WWE is in an interesting place right now.
They arguably have the greatest talent pool in years between the main roster and NXT and they have announced recently that they are doing a brand split once again. Half of the roster will be exclusive to Monday Night Raw, while the other half is going to a new, live version of Smackdown. WWE have been dubbing this post-Wrestlemania time period as “The New Era,” and between all of the NXT call-ups, new talent being signed and the upcoming draft, Money in the Bank felt like the beginning of this new phase of WWE.
Money in the Bank took place on Sunday and displayed where the WWE is at and where they are heading as we get further into the summer. The undercard was weak and lackluster but the main events of the show delivered. If they split the roster right now with the performers featured on Money in the Bank they might have some trouble. With talent like Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt returning soon, in addition to the top guys from NXT being put into the mix, I’m hesitant but hopeful that they can flesh out the two different brands.
Money in the Bank has become one of WWE’s more important shows with heavy storyline implications for the next year. The winner of the Money in the Bank ladder match wins a briefcase that can be “cashed in” for a world championship title match whenever. Last year, Seth Rollins cashed in during the main event of Wrestlemania between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar and left with the title. It’s a way of seeing who WWE wants to push somewhere down the line, and who they have faith in as a performer since the briefcase holder is usually featured heavily on the weekly TV shows. Stakes are pretty high at Money in the Bank.
The New Day (c) vs. The Club (Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) vs. The Vaudevillains vs. Enzo & Cass
Fatal 4 Way for the Tag Team Championship
Most of the feuds in the tag division coalesced into a 4 way match at Money in the Bank. The New Day are approaching a full year as tag champs and still continue to be one of the most entertaining acts in WWE. Enzo and Cass are a close 2nd, but they have plenty of time to develop more. The Club are fairly new to the scene and The Vaudevillains continue to struggle. This match was just okay. It served its purpose as a high-energy show opener but there were quite a few mistimed spots and botches. The physical action was a little awkward towards the end but having all of these diverse characters in the ring together was fun while it lasted.
Match Rating: 3/5
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
The feud that never ends. These two started feuding the night after Wrestlemania nearly 3 months ago. They continue to have matches where you would believe the feud is over, yet they keep going. None of their matches have been stellar. If there’s any positive to take away from this feud is that Corbin is gaining some good experience working with a veteran like Ziggler. Their styles just don’t mesh well together.
Match Rating: 1/5
Charlotte (c) and Dana Brooke vs. Natalya and Becky Lynch
Another dud. Dana Brooke has a good grasp on her character but is still very green in the ring. This match was basically meant to further establish Charlotte and Dana as the top heels in the women’s division, and the post-match action showed Natalya turning on Becky Lynch to add another heel to the division. Hopefully they keep Natalya separate from Charlotte and Dana since they were just feuding recently and shouldn’t align so soon. I miss Ric being at ringside.
Match Rating: 1/5
Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus
Another new face of “The New Era,” Apollo Crews got called up after Wrestlemania yet hasn’t done much either. We were given another dead match. Apollo Crews can seriously go in the ring but WWE fans haven’t had much of a chance to see that yet. Crews hasn’t been given much of a character yet either, so right now he’s just a bland babyface who smiles and “has fun.” Crews wins with a surprise roll-up in a heatless match.
Match Rating: 1/5
AJ Styles vs. John Cena
At this point I’m glad they’ve gotten the undercard out of the way so that we can get into the real meat of the show. Since the last pay per view, AJ Styles has turned heel and John Cena made his triumphant return. They immediately started feuding with each other and have become one of the more compelling rivalries on the shows. Their promo work has been great and anticipation for their first ever encounter was high. Two road traveled wrestling veterans were set to finally face off, and they put on a phenomenal show.
Cena hasn’t skipped a beat after being out for 9 months while AJ’s been putting on clinics every night since he debuted in January. They had great in-ring chemistry and everything looked crisp. They didn’t do any majorly flashy spots or huge moves, but they had an incredibly solid straight-up wrestling match. AJ had counters at the ready for every one of Cena’s trademark moves, which adds in a dimension to the match as if AJ has been studying his opponent. I’m assuming they’ll save the bigger stuff for their rematches down the line, since I get the feeling that their feud is reminiscent of Kevin Owens vs. John Cena from last summer. The finish saw a referee bump followed by interference from The Club, allowing AJ to get the cheap and dirty win. Hey, at least Cena didn’t overcome the odds right away. Great match but I bet they will do something better.
Match Rating: 4/5
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
vs. Cesaro vs. Alberto Del Rio
Ladder Match for the Money in the Bank Contract
I’m almost starting to think that WWE does these multi-man ladder matches too often, or at least too close to each other. Wrestlemania saw one for the Intercontinental Championship just a couple months ago. Maybe I’ve seen so many of these that they’re all starting to blend together. That being said, they’re still usually a pretty entertaining car crash spectacle of sports entertainment, and tonight’s match was exactly that.
Everyone in this match is an excellent worker and this was probably the best combination of people to put this match on with. Everyone got a chance to shine and all of these feuds intersecting was fun to see as well.
Zayn and Owens will fight forever and even recreate spots they used to do on the indie circuit.
What’s not to love about dudes in their underwear pretending to punch each other on a ridiculous ladder setup?
I particularly noticed that Alberto Del Rio got to show off as a brutal and vicious heel, smashing ladders into heads and kicking people in the face. He’s done a whole lot of nothing this year so this was nice to see some character development for him. Of course, rumors came out after the show that he got injured on a fall.
Owens and Ambrose were my picks for the match and it came down to those two at the end. Ambrose fights Owens off and scores the briefcase to win the match. Given the main event scene of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, Dean winning really made the most sense. The crowd went nuts for Ambrose after 15 minutes of chaos.
Match Rating: 3.5/5
Rusev (c) vs. Titus O’Neill
US Championship Match
Obviously slotted as the cool-down match between the ladder match and the main event. Another boring and heatless match, and I generally like both of these guys. Rusev wins by submission. This is a situation that can benefit from the brand split, hopefully splitting these two up and pairing them with some fresh opponents.
Match Rating: 1/5
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth Rollins
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Here’s the scenario: Rollins came back from an injury as a returning hero, back to reclaim the title he never lost and had to give up due to his injury. WWE created a short documentary about his rehabbing process and that really made Seth come off as an endearing character you want to see get his championship back. So what does WWE do? Turn him heel the next night, because they don’t want him to be cheered more than Roman Reigns. The live crowd does whatever they want in spite of this and booed Roman out of the building and gave Seth a warm welcome tonight.
They proceeded to have a regular, main event style match. Nothing out of this world with a dull first half. The crowd was hot though which kept the pace up and made the match feel more important. Rollins isn’t quite back to where he was pre-injury and is perhaps changing his style up a little to accommodate that. So he felt a little off to me tonight but he found his stride towards the end of the match. Reigns did his usual ring work and wasn’t offensive. His matches with AJ Styles at the last couple of pay per views were much better than this.
The end of the match saw Reigns and Rollins reversing and kicking out of finishers accompanied by some high drama. Fans weren’t really expecting Reigns to lose anytime soon, but after a second pedigree Seth Rollins pinned him for the win. The arena exploded since they saw Roman lose and Seth reclaim his title. It wasn’t designed to be a feel-good moment but it certainly came off that way.
In another surprise of the evening, Dean Ambrose’s music hits and he runs down with his newly acquired briefcase. He officially cashes in against Rollins and the title match begins. Ambrose hits him with his finisher and pins Seth instantly to win his first championship, once again driving the live crowd into a frenzy.
The show goes off the air with Ambrose as the new champion.
I definitely geeked out. I wasn’t expecting Roman to lose tonight, and especially didn’t expect Dean to cash in and walk out victorious in the same night. Dean having the briefcase while the other two former members of The Shield feuded for the championship had all sorts of implications that could happen down the line, yet WWE decided to do it all in one night. All three members of The Shield held the title within 5 minutes. This really skyrocketed Ambrose back to the top after losing stock earlier this year, and felt like a shot in the arm that WWE really needed after Reigns’ run on top had been floundering. The match itself was nothing more than a 3/5, but Ambrose cashing in created such a great moment that I’m going to say...
Match Rating: 4/5.
Ambrose as the top champion in the company is a very interesting decision going forth into the brand split and into SummerSlam. It resurrected Ambrose as a key player and instantly rejuvenated him and even the company. Fans are excited and ready to accept the champion with open arms, instead of vehemently rejecting him like Reigns had been. The three guys from the Shield are now the title picture and it looks like we’re finally going to get the triple threat match that’s been brewing for years. Roman beat Ambrose to win his first title, Seth beat Roman for his, and now Ambrose beat Seth for his first one. It’s simple storytelling that’s basically rock-paper-scissors. That triple threat match will be great even if I’m disappointed in the end result.
Money in the Bank was not an overall good show, but Styles/Cena, the ladder match and Ambrose cashing in was enough to make my memory of this show a good one. WWE created a great moment in history with Ambrose cashing in and walking out as champ. I’m interested to see how everything looks in a month or two. Once again WWE will continue to get my 10 bucks a month for the network.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)