WWE Extreme Rules 2013 appears destined to be remembered as the pay-per-view where injuries crippled the card. Innovations—both inside and outside of the ring—could change that perception.
Thematically speaking, this is the worst pay-per-view for such an injury crisis to hit.
Extreme Rules is designed to finish feuds still resonating from WrestleMania and start fresh rivalries heading into the summer. This is achieved by creating an event that is focused on hardcore style matches, forcing—sometimes rather artificially—superstars to take risks that would not be normally expected. The majority of the roster has to be active to allow for this transitional period to happen smoothly.
Clearly, this has not been the case on this occasion. Injury seems to have plagued every essential member of the WWE locker room.
The planned replacement match has also been greatly hampered. Both Cena and new opponent Ryback have been limited by medical issues that have curtailed their in-ring abilities. Unfortunately, this inability to perform has limited the appeal of this once-anticipated contest.
To hide these issues, the WWE wisely concentrated its focus on the World Heavyweight Championship instead.
Excitement was definitely building for the three-way contest between Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger. Then Ziggler received a punt to the head by Swagger that Randy Orton would have been proud of. Accordingly, the match disappeared into the ether as the current champion is not cleared to compete.
These problems at the top of the card affects every aspect of the product.
Extreme Rules features matches where the rules are ignored or changed to allow superstars to truly show who is the most devastating. This requires the WWE to give each competing wrestler a motive.
Losing the planned rematches after WrestleMania means far more time has had to be dedicated to building reasons why these top stars want to fight each other. These time constraints have meant that smaller feuds have had less attention. The dual effect of this process is that the lower-card matches feel thrown together, and there is no clear reason for these subsidiary matches to take place.
WWE’s response has been to reshuffle the card and evoke memories of feuds from the past as adequate explanations. This has worked surprisingly well. The problem with this strategy is that reinstating former rivalries creates the prospect of repeating programs that have been seen recently.
This limits the chance to start new feuds, therefore giving the audience something new.
This is where innovation will be key in making this event great.
The WWE needs to have matches, and it needs competitors to interact with each other in ways that are new, or at least have not been seen recently. The run-in and fake-out theme music have been done to death.
Instead, the WWE needs to use the chaotic nature of the Extreme Rules event to its advantage.
For instance, a hardcore or “extreme rules” match can start at any time and anywhere as long as a referee is present. The match between Randy Orton and Big Show should then be inserted into the pay-per-view in a truly dynamic way.
There are many scenarios that could occur. Imagine them starting in the locker room and disturbing one of the other wrestlers who is preparing for his match. That man goes on to lose that match, forming the perfect platform for a new feud to happen from Raw onwards.
Alternatively, the extreme rules match could start while another match is underway. There would be a great appeal in seeing four superstars at war with one another, with two matches actually underway. This could lead to any number of permutations after the event.
Inadvertent incidents could also be used.
The Shield, with their established ability to land lightening quick backstage attacks, could be the basis for any number of twists and turns. A stalked Kofi Kingston could deliver Trouble In Paradise to any number of innocent wrestlers, believing he was about to be attacked by The Hounds Of Justice. This in turn could launch many a new feud for the underutilized African.
Using the lack of rules to see innovative moves would also freshen up many of the overlong feuds getting another outing.
The strap in the contest between Mark Henry and Sheamus offers a number of weird ways to make the other man suffer. The “I Quit” stipulation in the No. 1 Contenders match that replaced the World Heavyweight Championship engagement also offers plenty of possibilities.
As long as what happens furthers the storyline or underlies the end of their feuds, there is the potential for these matches to be well received.
Extreme Rules does not look the most promising spectacle on paper. Most of the matches have been seen several times before, and hardcore wrestling does not have the same edginess that it had in previous eras.
Yet with a little innovation, there is a really good chance that this pay-per-view will out-perform its expectations. It might even launch an interesting few months in the WWE.