Sunday, 6 September 2015

Retro Review: WWE Extreme Rules 2014

It's a brand new series about old pay-per-views! Get your retro hats and your old-school slippers on and settle in for Retro Review!

Okay, so our time machine's randomiser is a bit shit and we've only gone back just over a year, but hey ho. Let's take a look at Extreme Rules 2014! She Looks So Perfect from Five Seconds of Summer was topping the UK charts, Eastenders was drawing in the biggest TV audiences and Rio 2 was giving it the big ones at the box office. But was WWE hitting a home run with Extreme Rules?

Daniel Bryan defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Kane in a Extreme Rules match is our main event, whilst Evolution, The Shield, Cesaro, Rob Van Dam, Paige and more featured on the undercard. Let's take a look.

Is there a better way to start a PPV than a Paul Heyman promo? Probably not, but this wasn't one of his best. Heyman attempted to use Brock Lesnar's defeat of The Undertaker at the previous month's WrestleMania XXX to garner heat for his newest charge Cesaro and it just doesn't cut the mustard for me. Cesaro was extremely popular following winning the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and the crowd wanted to get behind him. 

Cesaro's opponents in the opening bout were his former Real Americans partner Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) and Rob Van Dam (for reasons) and the three combine to produce a decent triple threat elimination bout. Things aren't perhaps as smooth as one would hope with Van Dam struggling to adapt to the three way environment at times. There's also a weird dynamic, due to Cesaro and Swagger both being heels but having just split up as a tag team. Whilst the commentary team of Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield and Jerry "The King" Lawler have absolutely no clue that the bout is elimination, the match really comes to life once Swagger has been eliminated, as Cesaro and Van Dam put together a fun closing sequence involving a trash can.

Winner - Cesaro via pinfall in 12 minutes, 33 seconds.

Next PPV - Cesaro would go on to challenge for Sheamus' United States Championship, whilst Rob Van Dam would face Bad News Barrett with the Intercontinental strap on the line at Payback. Jack Swagger would appear in the Money in the Bank Ladder match a month later.

The push of Alexander Rusev (with Lana) begins here as he squashes as R-Truth and Xavier Woods in a quick encounter, that could easily have happened on Monday Night RAW. 

Next PPV - The forename-less Rusev would take on Big E at Payback, whilst R-Truth and Xavier Woods both wouldn't get another PPV run out until Battleground in an Intercontinental Championship battle royal.

Then Intercontinental Champion Big E is so not over as a babyface that it hurts his defence against Bad News Barrett a lot, as it plays out to almost silence. The early part of the contest does absolutely nothing to try and get the crowd onside as the pair go through the motions for a dull couple of minutes. The action does pick up in the closing stages, but the decent back and forth before Barrett manages to hit the Bullhammer is too little, too late for me. Taking the title off of Big E at this point was almost certainly the right thing to do, it was clear the big man wasn't ready for a push to this level at the time.

Winner - Bad News Barrett via pinfall in 7 minutes, 51 seconds *NEW CHAMPION*

Next PPV - Both men would feature on the following month's Payback with Barrett defending his newly won championship against Rob Van Dam, whilst Big E would be the next victim of Rusev. 

That old intangible big fight feel is present as Evolution (Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton) are made to wait by The Shield before their six man tag team clash. The action beginning before the bell is a superb way kick things off, hinting at the mayhem still to come, whilst also allowing Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to look good by coming out on top of the pre-match exchange between the six men.

This is the best match on the show, by quite some way, as the six performers all work their arses off to create a lively bout that grows as things go on. The early portion of the clash that saw Evolution dictate the pace, through their heely ways, had the crowd going nuts, especially any time Batista was in the ring. Having a crowd that's fully behind the babyfaces and completely against the heels really does do wonders for a match, doesn't it? This early section cleverly negated the nostalgia feels for Evolution (even if this was their trademark tactics of 2002/03), by keeping a measured pace and building even more support for the upcoming members of The Shield.

The second portion of the contest is almost impossible not to get into, with plenty of high-energy from The Shield, whilst the Evolution members work hard to allow Rollins, Ambrose and especially Reigns to look like stars. Reigns is put over strong throughout and ends up taking a Pedigree and an RKO, both of which work as strong false finishes, as does a Triple Powerbomb from The Shield to Batista. The bout desending into an all out brawl war, plays into the hands of the semi-regulars Triple H and Batista, whilst also producing an awe-inspriing moment as Seth Rollins jumps from a platform onto Triple H, Orton and Ambrose whilst the trio are brawling in the crowd. Batista and Reigns are legal men for a long time, as the action goes on around the arena, which leads to a strong closing sequence between the two, before Reigns wins the bout with a Spear for his team.

Winner - The Sheild via pinfall in 19 minutes, 50 seconds.

Next PPV - The trios would meet once again the next month at Payback to settle the score once and for all.

Whilst John Cena's entrance has remained the same for along time, it  was great to watch the full original Wyatt Family head to the ring once again. Having Erick Rowan and Luke Harper escourt him to the ring gave Wyatt an entirely different aura to what (up until recently) we've been seeing out of him as a singles competitor. It's hard to believe watching them head to the ring that WWE ever decided that splitting the trio up was a good idea.

Out of the Bray Wyatt and John Cena trilogy this Steel Cage bout was by far the worse of the three. The whole point of a Steel Cage match is negated as Rowan and Harper spend the entire bout either attacking Cena through the cage or stopping Cena's attempts at escaping over the top. The fact that The Cenation Leader continues to try to get over the top of the cage for almost twenty minutes, despite Rowan and Harper making it clear that he wouldn't be getting down safely, makes this a frustrating watch for the most part. It's not helped that the bout relies on too many moments where it's difficult to suspend your disbelief, like when Wyatt decided to Crab Walk towards the open cage door, instead of just walking out and winning the match.

The story could potentially work, but Cena in the underdog role with a crowd that's clearly behind Wyatt just doesn't sit right with the visual and audio never matching up. Imagine a film score where all the tender moments had tension music and the tense moments had comedy japes playing underneath. There were ways for the match to take into account the fact that Wyatt was clearly the one the fans were behind, and whilst the commentary team attempt to play this into the storyline, the performers in the ring don't and therefore everything that is done suffers. There's a handful of nice moves, like a Sitout Powerbomb from Cena after bringing Wyatt off the ropes, as well as well done Leg Drop Bulldog to Harper (who Cena pulls into the cage for reasons) and the actual wrestling content of the match is fine. I feel that you'll either have loved or hated the finish, that saw a creepy (but rather blinky) child turn up to deny Cena exit from the cage, but for me it doesn't suit a match that's gone over 20 minutes and does very little for Bray Wyatt (or the rest of the family's) credibility. 

Winner - Bray Wyatt via escape in 21 minutes, 13 seconds.

Next PPV - Cena and Wyatt would end their feud at Payback a month later in a Last Man Standing match.

Michael Cole calling Tamina the son of Jimmy Snuka is a sign of things to come for Paige's first WWE PPV bout. With the Diva's Championship on the line, this is a sloppy encounter that fails to win over a crowd that just couldn't care less about what is going on in the ring. There's a handful of nice spots like Paige's victory roll (Tamina kicks out at one to ruin the moment) and Tamina reversing a head scissors attempt on the outside and sending Paige into the barricade, but that's about as good as it gets here. This wasn't the match that the Norwich lass needed in her first PPV encounter. At least she kept the strap with the P.T.O. I suppose.

Winner - Paige via submission in 6 minutes, 16 seconds *STILL CHAMPION*

Next PPV - Whilst Paige would go on to defend her title against Alicia Fox at Payback, Tamina wouldn't get another PPV match for over a year, when she teamed with Naomi to take on the Bella Twins at Payback 2015.

The main event manages to provide this show with a second match that is worth checking out, as Daniel Bryan has his one and only PPV title defence against Kane in an Extreme Rules match. The pair take advantage of the gimmick well, with a host of weapon shots and turn what could be non-starter into an entertaining B show main event. The backstage brawling element of the collision has a real purpose and drive to it, with Bryan really upping the intensity in a style that he was rarely allowed to explore in his WWE run, as the duo get into all kinds of shenanigans with TV monitors and a car. 

The East Rutherford crowd is clearly in love with Daniel Bryan, but perhaps the fact that they don't really hate Kane hurts this one a little, as their indifference towards the Big Red Monster means they can be a little quiet a times. This is seen after the biggest spot of the bout, Bryan hitting a diving headbutt off a forklift truck (yes, a forklift truck) doesn't result in the finish and they continue to wrestle for another three or four minutes, with the crowd clearly burnt out from the big spot and never quite believing that Kane could have the match won. It's strange not to call the real finish, which see's Kane fall through a flaming table, the biggest spot of the match, but the camera angle makes it perfectly clear that the challenger is nowhere near any of the fire (and he's quickly sprayed with fire extinguishers anyway). Still this is a satisfactory watch throughout and is perhaps underrated amongst most fans.

Winner - Bryan via pinfall in 22 minutes, 26 seconds *STILL CHAMPION*

Next PPV - Due to Daniel Bryan's neck injury he would not compete at another PPV until his appearance in the Royal Rumble match in January 2015. Kane however would recieve another shot at the big one at Money in the Bank alongside seven other wrestlers competing in a ladder match for the vacant gold.


ATPW Scale Rating - 5.94/10

Despite looking like a three match show heading in, this PPV boils down to one great match and one good match, with the rest floating around between decent and pretty shit. The Shield and Evolution have the match of the show, whilst Bray Wyatt and John Cena offer up the most disappointing bout on the card, with a poor steel cage match, and the Diva's Championship match also drags down the ATPW Scale by a considerable amount also.

The PPV is watchable on the whole, a 5.94 isn't exactly a terrible rating on this scale, but if you're looking for above average action then there's only two bouts on the card that provide that consistently. However, with an Intercontinental title change, the beginning of Rusev's push, Paige's first PPV bout and a rare glimpse of Paul Heyman managing Cesaro, there is at least some reason to check out portions of the undercard just over a year on from this event.

Next time - NWA Bunkhouse Stampede (1988)

The main event see's Arn Anderson, Dusty Rhodes, Ivan Koloff, Lex Luger, Road Warrior Animal, The Barbarian, The Warlord and Tully Blanchard battle it out in a Steel Cage Bunkhouse Stampede match. Ric Flair, Road Warrior Hawk, Bobby Eaton, Barry Windham, Nikita Koloff and more appear on the undercard.

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