Last night was Extreme Rules, and in honor of the one WWE PPV where they *explicitly* make everything a gimmick match, we present our new gimmick column: the Bang for Your Buck PPV review.
The criteria for these is simply: “Did I get my money’s worth?” in terms of the individual matches and the PPV as a whole, using the tried and true “what was this trying to do, and how well did it succeed” rubric.
Each match is rated plus or minus on a sliding scale between 1 and -1, with matches worth multiple rewatches worth 1, a just-quite-PPV quality match being 0, and things that make me reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The higher the number, the better Bang For Your Buck on the PPV. We’ll (eventually) keep a running tally for each PPV, and a handy list of PPVs we review to give you (and us) a better idea of what we thought was worth the time to check out in terms of matches and PPVs. As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match average):
We will also divide the final total by the number of matches, so you get an idea of the overall show AND the average quality of each match. We hope you like it, but if you have any tweaks or things you’d like to see us add, leave it in the comments. Check it out, tell us what you think and, you know, enjoy the show or whatever.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
For a match that had everything — shiny clothes, Summer Rae’s dress made from the extra fabric of another dress, a botched schoolboy roll up, a botched roll through off a flying body press, a crowd of people thinking Jericho would actually win with a Lionsault despite it not being 1998, and an ending I saw coming, but felt surprised by anyways — this was not surprisingly the definition of a Meh match. Which is to say, okay, but definitely not something I’d pay to see.
Match: +/- 0
PPV Total: 0
United States Championship Match: Kofi Kingston (C) vs. Dean Ambrose
I was really worried that WWE would have Dean Ambrose come out by himself, and I was even more worried that Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns would get involved in the outcome of the match. Instead, they did the best of both worlds by having the rest of the Shield walk down the stairs with him before leaving him to fend for himself like parents at a busstop.
And from there, this match was (almost) precisely what it needed to be. Ambrose looked like a revelation, every bit the guy you transition your championship to (sorry, Transitional Mid-card Champion Kofi!). Kudos should be given to Kingston for being a mensch about the whole thing, flying around the ring like he was actually angry about the state of his career and his position in the company — which, in all seriousness, is how one should wrestle (because if they don’t care that they are constantly losing to guys, why should we?). Dean Ambrose is going to be a major star if he can keep his head on straight, and this match was a great start towards that. While this wasn’t a great match, it was definitely a fun match that serves a MUCH larger purpose.
PPV Total: .5
Strap Match: Mark Henry vs. Sheamus
As someone who loves Mark Henry with all their heart, and is fundamentally okay with Sheamus — he’s a transcendent worker (See: any match with Daniel Bryan, HHH or John Cena for reference) for his size but is too much of a bully to really feel anything other than annoyance when he’s trying to trick Henry during legitimate(ly constructed, at least) tests of strength in order to gain an advantage — I desperately wanted this match to be great from the start. But once they introduced those terrible straps, my heart sank. How you can have an interesting match when the fun part of the stipulation (dudes going H.A.M. on each other with actual leather straps that leave actual welts) is made into a joke?
Well, you don’t do *exactly* what Sheamus and Mark Henry did, but you definitely use it as a blueprint. They took advantage of the fact that there aren’t (nor have there ever been) many strap matches in the WWE. Using classic tropes like Sheamus hitting the corners as Mark Henry carried him around the ring and Mark hogtying the Celtic Warrior and dragging him around the squared circle, they told a fun story that didn’t rely on the shock value of “leather hitting against flesh” to sell it. Sheamus went over, but in a way that let Mark still be the World’s Strongest Man, which is what you want from a match like this. Now if only Sheamus could be less of a jerk, he’d a real chance in this business.
PPV Total: 1
“I Quit” Match: Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio
Zeb Colter has moved from “vaguely super racist to specifically super racist” and I’m not entirely comfortable with it. It’s one thing to make broad references to things, but when you get into specifics, it ends up coming off more like a person (or company) making a political statement and placing it right next to something they’ve clearly demarcated as “chicanery and character work”. When you blur the lines like that, it hurts the credibility of the product.
Not hurting the credibility of the product? Almost any match involving Alberto Del Rio. This one got “extreme” fairly quickly, a function of both the stipulation and the “animosity” between these two. They’ve developed this into a much better rivalry than it had any business being, and this match was a showcase for it. There’s so often a distance between the quality of their matches and the fans, partially because they both essentially have mouthpieces and have to deal with the level to which Ziggler is over with the smarks in the crowd. Forcing them to talk — and knowing that Ziggly Puff wasn’t there/the winner would be facing him at some point in the future — created an engagement in the crowd that made this the best match so far in their feud.
And then they did one of the more brilliant false finishes/restarts in recent memory. After having Alberto Del Rio get stuck in the Patriot Lock in the middle of the ring, they had Ricardo tease throwing in the towel before thinking better of it only to have Zeb chase him off and throw in the towel as the ref’s back was turned. This led to another referee coming down to tell Mike Chioda what happened, which cause Chioda to do the unthinkable: using replay to determine who threw in the towel. This little bit of art moved briskly, with everything clearly set up beforehand, but it allowed Swagger to “beat” ADR (taking him out with the Patriot Lock), “win” (technically and briefly) and still lose the match (after they restarted it when Del Rio could stand on his own). We all know this won’t be the blowoff match for their program, but it may end up being the best.
PPV Total: 1.8
Tornado Tag Team Champion Match: Team Hell No! vs. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins of The Shield
I will miss Team Hell No! when they are gone. Not to be that guy, but I’ve been with them since Day One, and I could not be happier about Bryan Danielson’s prominence on the card as a result of this partnership. With Kane — one of the truly great big men in the history of any sport — Bryan has proven himself to be a main event star to go along with his main event in-ring talent.
HAVING SAID THAT, like the curtain jerker, this match was just “okay”. While the consequences will be much farther reaching than Fandango vs. Jericho, nothing particularly exciting happened and with four guys as talented as these that was more than a little disappointing.
Of course, the win by Reigns and Rollins is (like Ambrose’s) a small piece in a much larger story. It will not end up being as big as the nWo taking over, but putting gold on all the members of the Shield is clearly a sea change in the way that the Nexus was supposed to be. These guys are the future of the business and while this match was okay (if nothing special), that’s obviously the big takeaway. It looks like we’ll be “Believing” in the Shield for a long time to come.
PPV Total: 2
“Extreme Rules” Match: Randy Orton vs. Big Show
“Serial Killer” Randy Orton is perhaps my favorite run ever, but ever since turning face after his split with Legacy, his in-ring and character work has been lacking a certain “looking like he gives a shit about it at all”.
This problem is exacerbated when you put him in a match with a guy like the Big Show. Show needs to be as safe as possible (because he can break people’s faces with a single punch). Orton has a huge weakness regarding certain aspects of face-dom (where you make your “playing to the crowd” gestures look less like you are begging and more like you are tapping into a potential energy source). This creates a situation where Orton — who is himself an ENORMOUS man — never really looks like he is in danger, and like he is begging the crowd to get behind him. Even in his hometown, it comes off as contrived.
AND THEN HE DID EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED HIM TO DO. As I said last night, my dream for this match was the following:
What Nick Wants to Happen: Randy Orton punts Big Show so hard that he and Show switch bodies Freaky Friday style. (Heel Orton > Face Orton w/ The Punt as the line of demarcation between the two)
I will not say I enjoyed this match just because of that. The entire time it felt like Orton was wrestling around Big Show not with him, which is never going to be something I’m excited to see. But it did prevent it from being the first match I gave a negative review to. So that counts for something.
Match: +/- 0
PPV Total: 2
Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship:
John Cena (C) vs. Ryback
Anyone who thought John Cena was losing this match clearly does not understand merchandising, but that ending was pretty much a masterclass in how to give people their money’s worth while booking yourselves out of a corner. It’s not ideal given all possible outcomes, but for what it was, it did a fantastic job of getting there.
Of course, some people are going to be angry about the non-finish. Those people need to get over it. That’s not how wrestling works and it DEFINITELY wasn’t a “non-finish”. The Champ Is Dead and the challenger walked away with the help of medics after driving another guy through a wall made of glass and lights. The E needed Ryback to come off almost impossibly good while making sure they doesn’t lose that sweet sweet “The Champ is Here” t-shirt money. And that’s exactly what happened.
In a way that not even CM Punk has, Ryback looked strong both literally and figuratively against Cena, using a combination of power moves and strong counters that made it clear during his many visits to the gym, he also watches wrestling. For two traditional WWE main eventers (read: meathead jocks) this match was great. While it doesn’t quite live up to Cena’s match last year with Lesnar, it is pretty much the definition of getting what you pay for: two dudes doing a really good job of looking like they are brutally beating each other into submission. I’m not sure what more you could ask for. Other than a clean finish.
Also, Lawler saying “this is on the promotion” following the match — after defending Fandango as an underrated wrestler at the beginning of the show — has all the making of a Lawler heel turn.
Match: +.7 (with no winner, it’s a little hard to give it anything higher)
PPV Total: 2.7
Steel Cage Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
Like The Masked Man, I am a huge Triple H fan, and I’ve personally enjoyed all of Lesnar’s non-Goldberg work so far. But this match, like the other two matches in this rivalry, was both fun and incredibly boring. I like watching these two guys fight, but because of the reasonable “no-blood/minimal amounts of actual brutality” constraints placed on how far they can go, these matches have always felt like they were holding something back.
Even with Lesnar selling a knee injury for most of the match about as well as you can sell something like that, the lack of “color” (specifically, red) in this match was more detrimental than both their previous matches combined. In a cage, it’s just as much “two men enter, one man leave” as it is “people are going to bleed like stuck pigs”. Unless you can put on a show like Owen and Bret did at SummerSlam, or FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ACTUALLY ESCAPE THE CAGE (sorry), you should probably blade if your cage match is the main event of a PPV.
Of course, there were moments like Triple H hitting Brock’s knee with the chair as he tried to climb out of the cage, Heyman sacrificing himself for the “Greater Good” and the genuine affection that Lesnar/Heyman have for one another as a partnership that made this a fitting (hopefully) blowoff match.
That doesn’t mean I would have been happy about paying money for it.
Final PPV Tally: 3.1 | Avg/match: .4375 (.44, if you’re nasty)
In conclusion (I guess), this was precisely what many expected: a good pay per view which was prevented from being a very good to great PPV because of a lack of pizzaz, blood, and Damien Sandow. You’re welcome.