To fans of hardcore wrestling and the glory days of ECW, something like Extreme Rules feels almost sacrilegious. To the likes Paul Heyman, one might think he would take offense or at least consider this a gesture of mockery to what was once his revolutionary idea. But The Advocate is, first and foremost, a promoter. As someone who understands the ebbs and flows of the wrestling business and cultural tastes, Paul Heyman doesn’t dwell on the past. He only looks forward to the next venture. Some of his former ECW employees, however, can’t help but feel betrayed by this bastardized version of Extreme wrestling. Others feel taken advantage of and forgotten by the modern wrestling world despite sacrificing their bodies for this style. A Pay-Per-View called “Extreme Rules” is a watered down tribute.
Knowing what we know now about head trauma and the lasting effects of concussions, even the most bloodthirsty wrestling fan doesn’t like to see their favorite performers taken out of action and placed on the disabled list. And, needless to say, brain injury is taken that much more seriously. Plenty of recent WWE Superstars have been forced into early retirement due to the risk of fatal injury. Edge and Daniel Bryan were both at the height of their careers when WWE’s doctors forbid them from wrestling ever again. And that is a good thing. We want our entertainers to be healthy. It’s also an enormous liability to allow them to wrestling following the Chris Benoit incident.
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Certainly, there are plenty of extreme moments in the modern WWE landscape, but it’s usually trusted in the hands of the most skills veterans and not left in the hands of the scourges of the wrestling industry; the rebels of sports entertainment. Even though you’ll see high flying action, superstars crashing through tables and colliding with ladders, the injuries are almost kept intentionally internal. No blood. No chair shots to the head. But the body is as fair game as ever. Needn’t you worry. There will still be wrestlers willing to heave their body off of a ladder through a sanitized, WWE approved table.
This isn’t to take anything away from the audacity of current wrestlers. Quite the contrary. The irony is that they have some of the greatest athletes to ever grace a squared circle destroying their bodies while still attempting to be safe; or creating the illusion of safety. The whole booking of tonight’s Extreme Rules makes fun of itself. Dean Ambrose is in a match with the Miz that is the opposite of an Extreme Rules match. If Ambrose gets disqualified, he loses the Intercontinental Title. That’s the stipulation. This should lead to some fun scenarios of Ambrose going out of his way to not get disqualified, as well as Miz taking advantage of the fact that the stipulation doesn’t apply to him. Sometimes, when a match seems to have a boring stipulation on paper, it means that the two participants have something crafty planned. The Intercontinental Championship match should be a success if the A-Lister and the Lunatic Fringe can creatively work their way around this inconvenient stipulation.
Another confusing stipulation is the Tag Team Championship match. While The Hardy Boyz chose this match, it really doesn’t suit their reputation. On their returning Extreme Rules match, you would think that they would choose a ladder match, the weapon they’re known for; or a TLC match (since they put the “L” in TLC). But no...they went for a classic Steel Cage match. Sure, it should be exciting, but it just doesn’t make much sense given their history. Although this decision is suspect, The Hardy Boyz in their first hardcore match since WrestleMania shouldn’t disappoint.
And finally, we have the Fatal 5-Way for the #1 Contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship. This match was pretty hastily thrown together after Braun Strowman was taken out of action due to a minor elbow injury. Strowman and Brock was an appropriate booking and was well timed, but the fickle gods of wrestling fate played a dirty hand. For now, we find ourselves with an Extreme Rules Main Event between Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, and Bray Wyatt. Considering Wyatt seemed to be challenging Balor prior to Braun’s injury, I see them going forward with that plan after tonight. And Samoa Joe is an unlikely challenger to The Beast’s throne, as that would contradict basic heel vs. face wrestling physics. So, we’re left with rematches between either Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns. It’s not the freshest idea that we’re left with, but it’ll have to do. But anything can happen between now and Summerslam.
It’s a bit strange that Smackdown’s upcoming exclusive Pay-Per-View: Money in the Bank is probably more “extreme” than Extreme Rules. It’s an altogether better event than Extreme Rules, and much more exciting as far as having a potential for gratuitous violence. The MITB card is already coming along with greater anticipation, including the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. But even with our distilled version of Extreme Rules stipulations, we want the best for our beloved Superstars. It’s not easy to balance such a physically detrimental sport while trying to protect your talent. So, within the bounds of PG entertainment, the New Era will make the most of their hardcore atmosphere, to the best of their ability.