1. WWE have to justify the John Cena V Ryback no contest
In truth, the WWE had booked themselves into a bit of a hole going into last night’s WWE Championship match between John Cena and Ryback. It was only 6 weeks ago that John Cena won the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 29 against The Rock and as such, for Cena’s continuing redemption story to be told, he had to come through last night’s match with the WWE Title still intact. Equally, Ryback’s recent run of pay-per-view defeats meant that another loss last night would have seriously dented Ryback’s position as a credible main event player. As a consequence of all this, WWE found a way out with the impressive looking pay-per-view set spot that took place at the end of their Last Man Standing Match.
As bait and switch, no contests go, this was a pretty decent one that should ensure that the feud between the two goes on until at least Payback next month. What WWE must do now however, is appropriately sell the damage done by the stunt which ended the match, on the coming week’s television shows. If John Cena suddenly returns in-ring tomorrow night on Raw, it will completely undermine any credibility they may have left after failing to provide a result last night at Extreme Rules. Over the next 2-3 weeks, Cena, and to a lesser extent, Ryback, must sell their injuries stemming from their tumble to ensure that it feels like a logical chapter in the story, rather than a desperate way of elongating a feud.
2. Ziggler’s injury may have tidied up a few loose ends
Like most, I was disappointed last week when Dolph Ziggler was pulled from his scheduled defence of the World Heavyweight Title in a triple threat ladder match with Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger at Extreme Rules. Ziggler is such a joy to watch in the ring, and Del Rio’s feud with Swagger had been such a wash out that you couldn’t help but feel that the only reason this match was anticipated at all was Ziggler’s participation. With Ziggler out, the match was changed to an “I Quit” match for the no.1 contendership between Del Rio and Swagger, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one indifferent to what would take place.
However, on this side of Extreme Rules, Ziggler’s injury and subsequent absence from the match now feels as though it was for the best. Adding Ziggler to the pair’s feud in the first place felt a little bit awkward right from the get go being that he’d been shoe horned in on the basis that WWE wanted to throw its fanbase a bone in the aftermath of Wrestlemania. What Ziggler’s absence allowed was for Swagger and Del Rio to bring their feud to its natural conclusion and for Del Rio to move on in an attempt to regain the World Heavyweight Championship in a one on one feud with Ziggler. As for Jack Swagger, it seems to me that this would be the perfect time for him to quietly drop his ill-advised gimmick and move to distance himself from the vile Zeb Coulter.
3. The Shield’s run continues
If there is one act in the WWE right now that is being booked in the right way it is The Shield. After running roughshod over pretty much everybody who has been in their path, last night The Shield had another very impressive night where they picked up both the US and WWE Tag Team Titles. Following their all-conquering 6-man tag adventures over the past 6 months, it has been speculated as to what will be the next step in their development and this now appears to be it. At this point, one can only believe that the WWE is not merely going to have them drop those titles any time soon.
In fact, given how well and strongly they have been booked since their debut late last year, there is reason to believe that Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins are about to enjoy long and fruitful title reigns. The US Title is very rarely defended on the WWE’s flagship shows anyway, so to put it on Ambrose, someone who will benefit from some squash match wins on Superstars and Main Event whilst being able to brag about it on Raw and Smackdown makes some sense. In the meantime, he can become a mouth piece and interference runner for the other two whilst they are defending the Tag Titles in matches that mean something, higher up the card. In this way, The Shield can continue to dominate their opposition without being given too much, too quickly.
4. The end of Team Hell No?
Last night’s victory for Reigns and Rollins means that Kane and Daniel Bryan’s 200+ day, Tag Team Title reign is finally over, and that is no bad thing. Not that I dislike the pair’s double act which has at times been comedy gold and ensured that people actually cared about the Tag Titles, but it really feels as though the gimmick has run its course and in particular Daniel Bryan now needs to return to singles wrestling and progress his own career. There is no doubt that each time Bryan wrestles he is one of the most over guys on the show, again last night it was clear that those “Yes!” chants are not going away anytime soon. Moreover, Bryan has once again proved that, either in the ring or in microphone based skits and promos that he is one of the most talented men on the roster.
My hope is that WWE skips the inevitable feud between the two and instead that they simply go their separate ways, clearing Kane for a spot of elevating midcard acts higher up the roster and setting Bryan up for a mouth-watering series with World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler (whenever Ziggler returns from injury and is done with Alberto Del Rio). Don’t underestimate what Bryan’s run with Kane has done for him however, during their time together, Bryan was involved in a number of main event level feuds and matches, was on the winning side at Wrestlemania and got to stand side by side with both Kane and his more famous and over storyline brother, The Undertaker.
5. Randy Orton can still go
Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to rave about Orton and The Big Show’s ‘Extreme Rules’ match last night as if it was some kind of a classic. The match was fine and decent enough considering the half-hearted build and general quality of The Big Show’s work though it was only average in truth, but what really stood out was Randy Orton’s performance and in particular his interaction with his hometown crowd. This was a Randy Orton who looked energised and interested for the first time in a very long time and showed that when Orton is up for it he can really get a crowd going.
Okay, so admittedly Orton benefitted massively from this being in St Louis, but he still managed to extract the most possible noise from the crowd, something which has not been a feature of Orton’s appearances as of late. Maybe this was a one shot deal, with Orton happy to be playing in front of an adoring crowd, but my hope is that WWE has been holding off on an Orton heel turn until after this show (wanting to capitalise on the reaction Orton would receive from the hometown audience) and that Orton’s new level of interest has been peaked by plans for him to get back to what he does best.
6. What next for Fandango?
There is an extent to which I feel that Fandango has already missed any opportunity he had of becoming a meaningful act in the WWE. The company’s mishandling of the Fandangoing craze was such a blown opportunity that it’s hard to see how he can get any momentum going again with what is essentially a one-dimensional comedy act. Sure, the man formerly known as Johnny Curtis brings enough enthusiasm to the role and can certainly work a match, but it’s hard to see, just a few months into his run, what else there is for the character to do.
My hopes were raised when Summer Rae was added to the Fandango act, and the way she played her role on Raw last week was a good indication that WWE were adding a scheming heel valet for Fandango to play off of. For me though, if you are going to bolt such an add on to this kind of act, then they need to be instrumental in ensuring their charge continues winning matches and as such, having Fandango lose to part-timer Chris Jericho last night, as popular as it may have been, was in my view a mistake.
7. No more Last Man Standing matches
Let’s forget about the fact that if you are booking one of these type matches it should signify without question that there will be a winner, no matter what (a point which was obviously trampled all over by Cena and Ryback’s no-contest last night). The real issue for me is that already in 2013 we have seen 3 Last Man Standing contests on WWE Pay-Per-View which, quite frankly, is way too much. A gimmick match of this type, where a wrestler has to be kept down for 10 seconds in order for there to be a decision should only be used as the ultimate feud ender and therefore should take place, at maximum, once a year.
Used sparingly, in this way, the Last Man Standing match can be a dramatic and intensly heated contest, but when used as often as it has been used so far this year, it is mostly uninspiring and at times down right tedious. Last night, at one point, Ryback was forced to sell a run of the mill tumble to the outside for an 8 count in an attempt to convince fans that bigger moves, like a powerbomb for example, could result in a 10 count. It’s time for the WWE to give the Last Man Standing Match a well-earned long break.
8. What is the point in calling them ‘Finishers’?
I ask this question because WWE seems intent on having every finisher out reduced to just another move. Last night, Fandango kicked out of the lionsault, Big Show kicked out of the RKO and Dean Ambrose kicked out of the Boom Drop. This was all before the two big main events of the evening which these days you can be guaranteed will feature some finishing manoeuvre kick outs. Sure enough, Triple H kicked out of the F5 and Brock Lesnar kicked out of the Pedigree, no doubt Ryback and Cena would have traded Attitude Adjustment and Shell Shock kickouts if it had been applicable in their match. These spots are a cheap way of creating dramatic ‘false-finishes’ in place of building a credible story that engrosses a hooked crowd.
Very soon, none of the WWE acts finishing moves will carry any credibility with the fans and as such will be no more effective than using any other move. If you really feel that you need to have someone come through having suffered their opponents finisher, then you need only to have the person delivering the move to take their time making the pin, or be unable to follow up, in order to ‘protect’ the devastation of the move and have the victim of it kick out. As a rule though, finisher’s should rarely be kicked out of or devalued in such a way.
9. Brock Lesnar had to win last night
On Raw last week, the WWE had Triple H in many ways pull the rug from underneath Brock Lesnar. His speech where he claimed that Lesnar was no longer able to dominate his opponents in the ring and that Paul Heyman knew it which is why he didn’t want his client facing off with Triple H on Raw, really didn’t lend any credence to the idea that Brock Lesnar is still an absolute monster heel. In the ring last night, Lesnar sold pain so convincingly that he looked seriously vulnerable; pouring yet more water on Lesnar’s already diminishing flame.
After both of these things, added to Lesnar’s loss at Wrestlemania 29 against Triple H, Lesnar simply had to win here to retain any credibility that he is a force to be reckoned with. Whilst I feel that they told a pretty engrossing story last night with their match, I do wonder about the long term harm it does to Lesnar’s aura of awesome dominance when presenting him in such a vulnerable manner. I can only assume that WWE are planning for a John Cena and Brock Lesnar WWE Title match at Summer Slam, if that is the case, then they are going to have a serious rebuilding job on their hands for Lesnar going into that fight.
10. The role Triple H can play in WWE from now on
Last night was the feud ending rubber match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar, and yet the face, Triple H, lost the match. Whilst some might say that when it comes to long running feuds, and for that matter the main event of pay-per-views, the face should always go over, however this was one time where the right result took place. I’ve already commented on why it was imperative for Lesnar to win, but just as importantly, it made little difference to the credibility of Triple H as a genuine top line in-ring competitor to have him come out the loser.
In truth, Triple H could do a lot more jobs than he currently does and would still retain a top star aura due to his longevity and reputation, and it is this which leads me to believe that Triple H can still play a valuable role in the WWE, albeit in preparing heels for a top line programme with the main face star. A win over a legend such as Triple H is a major bragging right, and as such should only be used sparingly, but if Triple H comes back for a couple of matches a year, then at least one of them should be used to do the job for someone. Don’t get me wrong, this shouldn’t be a mid card act looking to progress up the ladder (those jobs should be saved for the likes of Kane and Big Show), but for a main eventer about to embark on a headlining programme with John Cena (or the equivalent top babyface at the time).