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Extreme Rules, as well as its predecessor Backlash, has made its entire history on the fact that it is the first PPV after Wrestlemania, and thus gets a lot of the Wrestlemania aftermath for its matches. This year however, is going to be a little bit unique because the show is relying on a lot of new match-ups that did not take place at Wrestlemania, with only one rematch from Wrestlemania XXX set on the card.
The presumptive main event will not be the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Daniel Bryan and Kane, but instead will likely be the 6-man tag match between The Shield and Evolution. The matches' build-up has been pretty strong, with the brash and confident Shield mocking the relatively elderly members of Evolution and Evolution using their cunning and political power to hurt The Shield.
Despite the fact that all three members of Evolution have seen better days in the ring, the match should be really good, mainly because the freewheeling Shield is involved, and the story and the drama leading up to the match has been so strong. The Shield have often had the greater support of the fans even when they were technically heels, but now that they are facing the greatest coalition of heels in WWE, fans have been given carte blanche to root for the rebellious group, which should make for a really strong crowd in what is essentially going to be a New York City crowd.
The outcome of the match has been tricky to predict. Rumors are circling that Batista is leaving WWE after this show to go promote Guardians of the Galaxy, returning sometime around Summerslam. With that in mind, it would be weird to see WWE have Evolution go over The Shield when one of its primary members is leaving right after the show. On the other hand, after re-establishing Evolution, it would be kind of silly to have them promptly lose their first match as a group.
In my opinion, the best option for WWE to go is to debut a new member of Evolution that will interfere and cost The Shield the match. For starters, whoever debuts (and it could really be anyone) will obviously receive a huge boost in their career by hooking up with Triple H and company. Secondly, it is pretty clear that the feud between Evolution and The Shield is going to go beyond Extreme Rules, and with Batista gone and Triple H still not a full-time competitor, Evolution will need another gun to work with Orton against The Shield.
For his first title defense, Daniel Bryan will face Kane for some reason. Bryan and Kane have fought a lot over the last six months or so, with Bryan getting the better of Kane pretty much every time. Poor booking and even worse acting have plagued this feud since the get-go, and of all the people WWE could have had Bryan feud with, instead of having him have a re-match with Orton, Batista, or even Triple H, they chose Kane.
With Bryan now getting his first serious run with the world title, and after WWE pushed him to the moon at Wrestlemania, it would seem logical to try and make him the most important guy on the next PPV. Improbably, Bryan isn't in the most important match at Extreme Rules, hell, he probably isn't even the most second most important match on the card. Who are in those matches you may ask? Why, that would be Triple H and friends and John Cena, you know, the same guys that have been all over WWE for the last 10 years. I'm not saying his feud with Kane will completely submarine his title reign, but when you have someone as hot as Bryan making the leap to being the number one face, the world champion, it is really important to keep his momentum going as strong as possible, and that starts with big feuds against big-name opponents, not against heels he has already beaten a million times before. You can't just take Bryan and push him at Wrestlemania and then say "Okay, you are good for now, hold on for a second while we do this other stuff and then we will get back to you doing something huge." No, pushing someone new is a 100% commitment that is an endless progression, 365 days a year.
Although the match is technically for the world title, Kane has about as good of a chance of becoming the WWE WHC on Sunday as I do. Bryan is going to walk out of the Izod Center as champion, one way or another. Hopefully, Bryan will defeat Kane cleanly in the ring, and that will be that. There is always the option that Bryan wins but Kane kicks the crap out of him after the match, painfully prolonging the feud into another match, which would be a disaster.
After John Cena did everything but get a tombstone carved for the Wyatt family at Wrestlemania, Cena will once again wrestle Wyatt, this time inside a steel cage. Cena already defeated Wyatt with both Rowan and Harper interfering in the match at Wrestlemania, so logically, beating Bray inside a cage where there is likely going to be little interference, should be a walk in the park.
My biggest qualm with this feud is that Cena has really no-selled Wyatt's character. The key for the feud was going to be Wyatt's ability to get into Cena's head. On Monday Cena came out and started to sound genuinely hurt by the fans and by Wyatt, and Wyatt even hammered the point home by leading a children's choir in song (kids, you know, Cena's main fanbase). How did Cena respond to all of this? He went on camera with Renee Young and said simply that fans have the right to love him or hate him, and that is their right and he loves them for that. So basically, all of Wyatt's mind games prompted Cena to say the exact same thing he has always said, which means the effects of Wyatt's character were zilch.
Wyatt pretty much has to win this match, although I said the same thing at Wrestlemania and look how that turned out. I hate to repeat myself, but realistically, Cena gains nothing from a victory, while Wyatt would become all sorts of legitimate in the eyes of everybody. There is the always prevalent "Cena wins because he is John f'n Cena" logic behind the match, so you can never , ever, rule Cena out of winning a wrestling match, no matter the situation.
The Intercontinental title is on the line as Big E will take on the surging Bad News Barrett, in a match that really spells trouble for Big E. For starters, Barrett has improbably built a ton of momentum over the last few weeks, becoming one of the most engaging acts within WWE. Big E on the other hand, has been pretty absent from WWE TV, as we mainly see him standing in front of television monitor over the last few weeks. A disaster may take place for Big E, as Barrett the heel, may end up being cheered louder by the crowd than the face Big E, which is the worst thing for a face that is trying to build momentum.
Big E has been an interesting case for WWE. Management clearly figure him into their long term plans, and he has had the IC title longer than anybody has held it in the last three years. However, he really doesn't get a lot of mic time or wrestling time, and always seems to be in a match on PPV with someone random that was thrown together at the last minute. Even though the IC title was on big-time display the last few weeks, with Barrett winning the tournament, the fact of the matter is, Big E was barely a part of any of that. While all the contenders worked in the ring, Big E was standing around watching television. WWE has really dropped the ball with Big E, and despite his lengthy reign as champion, he hasn't built any real momentum.
In other championship news, Paige will defend her Diva's Championship against noted AJ Lee lackey Tamina Snuka. This match is simply a placeholder for Paige to retain the title while AJ Lee takes time off for whatever sabbatical she is on. The good news is that Tamina has a relatively unique style and Paige has proven herself to be a good worker, so this might be one of the better women's matches of the year.
Jack Swagger, Rob Van Dam and Cesaro will square off in a triple threat match that was quickly advanced on Raw Monday. There is very little flow to this feud, with Cesaro and Swagger's role as faces and heels being very questionable. The real feud is probably going to be between RVD and Cesaro and Heyman, so expect RVD to steal one from Cesaro, or Cesaro steal one from RVD.
Lastly, Alexander Rusev will take on both Xavier Woods and R-Truth in a handicapped match. Squash matches have been something that have been a part of WWE for forever, yet they seem so outdated now. Squash matches today just don't do anything for anybody. Ryback squashed a bunch of guys, and how did that go for his career? Same can be said for a lot of other guys. Another thing is that Rusev and Lana is basically the same think as Cesaro and Aksana, and since that didn't work out for Cesaro, who is a much better performer than Rusev, it is a real head scratcher.
Extreme Rules is a show that is going to be make or break depending on two matches. If a new member of Evolution debuts or The Shield clean house and Bray Wyatt beats Cena, then we are looking at a show that is going somewhere. If Evolution goes over cleanly and Super-Cena prevails, then WWE might be in trouble.