Wednesday, June 19, 2024
EditorialRandom Thoughts & Opinions Special: Examining Extreme Rules

Random Thoughts & Opinions Special: Examining Extreme Rules

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Hello reader,

I’m guessing that you are aware of this as you’ve clicked on an article that states it’s intent in the title; but just in case you may have clicked on this by accident and you haven’t seen Extreme Rules yet then let me take the time to declare FULL SPOILER ALERT!!!

Now that formality is taken care of; let us have a look at what transpired in the IZOD center last night. As with all my articles; this one is written to provoke discussion so feel free to take part in the comments section.

l want to open this review by declaring that, overall, I enjoyed the show; it wasn’t brilliant but it wasn’t terrible and it had plenty of enjoyable moments. But to me it never got beyond a good show overall; let’s face it, we aren’t going to be talking about this one for years to come. Though having individual moments that were greater than the show as a whole; this was not a classic event that we’ll tell our grandchildren about. But still; it was a good show overall (at least in this writer’s opinion).

Let us start at the beginning and take a look at the “WeeLC” match; something that despite my liberal tendencies I was morbidly curious about and strangely looking forward to (the numerous reports of gimmicked  tables, ladders & chairs for dwarfs adding fuel to the fire admittedly). I should point out to those of you who haven’t read my previous work that I British and a native of London; and that as a result of the differences between American and British sociopolitical attitudes I may view this differently to most who read this. While many of my countrymen would tut about this match as non-PC and exploitative; I was all for it. Equality means everyone has the same rights and opportunities regardless of age, race, gender, class, sexual orientation or disability ; and if these two guys have trained to be wrestlers then good on them for following their dreams and why shouldn’t they have the same opportunities to perform in the same situations as their non-dwarf peers? But I know if I talked about this match in liberal London society then there would be a lot of disgust, faux-outrage & well meaning patronization of dwarfs under the banner of being anti-exploitation; and I would be viewed as a pariah for expressing that I enjoyed it. But, damn them, it was fun; and I am proud to say I enjoyed the hell out of the match.

Was it silly and stupid? Hell yeah; but it wore it proudly on it’s sleeve and never had tried to make us take it as the dwarf equivalent of Flair vs Steamboat. This was entertainment at it’s purest in wrestling; and everyone involved did their best to make the match as fun and entertaining as it could be. I also feel that Los Matadores and 3MB deserve a lot of praise for their attitude to their involvement in this angle; if any individual of the five felt that this was below them or dented their ego then it wasn’t on show last. In fact the total willingness to be a part of this match and the way they threw themselves into their spots added to the overall feeling of fun. A great way to open the show; and I was with the excellent IZOD crowd when they showed their appreciation with a “This is awesome” chant. Again, it was never going to be Flair vs Steamboat; but it was the most fun thing I’ve seen on WWE television for a long time.

The main show opened with the elimination triple threat match between Rob Van Dam, Jack Swagger and Cesaro; and, while I’m enjoying them, I have to ask what the planned payoff for Paul Heyman’s “My client, Brock Lesnar, beat The Undertaker’s streak” promos will be? Don’t get me wrong, like everything that comes as a result of giving Paul a live microphone, they’re excellent and their delivery is spot on; but I just don’t see where it’s going in the story. But then again; maybe they’re just there to keep Heyman heel and keep Brock Lesnar in the consciousness while away and further legitimize him at the same time. While a good effort from all involved; the match wasn’t as memorable as it could have been and the outcome was predictable.

Therein lies my major grumble with the main card overall; while the efforts of the performers lifted most of the matches to a high standard the fact that the outcomes were predictable hurt the feel of the show overall. I barely paid attention to the handicap match pitting Alexander Rusev against the team of R-Truth and Xavier Woods; he’d beaten them both clean in dominant fashion on TV over the past few weeks and is being pushed as an unstoppable monster. I didn’t believe that Truth and Woods had a cat in hell’s chance of winning so I zoned out; sorry, but that’s the truth of the matter.

The Intercontinental Title match between Bad News Barrett and Big E was decent; but my quibbles about this one have more to do with other aspects rather than the match itself. I’m not yet convinced about Big E; but, for someone who the office is meant to be high on, he’s been handled poorly since the night of Wrestlmania 30. He was eliminated from the Andre Battle Royal around the middle of the match by Fandango, took the clean loss in a tag team effort against The Wyatt Family when partnered with Sheamus and John Cena on Raw and has barely been seen on television since that match; it makes one wonder, knowing the reasons for this kind of booking by WWE for others in the past, what exactly did Big E do or say to rub the office up the wrong way? While I accept that it’s wrestling tradition to switch the secondary belt to a heel when a face holds the top belt and am behind the push of Wade Barrett; when you factor in the other things it makes you wonder. 

As for Barrett; I worried for my fellow countryman when the news that he was to be repackaged came through. But the character is, seemingly, a logical extension of his previous character; Barrett’s character before this was one that worked on two levels for this writer. He took a character that was essentially the type of modern Brit that we Brit’s don’t like (a cocky, arrogant, loud, know it all bully who walks with a swagger and a self-satisfied smirk) and offered it to the American audience. Part of the reason he is so over in Britain, despite the obvious, is that he took an modern stereotype from our society and made it into a universally hated and disliked character by other nations; we respect that. But, despite my initial misgivings, I am buying into the Bad News character; it’s a bridging of the cultures in a way. It keeps what worked before but Americanizes it more by giving it a political talk show host spin. It will work well in the States because it plays off another universal truth of the human condition; we don’t like it when a foreigner in our country points out flaws in it or tells us what to do. It’s getting over; lets hope he can keep the momentum going.

The Shield vs Evolution delivered well and kicked off the trend for the show that the main event matches would each evoke The Attitude Era in some way; Attitude Era Light if you will. A great team brawl with fast paced action; for a trio with a reputation as individuals for not putting over as many people as they should (from the viewpoint that there is a difference between losing to and putting someone over at least) Evolution did more than this writer expected to put The Shield on a par with their star heavy faction. Booked well with large periods of dominance for the veteran faction that helped to re-establish the recently reformed Evolution as the dominant heels far better than using the locker room to their advantage on television during the build up to the match; the crowd, and this writer, was totally behind The Shield during every phase of explosive offense following hot tags or mistakes from the heels. I was so engrossed by Dean Ambrose’s brawl with Randy Orton and Triple H that the spot where Seth Rollins took them out from nowhere with a suicide dive from a higher level of the stands was truly a mark out moment for me; a great spot for, for me at least, the criminally underrated true star of The Shield. Batista was booed roundly (I bet, with his ego, he’s really glad he came back; honestly, the best thing that could happen for him at the moment is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a monster hit, Drax the Destroyer is a popular and acclaimed performance in it and Dave or WWE cut a deal with Marvel so he can return to the ring as the character. That’s how badly his return has gone down IMO) so it was smart to have him take the fall; it also played off the fact that the two men left in the ring were the final two in this year’s Royal Rumble Match which went the other way.

Honestly; during the build up on TV I expected The Shield to lose this one. I know that contradicts what I said earlier about the predictability of the card; but during the build up the talk on this site was that the plan was to keep the feud going until at least Summerslam. From a booking POV; you have the heel win the first one in a situation like this (where the group have only just reunited after a long period as individuals) because it re-establishes them as a dominant force and sets up hotter rematches. But it had been reported on this website over the few days before the PPV that Batista has been called away earlier than expected to do promotional work for ‘Guardians…’ and would be gone after this weeks TV; it then made the eventual outcome just as predictable as other matches on the card. But still, like a lot of the matches on the card, the participants delivered on the action, quality and entertainment value side of things to such a level that you could overlook that fact; at least a little. Cena vs Bray Wyatt was very good from a story POV; though the actual wrestling never got beyond your average Cena match fair. Another match that drew heavily from the playbook of The Attitude Era, though not to the same extremes, the match was secondary in this instance; the build up had been superior to their Wrestlemania match and that made what was done on the night more effective for this writer than the entirety of their ‘Mania program. 

The Bray Wyatt character evokes a cryptic version of the Otis B. Driftwood character from ‘House of 1000 Copses’ and ‘The Devil’s Rejects’; and is the first character I’ve seen in a long time where I’ve truly felt that it has a chance of being this generation’s Undertaker character (as in a character who people are willing to buy into the fantasy element of it despite the unreal and impossible nature of it). While I believe that Bray winning their Wrestlemania encounter cleanly (as he did his encounter with Daniel Bryan) would have given Bray more momentum and credibility going in thus making his sudden reliance on The Family during this one generate more heat; I was fine with the level that this match drew from me and the crowd. But it saddens me to think of how much stronger the audience involvement would’ve been; as well as the extra impact Bray’s horror film influenced mind games would have to the aspect of the story about Bray being in Cena’s head. Imagine that Bray won the first one clean, still won last night in the way he did and the effect it would have on the Cena character’s state of mind; add in the motivation of the character wanting to destroy Cena and show the world he’s a monster at the same time, the way he shows Cena his fans are turning to Bray’s message and more mind games and you have the dynamite set up to a third encounter. Cena should then win the third encounter decisively; but that build up leaves you with two possible outcomes. If you want this to be the definative end to the program then Cena defies the odds and digs deep for the win while staying true to himself; to keep it going, and the more interesting outcome IMO, is to have Cena win but only by brutalizing Bray and in turn proving Bray right all along in his view that Cena is a monster just like him. You could get at least another six months out of the angle with that set up if written/booked right; and establish Bray as a true top heel in the process. I’d be happy with that as a story is all I’m saying; I’d even put up with watching John Cena matches if they had a story that good driving them, lol!

But hey; enough fantasy booking and back to the show. The match was a decent story match but fell in with my view on the predictability of the card; as soon as Bray lost the first match and the second was announced as one that Cena could lose without getting pinned or tapping out then Bray became favorite to win. The ending was original though; and the use of children works on the level that most of Cena’s fan base are children as well as the obvious. It had the feel of classic Ministry of Darkness fair and does the job well; WWE just need to keep rolling on this. They’ve dropped the ball at the start of the feud for this writer; and while it can still reach great heights as a program I feel it’s a shame we won’t see the full potential achieved. But, who knows, if WWE follow up as strongly as they set this match up they could get there; either way they have to keep the momentum going.

The Diva’s Title match was very good; but in the spot it was put in it could’ve been the greatest match ever broadcast and not enough people would have seen it because they were on a toilet break or getting a snack. Fans will never take these matches seriously if you don’t start presenting them as so; and you should book a show so that people don’t want to miss a bit to take a break to be fair. But then people would be taking those breaks when Michael Cole plugs the app or the network and we couldn’t have that now, could we? Perish the thought…

The main event pitting Daniel Bryan against Kane in an Extreme Rules Match was a fun brawl that again evoked memories of an Attitude Era main event; with fighting up the ramp, backstage and in the parking lot. It was the first Daniel Bryan main event match in a while that wasn’t built around an injured shoulder angle and it lost none of the drama for it; so hopefully we’ll see a bit more variety in that aspect of Daniel Bryan’s matches from now on (don”t get me wrong; I love his matches it’s just that’s getting a little old. Like how Goldberg always speared the ring post to set up his opponent’s dominant phase of the match). I was worried that this would be put in the mid card due to it being Kane (having a predictable outcome as a result) and Daniel Bryan’s recent absences (despite the tragic nature of his second) effecting his momentum. But the match was given the respect it deserved and for me was the match of the night; testament to ability of Daniel Bryan methinks.

So, to draw a line under this, it was good. Not great; but good. The major reason for this was the predictability of the match outcomes; so WWE has some work to do in that department clearly. But overall I enjoyed it despite it’s imperfections; and credit for that must go to the performers who managed to lift meager offerings from creative to a higher status. Yeah it wasn’t a classic; but it was far from a dud.

Thanks for bearing with me on this longer than usual post; that’s what I thought, how about you?

Until next time

JJKH     

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