WWE Extreme Rules: The Old, the New and the Now from the Show
Evolution has been a prominent theme in WWE programming of late.
But I’m not talking about the faction themselves. I’m talking about evolution in the purest sense of the word, more specifically the progression, development and growth of the company’s talent pool.
Never was this more apparent than at the Raw after WrestleMania XXX. And since then, we’ve seen a perfect blend of the old, the new and the now.
Rob Van Dam and Evolution are providing us with our blasts from the past, while rising up-and-comers such as Cesaro, Bray Wyatt and Alexander Rusev are our glimpses into the future. And as for the present day, we’re finally seeing Daniel Bryan seize his moment as the modern-day hero of the WWE.
But how did this evolution manifest itself at Extreme Rules? What were the old things we've seen before, the new things that shook matters up and the moments that summarised where we are in the WWE today?
Continuing on this theme of evolution and reflecting on what was an entertaining show, this article looks at the old, the new and the now from WWE Extreme Rules 2014.
Barrett wins the Intercontinental Championship
Bad News Barrett may have a new gimmick, but it’s more of the same as far as his booking is concerned. Barrett defeated Big E to win his fourth Intercontinental Championship in just over three years.
Given that we’ve seen this situation so many times before, for me there’s a big worry that this is it for Barrett: midcard reign after midcard reign—a similar, dead-end fate to the one that Kofi Kingston is currently suffering.
And worse still, Barrett’s stints with the belt have been largely uneventful: On average, his tenures as Intercontinental Champion have lasted less than three months.
Will this one be any different?
Perhaps, as Barrett has been on quite the roll since returning last month. He’s faced a string of former world champions and emerged victorious on each occasion. Thus there is hope that Barrett has turned something of a corner under his new alias.
But either way, seeing Barrett regain the Intercontinental Championship is an image we’ve become all too familiar with—let’s just hope he makes better use of it this time around.
Cena is still overprotected
John Cena tasted defeat at the hands of Bray Wyatt at Extreme Rules, but the WWE made mighty hard work of it.
Given the prominent interference of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, Cena vs. Wyatt was essentially a three-on-1 handicap match—four-on-one if you include Little Johnny, who pretty much cost Cena the victory.
So as great as it was to see Wyatt even the score after his WrestleMania loss, I can’t help but feel that the WWE took their mollycoddling of Cena a little too far in this instance. I understand his value to the company, but in keeping Cena face surely they’re maximising that value anyway?
Losing clean once every now and again is not going to destroy Cena’s standing. And failing that, the WWE could have made the Wyatt Family interfere just once or twice to Cena's cost, rather than allow for the umpteen times Rowan blocked Cena’s escape route or Harper's flagrantly entering the cage to join in on the match itself.
It just damages the reputation of one of the WWE’s fastest-growing forces. This over-protection of Cena is something that’s plagued WWE programming for a while now, and based on the events of Extreme Rules there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.
Barrett is the fan favourite
OK, so maybe I was a little overcritical earlier.
Barrett winning the Intercontinental Championship may have been the same old story, but there was something rather novel about the Englishman’s performance: He was the firmly the fan favourite.
I don’t think Barrett has received that kind of reaction since his homecoming reception in Birmingham, England in November 2011. I was lucky enough to be at that show, after which he made a point of reminding us that he’s never been cheered in all of his career.
But at Extreme Rules 2014, he was certainly cheered once more. Cries of “Bad News Barrett” regularly filled the Izod Center, and his match-winning Bull Hammer was extremely well-received.
This positive response is yet another fresh aspect to Barrett’s character and thus offers real hope that this latest reign could be much more fruitful than his previous ones. The WWE should embrace this and use Barrett’s popularity to transform a situation that we’ve seen before into one that we’ve yet to enjoy.
The comedy match is actually entertaining
This was arguably the most surprising talking point of the whole evening: Hornswoggle vs. El Torito was actually a pretty damn entertaining affair.
In the past we’ve seen similar matches put on for comic effect, and all too often they’ve been exactly the kind of flop that many expected (2009’s Hog Pen match, anyone?). But this WeeLC bout turned out to have it all.
There were lighthearted moments which were actually quite amusing, but also a fair share of extreme spots. In total, I counted 10 broken tables as well as the use of chair shots and ladders aplenty.
Admittedly, much of the match’s success was down to the involvement of 3MB and Los Matadores. But nonetheless, it’s clear that El Torito is a very good performer, and I thought the back-and-forth from the guest commentators was great.
All in all, this bout perfectly captured the tongue-in-cheek nature that pro wrestling so often employs; that is something the WWE have very rarely managed to do in the past. If the action continues to deliver like this, then I have no problem with comedy matches such as Sunday's WeeLC clash.
The Shield are the real deal...
Day after day, week after week, month after month, The Shield steal the show.
And Extreme Rules was no different. Their match with Evolution didn’t get off to the most spectacular of starts, but by the night was through we’d seen exactly why The Shield are the hottest faction in the WWE today.
For me, the beauty of The Shield is that their standout performer changes every time they show up. One week it appears Roman Reigns is the next big thing, then Dean Ambrose reminds us of his wonderful mic work and charismatic personality, but not before Seth Rollins steals the show with his kamikaze style.
At Extreme Rules, this was all too apparent. Ambrose got a big pop for his sprint across both announcers’ tables before launching himself on Triple H and Randy Orton, and then Rollins went one better with his sensational dive from way up in the crowd. All the while, Reigns was in the ring taking care of Batista.
Ultimately, it was enough to prove to us that The Shield really are the real deal. Victory over an iconic faction such as Evolution merely confirms their standing as the most dominant and exciting force in the WWE today.
...as is Daniel Bryan
But The Shield weren’t the only impressive babyfaces of Extreme Rules. In fact, given that he did it all on his own, Daniel Bryan arguably outperformed any one member of The Shield in terms of entertainment value.
His match with Kane featured parking-lot brawls, forklift trucks, the wholly shocking addition of a flaming table and a Superman-esque dive from the top of the forklift to the other side of the ring.
Who ever said that the PG rating made for boring television?
But it wasn’t just with high-flying, thrill-seeking stunts that Bryan managed to impress. He also looked incredibly strong against an opponent who has been booked as an absolute monster in recent weeks.
If ever there were any questions about the WWE's faith in Bryan, I think such doubts were silenced this past Sunday. Bryan was the ultimate babyface, thrilling the crowd and looking stronger than ever in what was a hugely important first defence of his WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
For me, at least, it was enough to prove that Bryan is indeed the now of the company. And I wouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon.
All in all, the old, the new and the now made for a great concoction at Extreme Rules.
The old saw yet another midcard title reign for Barrett as well as an appearance from SuperCena. The new presented itself in the form of crowd favourite Barrett and a surprisingly entertaining WeeLC match. And as for the now, it's abundantly clear that Bryan and The Shield are the present stars of the WWE.
But perhaps most importantly, the show was exactly what it was supposed to be: extreme. And furthermore, it was a great example of how the WWE can go hardcore without the need for blood, head shots and other career-shortening measures.
And in the grand scheme of things, I think the show did nothing to derail the post-Mania momentum that has seen the WWE product consistently deliver in recent weeks. In fact, I can scarcely remember a time when the WWE was so satisfying to watch.
But hey, that’s just me.
Please feel free to let me know if you disagree at all, and don’t hesitate to comment below with your thoughts on Extreme Rules, the topics covered in the article itself and what you expect to see in the aftermath of the show. And as ever, thanks for reading.