-Ahh, Money in the Bank. The show that’s almost impossible to screw up; just book a couple of scintillating ladder matches and ta-da, it’s a thumbs up show on simple merit. Except this year, we have about two weeks of build after WWE thought it’d be a great idea to space out ‘Network specials’ two weeks apart. I guess you could look at it as Elimination Chamber is like UFC Fight Night, while MITB gets the number designation. I guess the impromptu King of the Ring in April is like one of those “UFC on Fuel TV” specials comparatively.
-Remember, if Reigns wins, we create a hashtag that we stick by for all of three days.
-Live from Columbus
-On the call, Cole, JBL, and Lawler
-We get a ten bell salute for Dusty to open the show, with the entire roster (sans Cody and Dustin, whom I imagine are home) in front of the entrance way. “Common Man Boogie” plays to end the segment, and I was hoping we’d get a ‘Dusty Finish’, with Rhodes emerging from the entrance way, alive and well. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Thanks for the memories and the inspiration, Dream.
The match is basically divided into two classes: the pizzazz (Kofi, Dolph, Neville) and the designated shine (Reigns, Sheamus, Orton, Kane). You can figure out how each guy was placed into each group. The match pares down to a series of one-on-ones after Kingston gets punked out early, with nothing notable aside from Neville and Kofi’s acrobatics. Reigns took over to the residual chorus of boos, powerbombing Kofi onto a ladder, and then Neville onto him, diluting some of the boos with awed cheers. Orton’s RKO spree, concluding by puling Neville off the ladder into one, fared much better with the onlookers. I propose that when he RKO’s Kingston, it be referred to as the Stupid Driver ’09. The match runs pretty slow, with would-be studs like Orton and Reigns playing dead far longer than they would in a normal match, stretching the credibility a bit thin. Reigns livens things up by diving onto a pile of opponents at ringside, which leads to Big E and Xavier Woods out to try and aid their partner toward victory. The crowd isn’t happy, so Reigns, needing every opportunity to gain love and cred (love-cred?), wipes both of intruders out, and powerbombs Kofi onto the fray outside. Reigns spears Orton and goes to retrieve the case, only for Bray Wyatt to appear and upset the ladder, which everyone seems to love. Sheamus and Neville end up as the lone combatants, and Sheamus claws him off to claim the case. Very slow in parts, but enough goodness to at least be worth watching. The “everyone lay around” stuff gets a bit grating, but it was fine otherwise.
WWE DIVAS: Nikki Bella def. Paige in 11:25
Merely a backdrop for Lawler to parrot McMahon’s “All women hate each other!” missive as the two work what’s a little better than their standard Raw fare. Crowd at the very least was very into Paige, though Ohio’s proven to be an underrated capital of wrestling appreciation anyhow. The match picked up a bit with some finisher teases and Paige even landed the RamPaige, getting only two, which took the crowd out of it and telegraphed how it would be ending, more or less. Both women took a bump outside off the top rope, allowing for the Twin Magic switch. Paige pinned Brie after a cradle reversal, only for Brie to quickly reveal that she was actually the wrong Doink. Instead of calling a DQ, the ref allowed Nikki to hit the Rack Attack and actually counted the pinfall. Okay then. Match was fine before the irksome finish, which killed off the crowd. The announcers even harped on the referee not calling the DQ, so even Vince had to be thinking it was a dumb finish. Better late than never, I suppose.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: Big Show def. Ryback by disqualification in 5:28
We got Miz on commentary for this one, which is like Jesse Ventura 1986 compared to having to sit through the Bellas. Ryback beats him up in the early going, another example of telegraphing what would be involved in the finish. Ryback gets a clunky version of the Del Rio armbar about three minutes in, then he kicks out of a chokeslam a minute later, more accelerated than Cliffs’ Notes. WMD knocks Ryback to the floor and Miz teased involvement, to the interest of nobody, before clocking Show with the microphone. That drew a mixed reaction: half the fans hated the finish, the other were glad it was over. That’s two straight PPVs with a garbage IC Title match. Gee, thanks Daniel Bryan (sarcasm).
NON TITLE MATCH: John Cena def. Kevin Owens in 19:24
Fans may be taunting Cena, but they’re just happy to have something to sink their teeth into after a night of disappointments so far. Owens played the psych game early, doing Cena’s signatures (diving shoulders, spin-out powerbomb, Five Knuckle Shuffle) before Cena rebounded with an STF, and then a nifty deadlift reverse suplex for two. Fans are at least partially distracted in spite of the match at hand, in part because of the crowd-killing booking beforehand, but also they’re probably following the NBA Finals game (who expected a team from Cleveland to still be alive, thinks WWE). Owens senton hits Cena’s knees in a nice spot with well placed camera angle, and Cena follows THAT with an electric chair drop. Anytime Cena’s compelled to update the moveset, you’re in for a treat. Owens powers out of a pin following an AA, prompting a long Cena bitch-session to the ref. A top rope AA is countered by Owens, who drops down, and electric chairs Cena into a spinout blue thunder bomb for 2. Crowd became thoroughly hooked after that. Cena countered a pop-up powerbomb with a decent rana, then runs into a superkick for another 2. Into All-Japan mode we go with big move-two-big-move-two. Owens missed a moonsault and Cena countered with an AA, getting another 2 count and sending Cena into “I can’t beat this guy” mode a la WrestleMania 28 with Rock. The announcers played up the count, questioning if Mike Chioda erred at all in getting into position. Still reinforcing that Cena is infallible after all of these years. Owens fights his way to the ropes after another STF, and that’s followed by Cena, after some overt maneuvering, getting Amazing Red’s Code Red leg-trap sunset bomb, to the shock of all, for 2. Owens pops him up for a powerbomb right afterward, and the crowd is now hooked completely. A bad springboard stunner follows, and Cena wins with a third AA. Just about as good as last month, not quite the full monty, but still awesome. Just wish they’d waited til SummerSlam for the rematch rather than have it two weeks later. They do the handshake deal afterward, and naturally Owens attacks him, hitting the powerbomb on the apron. Owens’ Pee-Wee Herman laugh while holding up both belts almost bumps this to five stars. Almost.
WWE TAG TEAM: Prime Time Players def. The New Day in 5:43 to win the titles
It was an uphill battle following that last match and an in-arena re-airing of the Dusty tribute video. Big E sufficiently managed to get the crowd against him with an Ohio State probation rant, while Xavier’s passive-aggressive, borderline-about-to-snap clapping while the crowd taunts him is a five-star performance unto itself. Young played face-in-peril in what’s clearly filler before the mainer. Crowd played along with the tropes well enough, popping adequately when O’Neil tagged in. O’Neil even busted out the Monty Brown Pounce on Woods, and Big E speared Young through the ropes. O’Neil finished Woods with Clash of the Titus, making Young the first openly gay titleholder in WWE since Orlando Jordan was US Champion in 2005, I believe. Fine match, got a lot in for its brief frame.
I feel like opinions of the show will hinge on this match. The best match to this point featured jorts vs. gym shorts, with jeans vs. leather pants as worthy competition. Tights are for suckers. Match began with more urgency than the Chamber title match, thankfully. The ladder finally got involved after a somewhat light sequence that ended with Rollins trying a suicide dive and taking the ladder to the forearm, made worse by a camera zoom in. Kevin Dunn, the ruiner of illusion. Ambrose makes sure to add the Flip, Flop, and Fly to a vertical elbow from the ladder, spelled out by JBL for the slower viewers. Rollins introduces a chair to Ambrose’s knee during a climb, adding a story point to what’s mostly an insta-match. The crowd didn’t much care for the psychology, however,instead hoping for the stuntshows of the WWE days of yore. A Rollins ringpost figure four draws a “CZW!” chant from one distressed fan, which I presume is encouraging Rollins to attack Jon Moxley with a skilsaw. I’ll note that Ambrose’s Bionic Elbow vs. Rollins’ Figure Four, in a feud that pits rural grit against undeserved privilege, resonates on a day like this. Nice spot during Ambrose’s comeback attempt, where the rebound clothesline is countered by Rollins leveraging a ladder into his face. A somewhat shocking moment as Rollins headed up toward and Ambrose threw a chair hard at his unprotected head. Eesh. Rollins left Ambrose for dead in the aisleway as the fight spilled out that way, only for Ambrose to limp back in, take an enzuigiri, and still come back with the rebound clothesline. The two brawled into the crowd on the timekeeper’s side with Rollins sending Ambrose into a wall, and trying once more for the ‘leave him for dead’ finish. Ambrose appears from nowhere and strikes as Rollins fetches a second ladder. That ladder serves to bridge the apron and announce desk, and Rollins takes a sick backdrop onto it, a call back from last year’s MITB. Rollins prevents Ambrose’s slow climb and tries for a throwing powerbomb, only for both men to tumble over with a hurrachanrana. Crowd’s tense, either because they’re into the match, or word’s spread of Golden State pulling away from Cleveland. The fight on the Spanish Announce Table concludes with Dirty Deeds. Rollins runs in during the climb and bashes Ambrose’s bad knee with a table monitor. Rollins begins his slow climb, and Ambrose manages to pull him down. Rollins quickly Pedigrees him. It’s the good kind of slow, very tense. Rollins climbs again and Ambrose manages to hook the leg again. They fight down and Ambrose sends Rollins through the ropes, leading to a sequence where Ambrose is sent into the bridge ladder, and then powerbombed into the rail. A more vicious throwing powerbomb into the barricade follows. Finally, Rollins retrieves a ton of chairs and another ladder, dropping Ambrose with a running sitout powerbomb onto the pile of metal. Crowd is now officially lifeless after both that and the Warriors’ win. Ambrose fights to his feet somehow and climbs the same side of the ladder as Rollins and they fight over it, and come down with the belt together, but Rollins pulls it away, ending a great match but royally annoying the crowd who didn’t get any of their winners otherwise. Doesn’t take away from what a great match it was, though.
OVERALL: You can say that, yes, there were two match of the year candidates, and there were indeed, but Sheamus, Nikki, and Rollins’ unheralded wins and Cena going over Owens (despite Owens’ post-match beatdown), will leave a bad taste in a lot of mouths. It’s a thumbs up show on the matches themselves, but thumbs down for the payoffs themselves.