Produced By: WWE
Date: April 26 2015
Location: Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois, USA
Although it is hoped that each Pay-Per-View event is better than the last one, show-to-show comparisons are not usually made. However, the annual expectation comes for the first post-WrestleMania PPV, which is always in some ways compared to Mania. This year, it was no exception with Extreme Rules, especially since it hosted a number of WM rematches. In the end, Extreme Rules stood up as a relatively good show in its own right, but as an overall package, it didn’t quite reach the level that WrestleMania 31 did.
On the Kick-Off show, we were treated to Neville vs. Bad News Barrett, with Neville filling in for an injured Daniel Bryan, who was meant to defend his Intercontinental Championship against Barrett on the main card. As it was, we got a really good substitute match which the reliably red-hot Chicago crowd were on their feet for. The result was a nice surprise, as Neville actually cleanly pinned the former IC Champ with the Red Arrow in his biggest match since officially debuting on Raw the night after WM. It appears that the two Englishmen will enter a rivalry based on this bout and, if the match quality remains as high as it was here, nobody will be complaining.
The main card kicked off with a Chicago Street Fight between Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper, the origins of which stemmed from Harper powerbombing Ambrose through a ladder at WrestleMania 31. The two men started off furiously and traded big moves, risky dives and brutal-looking weapon shots. A plethora of steel chairs were thrown into the ring, as is custom during Ambrose matches which have no rules. Harper hit a nice big boot to counter Ambrose’s rebound clothesline attempt. As the scrap was building up nicely, though, we got a surprise, as after the two had fought backstage, Harper actually commandeered a car and drove off, right out of the Allstate Arena. Ambrose followed suit in another vehicle, meaning that the Chicago Street Fight had literally gone to the streets. Would this really be the end of the match or would we get a bonus chapter later? The latter, I believe.
Match two was the Kiss Me A–e match between Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler. This was a strange choice for stipulation, to put it mildly. Sheamus returned with a new look on the March 30 Raw and immediately turned heel, which included a Brogue Kick that left Ziggler injured. Over the next few weeks, it was obvious that a Dolph-Sheamus match would happen at Extreme Rules, which is fair enough. But a Kiss Me A–e match? In the PG era? Not only was it bizarre (especially since WWE doesn’t seem to remember that the “A-word” in question has the same meaning as a-double-s), but it made no sense from a storyline perspective: the only previous matches which involved this area of the anatomy being part of a match forfeit involved Billy Gunn and Rikishi, two men who either had a fetish with the backside (Billy) or whose posterior was actually part of his gimmick (Rikishi). Neither Sheamus nor Dolph has ever been associated with buttocks from a character standpoint, so why pick this as the selling point of the match? Plus, it was Sheamus’ first PPV match since his return as a more serious and dangerous villain. Surely WWE could have picked something else (Sheamus even had his own signature brawl in 2013, the name of which currently escapes me, which would have been far more appropriate).
Despite this, the match itself was worth watching, and a reminder that Sheamus is one of the better big men in WWE from a wrestling standpoint. The big surprise here was that Ziggler won, which shocked many: not only did Sheamus lose his first supercard match since beginning his second heel tenure (and Sheamus was unbeaten for over half a year after originally debuting in WWE as a bad guy, but it was actually assumed (perhaps cynically) that the match stipulation was chosen in order to humiliate Ziggler (for real), so Dolph winning was an eyebrow-raiser. Not that it mattered, because after some typical teasing, Sheamus pulled a swerve and attacked Dolph, and forced him to be the one engaging in a spot of a–e kissing. The feud is continuing, so chances are that Ziggler will gain revenge at some point, but the whole set-up still feels a bit strange to me. I should also mention that we simply saw a cheek as opposed to a full-on backside when it came to the moment of personal torture, probably because of the PG rating; whether this was good or bad depends on your point of view.
After the unexpected announcement that King Of The Ring would return as a Network special just two days after ER, we had the WWE Tag Team Title match between Tyson Kidd and Cesaro and The New Day. This feud has seen both sides undergo an attitude adjustment, as The New Day have answered the crowd’s “New Day sucks!” chants by turning into oblivious heels, and Kidd and Cesaro have gone face, basically so that they can oppose New Day. The arrangement worked from a crowd standpoint (the Chicago fans would have given the “wrong” reactions had the two turns not occurred), and it led to a better match, as the defending champions were able to unleash more of their repertoire by being able to display flashy and/or technically proficient moves, knowing that they would get the desired positive response. New Day seem to be adapting well to their heel roles too, which is particularly interesting for Kofi Kingston since he has solely wrestled as a babyface since his WWE debut in early 2008.
Going into this one, I expected Kidd and Cesaro to retain. A rematch with The Usos is on the table for when Jey Uso returns from what appears to be a pretty serious injury, and with these two, the Usos and the entertaining combo of Miz and Mizdow having owned the tag scene since late last year, the division has been on a rise in quality which it is assumed would continue with Kidd and Cesaro leading the charge. Therefore, it was another surprise when The New Day actually won the titles, albeit controversially with Kofi pinning Tyson after a distraction by Xavier Woods, and with a handful of tights at that. It’s a good job WWE turned these teams because, had New Day become Champs while working as babyfaces, the Chicago crowd would have loathed it; as it was, the result still nonplussed many fans, but at least the villains cheated to get the unpopular title win, and it is hoped from here that Kidd and Cesaro will continue chasing New Day in an effort to regain the straps.
While The New Day were being interviewed backstage after the match, two cars suddenly pulled in and, out of nowhere, the Ambrose-Harper match was back on! The two brawled back to the ring, and once again the ring was covered in a pile of steel chairs, which led to a painful conclusion: Ambrose shoved Harper off the top rope so that the former Wyatt Family member landed back-first on several chairs, all at various angles (meaning more unplanned pain), before Dirty Deeds sealed the victory for Dean, who won his first PPV match here since the demise of The Shield. A fun match, then, although I would have enjoyed seeing this part of the match happen later in the show; they could have made it a show-long thing, thus making it a bigger moment when the bout finally did end.
With the opening match of the Pay-Per-View ending over an hour into the card, it was equally unusual that we then got the semi-main event: John Cena vs. Rusev for the United States Championship in a Russian Chain match. Why WWE said this was the first such match for 27 years when there were a couple of “normal” Chain bouts in the WWF during the Attitude Era is hard to figure. Less complicated to work out would be the formula of this contest, and its result. The basic premise sees both men make various attempts to win with increasing drama, mixed with big moves enhanced by both men being strapped together, before someone finally wins. As for the outcome: more people probably bet on Qatar to earn the 2022 World Cup than for Rusev to win here (those who placed their bets on Qatar may have gotten a sweet payoff, if you know what I mean). As a proud American, Cena was not going to lose a match whose title promoted an “enemy” nation, and besides, why have Rusev lose for the first time at WrestleMania only to regain the gold here?
For that reason, the body of the match and its conclusion were exactly as expected. What I didn’t expect was for the match to be so quick: just as the bout was heating up, it suddenly ended with Cena dropping Rusev with an AA to hit the fourth and final turnbuckle. Another five or ten minutes inserted into this one would have made a big difference; I didn’t have great expectations going into this, but I was still disappointed by what we got. At least this marked the end of the Cena-Rusev rivalry, having already lasted for nearly three months, and both men can move on to … hold on. Scratch that: there will be an I Quit rematch at Payback. I don’t get why this match is happening; there is “No Chance In Hell” of Cena saying I Quit, and Rusev has already lost to Cena twice. I hope they put on a good effort on May 17, because otherwise the I Quit clash will be the most pointless PPV match of the year. The Chain match did at least move along the Rusev-Lana storyline which is likely to result in Lana dumping Rusev and going babyface, so if Payback does deliver that payoff, perhaps the feud-ending showdown won’t be so unnecessary after all.
Following this was Nikki Bella defending the Divas Championship against Naomi. This was a fresh match, and Naomi’s first since turning heel a few weeks ago on Paige, who had actually earned this very title opportunity that night by winning a Battle Royal; why Naomi was given the shot despite injuring the real contender was never explained. More questionable was how the Bellas have, out of the blue, suddenly turned babyface again. To clarify: Nikki turned heel on Brie at SummerSlam and hurled some evil insults at her twin sister over the next few months, before Brie inexplicably turned heel at Survivor Series and sided with Nikki, with no explanation ever given as to why she forgave her for such vile verbal abuse (a quick line in a short promo would have at least given us something to work with). But now, because the challenger was a heel, the champion is now suddenly a babyface? And her sister too? Actually, this isn’t even the first unexplained Bellas babyface turn, either: in autumn 2013, they turned babyface with no on-screen explanation, days after the announcement that Brie would be marrying Daniel Bryan. Therefore, it’s probably reasonable to assume that The Bellas will go back heel at some point fairly soon, likely without proper justification.
Oh, there was a match. It was okay; not great, not even very good, but it was acceptable. Naomi debuted some cool-looking boots with colour-changing soles; this was the highlight of the match experience for me. (She also had new theme music, sensible given her heel turn, but it wasn’t very good so I won’t mention that any further.) There were a couple of decent moves, so it wasn’t a bad match; it just wasn’t something that I’d watch twice or remember five minutes after it happened. In the end, Nikki hit Naomi with the Rack Attack to successfully retain her prize. It appears that Naomi is a short-term contender, otherwise she wouldn’t have lost cleanly just two weeks after going bad. But if WWE is planning to keep Naomi in the title hunt, this result was a bit short-sighted.
Next up, we had Roman Reigns against Big Show in a Last Man Standing match. Going into Extreme Rules, this had the potential to be the PPV bum note of the year: you have a babyface being booed out of the building against a heel whose act is so stale that he is now greeted with chants of “Please retire!” And in a hardcore, rowdy die-hard crowd like Chicago, this had the potential to be a 20-minute mix of rest holds, “Boring!” chants and general apathy before the inevitable Reigns win. But on a night of pleasant surprises, here we got the nicest one of all.
This ended up being a thrilling attraction; definitely the match of the night, and a real achievement for both men. Reigns is clearly trying to prove something performance-wise to answer his critics, and Show gave us his best in-ring showing since his above-expectations feud with Sheamus in autumn 2012. This was a bout stuffed with big moves and logical selling from said spots, and a couple of moments which moved the Allstate Arena to very positive chants. On that note, I feel this match partly succeeded because the fans gave it a chance: Reigns was cheered for the most part, and Show was booed in a good way (you can be booed in a bad way, even if you’re a heel). Had this taken place in New York or (shiver) Philadelphia, it would have been the dud that most believed it would be. Instead, this was the highlight of the show, with the key spots seeing Show chokeslam Roman over the top rope through two ringside tables, Reigns spear Show through a barricade, and Reigns tip an announcer’s table over Show to be (yes!) the Last Man Standing. Reigns won, of course. Show winning would have been senseless.
I loved this match. Both men clearly had something to prove in light of such negativity towards them, and they delivered a worthy match that was show-stealing (no pun intended). The WM 31 bout with Brock Lesnar was one thing, but Lesnar was always going to lead Reigns through that match. Here, Roman had to work with a years-past-his-prime slow-moving giant who hadn’t had a memorable match in years, and they pulled it off magnificently. On the back of this, Mania and the Fast Lane match with Daniel Bryan, Reigns is finally developing in the manner that was hoped for last fall, so if WWE continues to steer Roman down a path where he can shine in upper mid-card showdowns and if he can continue to improve in the ring along the way, then Roman should definitely be ready for the big push in late 2015/early 2016, should WWE decide to pull the trigger then. And a shout-out for Big Show, who as stated delivered a great match at a time when almost everybody believed that he was truly past it.
After a short, time-filling segment where Bo Dallas insulted the crowd before being mauled by Ryback, we had our main event. Seth Rollins would be defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton in a Steel Cage match where the RKO was banned, and where Kane, the Authority’s Director of Operations who has been at odds with Rollins in recent weeks, would serve as the gatekeeper if either man planned to leave the cage via the door. Phew!
A Rollins victory seemed assured, especially with Orton pinning Rollins after that RKO at WrestleMania, and with Seth having only been World Champ for four weeks since cashing in Money In The Bank in the main event of said Mania. The quality of the match was also a certainty, in that it was likely to be a really good match. And I enjoyed it, although the WM match was unquestionably more memorable, and despite criticism by fans online after the show about the match and its conclusion (which I will tackle shortly).
The match went as expected in terms of the quality and of the moves on show; there was a lot of main event-level action, although there was nothing that would have you Tweeting an OMG reaction seconds later. J&J Security tried to get involved, but Orton removed them from play, actually by using Rollins and ramming him into Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury with the cage wall as a separator. Orton signalled for an RKO, despite the stipulation, but instead he surprisingly pulled out a Pedigree, but Rollins kicked out. Orton then went for a Punt, only for Seth to avoid contact. The finish began with Kane deciding to slam the cage door on the heads of both combatants, entering the cage himself and subsequently destroying the modern-day Stooges, Noble and Mercury. Kane teased a chokeslam on Rollins but instead hit Orton with the move; however, when Seth did try to escape, Kane chose that as the moment to level him chokeslam-style. But he tried to adhere to the Authority by dragging Rollins over Orton for a pin attempt, only for Orton to kick out. Orton then levelled Kane with an RKO, and then Rollins hit Orton with an RKO, and crawled out the cage door to retain the title.
Some complained about the ending, because both men used the supposedly banned RKO. To me, this criticism is nit-picking. Orton RKO’d Kane; he didn’t RKO his actual opponent, so no complaints about that. And whilst Rollins was a participant who used the RKO, it’s obvious that most people expected Randy and not Seth to use it, so from a storyline standpoint, it’s justifiable that Seth got away with using it. Plus, he’s a heel, and besides, he’s aligned with The Authority, so why would the referee potentially disqualify Rollins (impossible in a cage anyway) and strip him of the title? Overall, no complaints over the ending, and Rollins wins as expected. A Rollins-Kane showdown looks to be on the cards, as well as a possible Rollins-Orton rubber match. Between these two options, inevitable clashes with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, and other possible contenders in the future, Seth has more options for opponents than any World Champion has had in many years, which is a positive sign and raises hopes that this title reign will be one to remember.
I thought Extreme Rules was a good show overall, and a decent follow-up to the superior WrestleMania 31. It wasn’t great, but I did like it. That being said, had the Reigns-Show lived down to the low expectations, I probably would have considered this to be an average card, since the Russian Chain match was disappointing and the main event, like the PPV, was good but not great. The other matches were adequate but nothing special. Therefore, as unimaginable as it seemed beforehand, my positive feedback for Extreme Rules 2015 is thanks to the combination of Roman Reigns and Big Show. I would have used Reigns’ “Believe that” line to end this review, but I used it for my look at Royal Rumble, so given the unexpected show-stealer, I will instead borrow a line from everyone’s favourite wrestling superhero of yesteryear, The Hurricane: “What’s up with that?”
Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable