light up shoes she had. Cool, if a little distracting. The match wasn’t particularly interesting, but we got to see some impressive stuff from both wrestlers. Naomi’s getting herself involved in a Bellas feud and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Nikki retained, no big shock.
Roman Reigns vs, Big Show in a Last Man Standing match
I wasn’t looking forward to this one. Whilst I like Roman Reigns a hell of a lot more than I once did, I’m still not a fan of current Big Show. Their rivalry seemed incredibly contrived and pointless. Opinion on this match seems to be split. There are some people I know who loved it, whereas I had a more measured response to it. It was pretty good. We found out why the Ambrose/Harper match didn’t have the table action people wanted- it was being saved for this match. Big Show and Reigns had a solid back-and-forth and Roman took an awesome and nasty looking bump through some tables set up outside of the ring. I loved Big Show shutting down Reigns’ repeated attempts to bring a table into the mix. Big Show yelling at the crowd and smashing a table with his bare hands was one of my favourite bits of the whole night. Reigns walked away victorious, hopefully onwards and upwards to better storylines.
Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton in a (deep breath) Steel Cage Match with Special Gatekeeper Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship; The RKO is Banned
I’ve made no secret of my dislike for this stipulations match. The reason for the cage is apparently to keep interference out, but we all know that never works. Plus, there hasn’t been a really good cage match in a long time. Also banning a move is dumb. Both performers are so good, that stuff barely mattered. I liked Orton’s constant battle with himself not to RKO Seth at every moment. I loved the fact that Rollins was always trying to escape, whereas Orton was exactly where he wanted to be. Randy Orton going for his old finisher, Overdrive, as well as Triple H’s Pedigree were nice touches. Rollins made the whole thing feel very close with last millisecond kick-outs. He’s a master at that. Kane was a surprisingly important element in how things went down. He’s definitely on the turn character-wise, but I can’t help but feel they’ll drag this out until the next “important” PPV. The match was fun enough, but again I was confused as to whether the RKO was banned entirely or whether it was just Orton banned from using it. It does seem like this is a story point though, so at least there’s that.
Overall, Extreme Rules was a solid PPV. A bit scrappy here and there, but decently entertaining,