By Will Pruett
What happens when the chaos of youth begins overtaking the established order? This was the question asked during Extreme Rules. What happens when young overtakes old? Can the force of change sustain? At WrestleMania XXX a new era took shape in front of our eyes. At Extreme Rules, this new era began their run on top of WWE. The show wasn't mind-blowing or even really good, but it was good. It was impressive. It was thematically exactly what WWE needed coming out of last month. Basically, this show fit the story, but it didn't advance it.
Daniel Bryan, in the main event (where many assumed he wouldn't be), defended his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Kane. He did so in a match involving a forklift and fire. It was an entertaining garbage match, but it wasn't what most would expect from a Bryan championship defense. Kane worked really hard here as well. The match seemed to be about Bryan having the get "extreme" to defeat the Big Red Machine. It worked. It wasn't spectacular, but it worked.
Bray Wyatt defeated John Cena in a Steel Cage match. This sounds well and good, but in execution, it was not. The match was riddled with interference and repetitive spots. What would have worked once or twice happened five or six times. This match didn't work as a cage match and it didn't work as a storytelling exhibition. It was heavy-handed and actually nonsensical. It followed the formula of Wyatt and Cena's feud, but the feud itself hasn't been great. This match was weak and it was quite boring. Thematically, it fit with what WWE is trying to do, but it did so in the weakest way possible. I understand protecting Cena, but this was a sad example of what happens when you try to protect one wrestler to the extreme, but still get another over. It hurt both men and the story.
Cesaro overcame Rob Van Dam and Paige beat Tamina in the mid-card, further emphasizing youth over establishment. There's a reason I have no issues with calling this a new era: it is one. Looking at the last five years of WWE, there has not been a major youth movement like this in a long time. Show me another one-two punch of shows emphasizing youth the way WrestleMania and Extreme Rules did. Even the younger midget wrestler overcame the more established one in the pre-show WeeLC match.
The biggest example of youth overcoming experience was The Shield overcoming Evolution in the match of the night. The frantic pace usually set by The Shield seemed to be missing in the first few moments. The match settled into a rhythm one would expect to see Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista in instead of the rhythm normally established by Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose. This was deceptive, because the match eventually built to a massive crescendo of action and chaos. The Shield has rarely taken their fights into the crowd and we saw them do so. We saw Batista go down to Roman Reigns' signature offense. We saw the young lions overcome the establishment (or The Authority).
WWE is working hard to establish their young stars, while also bringing in more youth. This is a new era in wrestling and it's impossible not to be excited by it. Kudos to Kane, Rob Van Dam, Batista, Randy Orton, Triple H, and so many others for working hard to make the young stars who will be the foundation of this new era. Chaos is in the air.
And now for some random thoughts...
- I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but the WeeLC match featuring Hornswoggle and El Torito was quite enjoyable. It was silly comedy, but it was actually funny. More than funny, it was also fun. 3MB and Los Matadores added quite a bit to the match. The presentation left a little to be desired (midgets everywhere!). The actual match was probably the third most extreme match on this show, which was surprising.
- "Micro Cole" was one of the better jokes of the night.
- I was thoroughly unimpressed with the Extreme Rules entryway. WWE's non-WrestleMania shows have progressively gotten less impressive from a production standpoint since they went HD. I know they have one big uni-set and it's slightly modified for special events, but they should put a little more work in. At least install a video floor, y'all.
- RVD vs. Cesaro vs. Swagger was enjoyable. It started off clunky, but built to some fun three-way spots.
- The commentary team not knowing this was an elimination match was unacceptable. The continued ignorance of it just didn't make sense. Why didn't someone let them know via headset right away? This was an embarrassing moment for WWE and it demonstrated a serious flaw on communication.
- Poor Rob Van Dam killed himself on the trash can at the end of his short section with Cesaro. Ouch.
- Cesaro's character continues to be in flux coming out of WrestleMania. I'm interested, but I fear the tweener status of his character is cooling him off too much.
- Rusev crush. Putin smile.
- I actually like the new Evolution t-shirts. Something about skulls doing standard wrestling things makes me smile of course, I would never be caught wearing one (or any other wrestling shirt).
- Big E vs. Wade Barrett was another slightly clunky match at the beginning, but it settled in nicely. Wade Barrett is very over, but not as a heel. People are into the Bad News gimmick, but it's for the kitschy babyface appeal, not the heel heat. It works, but I'm not sure who WWE programs him with going forward.
- Barrett, in the post-show press conference thing, mentioned the renewed importance of the Intercontinental Championship due to the World Heavyweight Championship no longer being a thing. This is the same logic I've been using over the last month. WWE has to emphasize this championship because they have to fill time with stories. Hopefully they will.
- The Shield vs. Evolution was excellent. The slow beginning was a fantastic setup to make the frantic ending seem even crazier.
- Seth Rollins had a couple of major dives, including a rarely seen in WWE balcony spot. I'm continuously impressed by WWE's efforts to establish Rollins as the big risk-taker. The personalities of all three Shield members are really fun to see develop.
- My hypothetical hat is off to Batista for his efforts in selling the Superman Punch from Roman Reigns.
- Triple H has had two really good matches two months in a row in the twilight of his in-ring career. He's picking his spots and making sure they matter.
- As good as Shield vs. Evolution was, Cena vs. Wyatt was bad. The match was too long and too heavy-handed in telling the story. I don't blame them for trying to tell a story here, but if you cut out five minutes, the same story would come across and it'd be even better.
- The creepy little kid stopping Cena from escaping the cage was just bad. I'm sorry if someone liked it, but it didn't work. It was a swing and a miss from a creative perspective.
- Cena vs. Wyatt wasn't just bad, it was TNA bad. Think about that.
- Paige and Tamina were placed in the buffer match slot, which meant they would get a mostly silent crowd running to the concession stands. This bummed me out. They put forth a pretty good effort, but it just didn't connect with the audience. Once again, I'd love to see some personality pieces on Paige. The fans need a reason to care about her.
- Seriously, the little Wyatt kid is already annoying to me.
- Bryan vs. Kane started off exactly how a feud involving someone's wife almost being dragged to hell should.
- Kane being forklifted into the arena was entertaining. Color me surprised and delighted by Bryan's forklifting skills.
- The fire really caught me off-guard at first. It's not something I expect to see on WWE shows, even the most extreme ones. This match certainly benefitted from the shocking moment of Kane dousing the table though. It was a pretty safe fire spot, but it was effective.
- Finally, the insinuation of Kane and Bryan continuing their feud at the end of the show (and in the post-show press conference) made me sad. Kane will never seem like a huge threat to Bryan and Bryan can really use a major threat to defeat. Maybe this is just a TV match being set up to lead to Bryan's next program.
A new era is being built show by show and brick by brick in WWE. It's kind of cool to see the young stars stepping up and taking center stage. It's also frightening to see the lengths WWE is going to in the protection of John Cena, even as a youth movement is taking place. I'm optimistic, but really cautious about Cena particularly going forward. The rest of the show worked. The rest of the show emphasized youth.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter @itswilltime.