Here comes the Pain... Again. Three-time WWE Champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar makes his WWE in-ring return in Extreme Rules tonight at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
Finally, The Rock has come back to WWE at The Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania XXVIII... and has now left the building. Not that we are particularly disappointed since we have been fully expecting his return to Hollywood with the shootings of Michael Bay's "Pain and Gain" and the next "Fast and the Furious" coming up right next. Oh, and one little reason why we are definitely not feeling the usual post-WWE lull mood here on Extreme Rules, the first PPV following the phenomenal WrestleMania XXVIII... one little reason by the name of Brock Lesnar.
WWE seems to be desperately seeking a solution in picking themselves out of the rut that is their recent streak of mediocre ratings (relatively speaking for a WrestleMania season) with pulling the trigger on the return of a genuine big name and a marquee main event featuring Lesnar and current face of the company, John Cena. And it has certainly worked well to us given the short timeframe on hand to build up the feud. Will Cena continue his losing streak to feed to the returning Next Big Thing who is now officially The Big Thing, or can the Doctor of Thuganomics be able to summon some SuperCena power to take out Lesnar in an Extreme Rules Match?
Meanwhile, current reigning WWE Champion CM Punk's feud with another returning former Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho has kicked into high gears with the namesake of "The Best in The World" taking a backseat as we witnessed the character assassination of Punk by Jericho. Taking on Jericho in his hometown of Chicago, Punk puts his WWE Championship on the line against Jericho in A "Chicago Street Fight."
Former World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan cashes in his rematch clause to take on current reigning World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus in an intriguing 2-out-of-3 falls match for the World Heavyweight Championship. In another rematch from WrestleMania XXVIII, Orton collides with the Big Red Machine once again in a Falls Count Anywhere match.
Now known as the highest grossing PPV event in professional wrestling history, WrestleMania XXVIII has set new records for both pay-per-view buys and gross sales with more than 1.3 million buys and an incredible global gross sales in excess of $67 million. Will the return of Brock Lesnar and the prospect of seeing Cena battered and bruised at the hands of Lesnar entice audience enough to pick up on the momentum built with WrestleMania XXVIII? We can never predict the PPV buys given its unpredictable nature but we can certainly tell you that this ain't no run-of-the-nill post-WrestleMania PPV.
Before we get on with our prediction, we actually continued our dubious tradition of blowing up big time at WrestleManias with the latest edition. So much so that we aren't even going to dwell on it now if we want to get on with this one. And now, let's get on with the show.
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules Match)
The epic clash betwen The ROck and John Cena certainly lived up to the spectacle it promised to be. It ain't no classic matches but it was certainly one hell of a chapter in professional wrestling history. That said, the result of the match was truly a shock for most. So where do we moved on from here to continue the uproarious momentum? One name: Brock Lesnar.
The Pain has returned to WWE ring after announcing his retirement from mixed martial art and the octagon ring following his defeat at the hands of former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 last December. As mentioned in our WrestleMania XXVIII preview, we were actually expecting his return at the Showcase of the Immortal to provide some screwjob finish to some of the marquee matches, a prospect that we are glad to be unfulfilled. Returning to a thunderous reception at on Monday Night Raw on April 2nd despite the anticipation of the crowd, Lesnar gave one hell of a F-5 on Cena.
For those who familiar with Lesnar's WWE tenure and the actual origins of Cena's Attitude Adjustment finisher, you might see some intriguing link to a storyline nine years ago surrounding then-WWE Champion Lesnar and up-and-coming Doctor of Thuganomics, Cena. In a match between the two on Smackdown in 2003, Lesnar destroyed Cena with F-5 by pulling off the maneuver on Cena against the ring post, severely injuring Cena. Cena later returned with a modified version of the F-5 as his new finisher. Yes, F-U, as a pun on F-5. Nevertheless, Cena was defeated by Lesnar at the blow-off match of the feud at 2003's Backlash.
Speaking of Backlash 2003, it is interesting to note that this year's Extreme Rules has a lot in common with that show. First and foremost, they are both PPVs follow-up to WrestleManias. Secondly, both shows featured the WWE Championship match as the second main event. Thirdly, both shows featured Brock Lesnar against John Cena. Last and most importantly, both shows reintroduced the return of former big names against the current face of the company: The return of Goldberg against The Rock. And in terms of quality of bookings, both are indeed among the better crops for a post-WrestleMania PPV.
In summary, this match sells the show, bar none. There are questions galore with this one. Will Cena bend over to yet another returning big name in a space of a month? Is Cena going the way of the proverbial heel-turn? More importantly, what shape is Brock currently in? Therefore, regardless how the match will eventually turned out to be, the answers to these questions are sufficient reasons to check out this one.
Predicted Winner: Brock Lesnar
First and foremost, it was widely reported that Lesnar's contract cost WWE an estimated five million dollars for his one year of service. Do you seriously think that WWE spent all this money just to bring Brock back to lose his first match? No chance in hell.
Cena will probably continue his losing streak storyline after consecutive losses to The Rock and Lord Tensai. But where do that lead us? The earlier mentioned proverbial heel-turn or an edgier, cooler Cena?
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (Chicago Street Fight)
The good ol' classic feud between the two "Best in the World" continues as the rivalry gets personal with Jericho attacking Punk for his Straightedge lifestyle and accusing his family members as alcoholics and drug users.
Their first match at WrestleMania XXVIII was unfortunately overshadowed by the Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Triple H despite being an excellent match. With Punk in his hometown (and we all know how great the hometown crowd of Chicago, Illinois, are, based on what we saw at last year's Money in the Bank), expect one hell of a street fight with the gloves off.
Predicted Winner: CM Punk
Well, first we have to put this on the record: Last week's "sobriety test" was really lame despite us being fans of Punk. That said, Punk will not fall under the "hometown loser" curse in this one given his hot streak as "The Man of the Hour" now.
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (2-out-of-3 Falls Match)
As unbelievable as it gets, it turned out that there isn't too much of a difference made after last year's WrestleMania XXVII where the scheduled match-up between Sheamus and Bryan became an unscreened Dark Match. We were having high hopes for the return match this time round and were questioning how the fates functions as Sheamus, the winner of Royal Rumble, challenging for Bryan's World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania XXVIII. And it all turned out to be a pipe dream with the match being the opening bout that saw Bryan losing the championship to Sheamus in mere eighteen seconds.
However, fates does function in the most mysterious ways. Coming off the WrestleMania XXVIII match, Bryan has became quite possibly the hottest item of WWE right now.
An amazing case has been made of how Daniel Bryan's eighteen seconds of WrestleMania fame might have surprisingly created the perfect platform for the extremely-talented wrestler, with the constant "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chants from the audience across America and Europe, and even on shows where Bryan isn't scheduled to appear.
And with this wonderful 2-out-of-3 Falls stipulation, expect one hell of a match-up unleashed between the two tremendously improved Superstars.
Predicted Winner: Sheamus
It has more or less been set up for Alberto Del Rio to be next in line to face Sheamus were it not for the unexpected crowd response to Daniel Bryan. That said, Sheamus should be moving on right on the scheduled track to face the Mexican Superstar while Bryan could be shifting back to an upper mid-card position as the ongoing storyline between Bryan and A.J. continues.
Intercontinental Champion Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes
Yet another rematch from Smackdown. We certainly did not see the merits in having Big Show ending Rhodes' impressive Intercontinental Championship reign and if you ask us, we still don't why Big Show should still stand tall over Rhodes.
At best a filler match that could serve as a toilet break if you are really keen in finding out if the twin magic work for the Divas title match.
Predicted Winner: Cody Rhodes
It is obvious that Rhodes will probably be moving on to the upper cards for a probable shot at Sheamus' World Heavyweight Championship. And with this rematch, WWE has a shot in righting the wrong by putting the title back with Rhodes.
Randy Orton vs. Kane (Falls Count Anywhere Match)
Now, Orton has been one of the most consistent WWE Superstar of 2011 and this feud is really bringing him down to a an undeserved level. Not that Kane is particularly bad but any match with the Big Red Machine serves more as a spectacle gimmick match and Orton, in his peak now, really do not deserve this. Just think about it this way,: Both Cena and Orton are in fact playing the same role in their respective shows. The role of being the top guy but not in the title chase (for one reason or another) just so that another guy (in Raw, obviously Punk and in Smackdown, Sheamus) can get their time in the limelight. But while Cena get to play with The Rock and Lesnar, Orton gets Kane, the same opponent Cena had when he was in holding position till the big one at WrestleMania XXVIII. Speaking of taking on Cena's old opponents, it has been rumoured that Orton will be Lesnar's next opponent come SummerSlam.
All things considered, Kane and Orton had a better match at Smackdown few weeks back so this could still be watchable.
Predicted Winner: Randy Orton
Another chance for WWE to right their wrongdoings. It is simple: A vicious RKO to the Big Red Machine's thick skull on something gimmicky. Just so that we can move on.
Divas Champion Nikki Bella vs. Beth Phoenix
Argh... here we are with the obligatory match involving Divas that sometimes, involve the butterfly Barbie title. Fortunately, the word on the street is that Kharma will be making her return pretty soon to rule the Divas scene with a dominating streak. And with word that the Bella twins are leaving the company, it is conventional knowledge that Nikki Bella is what we call the "transitional champion."
Predicted Winners: Nikki Bella
Twin magic saves the day as Nikki lives to fight another day to face Kharma and get her last paycheck.
United States Champion Santino Marella vs. The Miz
Just how far has The Miz fall in the hierarchy system of WWE? Well, based on the booking of this match and considering his position on the card last year this time, you can have a pretty good idea. There is the fact that this is a pre-show match readily available on YouTube for free, and there have been zero storyline build-up whatsoever as to why The Miz is the number one contender to the mid-card title. And then we consider the fact that The Miz was the reigning WWE Champion this time last year, in a Triple Threat Steel Cage match with John Cena and John Morrison (which The Miz lost by the way).
Serviceable match that could yet prove to be the turning point of The Miz's spiral downward trip.
Predicted Winner: The Miz
We are being bold here but it remain perfectly likely that this could indeed be the turning point of The Miz's spiral downward trip as he makes an audacious rebound as the United States Champion, a much better use of the title than on Santino's waist as a comic relief afterthought.
As we have mentioned above, the spectacle of Brock vs. Cena alone is worth the entry ticket with so many lingering questions from any self-respecting professional wrestling fans. In addition, we have to commend WWE for not enforcing ludicrous "Extreme Rules" stipulation to all the matches to stay in line with the theme. This makes perfect storyline sense as Punk really have to hit the streets with Jericho in his hometown, and Sheamus vs. Bryan does indeed seem more appealing with the 2-out-of-3 falls match.
All things considered, this is without question the best Extreme Rules ever.
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