Oh Extreme Rules, how I feel for thee. You have the unlucky task of following up Wrestlemania year after year, and 31 was an especially good show. It doesn’t help that ER’s big push, the whole “one night of EXTREME” bit is put down by the fact that a least a third of the pay-per-views feature some form of “extreme” matches (TLC, HiaC, even MitB depending on your definition). Combine that with sub-par-post-Mania booking, you’ve got a bit of a rough go. But, you never know when those big PPV moments will hit, so ER still has that chance to start the year strong.
Tag-Team Championship: Cesaro and Tyson Kidd vs. The New Day
While I’ve gone on record as openly admitting that I don’t really get New Day, I’ll also say that I really don’t get why people are so hard on Woods, Langston and Kingston. The three of them are great performers, which for me has always helped them stand out despite the lukewarm gimmick they’ve been handed. That being said, a heel New Day is that much closer to a new Nation of Domination, and I’m ok with that. Tag-team wrestling has been getting a huge bump since Mania, and a big part of that is because of the Luchas’ efforts, so I’m a little bummed that they didn’t get the call but, hey, it’s still pretty early for them to be on that kind of stage. This one is actually sounding better the more I think on it, since both teams had a great showing in the four-way-tag match at Mania. And anytime you have Cesaro and Kidd in a match, you know you’ll see something cool. At the end of the day, neither team is really getting that big superstar push, but I think Cesaro and Kidd have enough clout to keep the straps on this one.
What I think will happen: Cesaro and Kidd retain.
What I hope will happen: Cesaro tosses Big E’s enormous body through the air in impressive manner.
Divas Championship: Nikki Bella vs. Naomi
Talk about disappointment. It was only at the time of writing this post that I learnt that my beloved Paige had been removed from the PPV in favor of the far less interesting Naomi. If any match is going to have to work extra hard to get my attention, it’s this one. Paige being removed is undoubtedly comprised of two components: 1) She’s in a new WWE movie with the Miz, and 2) No fan would buy her losing to Nikki Bella. Putting her and Nikki in the ring together just puts too much emphasis on how much better and more interesting Paige is than the current champ, which is bad for business considering how little Nikki has really done with that belt. Keeping the two of them away from each other until Paige is committed to a championship run is undoubtedly the best approach, but when it leaves us with a match like this it really shows how shallow the talent pool is in the Divas division.
What I think will happen: Nikki retains, again.
What I hope happens: Nikki and Naomi take a trip down to Full Sail and learn a think or two from the NXT Divas.
Last Man Standing: Roman Reigns vs. Big Show
I stand corrected. This has got bore-fest written all over it. Personally, I hate LMS matches. Watching guys wait to the count of 9 before standing up really slows down the pace, in my opinion, which can make a slow match like this undoubtedly will be seem even slower. Couple that with both guys having about 4 moves between them, and we’ve got the exact opposite of a slobberknocker on our hands. You know what I miss? WCW Big Show, who could pull off missile dropkicks and other ridiculous non-giant-person moves with ease. Now that I liked. This one will be what it will be. Let me know how it goes, because I’ll probably be taking a food break on this one.
What I think will happen: Roman Reigns will still get pushed into the spotlight.
What I hope happens: Again, Giant Missile Dropkick!
Chicago Street Fight: Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper
Will somebody please tell me what was gained by breaking up the Wyatt Family? Because no one has really changed substantially from that split, especially Eric Rowan. I really like Harper, but there’s no denying that he was far more interesting when he was involved with Bray. That being said, when I think of a street fight, these are the two that I think of. I can absolutely see how this one was put together, as both guys are the closest to hardcore wrestlers on the roster and definitely want to stand out a little (especially considering the criminally small amount of time that Ambrose has on the mic these days). This’ll be the sleeper match of the night, for sure.
What I think will happen: Ambrose and Harper will kill themselves for the fan’s approval, but Ambrose will likely come out on top for the easy pop.
What I hope happens: Harper pulls the upset. There are few big guys who can put on a match like Harper can, and I’d really like to see him get a big-time push.
Kiss My Arse Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big Sheamus fan, but I’m digging him in a heel run. I find that he’s much better at playing that bad guy. It helps that the guys in Intercontinental contention are much smaller than he is, since it makes him look more like a monster. Given that Sheamus vs. Bryant was being ramped up before the Champ was possibly-maybe injured again, it’s very likely that Sheamus is getting the push on this one, which is good since quality heels are few and far between these days. And if anyone is going to make Sheamus look good, it’s Ziggler. This one will probably be closer to a one-sided affair for story purposes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining.
What I think will happen: Sheamus will get the push on this one.
What I hope happens: Sheamus gets to show-off as a big-time heel.
Intercontinental Championship: Daniel Bryant vs. Bad News Barrett
So about what I said earlier regarding Bryant’s health: This one may end up getting cut if Bryant isn’t in shape to compete. I don’t see that happening myself, since Bryant would hold himself together with duct tape if he had to in order to put on a show. That being said, if Creative really is worried about Bryant’s health, they may want to put the strap back on Barrett for safety’s sake. I don’t dislike Barrett, but if Creative wants to make the IC belt mean anything they shouldn’t just put the strap back on him. Someone who is closer to Bryant’s level of popularity should get the gold, somehow, and unfortunately Barrett isn’t even close.
What I think will happen: Bryant will show and retain the strap for at least one more night.
What I hope happens: Bryant’s health concerns pass over soon so he can keep doing what he’s doing. That guy is great.
Russian Chain Match: Rusev vs. Cena
Most people have already put the smart money on Cena taking this one, and it’s easy to see why. He’s THE guy in the fed, despite the mixed crowd reaction. Plus, I have to be honest, I’m really digging his “open challenge” matches on RAW and they’ve really managed to push him by putting him against guys you’d never think of every week. However, I am a much bigger Rusev fan, so I’d rather see him get that belt back so that we might finally see that new European Championship that was teased about six months ago. But that’s just me.
What I think will happen: Like pretty much everyone else, I think Cena will hang on to the strap on this one.
What I hope happens: I’d love to see Rusev get the underdog win on this one. Unlike Cena, I’ve seen Rusev get better and better with every match, so I’d really like to see him stay in the championship spotlight.
WWE Championship Steel Cage Match: Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins
This looks pretty great all over. Orton and Rollins are two of the best in the business right now, so it’ll be great to see them go at it one more time. Even without the incredibly-over RKO, Orton is great enough to pull some really interesting spots. It’s kind of ironic, really, that Rollins has also lost his big finish with the Curbstomp getting red-taped by Creative, so at least we won’t know what the finish will be. Also, I think that this is the only time all year that we actually get to see an honest-to-god cage match, so that’ll help to make this one stand out. Rollins has got way too much heat right now to drop the strap, but that doesn’t mean that this one can’t be a home run.
What I think will happen: Rollins will manage to retain, but Orton is going to keep looking strong regardless.
What I hope happens: Orton loses the match by losing control and using the banned RKO, leading him on another back-stage-RKO-rampage. Out of nowhere!
So there we go. In looking things over, Extreme Rules has about a 50/50 chance of being regarded as a standout PPV. Not the best odds, but you never know when someone will try to steal the show.