By Matt Straub
It’s now a month after WrestleMania, and we’ve had a chance to see where the WWE is planning on going. Heading into Extreme Rules, the WWE is trying to set up some new possibilities for the spring before the summer run of big shows like Money in the Bank and SummerSlam.
There are some potentially good ways for Sunday’s pay-per-view to go. The tease of a feud within the Authority is always interesting, because the WWE could decide at any time to break up the group and completely change the setup of the company from a storyline perspective.
There’s another chance for WWE to develop a new monster character or two, and any time a cage comes down, there’s potential for an exciting match.
So let’s look at the card for Extreme Rules and break down how the WWE can make this another good PPV, how they could screw it up, and what will happen.
WWE Tag Team Championship
Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (C) vs. The New Day
How can WWE screw this match up? Well, putting it on the card is step one. The New Day needs its last day to come as soon as possible. They’re a bad mix in the ring and their gimmick is just beyond bad. Cesaro and Kidd are examples of how important storytelling is in wrestling. Cesaro is a great athlete who could wrestle a broomstick and have a good match, but just doesn’t have the personality to move up the card. Kidd is best known for being Natty’s husband on the TV show, which is bad for him. I know how important the Divas show is to the company, but Kidd can’t seem to shake the stigma of it for his own character. It doesn’t help when they tie the two together. Cesaro needs a personality, Kidd needs a total makeover and the New Day needs to move on. Fortunately, this match should be over early in the show. While it’s on, I’ll just sit back and wonder what could have been with the Ascension.
Matt’s Prediction: Boredom and New Day victory.
Brad's Prediction: I thought Kidd and Cesaro would drop the belts at WrestleMania because I didn't understand why they were a tag team in the first place. They ended up winning the match. So, I'll go opposite this time around and pick the strange duo to keep the titles and beat the group of church singers, who should turn heel and become the new Nation of Domination.
Kiss Me Arse Match
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
Sheamus has the worst look in the company right now but WWE is doing a good job of building him up to be a massive player again. He can be a monster if booked right, and so far he’s heading down that road. Ziggler has all the skills to shoot up the card, but is one of the guys who should get a shot yet won’t. I don’t believe that number is as high as others do, but I do think Ziggler deserves better than he’s currently getting. Sheamus can be funny as a face or maniacal and violent as a heel, making him a great hand for the company. They’re building him up, so I can’t imagine him losing this one.
Matt’s Prediction: Sheamus wins, but something happens at the payoff of the stipulation which starts the next feud.
Brad's Prediction: Why anyone would, a) want to fight in a "kiss me arse match" and b) watch a "kiss me arse match" is beyond me. It was laughable when it was actually stipulated by Sheamus, but I guess it's reality. Sheamus is being pushed too much right now to lose to anyone he's up against, so Ziggler loses.
Last Man Standing Match
Roman Reigns vs. Big Show
Reigns is slowly improving. Slowly. He’s a little funnier, but he still pauses too long between lines in his promos, perhaps while trying to remember the next line. Big Show is declining quickly, but he will serve as an intimidating opponent who can make Reigns seem impressive with a lift or some other strength spot. This isn’t a great match by any means, but it’s a good chance to try and make Reigns look better as he gets the slow build he should have had all along.
Matt’s Prediction: Reigns wins after some feat of strength or just by overcoming the bigger man.
Brad's Prediction: Matt loves Roman Reigns, I believe he failed to mention that. Everyone else could just leave him. But he has to win this match. I've never been a Big Show fan, and Reigns is boring, so this will be slow and painful to watch. Maybe we'll get lucky, though, and see both deliver a punch! (Note: sarcasm).
Chicago Street Fight
Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper
This is the typical WWE “feud” which pits two guys for which the company has nothing better against each other. Still, this has a chance to be a good match. Ambrose is great as a crazy character and giving him weapons is never a bad thing from an entertainment standpoint. Harper is an athletic big man who would look more impressive if they changed his gimmick and let his unique combination of speed and size shine. In the meantime, he will be able to sell some spots well and probably do something crazy. These guys are both capable of putting on a show in this match, which will make it interesting. It doesn’t feel like an important match at all, but it should be a good watch.
Matt’s Prediction: Ambrose in a wild one.
Brad's Prediction: Luke Harper is the brightest example of the way a guy looks holding him back from bigger and better things. Harper, as Matt wrote above, is a great athlete and can wrestle, a rare combination, especially from a guy who is 6-foot-5. But he's caught in a gimmick that will only have him ascending so far, with his look of wild hair, a white "wife-beater" shirt with stains on it and jeans. He'll never be a heavyweight title contender as things are. Ambrose is a fan favorite for his "crazy" persona, but he too isn't likely to ascend to the world title either, as he's too vanilla in looks and build to make a huge mark. Even Reigns in his current state is more marketable as champion. Oh yeah, a prediction. Ambrose wins.
United States Championship
Russian Chain Match
John Cena vs. Rusev
This should be a chance for Rusev to be dominant and work his way up the ladder. I believe the WWE is doing a good thing, however, by putting the lower belts on big name guys in an attempt to regain their luster. I would love to see the US and Intercontinental belts become the focus of big matches again, which this one is. For that reason, I’d kind of like to see Cena keep the belt for a while. WWE can’t really lose here, but it can’t win if it buries Rusev again unless they put him right into a big match after this, making us forget the loss. A fluke Cena win and a quick rebuild of Rusev probably serves all the company’s goals for this one, so that’s the call. If Rusev wins, however, it would be good for him.
Matt’s Prediction: Cena wins, Rusev turns face, goes onto better things.
Brad's Prediction: The WWE (and Matt) loves John Cena and it's the reason why he'll win this match. Rusev should win, as he's young and needs the rub of beating a champion and someone held in such high regard. But Cena is Cena and he won't let that happen. After all, he never loses, unless it's absolutely necessary. And it's not in this case.
Nikki Bella (C) vs. Naomi
Who cares? Oh, I mean, Naomi is being built to have earned her shot, but it makes no sense to take the belt off a Bella right now while Paige is out making a movie. Also, who cares?
Matt’s Prediction: Bella wins.
Brad's Prediction: Contrary to what the elitist wrestling fan would have you believe, the current crop of women's wrestlers are pretty terrible. So, watch if you must, but don't expect anything even passable. I guess the champion retains.
Daniel Bryan (C) vs. Bad News Barrett
If you believe the rumors online, Bryan is hurt again and will be out a month, making this match a huge question mark. It might not even happen. If not, I expect some kind of angle early in the show where Barrett takes Bryan out backstage.
Matt’s Prediction: An angle eliminates the match.
Brad's Prediction: I'm surprised Matt didn't take any cheap shots against Daniel Bryan here, as it would have been the perfect stage to do so. So allow me. Bryan is immensely popular, we know this. We also know Bryan has a knack for getting injured. This is likely true again, as both Matt and I have heard, probably from different sources. So, how in the world can the WWE trust Bryan to be at the top of the company when there's a great chance he'll get hurt and not be able to live up to his billing as champion? He's not an "event" wrestler, like Brock Lesnar or the Undertaker, where all they have to do is show up to be both over and feared. The WWE actually catches a break with Bryan constantly getting hurt, as they now can let every single fan know they can't trust him. Some fans won't accept that, but most would have no choice but to. I'll stick with the match taking place and have Bad News Barrett getting his title back, which might have been the plan anyway. Injury or not, remember, the WWE has no use for Bryan as a main-eventer.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Cage Match, with the RKO banned
Seth Rollins (C) vs. Randy Orton
This has been a good feud. They have played it well, with Orton having a legit gripe, Rollins acting scared of the RKO, and Rollins and Kane becoming an issue. Making Kane the referee is a great touch, adding an element of intrigue to a match Rollins would clearly win otherwise. Orton is good as a crazy heel who doesn’t play to the fans but isn’t a whiny heel either, but Rollins needs to be a bit tougher with his character. This one will be a mess, with everyone trying to get in the cage and Kane’s every move being dissected. I believe Rollins keeps the belt, but Kane is being set up to fight Rollins, perhaps next month.
Matt’s Prediction: Rollins wins after 206 run-ins.
Brad's Prediction: First, I hope Matt's wrong and Rollins and Kane aren't set up for a match following this one. There would be no possible way to believe Rollins could lose to a guy who is way, way past his days as a title contender. Maybe if Kane returns to his true Kane roots it would be fun, but otherwise, it would be a horrible feud, even if only for a month. Now, Rollins vs Orton. The WWE actually set up WrestleMania perfectly, and it's why, generally, it was so well-liked. Rollins lost early in the night to Orton, then cashed in his Money in the Bank to win the title during the Lesnar-Reigns main event. It set up potential feuds for Rollins with Orton, Reigns and, eventually, Brock Lesnar. It also sets up a long title reign for Rollins, as he can beat, however possible, Orton and Reigns before the big payoff against Lesnar whenever he returns. This match Sunday should be a good one, if it doesn't get too out-of-hand with weird run-ins and a dumb finish. My guess is Orton hits an RKO late in the match, when no one is looking, and gets the three-count, to the delight of the crowd. But after a minute of celebration, Triple H will come down as disqualify Orton for the "illegal" move and the belt stays with Rollins. It can set up a rematch automatically and the WWE will keep the heat for another month. Or, everyone hates the finish and the calls for boycotting the Network return. Either way, I believe it'll be fun getting to that point.