WWE went rolling right on through the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois last night (Sun., April 26, 2015) with Extreme Rules, the pay-per-view (PPV) bringing us out of WrestleMania with what should be a fresh new slate. It didn't feel fresh going in but boy did they ever deliver big against those low expectations.
Let's not waste time with pleasantries and get right to reactions to the show (click here for the live blog with full match coverage).
What's the point?
A big problem WWE has had over the past few weeks is answering a very simple question that should never be asked by a consumer when digesting the product: What's the point?
I'm not sure I've ever really understood the motivation behind Kane's great upset with Seth Rollins. Sure, he's a smarmy little bastard and he hasn't exactly been grateful for the help Kane has given him but why exactly is Kane so upset about that again?
And why did it result in weeks of television that included everyone wanting everyone else to lay down for them?
I suppose it was all just to set up intrigue for whether or not Kane would completely turn, but if that's the case then why did they fail to pay it off? Why simply continue on with the tug of war? Why leave doubt as to what Kane's true intentions are?
It's possible they're setting up for a payoff at another show, such as Payback next month, but aren't PPV shows supposed to give us satisfying conclusions to these stories that have taken weeks of time to build?
The problem is what you see here. All I have are questions on the main event of this program, a fine show that would have been that much better with a strong finish. Instead, Kane is still maybe sort of up in the air, Rollins is still champion but needing help to get there, and Orton is just there for the ride.
So we're right where we were going in. They just told a chapter in a story and didn't advance the plot. What's more, the action in the ring, the match itself, did not make up for it.
This was a miss, but that's okay considering the rest of the show.
All the rest
BOLIEVE: Bo Dallas was amazing cutting a heel promo on the filthy stinkin heathens in Chicago. Ryback was not amazing coming out and killing him. The lack of Bray Wyatt run in was super disappointing.
Roman Reigns vs. Big Show: This was a coin flip going in and thankfully it landed on the side of "actually a damn good match." I loved the very simple psychology behind Reigns attempting to use a table -- the crowd had been chanting for Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper to use one earlier in the night and they didn't -- and Show cutting him off time and again to get the heat for it. That's a super simple way to get Reigns over to a crowd that could have been troublesome and when he delivered a Samoan Drop through one, Chicago popped big for it. The idea from there is even more simple: Reigns battles and battles and Show kills him by putting him through two tables on the outside with a monster choke slam from inside the ring. AMAZING but still relatively safe spot that helped play into the story they were telling going into the match. Was the match slow? Sure, but that's a necessary evil with the stipulation and I'm not sure why slow = boring. They told a great story and the finish was perfect. The looping spear through the barricade, the spear through the Spanish announce table, then lifting up the English announce table to pin Show down with it while celebrating over top of him? This was AWESOME. Yes, they made Roman Reigns look really strong and it was PERFECT.
Nikki Bella vs. Naomi: Pleasantly surprised that Nikki retained the title here but expected more out of the match. I'll take the progress we got out of the fact that Naomi introduced a new look (sorry, Sasha) with some new entrance music, even if it isn't all that good. Still waiting for a long women's match that gets proper play on a major show.
John Cena vs. Rusev: Strap matches are generally bad because, well, it's a really stupid concept. Calling it a RUSSIAN CHAIN match and dressing it up a bit doesn't do much to change that. Still, they made the most of what they had to work with and the kept the crowd invested in what they were doing despite their limitations. That's impressive no matter what way you slice it. The bigger story is the Rusev and Lana inching closer to a breakup. This is the saddest thing that could happen in WWE since Seth Rollins chair shotted his brothers.
Brass Ring Club vs. New Day: An action packed match, paced well with a lot of great spots spread around to everyone involved in the match. Cesaro's strength is out of this world, Xavier Woods' work as a manager type continues to impress, and you can't argue with what Tyson Kidd and Kofi Kingston are bringing to the table. They do what they do extremely well and that was on full display here. The false finish late had me convinced the belts were changing handS. Then I was convinced they weren't when Cesaro ran in and cleaned house working to the Brass Ring Club's finish. Then I had no clue and Kofi capitalizing on a roll up to win the titles didn't feel cheap at all. It felt necessary in a match like this, especially considering Kingston had the tights. This was outstanding!
Kiss Me Arse: Not surprisingly, this was an awesome match that Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler worked really well. The story was simple: Sheamus' raw power and savagery against Ziggler's athleticism, heart, and determination; the unrelenting brutality of the heel against the unbending will of the underdog eager to rise to the challenge and match that brutality. And they played that out physically as well as they could have. The silliness of the stipulation actively took away from the hype for the match itself, but once they got in and started milking it for all it was worth, it worked. Ziggler winning was a welcome surprise and they absolutely did the right thing by having Sheamus back out of the deal and beat Dolph down afterward. That said, they spent far too much time on Sheamus whining and begging and pleading before he finally got violent and did what he wanted anyway. That's my only real complaint here. In hindsight, they were always going to get sympathy for Ziggler and heat on Sheamus by booking this exactly like they did. It worked. Needed to trim some time off it but it worked.
Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper: It's a CHICAGO STREET FIGHT ... that can only end via pinfall inside the ring? That said, I really enjoyed this match for a number of reasons, most of them due to the fact that they bothered to switch it up on the trademark moves. Harper sniffing out a recovery clothesline and landing a big boot is everything I want in Ambrose matches because that spot should only work in special circumstances. So what do they do? Create a special circumstance a short time later and have him find a way to hit a recovery clothesline from the apron. That's that good good stuff. Then, they brawled to the back, jumped in a car, and drove the hell off, which led to an awesome line from Triple H: "Those two guys, what are they going to do in the streets of Chicago?!?" Keep in mind they were booked for a CHICAGO STREET FIGHT. They came back later and finished up what they started with a lot of chairs and an Ambrose victory that felt right. This was the blind fun we're used to from events like this.
Bad News Barrett vs. Neville: They handled the Daniel Bryan situation as well as they could have in regards to what they presented during the show. Barrett getting a ton of heat on it worked well and Neville coming in as a hot young babyface -- and he was over as hell here -- to take him on worked even better. The fact that Barrett put Neville over so strong after a really good match was icing on the cake. A fantastic opener that had everything you could want in your pro wrestling.
I expected so very little from this show and was actually dreading coming to work last night. I was wrong. They delivered, aided in part by those low expectations.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?
(Photos via WWE.com)