WrestleWatch Vault- WWE Extreme Rules 2012
By Mick Robson
Alright, I was supposed to get this done weeks ago. But life has been hectic, what with Colosseum weekend in Melbourne, returning to work, my dear Mummsy being sick (yeah, I call her Mummsy, shut up), and other family and social commitments. The last few weeks have been the most active I've been in many years- holding up better than I expected but still time poor.
We're still in the same month that Extreme Rules 2022 happened, so this throwback is fair game. I am going to squeeze an Extreme Rules 2022 WrestleWatch in too, and a FightWatch for UFC 280. Plus PWA Let's F**king Go tomorrow night at the UNSW Roundhouse! Can't stop, won't stop. But kinda need a rest and a few beers at some point!
Believe or not, there was a period of time where my pro wrestling fandom fell off. Many of my friends today find it hard to believe, but in 2008, WWE went extremely PG as they looked to attract sponsors and distance themselves from the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras. Of course, Attitude had sex, blood, violence, some swearing and generally appealed to teens and young adults. After the Benoit tragedy, there was a major tonal shift, with my final tipping point being a feud between John Cena and JBL, where Cena got a can of spray paint and used it to deface the Wrestling God's limo.
The message he wrote? "JBL is poopy."
Poopy. What grown ass man has ever called another man poopy? Yep, I was done. Well, not totally. We were in the midst of the excellent Jericho/HBK feud, so I kept an eye on that. Then we were pretty much on the Road to Wrestlemania, so I said I would see things through to WrestleMania 25. Outside of HBK/Taker at WM25, which is one of my favourite matches, I didn't love that Mania, so that was it. After "JBL is poopy" though, I felt like I was almost watching out of habit or a weird sort of obligation. It felt like a chore for the most part.
Hard to give up a fandom that had consumed my life basically since I was 8, so I still read results and kept an eye on things in case something cool happened. The Punk/Hardy feud. Nexus. Pipebomb. The Rock's back. All cool. But it wasn't enough to keep me watching regularly again. Until...
There we go! Between 2002-2004, Brock Lesnar was my favourite wrestler. A beast of a man that had incredible power, speed and agility, he burst onto the scene, quickly winning the WWE Championship, destroying legends like The Rock and The Undertaker. It was an amazing two years, where he delivered several classic matches despite being a rookie in the business, displaying other-worldly athleticism.
And then... he left. Citing issues with travel and the schedule, he initially pursued a career in the NFL, almost making the cut with the Minnesota Vikings, before turning his attention to mixed martial arts. After just one pro fight, he was signed by the UFC and blasted through the heavyweight division, using his legitimate amateur wrestling background to defeat the likes of Randy Couture, Frank Mir and Shane Carwin. He reigned as UFC Heavyweight Champion until a first round TKO loss to Cain Velasquez (who also later had a brief stint with WWE). He had health issues during his UFC run as well- suffering from diverticulitis, which would ultimately force his retirement from the sport.
So April 2012 saw Brock back in pro wrestling, with a reduced schedule on a big time salary. He would be a special attraction, and immediately had freedoms others didn't, pushing the PG boundaries with coarse language and amped up violence, busting Cena open hard-way en route to their Extreme Rules showdown.
That returning edge to WWE started to bleed into other aspects of WWE. Notably, the WWE Championship feud between champ CM Punk and challenger Chris Jericho. Jericho, as the antagonist, brought up Punk's family and how they suffered from alcoholism, and he was determined to force the Straight Edge Superstar to drink. Again, not exactly PG-friendly.
And then we have the nature of the PPV itself. Extreme Rules. In recent years, WWE would hold this event with just one gimmick match on the card. In 2022, new head of creative Triple H made all the matches "extreme", and the 2012 edition was much in that vein, with the majority of the matches containing some sort of stipulation.
A quick bit of research tells me that this was the first PPV to receive a TV-14 rating since 2008, so definitely a great spot to jump back in.
Let's do this!
Pre-Show- WWE United States Championship- Santino Marella (c) def. The Miz (at 5:00)
Thoughts: Fine little warm-up for the crowd. Miz promises to be the biggest thing on YouTube, since that's where this pre-show is airing. A little funny to look back at that comment 10 years later, given his interactions with YouTube mega-star Logan Paul. Miz controls much of this short match, until Santino counters a Miz double axe handle from the top rope with a body shot, and follows up with the Cobra.
Star Rating: **
Match 1: Falls Count Anywhere- Randy Orton def. Kane (at 16:45)
Thoughts: The pre-match videos show this feud getting very personal after their Wrestlemania 28 clash, with Orton and Kane attacking each other's fathers- Cowboy Bob and Paul Bearer respectively. Chaotic start to proceedings as they brawl around the arena and even backstage. In a time when we didn't get a lot of this kind of activity, it felt Attitude Era-esque. They also introduced some weaponry without going overboard- a lead pipe and a steel chair. They made great use of the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation by getting near falls around the arena, but the match ended in the ring. After many finisher attempts, it would be the RKO on the steel chair that would end things. An excellent opener that far exceeded their Mania match a month earlier.
Star Rating: ***3/4
Backstage segment with John Laurinaitis & Eve Torres. Eve tells Johnny that she has a surprise for him, to celebrate being the new General Manager of Raw and Smackdown. God, he's insufferable! I don't mind Eve though. The surprise is Teddy Long, former Smackdown General Manager, with champagne on a cart. A toast to "change", rubbing salt in the wound for Teddy. Johnny Ace receives a call from Triple H and walks off, leaving Eve to adjust Long's comically large "Hi, my name is Teddy" name tag.
Match 2: Brodus Clay (w/ The Funkadactyls & Hornswoggle) def. Dolph Ziggler (w/ Vickie Guerrero & Jack Swagger) (at 4:17)
Thoughts: This match reminded me that Cole was a heel announcer around this time, as he was shitting on Hornswoggle- dressed in a mini-Brodus Clay-like suit- and supporting Vickie Guerrero. Ziggler was able to get the advantage over the big man following Swagger interference, and ground him down using amateur wrestling techniques. Brodus would soon fight back, and a huge headbutt, followed by the big splash, would spell the end of this one. A nice, light breather in between the bigger matches on this card. Shoutout to Ziggler making Clay look like a million bucks by selling that headbutt like death!
Star Rating: **
They re-cap the stipulation being chosen for Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show on the pre-show. It's a tables match! Show laughs and says, "Good luck trying to get me through a table."
Match 3: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Tables Match- Cody Rhodes def. Big Show (c) (at 4:37)
Thoughts: Well. That bit Big Show in his giant ass, didn't it? Show dominated this match, with Cody's one spot of hope being a cool bit of innovation where he launched off a table set up in the corner and hit Show with a Disaster Kick. Cole notes that if Cody's foot went through the table on that, the match would be over. However, that would actually be the fate that befell Big Show. The beating continued for young Rhodes, but he was able to catch Show coming back into the ring with a dropkick- and he slipped off the apron, stepping through a table at ringside! Novel way to end the match, seeming unfair and a weak way to win, protecting Show, but still smart on Cody's part and well within the rules. I love a bit of inventiveness and thinking outside the box!
Star Rating: **1/2
Post-match, an enraged Big Show attacks Cody. He delivers a Spear and then a Chokeslam through a table. Some mixed reactions from the Chicago crowd to Show here, who seem to like Cody (they also had some cheers for Ziggler earlier). Despite that, they're still a bloodthirsty bunch, so they chant "one more time", and Show obliges by press slamming Rhodes out of the ring, through another table! Ouch.
Backstage, Matt Striker interviews Daniel Bryan. When asked why he believes he has the advantage in a 2/3 Falls match against Sheamus, Bryan says that's a stupid question, and insults Striker further for his background as a teacher. Oi! Bryan goes on to say he gets more chicks than Sheamus, his beard is better, and his stomach isn't weighed down by corned beef. He compares Sheamus to Chicago, saying they're both overrated and unoriginal. Will he become World Heavyweight Champion tonight? Yes! Yes! Yes! ...According to Bryan, anyway. Chicago seems to disagree.
Match 4: World Heavyweight Championship- Two Out of Three Falls- Sheamus (c) def. Daniel Bryan (at 22:55)
Thoughts: Hey, Sheamus has the "Lobster Head" theme here! He's also wearing an "18 seconds" shirt, mocking Bryan for his infamous loss at Mania. They then proceeded to have the kind of match many fans were hoping to see at WM28. They played into tropes of the 2/3 Falls stip, with Bryan looking for quick pins to try and snag the first fall, while Sheamus looked for submissions- historically, we've seen wrestlers tap quickly to subs in these kinds of matches, giving up the fall to avoid further damage. Then they settled into a full length match, with the first fall coming deep into the match as Bryan wouldn't stop attacking in the ropes, forcing a DQ, but the relentless attack weakened Sheamus, allowing the Lebell Lock to gain Bryan a fall. Sheamus was worn down greatly from here, and Bryan proceeded to unleash some very hard strikes, but eventually, the Celtic Warrior found the Brogue Kick to retain the title! As Sheamus is prone to producing, this was an absolute BANGER!
Star Rating: ****1/4
Match 5: Ryback def. Aaron Relic & Jay Hatton (at 1:51)
Thoughts: Much like the Brodus/Ziggler match earlier, this was the necessary breather after a killer match to let the crowd recover, and also served the purpose of introducing the newly debuted Ryback to a PPV audience. This also had the nice touch of wrestlers gathered around the monitor backstage to watch the carnage, framing Ryback as a big deal. Basic squash, which got Goldberg chants, but a backpack stunner on Hatton quietened that. Shellshock on Relic and Ryback stacks them up. Easy win.
Star Rating: *
Backstage, Striker interviews CM Punk. Punk talks about this being a Chicago Street Fight and talks about the mental warfare that Jericho has tried to wage. He calls Jericho sad and pathetic. He's going to prove that he's the Best In The World, and Jericho's going to Go To Sleep.
Match 6: WWE Championship- Chicago Street Fight- CM Punk (c) def. Chris Jericho (at 25:15)
Thoughts: Unlike some of the other Mania matches on this card, Jericho and Punk didn't have to make up for a lacklustre match on the Showcase of the Immortals. The WM28 match was one of the better bouts of the night, as was this one on Extreme Rules, just with a different flavour being a Street Fight. I appreciated the touch of both Punk & Jericho wearing street clothes rather than their traditional wrestling gear- attention to detail.
The Street Fight featured copious amounts of weapon usage, particularly steel chairs and kendo stick shots. This fit the personal tone of the feud, and the intensity got ramped up a notch after CM Punk's sister slapped Jericho at ringside. A fired up Punk slammed Jericho through the hood of the announce table, and continued to batter him with weapons. Jericho would fight back, but his arrogance would be his undoing, as he went for Punk's GTS, and Punk countered, catapulting him into the exposed turnbuckle. Punk then hit the GTS and won to a thunderous ovation from the Chicago faithful. A brilliant battle from two pros.
Star Rating: ****
Recap of Santino vs. Miz from the pre-show.
Backstage, the camera is on the ever-gorgeous Eve Torres as she approaches Beth Pheonix and The Bella Twins. The Bellas say that they saw Beth limping around backstage. A determined Glamazon says that even on one leg, she'll still take them on. This causes Eve to interject and say that Beth isn't medically cleared. The Bellas think they have the night off, but Eve is giving them a mystery opponent.
Match 7: WWE Diva's Championship- Layla def. Nikki Bella (c) (w/ Brie Bella) (at 2:45)
Thoughts: Ooft. This was dark days for the Divas division- less than 3 minutes for a PPV title match and title change. Great to see Layla, although I never viewed her as the level of star to warrant a PPV surprise return like this. Layla's been out for a year with a knee injury, so Nikki targeted the knee. When Layla started to mount a comeback, Nikki pulled Twin Magic with Brie... but Brie walks into a neckbreaker for the 3 count! Nice to see Layla be successful and look good in her return, and they made the most of their limited time. Good buffer between the two bigger matches, even if it's a little sad to see the women's division be such an afterthought in this era.
Star Rating: *3/4
Match 8: Extreme Rules- John Cena def. Brock Lesnar (at 17:43)
Thoughts: This was a pure spectacle. Not a traditional main event match, this was an extended beatdown designed to get Lesnar over as a monster. The crowd- especially the little kids in Cena gear- seemed wildly uncomofrtable with the destruction on display. In the opening seconds, Lesnar took Cena down with a double-leg and busted him open hard-way with elbows, causing him to drizzle blood. Referees and doctors checked on Cena, but Lesnar kept up the assault. This was Brock Lesnar- UFC fighter. Keeping his offense largely to punches, elbows, knees and the kimura lock, although down the stretch Brock did hit the F5 for a near fall. Glorious, non-PG violence all the way.
I still think, 10 years later, that Cena didn't need the win. I suppose it was Brock "paying his dues" in a little way, but the story of the year was supposed to be a year of bad luck after losing the Mania match to The Rock, but he turned around and won the next PPV main event. It was one shot with the steel chain, one AA on the steel stairs, and LOL Cena wins. But Brock and his massacre were the real story of the night. Loved it so much! Some real edge back in WWE!
Star Rating: ****1/2
Cena gave an odd post-match promo, where it seemed like he was saying goodbye to the crowd. He references Vince being mad about him getting on the mic, but thanks Chicago for being a wrestling town and says he's going away for a while. Seemed like the kind of thing that should have been off-air, but whatever.
An outstanding show top to bottom. Reminded me of the Backlash events of the early 2000s, where much of the card featured WrestleMania rematches of some sort, but they quite often improved on the Mania efforts in some way. The gimmicks and nature of the Extreme Rules PPV helped, but we had a wrestling clinic with Sheamus and Bryan, and while they weren't catch-as-catch-can classics, really Orton vs Kane and Lesnar vs. Cena didn't rely heavily on weapons. They showed discipline in really only letting Jericho vs. Punk be the weapons-filled bonanza of the night, and as such it stood out in its place on the card. Not a bad match on the card, and even the squashes and buffer matches on the show had their place and had some entertainment value. Most of all, it was nice to see Mr "JBL is Poopy" get wrecked. Lesnar coming back to destroy the face of PG, it was beautiful- even if he had to lie down for 3.
Overall Score: 9/10
Until next time, take care.