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After the unexpected success of WrestleMania 36, with its terrific cinematic matches and fresh fun at a time when it is much needed, it has been a bizarre few weeks for WWE, on and off screen. The controversy surrounding WWE being deemed an “essential business”, a slew of horrific releases, Vince McMahon’s reported fluctuating attitude swinging to “f**k it” (mind you, we’ll give him that one), a few injuries of stars like Kevin Owens and Jimmy Uso, pushes and/or TV time for talent who have before not received much of a look in (Apollo Crews, Cedric Alexander, Drew Gulak), some limited talent available for shows and some creative-wacky storyline decisions. This really is a year that we will not soon forget when it comes to, well, anything really, but in this case WWE!
So with that said, we advance onto the next Pay-Per-View event, as some newer stars were increasingly getting a shot and some interesting matches had been announced. Ladies and gentleman, here is Money in the Bank. The annual show deciding which man and which woman will hold the respective Money in the Bank briefcases, each containing a contract for a title match any time, any place and in any situation, for the next year. However, this year’s event has seen WWE get pretty darn inventive! Their “climb the corporate ladder” slogan pertains to this year’s original take on the multi-person ladder matches because this year, both the women’s and men’s MITB Ladder matches would be taking place at the same time! Not only that, they would take place at WWE Headquarters in Stanford, Connecticut, as the superstars started on the building’s ground floor and fought their way to the roof, where a ring and ladders would await and the briefcase would be suspended high up in the air! It was concept that immediately reminded of that iconic ‘WWF Attitude’ Super Bowl ad in 1999 and thus raised excitement and kudos to the creative team for coming up with this one.
Well, now the dust (or rather desk papers) has settled from last night, how did this craziness go down? Was it crazy good or a bit of a mess? Without further ado, lets take a look at this year’s Money in the Bank…
1. (Kick-Off show) Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro
Why on earth this was on the Kick-Off is anyone’s guess, as this was a fresh returning Jeff Hardy’s first PPV match back! Crazy decision. That said, Hardy couldn’t have a better dance partner than Cesaro and while the match was slow starting, it picked up and ended up as a fun little battle, with some good wrestling on show. Hardy got the win after hitting his trademark flurry of moves and no doubt this was a tune-up for the “charismatic enigma” before he faces Sheamus, which is assuredly the plan after the week’s of build between the two.
The main show opens with a video package bigging up the “climb the corporate ladder” concept and away we go…
2. WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Match – The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) (c) vs. The Forgotten Sons (Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake) vs. The Miz and John Morrison vs. Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado)
This was a hot opener to the show, which seemed to start fast and never let up. I actually thought The Forgotten Sons may be in line for a win here but am glad it didn’t happen (way too early) but every team got a good play here. Lots of high flying, multi-man frenzy and close calls made this one exciting and chaotic in equal measure. John Morrison looked as good as he has since he returned but the real stars of the match in my eyes were Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado, who made the utmost of their screen time and looked fantastic with their non-stop aerial offence. In the end though The New Day kept the gold in a hard fought title defence for the ever lovable champs (in their sweet paint by numbers ring gear).
3. Lashley vs. R-Truth
Bafflingly WWE announced last minute that MVP would be taking on R-Truth on the main show (why not put Hardy’s first PPV match back in this spot?!) and even more bafflingly this was then made into Lashley vs. R-Truth instead before the match, as MVP let “the almighty” take his place. Now, as fun as it was seeing R-Truth play to the crowd (in the empty Performance Center!) and accidentally slap Lashley while trying to let cooler heads prevail, this was absolutely staggeringly pointless. Even on a weekly show this would have been pure filler, let alone on the main card of a PPV. Short, sharp and useless, with Lashley (obviously) getting the dominant win. I can only think they are building Lashley up for a big future match (cough, cough, Brock Lesnar).
4. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship – Bayley (c) w/Sasha Banks vs. Tamina
This one had potential to shock, with decade-long (yes, really) veteran Tamina getting the win and maybe that long-awaited Sasha Banks/Bayley friendship breakdown finally taking place. Alas it didn’t but this match was ok, some good limb-based wear down ring work and Bayley again rocking her vocal heel role. Very slow in parts and maybe not all that memorable but there was some hard bumps and nice reversals. The SD Women’s division and title picture is undoubtedly drab though and could really do with a shot of adrenaline.
5. WWE Universal Championship – Braun Strowman (c) vs. Bray Wyatt
Of all the matches last night, this one was probably my favourite. This was everything Goldberg’s matches with Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman this year were not. A fantastic psychological powerhouse battle telling a great story that saw WWE welcomingly embracing past storyline foundations. It was a surprisingly but gratifyingly back and forth affair, with some real heavy hitting and superb character work that showed why Bray really is one of the best performers of this generation, and Braun was impressive too, as he raised his mind games to pull one over on his former master by suckering him in and fooling him into believing Braun had returned “home”, before laying him out with the powerslam for the clean win. Even Bray’s Funhouse puppet pals appeared here! It was fantastic and perfectly booked entertainment, that told a terrific story as Bray’s dialogue mid-match suggested, with Bray convincing his Fiend side that he could get Braun to return to home, hence why Bray’s monster remained silent here. That is until a flickering post-match set-up for the next step of this feud. Great decision here, Braun beat Jack Napier, now he has to contend with The Joker! And The Fiend will beckon (probably at the upcoming Backlash PPV), as this rivalry continues.
A message from Smackdown’s mystery hacker played after this match (this is by far one of Smackdown’s most intriguing storylines).
6. WWE Championship – Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins debuted some divine new music here that was cool and appropriate (long thought his rock beat entrance music didn’t really fit this messiah character change) and it must have been good luck, as he came rather close here to dethroning Drew McIntyre but Drew with his trusty claymore kick retained his title in the night’s best wrestling encounter. The two took their time and Rollins controlled some of the earlier half of the match before Drew fought his way back and the two started exchanging some heavy blows, with a couple of near falls and big moves (that seated top rope german duplex was immense). They worked really hard here and it showed. Plus it really helped that Samoa Joe on commentary was ace and so massively into the near falls! He is the energy Raw commentary has needed. The post-match handshake was an oddly respectful development and one wonders where the rivalry and “Monday Night Messiah” will go from here. No doubt about it though, Drew carries that title brilliantly.
R-Truth was interviewed afterwards saying he’s going to get his baby (the 24/7 Title) back from Tom Brady (ah bless him). Hopefully this leads to him actually attacking Tom Brady instead of champ Rob Gronkowski, that would be pretty funny.
7/8. Men and Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Matches:
Asuke vs. Carmella vs. Dana Brooke vs. Lacey Evans vs. Nia Jax vs. Shayna Baszler
AJ Styles vs. Otis vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Aleister Black vs. King Corbin vs. Daniel Bryan
So here we are, at WWE Corporate headquarters, with both MITB matches taking place at the same time. Was it as bonkers as we expected. Indeed it was. How does one review such a match as this? Filmed in the same cinematic way as WrestleMania’s Boneyard and Firefly Funhouse matches were (with editing and scoring), this was like Mel Brooks meets Die Hard and this writer is still not entirely sure what to think. But it was most certainly gripping and fun to watch, a sort of must see mayhem. Starting in the entrance lobby of the building (for the ladies) and the ground floor gym (for the fellas), this was an anarchic affair, which saw some fun cameos from Brother Love and Paul Heyman to Stephanie and Vince McMahon (with Vince’s undeniably being the best and funniest cameo). From Asuka’s lift dancing, to food fights, to select moments of inter-gender brawling, to an Undertaker room, this one was pretty unapologetically goofy but undeniably creative and wild. And when the action finally made it to the roof of the building, there were still some moments, including King Corbin throwing Aleister Black and Rey Mysterio off the the building (casual murder? Why not?). It was great seeing Asuke get the win (and kick Corbin for good measure!), and after that the men continued a few minutes longer as a returning Elias cost Corbin the case but AJ Styles (who replaced Apollo Crews in this match, who will hopefully be due a US Title match with Andrade) would drop it and Otis below would catch the case and get the – I have to say – hugely shocking win. As C-3P0 would say, “this is madness”.
Overall, at 2.5 hours, this was the shortest WWE PPV in nigh on 14 years and it was certainly a strange one. However, WWE continue, in uncertain times, to allow the creativity to flow and this was an enjoyable night of in-ring and building-top action. The MITB Ladder match and the men’s winner will certainly prove controversial to purists but people always talk about building new stars and I get the feeling this is the start for Otis. The concept worked rather well I thought and I can see this happening again sometime down the line, maybe with a bit more discipline (just have one MITB case being fought for maybe). Not everything was a note perfect wrestling clinic at Money in the Bank and some matches will fade from memory but with good title matches and a water cooler moment in the strange main event, WWE really tried to do something unusual here and I think they succeeded.