Opinion Piece

Let’s Wrestle: Thoughts On Extreme Rules And Its Lackluster Build

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Yup, I’m going to talk about wrestling. I’ve had an on-off again relationship with the world of wrestling, but a few years ago I got back into it and began tuning in every week to the WWE and TNA. I’ve considered writing about it a few times, and while it would have been vastly more sensible to begin before Wrestlemania I decided to finally get down some thoughts. The plan is to do an article like this before each PPV, just chatting about the matches, wrestlers and more. Let me know what you think.

Extreme Rules this year will kick-off with a tag-team match in the pre-show. We’ve got Tyson Kidd and Cesaro facing off against the New Day for the Tag Team belts. The New Day have been slowly heading toward a heel turn simply because nobody seems to actually like them, a bit of a shame considering all three members have clear in-ring talent. Meanwhile backstage reports suggest that WWE higher-ups are considering a face-turn for Kidd and Cesaro due to the crowd reactions they’ve been getting, hence the decision to go with The New Day as their opponents as a sort of way to test the waters. This could be a brilliant match as everyone involved has some serious talent. This one is a little hard to predict. Either Cesaro and Kidd will retain and all three members of The New Day will beat them down, cementing their heel turn, or The New Day will grab the titles and set the stage for a rematch next month, especially with one half of the Usos being out of action and unable to mix things u. Frankly either outcome is perfectly viable, but personally I’d rather see The New Day grab the belts and give us a heel team as the belt holders for a while.

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Meanwhile we’ve got a weakened roster to deal with. Paige is currently away filming some terrible sounding WWE Christmas film with The Miz, not that anybody will miss him, while AJ Lee has quit the company entirely. Meanwhile reports are flying around that Daniel Bryan’s health is in question, hence him not appearing on television much, his role limited to tag matches where he’s been taking noticably few bumps. It’s almost a repeat of last year where he lost the championship after winning it in an epic Wrestlemania showing due to bad health. “muscle activation technique” was done to try to get him back to the ring, but there was never any surgery and never even a proper diagnosis. As for Bryan he apparently hadn’t told people how bad he was feeling heading into 2014’s Mania event. I’m getting concerned that we could be witnessing the end of his in-ring career in similar fashion to that of Edge. Let’s hope not, eh?

He’s due to battle Bad News Barrett for the Intercontinental belt on Sunday. But with Bryan barely being on TV there’s been very little time to create a decent build-up, a shame since they’ll probably put on a good show, assuming Bryan is even cleared to wrestle. A report from PWInsider suggested Bryan would be out for four weeks, in which case I’m not sure what the backup plan may be. If Bryan is capable of wrestling I’m going to say he’ll retain the title, unless, however, he’s cleared for just this match and intends on taking more time off, in which case it’ll drop to Barrett for obvious reasons. They could play the injury card by having Bryan announce his medical problems and intentions to fight anyway, making his loss easier to swallow and his hopefully inevitable return more enjoyable. Or Bad News Barrett will come out and do his Bad News schtick before getting the referee to forfeit the match on Bryan’s behalf. One way or another I’d personally put forth Neville as a good challenger for the belt in coming months, but whether the WWE will go with that is unlikely and  I’m more convinced he’s going to appear in a feud with a certain Celtic Warrior.

Yup, Sheamus is back with a kick-ass new look, brilliant theme song and a fresh heel turn. But for someone reason some dippy idiot decided that the best thing for Sheamus to do at Extreme Rules was to battle the immensely talented Dolph Ziggler in a Kiss Me Arse match. Now, as a Scottish lad I do somewhat appreciate the phrase “kiss me arse!” appearing in the WWE, but it’s probably the dumbest sounding match that the company has come up with in years. I think we could see a solid performance from the two men, for sure, but really? Kiss Me Arse? I know Sheamus is Irish and all, but come one.  I’m predicting that Sheamus will win this one as it makes little sense to have him return as a heel and lose this early, but there’s also a chance for some interference from Neville to stop the horrendous arse kissing actually taking place and setting up a Sheamus vs Neville feud, which would make sense given Sheamus’ current gimmick about trampling the underdogs. Neville has a bright future in the WWE, and a feud with Sheamus could do very well, especially if he finally comes out on top after maybe losing one or two TV matches to him before then getting the 1-2-3 at next months PPV.

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Meanwhile we’ve got Dean Ambrose going up against Luke Harper. The entire storyline thus far is that Harper has put Ambrose through a table and a ladder. Oh, and he appeared on Smackdown in what was supposed to be Ambrose vs Rollins, setting up an Ambrose & Reigns vs Rollins & Harper battle. That’s it. But Harper is a good brawler and we all know Ambrose can put on a good match. Hopefully the Lunatic Fringe will pick up a win since he’s not gotten a victory at a pay-per-view since the Shield split up, and he’s drastically losing momentum. The guy is over with the fans, and they need to keep it going, whereas Harper, as much as I believe he could be a great wrestler, isn’t big with the crowd right now. Ergo, my prediction is that Ambrose will take the win. Plus, the WWE is probably hoping that the match will make us forget that Ambrose once promised to never let Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank without showing up to stop him. Whoops, Dean. I forgive him, though, since he did take that horrendous looking crash through the ladder at Mania’ and probably wasn’t in a fit state to appear later.

Going into Extreme Rules the storyline between Rollins and Orton has been mediocre to say the least, and has failed to capture my interest. Which is a shame because we all know they’ll put on a damn fine match. Orton is still one of the smoothest workers in the ring you’ll ever find, and Rollins has got some serious talent, plus both men seem to be hitting their stride at the moment. But the plot has been idiotic, and wasn’t helped by poor writing when it came to both men being able to pick stipulations doe their battle. Exactly why would someone as intelligent as Rollins only ask for the RKO to be banned? He’s portrayed as a devious heel, so why not stipulate that Orton has to be tied to the cage, or blindfolded or something? And why didn’t Orton just ask for a match where any interference of any kind would result in Rollins having to surrender the belt? Why not? Because that wouldn’t be Extreme. With a capital E.

Also worth talking about is that Rollins has legitimately lost his Curb Stomp, as opposed to the storyline ban on Orton’s RKO. Or at least that’s what the backstage reports are claiming. The logic is the Curb Stomp could do serious damage. I can sort of see the logic: the pressure it applies to the back of the neck could go badly wrong, as could the slamming of someone’s face into the mat, but I’m not convinced that’s any more dangerous than something like the Brogue Kick or Finn Balor’s Coup De Grace which involves leaping from the top rope and bringing both feet down on the opponent’s chest. It’s an even bigger shame when you consider how well the move suited Rollins, and how powerful it looked. It’s the kind of move that you could believe would be able to put down someone like Lesnar. It looks brutal, and far more effective than a lot of other finishers we see. On RAW we saw Rollins debut a new move to finish Ziggler, but at the moment it’s unclear whether its his new finisher as the commentary team completely ignored it. I hope it isn’t because it looked pretty weak. Fingers crossed it was just a placeholder, or that the reports are nonsense.

The simple fact of the matter is, in my humble opinion, Rollins needs to claim a clean victory over Orton at Extreme Rules in a match devoid of interference or other such nonsense. He’s been playing the generic weaslel heel role and it’s entirely wasted on a guy who can absolutely wrestle a good match. He needs a proper win over somebody like Orton to cement the idea that he’s got the skills, not just the back-stabbery. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t need to ditch the cowardly tactics entirely since Seth does have the role nailed, and he can also play the Edge-style opportunist, too, but it’d be nice to have him portrayed as a heel that can still kick some ass when the boot hits the nuts. I do also find it amusing that he’s almost playing the same role that Orton had last year when he held the belt, which is to say the cowardly champion who Triple H berates for not being man enough for the job.

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It’s that or one of two things needs to happen: Lesnar returns during the match, rips open the steel cage and decimates Rollins. A fun idea, perhaps, but wouldn’t make much sense since he is supposed to be suspended at the moment and no story twist could really justify a return just yet. That leaves option two: Kane.  Triple H appointed him gatekeeper at Extreme Rules for the Orton vs Rollins match, hardly a smart move considering Kane is clearly not happy with Rollins, but the WWE creative team don’t tend to think about pesky stuff like logic. My assumption here is the match will end in one of two ways: either Orton will get himself disqualified by executing an RKO, which would be a terrible ending, or somebody like J&J Security will attempt to interfere and get stopped at the gate by Kane. Rollins will use the brief distraction to snag a win, and then berate Kane who’ll probably turn face. Or that might save that for RAW the next night. Personally I’d love to see Kane return in full on Big Red Machine and proceed to wreck the Authority one at a time. Actually, let him just thrash everyone. Kane doesn’t need to differentiate between face and heel, and shouldn’t be one or the other himself. He should just be Kane.

And then there’s Reigns vs The Big Show a Last Man Standing match, a contest that simply should not be happening. Unlike most people at the moment, it seems, I actually enjoy watching Reigns in the ring. Yes, he does need to work on his promos or simply go with the “badass who barely talks” approach, and his in-ring armory of moves needs to be expanded, especially given his clear talent. But it’s hard to deny than Reigns absolutely looks the part and his an impressive physical presence in the ring. He looks like he could beat Lesnar. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, provided the fans can get off their high-horses for a moment, because frankly I don’t see any legitimate reason to be booing the guy. His not being Daniel Bryan is not a reason to boo him, yet that seems to have been the catalyst. Others just find him legitimately boring, which is fair enough. Having said that I do think they can hold off on giving him the belt for a little while yet, and it may even be worth turning him heel until next year. As for the Big Show, I love him, I really do, but he’s well past his prime and we’ve seen these two fight numerous times now. Much like Kane the commentary team keep attempting to sell the Big Show as a genuine, powerful, dangerous adversary, but we all know he isn’t and hasn’t been for a long time. Toss in a terrible storyline and you’ve got the makings of a dull match. It feels like Reigns going up against the Big Show has merely been a placeholder since the WWE changed plans at Wrestlemania. They don’t know what to do with him right now. Presumably Reigns is going to get hit with the Knockout Punch but make it back to his feet at the nine counter before landing his own Superman Punch and Speak for the win.

We’ve also got everybody’s favorite man to hate John Cena tackling Rusev once again in a Russian Chain match where victory is achieved by using the chain, that both competitors are tied to, to drag the opponent to all four corners. I admit to being unsure of what I’d like to see happen here – I’m honestly enjoying Cena’s run as the United States champion as he’s bee putting on a match every week with different people for the belt, including the likes of Stardust. And for some reason, Kane. And yes, while Cena has beaten them all, to the annoyance of so many people, it still gives them a chance to perform in the ring and showcase their skills against one of the big players. On the other hand Rusev has the potential to be a brilliant monster heel, even if his Russian loving gimmick is getting a tad worn. Another win over Cena could do him well. With all that said and done this is now the pair’s third straight PPV match and it seems unlikely the crowd will be into it. The feud simply hasn’t been strong enough to keep people invested in another match. Still, I’m predicting a win for Cena here, letting Rusev move onto something new. Perhaps…Ryback. Except…

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Ryback may be going up against Bray Wyatt at some point. Following his loss to the Undertaker at Mania’, which he and the creative team just seem to be ignoring, Bray has gone back to doing solo promos, and his words would seem to indicate Ryback as being his next opponent, especially if the backstage reports are to be believed. His promos have talked about a person capable of lifting unimaginable weight, but not the weight of his failures, which would certainly math Ryback who has been somewhat lost in recent months, destroying some of the momentum he gained after being allowed to go out in the ring and just be himself. In fairness Ryback and Wyatt could deliver some interesting matches, but I’d rather see the Big Man go up against Rusev in a couple of titanic battles. Both guys pride themselves on being super athletes, after all. Wyatt could then be free to take on Roman Reigns, who the promos could also be referring to. Reigns can lift massive weight, but failed to get the job done at Mania’ and has failed to get the crowd on his side. They could trade victories before Reigns comes out on top. The crowd has been slowly warming back up to Reigns, so a feud with Bray could give him the time he needs.

And finally we’ve got the Diva’s match where Nikki Bella is going to go up against Naomi for the belt. With AJ Lee gone and Paige written out for a while the Divas division is struggling again, and I’m just not bothered about the match. Still, to their credit both Bellas have gotten notably better in the ring, as has Naomi, who is going to pick up the win, I’d imagine. Nikki has held the belt since November, so a change seems likely. And then Paige will reappear at some point and fight for the title with Naomi, I guess.

Extreme Rules stinks of a PPV hastily put together by a creative team still attempting to recover from Wrestlemania. The build-up has been completely lackluster, and while there’s some interesting matches on the card the show as a whole has failed to capture my interest. But let’s hope that coming out of it we may get a couple of good storylines. And for Hades’ sake, what’s going on with Sting? Wrestlemania was a mess for him and he’s been treated pretty badly so far.

Until next month, then, WWE.

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