WWE Extreme Rules 2014: Most Underrated Matches in Event's History
Extreme Rules is a pay-per-view event that has produced some truly great matches.
From Brock Lesnar and John Cena's bloody war, to the breathtaking TLC match between Undertaker and Edge, the show has played host to great matches between the top stars in the industry.
With so many outstanding matches stealing the spotlight, however, there are destined to be matches that fly under the radar. Some of those matches come from out of nowhere to capture the audience's attention and mightily exceed expectations.
Others are matches featuring the top talent in the industry that, for whatever reason, never quite gained the notoriety that they deserve.
With Extreme Rules rapidly approaching and several matches potentially joining a revised version of this list in years to come, relive some of the most underrated bouts from events passed, listed chronologically.
Stretcher Match: Rob Van Dam vs. Randy Orton (2007)
A significant chapter in Randy Orton's evolution into the cold, calculating and violent predator fans know today came at One Night Stand: Extreme Rules in 2007 when he met Rob Van Dam in a Stretcher match.
Van Dam took exception to the manner in which Orton attacked and assaulted Shawn Michaels, sidelining him and potentially ending his career. He spoke to WWE.com about the attack and criticized Orton for what he believed to be a lack of respect for the business. The Viper responded by brutally beating RVD down and injuring his head.
It was with that injury in mind that the two competitors took to the ring to kick off the June 3, 2007 pay-per-view.
Van Dam was intense and aggressive early while Orton eventually slowed the pace down and targeted the head and neck of his opponent. The attack took its toll as RVD noticeably slipped off the top rope and landed with a thud on the arena floor. He would still manage to overcome the attack of Orton just long enough to position him on the stretcher and push it across the finish line for the win.
The match was Van Dam's last with the company for almost two years, a point hammered home by the post-match attack that effectively wrote him out of storylines.
The head injury angle allowed the performers to craft a solid story and Van Dam's portrayal of its effects were far better than most were expecting from the former ECW champion. Orton lost nothing as a result of the defeat and entered the WWE Championship picture immediately afterward, while Van Dam was rewarded for six years of hard work with a win on his way out the door.
Falls Count Anywhere: Jeff Hardy vs. Umaga (2008)
Jeff Hardy and Umaga had competed in several battles against one another entering the June 1, 2008 One Night Stand: Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Most had been over the Intercontinental Championship but with the title out of either of their possession, the match was strictly for pride, honor and in hopes of moving up the ladder of contention in World Wrestling Entertainment.
They kicked off the show with a very hot, very exciting Falls Count Anywhere match that resembled an Attitude-era hardcore match. The action spilled out the ring, up the aisle, through the crowd and all the way to the parking lot behind the arena.
The competitors beat, battered and brutalized one another with little story to speak of outside of inflicting as much pain and suffering on one another as possible in hopes of scoring a victory. Hardy climbed a ladder to the top of a production truck and kicked an approaching Umaga off, sending him crashing to the ground below.
A Swanton Bomb finished the Samoan Bulldozer off and earned Hardy a pinfall win. The victory would propel Hardy into the title hunt, and by the end of 2008 the enigmatic Superstar had captured his first WWE title.
Umaga, unfortunately, would continue to hover just beneath the main event level. He would never break through the proverbial glass ceiling, leading to a case in which the company may have missed a major opportunity to create a major monster villain.
The Samoan star passed away on December 4, 2009. He was just 36 years old.
'I Quit' Match: Melina vs. Beth Phoenix (2008)
There are not many Divas more hard-hitting and intense between the ropes than Melina and Beth Phoenix. Two of the most talented workers in WWE's women's division, they met in a very physical "I Quit" match at One Night Stand: Extreme Rules in 2008.
The match was built on several instances of tag team miscommunications involving the competitors, not to mention a brutal backstage assault by Phoenix and a babyface turn by Melina. The ingredients were there for a very good match if the ladies could work together well enough to deliver on the hype. They did, and the finish to their match would become one of the highlights of the entire show.
Phoenix targeted the back of Melina, hoping to wear her down and force a submission. The former Women's champion proved resourceful, however, taking advantage of openings to work the arm of her opponent and create some opportunities for herself.
Ultimately, Phoenix would overpower her opponent, deliver a Glam Slam and apply a devastating submission hold that bent Melina backwards. Though she tried to fight through the pain, Melina had no choice but to surrender the match.
The match was an example of what the Divas could do when given time and a strong supporting story. Unfortunately, things would revert right back to the way they had been previously. The display of toughness, grit and ability by both competitors wound up being little more than a tease.
Hair Match: Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk (2010)
One of SmackDown's most emotional and personal rivalries during the spring of 2010 was the one between Rey Mysterio and CM Punk. Punk was the leader of the Straight Edge Society and wanted more than anything to spread his message to the world. Rey opposed Punk and got one over on the Chicago native at WrestleMania 26.
At Extreme Rules mere weeks later, Punk would put his hair on the line for the chance to acquire Mysterio for his Society.
The match was as hard-fought as one would expect from the performers involved. Mysterio had several opportunities to put Punk away early but interference from Luke Gallows and Serena, two of Punk's followers, cut him off at nearly every turn. Once they were ejected from ringside, the action kicked into second gear.
Mysterio and Punk countered one another's signature offense, capturing control for a fleeting moment. Eventually, interference from a masked Joey Mercury resulted in Punk seizing an opportunity, flattening his opponent with Go To Sleep and scoring a much-needed pinfall victory.
The match was merely the latest chapter in a bigger story that concluded the following month at Over the Limit. In that contest, Mysterio defeated Punk and shaved his head, winning the rivalry en route to capturing the second World Heavyweight Championship at June's Fatal Four-Way event.
Punk would see all the work he did in getting the Straight Edge Society over unravel as poor booking and frustration on his end led to bitterness between the Second City Saint and management. He would recover by the following year, however, and go on a two-year run that saw him become one of the top two stars in the industry.
Extreme Rules Match for the World Title: Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger (2010)
Jack Swagger's World Heavyweight Championship victory two days after WrestleMania 26 took many by surprise. Sure, he won Money in the Bank at the event but many believed he was still quite young and needed some more experience before reaching that level of success.
Questionable booking nearly killed his reign right out of the gate as he lost non-title matches to Randy Orton, John Morrison and Undertaker. It was the loss to Orton, followed by a second consecutive defeat at the hands of the Viper that set up his first pay-per-view title defense at April 25, 2010's Extreme Rules show.
Swagger controlled the majority of the bout, utilizing a deliberate pace to wear down the challenger. As commentators Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and Matt Striker discussed, however, the amount of time he took between moves would comeback to bite him.
Orton fought back with his quick-strike abilities. He violently blasted Swagger with trash can shots to the head and looked to have momentum on his side following his trademark DDT. His introduction of a steel chair to the match proved to be his downfall, however, as Swagger escaped an RKO attempt by tossing him back-first onto the chair and delivering the gut wrench powerbomb for the pinfall victory.
The former WWE and World champion Orton did a tremendous job of putting Swagger over. He gave the Oklahoman a ton of offense, let him control the pace for the most part and then took the clean pinfall. Of course, everything Orton did for Swagger meant little in the long run thanks to truly awful booking and an ice-cold feud between he and Big Show.
By June, Swagger would have lost the title and moved back down the midcard from which he came from. Orton, on the other hand, would defeat Sheamus for the WWE title in September and remain in the main event title hunt for the better part of a year.
Last Man Standing Match: Randy Orton vs. CM Punk (2011)
Just weeks after a physical match between Randy Orton and CM Punk at WrestleMania 27, the rivals took to the ring to kick off the 2011 Extreme Rules event with a heated Last Man Standing match.
Prior to the bout, the anonymous Raw general manager announced that the members of Punk's New Nexus faction would be barred from ringside, leaving their leader to go it alone against an Orton surging in the new year. As he would find out, the Viper strikes quickly, violently and without prejudice.
The two former champions exchanged control of the match throughout, each utilizing a kendo stick to halt the other's momentum. Orton delivered a high-impact RKO on the announce table while Punk floored his opponent with a GTS using the steel ring steps.
Summoning all of the energy and fury possible, Orton unloaded on Punk with a series of cane shots about the body. Moments later, he delivered an RKO from the top rope and watched as the referee counted to 10 before awarding him the match.
With all of the elements of a major main event, including tremendous heat from the Tampa crowd, the match stole the show out from underneath the night's headliners.
Punk would go on to achieve great success as one of the top two stars in the industry throughout the remainder of the year. Orton, on the other hand, would star as the top babyface on SmackDown and enjoy an outstanding program with Christian.
Tables Match for the U.S. Championship: Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus (2011)
There may not have been much of a story between Kofi Kingston and Sheamus leading into their Tables match at Extreme Rules in 2011, but they more than made up for it with a fun, entertaining bout that kept the fans in Tampa on the edge of their seats.
A Tables match almost always has an element of drama surrounding it thanks to the idea that a simple slip-up can result in disaster and a loss for either of the competitors. Kingston, one of the most dynamic and athletic Superstars in the industry, played on that drama to create several scenarios in which he narrowly avoided crashing through tables.
Sheamus possessed the clear strength advantage but Kingston's speed proved problematic. A top-rope Boom Drop onto Sheamus and through a table at ringside ended the bout and resulted in Kingston scoring the win and the United States Championship.
The match didn't have a lasting impact. Sheamus would enjoy a renewed push toward the main event on SmackDown, while Kingston would continue to wallow in the midcard—where he remains to this day.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango (2013)
In a fairly major upset, the ballroom dancing Fandango defeated Chris Jericho in his first televised match at WrestleMania 29. The feud between the two continued into the weeks that followed, leading to a rematch at Extreme Rules on May 19, 2013.
Fandango continued to show growth in both his character and ring game as he expanded his portfolio of moves and added subtle nuances to his act that garnered a reaction from the audience. Jericho, motivated to improve upon his match with the newcomer a month earlier, delivered a fine performance as well.
A missed legdrop from the top rope followed by a Lionsault from Jericho made for a great sequence. Jericho's Codebreaker to a Fandango in mid-flight not only signified the end of the dancer's short-lived undefeated streak, it also adequately concluded an outstanding old-school wrestling match, the likes of which fans are not typically exposed to at the annual event.
Jericho would be gone from WWE by July at Money in the Bank, while an ill-timed concussion would halt Fandango's momentum and kill any chance he had of becoming a higher midcard act. Since last fall, he has performed largely as a comedy act, most notably in a never-ending feud with Santino Marella.