By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Kane Attacked WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan
First off, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Bryan for the recent unexpected passing of his father. He was visibly crying when he first entered and having Brie Bella come out with him was a nice touch. People who were unaware of what happened were probably confused since Bryan never even got a chance to speak, but that's nitpicking things. I'm glad Kane is back to being masked and his attack on Bryan was ruthless. The crowd was sympathetic toward Bryan and it was a great way of re-establishing Kane as a monster. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't mind the two facing off for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules and this was an excellent way to kick off the feud.
Bad News Barrett def. Sheamus in a Semifinals Match in the Intercontinental Championship Tournament
Barrett and Sheamus have always had great chemistry together and this match was proof of it. The action was highly entertaining and the crowd was invested the entire time. They delivered down the stretch and the final few minutes were excellent. I was pleasantly surprised to see Barrett go over in clean fashion, so kudos to Sheamus for doing the job. He can absorb the loss, but he's still in desperate need of a heel turn in the near future.
Bray Wyatt Addressed the WWE Universe
Wyatt's promo always are always excellent and this one was no exception. He's much better on his own than in a war or the words with John Cena because that's when it all goes downhill. It got me more excited for their Steel Cage match at Extreme Rules and did a nice job of hyping Cena's match against The Wyatt Family later on in the night. The fact Wyatt mentioned that he was taking all of Cena's fans was interesting and plays into the fact that Wyatt is a cult leader trying to brainwash the masses.
Los Matadores def. 3MB
The series of pointless matches between Los Matadores and 3MB continues. The real question is, why? The involvement of Hornswoggle in it all doesn't make it any more tolerable. If anything, it makes me want to change the channel even more. I don't care for the "rivalry" between Hornswoggle and El Torito or between these two teams. It was quite evident that the live crowd didn't care for it either and makes the match feel like the filler that it is.
The Shield Interrupted Evolution
Evolution entering the arena in a limousine with suits on was a nice touch, though it would've been cooler if they entered in a helicopter like the good old days. They cut a solid promo, as did The Shield. Seth Rollins has come a long way on the mic, but I would have liked to see Dean Ambrose do a majority of the mic work for the group. It was smart to keep the two factions a part until the pay-per-view (or at least for the next few weeks) and it built anticipation for their upcoming encounter.
WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos def. Cody Rhodes and Goldust (Non-title)
This had been a match I was looking forward to seeing for a while now and I was glad to see it come to fruition here. Granted, it didn't mean as much as it would have a few months ago when the Rhodes brothers were still a hot act, but it was fun while it lasted. Cody walking out on Goldust gives me hope that they're finally going to feud, but I'd personally rather see Goldust as the heel since Cody is still fresh as a face. At least the rivalry is close to happening, though. Curtis Axel and Ryback attacking The Usos afterward put heat on them going into the tag title match, but they still don't feel like viable threats to the straps.
Emma def. Layla
As I've said in the past, I'm fine with Layla being paired with Fandango because it gives her more television time and she probably wouldn't be used otherwise. Emma, on the other hand, is being wasted in this meaningless comedy feud. The match was decent enough since both Emma and Layla are very good workers, but I couldn't care less about her relationship with Santino Marella. She deserves much better than this.
Rob Van Dam def. Cesaro by Count-out in a Semifinals Match in the Intercontinental Championship Tournament
I had high hopes for this first ever one-on-one meeting and while it was a good match, it wasn't as great as I expected it to be. It could be a case of them simply holding back to go all out the next time they meet, which would explain the count-out finish. Jack Swagger interfering and costing Cesaro the victory furthered their feud and I like they're facing off on SmackDown as opposed to at Extreme Rules. This allows Rob Van Dam to lose in the tournament finals and face Cesaro in a rematch at the event.
Divas Champion Paige def. Aksana (Non-title)
Oddly enough, I enjoyed Paige's match with Alicia Fox more if only Fox got in more offense than Aksana and Paige was made to look like an underdog in that match. I'm all for the Divas matches getting more time, but it felt like it dragged on and it was basically a rehash of what we saw on SmackDown only three days ago. Paige is getting over nicely and I'm glad the commentators made mention of her upcoming title defense against Tamina Snuka, but Paige should've gotten some mic time or at the very least Tamina should've made an appearance.
Alexander Rusev def. Sin Cara
This was the standard squash match we've come to expect from Rusev in recent weeks. There isn't anything wrong with that, though, as it's better for him to be built up slowly than to be immediately put in a feud with a top star (see: Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio) and risk ruining his momentum. I found it interesting that a Handicap match pitting him against R-Truth and Xavier Woods is being billed for Extreme Rules in advance, as those kind of matches are usually added at the last minute.
John Cena def. The Wyatt Family in a 3-on-1 Handicap Match via Disqualification
The match was solid from start to finish and Wyatt's mannerisms were definitely the highlights. They're just so out of the ordinary that it makes his matches that much more enjoyable to watch. There was no way Cena was being pinned clean here, so the non-finish was only logical. However, I was shocked that Wyatt was the one who nearly got pinned since it was basically implied that he would've lost had Luke Harper and Erick Rowan broke up the pinfall attempt. It was smart to put the heat back on The Wyatt Family and Wyatt singing to go off the air was intriguing, but it felt formulaic as opposed to something original and innovative.
I liked more things about this episode than last week's (the Evolution/Shield confrontation, Cody and Goldust potentially splitting, Barrett vs. Sheamus) and it was a decent show as a whole. It wasn't home run worthy, but that should come next week for the go-home show. Speaking of which, there was a lot of good build for Extreme Rules throughout the night and the card for the event is setting up to be a great one. It's annual pay-per-view I always look forward to, but I hope extreme stipulations are added to most of the matches. If not, then the theme of the show makes no sense.