Doctor's Orders: The Underlying Stories to Watch at WWE Extreme Rules 2014
By The Doc
Apr 29, 2014 - 12:33:47 PM
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QUESTION OF THE DAY: What match are you most looking forward to at Extreme Rules and why?
Four for four in 2014…
Extreme Rules will mark the fourth WWE special event (can we simply call them “pay-per-views,” anymore?) in four tries this year to easily earn my interest and time. Each has offered up at least one must-see match. The first three gave us Match of the Year contenders. Will the fourth? Three matches on the May 4th card could certainly provide it. In advance of the show, let us dissect the underlying stories of each match.
Goodness, it was nice to see Daniel Bryan speak last night on Raw. My enthusiasm for this Sunday’s event had cooled a bit in the last week or so. I’ll admit that right out of the gate. Part of the decrease was the natural letdown that follows distancing the present from WrestleMania season. Another part of it, though, was coming from the WWE not being able to fully capitalize on Daniel Bryan’s post-“Showcase” momentum. Last night was the first time since the post-Mania Raw that Bryan had spoken. The Extreme Rules hype, in general, badly needed a promo from the WWE Champion to complete the package. I did not realize that until after he had delivered it. Something had been missing these last few weeks and it had been Bryan’s voice.
Due to one circumstance of his own choosing and a pair of tragic occurrences that could not have been foreseen, Bryan has been a ghost since he won the title. From a humanistic viewpoint, I sympathize with the WWE Champion and wish him and his family the best. I lost my father eleven days after my daughter was born; I get what it is like to hit an incredible emotional high and then have it countered with a massive emotional low. From a wrestling fan standpoint, I hope it does not affect his title reign. You can do nothing about unexpected loss, but you can about the timing of your honeymoon. Bryan is swimming with sharks in his line of work. With everything else that he has working against his success, would you put it past the powers that be to one day be in tough decision-making mode and choose to depush Bryan to levels unbecoming of Mania XXX’s brightest star?
This would be a good weekend to use all of that psychological grief and channel it into a smash hit of a World title defense. Under similar circumstances, I poured a lot of my heart and soul into my work and ended up winning a prestigious award by that year’s end. Not a day goes by that I do not think about my dad. Not one single day. That (somewhat) negative energy, though, can be turned into a positive. I said on “The Doc and Super Chrisss Show” last week that I wanted to be able to, one month from now, reflect back to mid-to-late April 2014 in WWE and see Bryan’s honeymoon and tragedies not as potential excuses for his main-event run to be less successful, but further obstacles that help define an incredible career. I do not think it unsympathetic to ponder the wrestling implications of Bryan’s plight, as it is not an uncommon practice for sport or entertainment writers to ask these questions. It is, granted, a difficult question to ask. I’m more interested in the answer. Our mettle is tested in dire straits. I, for one, will be very curious to see how Bryan responds in the ring to what has been going outside of the ring. It’s not the story to follow, but it is a story to keep an eye on.
Kane has not been the other half of a great singles match in a very long time. I suspect that, if given the chance, his streak of average matches might come to an end. I am preparing myself to be pleasantly surprised. Bryan and Kane should be able to have a serviceable match that adds to the card in their sleep, but I would like to see them knock one out of the park. All the things mentioned above about Bryan’s previous few weeks will, in my opinion, be the fuel that he uses to get what should be the best stretch of his professional life back on track. I expect that Bryan will win and, though I’m not going to sit here and predict a classic, I’m cautiously optimistic that those two are going to deliver big.
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena could easily steal the show. To some of the more cerebrally expansive members of our community, they stole the show at WrestleMania. Locked inside of a Steel Cage, can they connect with those same members of the wrestling world that they did four weeks ago, as well as capture everyone else’s imaginations? It will be a tall task. From what I have read and heard from my colleagues, readers, and listeners, patience for this feud – even amongst the psychologically stimulated – is waning. The inconsistency of John Cena’s character is not up for debate (though the creative motives behind that inconsistency might be). He has been all over the place from week-to-week. For many, it has tarnished the storyline. Personally, I have loved the storyline – their Raw-opening segment last night was one of my favorites in recent memory – but believe that it needs a straightforward finish at the PPV. No winning by losing this time, if you please, WWE. I was pretty adamant about my feelings that Bray should have won at Mania and I still believe that he should have. I am completely positive that a loss on Sunday would be flirting with insanity. Wrestling 101 states that people pay to see heroes defeat villains, so the fact that Cena (an undeniable babyface) pinned Wyatt at “The Showcase” was somewhat questionable. Bray overcame the loss because he was the talking point of the match. It was not “Cena wins” that people cared about, but Wyatt’s performance. It cannot be overstated how difficult that it is to win by losing, though. This time, Bray just needs to win. I understand that they want Wyatt to bring out the monster in Cena, but most wrestling fans swim in the shallow end of their minds – The Golden Boy and The Eater of Worlds would be swimming out into waters likely too deep for the average enthusiast if they do not continue this story with a simpler arc. They can keep the mental intrigue going for the small percentage that appreciates it - that can even be the central theme of the program - but while they work toward whether or not Bray can bring out John’s inner monster, they need to sprinkle in some good, old fashioned good guy chasing the bad guy to give him comeuppance. Only then can this feud achieve its full potential.
Whenever someone challenges Cena’s on-screen character, inevitably it brings about the topic of a heel turn. “Is that where this is leading,” many have asked me. Those of you that have been reading my columns for years and/or have read my book are well aware that I feel like Cena has to turn heel to complete his legacy. He is up there, as it stands, but there’s not one wrestler at the top of the WrestleMania Era’s “greatest of all-time” discussion that has not played both roles – top antagonist and top protagonist. Cena has little left to accomplish in wrestling; it’s legacy enhancement from here on. Nothing would enhance his legacy in WWE like the long-awaited heel turn. So, would it be possible for Cena to join the Family ala Bryan earlier this year? I think so. In Cena, the WWE has a hero that caters to a part of the fanbase that would be genuinely invested in his inner conflict. The adults would find it interesting because it is different. If they actually followed through on it instead of copping out ala The Nexus angle, then it could be brilliantly unique. Would that open the door for a full-fledged heel turn? Well, I doubt it. The true flirtation of his character with a turn to the dark side would be enough to make this more than just the average Cena feud that we’ve seen a thousand times. I believe the full turn will happen eventually.
Evolution vs. The Shield should end up eclipsing many of its peers in the Match of the Year race, if all goes as well as it can. My biggest question is how hungry is Evolution in this situation. On paper, this six-man tag should be outstanding. The New Jersey crowd should provide the atmosphere needed to boost the trios into a higher gear. Every PPV crowd this year, frankly, has enhanced the show that they paid to see live. I just wonder if the feeling that I’m not getting when I watch these teams interact on TV could translate to the match itself. It lacks that same certain something that did Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker for me; that did Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar, for that matter. The difference between a solid match and a classic is often that certain something; that X-factor, that intangible that cannot be easily described.
What made The Wyatts vs. Shield a classic at Elimination Chamber was that all six men involved exuded a rabid desire to leave an impression. Is that motivation there for Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista? It would be safe to assume that 2014 has not been the year that Dave Batista thought it would be. Rumors are that he will be taking time off for the initial promotional onslaught of The Guardians of the Galaxy. I have been impressed with his work since WrestleMania. Both the triple threat and his Smackdown match with Sheamus showed that he had rounded back into cardiovascular shape. Will his imminent departure at all affect his performance? Randy Orton has been through a lot of career adversity in the last few years, but his recent main-event run as World Champion seemingly revitalized his drive. He was outstanding in the final two months prior to WrestleMania. Extreme Rules is not WrestleMania, however. There has been a tangible difference in the quality of both Orton and Batista’s character work since Evolution reformed three weeks ago. It might simply be a reflection of their characters being less sure of the purpose of Evolution’s reunion than Triple H, who has not missed a beat and has been very clear on his intentions. Or maybe not.
This is a very important match for The Shield. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose are doing well in their unfamiliar role as babyfaces. The better matches that they have, the more likely they all are to succeed moving forward. There has been no bigger spotlight than the one they’ll have this Sunday. I expect the 6-man tag to be the main-event – a first for The Shield. They’ll be across the ring from three outstanding heels. Unpredictability will be one of the central themes. Many expect Evolution to win. With Batista’s departure, I’m not so sure. Defeating Orton, Batista, and Triple H would be quite a feather in The Shield’s cap. If the WWE wants to make a long-term statement about The Shield, Sunday provides the opportunity to make one. Defeat the most dominant faction of this century (and one of the most underrated, historically) and The Hounds of Justice may light the fuse to the rocket attached to their backs. The feud has been booked pretty evenly. The outcome is wide open for debate. I’m 60-40 that Evolution will win by nefarious means. Each member needs to get his heat back from losing to one guy at Mania. It is that fact that I cannot escape. The Shield needs to win, too, I think. I really don’t know.
In other Extreme Rules news, I like that Cesaro got added to the card. I’d like to see some direction for him soon. The pairing with Heyman could use some focus. Nothing will do that quite like an actual storyline in which fans can invest. The potential feud with RVD could be a solid route to take. Cesaro should win on Sunday. Bad News Barrett has really grown on me (though I’ve always been high on Wade). If he does not win the IC title, I’ll be surprised. Big E is a lame duck. He tries very hard, but I imagine the WWE got tired of someone at that level merely trying. I’d advise a repackage down in NXT. Hopefully, BNB’s IC title reign will put the division on par with what the World Heavyweight Championship division was from 2011-2013 – not the top level, but above the random booking of the mid-card. Paige retains. I don’t care about her…yet.
Join Super Chrisss and I on “The Doc and Super Chrisss Show” Wednesday at 5PM on LOP Radio as we discuss Extreme Rules and go in-depth on the topic of 2014’s breakout stars.
Below, you’ll see the link to the LOP Radio Special that I did with Maverick, Mazza, and ‘Plan last weekend. We detailed the top matches in modern pro wrestling history that were 14-minutes or fewer in length.
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