- The 'Game of Thrones' finale was WWE's stiffest competition in years, but Money in the Bank's own twist ending provided plenty of excitement Sunday night.
"Game of Thrones" may have dragons, but WWE has “The Beast.”
Brock Lesnar made his first appearance since WrestleMania 35, capturing the Money in the Bank contract that all but guarantees another run with the Universal title.
The pay per view competed against its stiffest competition in years as HBO aired the "Game of Thrones" series finale, but WWE delivered a card that, top to bottom, had more structure, excitement and quality matches than WrestleMania.
Even if not everyone loved the finish…
As for the rest of the show, Bayley won the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match and cashed in on the newly crowned Charlotte Flair, ending her ninth WWE title reign before it could even get started. Both WWE champion Kofi Kingston and Universal champion Seth Rollins retained their titles, and Becky Lynch now only has one belt.
WWE also announced that Mick Foley will return to Monday’s Raw to introduce a new championship.
Here are the results from the Money in the Bank:
· The Usos defeated SmackDown tag champs Daniel Bryan and Rowan in a non-title match on the preshow
· Bayley won the women’s Money in the Bank match
· Despite Samoa Joe’s shoulders blatantly off the mat, Rey Mysterio defeated Joe to win the United States championship
· Shane McMahon defeated The Miz in a steel cage match
· Tony Nese successfully defended his Cruiserweight championship against Ariya Daivari
· Raw women’s champ Becky Lynch forced Lacey Evans to tap
· Charlotte Flair defeated Lynch to become the new SmackDown champ
· Bayley cashed in her Money in the Bank contract to defeat Charlotte Flair and win the SmackDown women’s title
· Roman Reigns defeated Elias in a five-second match
· Universal champion Seth Rollins defeated AJ Styles
· Lars Sullivan dismantled the Lucha House Party
· WWE champion Kofi Kingston defeated Kevin Owens
· Brock Lesnar won the men’s Money in the Bank match
Here are my takeaways from the show:
1 – After serving as a critical part in the match of the night at WrestleMania 35, Daniel Bryan kicked off the preshow for Money in the Bank.
Bryan, who tagged with Rowan against The Usos, also took a clean pinfall in the match after Jimmy and Jey Uso combined for a Double Uce splash.
But Bryan’s appearance on the pre-show, and subsequent loss, was not a punishment.
Similar to the No Mercy pay per view from October 2016, which went head-to-head with a presidential debate and opened with a triple-threat match between AJ Styles, John Cena and Dean Ambrose, the Money in the Bank show was tasked with competing against the "Game of Thrones" finale.
This kickoff match was entertaining, and did its job in grabbing the attention of the audience, but the outcome was never in doubt once it was announced that this was a non-title match.
2 – Is there a better choice for the women’s Money in the Bank winner than Bayley?
Bayley etched her name into WWE history, becoming “Ms. Money in the Bank” after knocking both Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville off the ladder.
The Money in the Bank contract is designed for opportunistic heels, but Bayley holding the briefcase adds some additional intrigue to the women’s division. Fittingly for a worker of Bayley’s caliber, this was a fantastic match that told a great story.
The match was also a well-deserved moment for a talent who has consistently done whatever WWE has asked for the sake of the women’s division. Even though her character was floundering due to a lack of compelling storylines before her run with Sasha Banks as tag team champion, Bayley has continually been a team player, which is needed in order to sustain long-term success in a company as massive as WWE.
3 – “Becky Two Belts” is no more.
Becky Lynch will forever be known as the first woman to close out WrestleMania with her hand raised, but she is no longer the holder of two title belts after losing her SmackDown title to Charlotte Flair at Money in the Bank.
As a whole, the women’s division was extremely well-booked and the talent executed to perfection.
Lynch defeated Lacey Evans. Although the match was far from spectacular, the story was logical: Evans wore down Lynch, who was forced to defend her SmackDown title against Flair only moments after defeating Evans.
Evans then cost Lynch her match against Flair, interfering and weakening the champ just enough to leave her in a vulnerable spot. WWE needed to get one of the titles off Lynch so both Raw and SmackDown will have their own champion, so the call to have Flair win the belt made sense.
And that is when the excitement started, as Flair and Evans started to double team Lynch—until Bayley came to the rescue. Flair was knocked out in the melee, and Bayley then cashed in her newly won Money in the Bank contract. She dropped a flying elbow on Flair (no doubt putting a smile on the face of Randy Savage fans), and Bayley now brings a new level of excitement to SmackDown with her title reign.
4 – WWE champion Kofi Kingston and Universal champion Seth Rollins both retained their respective titles, clearing a pathway for new challengers.
Kevin Owens can still cause problems for Kingston, and AJ Styles is destined to make more magic in the ring with Rollins.
Rollins and Styles put on a clinic. They even sowed doubt into the finish. Despite the fact that it seemed impossible for Rollins to lose the title he just captured at WrestleMania, there was a sequence that saw Styles transition a curb stomp from Rollins into the Styles Clash that had the crowd legitimately buying into the idea that the title was about to change hands.
We could very likely see Money in the Bank rematches for the two titles at the Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia on June 7. But the door is open for new opponents, with Shane McMahon standing out as a perfect opposition for Kingston.
McMahon backed his way into another victory over The Miz in a steel cage match on Sunday. The so-called “Best in the World” has never held the WWE title, but McMahon could call in for help from Owens, Sami Zayn, and Daniel Bryan, all of whom he shares history with and all of whom also have been recently defeated by Kingston.
A storyline with McMahon has the potential to serve as a signature moment for Kingston’s title reign.
5 – The men’s Money in the Bank match ended with a twist, as Brock Lesnar was revealed as the eighth member of the match. Lesnar quickly destroyed Ali’s dreams of securing the Money in the Bank briefcase, and made a memorable return by winning his first-ever Money in the Bank ladder match.
The story saw Sami Zayn beaten and hung upside down earlier in the night, leaving him unable to perform in the main event. Braun Strowman was blamed for the attack. Although he claimed innocence, Triple H told Strowman to leave the building. This all led to an open eighth spot, which was ultimately claimed by Lesnar.
All seven wrestlers—Finn Balor, Randy Orton, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corin, Andrade, Ali, and Ricochet—sacrificed their bodies for the sole purpose of enhancing the match. The spot that saw Andrade deliver a sunset flip powerbomb to Balor onto the ladder was particularly outrageous.
But the night ultimately belonged to Lesnar, who is certain to improve tomorrow’s television ratings for Raw.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.