On 18th June, WWE aired Money in the Bank, it's eight PPV of the year, live on the WWE Network from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The show featured a Money in the Bank ladder match for a future shot at the WWE Championship featuring AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal defending the WWE title against hometown hero Randy Orton and the first ever Women's Money in the Bank ladder match with Natalya, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Tamina and Carmella, as well as appearances from The New Day, SmackDown Women's Champion Naomi, Breezango, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos and Lana. But was it any good? Let's take a look.
- Promo - The opening video focusing on the two Money in the Bank ladder matches and Jinder Mahal's defence against Randy Orton.
Carmella def. Lynch, Flair, Natalya & Tamina
in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match
You only get one shot at the first ever and unfortunately the SmackDown Women's division fumbled their first ever Money in the Bank ladder match, putting on a dull, uneventful affair, with very few notable moments. Perhaps, it was too big of an ask to put five women who all lack experience in Ladder matches, perhaps the ladies just weren't given any decent ladder match spots because...reasons, perhaps WWE just wasn't as all in on the idea of the women doing anything even remotely creative as they needed to be to make this match work. I have no idea. It was stupidly warm in the UK for 1am watching this and I wrote minimal notes, but then again there wasn't much to note down. A couple of spots with different people jumping off the ladder, Tamina taking a couple of awkward af spears into the ropes and steps and Flair diving off the top rope to the floor. These five would've been better off without being tied to the gimmick if WWE were going to put on such a conservative ladder match.
Now, let's talk about THAT finish. James Ellsworth climbed the ladder for Carmella, perhaps in a desperate attempt to climb out of the friendzone and dropped the briefcase down to his bae. Apart from the slightly clumsy presentation of having multiple refs look confused, making it appear like we were about to get Shane McMahon or a returning Daniel Bryan to head out and restart the match, this was the best part of the match. The reaction it got on social media was perfect and surely exactly what WWE were hoping for, as furious fans jumped on their phones to let us know why the finish was sexist and having a man get the briefcase in the first women's MITB match was a disgrace. Those are the fans that will still tune into SmackDown next week and their complain has the potential to create a buzz and produces a much more clickbait worthy headline for the various mainstream media that cover WWE. Yeah, I think it would've been more effective after a blow-away, spotfest of a match, but it's still clearly had an impact on the audience who will watch WWE no matter what.
- Backstage - Dasha Fuentes interviewed Lana about her SmackDown Women's Championship match...it was too warm to pay attention.
New Day def. The Usos by Countout
Usos retain SmackDown Tag Team Championship
I spent most of this match trying to work out why this bout was more creative in the first five minutes than the entirety of the Women's ladder match. We had the Usos taking control by sending Kofi Kingston over the top rope backwards in a spot that really made you sit up and take notice as it appeared at first glance that Kingston had potentially died as he tumbled to the floor. The Usos in control with Kingston as the face in peril produced the strongest action of the bout as Usos hit a lovely double suplex into the ringpost and then we got the Big E hot tag baybeeeeeee. I'm not sure there's anything more joyous in the history of all things than that near 300lber running through two lads and tossing them left and right with suplexes of various shapes and sizes. It's one of my favourite things in WWE and I'm happy to see it make a much welcomed return. The Usos zeroing in on Kingston's leg later on in the match was also a well worked tag team sequence.
Unfortunately, I feel like the latter portion of the match lost some of it's fluency with a couple of awkward and potentially dangerous moments, where things didn't quite go to plan. The stand out moment was Uso #1 (or possibly #2) overshooting on a top rope dive into Big E's Big Ending and almost ending up spiking himself on his head, but there were a few other moments in the home straight were the two teams seemed to forget what was going or what was about to come next. It's a shame then that the bout went on end with a countout as The Usos survived the Midnight Hour and then grabbed their titles and went home. On it's own the finish wasn't particularly offensive, but after the screwy finish to the ladder match and a less than stellar couple of minutes heading into it, it was at least a deflating conclusion to the match.
Naomi def. Lana to retain SmackDown Women's Championship
What a weird match this was. I'm not sure if anyone is still sure why this match was booked and I'm not sure we ever will. Lana got her title shot for nothing, which is supposedly a decent way of building heat for someone, but the fans don't particularly want to boo Lana and she quite clearly wasn't ready for a match at this level. It wasn't perhaps the carwreck that it could have been, but neither was it anything resembling a good match. The crowd was subdued, the wrestling varied between passable and clumsy and having Carmella come out and stand about did nothing for the bout and didn't make much sense either (at least, in kayfabe). Lana worked the leg a bit (for the second match on the show), with a couple of nice suplexes in the ropes, some awkward wrestling parts, Carmella came out after a near fall of Lana's spinebuster finish (yup, her first match had someone kicking out of her finisher) and then Naomi put on the Slay-o-Mission to retain her title. Not a classic.
- Promo - The same WWE Network promo that feels like it's been running for two years at this point.
- Fashion Vice - Up to this point, I'd probably say this was the best part of the show as Breezango produced an 80's inspired version of the Fashion Files. We saw an ominous VHS threat from whoever destroyed the lads' office and the two made about five or six Michael Jackson reference before leaving.
- Arena - Mike and Maria Kanellis are here! The whole production on this segment was brilliant from the music, to the hands-free microphones, to having Mike Bennett take Maria's last name, I can't wait to see what WWE has planned for these two on the blue brand.
Mahal def. Orton to retain WWE Championship
A strong part of this matches charm was the St. Louis crowd absolutely adoring Randy Orton. The went nuts for anything the Viper did, whilst they were quick to pour scorn on Jinder Mahal's foreigner based antics. WWE went all-in on presenting Orton as the home-town boy, supported by a group of "St. Louis" legends including Ric Flair, "Cowboy" Bob Orton and Baron von Raschke and it worked with the crowd losing it the moment they heard the name of the place where they were read out by the ring announcer during Orton's introduction and whole heartedly supported him throughout the match. Partly due to this and partly due to the style, but this match felt like something that had been plucked from a bygone era, which certainly has it's own appeal.
The in-ring stuff here was perfectably acceptable stuff and whilst it was never going to be accused of being ground-breaking or a spectacle, it did what it did very well and on as show like Money in the Bank didn't need to be anything more. After an early face shine where Orton ran through his greatest hits, The Apex Predator seemed to suffer an knee injury falling to the outside, with Mahal focusing on the injury and controlling the majority of the contest from there on in. Orton's selling was superb throughout this. If there's one thing Orton does well it's sell injuries, sell injuries and wrestle clinically. The only problem with this was that it was the third match on the show (fourth if you count the pre-show) in which the leg had been worked and we were only four matches into the PPV. Mahal running through some of the ringside guests signature moves was also a cute touch, with the Figure Four tying in nicely with the overall story.
The bout's conclusion was a little too similar to the pair's Backlash match for my liking as we saw the Singh Brothers saved Mahal after he took one of the worst RKO's I've ever seen and then Orton losing his shit on the Sunil and Samir, before returning to the ring and taking a Khallas to lose the match and allow Jinder to retain. The addition of the Bollywood Boyz getting physical with Bob Orton at ringside was a positive, even if it seemed to take an age for Orton to save his Dad, but that aside this was almost a carbon copy of the ending of the previous match. There was no twist to it, no new take on the sequence to trick us or anything a little bit creative or different from what had gone before.
Breezango def. The Ascension
I guessed the Ascension were going to be the ones who had trashed Breezango's offic but I was hoping it wouldn't be. They were the only heel team left on the SmackDown roster, so if you were shocked when they came out you weren't paying enough attention. This was a complete nothing match. A few minutes of filler and nothing else. No hijinks from Fandango & Tyler Breeze, but nothing to particularly note that they were furious at Konnor & Viktor for destroying their office either. A waste of a match and a waste of the mysterious reveal. Breeze got a roll-up win after the Ascension dominated.
Corbin def. Styles, Owens, Ziggler, Zayn and Nakamura to win the Men's Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Easily the best match on the show and probably the only one that's worth your time. This was a well-put together six person ladder match which used it's cast of performers well, building to a fantastic crescendo (something which MITB matches often lack). It wasn't the greatest stunt show type affair that WWE has ever put on, it wasn't up there with the first from WrestleMania 21 or Daniel Bryan's win in 2011 or Dean Ambrose's last year, but it held it's near half hour running time well and remained entertaining throughout. Negating the awkward earlier portion that the Women's match had, the bout was carried by Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens' rekindling their feud, whilst Baron Corbin refused to buddy up with Dolph Ziggler. Whilst a lot of the earlier spots were a little tame...a Zig Zag off the first rung?...everyone appeared to know what they were doing and how their characters should interact with one another. It wasn't sparks flying everywhere, but there was at least some fire somewhere.
Talking of Zayn and Owens, those two were all over this bout with almost every big spots involving one or the other. Owens in particular took the brunt of the punishment, bumping about the place like the New Face of America should. First a slam off the top rope onto an open ladder from Zayn to Owens, Zayn got hiptossed into a ladder in the corner by Ziggler, Zayn replied with a wicked sunset flip powerbomb off the ladder, a half and half suplex onto the apron from Zayn to Owens, a Phenomenal Forearm from AJ Styles to knock Zayn off the ladder, a Helluva Kick to Corbin, a low blow from Owens stopped Zayn climbing the ladder, Styles gave Owens a Death Valley Driver off the apron through a ladder bridging the ring and announce table, before both lads ended up bowing out after taking Kinshashas from Shinsuke Nakamura. Both lads worked their arses off throughout the match, providing the contest with more than their fair share of moments. But would you have expected anything else of these two workhorses?
The bout also saw some of the best use of Shinsuke Nakamura since he debuted on SmackDown in April. Firstly, Corbin took out Nakamura, jumping the King of Strong Style on the ramp and then we didn't see Nakkers for most the match. It made Shinsuke feel special, it made a moment out of his initial exit and an even bigger moment out of his return and it made him feel like something other than another cog in the wheel. When he got to the ring, still selling the attack from earlier, he dominated with taking out Corbin, Ziggler, Zayn and Owens with Kinshasas and generally looking like a bad ass mother fucker bent on going after the briefcase. The reaction to his return was only bettered when Nakamura put his hand on the ladder, only for Styles to place his hand on the other side of the ladder, with the two moving the metal aside to focus on beating each other up. The two were absolute gold together with big strikes that whipped the crowd up, before Styles blocked a Kinshasha before the two climbed the ladder amidst duelling chants from the St. Louis crowd. If WWE can keep these two apart, with teases like this until a big show (preferably WrestleMania) then they should have something special on their hands.
Of course, with the crowd going nuts for Nakamura and Styles on top of the ladder, it was the perfect time for Baron Corbin to push them both off and claim the briefcase for himself and that's exactly what he did. Corbin was the natural choice as winner as he had the most to gain from a stint with the briefcase, as he continues to grow as a performer (he's arguably improved more as a performer on SmackDown than his time on NXT). He's also got the character that is best suited to the MITB gimmick and there's a real opportunity to further the Lone Wolf persona with Corbin lurking in the background waiting to strike whenever the champion is at their lowest ebb. I'd love to see a long-run with the briefcase as I'm not sure that Baron is quite ready to carry the brand (although with Jinder Mahal as champion who knows what's what anymore) but after a 9 months or so being groomed to take the step up with a couple of major programmes with Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, even Luke Harper or Tye Dillinger, would put him in a position to realistically take the belt and have options going forward. It could also offer the elusive stand-out singles match that Corbin is yet to have. The SmackDown after WrestleMania would be the perfect place to switch things up.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.2/10
Before the main event, this PPV was heading for a low four and whilst the main event was probably in the lower half of MITB matches, it was still good enough to effectively pull the event up to an above average rating. Outside of the Men's Money in the Bank ladder match, Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton was probably the best match from the undercard, with an old-fashioned charm, whilst The New Day vs. The Usos was also heading in the right direction until the screwy finish. The rest of the show ranged from a complete waste of a first to just a general waste of everybodies times, with Lana v Naomi also happening. Looked at as a whole the shows major drawback was just how many bloody matches involved someone working the leg. There's absolutely no excuse for half the main card to work the same body part, I wouldn't expect that from a thrown together indy, but WWE really should be above that kind of laziness.