WWE always goes through a lull between WrestleMania and Extreme Rules. There's a transition period as most of the part-time superstars fade into the background once again and full-timers start to receive renewed pushes.
Now, things are finally starting to heat back up. The closing segment on Raw featuring Triple H and Brock Lesnar, the remaining part-time big names, had an obvious Extreme Rules feel. There are several gimmick matches on the card to help generate some hype, as well.
John Cena will defend the WWE Championship, which he won from The Rock at WrestleMania, against Ryback. It should also be a big night for the company's trio of rising stars, The Shield, as all three are in matches for championships.
The show should provide enough intrigue to help the WWE start rebuilding some momentum heading into the summer. Let's check out all the key information for the pay-per-view, followed by a preview and predictions for Extreme Rules.
Where: Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
When: Sunday, May 19 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Pay-per-view (local cable providers)
Live Stream: WWE.com has PPV for $44.99
John Cena (c) vs. Ryback – Last Man Standing WWE Championship match
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar – Steel Cage match
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio – I Quit match (No. 1 contender for World Heavyweight title)
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Dean Ambrose – United States Championship match
Team Hell No (c) vs. The Shield (Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns) – Tornado Tag Team match for Tag Team Championships
Sheamus vs. Mark Henry – Strap match
Randy Orton vs. Big Show – Extreme Rules match
Fandango vs. Chris Jericho – Singles match
The Miz vs. Cody Rhodes – Pre-show Singles match
Main Event Preview and Prediction
The WWE is in a tough spot. Ryback is going to need a main-event title run in the near future in order to sustain his rise toward the top of the card. But Cena just beat The Rock last month to become champion and having him drop the title right away after that would be a head-scratching decision.
Furthermore, both Ryback and Cena have been built like unstoppable superstars. Losing a Last Man Standing match doesn't fall in line with that persona, so the company must tread carefully, especially if the plan is for the less established Ryback to lose.
The other option is outside interference. They could have Ryback and Cena go back and forth for upwards of 20 minutes without giving an inch. Multiple finishers and big spots that aren't enough to keep either superstar down for a 10-count.
After the extended battle, The Shield could descend on the ring and take out both men. It would allow the WWE to kick the can down the road for at least another month with Ryback and Cena while letting The Shield stand tall after what should be a big night of title wins for the trio.
That seems like the most likely option. Regardless of how the match finishes, however, Cena should emerge from Extreme Rules with the title around his waist. It's simply too soon to end his championship reign after receiving the torch from The Rock.
Since Ryback's heel turn is still a work in progress––his promos need a lot of work––keeping Cena as champ for another month is the right move. When Payback rolls around in June, it will be far enough away from WrestleMania for a change, if Ryback is deemed ready for a title run.
Cena should remain on top until then, though.
Prediction: John Cena
What They're Saying
One of the more interesting matches of the night features Sheamus against Mark Henry in a Strap match. The Celtic Warrior is looking forward to it.
Steve Austin gave a shout-out to The Shield leading up to Extreme Rules. The group will probably receive a lot more praise after their performance Sunday night.
Steve Austin @steveaustinBSR
Nice work by The Shield. Young cats are doing pretty damn good. #WWE #raw2013-5-14 02:08:51
Undercard Match to Watch: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
Expect an absolute brawl between two superstars who clearly know how to handle that type of match. It's hard to imagine either part-time star working Payback next month, so it wouldn't be surprising to see it become brutal enough to write both guys off television for a while.
It was an interesting choice to see them use the Steel Cage on Raw to help hype the match instead of saving it for Extreme Rules. But it worked out well because it took a rather mundane build and took it to the next level by giving fans a taste of what to expect on Sunday.
As for the result itself, it would be a shock if Lesnar didn't pick up the win. Triple H won their encounter at WrestleMania. Now, Lesnar can exact some revenge and receive a boost for whenever he returns for his next storyline.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar
Which Star Will WWE Bury? Kofi Kingston
Being caught in mid-card limbo is the worst-case scenario for a superstar like Kingston. It's hard to receive a sustained push without having a title and there are so many guys battling for limited television time that it often takes a long time to work back into the championship picture.
Unfortunately for Kingston, it appears that's where he's heading with Dean Ambrose and his Shield mates on the rise. The most likely scenario is Ambrose winning the United States title at Extreme Rules and then defending it in the automatic rematch on one of the weekly shows.
It will leave Kofi without a clear direction moving forward. He's improved in the ring and make a connection with the younger fans, but hasn't been able to take the next step. And at Extreme Rules, he'll take a step in the wrong direction.
Star Unaccounted For: Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler suffered a concussion on SmackDown during the build to Extreme Rules. It caused the cancellation of a Triple Threat Ladder match between him, Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger, which turned into a No. 1 contender match between the other two.
The good news for Ziggler is he wasn't stripped of the World Heavyweight title. Once he returns to full strength, he will be able to immediately jump into a feud with the winner of that match (likely Del Rio) and continue his reign.
He waited a long time before getting the chance to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. So it would have been a disappointment to see him drop the title so quickly. Ziggler certainly has a very bright future, but must get healthy first.
CM Punk, who's been away since shortly after WrestleMania, and Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett are among the other superstars not on the card.