So maybe this pay-per-view would've been interesting at one point before everybody suffered from concussions. By my count five different guys had to take some amount of time off in the past month, which is one of the reasons that the last few weeks of Monday Night Raw have been pretty lacking overall. A few performers really stepped up their game in that time and made their segments fun and interesting, but that didn't stop the segments that would have involved those injured performers from being painful to sit through.
Also Triple H has been on television a whole fucking ton, so there's that too.
Brief thoughts on Extreme Rules:
-The Shield now hold the United States and Tag Team Championships, which is a good move. Each member holding a belt makes the group look stronger, and additionally, the fact that they are constantly getting major segments where they hold up the championships and brag about having the championships makes the titles seem more important. The fact that an ACTUAL TAG TEAM are the Tag Team Champions is nice to see. The last time I remember that being the case was like a year ago with Primo and Epico who, while an actual tag team, were a completely irrelevant tag team. This is the first time the Tag Team Championships have seemed like an important accomplishment for a tag team in the time I've watched WWE.
-Dolph Ziggler's injury really caused problems for the feud between he, Jack Swagger, and Alberto Del Rio. Swagger and Del Rio had basically the same finish as the one they had at Wrestlemania, which was very disappointing.
-Sheamus beating Mark Henry was stupid, but predictable.
-Randy Orton is kicking dudes in the head again. Once more I must ask why the guy is supposed to be a hero.
-John Cena vs. Ryback was boring up until that last spot, which was AWESOME. By the way, Ryback should totally be champion. Dude stood up first.
-Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar was really weird. I was watching the event with MechaGM and SonikGav, and by the end, we were ACTIVELY ROOTING FOR BROCK TO WIN. None of us are Brock marks, either. We just all hate Triple H that much. Speaking of which...
Off the Card
For the love of god, get Triple H off my goddamn television. The guy is absolutely infuriating. EVERYTHING IS ALL ABOUT HIM. EVERYTHING HAS TO REVOLVE AROUND HIM. I was informed recently that I would have hated wrestling about ten years ago when he literally did this stuff all the time. HOW DID ANYONE WATCH WWE BACK THEN!? I literally just roll my eyes and sigh heavily every time there's a Triple H segment now, and my one comfort is that he'll go away soon enough. Like...god. Okay let me break this down.
Triple H lost his match to Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules (and there was much rejoicing), in fact he not only lost, he got majorly fucked up. The next night, Michael McGillicutty re-debuts as Curtis Axel with Paul Heyman as his manager, ensuring that his one major weakness - his lack of charisma and inability to cut a promo - is guarded (and then he grabs the mic and cuts boring promos anyway BUT THAT'S BESIDE THE POINT). So Triple H comes out and decides he's sore over losing to Heyman's other guy and he's going to bully the new kid and shit all over him and call him a pussy BECAUSE HE'S THE HERO~! So they have a match and eventually getting hit in the head repeatedly makes Triple H remember that he was hit in the head repeatedly last night, so he's all I WANT TO FIGHT FOR I AM BADASS, BUT ALAS, I CANNOT MOVE ANYMORE. And a legion of followers flock to him to make sure he's okay while THE RE-DEBUTING CURTIS AXEL sits in the ring and is forgotten by everybody BECAUSE TRIPLE H IS IMPORTANT! So over the next several weeks Triple H is all THAT GUY IS A PUSSY AND SHOULDN'T HAVE BEATEN ME BECAUSE HE IS TERRIBLE I WANT TO BEAT HIM AND PROVE THAT I AM AWESOME and the crowd is all YAYYYY TRIPLE H and then everyone else is all TRIPLE H ISN'T COMPETING BECAUSE WE WANT TO PROVE WE ARE YOUR MASTERS AND YOU BARK EVERY TIME WE YANK YOUR CHAIN. And every time he's around it's nothing about how great Triple H is but now he's not even fighting because he wants to beat Axel, he's fighting because he wants to prove he's badass because he's got huge pride, and the opponent isn't even the important part. Didn't help that Stephanie McMahon basically said Axel was nothing five times. And now THIS TIME THEY'RE REALLY GONNA HAVE A MATCH the night after Payback. I pray that they'll have the match and Axel immediately rips his head off and punts it into the stands.
Pre-Show Kickoff Match: Damien Sandow vs. Sheamus
Once again we've got a Sheamus feud in which I am absolutely convinced that Sheamus is actually the bad guy. Granted, Sandow has done a better job at selling himself as a class-A jerk who nobody should like. That's the difference between this storyline and the Mark Henry storyline from last month - Henry would come out and brag about how strong he was, and then Sheamus couldn't beat him in a contest of strength so he snuck in a cheap shot. This time, Sandow comes out to brag about how smart he is, provokes the crowd and makes it clear that he doesn't care that none of them like what he has to say, and often has some underhanded means of 'defeating' Sheamus mentally. Sheamus has kind of gone out of his way to set himself up as a far worse bully than Sandow though. Dude keeps on kicking Sandow and breaking his toys just for fooling him in ways that really aren't consequential. There was nothing on the line in any of Sandow's challenges except pride, so it's disturbing that Sheamus would be so quick to anger. For several weeks straight, Sandow would prove Sheamus wasn't incredibly smart, then Sheamus would get mad and try to kick him in the head. Sandow would either dodge out of the way, or he would get kicked in the head. Finally everything came to a head when Sandow was in the ring not really doing harm to anyone (although putting on a masturbatory show that everyone hated, except those of us who thought it was FUCKING HILARIOUS) playing chess with, allegedly, "Deep Blue", which was actually just a monitor. So then Sheamus comes out and destroys the monitor by kicking it, and Sandow understandably gets pissed over the property damage and attacks Sheamus and leaves him lying in the ring.
Here's a thought: what if Sandow had actually done something to, you know, JUSTIFY SHEAMUS TRYING TO MURDERKICK HIM? Sandow was very straightforward with his point - Sheamus failed each mental challenge he presented, so he got to call himself smarter than Sheamus. Sheamus did little to refute this with logic and reason, he just went straight for the "Kick it in the head" option, therefore further proving Sandow's point that he's little more than a muscular thug incapable of thinking out how to solve problems he's presented with. If Sandow had done something to further push Sheamus into taking that option, such as by rejecting his attempts at being a good sport, then I could give this storyline a pass. As is, it's not very good, but it's better than the one with Mark Henry last month.
Intercontinental Championship Triple-Threat Match: Curtis Axel vs. The Miz vs. Wade Barrett (c)
Poor Wade. One day he shall win a match of importance.
This match was, of course, originally going to involve Fandango, but he suffered a concussion and will not compete in the match. As a result, Paul Heyman opportunistically inserted Axel into the open spot in the match. Axel's involvement in the storyline was rushed and never really built up, but not really to the detraction of anything. The build-up between the original three was minimalist - Miz and Barrett would take what chances they could to sneak attack their opponents, and Fandango just tried to dance whenever he could. There was little of substance to anything, but there wasn't anything bad to it, either. This is pretty easily the most disposable match on the card.
Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn (c)
In the span of ten minutes, a seemingly worthless story about Kaitlyn having a secret admirer suddenly transformed into the best build to a match on the card. AJ revealed herself as a secret admirer and that the entire thing was a ploy to get a psychological advantage over her former best friend. The segment was acted beautifully by everyone involved - AJ was absolutely fantastic, and Big E Langston and Kaitlyn played their parts pretty well, each having to portray a decent range of emotions in a short span of time. This is the match with the most history behind it - more than the Jericho-Punk match, as the two have crossed paths in recent history but have not been connected consistently, like Kaitlyn and AJ have. Honestly I could go on about this match for a while, but somebody else has already said everything else I possibly could. I'm looking forward to seeing this match and, hopefully, seeing this feud continue.
United States Championship Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
This is the match of leftovers in the "The Shield vs. Enemies of The Shield" feud that also includes Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, and, uh. I don't really care about it. It'll be fun to see Ambrose have a big one-on-one match against a guy significantly bigger than him and hopefully find a way to win (I can guarantee he won't lose the championship), but it's clear that this match is only here to keep Kane involved with the bigger storyline. It's a match made from necessity, and obviously so.
Tag Team Championship Match: Not Team Hell No For Some Reason (Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton) vs. The Shield (Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins) (c)
In kayfabe, this match was made for the dumbest possible reasons. Kane and Daniel Bryan have been on the outs recently, but that's never stopped them from competing as a team before, so the fact that they should be separated now, of all times, as Bryan heads into a match for the titles, is stupid. In reality Bryan and Orton are partners because there's going to be some sort of storyline built between them. That has to be it. And in fairness, the fact that the two have been involved with each other the last several weeks - and all while trying to take down The Shield, as Bryan becomes a toxic presence due to his inferiority complex - is a good touch. I don't buy for a second that The Shield could possibly lose the titles, but I'm not ready to pass judgment on this whole deal just yet. It feels like the opening chapter of something else, and I need to know what that is before I decide whether or not I like where it's going.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler (c)
Yayyy, Dolph's back and we can build a feud between he and Del- oh look time for the pay-per-view.
Yeah, uh...there's nothing really to talk about, is there? And it's not even really the fault of the writers (although the fact that they couldn't think of anything for Del Rio to do beyond wrestle Langston 800 times in the past several weeks is pretty unimpressive), so I'm just gonna give this one a pass.
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk
If this show were taking place anywhere but Chicago, I would entertain the idea that Punk isn't going to show. He might not anyway, but I strongly doubt it. This is a weird feud, because Jericho is pissed over things that Punk has supposedly been doing when he has absolutely no means of knowing what Punk has actually been doing for the past couple months. Heyman is still talking Punk up, because that's what he does, but for all Jericho knows, Punk has recently become the humblest guy on the planet. Jericho's actions are those of a bored, bored man who has nothing better to do with his time than to bother people with much more important things to do, then bully them in uncomfortably sexual manners because apparently that's the only way good guys can confront Heyman anymore. Jericho has been a godawful good guy since his latest return, which is par for the course for the top good guys in WWE but seems even worse in Jericho's case because the usually far more interesting bad guy he's involved with isn't there to make his segments bearable. I admit that I am very curious what will happen when Punk shows up, because I sense a tweak to his character is coming.
WWE Championship Three Stages of Hell Match: John Cena (c) vs. Ryback
Heel Ryback was so good leading into Extreme Rules. He was. Then for about the first half of the build to Payback, he was still good. He was putting fuckers through tables left and right and calling himself the devil. Then he and Cena shouted at each other to shut up like a couple of arguing nine-year-olds. Rumor has it that the creative team has admitted to being completely out of ideas on what to do with Cena and Ryback. There has been no exploration of the conflict between the two characters since Extreme Rules, it's all been focused on putting over the stipulation. It really seems to me like Ryback knows what his character is, but the writers don't and Cena doesn't either. If WWE's writers can't squeeze eight weeks material out of "Horrifying monster believes he's the best wrestler in the company and deserves to have everything he wants and has a personal vendetta against the champion due to perceived slights against him that have occurred over the past half a year" then Ryback feuds are going to be very boring for a very long time. The feud between the two of them hasn't even ESCALATED since the Last Man Standing match. You would think that Ryback would be royally pissed that he lost his shot at the championship on a technicality, why isn't he jumping Cena every five seconds? Why does Cena seem to be taking Ryback so much less seriously now? Nobody working on this story seems to care. They just want to have their huge blow-off match and get the hell out of dodge.