WWE reminded the wrestling world of its place as the top promotion in the industry Sunday night.
Despite weeks of lackluster episodes of Raw and SmackDown, the Money in the Bank card delivered captivating and compelling matches, from the undercard to the main event.
Money in the Bank served as the next installment in WWE’s return to dual-branded pay per views, and highlights included AJ Styles’s incredible win over Shinsuke Nakamura, which added another layer of prestige to the WWE championship, as well as Alexa Bliss cashing in her newly won Money in the Bank contract at the right opportunity to defeat Nia Jax and win the Raw women’s title.
Braun Strowman won the men’s Money in the Bank match in the main event to cap off WWE’s best all-around card thus far in 2018. The show fittingly took place on Father’s Day, and many of the stars paid homage to their fathers with exceptional performances.
Here are the results:
· Daniel Bryan forced Big Cass to submit
· Bobby Lashley defeated Sami Zayn
· Seth Rollins successfully defended his Intercontinental championship against Elias
· Alexa Bliss captured the women’s Money in the Bank briefcase
· Roman Reigns defeated Jinder Mahal
· Carmella retained her SmackDown women’s title with a pinfall victory over Asuka
· AJ Styles defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in a Last Man Standing match for the WWE championship
· Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax by disqualification
· Alexa Bliss cashed in her Money in the Bank contract and defeated Nia Jax for the SmackDown women’s title
· Braun Strowman won the men’s Money in the Bank match
Here are my takeaways from the show:
1. The decision to have Daniel Bryan open the four-hour show was the right one. Bryan tapped out Big Cass in an entertaining 16-minute match.
I am a major proponent of Bryan, and although it will be great to see him headline some future pay per views, Sunday’s opening match was a compliment. The two biggest matches of a pay per view are the opening match and the main event. The opening match has to set the pace, tear it up and get people going. Bryan had the crowd going from the opening to the end.
2. Has there been a worse re-entry back into the company than the one we’ve witnessed over the past three months with Bobby Lashley?
Lashley annihilated Zayn, which puts the feud in a complicated spot. Why should anyone believe in Zayn’s chances against Lashley after that massacre?
3. Seth Rollins won the battle with Elias, but Elias won the war.
The time for Elias to win WWE gold is now, and a rematch at Extreme Rules in July—and then a third match at SummerSlam—should be the goal for this feud. In the interim, Rollins’s run of phenomenal matches continues. He’s even out-performed AJ Styles in this stretch.
4. The Bludgeon Brothers’ reign as Raw tag team champions continues to disappoint. The duo defeated Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows on the pre-show. Considering that Harper and Rowan couldn’t crack the main card of a four-hour show is a major indicator that no one cares about their current run.
Would it help to reunite the Bludgeon Brothers with Bray Wyatt? An inter-brand tag team title match between Harper, Rowan, Matt Hardy and Wyatt may be the last hope at salvaging this title run.
5. The women’s Money in the Bank match was, at times, far too choreographed for my liking, but Alexa Bliss was the right choice to win.
The briefcase is designed for a heel to carry, whether it’s short-term or long-term.
6. The crowd in Chicago may not agree, but Roman Reigns delivered one of Jinder Mahal’s best matches in WWE. The match was better than Mahal’s entire series with Shinsuke Nakamura and worlds better than the ones with Randy Orton.
Reigns now needs to refocus his sights on Brock Lesnar and the WWE Universal championship, which I believe will be around his waist after SummerSlam. Then, WWE can build to Reigns vs. Braun Strowman, which has to be a legitimate possibility for the main event at WrestleMania 35.
7. The return of James Ellsworth was far more entertaining than I ever could have imagined.
Asuka’s poor acting aside, Ellsworth’s return was perfectly executed. He helped Carmella retain her SmackDown women’s title, which she should hold onto, at the least, until SummerSlam. Ellsworth is a great example of someone who kept in great shape after getting cut from WWE, stayed relevant with his inter-gender title on the independents, and now returns to WWE in his role as Carmella’s heater.
8. AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura have put together compelling matches, but they had been unable to bring their work to another level.
Maybe our expectations were too high? None of their encounters were ever dull, but there was a missing variable in their battles.
Sunday’s Last Man Standing match was different.
The psychology behind the Money in the Bank match—with Styles displaying the heart of a champion and refusing to lose, while very intelligently focusing on the injured left knee of Nakamura—was a well-told story, and Nakamura perfectly played his role as the agent of chaos who refused to stay down.
The finish, with a Styles Clash off the ring steps, then Styles kicking Nakamura in the groin, followed by an absurd Phenomenal Forearm from the heavens onto the broadcast table, was brilliant.
9. Savvy booking by WWE not to have any title changes on the card heading into the Ronda Rousey-Nia Jax match for the Raw women’s title, especially with the swerve of Alexa Bliss cashing in to regain the title.
The story of Bliss as the ultimate opportunist is as necessary as it is compelling. Bliss is so much smaller than her opponents, especially Jax, and it is not particularly believable that she could overpower Rousey. Yet it makes complete sense when she blindsides them both. The title change wasn’t quite on the level of Dean Ambrose cashing in two years ago, but it was extremely well done.
10. WWE creative did a tremendous job incorporating the women’s division into the show. The women’s matches sometimes feel forced, or rushed, but the four women’s matches, particularly the Bliss cash-in, were all highlights of the card.
11. The decision to have Bliss immediately cash in her contract opens up the possibility for a heel to win the men’s briefcase.
12. Will Bobby Roode ever be more than an entrance in WWE? And will Kofi Kingston ever be looked at as more than someone who can deliver great spots in gimmick matches like the Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank?
Kingston, like New Day partner Big E, is talented enough to represent WWE as its world champion. The Boston College grad would cut entertaining promos every week and provide a championship presence, which is the missing part of the Brock Lesnar package.
It’s time for the New Day to go into singles competition, but unfortunately, WWE is too wary of breaking up the established money-making trio.
As for Roode, his future as a babyface is bleak. He and Rusev are in desperate need of a double-turn.
13. Samoa Joe is the rare type of wrestler who would have succeeded as a heel in multiple generations of wrestling, from the 1970s to the current day, and the reason for that is the authenticity of his character.
Joe is tough, powerful on the mic and works a physical style that embodies his character. His coquina clutch is also a fantastic finisher. A series of matches between Joe and AJ Styles for the WWE title is long overdue.
14. Kevin Owens’s fall off the ladder, courtesy of Braun Strowman, looked extremely painful. It’s telling that there was no replay until the end of the show, and there was a laptop on the table, which is inexcusable: That table should have been cleared for Owens’s safety. Owens did not reappear in the match following the spot.
15. I was genuinely surprised to see Braun Strowman win the Money in the Bank match.
Brock Lesnar is never visible on Raw, meaning that Strowman’s opportunities to cash in are rare. I genuinely expected The Miz to walk away with the briefcase, but Strowman’s win definitely adds a much-needed jolt of energy to Raw.
16. Will Strowman cash in at SummerSlam? Or hold onto his contract until 2019? The unexpected decision to have Strowman win the briefcase adds a lot of interest to the WWE product, beginning right away on Raw.