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Power Games – The Fallout from Extreme Rules

Having caught Sunday’s ‘Extreme Rules’ pay-per-view live as it happened (something I did for the first time at the landmark Wrestlemania 30 event in April) I’ve had some time to reflect on the happenings from this surprising, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable event. The first pay-per-view after the grandeur of ‘Wrestlemania’ can sometimes be a little flat, so it was with some trepidation that the ‘purchase’ button on Sky Box Office was selected to order ‘Extreme Rules’. I’m happy to say though, that having seen what was offered up, this was a power-packed follow up to the Showcase of the Immortals.

Of course, the ‘extreme’ bent has a part to play in creating some off-the-chain moments, and looking at the card on paper, there seemed to be a distinct lack of these. Apart from the ‘Extreme Rules’ match main event between Kane and Daniel Bryan, and the cage (re-)match between Cena and Bray Wyatt, the rest of the action appeared rather tame. No ‘anything goes’ remit for The Shield-Evolution explosion?? That was until the addition of an insane and incredibly politically in-correct ‘WeeLC’ match, which somehow managed to turn a feud between two mascots (El Torito and Hornswoggle) from two tawdry stables (Los Matadores – bull-fighters have never been, and never will be, fun in wrestling, and 3MB are the archetypal poor man’s cliché rock band) into – dare I say it – a ‘match of the year’ candidate. If only as a guilty pleasure…

WEE-LC MATCH: EL TORITO (W/ DIEGO & FERNANDO) VS. HORNSWOGGLE (W/ HEATH SLATER, JINDER MAHAL & DREW MCINTYRE)

I can see why this was tucked away on the pre-show, as the result was really of little consequence, but for those that missed it, thinking it’d be a three-minute throwaway piece, believe me, you missed a treat. Now I’m a man of the world – I tell, and laugh at, jokes that perhaps I shouldn’t – but for me, there just seems to be something rather wrong about ‘midget’ wrestling. I know we live in a PC-society now, and ‘midgets’ is not the respectful term for people of well, smaller bodily size. But for all the guilt felt from having the two performers stared at in a “oh look, he’s pulled a mini table out from under the ring!” and “aww, isn’t that cute, a dwarf doing a frog (tadpole?) splash” this match was actually a real gas from start to finish. With the teams of Los Matadores and 3MB on the outside, supporting their respective combatant, this added another edge to the contest as all the men got involved to some extent. With some humorous spots, such as Hornswoggle being duped into performing a splash from the top of a (four foot, at most) ladder as El Torito moved out the way, El Torito hitting a flying elbow on Hornswoggle through one of the miniature wooden tables and 3MB being taken out after a suicide dive from the diminitive bull, there was much to enjoy here. We even had a team of three ‘dwarf versions’ of the commentary team, with Jerry ‘The King’ Smaller, Micro-Cole (who was more of a mini-Jim Ross) and JB-Elf calling the contest, which was officiated by a dwarf referee. The whole thing smacked of a freak show, but at least the competitors appeared up for it and as much mickey-taking was done on the regular sized superstars! The ending came after a top rope sitting cross-body from El Torito put Hornswoggle through a table, which was met with a rapturous ovation from the Izod Center crowd. While the creation of a full-blown ‘dwarf division’ perhaps won’t happen, this was a great showcase proving that – excuse the cliche – size isn’t everything.

Where can this feud go next? –
In my opinion, there can only be one outcome to decide the true victor in this pint-sized encounter: Mini Hell in a Cell!

ELIMINATION MATCH: CESARO (W/ PAUL HEYMAN) VS. ROB VAN DAM VS. JACK SWAGGER (W/ ZEB COLTER)

For me, this match just seemed a little thrown together, what with the interferences in the Van Dam vs. Cesaro and the Van Dam vs. Barrett matches in the Intercontinental Championship tournament. Saying that, I felt all three men worked well together and put on an entertaining contest, but the ‘elimination’ angle wasn’t really required in a match that seemingly had no reward at the end of it. We already knew Barrett was the #1 contender for that title, so apart from saving face and a matter of pride, there was really no motivation for anyone to win this. I was also surprised at how WWE handled the whole Cesaro vs. Swagger angle and ended up chucking a match on free-to-watch TV. For a stipulation-heavy event like ‘Extreme Rules’, this was a rather odd inclusion, but did see the high spot of Cesaro hitting his aeroplane swing on Swagger, and Cesaro again getting the push he deserves by going over Swagger and ‘the whole F’n show’.

Where can this feud go next? –
It’d be a horrendous match, but I’d love to see a tag-team bout pitting Swagger/Colter vs. Cesaro/Heyman! We need to see more managers in wrestling matches, although Heyman’s last in-ring appearance was getting the cack beaten out of him by CM Punk on top of Hell in a Cell, so perhaps not.

ALEXANDER RUSEV (W/ LANA) VS. R-TRUTH & XAVIER WOODS

Ahh, the old ‘let’s pit a superstar of superior strength against two lower-card superstars, with the intention of getting him over as an absolute beast’ – where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, Ryback, who is now teaming with fellow Paul Heyman outcast Curtis Axel…and not even on this show! This is the danger facing Rusev, who admittedly looks incredibly impressive, but I think he needs a big win under his belt sooner rather than later. It’s all very well facing jobbers in handicap matches for the next six-months, but that was the angle taken with Ryback, which just got extremely boring extremely quickly. I like the Rusev character, and Lana’s winding up of the crowd by displaying Russian Premier Vladimir Putin on the Titan-Tron was a great way to get heat (Lana’s rather hot herself, come to think of it…) but WWE really need to line up a worthy opponent for ‘The Bulgarian Brute’ sharpish. And change his nickname, because ‘The Bulgarian Brute’ is crap. Kudos to Xavier Woods in this match, who got about twelve seconds of ring time before being kicked in the face and apparently injured with a horrific belly-to-belly suplex where he landed on his shoulder. Take a bow, son.

Where can this feud go next? –
Stop the two-on-one demolitions, as impressive as they are . While pitting two ‘big men’ against each other can sometimes be a car-crash (Kane vs. Great Khali, anyone?) I think this would be a good way to establish the Rusev character and start him off on a ‘Goldberg’ style unbeaten streak. For this reason, I think Rusev vs. Big Show could be an interesting angle to go with – possibly down the line of the old ‘Indignant Foreigner vs. Patriotic American’ route.

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP: BAD NEWS BARRETT VS BIG E (CHAMPION)

The first opportunity for gold to exchange hands this evening, and the chance falls to Barrett, a man who has seen a resurgence in fortunes since taking part in the Intercontinental Championship #1 Contender tournament, with big wins over Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus and Rob Van Dam along the way. With this push, Barrett came into this match as favourite, and despite a few wobbles, claimed another IC title with an impressive performance over the man with the biggest man-boobs in the WWE. They’re amazing! (I’m surprised Lawler doesn’t start howling about ‘PUPPIES!’ like he used to in the Attitude Era). I really like Barrett; I think he’s always been entertaining on the mic, but his ‘I’m afraid I’ve got some BAD NEWS!’ intros are hilarious and he seems to be having an absolute blast delivering them, which is good to see. While he’s a bit of a pantomime heel, that just adds to his character. The fact he’s British as well means I’m right behind him sticking it to the Americans! In the end, a flying Bullhammer Elbow ended proceedings for Big E and gave Barrett the bragging rights, as well as giving him more ammunition for future promos about who he’s beaten to get his championship gold.

Where can this feud go next? –
After the obligatory rematch with Big E, I think the push for Barrett should continue. Ultimately, some big title defences along the way could boost him in a similar way it did a certain Steve Austin, so I’d look for him to be elevated to a main-eventer in a year or so’s time if he can continue to ride his current wave of success. A win over someone such as Kane, Mark Henry or Randy Orton could do wonders for his reputation. Could Barrett work as a face in future? I suppose he could in the right conditions, but for now, he’s just fine delivering his ‘BAD NEWS!’ In fact, thinking about it I’d bring back King of the Ring as an actual pay-per-view and install Barrett as the 2014 victor as well.

THE SHIELD VS. EVOLUTION

One of the biggies for this event, which I initially thought might have been an eight-man contest pitting The Shield/Daniel Bryan vs. Evolution/Kane (before Bryan emerged as World champ and therefore his match with Kane was made official). My initial dismay that this wasn’t made into a Streetfight or Tornado Rules tag match were dispelled when the opening brawl kicked things off hot, before a more traditional tag section and ending with the action spilling through the crowd, leading to Rollins’ death-defying dive off the audience balcony onto Orton and Trips. In reality, the outcome of this one was never really in doubt, Evolution combining as the old guard to put over the ‘Hounds of Justice’ with the youthfulness and ring-awareness (and ring-um…out-ness) of Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns very much apparent. It still seems fairly obvious that WWE regard Reigns as their poster boy and the superstar they want to take on a singles run at some point, but when The Shield offer up matches like this, it’d be churlish to split the threesome up too soon. A cracking, high energy contest that was allowed to extend out around the arena, as it deserved to. I don’t think the reformation of Evolution was too much of a surprise to anyone, especially when Orton and Batista began to operate on the same page as the Chief Operating Officer. The brief appearance of final Evolution member Ric Flair on Raw in the week before this match was interesting, as he very much gave Evolution the ‘kiss of death’ by shaking The Shield by the hand.

Where can this feud go next? –
If WWE decide to give Reigns a solo run, what better way that initially being set-up by his two stable-mates Ambrose and Rollins? A double-cross could result as the pair are found to be paid off by Triple H and his henchmen to take Reigns out – this could be further cemented by more of the arguments and cracks in the relationship we’ve seen in recent weeks. This could turn Reigns face (even though The Shield are very much ‘anti-fan favourites’) and leave Rollins and Ambrose as a more-than-capable duo still operating under The Shield name. It’d also generate mad heat as Ambrose and Rollins turn on Reigns, giving them greater credence as heels (not even friendship will get in the way of percieved injustice!). Reigns would then be free (after a final flare-up match where Reigns teams with a mystery partner to face Ambrose and Rollins) to embark on a title run or to be set up to face The Undertaker in a Wrestlemania moment that a lot of people want to see. As for Evolution, I can see them disbanding fairly soon, possibly with Triple H taking the decision to retire completely from in ring competition to focus on ‘what’s good for business’.

STEEL CAGE MATCH: BRAY WYATT (W/ LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN) VS. JOHN CENA

A straight up Wrestlemania rematch here, with the addition of the steel cage to prevent the other Wyatt brethren from interfering – yeah right. Cena has suffered the indignation of recent promos cut by the Wyatts (“SING WITH ME, CHILDREN!!” – that was unreal), as they attempt to poison his holier-than-thou image and ‘unleash the monster’ inside him. Despite this being a rehash of the angle used when Kane tried the same thing against SuperCena, it works so much better with the creepy Wyatts spreading their gospel each week. Wyatt is now more than ever the bizarre, warped cult leader, attracting more and more followers with each appearance on Raw. The adoption of ‘Whole World in His Hands’ as their unofficial anthem was a masterstroke, and has shown how stale Cena’s character has become in recent years as Wyatt wipes the floor with him – verbally in any case – each time he gets on the microphone. Despite his Wrestlemania victory, which made sense on such a grand scale, Cena came up second best here – but not without a LOT of outside interference (too much, really, which interrupted the flow of the match), with Rowan and Harper preventing him from escaping the cage at each opportunity. This didn’t do Bray many favours in terms of ability, and by association he looked weaker than in a straight up one-on-one. The climax of the encounter came when Cena was an odds-on favourite to win by walking out the cage door, only for the lights to black out and reveal he was now face to face with ‘Johnny’, the Wyatt family’s weird, cloak-wearing boy mascot, singing at him in an eerie, distorted voice. Appalled by this, Cena lost focus and staggered back into a Sister Abigail from Bray, allowing the Eater of Worlds to wander out and up the ramp with his followers in victory. Creepy as hell, but a rather weak ending to what was a fairly compelling cage match for the most part. Although they really do need to ditch the ‘walking out the cage door’ stipulation – get them climbing over the top, it’s a lot more exciting!! It’s the only true way to win a cage match!

Where can this feud go next? –
They need a decider in this contest, and I think the outcome could be a great way to finally turn Cena heel and refresh his character. The deciding match could be a Hell in a Cell affair with a good build up, truly avoiding any outside interference and giving Cena a relatively equal chance at beating Bray. Added to this could be the stipulation that if Wyatt loses, his ‘family’ are banished from WWE, but if Cena loses, he has to join the Wyatt Family – the booking should be that HE DOES LOSE. While this sort of angle was done a few years back when he was made to join Wade Barrett’s Nexus stable, and even earlier this year when Daniel Bryan decided he wanted to join the Wyatts, they were never portrayed as an actual heel – both Cena and Bryan joined reluctantly and fought the stables from the inside out, but if inducted into the Wyatts, Cena will finally realise that he is sick of the fan’s adulation, the baseball caps, the armbands and denim shorts, sick that he is seen as a hero for kids and wants to actively embrace his dark side (and wear some dirty old sweaty overalls and a sheep mask, obvs). Love him or hate him, having someone of Cena’s calibre in their stable means Bray Wyatt could engage in some decent tag battles with Cena on his side, with Harper & Rowan forming another backbone of the Wyatt Family.

DIVA’S CHAMPIONSHIP: PAIGE (CHAMPION) VS. TAMINA SNUKA

Paige is another British talent that I have gotten behind in recent weeks – not just because I’m British too, but she’s bringing back some of that attitude that made the Diva’s (or Women’s) division so hot around 2000. With talent like Lita, Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Mickie James and Ivory in the mix, it was less about swimsuit-wearing hair-pullers and girls who could actually do proper moves and have worthwhile contests. A lot of people are derogatory about women’s wrestling for this reason, and while competitors should get the same level of respect regardless of gender, we need more women like Paige in WWE to improve the image. Was she pushed to the top too quickly? (The angle where AJ Lee relinquished the title before going on hiatus happened in a brief spot on Raw.) She’s not 100% there yet, so perhaps she was, but only time will tell if she can be given a decent opponent to have some back-and-forth matches with. On this showing, Paige displayed an awareness of the art of wrestling and impressed me a lot.

Where can this feud go next? –
Not sure. I think Paige will have a healthy reign as Diva’s Champion, but I think teaming her with someone or having a partner to watch her back would be a nice idea. Someone like Natalya may work well with her, which would establish her as a fan favourite. Plus the Harts have always seemed to like Brits – remember Bret, Owen and Davey Boy Smith? While Paige isn’t related to the Hart-Smiths, they could play on that idea again.

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP EXTREME RULES MATCH: DANIEL BRYAN (CHAMPION) VS. KANE

First up, apart from Orton and Batista being involved in the earlier six-man tag match, why does Kane even have this title shot? He savaged Bryan on Raw – seemingly against Stephanie McMahon’s wishes, and then she goes on about not being able to control the demon blah, blah, blah – the least they could have done was take away his title opportunity! He didn’t even seem that arsed that it WAS for the biggest prize in WWE, apparently he just wanted to hurt Bryan. I know he’s technically part of The Authority, and by virtue of association he was given the title match, but hey – if we’re using that logic, why not hand it to Billy Gunn or Road Dogg?!? They were teaming with Kane at Wrestlemania 30…right, rant over. I think this match was another one that had a lot riding on it, storyline-wise. After Bryan’s ‘miracle victory’ at Wrestlemania, I think he had to look strong in his first proper title defence, and did a great job against Kane. Certainly the involvement of Brie Bella as Bryan’s real-life wife added a lot to the angle, with Bryan wanting revenge for Kane’s stalking in the weeks running up to ‘Extreme Rules’. In terms of the match itself, we got some great backstage action, including Kane putting his hand through a car window, the use of the forklift truck to move Kane back to the ring, and that old flaming table stunt (this was well executed, but for me the fact a fire extinguisher stood at ringside was a bit of a giveaway about what would transpire…also, the chap wielding it when Kane went through the wood was a bit too quick on the scene for my liking. I’m not saying I want Kane to have third-degree burns on his arms and back leading to some horrible flesh-eating infection, but it would have been highly amusing for Jerry Lawler to stumble over to the extinguisher, read the instructions for an eternity and blast himself in the face with it or something. With all that’s transpired with this pair, I was also surprised to see no mention made of the fact they used to be a tag-team and therefore should be familiar with each other’s offence. But no, WWE doesn’t remember things like that, apparently.

Where can this feud go next? –
Hopefully not with another Kane/Bryan match. It was an OK encounter, but only really because of the Extreme Rules stipulation. Next up on Bryan’s hit-list could be a series with a returning CM Punk, although you’d think this would position Punk as being a heel when (if) he came back. Brock Lesnar is the big hitter of course, but this may be one to save for Summerslam. With Lesnar’s part-time status (was anyone else surprised that he disappeared off the face of WWE as soon as he beat The Undertaker’s streak? You’d think he’d stick around and brag about it) would the fans really accept ‘The Beast Incarnate’ as WWE World Heavyweight Champion as well as being the man who did the unthinkable to Undertaker? He has his fans (me included) but being the ‘one in twenty-one’ as well as champion would certainly get up a lot of people’s noses. Only time will tell, but Bryan’s speed and technical ability vs. Lesnar’s smash-mouth brand of offence would be an interesting contrast of styles. And imagine a submission match for the title – The Yes Lock vs. The Kimura Lock! Get this match booked!


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