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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Extreme Rules Report (Part 1: The Preview - Keep it Simple, WWE)
By The Doc
May 14, 2013 - 10:23:02 PM

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I enjoyed the final night of Raw hype prior to Sunday's Extreme Rules. It was a simple formula. When in doubt, go back to the basics that made wrestling work so well in the past. The opening and closing segments bookended a much better effort for the go-home show than we had seen in several weeks.

Fandango vs. Jericho may well have earned the PPV some extra buyers with their effective work to start the program. Johnny Curtis, in his second real "spotlight" segment outside his reasonably impressive Wrestlemania effort, continues to play the heel role very well. He reminds me a little bit of the Honky Tonk Man from the late 80s. Nothing he is doing is going to set the world on fire and it is not likely to propel him past maybe a single main-event down the road that capitalizes on his 15-minutes of fame, but he is effective. Last night, the bit with Summer Rae turning her ankle after she and 'Dango finally started their dance number, prompting the ensuing melee that saw Jericho get his rear-end handed to him, was classic bad guy. Like Honky Tonk, Fandango is making the most of his air time by maximizing what he can get out of his gimmick. We have, in many ways, seen the WWE revert back to many of their Hulkamania era staples, among which was the talented, yet not overly so, performer who they placed into a heat magnet character that would enhance their upper mid-card. That's 'Dango, who is proving capable of drawing legitimate heat despite a relatively popular, babyface pop-inducing theme song. As wrestlecrap as the dance off seemed on the surface, it wound up being a legitimate, potential PPV drawing "hit."

Jericho seems poised to get his win back from Mania. That's fine. Fandango already got the big victory. I'm going Fandango anyway, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Y2J win...

Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar needed a serious shot in the arm and it got one in last night's main-event segment. The lack of face-to-face interaction had been hurting their feud, which was already operating on fumes even when they began chapter two on the Road to Wrestlemania. The lack of heat and imagination for their Summerslam '12 match really hurt their momentum. I have not yet re-watched their Mania rematch, but there was no heat for that match from the in-person account. How were they going to generate anything else in a feud that's shelf life had long since passed? Maybe last night could do it. Again, it was by-the-book, but it was well done within the framework of that script. I think that Triple H has far overrated his ability to make this feud interesting, in part because he cannot accept that he sucks at playing the "bad ass" babyface. He's a great "bad ass" heel, but he has never been able to master the babyface equivalent to that which made him famous for his antagonism. However, he can deliver the go-home promo. His baiting of Lesnar to get into the cage with him worked nicely and got the crowd involved. Lesnar, for the second time in this feud, took a nasty bump to help provide a memorable moment in a chapter of this rivalry (the other was the blade job). If Trips and Brock can follow the formula in the ring that we saw them use last night to hype their (presumably) final encounter, then I suspect that the cage match can deliver the goods. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Brock needs to win and last night's booking seems to suggest that he will. If the WWE expects him to continue to draw strong PPV numbers, then he needs to emerge victorious in what could be viewed as "his" match...

John Cena vs. Ryback, I maintain, will be a very good match. Ryback stomping the ankle adds a last bit of intrigue to the storyline. Again, that was a simple, effective touch. Time will tell if it has a tremendous effect on the heat for the match. The slower the pace, the less the heat in Ryback matches. Last Man Standing matches inherently carry a slower pace, so Cena's challenge will be to keep his offense up and not simply allow Ryback to dominate (like Cena traditionally does when wrestling "monster" heels). I think the gimmick suggests that there will be a substantial amount of back and forth. This is Cena's go-to gimmick. All things considered, I'm confident in my quality prediction. Any takers on a wager? Ryback-Cena averages 3.5 stars between Keller and Meltzer?

Cena wins...

Mark Henry vs. Sheamus is the third most intriguing match on the card. Their formula, all along, has been to stick to the basics. I pummel you. You pummel me. Back and forth we go to build a beef. You trash talk me. I trash talk you. We try to one up each other. Bam! You've got a solid storyline for a PPV that might draw some money. The strap match is a cool gimmick for those of you that haven't seen much of it. JBL vs. Guerrero was a great example, but look back to the 1993 Vader vs. Sting bout for what has been the greatest version of the Wrestlemania Era. It can be brutal and quite entertaining, as I expect Henry vs. Sheamus will be on Sunday. Henry was, yet again, the best on the mic this week. A reader brought up last week that it's a shame that Henry waited until he was on his last legs to suddenly decide he wanted to actually be a better than below-average member of the roster. 2011-2013 does not negate the filth he produced throughout the previous decade plus. If this were baseball or basketball, we'd be opening an investigation into performance enhancing drug use. (Side note - do you think Cesaro's promo last week was unscripted? Because he sure got his butt kicked last night, rendering last week a distant memory already).

Henry wins, though wouldn't be surprised if the Celtic Warrior beat him...

I'm actually quite happy with the change to the World title situation. I think it could be a blessing in disguise for Ziggler to be out of action right now, assuming that he comes back relatively healthy. Concussions are no joke and need to be handled with care, but this could build sympathy for him and actually help turn him into a babyface. I'm anxious to see how he'd get over as a face considering that they clearly have little current intention of elevating his heel character. I think the fans are clamoring for a reason to cheer Dolph. Perhaps the concussion could be the catalyst. I'm glad they're keeping the title on him and making the Del Rio vs. Swagger match for the #1 contender spot. This is the way that it should have been. Del Rio vs. Swagger was originally thought to be a shoe-in for a submission or "I Quit" match at this PPV, but then they decided to rush Ziggler's cash-in on a night where it didn't matter. All 800,000 to 1 million extra Wrestlemania viewers weren't around Monday, April 8th. The only people that saw Ziggler cash-in were Raw's regulars, making the cash-in "same old, same old, ho hum." Del Rio vs. Swagger should be a very good match.

Del Rio wins...

The Shield needs to get the double this weekend. After suffering their first loss (which I strongly disliked however it may have occurred), Ambrose needs to take the US title and Rollins/Reigns need to take the tag straps. No other result will suffice for this young trio that is teetering on the delicate edge of either falling into the main-event scene by the summer or falling off the face of the earth with the WWE's usual stop-start-stop-start booking approach that the "Hounds of Justice" have, thus far, managed to avoid. Last night's booking of the Shield was the one part of the show that I didn't think was simple, straight-forward, and effective.

The Shield win both of their matches...

I'll also go with Orton over Show and Miz over Rhodes in the pre-show (my, how you've fallen, Cody).

All in all, my excitement level got boosted with Raw. It was a marked improvement over the last two weeks. I plan on watching Extreme Rules and I think it'll be a good show. I'll be back with the Review on Monday.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think that Ziggler's concussion could lead to sympathy that would help turn him babyface? Do you think he could be an effective babyface?

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