Retro Review: WWE Extreme Rules 2012 – John Cena Slays the Beast!


This is largely a 3-match show. The good news is those 3 matches are Brock Lesnar's return and two world title fights. Punk had a tremendous brawl in his hometown, Cena had a match so good he got Chicago to cheer for him, and Daniel Bryan wrestled an instant classic with Sheamus for the Big Gold Belt. Very little else is really worth your time though...

  • Falls Count Anywhere: Orton vs Kane6
  • Brodus Clay vs Dolph Ziggler2
  • Tables Match: Big Show vs Cody Rhodes2.5
  • Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus9
  • Street Fight: CM Punk vs Jericho8.5
  • Nikki Bella vs Layla4
  • Extreme Rules: Brock Lesnar vs John Cena9
  • User Ratings (5 Votes)5.2

APRIL 29, 2012

— I attended this show live in 2012 during the midst of CM Punk’s WWE Championship reign, but never went back to watch it on tape. There was a palpable buzz in the air for Brock Lesnar’s return. What I really remember was the Anime Central convention being in town that same weekend, with tens of thousands of attendees, and the start of the mass “YES!” chants that were everywhere, really for the first time. This was a great show live. Let’s see if it holds up…

— Michael Cole welcomes us to the Allstate Arena with Jerry Lawler and Booker T on commentary. The opening video package is all about Lesnar’s return and his claim that John Cena only became a “top guy” because he wasn’t around for the last 8 years.


Kane with a big right hook at the opening bell, sending his opponent to the floor. Orton grabs a lead pipe and jabs the big man in the gut before hitting him across the back with it multiple times. The two brawl out into the crowd for a few minutes with your basic slugfest, in between bouncing each other off walls, railings, barricades, etc. Kane actually hits a chokeslam on the concrete, but it’s not enough for the early win. The fight continues deeper into the crowd…

Eventually they make their way to the entranceway, where Orton dropkicks the Big Red Machine into the giant metal “X” on stage. Kane fires back with a big boot, and the two fight backstage, which the fans live did not appreciate. More basic brawling backstage. Orton dropkicked him into a room where about a dozen Superstars were watching the show, and the women all started screaming. Zack Ryder came from out of nowhere and attacked Kane from behind, jumping on his back and firing away with wild rights and lefts, but he’s easily shaken off and thrown into a wall.

There was one pretty cool spot where Kane hurled a big, heavy-looking production crate into Orton’s face right before they fought back out to ringside. Kane with the slowest Irish Whip in the world, and the Viper drops him with a signature powerslam. He goes outside and snags a steel chair, unloading on his opponent with it over and over again. Orton clears off one of the announce tables and delivers a Hangman’s DDT on the floor. After some more brawling Kane counters the RKO with a chokeslam into a chair, but it’s not enough. He goes for the Tombstone put Orton wriggles free and connects with an RKO into the chair to get the win.

When I saw this live Kane actually bumped into me on his way through the crowd, which was fairly intimidating given that he’s a real-life giant playing a murderous psychopath. I got none of that rush, however, watching it back. This was a slow bar room style brawl that mostly came down to hundreds of punches and some uninspired spots. I mean, they’re both technically excellent at every aspect of the game, but it’s a little like watching pros teach the basics of a brawl over, and over again. They lost the crowd going backstage, and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Zack Ryder interference actually made me laugh out loud. There were a few good spots, the crowd was into it at the start, and the last minute or so was hot – that’s about it. 

Rating: 6/10


Ziggler comes down with Vickie Guerrero and Jack Swagger, and gets a huge reaction from the Chicago crowd. The Funkasaurus has… Hornswoggle.

Ziggler dominates the first few minutes taking advantage of multiple bouts of interference, using his speed to out-maneuver his much larger opponent. He did everything possible to get heat, but the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering for him and were actively booing the babyface. After a couple splashes Brodus caught the Showoff coming off the ropes with a nasty headbutt to the chest, followed by a running splash to score the win.

Well that certainly happened. The saving grace is that the whole thing lasted 4 minutes and Ziggler sold his ass off, trying his hardest to make Brodus look like a million bucks. The charging heatbutt was pretty cool. And weirdly enough, Brodus was INSANELY over with this crowd. I mean nobody cared about the match, but the pop when his music hit was ridiculous. 

Rating: 2/10


Show hits a couple of big meaty punches to get started, before setting up a table on the floor. Cody tries to charge him but gets thrown about ten feet into the barricade. We have a second table now, set up in a corner of the ring. Show looks to put the challenger through it, but Cody used the table to hit a Disaster Kick. His offense lasts a few seconds before the giant socked him in the face again. Show sets up another table on the floor, but Cody dropkicks him off the apron and the big man steps backwards, accidentally putting one of his feet through the table. It’s over…

After the match Show tackles the new champion then chokeslams him through another table as the crowd booed him. Apparently that wasn’t enough, so he hoisted up Cody and threw him out of the ring, crashing through yet another table, before finally grumbling his way to the back.

This finish still bothers me to this day. No joke, every once in awhile I’ll see the Intercontinental title, or I’ll happen upon an old Big Show match, and this dumb-as-a-doorknob finish will pop into my head and ruin the whole afternoon. Who benefited from this? Show just looked like a dumbass. How does a veteran former world champ with 20-years experience not have the basic forethought to watch his positioning, in a Tables Match, with a title on the line? Dumb. Ass. And Cody? Well, he spent four minutes selling a few punches, then won a title by doing nothing. How do you think he looked? 

Rating: 2.5/10

— Daniel Bryan is interviewed backstage and gets an enormous reaction. The crowd does “YES” chants after literally every sentence, until he turns on them and calls Chicago an overrated city that thinks it’s the best in the world.

— When I saw it live, this next one was my favorite match of the night. Given the disappointing start to this show, I hope it can hold up to my great memories that are thus far being dashed…


Bryan is heavily booed during the official introductions. Sheamus gets about half the reaction, and it’s also all boos as well. He’s got an “18 Seconds” shirt and throws it at his opponent, nearly hitting an early Brogue Kick, but Bryan just barely dodges out of the way.

Sheamus with a whole bunch of offense in the first few minutes, able to match his opponent move for move. He catches Bryan coming off the ropes and locks in a Texas Cloverleaf, wrenching away at the back, but the challenger pulls his way to the ropes and delivers a nasty running dropkick to the face. The two brawled out to the floor and Sheamus once again caught him flying, turning around for a thunderous Spinebuster into the barricade!

Bryan slowly fights back with hard forearm strikes before taking things to mat, manipulating the fingers and applying various stretches, each one more nasty than the last. The crowd has now fully turned around and is now chanting for Bryan so loudly it’s hard to hear commentary. After several minutes Sheamus finally breaks out of the endless submissions and leveled Bryan with a running knee lift, followed by a fallaway slam.

The challenger fought back with a devastating kick to the side of the head slamming him into the bottom turnbuckle. While this awesome match is going on, the commentary team is arguing about why Booker T is wearing a 3-piece suit while King is in a t-shirt. Great job guys. Sheamus ends up hitting a flying shoulder tackle from the top rope, sets up for the Crucifix Powerbomb, but Bryan rolled him up in an inside cradle for a very close nearfall.

Both guys go back and forth with some wild nearfalls as the crowd goes absolutely crazy. Sheamus ends up taking a bump to the floor and gets his arm caught up in the ropes, tweaking it. Bryan then kicked about 30 times in the damaged arm, while in the ropes, completely ignoring the referee until he’s forced to call for the DQ. That is our first fall. Sheamus 1-0 Bryan.

Bryan hits a hesitation dropkick in the corner and immediately locks in the Yes Lock. He screams at Sheamus to tap out but the champion refuses to give up and just passes out instead. The ref checks on him and he’s motionless, so that’s our second fall. Sheamus 1-1 Bryan.

Medics hit the ring to check on the champion while Bryan acts on his feet and starts doing “YES” chants with the crowd. About half of them are doing it with him, and the other half are doing thunderous “NO” chants in response. It is deafening in the Allstate!

Eventually Sheamus manages to get to his feet with the help of the medical staff, and demands that the match continue. Bryan is still chanting with the crowd, who are somehow even louder at this point. As soon as the match resumes officially he rushes the corner, but Sheamus destroyed him with a Brogue Kick out of nowhere! 1…2…NO!

The two slowly pulled themselves up and begin trading elbows, forearms, kicks – anything they can get enough energy to throw. Bryan heads to the top but Sheamus pummels him with more elbow strikes and sets up for a superplex. The challenger hits him with headbutts to knock him away, reaches to the heavens, but crashes and burns on the diving headbutt attempt. Sheamus rallies with a set of axhandles. He hits the Irish Curse backbreaker and looks to put this one away, on only one good arm, but the crowd has completely turned on him. The Brogue Kick connects again, and this one is over. Sheamus 2-1 Bryan.

This is a true underrated gem from this decade of wrestling. Nobody talks about it because it was overshadowed by Punk’s title run and Brock Lesnar’s return at the time, but it’s pretty important in its own right. Not only was it technically a great performance from both guys, but you could argue this crowd was really the start of the “Yes Movement”. Sheamus worked his ass off to hang with Bryan, and the crowd really amplified it even further. The falls were creatively designed, and despite the crowd not being into Sheamus, they still had a great match and an explosive final couple of minutes while the crowd was booing him. 

Rating: 9/10

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Jobber #1 gets on the mic and says that no one man could ever defeat two Superstars at the same time. Jobber #2 asks the crowd if they like math, and repeats “two is greater than one!” over and over again until even commentary is so annoyed they start screaming at him to shut up. It’s Ryback time!

Jobber #1 tries to kick the big man but literally has no effect. He pummels him with about a dozen shoulder tackles then turns him inside out with the Meathook Clothesline. The crowd is quietly chanting “Goldberg!” at him, while he drags Jobber #2 into the ring and hits a Backpack Stunner. Ryback hits his finisher, and this one is mercifully over. Welcome to WWE, big guy.

Rating: N/A


Both guys are out in “street clothes” as if either of them wear ugly, baggy jeans with kneepads over them on the daily. Chicago still loves their Punk though, as the chants and cheers are absolutely off the charts as they do official introductions, and eventually ring the bell.

It’s all Punk early on after some basic brawling around the ring. He goes to work with a kendo stick beating the absolute hell out of Jericho, until the challenger catches him with springboard dropkick to get a breather. He wastes no time removing a turnbuckle and taking every cheap shot possible, raking the eyes, smashing him into the announce table, etc.

Punk goes for a running knee but gets dumped over the ropes to the floor instead. Jericho kicks him in the gut a few times before ripping some of the padding off the barricade, right in front of Punk’s family, and bashed his face into it. Punk’s sister slapped him across the face and Chris went after her, which woke up Punk who went batshit crazy tearing up everything he could get his hands on. He slammed Jericho through the hood of the announce table, pelted him with monitors, etc.

Y2J hit a big back body drop then hit him with a broken piece of the announce table hood, which chatters across his back in a pretty cool looking spot. After a shot from the monitor he tries for a cover, but Punk kicks out. The crowd willed their champ back into the match and he tried for a springboard, but slipped off the top rope and Jericho just blasted him with a kendo stick instead. Woops. He then got a can of beer from under the ring and poured it all over his straight-edge opponent.

Jericho goes for another can of beer and starts drinking, but Punk mule kicks him and goes to town with a kendo stick. He hits a swinging neckbreaker before hitting the running high knee in the corner, and of course the running bulldog. Punk goes back to the kendo stick and goes low this time. Jericho slips out of the GTS and tries for the Walls, but Punk shakes him off and hits a snap powerslam for two.

Punk gets crotched on the top rope but fights out of a superplex with Mongolian chops. He hits a diving elbow drop but it’s not enough. Jericho counters another GTS with a bulldog. He counters yet another GTS and throws him head first into a chair. Maybe try something else..? He doesn’t and Jericho hits a Codebreaker, then locks in the Liontamer. When Punk doesn’t tap he turns it into the Walls. He finally gets the ropes, but it’s a Street Fight so it does nothing for him. Instead he has to pull himself under the ring and grab a fire extinguisher, spraying Jericho in the face to break the Walls.

The crowd is SCREAMING! Jericho takes an extinguisher to the gut. Twice. Punk with a stiff kick to the back of the head, laying him out on the commentary table. He climbs to the very top turnbuckle and… connects with a 15-foot diving elbow drop, exploding the table! Holy shit! Punk, basically dead at this point, struggles to get his opponent back into the ring. He applies the Anaconda Vice, but Jericho grabbed a kendo stick and swung it off Punk’s head a couple of times, breaking it. Jericho hits a Codebreaker with a steel chair, but somehow it still wasn’t enough. Punk sends him crashing into the exposed turnbuckle, finally hits the GTS, and wins. And still.

I feel like this match succeeding in doing what the Kane/Orton Falls Count Anywhere tried to do, and fell short. To be fair, this crowd wasn’t going to let Punk or Jericho fail, and even at the quietest moments in the match, where louder than almost anything else on the PPV. They had a slow, well-paced brawl that felt very personal, worked the crowd into a constant frenzy, and told a really interesting story from beginning to end. It was perhaps too slow in a few places, and with a different crowd it might have killed their momentum. The crowd really just wanted to come and cheer for Punk, and boo the hell out of Jericho, and they were given plenty of time and opportunity to do so. I’d say it was just short of being a classic, especially with the standards are so high for both guys, but they certainly gave this crowd everything they were looking for. 

Rating: 8.5/10

— The Bella Twins are mocking Beth Phoenix backstage as she hobbles around on a bum knee. Eve Torres says she’s not medically cleared, and the Glamazon storms off. She also tells Nikki that the Divas Championship will be on the line… next!


The Bella Twins are out first, looking unhappy about this mystery title defense. Nikki claims she will be the longest reigning champion in history and doesn’t care who comes out… It’s Layla! The crowd has almost zero reaction, unfortunately. Cole reminds us that Layla was injured at Extreme Rules last year and it cost her a year of her career.

Layla sends the champ flying with a series of quick armdrags before rolling her up in a small package for a nearfall. Nikki runs into boots in the corner but she fakes a wardrobe malfunction to distract the referee, and Brie attacks Layla from behind. Nikki works over the surgically repaired knee with dropkicks, knee drops and a few holds. Layla eventually dropkicks Brie and hits another armdrag into a beautiful pinning combination. The twins did Twin Magic, switching places, but Layla hit a nasty neckbreaker anyways for the win! New champion!

The crowd was dead silent which hurt things considerably. They really didn’t have a bad match, there’s just not much more you can do with less than 3 minutes to put together a title match. Layla looked pretty good, Nikki stuck to the basics and I genuinely think they did all they could given the circumstances being against them. 

Rating: 4/10

— The final video package of the night looks back on Brock Lesnar’s shocking return to WWE, as well as the many losses that John Cena has suffered in recent months. We see Edge telling him that he can’t lose because WWE is all he’s ever wanted to do his entire life, and Brock Lesnar doesn’t give a damn about the business. He’s got the weight of the entire wrestling world on his shoulders in this one…


As you would expect Cena got booed out of the arena as soon as his music hits. There’s a smattering of his faithful out there though, mostly women and children, and a dueling chant breaks out.

Lesnar immediately rushes the corner and takes Cena down to the mat several times, drilling him with nasty elbow strikes. Several of them were legit, as he’s already busted open and bleeding heavily about 45 seconds in. Medics check on Cena and clean him up, but again he’s taken to the mat and blasted with more stiff elbow strikes. The medics try to clean him up again, but Lesnar shoves them off and delivers three German suplexes.

Cena fights back with shoulder tackles and throws his own strikes, but accidentally takes out the ref. Lesnar with a big punch before whipping his opponent’s blood all over his chests. He locks in a Kimura in the ropes, then does it again on the floor before slamming John into the barricade. The Beast hits an ugly couple of knee strikes into his gut, then wraps his legs in a large steel chain before running through him with a clothesline from hell.

Lesnar hangs Cena from the top rope using the chain. He delivers a couple big right hands before smashing his arm into the apron over and over again. Commentary claims that Cena has never been dominated as badly as he has been in this match, and they’re probably right, as he gets sent crashing through steel steps at about 60mph. Brock finally hits the F5 to put it away, but the poor ref gets taken out again and by the time a second ref got there, Cena was able to kick out.

Lesnar murdered the second ref out of frustration. He throws the steel steps into the ring and poses on top of them, and the crowd explodes in anger. Cena rushes him with wild rights and lefts and the crowd unglued, having completely done a 180 by this point. He tries for a top rope leg drop but crashes and burns, hitting the ring steps awkwardly on the way down.

Brock is DONE and wants this match over now. He delivers a Superman Punch so big he flips over the ropes and nearly lands on his head, but pops back up and starts laughing. The crowd boos again. He tries for another Superman PUnch, but Cena has the chain wrapped around his hand and blasts him in the head with it! Cena slowly gets him up – Attitude Adjustment on the steps! 1…2…3! He did it!

One hell of a main event. They not only met the insane expectations they were up against, but largely surpassed them in every way. You can break it down and examine it for all the little things they did right, but this one’s pretty simple; Cena came in Public Enemy #1 against the hottest return in years, and they told the story so flawlessly that by the end of the night Big Match John had Chicago going wild for his comeback. People criticize the finish here all the time, and in retrospect it’s insane that Lesnar didn’t go over. But I still maintain that it was the right decision at the time, and certainly the right decision for the match they put together. There’s actually nothing I dislike about this match, and it may have been even better than seeing it live. 

Rating: 9/10


This is largely a 3-match show. The good news is those 3 matches are Brock Lesnar’s return and two world title fights. Punk had a tremendous brawl in his hometown, Cena had a match so good he got Chicago to cheer for him, and Daniel Bryan wrestled an instant classic with Sheamus for the Big Gold Belt. Very little else is really worth your time though…

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