Pushing the Envelope: WWE gets Extreme
BY BRETT MURDOCK AND MATTHEW VINSKO, Couchsideshow.com writers
After Wrestlemania, it’s hard to imagine the WWE topping itself. After all, this year saw four hours of grappling headlined by John Cena versus “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment,” The Rock. It was The Rock’s first match in eight years, which garnered much hype. But let’s be honest for a second; the event, though an instant classic, failed to live up to the buildup (and our predictions).
How do you beat a PPV headlining the returning Rock? Well, the WWE is hoping another man returning after an eight-year absence can bring a spark in former WWE and UFC Champion Brock Lesnar. Though he left the company on bad terms, Lesnar has returned and set his sights on Cena, who once again finds himself the underdog at Extreme Rules, set to air this Sunday, April 29. Read on for insight from two still-closeted wrestling fans and their picks for the one night a year where the WWE goes Extreme:
United States Championship Match: Santino Marella (c) vs. The Miz
Matt: No one thought Santino Marella would be the dominating champ he has been since dethroning Jack Swagger a little over a month ago, myself included. Known more for his comedic relief than his actual in-ring ability, it’s hard to take Marella seriously, especially when he’s a champion. Still, the guy can entertain a crowd like very few can, and it’s been interesting seeing him dominating top-tier talent that he was losing to a few months ago. The Miz, on the other hand, has been buried for the past year since his championship loss to the aforementioned Cena. That is until this past Wrestlemania, where he pinned Zack Ryder and secured the win for Johnny Ace’s team. So what does The Miz get for his hard work? Why a championship match against Teddy Long’s former right-hand-man in Marella. I can see this match going both ways, but I just have a feeling The Miz is going to come out and ride the hot hand he’s been seeing since his Wrestlemania victory.
Winner: The Miz
Brett: Santino Marella is arguably the most “over” wrestler in the WWE today. A goofy gimmick that appeals to a younger audience, he has found a way to generate interest from the older demographic as well. He won the belt in March and has held onto it ever since despite challenges that seemed to put him at a disadvantage. The Miz, on the other hand, has been stale as can be. The once-WWE Champion has been in a downward spiral in terms of being pushed and appearing on television. He has gotten some heat backstage for his antics and personality, thus leading some to believe that his downward trend is because of this. This match will be the “dark” match of the night, meaning it will not be on the pay-per-view broadcast but will be able to viewed online on YouTube. It appears that the WWE is serious about giving Santino some of the spotlight as evidenced by his recent opportunities at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view and his captainship of Team Teddy at WrestleMania 28. The Miz has been buried hardcore, minus a few chances and the future does not look too bright for this once high-profile star.
Winner: Santino Marella
Intercontinental Championship Match: Big Show (c) vs. Cody Rhodes
Matt: Like in many sports, the WWE likes to showcase its hot, young talent in a way to put them over the savvy veterans. The exception happens to involve the Intercontinental Championship, in which the much older Big Show seemingly dominated Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania to win his first IC Title. Like I said last month, Rhodes is destined for much greater things, which is why the Big Show needed to win that match and help cement his legacy as one of the greatest big men of all time. A month later and nothing’s changed in my mind. Winning the Intercontinental Championship back would put Rhodes over the Big Show, but being stuck with a belt he has no use for will do nothing to further his career. Though the match stipulation has yet to be named, it’s hard to see Big Show give up the belt for a guy destined to headline World Title matches in the (very) near future.
Winner: The Big Show
Brett: I suppose I should’ve seen Cody Rhodes losing his belt at WrestleMania 28 as being all too predictable. But, you can’t fault me for wanting to see one of my favorite rising stars earn his keep on the biggest stage of them all. So when Big Show emerged as the Intercontinental Champion, I was a bit depressed but no more! Bright things lay ahead for Rhodes and he has worked himself into a favorable position to reclaim what is rightfully is, not some fat slob’s. Big Show can suck it, hard…and I’m talking about a milkshake. If Big Show was a consummate professional, he’d recognize talent when he saw it and do what is right and the best thing going forward.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
Randy Orton vs. Kane: Falls Count Anywhere Match
Matt: Now we’re talking! The first match with a stipulation of the night! Still, a month later, it’s hard to care about a Randy Orton/Kane feud. Kane won at Wrestlemania, a move that shocked Brett and I, but Orton followed the loss with a dominating performance in a No Disqualification Match on a recent episode of Smackdown. Matters escalated when Kane attacked Orton’s father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, which made this feud a tad more interesting but still lacking the firepower (no pun intended) these two sadistic individuals are known for. It’s hard to pick Orton after his disappointing Mania loss. Though I learn from my mistakes, I have a difficult time seeing Orton lose at two consecutive PPVs. Expect a brutal match that will set the stage for the rest of the evening. In the end, it’s only fitting “The Viper” gets his revenge once and for all on “The Big Red Machine,” ending this feud on a high note once and for all.
Winner: Randy Orton
Brett: Now we’re getting somewhere with this Extreme Rules backdrop, as two future WWE Hall of Famers will tangle in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Kane’s win over Orton at WrestleMania 28 definitely surprised me, as I thought the younger, more appeasable Orton would prevail. Now, the Big Red Monster is on a rampage to fully incapacitate Orton and play with his mind, attacking him at every corner and even targeting his family, including WWE legend “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Randy’s father. However, Orton’s personality is one of no remorse and filled with anger, and seeing what Kane has done in recent weeks should set off that anger and vile with vengeance. Orton thrives in environments like these and will do what it takes to subdue Kane.
Winner: Randy Orton
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Sheamus (c) vs. Daniel Bryan: 2 out of 3 Falls Match
Matt: NO! NO! NO! Those were my thoughts exactly following Daniel Bryan’s eighteen-second loss to Sheamus on “The Grandest Stage of them All.” Though his loss wasn’t totally unexpected, the manner in which Bryan lost was demeaning and underwhelming for one of the best pure-grapplers in the business. Since that time, Bryan has ridden a sudden wave of popularity based on his catchphrase (YES!), whereas Sheamus has been fined a half a million dollars for hitting a referee during a recent match with Alberto Del Rio. Things look to be squarely in Bryan’s corner, but when it comes to the world of sports-entertainment, it’s a good idea to go with the opposite of your gut feeling. Expect Sheamus to win in a closely-contested match that I see going down to the third fall. Bryan will get one back, but not enough to beat “The Celtic Warrior,” who I imagine is being primed for a feud with Del Rio.
Brett: YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! Daniel Bryan will prove victorious and the crowd will react with gusto, chanting his signature phrase after his unfair treatment at WrestleMania 28. Bryan has been one of the most well-received heels in recent weeks, becoming a cult hero within the WWE smark universe for his gimmick. Sheamus, on the other hand, has indeed been on a roll and while I picked him to win at ‘Mania, the way it went down was complete and utter bull. Time to support the 5’8” vegan.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho: Chicago Street Fight
Matt: I thought losing to Punk at Wrestlemania would be the end of the line for Y2J, but here we are a month later, and the two are still going at it. This time, two of the best wrestlers of their respective generations are competing in a Chicago Street Fight in Punk’s hometown. Though dragging this feud on has been a bit irritating considering the Wrestlemania payoff, it has definitely picked up the past few weeks, and who am I to complain about seeing another quality match between these two? Considering Chris Jericho has been ripping on CM Punk’s family for months now, it’s only natural they will come into play at Extreme Rules. While a hero’s welcome (and subsequent victory) would send fans home happy, it’s hard to count out the savvy veteran, especially in the No Disqualification environment that Street Fights usually consist of. I believe a heartbreaking loss can take this feud to the next level and add much-needed balance after two months of Punk triumphing over Jericho.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Brett: CM Punk won the WWE Championship back in November at Survivor Series and has yet to relinquish it. I thought that would have happened at ‘Mania just because it would fit the story better. Chris Jericho’s idea during this feud has been to taunt Punk for his straight-edge lifestyle, trying to drive him to start drinking and doing drugs. His acts have included breaking a bottle of Jack Daniels over Punk’s head (when that bottle could’ve been used easily by Ke$ha), pouring cases of beer over him while he was knocked out and helping to administer a field sobriety test on last Monday’s RAW. This pay-per-view is back in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, where he had the greatest moment of his career last July at the Money in the Bank PPV. The crowd will be hot in full support of Punk and while I can very easily see Jericho winning because it would make for a good story, taking the belt from Punk in front of his hometown, friends and family, I cannot see it this time.
Winner: CM Punk
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena: Extreme Rules Match
Matt: Since his loss to The Rock at Wrestlemania, John Cena has been in a rut. Since April 1, Cena has had approximately one victory, that being over high-level jobber David Otunga. It’s hard to see a guy I legitimately respect go through this kind of funk, especially after losing to a man who already bailed to film his next movie (Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain, co-starring Mark Wahlberg). How does the WWE repay Cena for putting over a guy who will appear a handful of times during the course of any given year? They put him against the monster Brock Lesnar, returning to the WWE after a relatively successful stint in the UFC. Though he’s sure to have ring rust, anyone who has seen Lesnar knows what an intimidating force he can be. Factor in that it’s Lesnar’s first real match in eight years (here comes the hype!) and the fact it’s a No Disqualification match, and it’s hard to pick the Cenation Leader, especially considering he lost a similar match to the relatively new Lord Tensai in recent weeks. Still, I can’t give up on Cena. The guy has built a mantra on hustle, loyalty, and respect, and seems to be returning to his older, edgier ways in recent weeks (especially after a recent pep talk from WWE Hall of Famer Edge). I predict a screwy finish one way or another, but once it’s all said and done, expect Cena’s hand to be raised in victory. He’s pumped, he’s motivated, and he just lost a match he said he couldn’t lose. There has to be retribution, and when Cena’s motivated, there’s no one better.
Winner: John Cena
Brett: Well … Here Comes the Pain. After an eight year hiatus from the WWE, Brock Lesnar has made his way back to the squared circle and has his sights set on John Cena. In the years since he last appeared in a WWE ring, he has tried to make it in the NFL, tried out other wrestling promotions and found big-time success in the UFC. Now, after he abruptly retired from UFC in December, he is back to bring the house down and has changed the landscape of WWE as we know it. During his first reign in the company, he was arguably the most dominant force. He defeated the likes of The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle and his opponent this Sunday, John Cena, though Cena was not who he is today. Lesnar’s return was a climactic moment for the WWE, as the crowd the night after ‘Mania went crazy and were even more jacked up when he laid Cena out with his F-5 finisher. Now the two will clash for the first time since 2003 in an Extreme Rules match where anything goes. After losing to The Rock at WrestleMania, it was unsure where the creative staff would take Cena going forward, but they found their answer. If Cena would have won on April 1, like I predicted, then I would have more cause to say he would have the upper hand heading into this Sunday. However, if the WWE wants to attract more attention to itself, which is always the goal of any enterprise, it must have Lesnar continue to be the dominant force that he has been both inside and outside the ring and to have him lose in his first match back is just dumb.
Winner: Brock Lesnar