The lack of edge to WWE Extreme Rules 2014 shows where the pay-per-view is heading, offering a diluted version of "extreme" violence.
This event is supposed to be the night where chaos replaces rules, where the boundaries of the PG rating are stretched. The card, for now at least, is light on hardcore elements. Extreme Rules is still a departure from the norm, although it doesn't travel as far from it.
At one point, chairs clanging against flesh and wrestlers crashing though tables was commonplace.
Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-views regularly produced these kinds of moments during the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras. In the more guarded and less over-the-top period we are in today, Extreme Rules was supposed to offer a brief trip back to that time.
That's been less true of late.
Extreme Rules 2009, the inaugural version of the event, featured five matches that allowed plenty of room for escalated violence:
- Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (No Holds Barred)
- Umaga vs. CM Punk (Samoan Strap)
- Christian vs. Jack Swagger vs. Tommy Dreamer (Hardcore)
- Batista vs. Randy Orton (Steel Cage)
- Jeff Hardy vs. Edge (Ladder)
Compare that to the lineup for the latest Extreme Rules, and there is a drop-off in extremeness. John Cena and Bray Wyatt are meeting inside a cage, and Kane's title match with Daniel Bryan will be contested under Extreme Rules.
Beyond that, there is little that makes it different from a standard pay-per-view.
El Torito vs. Hornswoggle in a WeeLC match doesn't count. That's likely to be booked as a comedy match. It's not going to be something that satisfies fans pining for ECW's heyday.
The Shield take on Evolution, Big E defends the Intercontinental Championship and Cesaro, Jack Swagger and Rob Van Dam face off. Those bouts are not promising ladders, Kendo sticks or brawls throughout the arena.
The extremeness of the event has been diluted recently. It hasn't gone away by any means, but there seems to be a shift toward toning the event down.
Of the 10 moments WWE included in its collection of Extreme Rules' most extreme moments, exactly one comes from the 2012 show and one from 2013.
Hardy's and Edge's two jaw-dropping moments came in 2009. Swagger bending a chair with Orton's back happened in 2010, and Alberto Del Rio's nasty spill happened in 2011. These kind of moments are not gone from Extreme Rules, but they are happening less often.
In last year's Last Man Standing match between John Cena and Ryback, the biggest, most shocking image was Ryback crashing through the set at the entrance ramp with Cena in his arms.
It's a more dangerous moment than fans will see on everyday WWE programming, but it's a step back from WWE's most violent options.
Fans who experienced The New Age Outlaws push Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie off the stage inside a dumpster couldn't have been overly impressed. That happened before Extreme Rules came about, though. There was no need in the late '90s for a pay-per-view centered around extremeness.
WWE has since reset the shock-value scale and delivers less of the most injurious and violent sights.
Beyond the obvious changes from before the PG era to today, such as outlawing chair shots to the head and blading, there has even been an overall lessening in barbarity from the first edition of Extreme Rules to the last few. Extreme moments are increasingly the treats, not the meal.
For example, Sheamus and Mark Henry's Strap match didn't deliver the intensity their feud and the stipulation promised. It was a Strap-lite contest.
WrestleZone.com's Mike Killam wrote of the match, "It stopped being about the violence and brutality of being physically strapped to another human being (that wants to eat you), and became completely about Sheamus trying to touch a bunch of corners."
Folks will remember Extreme Rules 2012 for the brutal clash between Cena and Brock Lesnar, complete with blood and a chain-wrapped fist to the forehead. On that same night, though, a Tables match ended with Big Show stepping on a table and breaking it.
Somewhere, The Dudley Boyz were sighing.
Ryback and Cena's battle in 2013 was by no means lacking in violence, but it had pulled back on some of the expected Extreme Rules elements.
Aside from the last, most famous moment, the bout featured three trips through tables and brief use of a fire extinguisher as a weapon.
Compare that to Orton and Swagger's fight from Extreme Rules 2010. These foes hurt each other more often with weapons and used the floor around the ring as one, too.
Orton hit Swagger in the gut with the world title belt. He bent a trash can on Swagger's noggin and smashed his face against the announcers' table. Steel chairs, the ring steps and the barricade came into play as well.
It's not that this is more violent than Cena vs. Ryback, but violent in a different way. That's been true elsewhere as well.
WWE has no issue with letting folks bash each other with Kendo sticks as we saw with Punk vs. Jericho in 2012 and Big Show vs. Orton in 2013. Trash cans, however, are showing up less in a wrestler's arsenal.
Ladders are still around at the event, but they are not as ever-present. Extreme Rules hasn't had a Ladder or TLC match since 2011.
Don't expect Hornswoggle and El Torito to recreate the same level of shock as Del Rio and Christian did back in 2011 or Edge and Hardy did in 2009.
This year's event looks to have the fewest gimmick matches and fewest hardcore elements. Even with WWE scaling back Extreme Rules' violence, though, it's still home to the biggest concentration of violence-heavy gimmick matches.
In 2013, every pay-per-view other than Survivor Series featured at least one of these kinds of matches.
Money in the Bank, TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs and SummerSlam each had two of them. That year's Extreme Rules pay-per-view delivered Strap, I Quit, Last Man Standing, Steel Cage and Extreme Rules matches.
The 2014 version isn't nearly as stocked with sadists' favorite bouts.
WWE does have time before the event to add some stipulations, but as it stands it appears that even on the night where WWE goes extreme, that process will be reined in. Wyatt and Cena will smash each other against the cage wall, Kane and Bryan will deliver drama with weapons involved and El Torito and Hornswoggle are sure to break some furniture, albeit of a smaller scale.
There is still hardcore violence to be had at the pay-per-view, but the definition of that violence is undergoing a makeover.
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