Talk about going from one extreme to another.
At WWE’s Judgment Day pay-per-view last month, no titles changed hands in the four championship matches. I applauded those booking decisions at the time, especially in regard to the two world title matches.
“I’m a firm believer that frequent title changes diminish the value of the championship and lessen the impact of the switches,” I wrote. “There have been way too many [world] title changes the past several months. Barring injury, however, I think Randy Orton and Edge are going to bring stability to their respective championships.”
Well, so much for that. There were five title switches Sunday night at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, including three changes involving the world championships. Orton dropped the WWE title to Batista, and Edge dropped the world heavyweight title to Jeff Hardy, who then lost it to CM Punk after the “Straightedge Superstar” cashed in his Money in the Bank contract.
The other new champions crowned at Extreme Rules were Chris Jericho (Intercontinental) and Tommy Dreamer (ECW).
As far as Sunday’s world title changes are concerned, even though I would like to have seen Edge get a lengthy run as champ for once – his nine reigns combined add up to a little more than 14 months – I didn’t have a problem with Hardy winning. And I really liked Punk cashing in and beating Hardy, because no one saw it coming.
What I didn’t like was Batista taking the strap from Orton. On the surface, this seems like the wrong call, but I’ll withhold final judgment until after I see what happens on Raw Monday night.
The other noteworthy development from Extreme Rules is that America’s Sweethearts – Edge and Vickie Guerrero – appear to be divorcing. Well, it was great while it lasted, but the pairing of the two heels has probably run its course.
Here is a match-by-match look at the show:
Batista defeated WWE champion Randy Orton in a Steel Cage Match to win the title: If CM Punk had not won the title from Jeff Hardy at the end of the show, this match would have been the biggest shocker of the night. Batista dominated the action and pinned Orton clean with The Batista Bomb in about eight minutes. When this match went on third to last, I figured that pretty much guaranteed what I was already fairly certain of – that Orton would retain the title. I got a bad feeling, however, when Orton had a chance to climb out of the cage but he chose to go for the punt to the head instead. I told my friend at that point that Batista was going to win. I don’t see Batista holding the title for long, though.
Jeff Hardy defeated world heavyweight champion Edge in a Ladder Match to win the title: I don’t know that this match will be regarded as a classic – which Hardy basically promised on Smackdown Friday – but it was a great match. There have been so many fantastic ladder matches over the years that it’s hard to devise spots that haven’t been done before, but Hardy and Edge came up with a few. In one particularly painful-looking spot, Hardy dropped Edge stomach-first on an upside down ladder, which closed shut on Edge’s ribs. Outside the ring, both guys took a bump off a ladder and onto another one that had been placed horizontally between the ring apron and the guardrail. Hardy also hit a Twist of Fate off a ladder. The finish came at about the 20 minute mark, when Hardy trapped Edge between the rungs of a ladder and then climbed the ladder and grabbed the title belt as Edge watched helplessly. My first thought after Hardy won: I guess this means he’s not leaving WWE, because the company wouldn’t put the belt on him if there was any question. Not so fast.
CM Punk defeated world heavyweight champion Jeff Hardy to win the title: Hardy barely had any time to celebrate his big victory. As Jim Ross was preparing to interview Hardy in the ring, Punk’s music hit, and Mr. Money in the Bank came out to cash in. Hardy had a look on his face that said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Punk went for the GTS right away on the weary Hardy, but Hardy surprisingly kicked out. Hardy then got a near fall with an inside cradle before Punk hit a second GTS and got the pin. Total time of Hardy’s second reign as world champion: about three minutes. Since Punk spoiled Hardy’s moment after he had finally clawed his way back to the top, I’m assuming that makes Punk a heel. A Punk-Hardy feud would be interesting, especially given their respective personalities. You’d have the straight-edged Punk against the free-spirited Hardy. Punk has shown in the past that he can effectively play the straightedge character as a heel by adopting an “I’m better than you” attitude.
John Cena defeated The Big Show in a Submission Match: I’m sure some will complain about the slow pace, but the match told a good story even if it was predictable. I thought the match was over after Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment, but he still couldn’t apply the STF to Big Show. Cena finally got a modified version of the hold on him, as he tied up Big Show’s foot in the middle rope instead of using a toehold. Big Show’s foot slipped out, but Cena’s facelock still looked painful and Show sold it great before tapping out at about the 19-minute mark. The problem I had with the finish is that the hold should have been broken since Show’s feet were under the ropes.
Chris Jericho defeated Intercontinental champion Rey Mysterio in a No Holds Barred Match to win the title: This was another very good match between these two that featured a lot of nice counters and near falls. Jericho, who cut a promo before the match that started at the merchandise stand and continued as he made his way through the crowd and into the ring, vowed to win the title and unmask Mysterio, and he did both. At one point, Jericho nearly unmasked Mysterio prematurely, as he was pulling on the mask and exposed more of Mysterio’s face than probably was intended. The finish was both clever and perfectly executed, as Jericho caught Mysterio on a 619 attempt and pulled his mask off in mid-move. Jericho then scored the pin as Mysterio covered his face. As great as this was, I can’t help thinking how much more it would mean if Mysterio hadn’t wrestled without his mask in WCW a decade ago. I suppose, however, that there’s a large segment of WWE’s audience that has no knowledge of that.
CM Punk defeated Umaga in a Samoan Strap Match: I’ve never been a big fan of strap matches, but this was fine for what it was and I liked the finish. During the match there was a graphic on the screen that showed how many corners had been touched. Not only was it unnecessary – counting to four isn’t that hard, is it? – but in the beginning it was off by several seconds in both directions. After some back and forth action, Punk touched three corners, and as Umaga tried to prevent him from reaching the fourth, Punk managed to hit the GTS and touch the turnbuckle for the win. Jim Ross called it a “shocking result,” which I didn’t get since Punk was a former world champion (at that point) and two-time Money in the Bank Ladder Match winner. That’s a lot more than Umaga has accomplished. By the way, are we ever going to find out the motive behind Umaga's attacks on Punk?
Tommy Dreamer defeated ECW champion Christian and Jack Swagger in an Extreme Rules Match to win the title: I’m not surprised that WWE put the title on sentimental favorite Dreamer, but I wouldn’t have done it. I suppose in the big scheme of things the ECW title is pretty much inconsequential anyway. Despite the result, this was a decent match. Dreamer hit Swagger with a crutch and then hit a DDT on him for the victory.
U.S. champion Kofi Kingston defeated William Regal, MVP and Matt Hardy: All the guys tried hard, but there were several botched moves that hurt the quality of the match. MVP, in particular, had an off night. Kingston got the win by hitting Trouble in Paradise on Regal.
Santina Marella defeated Vickie and Chavo Guerrero in a Hog Pen Match to become Miss WrestleMania: Just before the “match” began, Vickie announced that it was now a handicap match and Chavo was her partner. This was exactly what you’d expect – a short comedy match (about two minutes) that ended with both Guerreros flopping around in slop after Santina pinned Vickie. Santina putting a bucket over Chavo’s head and then punching the bucket to set up the finish was good for a chuckle. I also laughed when Chavo tried to brush the slop off of Vickie’s gown after the both of them were already covered in it. What wasn’t humorous, however, were Jerry Lawler’s one-liners when he was introducing the match. “The King” is usually pretty funny, but he must owe money to whoever wrote those lines for him.