“I Quit” Match to determine the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
The original plan was a triple threat ladder match for the WHC. But after Swagger accidentally kicked champion Dolph Ziggler into a serious concussion on Smackdown, as they were both fighting over a ladder guest commentator Alberto Del Rio slid into the ring, that booking had to be changed. (A headachy Ziggler couldn’t remember three days of his life and won’t be medically cleared in time for Extreme Rules.)
It sucks because this has been a very strong three-way program heavy on action in and out of the ring that hasn’t really needed any memorable promos to be entertaining. Swagger’s repackaging as a supremely tough anti-immigrant nativist, which began in the build towards February’s Elimination Chamber event, has finally allowed him to shine like never before. Now that Zeb Colter, his outspoken cornerman, does most of the talking for him, Swagger can fully concentrate on destroying guys in the ring. The way he used that ladder as a weapon on a recent Raw was particularly scary.
Even though Del Rio’s transition from snobby rich guy to man of the people has been rocky, there’s no denying his tremendous in-ring abilities. You end up rooting for him anyway because he’s so talented. Plus, he’s still benefiting from his longterm pairing with personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez who has played a major supporting role in his feud with Swagger.
But down to business. With World Heavyweight Champion Ziggler recuperating from his serious injury, Swagger and Del Rio will now be competing for the right to be the number one contender for his title in an “I Quit” match. The premise is simple. Incapacitate your opponent to the point where he can’t take it anymore and utters those two words out loud on a microphone to stop the match. There are no restrictions on how you achieve that goal.
Because Ziggler is a villain, picking the winner of this one shouldn’t be too difficult. While Swagger and the World Heavyweight Champion have a history together (they were tag team partners managed by Vicki Guerrero at one point), the so-called Real American is also a bad guy. Besides, a Ziggler/Del Rio title match on either Raw or a pay-per-view is the better booking. Ziggler cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase to beat a vulnerable Del Rio in a thriller on Raw to become the champion the night after WrestleMania 29. The Mexican aristocrat has never gotten a proper rematch.
Expect lots of interference and weaponry in this one but more importantly, expect the master of the cross arm-breaker to make Swagger give up.
Prediction: Alberto Del Rio makes Jack Swagger say “I Quit”.
Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena vs. Ryback
This is a crucial moment in the career of Ryan Reeves. After being repackaged as the monstrous babyface Ryback a year ago, the former Nexus member has steadily climbed the ladder of success to become one of the WWE’s best new stars. With an aggressive style quite similiar to The Ultimate Warrior he’s looked like an absolute beast in match after match after match. But unlike Warrior, he delivers coherent promos. He’s an underrated talker, in my view.
But he’s yet to taste championship gold. Last year, while John Cena was recovering from his injuries sustained at Night Of Champions, Big Hungry took his place in the Hell In A Cell match against then-WWE Champion CM Punk in his first major title opportunity on pay-per-view. Unfortunately, referee Brad Maddox screwed him out of the championship by giving him a deliberate low blow and fast counting him out of his deserved victory. The Shield took him out in the triple threat title match with Cena and Punk at Survivor Series which the Straight Edge Superstar capitalized on in another match he should’ve won. And The Hounds Of Justice made sure he didn’t grab the belt in the rescheduled ladder match on Raw back in January. Punk won that one, too.
After losing to Mark Henry at WrestleMania 29, Ryback took out his growing frustrations on Cena the very next night on Raw which began his inevitable heel run. (Big Hungry blames the current WWE Champion for not rescuing him from numerous Shield attacks on TV. Ryback claims he always had Cena’s back when the champ was being ambushed by them.)
Since that thrilling turn, the character change has unfortunately been hit and miss, through no fault of Ryback’s. Although there was a great exchange with Mick Foley on Raw, a tremendous pre-taped promo that established his beef with Cena and a marvellous Smackdown match with Daniel Bryan (which the monster won), the WWE Champion doesn’t take him seriously to the point where he constantly makes fun of him, which is only sometimes funny. Furthermore, Ryback is being booked to be a coward. He often walks away from a fight or just doesn’t get involved when it doesn’t suit his interests. After building this guy up for a year as a fearless insatiable maniac, this is how you get him over as a villain?
Not helping matters is Cena’s achilles tendon injury which may or may not be legit. (In the world of professional wrestling, it’s not always clear.) If it is a real concern, that would explain Ryback’s reticence to slaughter Cena every time he sees him. (It would be bad for business if Cena was out of action for a while.) But if it’s a work, what is holding the big man back from being a true heel?
At any event, like I said, this is a crucial moment for Ryback. He could go on to become the next Edge, a future multiple time title holder who stays in the main event picture for years to come or he could be R-Truth in 2011, a perennial mid-carder who gets one decent six-month main event push without becoming a world champion.
I suspect many are expecting Cena to retain on Sunday in their Last Man Standing match (where the loser can’t get to his feet before the referee’s count of ten) since the WWE Champion has never lost at Extreme Rules. But since the next pay-per-view is Payback, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to drop the title on the 19th setting up the inevitable re-match next month?
Ryback has more than earned a title push. It probably should’ve been the InterContinental title last year but even a month-long reign as the big cheese would at least be something different than the same old Cena. I could be way off with this pick but I’m thinking this is going to be an upset.
Prediction: Ryback rules.
Steel Cage Match: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
The Next Big Thing won at SummerSlam 2012. The Game got the duke at WrestleMania 29. Now comes their third and final pay-per-view confrontation at Extreme Rules.
From the moment Brock Lesnar attacked Triple H from behind more than a year ago on Raw, this has been one of the more consistently compelling longterm programs in recent memory. Blood, pee-stained jeans, constant brutality, Paul Heyman’s untouchable stick work, trash talk, a trashed office. What more could you want from a wrestling feud?
Originally scheduled for later in the year, this got bumped up for Extreme Rules. A wise move. With no CM Punk, Undertaker or The Rock booked, this is easily the most star-studded of all the matches on Sunday.
But who will win? Lesnar was supposed to work a year-long deal with The Rock right after WM 29 (which would lead up to a match at WM 30) but The Great One’s severe injuries and eventual surgery put the kibosh on that plan hence this steel cage match with The Game. Triple H is pretty much at the tail end of his career and truthfully won’t lose any luster if he puts over the beast. His legacy is intact. Since returning to the WWE on a part-time basis, Lesnar has gone 1 for 3. (He also lost to John Cena at last year’s Extreme Rules.) If he puts over H, his character will take a credibility hit which would hurt his eventual program with The Rock.
This one will be long and it will go back and forth for at least 20 minutes but in the end, Heyman’s client will squeak out a victory, take another break and then move on to The People’s Champ.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar by escaping the cage.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 16, 2013
UPDATE: I’m happy to report I went 7 for 9 tonight. (To be fair, Lesnar won the cage match by pinfall, not by escaping. (I picked the right guy, not the right finish.) And Dean Ambrose won the U.S. title without the assistance of his teammates.) I forgot that Randy Orton was wrestling in front of his hometown crowd so I was wrong to pick The Big Show as the victor in their Extreme Rules match. And the WWE Championship ended in a no-contest after John Cena and Ryback knocked each other out during a backstage spot. (I expected Big Hungry to bring home the gold.) At any event, I redeemed myself after going 5 for 9 (well, 6 for 10, really) at WrestleMania 29. The road to next month’s Payback begins tomorrow night on Raw.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 19, 2013