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.