With Extreme Rules in the books, the WWE will move ahead on the road to Summerslam, as they prepare for the benefits and the detractions of the summer wrestling market. Extreme Rules likely set the pace for the way the WWE is going to go this summer, so let's take a look at what went down in St. Louis.
The main event was the third, and hopefully final, encounter between Triple H and Brock Lesnar. The match was typical of Triple H's performances lately. It was slow, with each move being done very carefully in hopes of extracting the most drama as possible from the situation. At this point, this strategy is becoming extremely cumbersome as the matches have seemed to stall out while the crowd tunes out. I'm all for slower, more old-school styled matches, but at this rate, fans are sitting on their hands and silently waiting for the wrestler's next move. Brock Lesnar vs Triple H took what had been a very hot crowd and turned it ice cold, almost like they were wrestling in Japan and not in St. Louis.
Thankfully, Brock Lesnar came out on top, with a resounding victory over Triple H. If Brock had lost at Extreme Rules, I think that irreparable damage would have been done to Brock. He would be a monster with a 3x as many losses as victories. Now he is a monster with a .500 winning percentage. Nobody knows exactly when Brock will be back, but with a match with The Rock reportedly in the works, the WWE will be looking for a big time performance from Lesnar.
Speaking of Lesnar, although I was not a fan of his match at Extreme Rules, his selling and the emotion he displays during a match is phenomenal. We all know Brock is a legitimate ass-kicker, and that he is a great bully, but what I think is sometimes lost in all that is how truly gifted he is at in-ring psychology. His matches with Triple H and John Cena have been far from perfect, but Brock does as good of a job as anybody at executing the showcasing of emotions in a wrestling ring.
The match with the most on the line was of course, the WWE Championship match between the incumbent John Cena and the challenger Ryback in a Last Man Standing match. I had previously predicted that we were in store for a classic "Cena overcoming the odds" match that the WWE has loved to use over the past few years. For a long time, that looked like that was what we were going to get, as Ryback dominated most of the match and cut off Cena every time he tried to rally. In a bit of a surprise, the match quickly ended in a no-contest when Ryback bull-rushed Cena through the lighting on the stage. Both men went down for well beyond the 10 count, rendering the match a no-contest.
The match being booked as a Last Man Standing match insured that Cena and Ryback could work a lengthy match without having to exchange many holds, which is obviously neither of the competitors strengths. The match featured a lot of stunts, ranging from Cena utilizing a fire extinguisher, to Cena tripping/jumping off of a ledge to splash Ryback through a table. None of these maneuvers where innovative or unique. It just seemed like Ryback and Cena watched a few Last Man Standing matches from the WWE library, and recycled some of their spots. The match was not very good from an overall perspective, but considering the guys in the match, they did an okay job.
The brightest spots on the show where the Shield's victories. The Shield capturing gold for the first time sets the tone for the rest of the season, prepare for the summer of the Shield.
Dean Ambrose and Kofi Kingston put on what I thought was the best overall match of the night. Kofi has had his struggles breaking out of the echelon of the WWE, but he does a solid job getting the fans behind him to set up his heel adversary. Ambrose is widely believed to have the most potential out of anyone in the Shield, and he showed why tonight. Ambrose is crisp in the ring and dynamic on the mic, with him holding the US Title, the belt could very well see a big resurgence in prominence.
Not to be outdone, Ambrose's teammates Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns continued the Shield's dominance in tag team competition, this time ending Team Hell No's 245 day reign as tag team champions. The match was a little bit short, but good none-the-less, as the Shield captured tag gold. Not only did the Shield gain greater prominence by winning the titles, but it also potentially frees up Daniel Bryan for a potential singles run.
From the good to the bad, the number one contenders match for the World Heavyweight Championship between Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger was a drag from start to finish. Despite Zeb Colters brilliant march on the IRS and his torching of the St. Louis Cardinals, the match was a less than stellar affair. Due to Dolph Ziggler's concussion, the match was hastily changed from a ladder match to an "I Quit" match. Instead of the usual feeling out process that typically takes place during such a match, Swagger and ADR got right down to business with the near "quits" taking place almost immediately after the bell rung. I didn't like how referee Mike Chioda seemed to ask either competitor if they wanted to give up after every single high impact move. An "I Quit" match is supposed to be a long, dramatic affair, but this one felt hurried and just like they wanted to rush right to the awkward finish.
The three remaining matches were a variety of mediocrity. Randy Orton vs Big Show was probably the best of the bunch, with the St. Louis red hot for their native son Orton. The return of the punt may also be an indicator in a turn in character (hopefully). Mark Henry vs Sheamus was a basic match, although it was cool to see a strap match, a classic stipulation rarely seen in today's eccentric wrestling culture. Sheamus winning is a step forward from him, but big Mark could really use a big win soon if the WWE wants to keep investing in him as a monster heel. Lastly, Fandango vs Chris Jericho was a very rudimentary contest. Fandango took a loss, and with his popularity looking more and more like a fluke, it will be interesting to see if the WWE continues to push him as strongly as they have been.
Extreme Rules has historically been a very good pay-per-view, but I don't feel like this year's installment lived up to the standards set by its predecessors. The word that keeps coming to mind when I think about this show is ordinary. Nothing really exciting or buzz-worthy took place, with the possible exception of the Shields dominance. I really hope that next year, the WWE a better formula heading into what is one of the most intriguing events of the year.