WWE Extreme Rules 2011
Whether it was due to the retirement of Edge, the recent WWE Draft or the absence of several massive names who had appeared at the previous WrestleMania XXVII event, WWE Extreme Rules 2011 felt a bit odd, as if the company had picked certain matches out of a hat with little thought behind their decisions. Nevertheless, what we did get was entertaining across the board, as I will explain as we look back on this event.
Last Man Standing Match
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
Kicking things off, Orton and Punk wrapped up their rivalry which had begun back at Royal Rumble, and had included Randy defeating CM at both WrestleMania and on the April 18 Raw. To me, Last Man Standing matches are very samey, and especially in the PG era, if you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. They can still be enjoyable, though, and this was one of the better LMS contests, partly because of the joint star power of both combatants. Of note, Punk trapped Orton’s throat in a steel chair and sent him hurtling into the ring post in a dangerous spot (it was Extreme Rules, after all). But The Viper rebounded, and he eventually kept Punk down for the ten-count following a top rope RKO (normally reserved for SmackDown vs. Raw games). Orton had conclusively triumphed, then, but he was about to enter another lengthy feud as I will explain shortly. As for Punk, he meandered for a couple of weeks before initiating the storyline that would transform his career and legacy forever.
WWE United States Championship Tables Match
Sheamus (C) vs. Kofi Kingston
As mentioned, the Draft took place the previous Monday, and Sheamus was sent to SmackDown while still holding the United States crown. Therefore, this match basically existed to return the belt to Raw so that The Celtic Warrior would be able to begin his new tenure on SD without the apparent burden of a major championship. At least it meant that Kofi Kingston (who was wearing some cool gear that had a lime-green and pink colour scheme) could add to his honours list, and he ended up drilling Sheamus with a Boom Drop through a ringside table, thus reclaiming the US Championship and causing Sheamus to lose a title in a Tables bout less than 18 months after he had won his first WWE Championship via the same stipulation at TLC 2009.
Country Whippin’ Tag Team Match
Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole & Jack Swagger
Though some will insist otherwise nowadays, when Michael Cole’s heel commentator stint began during 2010, it was refreshing and at times entertaining. But WWE dragged it out for way too long, and when Cole found a way to defeat Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania via a technicality, it had officially entered overkill. The Cole-Lawler rivalry didn’t even end here, in a match that feels like something out of 2003 rather than 2011. Cole did garner some laughs from the other announcers Booker T and Josh Matthews when he came out for the bout covered in bubble wrap, and of course, the faces removed said apparel. Swagger, who had entered and exited Extreme Rules 2010 as World Heavyweight Champion, felt wasted here, and his role in the plotline would more or less be over after this. The wider story wasn’t, though, as Cole managed to roll up JR for the pinfall win. Yes, this would continue, though the feud would finally end at Over The Limit just three weeks later.
Falls Count Anywhere Match
Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes
Moving things back into a positive direction, we had another Mania rematch between Rey and Cody, this time with pinfalls and submissions counting anywhere in the building. Rhodes had beaten Rey at WM XXVII, but he was still angry at the damage Rey had supposedly caused to his once-Dashing face. Mysterio, meanwhile, was nonplussed at the beatings that Cody had dished out to him, as well as his cheating at Mania itself, hence this rematch. This was a fun bout, one which included a scrap near the popcorn stand, a gimmick that never grows old. Back in the ring, Rey randomly spat Great Muta-style poison mist into Cody’s face, and Rey then hit his 619/splash combo for the pin. As Rey had been Drafted to Raw and away from Cody, this marked the end of an underrated feud.
Loser Leaves WWE Match
Michelle McCool vs. Layla
Though many remember the six-person match at WrestleMania for Snooki’s involvement, fewer people recall that it marked the beginning of the end for LayCool. This was meant to be an emotional occasional, but because neither Michelle nor Layla were even remotely likeable based on their collective on-screen personas, fans weren’t as invested into this as WWE would have liked. Layla picked up the surprise win in what really did prove to be McCool’s swansong, but things weren’t completely done yet: Kharma, for whom vignettes had aired over the previous three weeks, made her official WWE debut by hitting Michelle with an Implant Buster, much to the concern of the other Divas backstage. It was a good start, and over the next few weeks, Kharma would strike all who stood before her in impressive fashion. But then came a twist of fate, as she became pregnant and had to take time off; as it turned out, barring a Royal Rumble 2012 cameo, Kharma never did return to WWE again. This is a major “what if”, not only for how Kharma might have dominated the Divas scene in 2011 and beyond, but for how her participation might have contributed to, or perhaps even blocked, the eventual Women’s Revolution.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match
Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian
Originally, Edge was set to defend the gold against ADR under Ladder rules (WWE even announced the match), but on April 11, Edge announced that he had to immediately retire, and officially forfeited the strap later that week. Therefore, the belt was vacant, and it was up to Edge’s longtime friend Christian to oppose the Mexican Aristocrat. Given that Christian was a Ladder match veteran and that Del Rio was still fresh at this stage, this bout held the most intrigue of any other, and it proved to be the best of the evening as they traded some cool moves and hard-hitting offence involving the ladder itself. Del Rio enlisted the help of both his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez and his bodyguard Brodus Clay to try and thwart Captain Charisma, who tried to defend himself by hurling a smaller ladder hard at Clay’s head, busting him open badly. But Del Rio regained the advantage and seemed poised to win the belt, only for Edge to show up in a jeep to provide a distraction. This allowed Christian to tip him off the ladder and scale the rungs himself to finally win his first World Title in WWE. He celebrated with Edge afterwards in a feel-good moment, and while it was sad for Edge’s career to be over (little did we know that he would eventually return at Royal Rumble 2020), at least Christian had ascended to the main event level as a replacement, and his time was now … or so we thought.
The following week on SmackDown, Randy Orton (who had been Drafted over from Raw, remember) established himself as the real substitute for Edge when he defeated Christian that very night to win the World Heavyweight Title. The smarks were furious that the rug had been pulled from under Christian. Though it had to be a disappointment to him personally, this was only the start of a superb rivalry that included four exceptional PPV matches and other TV bouts, as well as a heel turn and a further World Title reign for Christian. Considering that he would have been unlikely to win the WHC had Edge stuck around, it ultimately worked out well for Christian in the end, and while he clearly hoped to have spent more time holding such a major belt, his success might not have happened at all if The Rated R Superstar had remained on the active roster.
WWE Tag Team Championship Lumberjack Match
Kane & Big Show (C) vs. Wade Barrett & Ezekiel Jackson
Whenever WWE was running short on ideas for Kane and Big Show, they would either cause a feud between them or initiate a tag team for both monsters. The latter tactic was being used again here, as they had defeated Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel for the belts on the April 22 SmackDown. Here, it was the two larger Corre members challenging them in an unannounced Lumberjack match. A clear filler bout, the only thing I could think of when watching this was: who is the guy in the clearly-unsuitable cowboy hat? (It was David Hart Smith.) It’s also weird in hindsight to see Byron Saxton at ringside as an actual wrestler, given that he was still trying and failing to make it as an in-ring competitor on the original NXT. Anyway, the babyfaces won when Barrett arrogantly tried to steal the thunder, only to taste a Chokeslam from Show. This would lead to Jackson being ousted from the Corre in the subsequent weeks, and the beginning of a not-exactly-vintage feud between Wade and Zeke over the Intercontinental Title.
WWE Championship Triple Threat Steel Cage Match
The Miz (C) vs. John Cena vs. John Morrison
Bear with me as I explain this one. Miz had retained his WWE Title against Cena at WrestleMania thanks to The Rock, which led to Cena vs. Rock being announced for WrestleMania XXVIII. No, not Extreme Rules, meaning that a gauntlet match was held to determine who would face Miz. Weirdly, Cena and R-Truth (who had not been anywhere near the title scene throughout his time in WWE, and wasn’t even on the Mania card) ended up getting the opportunity after Miz and Alex Riley jumped them to abruptly conclude the gauntlet bout. However, Truth was then persuaded to defend his title shot against John Morrison on the April 18 Raw, and he lost! This led Truth to suddenly go crazy and turn heel on JoMo, and he was clearly losing his marbles in the subsequent weeks. Of note, his speech on the April 25 Raw was the first mention of Little Jimmy. Amidst all this, we had a WWE Title match inside a Steel Cage to look forward to, which quietly marked the biggest match of Morrison’s career.
The contest itself was intriguing, but it just felt odd. A straight-up Miz vs. Cena match inside the Cage would have felt normal enough, but throwing in Morrison to trigger his feud with the now-villainous Truth, especially when he had little chance of winning the top prize in a normal scenario, was a bit bizarre. Morrison’s involvement did improve the match quality, though, since he was more than willing to take some major stunts off the steel structure, which included a Starship Pain onto both his opponents below. As he was about to escape and pick up the win, though, R-Truth got involved and beat up JoMo in the Cage (yes, in the Cage), thus denying him the chance to become WWE Champion. Truth also left Cena laying in the process, having apparently forgotten that John was his childhood hero. This gave Miz an opening to win, but Cena rebounded as he always does and struck Miz with an Attitude Adjustment off the ropes to reclaim the WWE Title, ending Miz’s reign at 160 days, as it had begun the night after Survivor Series 2010. Of note, Michael Cole should have been devastated that his beloved Miz had finally lost the top prize; instead, one would not have known from his commentary here that he had any sort of storyline link with the now-former Champion. The Cena-Miz feud would continue into Over The Limit, but while Truth and Morrison had several matches, they never did have a singles bout on PPV.
As a sidebar, after the match and after the show went off the air, Cena revealed to the live crowd in Tampa, Florida the news that the world was suddenly learning about the death of Osama Bin Laden. The Rock also referenced it when he appeared on Raw the next night to celebrate his birthday, which leads me to quickly ponder once again how Rock, via a vague tweet he sent shortly before the story broke, seemed to be aware of what had happened before most leading worldwide global figures. Maybe Rock does have a shot of becoming U.S. President one day …
On the whole, then, WWE Extreme Rules 2011 was a lot of fun. Oftentimes, but especially during this era, WrestleMania was where the big stars came out and the spectacle was magnanimous, but those hoping for a night of incredible in-ring action were usually left wanting, and yet the very next supershow would usually match the needs of pure wrestling fans. That applied here with several strong matches and none that were particularly offensive (well, besides maybe the Country Whippin’ bout). Given the choice, I’d still rather watch WrestleMania XXVII for all its flaws, but for those who prefer good solid action over “moments”, Extreme Rules 2011 is worth checking out.