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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Produced By: WWE
Date: May 19 2013
Location: Scottrade Center, St Louis, Missouri, USA
The first PPV after WrestleMania 29 had a pretty big line-up, in keeping with the gimmick theme of the show. There were star-studded speciality matches all across the card, culminating in what seemed (and hopefully was) to be the final chapter in the Triple H-Brock Lesnar feud. But would things get as extreme as they did last year when Lesnar busted John Cena open hard on multiple occasions?
After a pre-show bout which saw The Miz defeat Cody Rhodes, Extreme Rules opened with Chris Jericho vs. Fandango. This was a WrestleMania rematch, and since Mania, Fandango’s popularity – or rather, popularity of his entrance music – has exploded due to a rowdy New Jersey crowd chanting it loud and proud, albeit completely tongue in cheek, the night after WM. His status boost didn’t affect the result here, though: after some decent back-and-forth exchanges, Fandango (who was wearing some nice-looking yet still very strange multi-coloured attire) was vanquished by Jericho via a Codebreaker, which reversed an attempted flying attack by the ballroom dancer.
Normally, you like to see the younger guy come out on top in a feud. However, despite his recent popularity, Fandango’s gimmick is so ridiculous and his ring skills are so run-of-the-mill in most departments that it felt like Y2J demeaned himself losing to the ballroom dancer at WrestleMania. Therefore, it was entirely logical that Jericho won this rematch, although it’s possible that these two may have a rubber match where the result could potentially be reversed.
Next up, we had Dean Ambrose challenging Kofi Kingston for the United States Title. Kofi only won the championship a few weeks back from Antonio Cesaro, but Kofi’s star seems to have peaked in WWE, whereas the fairly new Shield member’s star is on the rise (he and his Shield brethren took out The Undertaker on the London edition of SmackDown after Taker beat Ambrose). Therefore, after a solid and at times impressive, yet still fairly short match, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see a new champion crowned, and this came to pass when Ambrose dropped Kingston with a Headlock Driver to become the new United States Champion.
As alluded to, it made sense that Ambrose would capture the gold here, since it wasn’t going to advance Kingston’s career any more than the belt had done in the past. In Ambrose’s hands, the title could make a difference, and this title win adds to the momentum that The Shield has picked up since their first appearance together at Survivor Series 2012. Even more was to come for the group later in the evening, as it turned out. That made two fairly good matches out of two so far for Extreme Rules.
That mini-streak was unlikely to continue, though, with the next bout pitting Sheamus against Mark Henry under Strap rules. I’ve never been a big fan of Henry, and this was a rerun of a rivalry which hit a minor peak in the summer of 2011, making a rematch unnecessary here. That being said, it wasn’t too bad, or should I say it was no worse than expected. Henry laid in the leather strap shots hard on the back of Sheamus (or maybe it just seems that way on Sheamus’ milky-white back), and the Celtic Warrior attempted several comebacks to a good response. The match followed the usual structure of both men taking it in turns to try and hit all four corners with the strap, with the other man always cutting them off at the last moment. It all came down to a Brogue Kick, as Sheamus used his preferred physical weapon to down Henry and make it to the fourth corner to come out on top.
I was glad to see Sheamus win cleanly here, for two reasons: firstly, it ends this feud at one big match, which was all that was needed in this rehash of their 2011 conflict; and secondly, it means there’s even less chance of WWE once again pushing Mark Henry as a top heel, after giving us a scare with his push so far this year (this result did make me wonder why WWE bothered booking Henry to beat Ryback at WrestleMania, especially with Ryback challenging for the WWE Championship later on). Match quality overall was alright, to be fair.
A backstage scrap between Kaitlyn and AJ Lee happened next, in place of the Divas Title bout which I assumed would be held on this card after AJ recently became the number one contender to Kaitlyn’s prize. Speaking of that honour, the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship was about to be determined when Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger battled in an I Quit match. This wasn’t meant to happen; the original plan was for a 3-way Ladder match alongside WHC holder Dolph Ziggler, who cashed his Money In The Bank briefcase in on Del Rio the night after WrestleMania to an incredible reaction. But that went up in smoke when Ziggler suffered a concussion a few weeks later on SmackDown, so with Dolph on the shelf, we would instead get a match to determine a sole contender to his crown.
Similar to their match at WrestleMania, this was well-executed but lacking in any real crowd heat, partly because neither man possesses the dynamic charisma which would be required to make matches like this feel like anything more than average. The key moment here was when Swagger trapped Del Rio in the Patriot Lock (formally the ankle lock) and Zeb Colter, having attacked Ricardo Rodriguez at ringside, threw in a towel to signify ADR quitting. But the referee saw through the hijinks and restarted the match to a surprisingly big cheer, and Del Rio went on to win when he made Swagger quit (well, submit) to the Cross-Armbreaker.
Since Ziggler remains a heel, the logical result was for Del Rio to win. And with this I Quit match, WWE tried to make the most of a bad situation. The downside was that the action was still only solid, and even with the hijinks surrounding the finish, neither combatant could provide anything to make this more than just another match. Hopefully Dolph’s charisma and outstanding wrestling ability will make the difference to this three-way rivalry upon his return.
Kane and Daniel Bryan defended their WWE Tag Team Titles against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns under Tornado rules (I meant to say that the earlier Kofi vs. Ambrose match was fought under regular rules). This allowed essentially for two matches to take place at the same time, and the pairings made sense as the big men (Kane and Reigns) concentrated on one another with power moves whilst the smaller athletes (Bryan and Rollins) provided some pretty cool technical wrestling and high-flying spots. Bryan look really good, although everyone in this match put forth a good effort. Like with Kofi-Ambrose, it was a little bit on the short side, and just like that match, new champions were crowned within The Shield, as Bryan got nailed with a cool-looking double-team manoeuver and Reigns got the pin for him and Seth to win the Tag Team Championships.
It was a bit sad to see the long reign of Team Hell No end after eight long months. It’s definitely been the most enjoyable tag title run for many years, possibly since the TLC era in terms of pure entertainment. But the Kane/Daniel Bryan combo probably has passed its peak so it was time to pass the belts onto a new team, and since The Shield have been on fire since their debut, a combination of the two was the perfect choice. For all three members of The Shield, this was a big night and another show of faith by WWE.
Up next, we had an Extreme Rules match between Randy Orton and Big Show (their first PPV meeting, surprisingly). This went over very well, assisted by a strong hometown reaction to the Viper. The action on display was quite good; nothing that they did was particularly innovative, but this was one of those matches where everything just works. They exchanged blows from a variety of blows including a ladder, which slightly made up for the absent Ladder match for the World Heavyweight Title, and that same ladder ended up being broken by Show’s large frame after an attempted Vader Bomb (the ladder was between two steel chairs). Show came close with a Chokeslam, and Orton thought he had it won with an RKO, but the big man kicked out. Undeterred, and willed on by his local supporters, Orton rebounded with a second RKO on a chair and a Punt (the kick hasn’t been used by Orton for a long time) to get the very popular victory.
This match was better than expected, partly because Orton’s hometown crowd provided a great atmosphere, which seemed to energise both men. There were some cool spots in there, and the performances of both were strong (for Show, the last seven-to-eight months of his career have been his best ever from an in-ring standpoint). This was a really entertaining match, and both men had a good night as they concluded their WrestleMania-related business.
The semi-final for this card saw John Cena defend his WWE Title against Ryback in a Last Man Standing match. Ryback unexpectedly (and far too prematurely, in my opinion) turned heel on Cena the night after WrestleMania, emerging into a whining cry-baby as well as a big bully (an interesting combination) as he looked to dethrone Cena here. It seemed that nobody remembered Booker T announcing on said Raw that The Rock was the number one contender (and it’s possible that nobody ever will). In the meantime, Cena apparently suffered an ankle injury during the UK tour, which was written into the storylines as the announcers wondered if this setback would hinder Cena in, of all things, a Last Man Standing bout.
As it turned out, the injury (if indeed it was real) didn’t affect the match at all, as Cena had either fully recovered or shook the injured ankle off in typical Cena fashion. This was a respectable match, but certainly not the best LMS match that we’ve seen. It was an enjoyable yet familiar stunt brawl, which included Ryback slamming Cena through a table, an exchange of big powerbombs, and Cena putting Ryback through a different table after an Attitude Adjustment. There was plenty of action going on, but whether it was because we’ve seen these spots or similar spots so many times, or because of the odd nature of Ryback being a heel so soon, there was something, if not a couple of things, missing to make this a truly memorable match. It was still fun to watch and the St Louis crowd seemed to enjoy it, although neither they (nor me) seemed too happy when the match took another hit upon its ending: Ryback Speared Cena through an LED wall at the aisleway, and both men stayed down for the 10-count. It was a draw, with both men being carted out on stretchers (although we learned on Raw the next day that Cena refused to enter an ambulance; Ryback, for some reason, drove what was purportedly his ambulance into the arena on the post-ER edition of Raw). This finish was too similar to Backlash 2007 (also the post-WM PPV) when Batista hit The Undertaker with a Spear off the stage onto electrical equipment that resulted in a no-contest.
The ending of this LMS bout means that we are almost definitely getting a Cena vs. Ryback rematch. Since their first match here was Last Man Standing, it’s hard to figure what stipulation they will use – they will use one, believe me – when they meet again. It remains to be seen whether Ryback can do enough between now and then to convince the powers that be to award him a WWE title reign. My gut feeling says no, and that when they do meet again, it will be Cena who gets his hand raised and leaves as the WWE Champion. Hopefully he will at least grow into his heel role between now and Cena-Ryback 2.
So, we come to the main event: HHH vs. Lesnar, inside a Steel Cage. This rivalry actually began the night after Extreme Rules 2012 (which was over a year ago since ER was in May this year), when Lesnar responded to HHH refusing Brock’s contract demands by breaking his arm. HHH returned and eventually fought Lesnar at SummerSlam, but was beaten. A rematch followed at WrestleMania 29 when HHH pinned Brock, which I assumed would be the end of their rivalry. Instead, a third match was made for Extreme Rules (making their WM match less worthy of that grand stage since it essentially solves nothing), this time within a cage (and this was a new Steel Cage structure with three parts on each side and a different top to the fences, making it the first new WWE cage for yonks). Fortunately for the combatants, this feud-decider elicited the desired main event crowd response, in contrast to their almost-ignored first two showdowns.
HHH began the match early by attacking Lesnar in the aisleway, which got the match off to a fast and furious start (there’s a movie plug somewhere there). The match then entered the cage, where Brock began to take control in his usual, vicious fashion (although, harking back to my earlier point, we did not get blood, which despite this being a PG era I was slightly surprised about after what went down at Extreme Rules 2012, and after HHH split Lesnar’s head wide open on Raw back in February). Brock really took control with a German suplex, but he lost it when he accidentally rammed his knee into the cage and began screaming in agony in very convincing fashion. HHH worked on the injured knee, but Brock still managed to clamp in a Kimura Lock on HHH’s arm. Paul Heyman soon intervened by slamming the cage door on HHH’s head, followed by a Lesnar F5 for a near-fall. Heyman then threw a chair into the cage for Brock to use, but HHH intercepted it and pounded Lesnar’s knee with it. HHH kept working on the knee before, from the top of the cage, introducing a hidden sledgehammer to a good pop, but Brock prevented its use. After HHH rebounded with a Sharpshooter (bad knee, remember?), HHH Pedigreed the interfering Heyman and Lesnar too, but it wasn’t enough to win. Triple H then picked up the hammer again, but Heyman hit him with a low blow, allowing Lesnar to conk HHH with the hammer and drop him with a second F5 for the victory.
So, Lesnar came out on top in the end. It was the right result because Lesnar’s reputation, originally built in WWE and enhanced in UFC, may have been destroyed had he lost again here. Instead, the victory sets him up for his next feud, which is likely to be against another heavy hitter (CM Punk or John Cena again for the WWE Title are the favourites, since bouts against The Rock or The Undertaker would probably be saved for a WrestleMania). For HHH, his next move is unclear, although he did wrestle his first TV match for three years on Raw the next night against Curtis Axel (previously Michael McGillicutty, now being managed by Paul Heyman), but ended up being too weak to continue, partly due to the Lesnar match here.
Extreme Rules always feels like a tough PPV since it follows WrestleMania. It’s usually well worth watching, but it lacks the spectacle, the glamour, the huge setting and attendance, the first-time meetings to end long feuds; basically, everything that distinguishes Mania from every other PPV. Fortunately, the in-ring talent saw to it that Extreme Rules was a worthy follow-up to WrestleMania, and with some recent turns, a few returns and several other intriguing developments, WWE has now fully entered what could be a pretty interesting post-Mania season.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good