Tired of constant negativity and criticism? This recap is for you.
Extreme Rules is in the books, and the immediate future, as well as the long-term future, has been altered by its results. The Shield continued its tremendous roll as Dean Ambrose captured the U.S. title, and Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns secured the tag titles with a win over Team Hell No. The rivalry between Triple H and Brock Lesnar came to a close inside a steel cage match, while John Cena and Ryback's evolving feud over the WWE Championship added its latest layer.
In his hometown of St. Louis, Randy Orton dispatched of The Big Show, while Sheamus upset Mark Henry in a strap match. Chris Jericho got a measure of revenge on Fandango, dealing him his first loss in the night's opening contest.
Join me as I take a look back at the good, the great and the awesome from Sunday's pay-per-view offering.
Triple H's camouflaged equalizer
In the middle of the titanic clash between Triple H and Brock Lesnar inside WWE's brand new steel cage, "The Game" climbed the ropes and retrieved his trademark sledgehammer, which had been stuck to the top of the cage.
The attention to detail that went into Triple H not only retrieving the weapon but also having painted it silver to match the cage and go undetected is what makes the 13-time champion one of the smartest performers in the sport. Long considered the "Cerebral Assassin," a nickname given to him by Jim Ross, Triple H bringing an equalizer to his fight and doing so without his bigger, younger opponent having the slightest clue is exactly the type of thing the wily veteran would do.
A veteran of a number of extreme and hardcore stipulation matches, Triple H is a master of those small, minute details that go a long way in making tired or old spots appear fresh or interesting. His matches often thrive because of it.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
The opening match of any pay-per-view is one of the most important parts of the show. It sets the stage for what is to come and is charged with getting the crowd into the action from the get-go. Jericho and Fandango did just that Sunday night, delivering a fast-paced match that was never allowed to get boring. To his credit, the younger and less experienced Fandango kept up with his veteran opponent.
The finish, which saw Fandango leap from the top rope and right into a Code Breaker from Jericho, was phenomenal. Most importantly, the win halted Jericho's pay-per-view losing streak, giving the typically unselfish pro a big win over the previously undefeated ballroom dancer.
Kaitlyn and AJ brawl
The Divas division got a shot in the arm Sunday night as the rivalry between AJ and Kaitlyn continued to evolve, adding new wrinkles and giving fans something to sink their teeth into when their title match finally occurs.
The brawl in the backstage area featured great fury and ferociousness from the two women, and the exchange was also believable and entertaining. There is money to be made from a Divas Championship match between Kaitlyn and AJ, and it is refreshing to see the creative team giving the two ladies something to do and a story to develop.
The steel cage match
Triple H and Brock Lesnar brought their rivalry to a close Sunday night at Extreme Rules in a steel cage match that proved to be the best of their series and the best of the night.
There was no blood, no overabundance of weapon use and no memorable spot that WWE can replay in video packages for years to come. Instead, all of the glitz and glamour was replaced with solid storytelling and subtle yet spectacular performances from the men involved.
Lesnar, as will be mentioned in a bit, was tremendous in selling the attack by Triple H on his knee. Conversely, "The Game" was his cerebral best, putting together a plan to take away the base of his monstrous opponent, limiting how Lesnar could utilize his powerful offensive assault. And Paul Heyman was at his managerial best, begging Triple H to stop the beating of his client and getting involved at just the right time.
There are questions to be asked about the use of Brock leading up to and including the match, but those questions cannot change what was a smart, well-worked main event match that deserved to go on last.
There was no blood and no fictionalized injury, but by the end of the bout, it was clear two men had been in a war.
The return of the punt
Leading up to his Extreme Rules match with The Big Show, Randy Orton claimed he was feeling more extreme than ever. What better way to follow up those claims than by reintroducing the brutal and violent punt to the head?
Sensing that the second RKO of the evening may not be enough to keep Show's shoulders pinned to the mat for three, Orton took off across the ring and delivered the near-debilitating kick to the head to a huge ovation from his hometown crowd in St. Louis.
The punt, the first in quite some time, was a throwback to Orton's more devious, dangerous and violent days, in which he served as one of professional wrestling's great heels. It also fulfilled his promise to be more extreme than ever. The punt, so rarely seen these days, did more to elicit a reaction that any use of a weapon could have on a night when the use of foreign objects becomes second nature.
It helps that the match itself was one of the night's best, a testament to both an energized Orton and The Big Show, who has quietly amassed a resume full of show-stealing performances dating back to last fall.
The WWE Superstar panel
One of the really great things WWE has done over the last two months is introduce a Superstar panel to its pay-per-view events. At WrestleMania 29, the panel consisted of Kofi Kingston and Hall of Famers Dusty Rhodes and Jim Ross. They discussed each storyline for those unaware of the backgrounds of the matches, went over strategies for each competitor and gave their predictions.
This month, the Extreme Rules panel featured Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett, Titus O'Neil and Mick Foley. The three Superstars discussed the headlining matches prior to the start of the show then returned in the middle of the show to go over what they had seen to that point. They returned shortly before the conclusion of the show to tease the post-show activities on YouTube and other social media platforms.
The insight the panel gives, rehearsed or not, lends a certain credibility to the night's festivities and treats the show as if it were a legitimate sporting event. It is a small addition to the shows that breaths a fresh breath of air to the tired old format of matches and backstage interviews and allows talent the opportunity to talk.
On a side note, hostess Renee Young did an excellent job in her first expanded role at moderating the panel. A former broadcaster for The Score in Canada and an avid wrestling fan, she brings a female presence to the show in the role of commentator/announcer that was missing before. Big props to the newcomer who is quickly moving up the ranks in WWE.
Last Man Standing match for the WWE title
While the finish may not have left the best taste in viewers' mouths, the match building to that finish was a very good one featuring two of the more impressive physical specimens in the company. John Cena, for all his critics, is a hell of a professional wrestler, and he managed to drag a better match out of Ryback than most have or would.
The high-impact nature of each major spot was exactly what one would hope for in a Last Man Standing match, and it helped add drama to the bout. Cena is a veteran of the match type, having defeated the likes of Umaga, Batista and The Miz in the past. Ryback, on the other hand, was competing in his first Last Man Standing match and played the role of determined, hungry challenger to a T.
The final spot of the bout, in which Ryback sent Cena crashing through the stage, was breathtaking and befitting of a pay-per-view with the word "extreme" in its title.
The Shield reigns supreme
Watching Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns leave St. Louis with the United States and tag team titles in their possession was the moment of the year in terms of WWE pay-per-view thus far in 2013.
The trio has taken the pro wrestling world by storm, dominating all competition and beating the top Superstars the industry has to offer. The excitement they bring to WWE programming is different than just about any other performer on the roster, and their hard work was rewarded Sunday night with what one can hope is only the first of many titles for the three young stars.
Brock Lesnar's selling
There are plenty of stars on the current roster who were not huge stars in the MMA world and who do not mind selling an assault or injury. Brock Lesnar, one of the most legitimate bad asses on the roster, did a phenomenal job relaying just how much pain his knee was in during his steel cage main event against Triple H.
Part of the way through the match, Lesnar dove at his opponent, who ducked and sent Brock's knee crashing into the side of the cage. From there, "The Game" targeted the joint and, more than once, made Brock scream in pain. Lesnar limped around the ring, the pain in his knee so bad that he could barely base himself for his own offensive maneuvers.
Brock's willingness to sell the injury only helped make Triple H's assault of the former UFC Heavyweight champion all that more impressive and believable. The man once dubbed "The Next Big Thing" went above and beyond what he had to in order to make the most of the Extreme Rules main event, and he should be commended for it.
The emphasis on championships
At Extreme Rules, WWE put more of an emphasis on its championships, and, as a result, some of those titles felt like they meant more than they have in recent months.
The Shield winning both the U.S. and tag team titles was responsible for a lot of that. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have been so impressive and have been allowed to beat so many top stars that those titles become instantly elevated by being in their possession. Whether those three Superstars will continue to compete against top performers with those titles now on the line or whether they fall down the card slightly remains a mystery.
The World Heavyweight title was also elevated, despite not even appearing on the show.
Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger beat each other from pillar to post in attempt to make the other utter the humiliating phrase "I Quit." They did this not for the promise of championship gold but for the mere opportunity to compete for it. Typically, No. 1 contenders matches are a dime a dozen, but when you see two men willing to do so much damage to the other for only a chance at winning the gold, it immediately makes the world title look that much more desirable and, as a result, more important.
Good old-school booking.
Summer Rae and vintage Lawler
To say that Summer Rae looked phenomenal at Extreme Rules would be an understatement. It was hard for any man not to take notice of the leggy blond as she accompanied Fandango to the ring for the night's opening contest.
She was so stunning in a barely-there dress that fans were treated to a little vintage Jerry "the King" Lawler, who busted out some Attitude Era favorites to describe the former NXT standout. "I love that dress she's almost wearing" and "It's nice to see Summer Rae's back. And her front. And her legs" were only two of the corny gems from the once-great color commentator.
Getting past her looks, Summer Rae was also tremendous in her reactions to near falls during Fandango's match with Chris Jericho. She jumped with joy when it looked like the ballroom dancer might pick up a second consecutive win over the former WWE Undisputed champion and was sent into a noticeable panic when Jericho had the upper hand late in the match.
While she may not be able to dance like Fandango's former partner, Summer Rae brings a showmanship to the Fandango act the other beautiful, young, nameless lady could not.