The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Extreme Rules
Extreme Rules 2014 is in its books and, like WrestleMania XXX last month, there is plenty to discuss coming out of the WWE Network broadcast.
The Shield sought, and found, justice as they defeated Evolution in a legitimate Match of the Year candidate. Daniel Bryan unleashed a more vicious, violent and aggressive side of himself as he ensured that Kane's championship opportunity went up in flames.
Bray Wyatt continued to play mind games with John Cena, taking his mental and physical war with the leader of the Cenation to the next level in a win. Cesaro, Alexander Rusev and Paige made huge strides, scoring decisive victories in their respective matches, while Bad News Barrett ended Big E's uneventful Intercontinental Championship reign.
With the company's youth movement still taking center stage, Extreme Rules felt like another step toward widespread change in the company.
Now, relive the very best of Sunday night's event at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with a special edition of "The Good, the Great and the Awesome."
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Those who were disappointed with the WrestleMania XXX match between Cena and Wyatt likely are not thrilled with the match they bore witness to Sunday night.
The storytelling was superb. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan did everything in their power to keep Cena in the ring, to ensure that he endured every bit of punishment and suffering planned for him by the Reaper of Souls.
Eventually, Cena had no choice but to bring Harper into the match and force Rowan to the top of the cage. With all three men subdued, it looked like he had a clear path to the door and a second consecutive victory over Wyatt.
Then, as if WWE Extreme Rules became a truly awful remake of The Omen, a young boy showed up and began singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" in a demonic voice.
Yep. That happened.
The distraction allowed Wyatt to score the win over Cena and further the angle at the same time.
Fans of more traditional wrestling matches were likely disappointed with Sunday's cage match. Cena and Wyatt have yet to demonstrate that they have anything approaching great in-ring chemistry, and the cage match gimmick really necessitated a more story-based match than most would have liked.
Like some of the elements of the Bryan-Kane match later in the night, Little Johnny appearing and singing in a voice that Brock Lesnar could only dream of having was absolutely ludicrous.
Cool, but ludicrous.
Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro vs. Jack Swagger
After suffering losses to Cesaro and Rob Van Dam on two occasions each, one has to wonder why Jack Swagger was included in this match, especially since he was the first man eliminated.
The Triple Threat stipulation hindered the match early as the three Superstars appeared to be on three different pages. Swagger's elimination allowed Mr. Pay-Per-View and the Swiss Superman to work a more basic wrestling match, and the overall quality of the bout benefited tremendously.
The introduction of a trash can was somewhat random, but it played on the concept of Extreme Rules and set up the finish nicely.
The missed Five-Star Frog Splash into the can from Van Dam, followed by the Neutralizer from Cesaro onto the same can, allowed the former Real American to leave East Rutherford with a major win over an established star the caliber of RVD.
Paige vs. Tamina
The Divas Championship match suffered from a lack of heat from the crowd, but it was still a hard-fought match that gave Paige a signature win in her first pay-per-view title defense.
Tamina utilized her strength advantage, but Paige, ever resilient, fought back and showed great awareness as she countered a big boot and trapped the challenger in the Scorpion Cross Lock for the win.
The power showed by Paige as she held Tamina above the ground and forced a tapout from the second-generation Diva was impressive.
A solid performance from both ladies that was, unfortunately, not supported by the audience.
The gorgeous, ravishing Russian Lana entered the arena prior to Rusev's handicap match against R-Truth and Xavier Woods and dedicated the contest to Russian President Vladimir Putin in one of the most obvious attempts at cheap heat ever.
It worked, though, as her delivery and the photo of Putin on the video screen elicited a chorus of boos from the East Rutherford fans. From there, those same fans would watch as Rusev dominated his opponents, tearing through them and scoring a submission victory by forcing R-Truth to quit while locked in the Accolade.
The way Lana ordered Rusev to further pummel Woods after the match is an element of the act that has not adequately been portrayed to this point. Considering the fact that audiences are struggling to connect with Rusev to this point, perhaps creative should lean heavily on the camera-friendly Lana and the control she seemingly has over her Bulgarian Brute in the weeks to come.
Bad News Champion
Bad News Barrett continued his post-WrestleMania roll as he defeated Big E and captured the fourth Intercontinental Championship of his career.
Barrett has been phenomenal, both on the mic and in the ring, over the last month and more than deserved the victory.
To his credit, E turned in a strong performance and continues to evolve and improve as a worker. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to even indicate that he has a personality underneath his physically imposing exterior, and thus, the audience is largely indifferent to him.
There is still time to change that, but unfortunately for him, it will not be with the intercontinental title in his possession.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane
The Extreme Rules match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was wild, violent and, at times, ludicrous.
Both competitors showed great intensity and aggression throughout. The bumps were brutal, and the spots were original takes on old-school classics. The brawl to the backstage area was a nice call back to the Attitude Era hardcore matches.
Speaking of the Attitude Era, Bryan commandeered a forklift to assist in carrying Kane back to the squared circle in a very cool spot. Even cooler, though dangerous, was the diving head-butt off of the pallet some 12 feet in the air.
The flaming table spot at the end of the match was a suitable way to end the match and fit perfectly with the insane nature of the rest of the bout
The match was a great way to cap off the night's action, even if Bryan and Kane did have to work harder than normal to keep the exhausted crowd invested.
Not once did this writer ever believe that El Torito vs. Hornswoggle in a Wee-LC match would ever register in this article.
Sunday night during the Kickoff Show, the newest member of 3MB and the mascot of Los Matadores got the evening's festivities off to a hot start with a well-booked match that stayed more serious than comical and saw Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre, Diego and Fernando take big bumps to help accent the hard work of their associates.
The mock commentary team was great fun and their interactions with Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL added to the overall experience.
A surreal match that was so much better than it had any right to be.
The Shield vs. Evolution
WWE has a new Match of the Year front-runner, courtesy of The Shield and Evolution.
The match followed traditional six-man tag team match rules early but descended into chaos late. The Hounds of Justice appeared to have the match won following the triple powerbomb to Batista. A Pedigree nearly ended Roman Reigns' night. Then, the lengthy finishing sequence took over and the fans inside the Izod Center erupted.
Randy Orton, Triple H, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins fought out into the crowd. The Viper and The Game appeared to have things well in hand as they set their sights on United States champion Ambrose. That is, until Rollins flew out of the stands with a cross-body block to the Evolution members, subduing them.
Back in the ring, Reigns landed the Superman Punch and finished Batista off with a spear, gaining a measure of revenge for his loss back at the Royal Rumble.
The win continues the Hounds of Justice's white hot run in the post-WrestleMania XXX WWE. They have officially joined Cena and Bryan at the top of the company in terms of popularity, and Sunday's performance, coupled with fan reaction, may very well convince management to hold off on splitting the team up.