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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Extreme Rules 2013 Report
By The Doc
May 20, 2013 - 12:27:25 PM

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I had a thought going into last night's show about the WWE and the NBA. The NBA is at its part of the season where the crowds do not get any wilder and the drama is reaching its apex. I watched the Pacers-Knicks Game 6 on Saturday night and was locked into the whole game. Could the WWE, during the part of its "season" where the product feels like the NBA does throughout much of its regular schedule, come anywhere close to matching the passion that I watched in the Indiana-New York game?

Match 1: Jericho beat Fandango in 8-and-a-half minutes (*1/2) (The opening match did not click with me as it did at Wrestlemania. An early botch left me in need of being impressed throughout the rest of the match and it just never happened. I liked the finish and I appreciate 'Dango for what he is, but I expect more out of young performers who are tangoing with an elite, all-time wrestler of Jericho's caliber, even if it was in just 8-minutes. The athleticism is clearly there with 'Dango, but the timing is not. Hopefully that will improve)

Match 2: Dean Ambrose won the US title in 7-minutes (**1/4) (For a match with 90 seconds less time than the opener, Ambrose vs. Kingston far better delivered in the entertainment department. I really like what I have seen from Ambrose in the few singles matches that he has wrestled against a variety of stylistically different opponents. Against Kofi, he showed some stamina in what turned out to be a fast-faced affair with very little rest in between sequences. As I peer into the crystal ball, I cannot help but get excited to see what comes six months from now for him. He has got the gift on the microphone to the point that I hope that this mid-card title reign is a launching pad, rather than a stepping stone, to his main-event career. To see him verbally engage some of the top guys would be legitimately must-see. Yet, matches like he has been having suggest that he could back up the position earned by his microphone prowess and make a home for himself as one of the lead heels in a company that sorely lacks truly engaging bad guys)

Match 3: Sheamus defeated Mark Henry in 8-minutes (**3/4) (For as much as I rag on the Celtic Warrior for being such a straightforward, unrelatable character, I will continue to praise him for his work in the ring. I can think of only a small handful of wrestlers on the WWE roster who bring their A-game every month on PPV to the level that does Sheamus. I thoroughly enjoyed his encounter with Mark Henry, which was not the all out war that it could've been if the match had gotten a higher profile, but was perfectly serviceable considering its mid-card placement throughout the feud. While the gimmick has traditionally been reserved for heated rivals who beat the tar out of each other with the strap/rope, Sheamus and Henry focused on finding creative ways to attempt the victory via touching all four corners. That was a nice take and the right call given the competition that they were up against last night. They did well)

Match 4: Alberto Del Rio became #1 contender in 13 total minutes (**3/4) (Initially, this match had to overcome the totally unbelievable questioning in the early stages of the match, as if either man was going to quit because he's been slammed to the mat a few times or gotten kicked in the head. Suspension of disbelief was one thing, but that was completely ridiculous. Del Rio and Swagger, though, found a way to pick things up and overcome that initial logic gap. Personally, I quite enjoyed their Wrestlemania match. It was short, but it played well on the legit tensions created by the nature of their feud. I thought they echoed the same things that made their match work 6 weeks ago in the "I Quit" format. It was not overly long and was actually painfully short given the history of the gimmick, but they endured. The replay finish will get the most publicity. My hope is that it does not take away from the solid chemistry shown between the combatants and the more than solid execution of the story that they were telling. The replay did not bother me. I thought it did well to build heat on the match, which lacked it as expected due to Del Rio's bland babyface character - that's an epidemic in the WWE more so than a slight at Alberto, by the way)

Match 5: The Shield won the Tag Team titles in 7-and-a-half minutes (**1/2) (The "Tornado" format was helpful, as the WWE tag team match has become so paint-by-the-numbers that it is difficult to enjoy. Letting these guys loose and just go all action for nearly eight minutes was a good decision, as it let them open the offense and keep the crowd guessing. Generally stating, it made it more unpredictable when it seemed pretty obvious who was winning all along. I continue to be impressed with Roman Reigns. He has exceeded my expectations as much as Ambrose has lived up to them. I like that the Shield now possesses some gold. I hope that they can elevate those belts far beyond their current positioning. It should be interesting to see where Bryan and Kane go from here; ditto for the justice-seeking trio)

Match 6: Randy Orton defeated Big Show in 13-minutes (***) (I was quite surprised at how much time they were given. I would have expected the time to be switched between what we saw from Sheamus-Henry and Orton-Show. The former received more hype on television than did the bout featuring the hometown hero. I've read a lot of comments about Orton looking more inspired than usual, but he has been steadily producing on PPV for the last year despite his lack of a push. I rated - and many others did, too - his matches with Kane, Ziggler, and Del Rio on 2012 PPVs at 3-stars or better. So, last night was more the continuation of a trend than a shot out of left field. Orton can still go. His work on PPV has contributed to the shows being well-rounded. What was obvious last night, for the first time in awhile, is that the WWE booked Orton to look really strong. It has been nearly a year since his suspension. It has been over 18 months since he was last relevant as a main-event player. Could last night's strong booking suggest a renewed push as a headlining act? Perhaps they are serious about the Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton match. I, for one, hope that Orton gets back in the swing of things. It probably should be a more frequent occurrence that a long-time main-eventer goes to the mid-card for a year or two, suspension or not just to keep him fresh, but Orton has served his time and served it well. Let's get him back toward the top)

Match 7: Cena and Ryback went to a no-contest in 22-minutes (***3/4) (5 weeks ago, I stated that Ryback vs. Cena was going to surprise some people in the quality department. I thought my prediction was justified after what I saw last night. Starting with the end, I pretty much figured that this feud was going to be lasting awhile and that a Batista-Taker circa 2007 finish might be in order. That's pretty much exactly what happened. Ryback was protected. Cena was, too. Before that, they were having a helluva battle. I particularly appreciated that they did not waste much time doing low impact moves and expecting a count. Instead, they opted to punish each other physically with high impact moves from the outset, employing the use of tables and their out-of-the-ring surroundings well. Because of their quick use of the bigger spots, it made the match more compelling down the stretch and made you begin wondering how they were going to get to the finish of Cena retaining the title with Ryback still looking strong. Mission accomplished. The non-finish will upset some, but the booking called for and justified it. I will be curious to see what type of match is chosen, if gimmicked, for their next match. My anticipation for round 2 grew by watching round 1...as should be the point for feuds booked to go more than a month)

Match 8: Brock Lesnar defeated Triple H in 20-minutes (***3/4) (Trips vs. Brock has caught its fair share of flack from the critics since Summerslam '12, but if I may borrow a movie analogy, we often build up expectations that every match should be a MOTY contender, especially when involving multiple big-time wrestlers like Brock and Trips. Well, after watching last year's Summerslam match, I realized that I wasn't going to be getting something epic from a Trips-Brock encounter. I enjoyed their first match, in my opinion fairly rating it at 3.5 stars for the fact that it was entertaining and told a good story despite the desire to see something greater. As you get older and you watch more wrestling matches, you learn to set your expectations realistically and appreciate what you get from whom you're getting it. I look at Trips-Lesnar like I do many of the movies that my wife and I watch on Netflix. Frankly, I'm not expecting many of them to be classics. Instead, I just want to enjoy the telling of a story via cinema. If it happens to be epic, then I'll be pleasantly surprised, but my expectation is more "I'm going to enjoy this for what it is." With Trips vs. Brock, I knew what I was getting. I figured - and was on point in my thinking - that Brock vs. Trips in a Cage match was going to be 20-minutes of good storytelling but little more. Thus, I enjoyed the match quite a bit. It met my expectations and I walked away without the desire to ever see it again, but happy that I saw it. Ditto for Summerslam '12. Ditto for, after re-watching it, Wrestlemania NY/NJ. I will say this, though: Brock Lesnar needed to win and he looked quite good in victory. Some may scoff at Heyman's involvement, but Brock overcame being jumped from behind by the babyface prior to the bell ringing, a "severely injured" knee, and the best that Triple H could dish out and still won convincingly. What's next for Brock?)

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you want to see next from Brock Lesnar?

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