WWE is headed back to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, this Sunday night (May 4, 2014) for its annual Extreme Rules pay-per-view (PPV) event, which for the first time ever, will also stream online via WWE Network.
That leaves you with three choices if you have DirecTV or DISH Network, since neither will carry the event as punishment for the promotion going digital: subscribe to the WWE Network, follow along in the CageSide Seats live play-by-play, or don't watch it and read "The General's" recap on Monday morning.
Those folks with cable boxes can still order it the old fashioned way.
But should they?
For those of us who already drank the digital Kool-Aid, we're going to stream it regardless, since we're paying for it whether we tune in or not. But would the matches on the Extreme Rules card warrant a purchase if we weren't? That's probably the best way to judge these events going forward.
Let's see what we have to work with.
El Torito (with Los Matadores) vs. Hornswoggle (with 3MB) in a WeeLC match (pre-show)
Here's one that everybody gets at no cost because it's on the pre-show and while I might have raised a stink if it crept onto the main card, this should be exactly what it's advertised to be: dumb fun. I know all the cool kids are poo-pooing on the booking here, which at its core, is glorified midget wrestling.
Just be glad it's not a King Kong Bundy snuff film like WrestleMania III.
I think if we try not to judge it for anything other than it is -- like the pink cobra -- it might turn out to be fun. Yes, El Torito will gore someone in the nuts and Hornswoggle will hit a bunch of tiny, low-impact spots, but somewhere out there the easily amused (like myself) will be enjoying it.
Alexander Rusev (with Lana) vs. Xavier Woods and R-Truth in 2-on-1 handicap match
We regret to inform you that Sunday night, the role of Ryback will be played by some huge guy from Bulgaria. Filling in for Stan Stansky and Arthur Rosenberg, is the team of Xavier Woods and R-Truth. Please chant accordingly.
Intercontinental Champion Big E vs. Bad News Barrett
What's tragic about this feud is how grossly mishandled it has been. WWE spent the past few weeks sending a bunch of mid-card marauders into a hastily-assembled tournament for the right to challenge for the Intercontinental title, but gave us no reason to actually care about it.
Or the person holding the strap.
Most folks are picking the red-hot Bad News Barrett to go over clean on Sunday and I don't see any reason why he wouldn't, since WWE has abandoned Big E. faster than Paul Heyman dumped Curtis Crapsel. What has the champion done to put this match over, other than no-sell the backstage monitors?
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena in steel cage match
This has been a roller coaster program for me. Every time Bray Wyatt gets close to John Cena in terms of star power, the Make-A-Wish mensch pulls a Bowser and shits out a banana peel, Mario Kart style. Then we get to watch Abby's big brother slip and slide across the finish line while Cena is STANDING TALL.
I can't imagine this Sunday will be any different.
The angle involving caroling kids and pint-sized sheep masks was brilliant, but I would have liked a little more time to flesh it out. We talk about start-stop booking all the time; well, Cena has mastered the art of start-stop commitment. One minute he's all in.
The next minute he's cracking jokes and pandering to the crowd.
If WWE lets Wyatt win -- even if it has to be through nefarious means -- to keep this thing alive through SummerSlam, I'll tip my cap and bow. But who are we kidding? Cena will rise about hick and walk out of the IZOD Center with a kid under each arm, because he's the hero.
Making this match a zero.
Divas Champion Paige vs. Tamina Snuka
Paige has a great look, a unique style, and dammit, that gal can throw down. But this round robin of opponents since she stripped AJ of the strap has my head spinning. A champion can't be great without a great nemesis and Paige doesn't have one.
Tamina makes a credible enforcer and has a strong presence about her, but I'm not sure the star quality is there. Maybe if her promos didn't sound like she was describing a black dwarf at the local planetarium, I could get a little more inspired. But why does she get a title shot?
Because WWE gave her one.
That might be good enough for them, but it's not for me, so I'll likely check out mentally, if not physically, when this one cools us down. Though if Paige executes the Ram-Paige, then I'll probably stick around, because I'm old and dirty-sounding finishing moves amuse me.
Evolution vs. The Shield six-man tag team match
This is the match I'm most excited for and I think most other fans are, as well. Aside from the fact that sooner or later we'll get a Roman Reigns vs. Bootista HOSS FIGHT, there are just too many talented workers involved for this thing to suck.
As for the finish?
I don't really care one way or the other. I'm looking for a solid, 30-minute match with psychology, twists and turns, false finishes, and of course, lots of crowd-popping spots. Unless something dumb happens, like Big Show running down to the ring to join Evolution, this should be aces.
Jack Swagger vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro in triple threat match
I think this match is going to surprise a lot of folks. Cesaro is a great wrestler with some incredible spots, but let's not overlook Jack Swagger, who is as good as any big man when he's on. I think his slugfest with the former yodeler will be balanced nicely with the addition of Rob Van Dam, who can uncork a few of his trademark bumps and be a grappling dummy for Cesaro.
This match is a bona fide sleeper.
I also don't want to overlook the entertainment value of Zeb Colter vs. Paul Heyman, who will undoubtedly pick up right where they left off on Monday Night RAW, following the great mustache debacle from last night's broadcast. This match has a little bit of everything and if they can balance the serious with the slapstick, we should have one of the card's better efforts.
But who gets swung?
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan vs. Kane in extreme rules match
Let's just go ahead and say it: There is nothing "extreme" about Daniel Bryan facing Kane. To that end, I have no desire to watch the champ get knocked around for 20 minutes, just so he can hulk up at the end and run Kane over with a steamroller for the pin, or whatever wacky finish they have planned.
You know, because Kane put his mask on and became Jason Voorhees.
I can deal with the "Guys, he's invincible now, CUZ HE"S A DEMON!" shtick, but enough already with the jerk-in-the-box pop up from the ring. It has been done to death and it takes him 17 minutes to climb out. All you have to do to escape is casually turn around and exit the ring and you're fine.
Brie should try it sometime.
My biggest gripe -- besides the fact that we know Kane isn't getting the title -- is that we won't get to see Bryan do much wrestling, something he's very good at. Instead, it will be Kane finding new and innovative ways to clobber his opponent with various foreign objects.
I can watch Steve Blackman and his garbage can do that on the WWE Network, why do I need to see it here?
I don't, nor do I need to see most of these matches. But I kind of knew that going in, since this is the first big show after WrestleMania, so I guess in that sense, it's like the Divas match of PPV events. Get up, hit the rest room, get a bite to eat, and come back when there's something more interesting to watch.