After the February 27th edition of Monday Night War (the night where The Rock verbally destroyed John Cena), I wrote about how the two mega stars’ personal disdain for each other was as good as reality… http://chicitysportsfan.com/wp/2012/02/as-good-as-reality/. The point of the piece was how the return of The Rock brought an energy, attitude & throwback attitude to the reality era. It was as if the WWE threw out the PG bullshit because The Rock was back, and with it came monster ratings and mainstream viewership. The result was 1.3 million pay-per-view buys, with global gross sales in excess of $67 million.
Fast forward to today, and the WWE is set to descend on Chicago this weekend for it’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view. If you’ve ever been to any live WWE event at Allstate Arena, you know the ferocity that the 18,000+ maniacs bring on the regular. The Extreme Rules event is a nod to ECW, as well as a tip of the cap to the Attitude Era. To say that this crowd will be jacked up is in understatement.
This year’s event is headlined by John Cena vs the returning Brock Lesnar in an extreme rules match, World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan (who the Chicago crowd will cheer like he’s 80′s Hogan) in a 2 out of 3 falls match & Chicago’s own CM Punk defending the WWE title vs Chris Jericho in a Chicago street fight.
Lesnar’s return not only further legitimizes the WWE, but it has also given the company another shot of reality adrenaline. Since returning the night after WrestleMania, Lesnar has attacked Cena with a vicious F-5, and kicked him in the balls from behind. After years of struggling to find anyone who could touch Cena’s Hogan like indestructibility, Lesnar made Cena seem feeble and weak in a matter of about 6 seconds. Cena was best early in his career and the beginning of his 1st title reign as the underdog. Fans didn’t despise him like they do now, because he wasn’t walking though every challenge without breaking a sweat.
There is big match feel in play here, and it’s because of Lesnar’s presence, as well as Chicago’s hatred for Cena. We’re getting a WrestleMania style main event not even a month after the grand spectacle. I anticipate Lesnar winning, but only after the WWE tries to get Cena over a crowd that will have massive heat on him. I’ll bet you money right now Cena will refuse to give up before the match is ultimately stopped, or Cena passes out like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin did vs Bret Hart at ‘Mania 13 in that same building via a Lesnar submission hold.
You can also expect Sheamus to get his pasty ass booed out of the arena on Sunday. The Chicago crowd loves the heels-bad guys. But beyond that, Chi city is a sophisticated wrestling group. They know and appreciate Bryan’s struggle to make it to the WWE after years on the indie circuit, and he will be the decided fan favorite. I don’t know if Vince and the WWE planned on Bryan getting over as much as he did after his 18 second defeat to Sheamus at WrestleMania, but the stage is set for Bryan to capitalize on his immense popularity and regain the World Heavyweight title.
The reality aspect of the Punk-Jericho feud has been another pleasant surprise from the normally ultra conservative WWE. Jericho has been telling the world about the substance abuse problems that has family has suffered through, as well as trying to convert Punk into an alcoholic. The booze storyline has been used before with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall, so it’s not uncommon.
That being said, it’s refreshing to see the straight edge Punk roll with this storyline and even use it against Jericho. Punk set up Y2J to think he was drinking last week on Raw, and demanded the WWE champ take a field sobriety test in the ring. Punk acted hammered, before proving he was playing Jericho. It’s been well played and executed by two of the best in the business. I’ll pick Punk to win in his hometown, but I’d have him lose if I was in charge of writing the outcome. Why not try and start a riot in an already raucous crowd, right?
The WWE is on a high after a record setting WrestleMania, and a suddenly deep and talented roster. But more than anything, Lesnar’s return and the creativity of the writing has brought a lot of the casual fans back because they know they won’t see a standard Cena five moves of doom clean finish in the main event. The WWE is embracing the reality aspect that the Attitude Era fans have been clamoring for. We can thank The Rock, Lesnar, Punk & Jericho for that. And Vince also deserves credit for putting the show first, and not sponsorship deals like those with Mattel. It’s nice to know you still somewhat care about the people that line your pockets, Boss.