WWE Extreme Rules 2014: Greatest Title Matches in PPV's History
Since 2009, Extreme Rules has been one of the more anticipated events of the year. Often featuring rematches from WrestleMania, the event mixes tremendous athleticism, intriguing stories and popular gimmick matches to present memorable shows each and every year.
Some of the best matches of the year have been the championship bouts at the annual event. They have included the likes of CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, John Cena and Jeff Hardy and were fueled by some intensely personal stories. Those stories were accented by steel cages, ladders, steel ring steps, tables and Kendo sticks, ensuring that the vendettas end definitively.
This year, Daniel Bryan enters the show as WWE World Heavyweight champion, and if his resume is any indication, fans should expect another classic title bout to unfold at the May 4 live special, available on the WWE Network.
In preparation for Bryan's defense, let's revisit the six greatest title bouts in Extreme Rules history.
6. Intercontinental Title Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho (2009)
Two of the best wrestlers in the world took to the squared circle for a No Disqualification match at the inaugural Extreme Rules pay-per-view in 2009.
Jericho's disrespect for Mysterio's mask and thus his Mexican culture fueled the Intercontinental champion to show more aggression and intensity than usual. He took the fight to Y2J from the opening bell, beating him to the outside and battering him around the squared circle. Jericho, ever the opportunist, capitalized on an opening and took control of the bout following a front suplex on the arena floor.
The competitors took very little time to rest, providing fans with constant action throughout the championship bout.
Jericho ripped at Mysterio's mask, attempting to add insult to injury. A missed Lionsault, however, allowed Mysterio to fight his way back into the match. Rather than allowing Mysterio to mount too much offense, however, Jericho caught his opponent with the Codebreaker out of a springboard attempt.
Mysterio kicked out at two and lived to fight for several more moments. He delivered a drop toehold onto a steel chair and set Y2J up for the 619. As he hit the ropes, Jericho pulled the mask right off of Mysterio's head, causing him to crumble to the mat in an attempt to cover his face. The challenger rolled him up and scored the win and the Intercontinental Championship.
It was an outstanding wrestling match between two of the very best. The counters and near-falls kept the fans invested and led to some dramatic moments throughout. The finish played upon the story that built to the match, tying the entire program up in a nice package.
They would compete against each other again a few weeks later at The Bash, where Mysterio would regain his title in a mask vs. title match.
5. Steel Cage WWE Title Match: John Cena vs. John Morrison vs. the Miz (2011)
The main event of Extreme Rules 2011 featured the continuation of the rivalry between John Cena and The Miz and added John Morrison for good measure, resulting in a great Triple Threat match to cap off a very entertaining show.
Each Superstar played a very distinct role.
Cena was the powerful world-beater who made his comebacks and popped the crowd while doing so, Miz was the opportunistic villain who oftentimes found himself trying desperately to prevent his opponents from escaping the cage, and Morrison was the Spiderman-like babyface, scaling the cage with ease in an attempt to leave with his first heavyweight championship. They came together to create a unique dynamic and tell a tremendous story.
At one point, Morrison climbed onto the top of the cage and, as Miz attempted to escape through the door, he kicked the door back in his face. Moments later, Cena delivered a blow that resulted in the former Intercontinental champion involuntarily straddling the door.
R-Truth, who had recently turned heel, interjected himself in the match and attacked Morrison, leaving Cena and Miz to finish the bout. With a much hotter crowd behind them than weeks before at WrestleMania, they delivered a satisfying end to the bout. Cena fought off an attempt by Miz to deliver the Skull Crushing Finale and caught him with the Attitude Adjustment and scored the pinfall victory.
4. Ladder Match for the World Title: Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (2011)
The sudden and unexpected retirement of World Heavyweight champion Edge threw the main event scene on SmackDown into disarray. At Extreme Rules in April 2011, order would be restored as Christian squared off with Alberto Del Rio in a Ladder match to crown a new champion.
The Ladder match veteran had Del Rio playing catch-up throughout most of the match, knowing exactly when to introduce the ladder and knowing how to best utilize it. His knowledge of the match was strongly put over by the commentators, something that helped to tell the story of the contest.
Like the match between Edge and Jeff Hardy two years earlier, Christian and Del Rio opted for more high-impact bumps than insane risks. Captain Charisma's back body drop to Del Rio—over the top rope and onto the ladder—looked extremely painful, as did Del Rio's missed top-rope dive onto a ladder that was sandwiched between the ring apron and the announce table.
The second-generation Mexican Superstar used a tiny step ladder to his advantage on more than one occasion and even applied his dreaded Cross Armbreaker to his opponent with it.
Heart, desire and a well-timed distraction courtesy of the Rated R Superstar paid off for Christian, however, as he thwarted the interference of Brodus Clay, knocked over a ladder to send Del Rio crashing to the floor and finally retrieved his first World Heavyweight Championship in a stellar match.
He would go on to lose that title to Randy Orton two days later at a set of SmackDown tapings, setting up one of the best feuds of 2011.
3. Chicago Street Fight for the WWE Title: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (2012)
The rivalry between CM Punk and Chris Jericho got extremely personal heading into the April 2012 Extreme Rules pay-per-view, and in front of 18,00 screaming hometown fans, Punk would have the chance to get a measure of revenge when he met Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight.
With family and friends sitting in the front row, Punk showed tremendous intensity and aggression as he unleashed on Jericho after weeks of torment, frustration and humiliation. He battered and beat Y2J around ringside but Jericho, as he had typically done throughout his career, seized an opportunity, took an opening and gained control of the bout.
Playing up Jericho's claims that Punk's sister was an addict, the action spilled to ringside and right in front of said sister. After insulting her once more, she slapped Jericho in a spot that popped the crowd.
The traditionally and technically sound competitors utilized a number of weapons, including Kendo sticks, steel chairs and even a fire hydrant to attempt to outdo one another. Unfortunately for Jericho, Punk's hatred for the first-ever Undisputed champion fueled him, and after dropping the Randy Savage elbow drop from the top rope, onto Jericho and through the announce table, he overcame a Codebreaker with a steel chair and picked up the win with the GTS.
It was a brutal, hard-hitting wrestling match that was everything that a heated, personal rivalry between two master storytellers should be, minus blood, which probably would have enhanced the match but was largely unnecessary.
The win was the latest in Punk's historic 434-day reign and fittingly wrapped up the story between he and Jericho, even if the feud seemingly had quite a bit of life left in it.
2. Ladder Match for World Heavyweight Title: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge (2009)
By the summer of 2009, there was no Superstar more popular than SmackDown's Jeff Hardy. At Extreme Rules in June, he would have his opportunity to ride his wave of momentum all the way to his first World Heavyweight Championship. To capture the title, however, he would have to defeat one of his greatest rivals and the most opportunistic competitor in WWE history, the Rated R Superstar Edge.
Since they were the two greatest Ladder match competitors the sport has ever seen, there were high expectations for their main event.
Hardy and Edge crafted a Ladder match different from the ones that put them on the map. Rather than taking risks they may have 10 years earlier when they were just trying to get noticed, they opted to wrestle a more physical match that leaned on brutal bumps involving the ladder, rather than dives and falls from the top of the climbing tool.
One particular bump saw the ladder knocked over and Hardy fall on top of it, bending it in several different directions in the process. It was a nasty spill and one that could have seriously injured the challenger. Edge similarly took a nasty fall, this one courtesy of a front suplex onto the braces of the ladder.
The finish saw Edge trapped between the rungs of the ladder, unable to do anything but watch as Hardy retrieved the World title.
The win ended Edge's Extreme Rules/One Night Stand undefeated streak.
1. Best 2-of-3 Falls Match for the World Title: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (2012)
At WrestleMania 28, fans were stunned to see a fairly anticipated World Heavyweight Championship match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus end in 18 seconds following a Brogue Kick courtesy of the Celtic Warrior. One month later, those fans would get the match they so longed for at the Showcase of the Immortals when Sheamus defended his newly won title against No. 1 contender Bryan in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match.
Bryan was easily the crowd favorite among the rabid Chicago fans despite being the heel, and he was more determined than ever not to follow up one embarrassing performance with another. He and Sheamus delivered a stellar first fall of the match that on its own would have been a tremendous championship bout.
Bryan, always thinking, allowed himself to be disqualified as he mercilessly kicked at Sheamus' injured left arm. Moments into the second fall, his strategy paid off, as he locked his opponent in the Yes! Lock and rendered him unconscious. The referee rewarded the decision to Bryan, and the third fall was underway.
Struggling to regain consciousness, Sheamus was surrounded by medical professionals, all tasked with checking on his health. He recovered, and after a spirited exchange, the Celtic Warrior caught Bryan with the second Brogue Kick of the match and scored the pinfall.
The successful title defense proved to the world that Sheamus could achieve greatness between the ropes and only further cemented Bryan's status as one of the best, if not the best, workers in the industry.
Bryan would move onto feud with CM Punk over the three months that followed, while Sheamus engaged in a seemingly never-ending feud with Alberto Del Rio over his World title.