It’s the go-home Raw before
WCW Uncensored Extreme Rules, WWE’s last vestiges of the ECW reboot.
The very concept of the Extreme Rules event leaves much to be desired: every match having a gimmick is oversaturation; there was an all-gimmick show just four months ago with TLC; and, in the era of PG, it’s difficult to push the concept of “extreme.”
Perhaps the strategy to make Sunday’s show seem extreme is juxtaposing it against a Raw that was very bland. The April 20 edition of TV’S LONGEST RUNNING, WEEKLY EPISODIC SERIES featured very little wrestling, which is rather confounding on a 3-hour wrestling program.
Nevertheless, there’s enough promised from Sunday’s show that I’m optimistic.
Seth Rollins as A Genuine Heel
WWE has struggled with well-defined heels and faces, a lingering holdover from the Attitude Era. While building up true faces remains a struggle for WWE creative — e.g., Roman Reigns — Seth Rollins is as old-school a heel as there is in wrestling today.
Rollins plays the perfect mix of brash arrogance and unsure cowardice; the former quality powered him to the WWE Championship, while the latter is the inherent characteristic any first-time heel champion should demonstrate.
The persona Seth Rollins portrays now is what, in hindsight, post-pipe bomb CM Punk should have been.
I’ve never bought Randy Orton as a face; face Randy Orton works the same as heel Randy Orton. Monday was no different, as Orton went about the arena, delivering RKOs to unsuspecting victims. To wit, what was poor Heath Slater doing when he got sent through a table?!
As Billy Madison said, “That’s assault, brotha.”
Nevertheless, I’m all-in on the Randy Orton-Seth Rollins steel cage match. Their Mania match, while a bit short, was fun. The cage is being used in the right capacity: cowardly heel cannot run or seek outside help against a motivated face. Additionally, Rollins’ best match of 2014 was in a cage, vs. John Cena on Raw after TLC.
Rollins’ evolution into his heel character as his title reign continues is one of the more compelling facets to WWE TV.
Bo Dallas Is Awesome (and Gives A New Angle to Roman Reigns)
Even if he’s relegated to enhancement talent — and he was certainly that Monday night, serving as fodder for Roman Reigns — Bo Dallas is terrific at his gimmick.
Dallas’ promo was perfectly contemptible, starting with his quoting of, “the greatest Star Wars movie ever made: Episode 1.”
By the time he reached the ring, I was ready to see him taken down, and Roman Reigns obliged in short order. Reigns did a nice job playing off Bo Dallas, warning Big Show to “Boooooo-lieve that.”
But in his promo, Bo Dallas hit on something that’s the perfect analogy for Roman Reigns’ current arc: Dallas called Reigns “the Tim Tebow of WWE.”
The crossover between sports and wrestling fans is substantial, and using comparisons to the former resonates well with the latter. With the NFL draft a little more than a week away, Dallas calling Roman Reigns “a bust” provides context to the false start on Reigns’ rise to the top of the roster.
— WWE (@WWE) April 21, 2015
Reigns is finally starting to establish a comprehensible and relatable character. Now, if he can finally get some ring gear that isn’t 1998 D-Lo Brown’s chest protector coupled with Corporate Kane’s wrestling-slacks, Roman will be in business.
When Sheamus debuted in 2009, his Irish hooligan gimmick was a perfect fit, but he was still raw (no pun intended) in the ring. As Sheamus’ ring work improved by leaps and bounds in the years to follow, his gimmick went stale.
Sheamus the happy-go-lucky, friendly Irishman faded into the background. Mohawk-sporting, bully Sheamus is outstanding.
And the possibilities of Dolph Ziggler bumping like a pinball for Sheamus’ power moveset have me giddy.
I’m all for letting the creative process play out and not making snap decisions based on one or two shows. That said, I can’t understand the booking of Curtis Axel since the Royal Rumble.
WWE creative tried for years to get him over, first as the Nexus’ McGillicutty, then as a protégé of Paul Heyman. This Axelmania run is the first time crowds have truly embraced Curtis Axel, yet his booking looks more like punishment than reward.
Losing to Fandango in under a minute? Fandango?! What, exactly, does that accomplish?
The last lower-to-mid-carder to get over organically, only to be completely crushed in his opportunity, was Zack Ryder. Coincidentally, Ryder showed up on Raw Monday night, just long enough to get decimated by Sheamus.
The difference between Axelmania and 2011’s Long Island Iced Z is that Curtis Axel has potential to be endearing long-term. Fans are into his character because he makes it work, whereas Ryder could never translate his YouTube charisma in the ring.
If Axel continues losing — and especially to lower-tier acts like Fandango — his organic fan support will disappear.
Incomprehensible Divas Angle
Naomi’s heel turn on Paige seems pointless. Naomi was getting over as a face, and in her match with Brie Bella, did nothing that screamed heel. Nikki Bella is still clearly heel, as evidenced in her ringside announcing during the Naomi-Brie encounter.
So is Naomi a face chasing the heel champion? Is Naomi going to get a title shot, which she’s earned and was justified in the logical of her heel turn?
Brie and Naomi got plenty of time — which allowed Nikki to earnestly respond to JBL’s declaration that Naomi had beaten “every Bella,” with “well, there’s only two on the roster” — but the lack of a clear heel-face dynamic made this one seem hollow.
Is This A Raw from 2004?
A Russian chain match at Extreme Rules is a nice nod to 1980s NWA and the United States title’s heyday, and WWE paid homage to the old-school approach with an all-too dated segment.
John Cena proudly declared that at Extreme Rules he’s going to do what he’s done for 10 years. Well, on Raw, he certainly cut the same promo he’s been delivering for the last 10 years.
Rusev elevated the United States Championship in his run, and Cena’s built on that foundation since winning the title at WrestleMania. Cena’s promo, which included two separate “The Champ Is Here,” established his pride in holding the strap.
When Cena asked someone young and hungry to come take their shot at the U.S. Open Challenge, I held out hope for…an NXT’er? A great worker lower on the card getting the rub?
Instead, we got Kane in his second high-profile segment of the night. Unmasked Kane vs. John Cena for the U.S. title could have very well happened in 2004, though the pace then would have been much quicker than Monday’s match.