4.30.2014

Extreme Rules 2014: What COULD Happen, What WILL Happen


This is only my second one of these - the first having been WrestleMania XXIX - which I will attribute in equal parts to laziness and busyness. I suppose I should also attribute it to the fact that although the wrestling has been possibly more consistent than ever and the storytelling has had some major high points, the past year has featured a heavy amount of lackluster cards that have failed to get me fired up.

Now we come to Extreme Rules 2014. Last year's recently annual Pay-Per-View (I had better get used to not calling them that anymore) was top-to-bottom terrible, with the sole saving grace being the shockingly entertaining, if randomly chucked together strap match between Mark Henry and Sheamus, neither of whom are featured at this year's event (whether that is a good or bad thing is difficult to say, as both performers are so very hit-or-miss).

This year, however, represents quite probably the most I have been interested in a full card since, like, 2001. The established stars are hot and a refreshing number of up-and-coming stars are even hotter. With only a few meager exceptions, I am invested in every storyline heading in to the fallout of what was a very special night in WrestleMania XXX (made all the more special by the huge build-up shown for the first time ever on the new WWE Network). And the Rhodes brothers aren't even involved (fingers crossed for a slow feud built to a big, Dusty-involving blowoff at SummerSlam)! I don't even mind that so few of the matches are "extreme", as I've begun to care less and less for what was once called the "hardcore" side of this business. I'm seeing great storylines and great wrestling and I'm a happy boy.

So here's what I'd like to see happen at the event, and what will actually happen.


WWE Network Pre-Show: El Torito vs. Hornswoggle; WeeLC Match
Just to get this out of the way (no, I'm not talking about the pre-show match quite yet), since the WWE Network understandably does not carry Monday Night Raw live and Cable is preposterously expensive, I resort to catching Hulu+'s 90-minute version of the show that is available next-day and trims a lot of fat (so basically I don't "get" to see 3MB a whole lot).
A victim of this trimming has been the mini-feud between the mini-wrestlers El Torito and Hornswoggle, so I am entirely blind to whatever has been going on to create this match. I would be puzzled if this were a YouTube pre-show designed to accumulate last-minute buys, but since it's a Network exclusive, I guess they just want a comedy act to warm up the crowd? Forgive me if I'm neglecting the seething throngs of fans finally convinced to sign up for the Network so they don't miss this showdown.

What I'd like to happen: Match replaced w/Usos (c) vs. RybAxel for the Tag Team Championships
I'm not really a fan of the Junior Headshrinkers, but Ryback has been my homie since his heel turn almost exactly one year ago and in this new tag team Joe Hennig has begun to show that maybe at least 1% of his being is not a charisma void. It's fun to see these guys perform together, and I would not take issue with them receiving a rematch for the straps (even if they'll inevitably get the Rhodes Scholars treatment). Word has it tension between the two is a possibility after Friday's go-home SmackDown, and a singles feud between the two would be quite alright with me, as well.

What will happen: El Torito def. Hornswoggle
Not having seen the build-up, I suppose it's unfair to assume this will merely be a comedy match. With Los Matadores and 3MB at ringside and the moniker "WeeLC", however, I think I'm safe. At least it's better than WrestleMania III's more legitimized performers being wasted on a segment about little people dressed as offensive stereotypes, right? Well, I don't think a shiny bull is an offensive stereotype, anyway.
In short (ha-yuk), Torito will climb a comically small ladder and claim victory over Hornswoggle, simply because the latter is presumably the heel via 3MB association and this is a feel-good ordeal.


Alexander Rusev vs. Xavier Woods & R-Truth
I promise this is the last time this will happen, but this feud has also been trimmed from Hulu+ so I'm mostly blind to it. I also have less to say about it than WeeLC.

What I'd like to happen: Alexander Rusev def. Xavier Woods & R-Truth
The new monster heel with a vintage foreigner gimmick goes over a no-longer relevant K-Kwik and some other new guy I've never heard of, but I hear was Prince Albert's job fodder when Tons of Funk mercifully broke up a few months back.

What will happen: Alexander Rusev def. Xavier Woods & R-Truth
He'll make Kwik work of it, too.


Cesaro vs. Jack Swagger vs. Rob Van Dam
It's hard to believe I'm saying this about something involving Jack Swagger, but thanks to the magic of Cesaro these guys have one of the hottest feuds going right now. Well, ample credit goes to Paul Heyman and "Dirty" Dutch Mantel for their made-for-one-another promos, but Cesaro, man... who else could have turned Heyman face on the very same night he had earlier been gloating about Brock Lesnar defeating The Undertaker's notorious Streak, which was still very much an open wound?
It's disappointing to see the tired spot-fest that is Rob Van Dam shoehorned in to this at the last minute just because I guess they didn't have anything else for the guy to do now that he's back for another 3-month stint. Being optimistic, I suppose I can hope he'll mix it up since we've already seen Cesaro vs. Swagger several times on free TV thus far.

What I'd like to happen: Cesaro def. Jack Swagger & Rob Van Dam
Cesaro is one of the brightest future top stars the WWE has going, and it's great to see him on the receiving end of a wild push. This Swagger feud is an obligatory team-breaks-up-and-fights-about-it angle to keep him busy for now, but big things are on the horizon for the Swiss Superman should he not run afoul of the McMahon family.

What will happen: Cesaro def. Jack Swagger & Rob Van Dam
The Cesaro Train has left the station at full clip and it's not slowing down to pick up stragglers. Hopefully the match sees some amusing Heyman/Mantel moments and maybe RVD will try to show Cesaro that Heyman can be a rat somehow ("I didn't get it the first time you unnecessarily somersaulted across the ring, maybe try again?"), but Cesaro's walking away from this with his hand held high after a swing here, a neck crack there and Neutralizers for all.


Big E (c) vs. Bad News Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship
The Intercontinental Championship Tournament that's been on Raw the past few weeks has been fun to watch, and if you ask me the right guy won it. I'm a fan of both competitors going in to this match, and it should be a solid showdown.

What I'd like to happen: Bad News Barrett def. Big E
I've been down on Barrett in the past, but looking back on my thoughts regarding his WrestleMania pre-show match last year (defending the Intercontinental title against The Miz), I'm reminded that I've at least recognized an alleged talent people who were watching the product during his initial run are waiting to see capitalized on. Well, adding "Bad News" to his repertoire may just do the trick (if it hasn't already, considering certain backstage rumors of late), because not only is this guy fun to listen to (and mimic, and make memes of), he's got new wind in the ring and I found myself cheering as he climbed the IC tourney brackets.

What will happen: Bad News Barrett def. Big E
There was a time not long ago that I was extremely high on Big E, but due to mediocre booking he hasn't been made out to look like the beast he is in the ring, and he hasn't been permitted to show his uproarious sense of humor on the mic. I still like the guy and mark out for his entrance, and I will relish seeing him perform at Extreme Rules, but Barrett is the one with all the momentum here and it's time for some Bad News.


Paige (c) vs. Tamina Snuka for the Diva's Championship
How excited would everyone have been a year ago if we could have seen this booking? Paige is finally on the main roster and she came in with a bang. Yeah, the segment on the post-WrestleMania Raw could have been handled better (why is Paige all of a sudden so meek, and why did she interrupt AJ just to congratulate her?) but I still went nuts when it went down. I, for one, am also pleased to see Tamina getting a little push as I've always enjoyed watching her work. Well, it's either that or I enjoy seeing Nikki Bella getting super-kicked.

What I'd like to happen: Paige def. Tamina Snuka
Paige is the most exciting thing to happen to the Divas division in a long while, and I hope she holds the title for a long time, taking down predecessors like the Bellas, the Funkadactyls and so on in a series of competent matches. I don't think this hope is a pipe dream, either.

What will happen: Paige def. Tamina Snuka
Maybe I should pretend I want the opposite of what I think will actually happen at some point just so the "could" and the "will" part of this article structure will pay off.
Anyway... yes, I like that Tamina is getting a little push right now but that's simply because she's the resident big woman of the current Divas roster. Her job will be to make fans believe that Paige's reign has no chance, then to make Paige look great by counting the lights in the Izod Center. You know, the usual.


John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt; Steel Cage Match
I was not high on this feud heading in to WrestleMania as I did not feel Bray Wyatt was ready for this kind of spotlight and simultaneously did not feel the relatively non-marquee spot was a good use of John Cena at such a marquee event. The resulting match wound up being one of the better parts of the night due to the ring psychology - a true Batman/Joker dynamic straight out of "The Dark Knight" (several quotes from the film have been used in Cena's promos since, even). Wyatt, whom I had criticized as a victim of noncommital booking and nonsensical promos, got a huge rub from an entrance even wilder than usual and from performing well against Cena, and Cena's ultimate victory not only made perfect sense for Cena, it did nothing to hurt Wyatt. Excellent booking.
Even though the WrestleMania match could have been the blowoff to the brief feud, it only makes business sense to keep it going and with the exception of only one minor misstep in the always-doomed slideshow segment (in this case featuring Wyatt Family members' heads Photoshopped on to the bodies of babies and women - how embarrassing, oh my!), things have kept up and in my opinion gotten even better as Wyatt has continued his horrorshow and Cena's very being has been threatened by his opposition's rise in popularity. The go-home Raw's opening segment with Cena's caged promo and Wyatt's eerie interruption was one for the ages.

What I'd like to happen: John Cena def. Bray Wyatt
Yes, you read that right. Since Cena returned from his tricep injury last year, I've slowly but surely become a fan due to slight tweaks in his character that have worked miracles in turning me from a "Cena sucks!" guy to a "Let's go Cena!" guy.
Full disclosure, my 4½-year-old daughter and recently new owner of "Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery" has become a full-fledged Cena fan and in turn he has become a prominent positive role model for her, so that is a key reason why I'd like to see him overcome the odds yet again here, as well. "Odds" because if you think that steel cage is keeping Harper and Rowan on the outside, I've got some Bad News. Remember last year's SummerSlam?

What will happen: Bray Wyatt def. John Cena
Swerve! Well, not really. Basically, it's Bray's turn. Yes, in my opinion the WrestleMania match was perfectly booked and Wyatt got the huge rub and all... but this feud is designed to put Bray over and it's time to do that literally.
As a sidenote, it's also possible this feud is also designed to switch Cena in to a lower gear, though I believe the man still has a title run or two left in him. Blah, blah, Ric Flair's record, blah.


The Shield vs. Evolution; Six-Man Tag Team Match
Six-man tag? Six-man tag!?!? You know this feud ain't ready to be over when this thing gets booked as a six-man tag (so... good, I guess?). Sure, all hell will break loose sooner or later but six-man tag is not what we want to see.
Anyway, thank goodness The Shield hasn't broken up yet. Each individual is great and each has a potentially huge future ahead of them, but as of now The Shield as a group not only functions extremely well as a unit, they're extremely over.
And thank goodness for nostalgia. I didn't know I could feel nostalgic for an aspect of the Ruthless Aggression Era, even my main man HHH's main stable of the time since Batista is just awful and the talented Randy Orton's latest arc has made him look like a lame duck, but there it was when Motorhead Entrance Music #2 struck and these guys appeared. And yeah, Flair crawled to the ring in a stupor to deliver an awkward promo only discernible in its aims by the way the commentators bellowed about it... I wish they'd keep that man off television due to the way he chooses to conduct himself, but I suppose it was important-ish to get the elephant out of the room (now keep him out).

What I'd like to happen: The Shield def. Evolution
Hey, I love me some Triple H more than most people seem to, but The Shield is where it's at right now, at the forefront of the new generation of talent. It'd be a blast to see them gain the upper hand after a strong matchup, and for Reigns to impale Triple H with a spear for the three count.

What will happen: The Shield def. Evolution via disqualification
After a battle hard-fought by both sides, The Shield will begin to close in on a tight victory when Triple H will get "extreme" and prevent his team from taking a fall with a sledgehammer to... let's say Ambrose's noggin. Or something like that. I almost want to say Evolution takes out The Shield clean here (well, maybe with some unfair play behind the official's back) just so they look like even more of a threat before Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns win in a blowoff match with a real stipulation... but a DQ seems even more probable.


Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship; Extreme Rules Match
I wonder if the reason Daniel Bryan wasn't carrying the belts this past Monday is because they're about to unveil one unified belt with the new WWE logo they seem to be transitioning to? I sure hope they don't break up the titles again, anyway. It's already been better with just one World title, and they need to unify the IC and US titles, stat.
Anyway... despite a true rollercoaster of emotions from winning WrestleMania and marrying Brie Bella to his father and most special Make-A-Wish kid dying, Bryan has remained strong on television since finally being allowed to be the top guy (kayfabe, naturally, as anyone who thought he hasn't been the top guy since SummerSlam needs a reality check). And as seems to almost always be the case with a new champion, he's going to have to go through a seemingly unbeatable monster to hold on to that spot.
It is strange that this long-awaited Bryan/Kane feud is so far removed from the duo's days as popular tag champs Team Hell No. The commentators have even overtly veered away from mentioning the perpetually tense team during the Usos' tag matches. Does the WWE believe the extra layer we wanted to see capitalized on more than a year ago would overcomplicate things?
Anyway (again)... I do like that Brie has been accompanying Bryan to the ring, and I hope that on-screen partnership outlasts her simply being used as fodder for Kane's new slasher villain thing he's got going on. I also like the new slasher villain thing Kane's got going on! Sure, it could be going a whole lot smoother... his two outings thus far have been rather awkward... but I dig that the company is going for it, and maybe one of these days a segment will really gel.

What I'd like to happen: Daniel Bryan def. Kane
If only because I'm totally indifferent to Bryan and his losing here would just spark backlash from his fanbase. Hey, remember when this PPV used to be called Backlash? Good times.

What will happen: Daniel Bryan def. Kane
Of all the matches on the card this is the easiest to predict.
There will probably be a few near falls, and when I think about it I could see this ending in a DQ due to Kane simply wanting to destroy Bryan rather than win the championship (oh wait, extreme rules... right, nevermind). Not only, however, is the old Kane long gone and the new one difficult to remove from his lengthy stint as a comedy act, as mentioned above this type of match is just another telling of that old David and Goliath tale designed to further legitimize a new champ. It would be neat to see Bryan do what he did to Orton last year and make Kane tap by threading a kendo stick through his crossface submission finisher.


And there we have it. The only question remaining is... what will Leo Kru-- I mean, Adam Rose do the next night on Raw? If it involves Fandango and/or Santino, I will mournfully bid farewell to the man's promising career.

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