In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to Preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world, and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.
So consider this your “so of course” predictions for WWE Backlash!
Oh right. “Extreme Rules.” We’re still doing the whole “themed” PPV thing.
Seriously though, if Cena came out with star-spangled facepaint, like some kind of a jingo-powered, long-lost member of Demolition, I would immediately pledge myself to the Chain Gang.
On to the show…
MISCELLANEOUS STUFF THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN!
Bray Wyatt has been talking and talking and so far hasn’t done much to back it up. He’s got an impressive PPV winning resume, with only four losses to three different opponents: John Cena (twice), Chris Jericho and Undertaker. If you’re going to lose, there’s no shame in losing to John Cena and Undertaker at WrestleMania, and to John Cena again to finish the feud (because Cena wins every feud. This fact will be revisited later) and Chris Jericho to start it.
At the same time, over one million people saw Bray Wyatt go down to Cena at WrestleMania XXX, and then another million+ saw him lose to Undertaker. How many people saw him beat Kofi Kingston at Battleground 2013? What’s the opposite of “a lot?” At some point Wyatt is going to have to win one of those really big matches. We’re probably another year away from him getting another chance. In the meantime we’ve got Extreme Rules…and he’s got no one to dance with. Surely they have something for him, right? He’s been cutting more cryptic messages and maybe he will reveal his next target at the PPV. You would think that he would transition to someone like Randy Orton, the biggest non-Cena star they have who could put him over. That would be logical.
So of course…
Miz and Mizdow had a coldwar feud going for months leading up to WrestleMania, but (of course) there’s no time at WrestleMania to give more than one or two midcarders a spot on the show, so Miz and Mizdow were shuffled off to the Battle Royal. To be fair, their story was attached to the finishing sequence of the match. After that, the feud really kicked off, and everyone was excited to see them finally lock horns at Extreme Rules. lol what idiots we were. They’ve already wrestled, what, three times already? And they’re not even scheduled for the PPV. Miz might be off filming some Santa’s Little Helper movie for the Halmark channel, leaving Mizdow to stand around the show like Martin Prince after his pool got destroyed. You would think that they would find some way to keep Mizdow’s popularity from fizzling out the way Alex Riley’s did. Granted, Damien Sandow is ten times the wrestler and performer that Alex Riley is, but I’ve seen WWE waste even bigger and better talent. You would think they have something planned for Sandow.
So of course…
And then there’s Kane. The almost fifty year old vet, who has been a staple of WWE programming for twenty years, was given more segments on a single Raw last week than Zack Ryder has literally had in the last 5 years combined. He’s a true legend and future Hall of Famer, but the law of diminishing returns is in full-bloom with him. He moves much slower than he used to, is much more limited in the ring than he used to be, his character is a tenth as entertaining as it was just two years ago. There’s really very little at all that he offers to the show in any positive way. Unlike Mizdow, Kane doesn’t need any more than one 2 minute backstage segment on the show. He really doesn’t even need that.
So of course…
….oh wait, that’s what they’re doing for real.
Enough. Let’s talk about the matches. And since this is Extreme Rules, a.k.a. “the one* night a year when WWE goes EXTREME” you know we’re going to get such hardcore staples as “cage” match, where the object is to run away from your opponent before your opponent runs away from you, and “chain/turnbuckle” match, where the object is to hit
your opponent the turnbuckles before your opponent hits you the turnbuckles.
*TLC, Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell, various other gimmick matches that will be featured here and then reappear on some random PPV later in the year.
CESARO & KIDD vs NEW DAY
Silly Stipulation: It features Xavier Woods.
The big match on the horizon is probably Cesaro and Kidd vs Lucha Dragons. On the other hand, it really doesn’t matter who the tag champs are, the wagon is about to be hitched to Sin Cara and Kalisto. Still, the Swiss-Canadian duo have done nothing but perform in good-to-great matches since winning the titles, though they’ve been given little to work with to help them get more over.
The real story of this match is New Day. What started out as a straight-faced babyface team of “happy black preacher folks, shucking and jiving for YOU” has finally, mercifully, turned into “secretly angry black preacher folks who kind of hate that shucking and jiving is the only way they can get a paycheck around here.” They’ve embraced the hate and have started cheating, ever so slightly, in order to slow-burn their full-on heel turn. They are technically the babyface team here, though Chicago will be sure to cheer for Cesaro and Kidd. That won’t be so bad, assuming WWE anticipates that (ha) and knows to work that into the match (psh haha).
What makes the most sense to me would be for a clean victory for the champs, leading to New Day taking out their frustration on the Lucha Dragons the next night on Raw. Give us a triple threat tag match at Payback and maybe stretch this out until SummerSlam, when the Dragons finally win the gold. New Day meanwhile needs to continue embracing their villainy, feud with a returning Usos before chasing the Dragons for the title in the fall. Now look what we’ve got here: We’ve got four tag teams that have something to do from now until Survivor Series. Is that so hard? That, or something like it, can easily be done.
So of course…
SHEAMUS vs DOLPH ZIGGER
Silly Stipulation: “KISS ME ARSE” match. And you have to pronounce it that way when you talk about it. That’s your punishment.
The whole “Sheamus will come back after WrestleMania as a monster heel” thing was 2015’s version of “Sting will sign with WWE any day now” that took over most of the first half of 2014. People knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when. It had been a while since the Celtic Warrior was a heel. He debuted on Raw (after a cup of coffee in the dying days of WWECW) as a brash, loud Irish brawler. Had he been given some time to slowly move up the card he might have been a bigger success than he was. But he was rushed to the top with a couple cheap WWE title victories and even cheaper losses, then turned babyface soon after. As a “good guy,” Sheamus was the worst. He was just as much of an obnoxious bully as he was as a heel, only this time fans were being told to cheer for him. By the time he went out with an injury in late 2014 fans were begging to see a heel turn. On the night after WrestleMania, we finally saw it.
And he looks like a rooster.
He’s always been a great brawler in the ring, and he didn’t really need to turn heel; he just needed a better personality and most figured a heel turn would be the easiest way to bring that about. It looked at first as though it had, but it’s hard to take anyone seriously as a monster when he says “kiss me arse” so who the heck knows. The booking here seems so obvious you’d have to want to screw it up to screw it up. Bryan vs Sheamus on a future PPV for the IC title is “the match.” That’s what we’re building toward (assuming Bryan’s twist-tie-secured neck can hold up). Sheamus runs through Ziggler in a dominating fashion and Bryan holds off a challenge from the former champion, Barrett. After that Sheamus has a clear path to challenge Daniel Bryan (in a match that I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d see, I mean who ever would have guessed “Sheamus vs Bryan” it’s so out of nowhere and unexpected): A strong challenger and a beloved champion could make for the biggest IC title match in years.
So of course…
DEAN AMBROSE vs LUKE HARPER
Silly Stipulation: Chicago Street Fight. Which means both guys will compete in street clothes. Obvious joke is obvious.
So this is one of those feuds where there’s no reason for either guy to fight except for the fact that they’ve been fighting for so long that we forgot that there wasn’t a reason to fight in the first place. WWE booking is basically Michael Scott doing improv: “Sometimes I just start a sentence and don’t know where it’s going; I just hope I find it along the way.”
I mean I can’t even remember how it even started. I was at the Raw-after-Mania and I know it wasn’t then. Maybe Smackdown? All I know is Dean Ambrose is a guy with such natural charisma and ability to connect with the audience both on the mic and in the ring, that if he were to get even the slightest hint of a main-event push he would blow up. I think WWE knows that too which is why they are so lazy in doing anything with him, as silly as that sounds. It’s not like Ambrose vs Rollins is a natural WWE title feud built on a year-long rivalry (and before that, the greatest rivalry in WWE’s FCW history) that never saw a satisfactory conclusion when it was first presented. That’s silly talk. Stop being so silly.
And then there’s Harper, who has a Bruiser Brody appearance but is the smoothest big man in the ring since Undertaker circa 1992. As Big Show and Kane clog up WWE TV time, Harper is the guy who should be getting the push as the next staple of the monster/giant division. Sure he’s “only” 6’5, but he’s one of those guys who just looks big. He could easily become this generation’s Kane, if WWE would let go of trying to push last generation’s Kane on us so much.
Even though there’s not much of a story here, this looks to be one of the more crowd pleasing matches of the night. I hope we get an WWF Attitude Era hardcore style match. Not barbwire and flaming tables, necessarily, but trashcan lids, fire extinguishers, broomsticks, those random metal poles they keep leaning against the walls “backstage” so the backstage fighting will have something to go “clang.” Go all out. This match doesn’t mean anything. It’s not for anything. Just go balls to the wall. That would be a great way to spend 10 minutes. Ambrose needs the win though. He has much more to lose than Harper and could easily be a late-spring title feud for Rollins if they intend to delay the Rollins/Reigns feud for a little bit longer. Harper needs the win too, but a lose wouldn’t mean as much as it would if it happened to Ambrose. on PPV. again.
Seriously the guy has a worse PPV solo record than Adam Bomb. He’s lost every PPV match since The Shield split, including losses via hologram and magic sparkles from an unplugged television.
He needs the win.
So of course…
DANIEL BRYAN vs BAD NEWS BARRETT
Silly Stipulation: Nothing just please don’t break D’Bry. He’s fragile and wonderful and held together by wishes and rubber cement.
Hey remember when Bad News Barrett would come out and bang a gavel with that stupid grin, and tell his opponents actual bad news, and then go out and look really good at wrestling? Remember that? Remember last year? Apparently poor Barrett was too good at his job. Keep in mind that this is the former, beardless-Wade Barrett who–after his initial hot streak with the Nexus was laid at the altar of the Purple Shirted One–looked about as helpless and hapless as a regular Raw performer could be.
After years of toiling away in obscurity, he was allowed to have a gimmick, and then–incredibly–was given the tools by WWE Creative to make it work. And then he did. He got over. He become more over than he had ever been in his entire career. Fans were really digging him, even though he was a heel. But since he was a heel and suddenly popular, it was decided that they should lose the gavel, lose the “giving of bad news” and just be another promo-less muscly guy. He still has the name “bad news” but he never actually gives bad news.
Now here he is, after holding the IC title and then losing every possible match, and after looking like a goober who couldn’t even keep the physical belt in his possession in the lead up to WrestleMania, he has a chance to wrestle one of the biggest stars in the company, for a title the company seems committed to pushing, and to top it off the current champ looks like he might have to drop the belt because of injury (assuming Bryan can even make the show, and let’s assume that please because my emotions), meaning there’s a very good chance Wade might be in the right place at the right time. He can beat Bryan for the title (giving Daniel a chance to recover from whatever it is WWE won’t tell us he needs to recover from), turn babyface against Sheamus and bring back all the fun stuff we loved about “Bad News” Barrett. When Bryan is healthy he can be reinserted into the IC mix and now we have an even DEEPER pool of guys to help carry the division.
So of course…
ROMAN REIGNS vs BIG SHOW
Silly Stipulation: Last Man Standing, a.k.a. We can’t have Big Show take a PINFALL, so we’ll have him fall off the stage onto some padding and lie there for ten seconds.
Does Vince hate Roman Reigns? Serious question. Is this all a big rib to get back at The Rock for skipping out on WWE for so many years? They push the guy as though he’s the next “Great One” but do it in such a way that makes everybody hate him, and then–just when he starts to turn a corner–stick him in a PPV match, in CHICAGO, against BIG SHOW. ALL CAPS MEANS THIS IS STUPID VINCE. THIS IS STUPID. Other than Kane, I don’t think there’s a single character fans want to see less of than Big Show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger disparity between the amount of screen time a person gets vs the amount of screen time fans actually desire than there is with Big Show.
And I remember when X-Pac was a TV-regular.
He is a heat repellant. His finisher–which used to be a very cool chokeslam–is him slowly checking the temperature of your cheek with his fist. He plods along and dominates talent that fans want to see pushed to the main event spot (even if they are just orbiting the main event spot, the way he and Kane do). It has been a solid decade since anyone worked a match with Big Show and come out looking better after it was over. John Cena beat him for the US title back at WrestleMania 20. That might have been the last time Big Show mattered to fans. That probably should have been his swan song, but here he is, eleven years later, still doing the same shtick, except this time he’s working with the so-called “next” John Cena.
What should happen in this match? Reigns should squash him.
It should be like the Shield vs New Age Outlaws/Kane match at WrestleMania XXX. That was another match that fans were disappointed to see booked, because fans wanted better for their beloved Shield. Seeing the trio demolish, destroy and defeat the Attitude Era stars in 2 minutes, however, was extremely satisfying. Chicago is going to boo Roman Reigns’ entrance, but the one guy they could boo more is Big Show. Roman has a real chance to turn the crowd to his side…but only if Show is absolutely crushed. This would be the one and only time for Roman that a John Cena/Superman-like victory would be celebrated. Reigns should jump over the top rope as Big Show is hobbling down the isle. He should throw him into the stairs, spear him through the guard rail, walk him up the ramp and superman punch his aged body off the stage and into retirement. It needs to be over before commentary even has time to tell us what the relevant hashtag is.
The fans would give Reigns a standing ovation and it might set him on the path to becoming the superstar WWE wants him to be.
So of course…
NIKKI BELLA vs PAIGE (vs Naomi? vs NAOMI.)
Silly Stipulation: It doesn’t matter: Everyone is going to be chanting “CM Punk,” and possibly “AJ Lee” during this whole thing.
So AJ is gone and there is a big Charlotte-sized hole in the Divas division. Paige is great, but she can’t carry the whole thing by herself. To their credit, WWE is trying to give Naomi something to work with after all these years on the roster. But it seems more like a placeholder than anything (after all, her heel turn was originally designed for AJ).
Nikki has carried the belt for a while, and though she’s done a lot to improve in the ring, it doesn’t feel like there’s much more they can do with her as champ. Unless Charlotte is planning to debut on Raw the next night, Nikki needs to lose. The question is, to whom? Paige wasn’t on Raw, and is selling an injury given to her by Naomi. Naomi, meanwhile, looked like a mega heel last week but this week that was toned down considerably to make her more of a frustrated babyface than a new careless villain.
After Raw went off the air, I jotted this paragraph down in my notes:
Dare I say I am intrigued to see where all this is going? Granted, my intrigue comes from the behind the scenes stuff. I wonder if Paige is going to be done with her non-WWE stuff in time to work the match. Is Naomi being set up as the next challenger or as a replacement for the current one? Will Charlotte be circling the building in a limo, ala Ric Flair at Backlash 1998, debating on whether to sign and join the roster? Will the Divas be given a three minute bathroom break timeslot or will they actually let two competent wrestlers actually wrestle for 10 minutes? So many questions. I’m excited to see where all this goes.
And then I woke up to find out Paige was dropped for Naomi on the Raw post-show that no one watches. So expect a lot of confused Chicagoans, angry that the only Diva left that they really love has been taken from them. They’ll respond with chants for AJ Punk of course. Anyway, with the new title match set, I would figure Naomi wins in order to justify her heel turn. Typically when a heel turns face in order to go after a title he or she usually chases the belt for a while, but when a face turns heel, he or she usually takes the belt soon after.
So of course…
JOHN CENA vs RUSEV
Silly Stipulation: Russian Chain Match. Which is the love child of the Texas Bullrope match and the Carribbean Strap Match. Fought between a Bostonian and a Bulgarian.
Something Something Bray Wyatt was buried. Something Something ‘Merica. Something Something Ivan Koloff.
To be fair, Cena’s open challenge has been perfect. It feels like he’s been the champ for months and he’s only held the title for three weeks. If he were to lose at Extreme Rules (lol, I know right?), it would legit feel like a big deal, not only because it would be Cena losing, but because Cena will have lost after a string of successful title defenses. It’s amazing what just defending the title against guys who aren’t involved in stories at the moment (and, occasionally, against some that are) can do for the title.
Instead of picking two guys to feud, and then having them fight every week from the night after PPV-A to the night of PPV-B, WWE would do well to mimic what they’ve started with Cena. Forget the title. Just pick the two guys that are feuding, and have them spar with each other on the mic. Have them run in after matches and tussle a bit. But keep them away from actually wrestling until the PPV. In the meantime, give your two guys other opponents that they can burn through, working hard fought competitive matches with, in order to make them look stronger as you head toward the PPV showdown. It’s so stupidly simple it takes a special kind of genius to miss it.
As for this match, let’s just hope that Ambrose is not Rusev’s next feud. For both their sakes.
Does anyone think Rusev has a chance? Now sometimes, those are exactly the occasions when Vince will pull a fast one and give the longshot the surprise win. But this is John Cena, and this is the newly-coveted United States title. Rusev had his run, he’s going to lose and hopefully not get lost in the shuffle. Maybe a babyface turn and a feud with Sheamus. But wait I already predicted that for Barrett, didn’t I? Maybe a feud with Bray Wyatt, culminating in a “Pre-Cena Relevance” on a poll match? I don’t know, but I do know Cena is winning. Because Cena always wins his feuds (there it is). And honestly, that’s the best thing this time. Cena can carry the US title for a few months and then, when he drops it, he can really make somebody.
So of course…
SETH ROLLINS vs RANDY ORTON
Silly Stipulation: Cage Match where the RKO is outlawed, meaning expect multiple RKO’s and a pinfall finish.
This has been the feud I wanted between them in March. The build up to Mania saw Orton get his comeuppance on Seth a half dozen different ways. There was no drama to the feud because the hero had the upperhand the whole way. Now, to be fair, the plan was for Rollins to beat Orton up until it was decided that Rollins would win the title instead (a decision that apparently Vince had decided on the Monday prior to WrestleMania). So seeing Randy kick the crap out of Rollins for a month and then lose when it actually mattered would have been classic heeling. That didn’t happen because “anything can happen in WWE!” so now we get to enjoy the same feud again, only with a few key tweaks.
For one, while Orton has gotten the upper hand plenty of times this month, Seth has managed to worm out of most of Orton’s worst attacks. He’s also gotten a few shots in himself, which he never got in the first feud. So there’s a little more sympathy with Orton and a little more desire to see him actually win, especially since Rollins has turned the smugness up to eleven in the past few weeks. For another, this now being a title match gives the feud a little bit more importance. This is probably not a feud/match that you can make in the PPV era, but it’s a perfectly acceptable one to carry a show on the WWE Network. And then there’s the dynamic with Kane. Obviously Kane isn’t going to cost Rollins the title, since there’s no reason for Rollins to lose the title right now. But something will happen..you would think. Right? Yeah, something will happen with Kane, possibly leading to yet another Kane vs Randy Orton feud that no one wants, while Seth transitions to his next title challenge.
What should happen? Rollins should win clean with a phoenix splash from the top of the cage. That’s probably too dangerous to actually try, and heels just don’t win decisively against top babyfaces in the WWE (unless you’re Triple H circa 1999-2009). But Rollins needs a strong victory, even if it comes after he tries to cheat multiple times only to be thwarted by Orton. If they want him to carry the belt for the next several months, they need to do more than just play up the “he’ll cheat to win, until his luck runs out” angle; they also need to establish that Rollins can actually beat you with talent when all the easier options are taken away from him. Orton won clean last month. Rollins needs to win clean this month. Let them blow it off at Payback, and part ways to other challengers. That makes the most sense to me.
So of course…
Oh well. There’s always NXT.
Here’s to Sunday.