Monday, April 27, 2015

Jerry Lawler and JBL, Legal Experts: Extreme Rules 2015 Review

BUT WAS IT LEGAL? asked the shitty announcers
Photo Credit:
Review is posted in the TH style. Catch the first hour or so of this show at your leisure on WWE Network.

  • Luke Harper and Dean Ambrose took their Chicago Street Fight to the streets... literally, leaving the arena in a car before they could finish their match.
  • Dolph Ziggler countered a Sheamus suplex into an inside cradle to get the victory in their Kiss Me Arse match. Sheamus, however, did not kiss Ziggler's posterior, instead hitting Ziggler with a low blow, Brogue kicking him, and then shoving his face into his ass.
  • The New Day of Kofi Kingston and Big E defeated Cesaro and Tyson Kidd for the Tag Team Championships when Kingston got a roll-up with the tights on Kidd.
  • Harper and Ambrose returned to the arena during the New Day's celebratory promo, brawling back to the ring to finish their match. Ambrose got the win with Dirty Deeds.
  • John Cena retained the United States Championship in a Russian Chain Match against Rusev.
  • Nikki Bella retained the Divas Championship over Naomi with the Rack Attack after sister Brie kicked the challenger in the face.
  • Roman Reigns overcame several tribulations to defeat Big Show in a Last Man Standing match by toppling the announce table on top of him.
  • Seth Rollins kept the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a cage match over Randy Orton thanks to interference from J and J Security and thanks to AND despite interference from Kane. Rollins hit the RKO on Orton before escaping the cage, causing confusion from the announce team over whether it was legal or not.

General Observations:
  • Luke Harper's dirty t-shirt had substantially more dirt around it in a ring around the chest area. Man, he probably shouldn't have been working on his getaway car before the match.
  • Dean Ambrose, between taking the suplex through a set-up folding chair and then a lawn dart right into the face of another chair set up in the corner, really isn't trying to have a long career, is he? I cringed just looking at him taking those bumps.
  • Michael Cole: "Harper hasn't changed his shirt in two years." Hey Cole, try like seven or eight years. That shirt has seen some shit, man. It has seen some shit.
  • The Nigel (i.e. rope flipping/"jawbreaker" lariat) is a controversial move in some circles, but I particularly enjoy it in a regular setting. So when Ambrose broke it out on the outside by almost 619ing on the hard apron before dropping Harper, I had a personal moment of glee. Wrestling is ridiculous, and I love when the performers embrace it.
  • Nothing on this show was going to top when Daniel Bryan drove a goddamn forklift last year, but Ambrose grabbing a huge piece of PVC conduit and just heaving it at Harper came a bit closer than one might have thought.
  • When Harper and Ambrose sped away in that car, I was hoping that the cameras would follow them and film them brawling around Chicago a la the WrestleMania 12 Backlot Brawl, or that they'd come back to the arena and finish their match WHILE another one was happening.
  • Jerry Lawler started recounting how he prepared for his infamous Kiss My Foot match with Bret Hart by not washing his feet for three weeks before and after during the Kiss Me Arse match between Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler, implying heavily that one or both of the competitors may not have been cleaning their derrieres after going number two. He quickly recanted, but goddammit, King, the damage was done quickly. Seriously, do these knuckleheads think before they talk? Wait, don't answer that.
  • I really dug how stiff and scrappy Sheamus and Ziggler were throughout the match. Their strikes and exchanges certainly had residue from amateur or British wrestling on them, which especially given the humiliating stakes of the match fit the occasion.
  • During one heat segment, Sheamus embraced his "fuck vanilla midgets" character by shit-talking Ziggler and dudes of his ilk. If you're gonna be a giant bully who preys on Internet-fave wrestlers, you might as well go whole hog into it.
  • Okay, I know that what happened AFTER the match negated the actual finish in terms of its impact (although it is another example of classic WWE 50/50 booking where the company tries to make everyone look strong and yet by no one facing consequences, everyone looks like a fucking loser), but how the hell does WWE redebut a main event level guy as a monster heel, have him decimate everyone he comes across, and then lose his first big special event match? It's baffling. The way the company pushed Rusev last year was brilliant, so why not give the same treatment to Sheamus?
  • Big E's look of unease while clapping contrasted the other two members of the New Day and their saccharine enthusiasm, really giving the group's oeuvre some much-needed subtext. You know that direction wasn't coming from the writers or agents either.
  • On a hardcore match-themed show, the absolute best spot of the night happened when Cesaro and Tyson Kidd had Big E in the corner, stomping him to the cadence of the crowd's "New Day Sucks!" chants.
  • I know I've been down on Kidd's revival, but his work in this tag team has been on point. Seeing him fly halfway across the ring on that springboard elbow after Cesaro brought Kingston into the ring with that second rope superplex was a visual exclamation point on that combo.
  • I will never get tired of seeing Big E tackle some dude, in this case Cesaro, off the apron onto the floor. One of these days, he's gonna have to combine it with the signature "Roman Reigns spears a dude through the timekeeper's barricade" for the ultimate moment. Maybe when he wins the WWE Championship?
  • New Day's celebratory interview with Renee Young was interrupted by the getaway car from the opening match screeching back in, this time with Ambrose behind the wheel instead of Harper. I know the hot opinion is that WWE should have footage of them brawling around Chicago to show during RAW tonight, but at this point, I kinda hope that they leave it be and let imagination take hold as to how they got back in that state.
  • I'd like to think that Ambrose missing Harper and hitting New Day with his splash from the top of the car was intentional, and that he and Harper would team up out of mutual respect and chase the Tag Champs as the Dirty Shirt Boyz, y'know, just for synergy.
  • The amount of times that John Cena and Rusev resorted to a tug of war during their Russian Chain Match led me to believe Vince McMahon, needing a fix of having body guys in feats of strength, grunting and growling as they pulled at something, directly was the agent for this match.
  • In the beginning of the match, Rusev tossed Cena over the top and used the chain as leverage to string him up by his wrists and pummel him. I was disappointed that it was the only real instance of them using the chain as a binding agent. They didn't really utilize the weapon at all, especially Rusev after he spent so much time wrapping it around dudes' faces using the Accolade.
  • Yeah, Lana being sent to the back after answering her chants felt superfluous. Lana and Rusev aren't the kind of act WWE should be breaking up right now.
  • I swear, Cena and Rusev had a good outline for a match here, but it was paced so tediously, and they missed the mark on so many ways that they could have incorporated the settings. Given that they had the best match of the night at Mania, this rematch was ultimately disappointing even with the stip in place. So of course, WWE is going to give its audience a fourth straight PPV match at Payback between the two. OF COURSE.
  • I don't want to be "that guy," but man, someone should have pulled Brie Bella aside before the Divas Championship match and told her that hat was just a bit too big for her.
  • Conversely, Naomi's new look with the neon sunglasses and the fly girl dancing is great for her new attitude. That being said, if she's a heel now, I still want her to bring the eyepatch back. However, I'm glad that her theme music got the upgrade.
  • Nikki Bella and Naomi broke into some Timothy Thatcher-esque wrestling very early in the match, concluding with a cross-armbreaker takeover spot that Naomi blocked by locking her hands together. Seriously, if you're not convinced by now...
  • Naomi went for her corner bulldog, but Bella started wandering away after breaking out. As a response, Naomi grabbed her BY HER HAIR and slowly dragged her back in as if to say "NUH UH, YOU AIN'T GOIN' NOWHERE." She, as a heel worker, is gonna work out fine if she can figure out ways to incorporate big visuals with attitude such as that in most of her bigtime matches.
  • Bella, conversely, has had better matches, but I'm not sure whether it was first time jitters working as a face or whether her offense is better suited to work on top as a baddie. However, that facebreaker she hit across her knee was pure savagery.
  • Brie interjecting herself into the finish works on a narrative level because Naomi hit her first. If you take alignment at face value, which WWE clearly has shown it doesn't, then yeah, it's a dick move. But in the shades-of-gray morality that seems to play better for a wrestling audience, it makes sense that Brie wanted to get her pound of flesh and help her sister in the process. Of course, if you're still hung up as to why the Bellas got back together in the first place, well, I'm with you on that and I've just learned to bury it deep in my subconscious with the 1993 World Series and the identity of who raised the briefcase at the 1998 King of the Ring.
  • The "Roman the Virgil" sign would have been more hilarious at the Royal Rumble, but in the wake of Reigns' massive improvements in presentation, it felt almost cruel, to be honest.
  • Big Show catches a lot of deserved flak, but his shutting down of any weapons use in the beginning portion of the match was intrepid heeling. He can still be excellent if he wants to.
  • I understood a lot of what Reigns and Show were trying to do during the match, and Reigns again showed his worth is in taking a goddamn ass-whipping before paying it back tenfold, but the pacing was nightmarish in its slowness. Show looked like he was moving in pudding most of the match, and most of Reigns' table construction took for-goddamn-ever.
  • However, the finish with Reigns toppling over the English announce table onto Show while he was on the wreckage of the Spanish announce table, was awesome, maybe too awesome for a match of that pace. Hell, this match had a bunch of cool big spots happening in it (the chokeslam through the tables, spear through the barricade, spear through the Spanish table) that allowed it to masquerade as "good."
  • Bo Dallas' cooldown promo between matches was god-level, even for him. He seems to have added a darker edge to his motivational speaking, which is something he needs to be honest.
  • Honestly, why couldn't Ryback just beat Dallas in a match? The difference between it being a scheduled match and it being just Ryback coming out and beating the shit out of a dude for no reason is night and day. Yeah, I just referenced shades-of-gray morality, but I don't find anything likable about kicking someone's ass for no reason.
  • The main event cage match was super-disappointing in that it felt like every single cage match in WWE put together and averaged out for the first three quarters of it. If you're in a pay-per-view main event, don't do a paint-by-numbers gimmick match.
  • Randy Orton busting out random offensive maneuvers like he just got done playing Fire Pro Wrestling in the back is one of my favorite tropes about his big matches. That Exploder was WTF but well-done.
  • But Orton breaking out the Pedigree was a stroke of psychology that was frankly way too good for this match.
  • Okay, so I get the story that WWE is trying to tell, and as much as Kane probably needs to retire to campaigning for local Libertarian candidates by now, he's not as bad as one might think. But seriously, having Lawler and JBL argue like two belligerent uncles at Thanksgiving over what transpired at the end and the legality of it took the buzz out of the end of the show. Not that the match itself was anything special, but Christ Jesus, having Lawler whine and JBL bloviate really made the whole thing seem as confused as observers on Twitter made it out to be.

Match of the Night: Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (c) vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston, WWE Tag Team Championship Match - The first hour of Extreme Rules was about as entertaining as it could have been from an in-ring standpoint with two, okay, one-and-a-half singles matches building to a crescendo with the Tag Title match. It wasn't surprising that this match was good, but as the best match on the show, it was a slight shock. But when WWE puts four exciting at least wrestlers in a match and let them throw their bodies all over the place with reckless abandon, only to have them troll the crowd at the finish with a roll-up from a squad that is embracing its crowd hate, then maybe the results shouldn't be so shocking after all.

The match took a wild journey from start to finish. Kingston and Kidd started out going to the mat, surprising since Kingston isn't exactly regarded for his grappling. But once the hosses came out to play, the gears began to shift to a quicker pace. The Champs showed their panache and attention to detail by going double boots to Big E in the corner to the pace of the crowd chanting "New Day Sucks," something that no doubt was probably lost on the people in the back who don't "get" Team Cattitude. Their combo with Cesaro doing the ring-in superplex and Kidd hitting the looooooong springboard elbow was another example of poetry in motion. New Day answered them all match long with great weaselly tactics and expert crowd trolling to boot.

But it was the end of the match where everything came together. It had all the hallmarks of a great PWG tag match with the breakneck saves, the big false finishes, the huge spots like Big E spearing Cesaro to the floor from the ring, and even the dueling interference from their respective managers. And after all of that, the match ended on a rollup. From most other teams, that would have deflated the action a bit, but the New Day's meta oblivion gimmick almost demanded that Kingston get the win not with a big flourishing dive, but with a sneaky flash pin. All in all, it was the best bit of theater from the first hour and from the show altogether.

Overall Thoughts: Any time you get the chance to end a pay-per-view with your two color commentators arguing over what a stipulation really meant while the human wreckage in the ring signified yet another overbooked ending to a pay-per-view, you have to take that chance, right? I mean, it's what Eric Bischoff would have wanted had he won the Monday Night Wars. Then again, since WWE's still so reliant on bringing stories into the realm of legal semantics and contract maneuvering, not to mention overbooking angles needlessly or pulling off the bait and switch, one might think that the real winner of those wars happened to be the people running the show of the company that closed. And hey, the viewers got the added bonus of being treated to Jerry Lawler and JBL bickering to end the show without a strong central play-by-play man in the middle to run point and keep the narrative going. Legal bullshit and weaksauce announcing, the 21st Century WWE Tag Team of DOOM.

For as good as WrestleMania was to justify its terrible build, Extreme Rules capitalized on its lackluster promotion with an event that felt like an afterthought. Sure, the wrestling was outright solid in the first hour and in the Divas Championship match, but the majority of the booking felt like more of a disheveled placeholder than the average episode of RAW, and for what feuds to continue? If I have to watch one more Big Show/Roman Reigns match, blood will start pouring out of my ears, even if their Last Man Standing match wasn't terrible. I don't think it was particularly good either, but it at least had some first-class heeling from Show and more evolution of Reigns as a reliable white hat in the ring at least.

But at least it seems like that match had some finality to it. John Cena doesn't need to be wrestling Rusev anymore, and yet they set up an I Quit match for Payback with the extra added superfluous tension between the Bulgarian Brute and his manager built on the same sort of premise that Fandango and Rosa Mendes hastily shuffled through, and more pointedly, that Lucha Underground just did with a lot more depth and nuance with Son of Havoc, Ivelisse, and Angelico. Somehow, I doubt WWE's latest version will end with Lana on equal footing with Rusev again.

I don't want to say that my time felt wasted with this show because it did have a lot of good to sift through. Conversely, while I can see where the company wanted to go with that finish, it was ill-equipped to execute on it with the announce team as assembled. Lawler is not the kind of person who can be going toe-to-toe with JBL's bluster, and his complaints sounded more like an old man bitching about the temperature of his soup rather than a narrative voice selling the finish of a pay-per-view main event angle. And Michael Cole sitting in the middle content to let them hijack the visuals at the end was more egregious than anything either of his wings said. Plus, the whole idea of Kane being positioned as a possible contender to the title for the second year in a row post-Mania feels... wrong.

Then again, at least Kane did his job right.