There are some real gems here, with two strong world title matches and a totally serviceable Last Man Standing match between Punk & Orton. The title matches are both marred by outside interference though, while appearances from the Anonymous GM and turn-of-the-decade Heel Cole serve as a great reminder of everything wrong with WWE in 2011.
- Randy Orton vs CM Punk
- Kofi Kingston vs Sheamus
- Tag Team Strap Match
- Rey Mysterio vs Cody Rhodes
- Layla vs Michelle McCool
- Christian vs Alberto del Rio
- Tag Team Title Match
- John Cena vs The Miz vs John Morrison
WWE Extreme Rules
May 1, 2011
— We’re back with another Extreme Rules Retro Review, this time with the third annual event taking place less than a month after WrestleMania 27. Unlike some of the others in our list, I remember this time period in WWE very well. The Miz was still WWE Champion, John Cena and The Rock had already announced their year-long build to the main event of WrestleMania 28, and Edge had just been forced to retire, leaving a void in the Smackdown roster and a vacant World Heavyweight Championship.
— Josh Matthews is our lead commentator joined by Hall of Famers Jerry “The King” Lawler and Booker T. We get a shot of Michael Cole’s plexiglass bunker in the corner, but he’s not opening the show as per usual as he has a match later on this evening. Oh lord…
RANDY ORTON vs. CM PUNK IN A LAST MAN STANDING MATCH
It’s a bold move opening with a Last Man Standing match. CM Punk comes out with the New Nexus but is interrupted by a chirp from the Anonymous Raw General Manager (gross…), who announces that the New Nexus have been banned from ringside.
Orton goes on the attack right away, taking his opponent to the mat and stomping away on his shoulders, knees – anything he can. Punk got a kendo stick from under the ring and blasted him with it several times, followed by a simple back suplex before making the ref count. Booker T wisely brings up that Orton is way too experienced to stay down off that move, just as the Viper catches Punk off the top rope with the kendo stick.
Orton fires off with uppercuts one after another, and a signature backbreaker. Punk counters the Hangman’s DDT and sends him face first into an exposed turnbuckle. He nails a running knee strike in the corner and tries for a GTS, but Orton shakes him off and sends him through a chair that had been wedged in between the ropes. He follows to the floor and delivers a snap powerslam into the barricade, and takes a breather as the ref begins to count.
The Viper clears off one of the announce tables but gets caught with a big kick between the eyes, going down hard. Both guys are starting to show signs of this hard-fought battle, as they slow things down a bit.
Ortons hits a back suplex into the barricade and sets up for the RKO, but Punk sweeps his legs and finally connects with the GTS. The ref gets to a count of 9 before both men are back up. More weapons come into play and Orton takes a suplex on top of a chair, but still gets back up. Punk tries for a Russian Leg Sweep through the chair, but is instead caught with the RKO outta nowhere, barely using the ropes to hold himself up and avoid getting counted out.
Let’s go to the finish. The last few minutes slow down considerably with lots of counting in between big moves. Punk wrapped a chair around his opponent’s throat and slammed him into the ring post – a move Lawler deemed “too extreme” for this show. Orton hit an RKO on top of the cleared announce table, but of course it didn’t break. Punk hit a GTS using the ring steps instead of his knee, and it still wasn’t enough. He went to the top rope but Orton struck him with the kendo stick about a dozen times, hit an RKO from the top rope, and finally won the match.
This was a really good brawl. I still don’t know that I’d ever open a PPV with a Last Man Standing match by virtue of them being generally slow-paced, and that’s not usually what people are looking for first thing, but I thought they kept the pace up as much as possible until the last couple of minutes, and for the most part the crowd was into it. Orton gets the win here, but within a few months it would be Punk sitting on top of the entrance ramp with a “pipebomb”.
— U.S. Champion Sheamus is pacing backstage. Teddy Long approaches and informs him that he’ll defend the title tonight in a Tables Match against Kofi Kingston. Sheamus complains that Kofi isn’t even from the U.S. and demands to see his brith certificate. Nobody laughs. Yikes…
KOFI KINGSTON vs. SHEAMUS (c) IN A TABLES MATCH FOR THE WWE U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP
Nothing pretty early on as both guys throw hands and brawl around ringside, setting up an early table that didn’t get used. Sheamus threw his surprise challenger hard into the barricade and set up a second table, as Booker T rants on commentary that Kofi could be a major player for WWE if he just took things seriously and stopped messing around. One of them is literally competing in a Tables Match right now, and it’s not Booker T, so…
Sheamus connects with a battering ram shoulder tackle over the top rope, before introducing a third table into the match, which he rams hard into Kingston’s ribs. It got set up in the corner and the champ tried to run him through it, but Kofi struggled free and hit a jumping double stomp to buy himself some more time. Sheamus kept trying for his big spots including a Celtic Cross and the Brogue Kick, each time towards a table, and each time Kofi found a way to narrowly miss losing the match.
Kofi hits Trouble in Paradise at about the 9-minute mark, sending the champion to the floor, where he used a table to slowly pull himself back to his feet. He finally manages to stand, but Kingston flies off the top rope all the way to the floor, crashing through both him and the table! Kofi wins! We have a new U.S. Champion!
This certainly wasn’t bad, but it also never really got off the ground. They planned out a lot of cool, flashy ways for Kofi to save himself and the fans reacted to those spots, but not much else. Sheamus wasn’t very hot at the time, and Kofi was coming off a 1-minute throwaway at WrestleMania. Still, I liked the brawling early on and the finish was tremendous. Both guys worked hard with what they were given, and I don’t really blame either of them for it not being better.
— R-Truth is interviewed backstage and is screaming about not being included on the show tonight, despite being “this close” to being a part of the steel cage main event. He rants about there being a conspiracy, although struggles to spell it, and then makes fun of John Morrison’s breath. He claims Cena and Miz don’t want him in the cage match tonight, and Morrison stole his opportunity to be world champion.
JACK SWAGGER & MICHAEL COLE vs. JERRY LAWLER & JIM ROSS IN A TAG TEAM COUNTRY WHIPPIN’ MATCH
Sure. They let Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler go 14 minutes at WrestleMania and it was one of the greatest atrocities ever performed in a wrestling ring, so why not throw Jim Ross into the mix and let them do it again! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Let me tell ya something. If Stone Cold can’t get something over, it’s not getting over. Period. Say a prayer for me lads, I may not make it through this one…
Cole comes out covered in bubble wrap. He calls himself an award-winning journalist and a former war correspondent, who isn’t afraid of a couple of old, incontinent retirees.
Jerry starts whipping Swagger with his strap as soon as the bell rings, and the former world champion runs away and tags in his partner. Cole comes in and gives King a cheap shot, showing him the strap couldn’t hurt him because he’s covered in bubble wrap. He spends too much time taunting and slapping his belly, for some reason, so Lawler just drops him with a right hook and rips off all the protective wrap.
Swagger attacks from behind and ties King to the ropes with his own strap, stomping away on him mercilessly. Eventually the referee gets the Hall of Famer free and he dodges a top rope splash from the big man. Jim Ross finally gets involved and actually puts Swagger in the ankle lock, forcing Cole to tag in to “save” his partner. JR goes crazy on him with shots from the strap, and runs through him with shoulder tackle (ish). He gives Swagger a low blow for good measure, because apparently Ross is just a BEAST in this match, but Cole rolls him up from behind with a handful of pants to win.
I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I would really like to just go back to pretending none of this ever happened, to be honest with you. I’ll give them one bit of praise: it’s not quite as bad as the WrestleMania abomination. 7 minutes that feels like an hour, is better than 15 minutes that feels like a decade.
REY MYSTERIO vs. CODY RHODES IN A FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE MATCH
I really hope this match can save the day, because that last segment really sucked out all the happiness from my soul.
Things spill outside immediately as they trade wild rights and lefts up the entrance ramp. Cody gets thrown into the entrance set and jumps off the stage to take a breather, but Mysterio goes flying to the floor to take him out! The lucha legend controls the first few minutes as they fight through the fans to the very top of the arena, smashing Cody against every railing and barricade he can find.
Rhodes hit a headbutt using his protective mask, then locked in a Boston Crab using the metal handrail for leverage. The punches continue flying as they fight deeper into the belly of the arena, past fans waiting in line for merch and overpriced arena hotdogs. Cody hit a Disaster Kick jumping off a counter, but it wasn’t enough to win.
Mysterio jumped up onto a bar and hit a diving crossbody. They’re definitely using the environment! Eventually the two fight back out into the crowd, where Mysterio gets hip tossed over a barricade and into the steel steps. Cody drops him with a facebuster, again into the steps, for another nearfall.
Winding towards the end here, Mysterio mounts a comeback with a springboard crossbody, then flies off the top rope with a missile… headbutt? It’s effective! He sets up for the 619 but has to settle for a diving legdrop over the ropes instead. Cody kicks him in the ribs multiple times and hits a nasty Alabama Slam.
The crowd begins to chant “619” loudly, and Cody snaps, stomping a mudhole in the corner and screaming at them to shut up. Great improv work right there from the young Rhodes. Mysterio spit some kind of green mist at him, the commentators had no idea what it was, he hit the 619 and won the match out of nowhere.
Well, it wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. There was very little “wrestling” here in this old fashioned brawl, as much of the action was spent fighting through the crowd and even out into the arena. They did a good job of using the environment to their advantage and coming up with plenty of clever spots. The intensity was there. I didn’t much care for the finish, and I could have used a few extra minutes there at the end to really turn up the heat in the ring. Good, but not great.
— Layla enters a room where the entire women’s division is just standing there in a clump, for some reason. She admits that none of them like her very much, but tonight might be her last night in WWE so she’s come to apologize. Kelly Kelly says they might not like her, but they like Michelle McCool a whole lot less, and wish her luck in the next match.
— Michael Cole has rejoined us on commentary, taking a seat in his plexiglass prison. He immediately compares himself to Batman, and the rest of the announce team is already annoyed with him. On a totally unrelated note, I just checked my watch to see how much of this show is left…
LAYLA vs. MICHELLE MCCOOL IN A ‘LOSER LEAVES TOWN’ MATCH
Michelle attacks from behind before the match actually begins, taking her former tag team partner to the floor and sending her crashing into the barricade several times. Things officially get underway and they go right back to the floor, with Michelle kicking her head into the commentary table. She misses a big boot and Layla hits a dropkick, but runs into a belly-to-belly suplex.
They end up brawling to the floor and climb on top of the barricade. I’m still not exactly sure what happened, but they grabbed at each other’s hair and just sort of fell to the floor. Layla hits a really interesting stunner off the top rope – which commentary incorrectly called a counter – but it wasn’t enough. Michelle rallies back with a superkick, tries for some kind of powerbomb, but Layla dropped her with a nasty neckbreaker.
I don’t know how this happens, but Layla has hit all the big moves in this match, and yet every single time Michelle is right back in control. In the end they awkwardly traded some counter attempts until McCool rolled into what was essentially the Styles Clash, but Layla rolled her up for the surprise three to win the match.
I remember thinking this match was excellent at the time, and to their credit, this was one of the better Divas matches of that era. Unfortunately, it’s also the best match involving women so far of any of the three Extreme Rules events. All the moves and the way it was laid out was fine, even good in places, but Michelle could have sold a hell of a lot more. Maybe the same match at a different time, given a few more minutes to breath, could have been better. It’s pretty telling that this was the most important Divas program of that time, and they only got 5 minutes to work.
— Layla starts crying and leaves her former friend in the ring, who also starts crying. The crowd chants “Na Na Na Na!” and she sits there crying on the mat until some unfamiliar music (at the time) starts playing. Kharma is here! The former Awesome Kong slowly walks to the ring laughing at a horrified Candice, who tries to escape but gets murdered with a double underhook facebuster! The women’s roster is show in the back watching Kharma destroy the former champion on the monitor. Not one of them shows any kind of emotion.
ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. CHRISTIAN IN A LADDER MATCH FOR THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
I remember this match, and it’s a special one. The story going in was that Edge retained the World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto del Rio at WrestleMania, but was forced to retire the following week due to needing neck surgery that would tragically and unexpectedly end his in-ring career. Smackdown became a mad scramble to crown the next champion, with it coming down to del Rio taking on Edge’s lifelong best friend and tag team partner Christian, with both men looking to win their first world championship. Let’s get to it!
Loud “let’s go Christian!” chants kick things off. Del Rio wrestles him to the mat a few times and tries to keep things grounded, but Christian comes right back with hard slaps, before grinding his opponent’s face into the top rope. Del Rio beats him up and kicks him under the ring so we can’t see him anymore. Commentary correctly points out that it makes no sense, as Christian can now pop up anywhere, with anything – which he does almost immediately, dropkicking a ladder into Del Rio’s face.
Things slow down quite a bit for several minutes, as its mostly Del Rio in control while he meanders around the ring, periodically inflicting enough damage to remain in control and setting up a few ladders around ringside. Christian gets tossed off the top rope but lands on a ladder, saving himself, and hurls himself back to the floor to take down his opponent.
The crowd comes alive as Christian begins his first climb up the ladder towards the title, but they’re quickly disappointed by a recovering ADR. Lots of counters back and forth with both going for finishers, ending with Captain Charisma hitting a Flapjack into a propped up ladder in the corner. The fans are responding well to the slow pace and gradual build, getting louder and louder as he gets closer to the title. They’re having a good match!
Del Rio stops a climb once again and has a mini ladder with him. He hits an armbreaker from about 8 feet in the air, which has to hurt, before just laying in dozens of stiff right hands. He tried for a powerbomb off the ladder, but Christian rolled through into a hurricanrana that sent him flying over the ropes to the apron. A big back body drop sent him right back into the ring, crashing hard through a ladder on the mat. We’re at the point of the match where things slow way down, as both guys are dead and sell the effects of the match in between huge spots using the ladders.
Ricardo Rodriguez gave his guy a steel chair, but Christian had it scouted and sent him running into the ring post. He called for the spear and the fans went absolutely crazy when he hit it, paying homage to Edge. He nearly got to title when Del Rio hung him up in the rungs of the ladder, awkwardly trapping him. The biggest spot of the match came with Christian laying out on the ladder that had been propped up between the ring and the commentary table, and Del Rio trying for a top rope elbow drop, but crashing and burning through the ladder.
Christian once again got to the title, but Brodus Clay ran out and pulled him down. Christian beat him with the tiny ladder, but turned around into a dropkick from Del Rio, who had recovered. A cross armbreaker got locked in using the ladder for extra leverage, and this one may be over. Edge came out in a Jeep honking his horn, distracting ADR who got thrown off the ladder, crashing into Brodus. Christian climbs, and we have a new World Heavyweight Champion.
This is simultaneously everything right and wrong with WWE in 2011. Christian and Del Rio had a tremendous match, but as soon as Brodus Clay hit the ring I was taken out of the moment, and Edge ripped me back into reality yet again by literally honking a car horn. There had to have been a better way of doing that without all the distracting and, frankly, childish interferences. While the match was great up until that point, one thing I noticed was that Del Rio had zero heat. A year before he was the hottest up-and-coming star in the business, but the Rumble win and losing to Edge (and total lack of personality) brought everything to a halt. They would further ruin him with a Money in the Bank briefcase later in the summer, before foolishly inserting him into the Punk/Cena program, killing WWE’s hottest feud in a decade. But hey, this match was pretty darn good while it lasted…
— In the locker room Alex Riley tries to give The Miz a pep talk before tonight’s WWE Championship match, but does a terrible job. He talks about the odds being against him, and that if he looses he’ll be guaranteed a rematch. Miz shuts him up and storms off.
EZEKIEL JACKSON & WADE BARRETT vs. KANE & BIG SHOW (c) IN A LUMBERJACK MATCH FOR THE WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
Barrett was the Intercontinental Champion at the time, which explains why there is no title defense on this card. In the lumberjacks we have a few other members of The Corre (cringe…), Evan Bourne, Santino, Darren Young, Tyler Reks, Vlladmir Kozlov – and hey, some guys who are still with the company, The Usos and Titus O’Neil!
Things turn into chaos very early. Kane bullies Barrett around the ring and tags in Big Show, who does the same. They spill to the floor and the giant starts hulring jumberjacks inside while Kane drops them with kicks and even a chokeslam. He turns around into a huge tackle from Big Zeke, turning the tide momentarily.
Kane eventually battles back and the two collide with stereo clotheslines. Hot tags made and again all four guys roll outside and start brawling with the lumberjacks. It takes literally everyone to throw Show back in, and then Zeke picks him up on his own for a giant powerslam. I’m shocked they didn’t make a much bigger deal out of that – it was huge! Barrett tagged himself in, pissing off his partner, then ran right into a chokeslam from Show. 1…2…3. The champions retain.
Well that was certainly a match. Short and sweet. I actually enjoyed Kane and Big Show as a tag team. Realistically, who is gonna ever beat those guys? It’s awesome. I had fun with this. It’s not a good match, but I had fun with it.
THE MIZ (c) vs. JOHN MORRISON vs. JOHN CENA IN A CAGE MATCH FOR THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP
Commentary reminds us that Cena has a 33% chance of winning this match, because that’s totally how professional wrestling works. We’re told it’s been almost a full year since he’s been WWE Champion, and in comparison, this will be Morrison’s first ever opportunity at the title.
Miz tries to escape right away but of course that’s not going to work. The other two work together briefly to work over the champ, until Morrison nearly steals it with an early roll-up on Cena. Miz blasts him from behind and sends both guys into the steel, multiple times, for some polite booing.
Cena rallies back with rights and lefts and catches the champ with a DDT, but Morrison once again rolls him up for a two-count. Miz dropped him hard on the top rope and began fighting with Cena on the side of the cage, trading kidney punches until Cena hit an Avalanche Bulldog from the top rope. The familiar “let’s go Cena, Cena sucks” chants begin to set in.
Shoulder tackle. Shoulder tackle. Spin-out powerbomb. The Five Knuckle Shuffle connects and he sets up to put Morrison away with the Attitude Adjustment, but Miz comes from behind with the Skull Crushing Finale to take him out. Miz and Morrison fight all the way to the top of the cage, trading precarious punches from 20 feet in the air. The champion nearly escapes, but Cena recovers and sends them both crashing down with a double Superplex from the middle of the cage, with Miz landing hard on the back of his neck!
Morrison finds his second wind and hits a Disaster Kick off the cage, taking out Miz before dropping Cena with a one-man Spanish Fly – not a move you saw very often in 2011. He begins to climb but is quickly stopped by Miz, who nearly kills him with a running powerbomb into the cage, followed by a running boot to the face.
Cena applies the STF on the champion, who crawls to the corner and nearly escapes out the door. The two end up brawling on the ring steps, both a literal step away from winning, but Morrison drags them back into the ring. Another battle atop the cage ends with him almost escaping, but getting crotched on the door and sent flying with a Monkey Flip from Cena.
Things finally start to slow down a beat as all three guys are spent. After a few minutes of all three guys slowly brawling on top of the cage, Morrison puts an end to it with Starship Pain off the top, taking out both guys. He had the match won, but R-Truth came out and smashed the cage door into his face, before entering the cage and putting the boots to Morrison in the corner. Cena tries to get involved but takes a Lie Detector for his trouble. Morrison gets the Lie Detector as well, before finally taking his leave with all three guys down.
Eventually they stir, and Cena finds himself brawling with Miz on top of the cage yet again. The champ manages to power him back into the ring and tried for a top rope Skull Crushing Finale, but Cena fought his way out and hit the Avalanche Attitude Adjustment! 1…2…3. John Cena is once again the WWE Champion.
I always thought they missed an opportunity here to turn John Morrison into a star, and by not pulling the trigger it kind of showed that WWE had no intentions of really taking him seriously. But in retrospect, within two months of this match CM Punk was WWE Champion so it’s hard to complain… Oh, the match? I loved it, for the most part. I figured it would be really slow, and I wasn’t ready for another slow world title match so quickly after Christian/Del Rio, but the addition of a third guy really made all the difference. They worked at a brisk pace right up until the last couple minutes, utilized the cage well enough, and everyone worked hard to put on an entertaining main event. I’m not big on both major title matches featuring so much interference.
There are some real gems here, with two strong world title matches and a totally serviceable Last Man Standing match between Punk and Orton. The title matches are both marred by outside interference though, while appearances from the Anonymous GM and turn-of-the-decade Heel Michael Cole serve as a great reminder of everything wrong with WWE in 2011.