If WrestleMania is the fiscal end of the WWE“season,” then Extreme Rules is the first PPV of the new year – it certainly felt that way, with seemingly several new wrinkles being tested out. In what can be described as a “perfect storm” of a stellar Chicago crowd, excellent matches with several clever finishes, refreshing commentary and WWE rarities including violence, blood and referee assault, WWE's Extreme Rules Pay Per View certainly delivered.
The main event between John Cena and Brock Lesnar started off with a bang, with Cena tackling Lesnar and Lesnar getting the upper hand with vicious-looking elbow that cut Cena wide open. As is policy with WWE, the match is paused and medical personnel examine the open wound. I felt this added drama to the match. The plot in the match was every time Cena could muster some offense, Lesnar would regain the upper hand emphatically. Though Lesnar did look slightly clumsy in the ring at times, he came off as a strong monster in this matchup, dominating Cena and attacking referees. In the end, Cena would use his “Thuganomics” chain and clock Lesnar with it (which also drew blood), followed by an Attitude Adjustment onto a ring step for the victory. After the match, Cena delivered a promo in the ring with the vibe that the PPV had already ended, but the cameras were still rolling. Cena talked about his arm and shoulder being hurt and he might need some time off.
In my opinion, all four rematches on this card from WrestleMania exceeded their matches one month ago – Kane and Randy Orton brawled through the crowd in a hot opener that saw Orton score the win with an RKO. Hopefully, both men separate into new rivalries.
Cody Rhodes defeated Big Show for the Intercontinental championship with a brilliant finish – while Show was on the apron, Rhodes kicked Show's leg off the ropes and Show stepped through a table, technically meaning the match would be over.
Sheamus and Daniel Bryan finally had the match fans have been waiting for, and it did not disappoint. Iin the match of the night, both men delivered great twists and turns, with Bryan garnering much of the attention (and fan support) from the Chicago crowd. After Bryan deliberately got himself disqualified after failing to respond to a ref's 5 count leading to the first fall, Bryan locked in the “Yes” lock, leading to fall No. 2 after Sheamus passed out. Once he came to, a rehash of WrestleMania's 18-second match seemed to be the path for fall No. 3, but Bryan kicked out. Eventually, a second Brogue Kick would seal the deal. Though Bryan doesn't hold the World Heavyweight title, he proved that he is a champion in terms of someone who can be counted on to always be one half of a fantastic match in big-stage situations.
Two other men who fall in that same category are CM Punk and Chris Jericho, who also put on a great match in front of Punk's hometown crowd with Punk's sister and friends watching from the front row. Both men dressed for the occasion, with knee pads over their jeans (as Joey Styles pointed out in a tweet, Punk with tattered jeans and a t-shirt, while Jericho donning designer jeans and a studded belt). The match went back and forth with great spots, including Punk with a flying elbow from the top onto Jericho through the Spanish Announce Table (I know, not so shocking on the choice of table). Punk would reverse a Jericho STF attempt into a catapult into an exposed turnbuckle followed by a GTS for the win.
In bonus-match action, Brodus Clay defeated his first real significant opponent since becoming the “Funkasaurus” in Dolph Ziggler, who bumped around the ring and made Brodus look like a million dollars in his offense. Elswehere, Ryback defeated two local talents in a handicap match. During the match, Chicago fans reminded us all how much of a wrestling enthusiast crowd they are by chanting “Goldberg” to Ryback. After the match, as before, Ryback chanted “Feed me more”. Having watched the first season of Tough Enough, particularly the segment on how much food Ryback (at the time going by his real name Ryan Reeves) eats, this makes me laugh just a little.
Beth Phoenix was not medically cleared to compete, so Nikki Bella received a mystery opponent, but not the one you would expect. Instead of Kharma, Layla made her return to WWE and defeated Nikki to win the Divas title. This was an awkward moment, and it seems like an uphill battle for Layla to climb – not only does she come back to WWE after a one-year layoff (pardon the pun) when most fans were hoping for and expecting Kharma (despite Eve saying it wouldn't be Kharma in a pre-match backstage vignette), but she wins the title in her first match back. Time will tell if this bodes positively or negatively for her in the near future.
In pre-show action, Santino Marella defeated the Miz with the cobra.
The commentary throughout the pay per view was above what we usually expect – the team led by Michael Cole did a terrific job of not only adding spice and depth to the stories in the ring but also seemed to call more holds than usual, which to many pro wrestling fans is always welcome.
If this is the one night a year WWE goes “Extreme,” then given the quality and success of the event, there might be consideration had to change that rule.
Arda Ocal is an on air personality with theScore Television Network. You can find recent video interviews with Roddy Piper, Mean Gene Okerlund, Jimmy Hart, Rick Martel, JJ Dillon, Honky Tonk Man and DDP here: http://www.youtube.com/show/aftermath?s=1&clips=1