In the safe, sanitized PG world of WWE, the Extreme Rules pay-per-view—named in honor of ECW—ostensibly serves as the one time of the year when those in the company can revisit the brutal hardcore wrestling style that was so prevalent in ‘90s.
The Extreme Rules show itself serves as a sort of continuation of the company’s popular One Night Stand events in the mid ‘00s.
But has it lived up to the original pay-per-view’s memory?
The answer is yes…and no.
In some respects, WWE does pay respects to the original tribute shows—but anyone looking for the brutal, hard-hitting action of the now-defunct promotion is probably better off going out and getting some old ECW DVDs.
Undoubtedly, the effort has been made, on occasion, with the Extreme Rules show.
Look at last year’s violent bout between John Cena and Brock Lesnar, which was notable for the amount of punishment Cena took.
Or the terrific ladder match between Jeff Hardy and Edge at the 2009 show. No doubt the upcoming cage match between Tripe H and Lesnar will also have its fair share of stiff shots and blood.
But has the event really lived up to hardcore roots? Probably not.
Come on, was the (rather silly) “Extreme Makeover” bout between Michelle McCool and Beth Phoenix in 2010 really in the spirit of the One Night Stand pay-per-views?
Or how about the dull Last Man Standing match between Randy Orton and CM Punk in 2011?
Sure, come Extreme Rules time, WWE’s creative team may begrudgingly throw in the odd ECW-style match stipulation, but do these matches differ much from normal bouts?
Let’s face it: For the most part, the only thing “Extreme” about Extreme Rules these days is the title.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that this is probably for the best.
Look at the toll that tough, hard-bumping style took on the people who did it.
Mick Foley—who tore the house down in the original ECW then later in WWF with his willingness to take significant punishment—has acknowledged recently that he’s stopped wrestling for fear of worsening his existing brain damage.
Chris Nowinski and the Sports Legacy Institute’s fantastic and highly publicized research into the severe impact of concussions on athletes also give a strong argument against the old ECW way of doing things.
This isn’t the blissfully ignorant ‘90s any more. Heck, even back in 2005—when the first One Night Stand pay-per-view was hosted—we still didn’t know the full extent of the damage this garbage-style wrestling could do.
Who could want a return to that? No wrestling fan with a conscience.
Summarily, rather than trying to see Extreme Rules as a homage to Paul Heyman’s now-defunct promotion, it might be better for fans to simply take it on its own merits. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for nothing but disappointment.