With WWE’s 2012 edition of the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in the books, it is time to sit down and grade the card! Whose matches stood out as the best? How was the event as a whole? Let us begin.
1. Santino Marella def. The Miz to retain the United States Championship
This match was on the pre-show, which was available strictly on Youtube. It was the second-consecutive pay-per-view that this concept was applied on, and I must say, it does bring back some old memories of Sunday Night Heat, which would precede the monthly-events back in the 90s and early portion of the 2000s. I am a big fan of this idea, and putting it on Youtube is a great way for WWE to integrate their social media mission into the fold as well.
As for the bout itself, I do believe it is fair to say The Miz is effectively buried. With all due respect to Marella, who has done a tremendous job getting over with the fans and is by no means bad in the ring, there is no reason for a man who once headlined WrestleMania to be jobbing in a match seen only on the Internet.
While many will argue that creative simply has nothing for him, it is clear something went wrong. At this point, a move to Smackdown would be most effective for the former WWE Champion. Santino wins with the Cobra, and The Miz is left in the gutter. I don’t believe the former holds on to the championship all that much longer, though.
Match grade: 5/10
2. Randy Orton def. Kane in Falls Count Anywhere match
While the feud itself has not been all that strong, it has significantly improved since WrestleMania. The match started aggressively, which was supposed to set the pace for the rest of the night. Once it left the ring, however, things slowed down. The issue with a Falls Count Anywhere match is that once the two competitors imminently go into the stands, it must be fairly difficult for the majority of the audience in the arena to watch. It is also likely that the fall will not be recorded up there.
As the competitors got backstage, I liked the incorporation of Zack Ryder. He has been relatively silent ever since his feud with Kane and Cena, but it was a nice twist that he started beating away at the man who supposedly incapacitated him for several months. I could see them doing a short-lived Ryder/Kane feud for Over The Limit, though I’m not all that sure what that would accomplish other than giving them something to do.
The finish was where the match earned its stripes, as a great series of near-falls lead to an exciting finish that saw Orton RKO Kane on top of a chair. Hopefully this is the end of the feud, and if it was, I was satisfied. A good match with an Attitude Era feel to it.
Match grade: 7/10
3. Brodus Clay def. Dolph Ziggler
I am a huge fan of Brodus Clay and his efforts to get over with the live crowd. And he has done a nice job with that.
But this feud has made no sense. At first, it appeared as though it would be a segue to Ziggler and Jack Swagger splitting from Vickie Guerrero. Instead, Ziggler has lost cleanly in nearly every matchup with the Funkasaurus. Ziggler sells moves like no other in WWE, and is world champion material. Who did he piss off to get this treatment?
It was nice to see Clay look vulnerable, and it served its place as a filler match. It just involved poor booking of Clay’s opponent.
Match grade: 6/10
4. Cody Rhodes def. Big Show in a tables match for the Intercontinental Championship
I understood the reasoning, in the long run, for them to let Big Show win at WrestleMania. It was a feelgood moment, and made for good television. But this change needed to happen.
Rhodes is good, but he has not received the best of treatment since 2012 began. His run with the Intercontinental title, while long, was nothing less than lackluster. Hopefully this reign is a little more reputable.
The match itself was short, as expected, and ended with a nice twist in Big Show accidentally stepping through a table. It was a creative and different finish to what is normal for a tables match, but guaranteed that this somewhat anti-climactic feud will continue. Nonetheless, beneficial outcome, and expect Rhodes to go over cleanly at Over The Limit.
Match grade: 6.5/10
5. Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in a 2-out-of-3 falls match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship
After the 18-second match at WrestleMania, it was a general consensus that these two would finally, after a years worth of waiting, get to showcase their skills. Deliver they did.
The 2-out-of-3 falls stipulation is usually a predictable split of the first two falls followed by a clincher at the end, which was the case here as well. However, the way they went about booking it was much more creative than in the past. Bryan’s self-disqualification by relentlessly kicking Sheamus’ arm to take him out was extremely heel-like and cowardly. It was also a testament to the ring psychologist that he is. Actually utilizing the hurt arm in the YES! Lock for the second fall was also logical, something WWE has been missing of late at times.
The Brogue Kick at the end was sold effectively enough to look legitimate, and provided a solid finish to a very entertaining match. The crowd was incredibly into this one, and Bryan is arguably the most over superstar in the company today. The pacing in the match was perfect, telling a story of a crazed-Bryan and a bloodthirsty Sheamus. My only major complaint would be as to why they showed A.J. prior to the match without utilizing her, but I will wait to see if anything spurs from that this week.
Match grade: 8.5/10
6. Ryback def. Aaron Relic and Jay Hatton in a 2-on-1 handicapped match
Nothing really to say here, or grade for that matter. Typical squash match, but I like the inclusion of letting the jobbers speak prior to facing him. Ryback looks great in the ring and I am very anxious to see him in a feud. He is physical with some dominating moves, but I wonder how his character will develop. Hopeful that feud comes soon.
Match grade: N/A
7. CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight to retain the WWE Championship
Oh man. This was awesome.
As expected, the crowd popped big time for Punk. The feud got personal ever since WrestleMania, and I was curious to see as to whether this would actually be the conclusion of the program. After the finish, it may appear so.
Many would argue that Jericho’s return has been somewhat pointless, but he has done an excellent job at getting Punk over even more so than he was. The matches have been technically flawless, while last night’s was brutal as well. There were some great spots in this, and both competitors took a legitimate beating (that damn Kendo stick).
The finish saw the feud return to its roots, with Jericho hoisting Punk and proclaiming himself as the best in the world, which saw the latter respond with a GTS of his own. Throw that in with the flashy elbow drop on the table, and this match told a story of two competitors who had tremendous tension, all of which turned into not a battle, but a war.
Match grade: 9.5/10
8. Layla def. Nikki Bella for Divas Championship
I liked that they took the title off Beth via “injury,” which tries to salvage some legitimacy for her. When they announced a mystery opponent for Nikki, it was expected Kharma would be making her long-awaited return. It was also be logical, due to the Bella twins teasing of her as she went on hiatus.
Instead, Layla comes back from her knee injury after a year of inactivity. It was definitely a nice surprise, as she is good in the ring, and looked great. However, it was not the surprise the hostile Chicago crowd wanted, and this came off poorly as a result. The twin switch was used to likely expand the program slightly further, but it is clear Kharma is on the horizon. Not an awful match, but certainly not what people wanted.
Match grade: 6/10
9. John Cena def. Brock Lesnar in an Extreme Rules match
My thoughts have been wavering ever since Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on the steel steps for the win.
To say I was in a literal shock when Cena went over Lesnar would be an understatement. To me, it made no sense that Lesnar would come in with the reputation as being one of the toughest men on the planet yet lose. Where does he go from here? How is there any legitimacy to it?
However, as the hours passed, I started to come to terms with the outcome a little more. After the fight, and yes, it was a fight, Cena said he would be taking a break. Rumors have been rampant of late that he would be taking a much-needed vacation, but he also appeared actually beat-up. His shoulder looked torn at times, and he got busted open the hard way as well. If Cena is to be taking a break, then it only serves as justice to let him go out with a win after all he has done for the company. While they could have gone the injury-route, it is honestly a little more satisfying to see him win.
As mentioned, the match was an absolute brawl. It told a compelling story of two men who appear to have genuine disdain for one another. Cena was once again split open by real punches, which only contributed to the MMA-style feel the bout had. Lesnar did appear a little ring-rusty, misjudging a key jump that could have left him seriously injured. Nonetheless, the fight went over very well on television, and that appeared to be the case with the live crowd as well.
I still do not 100 percent agree with the ending, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, even being left a little disturbed by how brutal it was.
Match grade: 9/10
When all is said and done, Extreme Rules was most definitely a successful pay-per-view. The undercard was, appropriately, underwhelming as expected. On the contrary, it was held together by three excellent main event matches that make up for most of the stale booking seen by the other bouts. It is hard to push extreme in a PG environment, but they managed to do the best they could last night. There must be something in the water in Chicago. Because whenever wrestling swings by, it rocks.
Extreme Rules grade: 8.5/10