Updated: Mar 26
At WrestleMania XX in 2004, Brock Lesnar was booed out of the building after his awful, lacklustre showing against Goldberg. The man had fallen out of love with the business and the frightfully gruelling touring schedule, to the point where, at the peak of his powers, he jumped ship to the NFL and his beloved Minnesota Vikings.
Fast forward 8 years to the RAW after WrestleMania 28, and John Cena is in the ring delivering a promo and addressing his loss to The Rock in the ‘Once in a Lifetime’ match-up that lasted all of a year, when the first bars of familiar music played. The pop as Brock Lesnar’s name flashed across the titantron is unbelievable and with that, any animosity the WWE Universe felt toward the wantaway star was instantly forgotten!
Brock sauntered slowly to the ring and F5’d John Cena into oblivion, before calmly walking back up the ramp! Fantastic!
It transpires that Captain Charisma John Laurinitus had brought Brock back to both legitimise the company, and to usurp Cena as the face of the company. The arena for their first encounter? Extreme Rules 2012!
Match #1 - Randy Orton def. Kane
[Falls Count Anywhere Match]
A relatively entertaining opener in truth. Kane had recently returned to WWE as a heel turned up to 11, attempting to convert John Cena and ruining the life (and subsequent push) of Zack Ryder. He then targeted Orton with a series of attacks before he eventually attacked Bob Orton (Randy’s father.) Randy didn’t take too kindly to this, kidnapping Paul Bearer and putting him in a freezer to which Kane cared not a jot, the two continued to feud until the match was set for Extreme Rules, a Falls Count Anywhere Match.
The action was taken to the outside relatively quickly, though the pace was slow and the stipulation seemed to hinder the pace as opposed to adding to it. Kane got the upper hand quickly, hitting Orton with a running drop kick in the crowd. A lot of punching and walking followed as the two circled the arena and then went backstage where the WWE superstars were watching the PPV. Ryder saw his opportunity to attack Kane but was easily brushed aside before the action finally returned to the ring. It was here that the pace finally picked up.
The announce table was used quite inventively, as Orton, rather than merely putting Kane through it, performed his signature draping DDT from it, having a savage impact on the matting outside the ring. Orton attempted the RKO on several occasions, but was caught in a Chokeslam which he kicked out of at two. Kane produced a chair and attempted to Tombstone the Apex Predator onto it, but Randy reversed it and RKO’d Kane onto the chair for the 3 Count.
A good match but a slow start. Other than that, my only real problem with this was why have a Falls Count Anywhere Match if you are simply going to end it in the ring? Very bizarre!
PodMania Star Rating: 6 stars
We then had a segment backstage, where John Laurinitus (the world’s quietest man) and Eve Torres celebrating the success of the PPV - rather prematurely at the conclusion of the first match of you ask me! Eve then brings out Ex-SmackDown GM Teddy Long who is bringing them Champagne. Laurinitus gets a phone call from Triple H and leaves, leaving the pair of Torres and Long to stare awkwardly at each other.
Match #2 - Brodus Clay w/Hornswoggle & The Funkadactyls vs. Dolph Ziggler w/Vicki Guerrero & Jack Swagger
So just to clarify, this PPV took place in April - the end of April to be precise - Dolph Ziggler would become the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank briefcase holder in July at the Money in the Bank PPV less than 3 months later...explain to me then, why he lost this match...in less than 5 minutes...to Brodus Clay...The Funkasaurus!?
To be honest, not a lot happened in this match. Brodus was billed to be strong (for some reason) yet Dolph dominated the vast majority of the match with an array of Sleeper Holds and attempted chop blocks to the knees of Clay, all amid deafening chants of “Let’s go Ziggler!” echoing around the Allstate Arena.
Dolph got a Famouser away but Clay kicked out at two and then rallied. As Ziggler attempted to hit Brodus with some manner of flying forearm, The Funkasaurus physically head butted him out of the air, before hitting him with a splash and claiming his first ever PPV win.
A weird match that seemed fairly out of place at this PPV, especially when you consider what was in store for Ziggler in the next few months...why give the momentum to Brodus Clay of all people?
PodMania Star Rating: 3 stars
Match #3 - Cody Rhodes def. The Big Show (c) [Intercontinental Championship Tables Match]
A stipulation decided on the pre-show by a disgraced ex-SmackDown GM Teddy Long, this match seemed built for the current Intercontinental Champion - The Big Show. How was Cody Rhodes going to put this 400 lb monster through a table? The commentary team of Lawler, Cole and Booker do a great job of selling that point throughout this encounter.
Somewhat predictably, The Big Show has the early advantage, tossing Rhodes around the ring as though he weighs nothing at all. Rhodes, to his credit, sells every chop and every bump as though it is the most agonising thing in the world.
The first real bit of offence that Cody gets in is a Disaster Kick. Big Show sets up a table leaning in the corner and attempts to Irish Whip Rhodes into it. However, Cody uses the table to spring back and hit his signature move on The Giant!
The match becomes a game of cat and mouse as Cody does everything he can to avoid The Big Show. Eventually, after being tossed into the barricade and Clotheslined on the outside, Cody has no option but to roll back into the ring. As Big Show ascends onto the apron to attempt to step over the ropes, Cody attempts a dropkick and catches Show on the leg. He loses his balance and steps back to steady himself....and in the process steps right through a table, handing the victory and the belt to Cody.
Big Show did get his heat back by spearing Cody out of his skin before Chokeslamming him through a table.
PodMania Star Rating: 5 stars
Match #4 - Sheamus (c) def. Daniel Bryan [2 out of 3 Falls Match for the World Heavyweight Championship]
Built around the much maligned 18 second loss that Bryan suffered to lose the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 28, this match had all the momentum in the world. Despite being heel and, in a pre-match interview, calling the Chicago crowd un-original and overrated, Bryan is so unbelivably over with the crowd and they were fully behind him during this match.
Sheamus comes to the ring wearing a red ‘18 seconds’ shirt which I thought was a nice touch, even if it does clash awfully with his hair (I never thought I’d say this, but I think prefer his mohican nowadays!)
Sheamus starts the match like a house on fire, locking Bryan in a series of headlocks, before attempting a surprise Brogue Kick only for Bryan to duck into the corner to escape, lovely story-telling.
Sheamus continues to dominate, planting Bryan with Spine Buster before attempting to go up top. Out of desperation, Bryan hits him in the crotch and proceeds to stomp the absolute hell out of the Great White Shark!
Bryan spends a lot of time frustrating Sheamus then, locking him in holds and grinding him down. This proves pivotal as Sheamus, aggression boiling over, runs at Bryan but misses and hits the ringpost, selling an injury to the arm perfectly. Bryan gets him back into the ring and proceeds to once again stomp on Sheamus’ injured arm. The Irishman gets to the rope, but Bryan continues to work the arm even after the referee has called for the 5 Count, meaning the bell is rung for the first fall. Daniel Bryan however, has a massive smile on his face, knowing that he has done enough damage to the arm to limit a lot of Sheamus’ offence!
At this point, the champion is done. He staggered to his feet, only to be hit by a dropkick and for Daniel Bryan to lock in the Labell Lock, again working Sheamus’ arm - this is amazing heel wrestling. Unable to reach the rope, Sheamus passes out, leaving the referee with no choice but to ring the bell. It’s now 1-1 and the next fall will win it with Bryan firmly in control.
Doctors are brought into the ring to tend to the fallen champion whilst Bryan deals with the duelling Yes/No chants from the Chicago crowd. Eventually Sheamus rises assuring the staff that he is able to compete for the last fall. Bryan, eager to get this done, rushes Sheamus but eats a Brogue Kick for his trouble. Sheamus however is wiped out and takes two long with the cover and this allows Bryan to kick out just before the three count!
As we approach the finishing sequence, Bryan goes up top but is beaten down by Sheamus who himself wants a Superplex. Bryan manages to shunt him to the floor and go for the diving Headbutt, only for Sheamus to move. The Celtic Warrior then hits an Irish Curse Backbreaker with one arm and finally hits a final Brogue Kick for the cover, the win and to retain his championship!
What an outstanding match, without doubt the best match I have ever seen Sheamus have. The storytelling was excellent and Daniel Bryan’s heelwork was so much better than I ever could have hoped it would be - speaking of Daniel Bryan, he was just unreal in the ring! I just hope the rest of the PPV can live up to this with over half the show remaining!
PodMania Star Rating: 8 stars
Match #5 - Ryback vs. Aaron Relic & Jay Hatton [2 on 1 Handicap Match]
Very peculiar this.
We return from an advert to meet two very green looking gentlemen in wrestling garb hogging the ring. They explain that there has been a spate of people being jobbed out recently and that they were there to put an end to the trend, because ‘2 is greater than 1’ which was a chant they attempted (and failed) to get going with the Chicago crowd!
Ryback showed up just as the promo from the two jobbers reached peak irritation, and the match begun.
Relic started for the pair, kicked Ryback twice, attempted a forearm before being promptly flattened by the former Skip Sheffield.
Hatton, seeing this was a terrible idea, attempts to escape but is instead suplexed into the ring, before having his head taken off with a clothesline then gets hit with the Shellshocked for the 1-2-3.
Very odd match, especially when you consider it was probably this that knocked the United States Championship down to the pre-show!
PodMania Star Rating: DUD
Match #6 - CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho [Chicago Streetfight for the WWE Championship]
The feud between this two was great; Jericho is fantastic and Punk was on the run of his life and these two created magic together after their fantastic WrestleMania match! Sure, the content of their TV feud was a bit iffy at times with Jericho’s sole aim to make Punk drink and abandon his morals, even questioning the sobriety of both Punk’s Dad and sister, but the charisma of the pair got them through! Of course it does help that this PPV emanates from Chicago - Punk’s hometown. Both men come out in jeans, and you know what that means - Streetfight! It doesn’t take long for the match to disintegrate into weapon usage, with Punk smashing Jericho across the back with a Kendo Stick after some initial brawling. After regaining some of the momentum after a poke to the eyes, Jericho undoes a turnbuckle before Punk goes for a running knee. Jericho avoids it and Punk lands heavily on the matting outside. Jericho continues with the ascendancy as he takes Punk toward his family and proceeds to batter him in front of them. He then antagonises Punk’s sister, who slaps him leading Jericho to go for her, and for Punk to then snap.
He lays into Jericho with chops, takes the hold off of the commentary table and slams Jericho through it. Jericho did manage to rally however, and hits Punk hard with both the monitor and the shards of broken Commentary table.
Back in the ring, and Punk slips as he attempts a springboard move, allowing Jericho to press home the advantage. Jericho pulled out a can of beer and poured it on Punk. He gets out a can of beer and empties it onto Punk, before attempting the same with a second can, only for Punk to take advantage of Jericho’s complacency and hit him with a swinging neck breaker.
The pace really begins to pick up, with Jericho on top until he attempts a Lionsault; Punk catches him and attempts a Go to Sleep, but Jericho escapes and sends Punk head first into a chair. Stunned Punk then walks straight into a Codebreaker.
With Jericho completely on top now, he locks in the Walls of Jericho, with Punk just about making the ropes. With this being a Streetfight, that means there’s No DQ, which means Punk has to reach under the ring and squirt Jericho in the face with it.
Jericho is still stunned as he ends up on top of the Spanish announce table. Punk, after a lot of support from the hometown crowd, hits a diving elbow through the table, then drags Jericho into the ring, only for him to kick out at 2.
Clearly frustrated, Punk collects a chair, but is hit with a Codebreaker onto the chair. Jericho picks him up for a Go to Sleep but Punk counters and sends Jericho into the previously exposed turnbuckle! Finally Punk gets him up for Go to Sleep and for the win. Punk retains the WWE Championship.
This was probably my favourite match of the night, what a fantastic chemistry these two had! So many false finishes, inventive moves and even that final camera shot of Punk launching himself, almost crowd surfing, into the audience to be with his family. Fantastic!
PodMania Star Rating: 9 stars
Match #7 - Layla def. Nikki Bella (c) w/ Brie Bella [WWE Divas Championship Match]
There is a brilliant segment backstage when Eve Torres meets The Bella Twins backstage to tell them that Beth Phoenix is unable to partake in this match due to injury, and that instead Nikki would be facing a surprise opponent for her Diva’s Championship. After both Bella Twins air their feelings and trepidation about ‘surprises,’ Eve rolls her eyes and says ‘It’s not Kharma!’ to which both Bella Twins cheer with relief and make their way down to the ring with renewed confidence!
As it transpires, the surprise opponent is Layla, who is returning from close on a year out after knee surgery. Unfortunately the crowd, presumably still exhausted from the previous match, don’t share the joy of the commentary team at her return, and she is instead met with polite but mild applause!
The match is fairly simple; Nikki dominates early proceedings with Brie getting involved at every opportunity. However, it is this that proves Nikki’s undoing...
Dropkicked out of the ring by Layla, Nikki and Brie attempt a bit of ‘Twin Magic’ in order to stack the decks in their favour! Brie attempts a Bella Bomb but Layla reverses it and hits her Neckbreaker for the win, pinning Brie to become the new Divas Champion. Standard match, not a lot really to say about it analytically!
PodMania Star Rating: 3 stars
Match #8 - John Cena def. Brock Lesnar
[Extreme Rules Match]
In a way, though I adore the partnership of Brock and Paul Heyman in today’s WWE, it’s almost a shame they don’t let him talk nowadays. The promo he cuts before the match is terrifying and intense - no ‘Suplex City Bitch’ here, he is just a legitimate badass wanting to hurt someone!
It is strange however, that Brock’s pop for his entrance is nowhere near is as loud as Cena’s, even if Cena’s is 50/50 cheers and boos! This is man who is so over at this point, and the crowd just weren’t into his entrance at all! Too tired from the Punk and Jericho bout? Possibly. The start to this match was balls to the wall mental! Cena charges Brock from the off. Brock, calm as you like, performs a double leg takedown and begins to utterly butcher Cena with elbows, the third of which opened up a massive gash on the side of Cena’s head - 30 seconds in!
After a brief pause for the doctors and referee Charles Robinson (who takes an absolute pasting tonight bless him!) to tend to the viciously bleeding head of Cena, he attempts to charge Brock again, who does the exact same thing again! Bizarre! Weirder still is the referee attempting to yank Brock off of Cena... in an Extreme Rules match?
After the, quite frankly, alarmingly quick start to the match Cena manages to finally attempt a modicum of offence, hitting a running shoulder tackle on Brock, who hits Charles Robinson, sending him sprawling out of the ring! that caused Brock to send Charles Robinson to the floor.
Brock uses this as an excuse to lock in an armbar on Cena which seems to last an hour, Cena screaming in pain. Spotting Cena’s entrance chain on the floor, Brock picks it up and ties Cena’s feet together before launching into him with a savage lariat. He then ties Cena to the ringpost by his feet and continues to savage him, sending him shoulder first into the steel steps once he finally gets loose.
What follows is my favourite part of the night; Brock picks up Charles Robinson with one hand and launches him into the ring so that he can attempt a pinfall - utterly astounding strength!
Cena attempts to rally again at this point, looking for an AA, only for Lesnar to reverse it and hit an F5, which also wipes out Charles Robinson again once more. Another ref arrives to count the pin, but Cena kicks out at 2, leading to Brock destroying the referee in temper - this is the Brock I love and wish we still had in the WWE today!
With that in mind, Brock brings the bottom half of the steel steps into the ring an proceeds to lock Cena in a Kimura lock on top of the steps. Cena then, fading fast, managed to lift Brock whilst still in the hold and slam him on top of the steps, before then missing a top rope leg drop, rolling to the floor.
Lesnar then uses the steps as a weapon, running and leaping off of them, elbowing Cena but overshooting in the process, landing hard on his knee. Brock being Brock however, merely sold it for a second before popping straight back up and heading back to the ring to try the same again. As he does try it again however, Cena clocks the charging Lesnar with his chain that he has wrapped around his fist, busting Brock wide open. Cena then picks up Lesnar for an AA and lands him on the steel steps for the victory, quite shockingly out of nowhere!
An absolutely outstanding match, and a great main event to watch. I miss the Lesnar of 2012 as he seemed far more genuine than he does now. Weird that Cena won, I feel it should have been Brock to go down the road of carrying on Cena’s terrible year and Brock being like no-one else. Also weird that one AA, onto steel steps sure, was enough to finish Brock when looking back in 2017, it is nothing more than a transitional move! Ah well, these are minor nit picks, I thoroughly enjoyed this match!
John Cena follows this up with a very strange promo, explaining that if he has to go away for a while then at least he did this in front of a Chicago crowd who may, or many not like him...what? Very confusing end!
PodMania Star Rating: 8 stars
You know what? I genuinely enjoyed this PPV!
There wasn’t really a bad match on the card save the bizarre Dolph Ziggler vs. Brodus Clay fiasco (I don’t really consider the Ryback squash a ‘match’). Sure you could argue the placement of the Diva’s Championship Match was odd, but it was simply to give the crowd time to rest after a fantastic WWE Championship Streetfight, before they then watched a Killer Whale butcher the Face of the WWE!
The World Heavyweight Championship Match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan was outstanding, possibly the best match I’ve ever seen Sheamus have, with the story telling being fantastic and Daniel Bryan’s heelwork being absolutely sensational; you could argue the wrong man won, but going forward, you can see more story-line options for Bryan after the loss.
Sure, Cena’s promo to close the show was enigmatic, slightly self-obsessed and would lead to one of the worst main events in recent memory between John Laurinitus and Cena at Over The Limit 2012, but watching this PPV in seclusion as I have just goes to show what a good show it was, in a period in the company where so many people were returning (mainly for CM Punk) to the product having turned away from it years before!
Matches You Need to Watch: John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan
Matches You Need to Avoid: Ryback vs. Jobbers, Nikki Bella vs. Layla, Dolph Ziggler vs. The Funkasaurus