We knew the very-first non-WrestleMania WWE Network “Special Event”, Extreme Rules 2014 (we need to figure out a better term to use) would be historic and well, I guess it was. Daniel Bryan won his first major title defense against Kane in what was a crazy brawl, the Twitter response to John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt was almost universally negative, we saw the first-very WeeLC match, and The Shield vs. Evolution stole the show.

If you were with us during WrestleMania XXX we introduced a unique review style and we’re going to keep that going. Before we get to the actual review, here’s our reviewers starting with our two very special guests:

  • Seth Partnow: A basketball-obsessed maniac whose work can be found on The Washington Post’s #FancyStats Blog, ClipperBlog, Hickory-High.com & BBallBreakdown and his personal hoops website: WhereOffenseHappens.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @WhrOffnsHppns
  • Maia Nolan-Partnow (formerly Maia Nolan): Assistant managing editor of Alaska Dispatch/Anchorage Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @myster
  • Jason Felix: Columnist on Voices of Wrestling, famous for his New Japan Pro Wrestling Power Rankings and his study on the WWE Linear Championship. Follow him on Twitter at @Felix824
  • Bryan Rose: Voices of Wrestling’s Raw reviewer and part-time New Japan Pro Wrestling recapper. Follow him on Twitter at @br26
  • Cullen Baldwin: Voices of Wrestling’s Ring of Honor Television and AAW Pro Television reviewer. Follow him on Twitter at @Steenalized
  • Joe Lanza: You know him by now, one-half of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast and esteemed New Japan Pro Wrestling reviewer. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeMLanza
  • Rich Kraetsch: That’s me! The worse-half of the Voices of Wrestling podcast, columnist, managing editor and all that other good stuff. Follow him on Twitter at @richkraetsch.
  • Taylor Mitchell: Voices of Wrestling’s Smackdown reviewer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter at  @LuchaNerd

El Torito vs. Hornswoggle

Rich Kraetsch: I enjoyed that thoroughly. For all the comedy WWE does, very little of it is generally funny but this was completely different. The humor was more tongue-in-cheek as opposed to the usual “YOU SHOULD LAUGH AT THIS.” Honestly, the mini announcers were way better than Cole, JBL and Lawler, I want more of them. There were some of your predictable wacky spots with the step ladder, mini chairs, etc. but when it was all said and done what we got was a really good minis match. Torito looked impressive, there were a few high spots by Hornswoggle, Torito and their larger friends who were constantly interjected in the match. Wish this was on the full show so I could’ve paid a bit more attention, this was a lot of fun. If you missed the pre-show, go back and watch this match, it’s worth 10 minutes of your time. ***1/4

Joe Lanza: This was a lot of fun. Some wacky comedy early, with (step) ladders, mini chairs, and Micro Cole, Wee BL & Jerry Smaller calling the action (along with a vertically challenged ref & ring announcer), but as the match progressed it turned into a pretty impressive stunt show. Torito finally got to showcase some of his top level flying ability, and Hornswoggle held up his end just fine. Drew McIntyre nearly died going through the table, as it looked like he whacked his head on the floor. Torito wins it with a springboard sit down splash through a mini table. This…was not that bad. In fact, I think I really liked it! ***

Bryan Rose: I thought this was a fun match. The midget comedy can only go so far, but the weapons and all that made it an entertaining bout. I hope that this ends after because they can’t really top this. Lots of fun spots and entertaining to boot.  ***

Jason Felix: I watched this after Cena-Wyatt…and it made this crap fest into a classic. I found myself groaning every couple seconds, but matches involving people shorter than Danny DeVito are not my thing. 3 Stooges style matches aren’t my thing. Plunder matches aren’t my thing. Bad comedy is not my thing. Let’s see…all that being said, this match was twice as good as Cena and Wyatt, which means DUD x 2 = ½ DUD (which makes sense if you think about it. If it was 2 DUD, that’d be twice as bad as a normal DUD) And ½ DUD…well, it makes an ironic amount of sense. ½ DUD

Cullen Baldwin: Torito impresses as an athlete. He can bump and fly well, which he showcased in the match, but most of it is comedy spots. Including bringing in a midget commentary table and team and ref. Really, aside from the WWE-tier humor, this was a lot of fun. I didn’t think that they’d work in that many crazy, enjoyable spots. Yet they did. Worth a watch if you missed the preshow. **1/2

Seth Partnow: So here’s the thing, I appreciated them for going for an honest-to-goodness TLC match with El Torito and Hornswoggle. But, and I mean BUT, any “well maybe this isn’t dwarf-tossing minstrelry afterall” cred left when the little-person announce team walked in. Though I suppose they could have gotten credit back by doing a high spot with the littler person Spanish announce table. Appreciate the willingness of 3MB and Los Matafoders to take some crazy bumps, but this was a miss for me. ¾*

Maia Nolan-Partnow: Oh boy, is the WWE ever going to be hearing from some special interest groups on Monday. This mess was one bearded lady away from rolling into the Meadowlands in gypsy wagons. I’m pretty sure the genius who came up with this one sailed away in a hot air balloon and is now ruling the faraway Land of Oz. I can’t wait for the upcoming Very Special Episode of “Glee” in which the New Directions recruit, alienate and subsequently celebrate their new member with disproportionate dwarfism. One star just because I love El Torito. *

Taylor Mitchell: This match was one of the better comedy matches that WWE has ever put together. It took itself seriously enough at the right times and was a good parody of a normal TLC match. The spot where Hornswoggle denied the small step ladder in favor of the BIG step ladder, shades of Jeff Hardy, was hilarious. It appeared 3MB and Los Matadores wanted to showcase what they could do by squeezing in some high spots of their own. Overall this was a good comedy match. **

Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger vs. Cesaro

Rich: Hmm…. I didn’t like that as much as I thought I would. Swagger was eliminated first and the announcers initially looked like a botch because the announcers had no idea what was going on. Turns out, they forgot the stipulation even though it was on the graphic. These guys are the worst. Anyway, the action never really picked up all match. Cesaro looked good but Swagger and RVD were disappointing, especially Swagger who looked a step slow throughout the whole match. I’m not as big of an RVD hater as much but I wasn’t totally in love with his work here. I normally hate triple threats and this was no different, it’s usually just a one-on-one match with a few interferences during pinfalls and guys taking turns. I won’t hate on it too bad because Cesaro still looked great but I can’t go more than **½ here. **1/2

Joe: Coming in I was genuinely surprised at the feeling in some circles that Cesaro’s momentum is being curtailed by this “long” feud, despite being linked with a main event level manager and the fact that the Real Americans split was only just a month ago. You’d think people would learn to be patient after all of that complaining about Daniel Bryan left egg on all sorts of faces. Cesaro is clearly being pushed. He’ll be fine. ***

Bryan: Another solid match. Nothing revolutionary, but it was designed to get Cesaro over and I think they did good work here. They did enough spots to make it stand out. I do think it was funny that the announcers had no idea what the stips were, but that’s more creative’s fault than their own. Hopefully Cesaro is on to bigger and better things. ***1/4

Jason: I’m sorry…this was the last match I watched on the show thanks to the Networks “Watch From Beginning” feature not working. I’m just exhausted from a night of pathetically bad professional wrestling. Thankfully they contested this match under the much more fair style of elimination rules. The Triple Threat portion of the match was WAY BETTER than most Triple Threat’s. No real long sections of a guy illogically laying on the floor for longer than Kane laying on a pallet while on a 2 MPH fork lift ride. Cesaro rules. I’m out. **3/4

Cullen: Swagger took the first elimination after a typical triple threat opening. That means sloppy and predictable. RVD knocked Swagger out, so him and Cesaro get to close it out. Luckily, this means RVD bumping while Cesaro whips him around. Then RVD gets an extended shine segment, weirdly placed in the latter half of the match. The crowd was into him at times, this being old ECW turf and all. The closing sequence looked pretty damn rough. RVD got busted up on it too, so I’m guessing he agrees. Cesaro got the win, which was most important, but they kept RVD strong. Swagger gets lost in the mix. RVD controlling most of the match after Swagger’s elimination leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If this was anywhere other than ECW territory the crowd would have dumped on it. 

Seth: It would probably help the presentation of the product if Michael Cole and JBL knew this was supposed to be an elimination match, so they wouldn’t have been so obviously confused when Swagger was eliminated. The crowd seem simply miffed as to what was going on aside from RVD’s “ECW” spot. Given his stylistic similarity with RVD and the chemistry he has established with Cesaro (SORELY lacking between Cesaro and RVD), I can only dream of how much better this would have been with Sami Zayn instead of RVD. *3/4 bumped a a full half-star because Paul Heyman is awesome.

Maia: I mean, we all knew Cesaro was going to win this one, right? But instead of doing the obvious and eliminating RVD early on, leaving the former teammates to face off, we end up with Cesaro and RVD and the trash can, and I have to say I enjoyed it despite the fact that I’m not usually into the smashing-one-another-with-props scene. Also, I could seriously watch Cesaro all the livelong day. Those legs go all the way up. ***

Taylor: Heyman starts off with another classic promo. I mentioned this in my review of the latest episode of Smackdown, that I appreciate this feud. It isn’t the best or most compelling feud in the world, but at least it is a feud amongst mid-to-upper carders that doesn’t have to be about a title. The WWE gets stuck in 1 or 2 feuds and the rest is even-Steven booked throwaway matches. The commentator’s lack of knowledge when it comes to the match’s elimination stipulation was embarrassing. If I hadn’t watched Smackdown this past week when Heyman first mentioned it being “elimination” style then I, myself, would have been confused because the commentators were all calling the pinfalls as if they would end the match. This match was better than the typical WWE Triple Threat match. It started off with the usual paint by numbers trope with one man laid out on the outside while the other two square off. The three men spliced in enough three man spots to keep it interesting. Once Swagger was eliminated, Cesaro and RVD put together a good one on one match complete with some nostalgic RVD spots. The match could earned ¼* more from me if Cesaro hit RVD with a sick Very European Uppercut for the win. ***1/2

R-Truth & Xavier Woods vs. Alexander Rusev

Rich: I knew there was a reason I chose blue as our primary color. I enjoyed the squash for what it was but I can’t honestly rate them. They don’t really exist, even if we did see them. *1/2

Joe: Lana is hot. **

Bryan: I agree with Joe. *

Jason: All I can say is that there was a huge missed opportunity in no double camel clutch. (Sorry. You can’t expect any more analysis than I gave in my prediction article for this match.) ¼*

Cullen: My roommate came running from across the apartment when Lana came out before match. They know to showcase her for a specific audience, that’s for sure. The Putin-worship was a great jingoistic touch. Even in 2014 we can get USA chants from that. Rusev blasts Woods with a kick before the bell even rings, then takes care of R-Truth. They’re booking him the right way to start. Rusev takes some offense isn’t bumping or selling too much. Nor should he, if he’s supposed to be a monster. Rusev looked really good there, especially showing off his agility. He’s good in a squash setting, yet to be seen if he can do much more. For now I’ll enjoy the squashes. **

Seth: I mean, if Lana is an homage to Rocky IV, why not go all the way? I liked the promo putting over Putin (great band name) very much, and maybe Vince thinks he has an outside shot of getting Vlad as special guest referee for Mania next year? I have a huge soft spot for athletic big guys, so Rusev has potential. But I can’t wait to see him in a real feud. Aside from the spinning heel kick, and the neat spot slamming Woods under the ring, not even a particularly effective squash match. Why did this need to be on a PPV, exactly? *1/4

Maia: I hate Lana so much. I know no one’s listening to her talk, really, but come on, lady. At least learn how to pronounce that high school Russian you mush around. Rusev does nothing for me, either, although I do enjoy his passing resemblance to Oddjob from “Goldfinger” (speaking of outdated Cold War stereotypes). The bout, though, has a lot going for it — immediate, unexpected brutality, acrobatics, drama. With the Cena-Wyatt, Bryan-Kane, Shield-Evolution theatrics on the card, this match is a nice little bite of just, y’know, wrestling. And one phony Russian floozy. **1/2

Taylor: Rusev feuding with Truth and Consequences is not a good place for him. Rusev needs to be plowing through the WWE’s bottom card jobbers until a credible upper carder feuds with him, with Rusev going over and maybe getting a long run with the IC or US title. Rusev not being able to shake these jobbers is only diminishing his value and “special attraction” quality. The spinning heel kick from Rusev was an impressive showcase of this agile big man. Rusev wins with the Accolade. I want to like Rusev, but the WWE is making it hard to get behind him. With this direction he is heading down Sin Cara and Fandango territory. Big debut, small payoff. **

Big E. Langston vs. Bad News Barrett

Rich: The crowd was absolutely dead for this which hurt it. They popped big when Barrett won and during some of his offense but they really couldn’t have cared less about Big E. That’s a shame given Big E’s potential but speaks volume about how poorly he’s been used as of late. Barrett got a nice win here and hopefully, PLEASE they start using the IC Title properly and use it to build a guy and not use it as a protective shield to treat the guy like crap. They are treating the Bull-Hammer like a powerful finisher which is cool, it has KO potential whenever he hits it and they’ve protected it well. **

Joe: Big E’s IC run was a dud. The crowd hurt this, despite Big E kicking out of all of Barrett’s old finishers. Not sure where Big E goes from here. **1/2

Bryan: The crowd really likes Bad News Barrett but have nothing to say about Big E. That’s really sad because Big E has a ton of possibilities but carrying the intercontinental championship means that you’re a midcarder, and midcarder nowadays in the WWE Universe means you’re a geek and can get pinned constantly. That’s the story with Big E’s title reign and that’s going to carry with him for a while, which is really unfortunate. This was a solid match regardless with some fun spots. The only bad news for Wade Barrett right now is that he’s stuck with the title now. ***

Jason: Bad News Barrett’s cape is glorious. As for the match…well, I liked that they stayed away from the long heel heat segment. Langston’s spear through the ropes was sick. Oh yeah…the crowd. When Big E came out, the crowd exploded like the crowd at Wrestling Dontaku did when A.J. Styles won the IWGP Title. Speaks well for how much WWE has killed off a character that seemed poised for good things just one year ago. Anyways, Bad News wins the Linearcontinental Title, pinning Langston with the weakest Bull Hammer I’ve seen him do. Let the Barrett de-push start tomorrow. You know it’s going to happen. **1/4

Cullen: Now this is the match I think can be the surprise match of the night. Big E got zero pop when he came out, which is what you expect from your intercontinental champion in 2014. Big E keeps targeting Barrett’s lower back after hitting it against the ring post early on. I think this finisher is supposed to target that, but I’m not sure. The WWE either needs to put that move over of have him change it. Big E got one great looking spear through the ropes to the outside and then a second crashed him into the ringpost. Barrett flattens Big E with the bull hammer, which is getting built up as a sudden KO. The way Barrett lands it makes me okay with that decision. Bit of a sudden ending leaves me wanting more, but I enjoyed what we got. ***

Seth: For starters, I absolutely agree with King, Barrett should host the Evening Bad News every weeknight on the Network. The other Bad News is the crowd hasn’t really been feeling anything since the pre-show, and hard to disagree so far. Wa Big E supposed to be the heel here? If so, when did he turn? If not, why is Barrett vamping so much? I feel like I’m asking a lot of questions for every match, probably because I’m wondering what the hell is going on with this show. This was actually a more than decent match, very physical, but the atmosphere is still lacking. Poor Big E, they gave him the belt, took away his last name and apparently his entire personality with it. **1/4

Maia: I adore Big E. I adore Bad News Barrett. And I love this match, although I wince every time BNB reaches around to touch his lower back, which never seems to recover from being slammed into a post early in the bout. I’m genuinely surprised Barrett managed to pull it off, but I honestly would have been satisfied with a victory for either of these guys. The belt is just going to be that much more fodder for the Bad News character. Dickishness suits him. ***3/4

Taylor: I have always been high on Barrett until he debuted the Bad News gimmick. He appears to be finding out how to make it work finally. I love the Bullhammer Elbow. Its vicious, it can come out of nowhere, and it looks like it would actually knock someone out. Big E’s performance in this match was some of his best work yet. Big E’s suplexes and showcase of this athleticism was a good combination with Barrett’s brawling. Big E’s spear through the rope to the outside was impressive. Really good match. ***1/2

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