The disappointment comes from the two major championship matches. Dolph Ziggler will miss his first scheduled pay-per-view defense of the World Heavyweight Championship due to a concussion sustained last week on Smackdown. Instead of the triple threat ladder match for the title, Alberto Del Rio will battle Jack Swagger in an “I Quit” match to determine the No. 1 contender. And Achilles Heel is not overly excited about the WWE Championship match, with John Cena defending the title against Ryback in a Last Man Standing match.
How can Extreme Rules be a good show when one major title match won’t take place and the other may just be OK? Because there is a steel cage that will serve as the true main event, and there’s a chance for the undercard to be terrific.
Let’s start with the main event, which features Triple H against Brock Lesnar inside a steel cage. There are wildly divergent opinions on the extremely physical match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 29. Some thought it was terrific; others found it boring. This time, with their match in the main event slot instead of being sandwiched between the outstanding Undertaker-C.M. Punk match and the highly anticipated Rock-Cena match, as it was at WrestleMania, I expect Triple H and Lesnar to knock this one out of the park. Adding to the quality of the match is the uncertainty of the outcome, although I’d give Lesnar the payback victory.
The Greek god of wrestling doesn’t expect the Cena-Ryback match or the No. 1 contender match to be bad. A “Last Man Standing” match plays to Ryback’s strengths, particularly his power game. Cena’s ability to adapt to his opponents is an underrated skill. He’s had good matches with big powerhouses before – a 4-star match against Umaga stands out in my mind – and I expect him to do the same with Ryback . Cena will take a lot of punishment, but should prevail.
The problem with the Del Rio-Swagger match is the fans may be disappointed it’s not a title match featuring Ziggler. That’s a lot for Del Rio and Swagger to overcome. I expect their match to be good, with Zeb Colter and Ricardo Rodriguez involved in the “I Quit” portion. The only question is whether they can get the fans into their match.
The conventional wisdom is that the top matches make or break a pay-per-view. That was certainly true at WrestleMania 29. But, in this instance, I think the undercard will elevate the event.
Not surprisingly, The Shield, which has been terrific, is involved in two of the undercard matches. Dean Ambrose challenges Kofi Kingston for the United States Championship; Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns challenge Kane and Daniel Bryan for the tag team titles in a Tornado-style match (all four wrestles in the ring at the same time instead of tagging in and out).
Ambrose and Kingston should produce a fantastic match. Kingston has had excellent matches against former U.S. champ Antonio Cesaro and World champ Dolph Ziggler in recent weeks. Ambrose has had excellent matches against the Undertaker and Daniel Bryan. Putting the title on Ambrose would be interesting, especially if Rollins and Reigns win the tag team belts, but I wouldn’t end Kingston’s title reign this quickly. I’d go with a Kingston victory that still makes Ambrose look strong. Either way, this should be a tremendous match.
The Tornado rules tag team match should also be outstanding. Kane and Bryan have developed into one of the best tag teams in WWE history. Seriously. The Shield has produced terrific matches. Although Ambrose will be missing from the equation, Rollins and Reigns provide a nice speed-and-power combination to match Bryan and Kane. I wouldn’t be shocked by a title change. The question would be – if Ambrose doesn’t defeat Kingston – whether all three Shield members would be eligible to defend the belts.
There are also some interesting matches not involving The Shield. Sheamus and Mark Henry square off in what should be a physically brutal strap match; Randy Orton battles Big Show in an Extreme Rules match; and Chris Jericho faces Fandango. Jericho needs a victory to keep this feud going. Sheamus should outsmart Henry and touch all the corners without Henry realizing he’s doing it. As for Orton and Big Show, Extreme Rules is in St. Louis, Orton’s hometown, and we know how Vince McMahon seems to love having wrestlers lose in their hometown.
All of the undercard matches should range from good to excellent. There isn’t a dud in the bunch. Even the pre-show match, pitting Miz against Cody Rhodes, should be good. Rhodes has been on a roll lately, with a string of good matches (especially against Orton on RAW two weeks ago). I would keep his momentum going with a victory over Miz.
Achilles Heel recommends buying Extreme Rules. You might be pleasantly surprised.
MISTAKEN IDENTITY: TNA has reportedly fined Austin Aries for his conduct after ring announcer Christy Hemme mistakenly introduced Aries and Bobby Roode as Kazarian and Christopher Daniels. Aries backed Hemme into a corner and, as she made the correction, he stood on the ring ropes with his crotch directly in front of Hemme’s face.
There is a question of whether this incident was real or a work. If it was real, Aries deserved to be fined. As a heel, he should absolutely act insulted and berate Hemme. But when he physically backed her into the corner and placed his crotch in front of her face, that was over the line.
If this was a work, it was well done. But I doubt it was a work. First, Hemme isn’t a very good ring announcer. Second, she’s not that good an actress to make a mistake look like an accident. Third, TNA isn’t very subtle. If this were planned, the announcers would have been screeching about Aries’ conduct toward Hemme.
SLAMMIVERSARY: TNA finally started filling out its card for Slammiversary, which will take place June 2 at Agganis Arena at Boston University.
In addition to the previously announced World Championship match between Bully Ray and Sting – billed as Sting’s last shot at the title – TNA has added five matches. Kurt Angle battles A.J. Styles, with Styles’ loyalties in question; Devon defends the Television Championship against Joseph Park; and Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez defend the Tag Team Championship against Christopher Daniels and Kazarian, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode, and James Storm and a surprise partner. There will also be a surprise participant in the X-Division Championship triple threat match that also includes champion Kenny King and Chris Sabin. Gail Kim takes on Taryn Terrell in a Knockouts match.
Leave it to TNA to have two matches involving “surprise” participants, but Slammiversary looks considerably better than it did one week ago.
UNPREDICTABLE CELEBRATION: Achilles Heel extends his wishes for a happy 75th birthday to the “Unpredictable” Johnny Rodz, one of the great mid-card wrestlers in the WWWF in the 1970s and early ‘80s.
CHAMPIONSHIP JINX: Only President Obama has had a worse time the last week or two than wrestling’s world champions. Last week the Greek god of wrestling told you about Dolph Ziggler’s concussion and Ring of Honor champion Jay Briscoe’s homophobic Twitter comments. Saturday, it was Combat Zone Wrestling world champion Masada who was struck by misfortune.
Masada suffered a knee injury during Women Superstars Uncensored for Queen and King of the Ring Tournament, which preceded Combat Zone Wrestling’s Proving Grounds card later that evening. Masada’s Proving Grounds match against Jake Crist was canceled, and the CZW champ will have knee surgery.
If I were TNA World champion Bully Ray, I would avoid walking under any ladders and avoid black cats.
MOVIN’ ON UP: As Achilles told you would happen, Sami Callihan lost his match against Jessicka Havok on Saturday afternoon and defeated D.J. Hyde on Saturday night. What the Greek god of wrestling didn’t reveal, so as not to spoil the surprise, is that this was likely Callihan’s final appearance for CZW.
Callihan, who has developed into a star on the independent scene, has reportedly signed a developmental deal with WWE.
TAG TEAM MADNESS: CHIKARA is in Chicago on Saturday for a doubleheader. The afternoon show (1 p.m.) is a 16-team tag team tournament featuring the Young Bucks, The Spectral Envoy, the Batiri, The Colony, The Hearth Throbs and the women’s team of Heidi Lovelace and Saturyne. The evening show (7:30) features Grand champion Eddie Kingston against Archibald Peck and Colt Cabana vs. Icarus.
CHIKARA returns to the Trocadero in Philadelphia for an Internet pay-per-view event on June 2. Icarus will receive a title shot at the Grand champion, the Spectral Envoy will square off with Colony: Xtreme Force in a six-man tag team bout, and Saturyne battles “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti.
LOST CAUSE: Wade Barrett’s loss to the returning Sin Cara on Main Event would have meant more if Intercontinental champion Barrett and then-U.S. champion Antonio Cesaro hadn’t lost about 10 non-title bouts in the last two months.