Coming off a red hot WrestleMania, a well-received European tour and a streak of half-assed episodes of Raw, WWE presents Extreme Rules 2015, their annual foray into the oft-times mystifying world of PG hardcore wrestling. In a “universe” where terms like “guillotine” and “hangman” are on the banned list, the far more provocative “extreme” is far game. Then again, this is a wrestling company that outlaws the use of the word “wrestling”, whose biggest money-making show of the year is called WrestleMania. We are live in Chicago, C.M. Punk territory. Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler are our hosts. In a wise decision, the ill-fitting LCD ring apron is gone.
Bad News Barrett vs. Neville
This was supposed to be Daniel Bryan defending his newly won Intercontinental Championship against Barrett, but he is once again on the post-WrestleMania injured list and not cleared to compete. No word yet on what will happen with the title, but I would suspect he will be stripped and a tournament held. Sure sounds like a good opportunity to make a star. Speaking of making a star, Neville is drafted in as Bryan’s replacement, and the announcement of his name is greeted with a hearty, satisfying pop. I am delighted he is on the show, albeit the pre show. His performances since debuting on the main roster last month have certainly warranted it. They go for the cat and mouse approach early on, with Neville’s flashy counters and immense speed causing the much larger Barrett some problems. He goes for one too many high risk moves and Barrett cuts him off, then we cut to a commercial for the WWE Network… Sort of seems like preaching to the choir. When we return, Barrett has the traditional post-commercial chinlock applied, and he is in complete control. “It’s kinda like William Regal against Dynamite Kid,” says JBL, who just says any old thing that pops into his head. Regal vs. Dynamite wouldn’t be nicely worked like this, it would be a potato harvest! Neville makes a comeback and manages to hit the dive he missed earlier, then drills his much larger foe with a stalling German suplex. Seeing an opportunity, Neville looks for the Red Arrow, but Barrett cuts him off and hits the Bossman Slam (I refuse to call it “Winds of Change”) for a near fall. Barrett tries to finish with Wasteland but Neville is wise to it, though another dive leads to him getting caught in the move again. It looks to be over, but Neville makes it out at two. Barrett loads the Bullhammer but Neville ducks and hits an enzuigiri. The finish that follows is excellent. Barrett stops the Red Arrow but misses the Bullhammer while Neville is on the ropes and gets decked with a kick. It knocks him out, and Neville finally hits the Red Arrow for the huge win. Bravo WWE for putting the superb Neville over. I really hope they realise what they have got with him. That was a fine way to start the show, and probably Neville’s strongest main roster performance yet. Helluva finish sequence too.
Final Rating: ***1/4