Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
After several different watered-down resurrections, WWE's version of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) more or less bit the dust earlier this year. It had its own weekly show under the WWE banner from 2006-2010 and, once a year, its own pay-per-view titled "One Night Stand". Originally conceived as a 2005 reunion show for current and past ECW stars, "One Night Stand" was invaded by WWE regulars as the years went on...and everything went south from there. 2008's installment was barely recognizable by vintage ECW standards; in fact, Tommy Dreamer was the only guy accounted for. By 2009, the annual event was renamed "Extreme Rules" and still kept the same overall gimmick: all of the included matches featured less rules and regulations than usual, from "Last Man Standing" matches to straight weapons-only brawls. WWE's recent shift towards a more family-friendly product has prohibited excessive blood from being shown, though beating someone with a trash can until they can't get up is apparently not a problem.
In any case, Extreme Rules continues some of the trends set during last year's installment: on paper, it doesn't look bad, but some of the actual matches just don't measure up (let's face it, PG-rated material is rarely "extreme"). This year's show took place at the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, MD on April 25th, and included the following 8 matches:
(8 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)
Big Show & The Miz vs. R-Truth & John Morrison vs. MVP & Mark Henry vs. The Hart Dynasty [Gauntlet Match]
It probably goes without saying, but the main thing that hurts Extreme Rules 2010 is the familiarity of it all, even with a gaggle of different stipulations thrown into the mix. In any case, a number of matches are at least halfway decent: for example, the opening gauntlet match is relatviely fast-paced and breezes by without any major hiccups. It's almost too fast-paced in the home stretch, but that's what opening matches are for: to get the crowd worked up for what's to come. Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk is even better...but considering these are two of WWE's most consistent athletes, it's hardly surprising. Even the Strap match between JTG and Shad is entertainting; these types of bouts are typically dull and drawn-out, but this short match keeps the momentum rolling. After a lull in the action (see below), we're treated to a decent Steel Cage match between Chris Jericho and Edge, which offers a solid amount of closure even though it runs a little long. The best of the night, however, is John Cena's brawl with Batista: this proves to be an intense match and almost defies WWE's commitment to PG-rated action with a mixture of near-falls, heavy hits and great crowd response. "Last Man Standing" matches don't always deliver, but this one does.
Elsewhere on the card, a few matches have their moments but aren't all that memorable. Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton delivers on occasion, offering a handful of hard-hitting weapons spots and a somewhat surprising finish. HHH vs. Sheamus builds on a backstage moment that opened the show---and there's nothing inherently bad about this match, but the athletes involved just don't do it for me. The only blemish on the card is an "Extreme Makeover" match between Michelle McCool and Beth Phoenix. I may be beating a dead horse at this point, but McCool is laughably unbelievable as a physical threat, especially next to the bulky Beth Phoenix. Their match has its moments, but the insulting stipulation almost guarantees a loss of respect from the crowd. The only other nagging complaint about Extreme Rules 2010 is the announce team: Lawler's fine as usual, but Matt Striker and Michael Cole pale in comparison to Jim Ross. It's a shame he's stuck behind the scenes, because big moments just don't feel as big anymore.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are free from edits. Unfortunately, only one minor bonus feature has been included. This is bad news for those who already spent $50 on the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Extreme Rules 2010 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've undoubtedly become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but this is probably about as good as we'll get from WWE.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through clearly, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. Optional subtitles and Closed Captions are not provided.
It's not without a few bright spots, but WWE Extreme Rules 2010 can't help but pale in comparison to the ECW tribute show that spawned it. Only about half of the matches are above average, while the rest keep the momentum from building as much as it should---and with WWE's commitment to PG-rated action, the company is simply painting themselves into a corner with events like these. WWE's one-disc package offers a minimal amount of support, pairing a good technical presentation with little in the way of bonus content. Even so, there's enough decent material here to make Extreme Rules 2010 worth watching at least once---so if you didn't order the PPV the first time around, this one might be worth a weekend spin. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.