Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank: Alberto Del Rio was still around. That feels like a million years ago, doesn’t it? Also on the card, John Cena and AJ Styles had one of the best matches of the year, and Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns had a main event I bet you couldn’t remember if I let you use WWE Network as a cheat sheet.
If you missed Money in the Bank 2017 and don’t know how to use your cheat sheet, click here to watch it.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank 2017 for June 18, 2017.
Worst: The First, Historic Money In The Bank Match They’ve Had Every Woman In The Company Put Over As Something They Wish They Were A Part Of Ends With The Worst Male Wrestler On The Roster Easily Winning And Handing The Briefcase To The Woman
Whoops, almost typed the entire column in h3.
One of the arguments you’ll hear about why the finish of the women’s ladder match wasn’t bad is that it’s a classic heel move, done to make us mad on purpose. The idea is that Ellsworth and Carmella ruined an historic moment by exploiting a legal loophole. It’s no DQ, so why couldn’t you just get one of your friends to run up the ladder and pull it down for you, you know? And in a vacuum where nothing has consequence and WWE didn’t promote the match the way they did, it’s fine. It’s a reason to watch Smackdown. If this had happened in, say, the fourth or fifth women’s Money in the Bank ladder match in history, it’d be a different story.
It didn’t happen in a vacuum, though. And the match was promoted this way. The point — the entire point that they decided, not the fans, not me as an up-my-own-ass armchair blogger, they told us this — is that the women involved in the match are participating in history. This is a Big Deal®. It’s such a big deal that they play a three-minute “trailblazers” video package putting over their connection to Mae Young, Fabulous Moolah, Alundra Blayze, Trish Stratus and the rest after the entrances. The women in the match and the crowd are all standing there watching this video package about exactly why this is important to the women specifically. And then a dude wins and hands a woman a briefcase. He doesn’t even have to try. He just shoves Becky off the ladder and climbs to the top and wins. He even kinda shrugs and shows off the briefcase before he drops it. The very worst guy. The guy who can’t beat anybody ever. You could’ve had him take a huge bump for her or hold the ladder steady or hold one of her opponents or something. She could’ve still grabbed it herself and had some kind of agency.
To “create a moment,” you stole a moment.
It’s like, too meta to even get upset about. It’s just colossally tone deaf, a desperate plea for crowds to Give A Shit about Carmella. Carmella is a perfectly cromulent wrestler, but crowds aren’t connecting with her. She could open Smackdown by driving a snowmobile over Becky Lynch and literally killing her and crowds would sit on their hands. And the thing about sacrificing your First Ever Super Important Match for this is that she’s still not getting heat. The heat here is that (1) even the average WWE fan sees this as garbage booking, a “bad decision” by the people in charge instead of wrestlers doing something shitty to other wrestlers, and (2) it, for lack of better phrasing, cut the balls off the match in what honestly felt a lot like the middle. Things were still escalating. The craziest thing Charlotte had done so far is that moonsault from the top to the outside she does a lot. Becky went butt-first into a ladder. That’s really it.
In a different world, in a different timeline, inside the Dyson Vacuum of Well Maybe, stealing history from us and the very performers you claim are orchestrating a revolution would be a good reason to get kayfabe hot about Carmella and James Ellsworth and hope they get theirs on Smackdown. In this world where “creating moments” is more important than understanding why moments exist, it’s not. In this world where Raw’s a nightmarish three-hour Groundhog Day loop, watching Smackdown make the same mistake of doing shit just to do it is a fucking bummer.
Worst: Ending A Great Tag Team Match With An Intentional Count-Out
I’d like to pause here to remind everyone that this is a “pay-per-view.” I know that doesn’t mean anything when they schedule one every two weeks — seriously, Extreme Rules was two weeks ago, Backlash was two weeks before that, and Payback was only a few weeks before that — but most of us are still holding on to the idea that these are “special” shows where stuff’s actually supposed to happen. Why do we do that? Is it just me?
On Raw or Smackdown, you’ll get these good-ass tag team matches where the guys go nuts for 15 minutes and the crowd is rocking and rolling, and then one of the teams takes a count-out or gets themselves ignorantly disqualified or something to “keep the feud going.” That’s supposed to take us to the blowoff on the pay-per-view, which we have to pay extra for, where we get to see something Actually Happen.
When you start doing that in every other match on every pay-per-view, you’ve officially turned your “special” shows into additional Raw and additional Smackdown. The sets and broadcast being identical don’t help. So the opening match had James Ellsworth winning the women’s Money in the Bank match that’s supposed to be historic. The second match ends in an intentional count-out, when the Usos decide that despite wrestling New Day for 12 minutes and almost winning several times that they’ve had enough. The read from fans here is gonna be, “it keeps the feud going,” and/or “New Day needs a win and The Usos shouldn’t lose, so you have to book a non-finish!” To which I respond, “this is where the feud was supposed to go,” and, “if you can’t have someone win or lose a match, remember that you control the entire goddamn universe and wrestling is a TV show and don’t book the match in the first place” respectively.
And again, what sucks the most is that the match is really good. The Usos are the best thing in the entire company right now, and aside from more ill-advised prison rape jokes that shoot for a denominator so low it’s underground, New Day’s been enjoyable. I thought for a minute there the pay-per-view was gonna right itself and Ellsworth’s all we’d have to complain about, and then … additional Smackdown. Which feels a little too much like additional Raw.
Shout-out to Big E for busting out the Ambrose Driver ’97, though:
Can we just say the Usos won this match and New Day’s okay leaving them alone for a while? Because there’s a lot of good stuff happening in the Smackdown tag team division, from the Fashion Files segments to the unexpected babyface charisma of a chill Mojo Rawley to American Alpha dot dot dot question mark, so can we hard pass on immediately giving the Smackdown tag straps to the guys who just want them for accentuated dick swivel?
Best: The Demon Naomi
Good things about this pay-per-view included:
- That Fashion Files segment where they made jokes about Coliseum Home Video and Michael Jackson song titles
- This Mojo Rawley GIF that makes him look like the game’s glitching
- Naomi’s entrance, which looks a little more like Cosmic Bowling Finn Bálor every week
Honestly that’s pretty much it. Oh, and the fact that Lana’s entrance music sounds like the Postmodern Jukebox cover of Samoa Joe’s theme. Nothing says “Russia” like steel drums and honky sax!
Anyway, if you’re keeping track, so far the pay-per-view contains a guy winning the first women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, a bunch of prison rape jokes, an intentional count-out finish, and now a woman getting a championship match on pay-per-view in her first televised singles match and only losing due to a distraction. Yep, a distraction finish. Lana oddly has the match totally in control, but Carmella shows up and pretends like she’s going to cash in her briefcase. That gets Lana shook, and she ends up in Naomi’s headscissors crucifix choke (whatever they’re calling it now). It’s fine, and Lana’s better in the ring than you’d expect, but … yeah. Yeah.
And no Rusev. That probably deserves its own Worst. Gonna go listen to Puddles Pity Party cover ‘American Males’ for a while.
Best: I Know What Song I’m Dancing To At My Wedding
Speaking of great (?) entrance themes, I don’t give two shakes of a shit about the return of Maria and the debut of Mike Bennett, but my relationship with their entrance theme is the greatest love I’ve ever known. Jump to the 0:55 mark to hear it. Bill Hanstock described it as a, “Winger-style butt-rock theme,” and that’s perfect.
Two things I want from this run:
1. A scene where Bobby Roode’s backstage at Full Sail jamming on a walkman, stops someone backstage and is like, “Oh my God, have you heard this?”
2. An in-canon followup to the Dolph Ziggler/Maria breakup, which I still consider the single finest moment of acting in WWE history.
Oh, wait, a third thing:
3. Miz and Maryse just beating the dog shit out of them for being the Aldi store brand Miz and Maryse.
Best/Worst: And Now To Save The Pay-Per-View, Randy Orton
For a quick look into why this didn’t totally work, watch the WWE Fan Nation video and see how long it takes WWE Champion Jinder Mahal to show up. In the video of his championship match against Randy Orton. That he wins. In the middle of a pay-per-view. Before an Ascension match. Oh wait, he doesn’t?
Okay, first things first, a lot about Jinder really works right now. The look, the entrance and the overall demeanor are pretty great. He’s got a good thing going. His wrestling is still … well, Jinder Mahal, but at least he looked a little more aggressive this time out. I can’t think of anything I want to watch on pay-per-view less than someone slowly dominating Randy Orton for 15 minutes, but on a show like this, I’ll take it. I also liked the inclusion of the “St. Louis Legends” in the front row, and how Jinder Mahal kept trying to use all of their signature moves as a “fuck you” to the city. I don’t think anybody in the crowd was getting that, and even when JBL mentioned it overtly the announce team kinda let it pass, but it was nice.
I also enjoy that Cowboy Bob Orton has turned into Modern Family Ed O’Neill.
It’s also pretty funny that Flair halfheartedly sticks up for him, but the rest of the legends are like, “eh, it’s Bob Orton and the Singh Brothers.”
Orton of course runs out and takes them to the woodshed, which the entirety of the WWE Fan Nation video is dedicated to. It’s a lot of fun, and I wonder how much better this would’ve been if it’d just been Randy Orton vs. the Singh Brothers. And, you know, if the finish to the championship match at Payback wasn’t “Orton’s got the match won, the Singhs interfere, Orton takes out the Singhs, walks into Jinder’s finisher and loses,” and the follow up wasn’t exactly the same. Exactly. If you take the first 90% of the match and give it a finish that doesn’t make everyone involved look weak or dumb (or both), you’ve got something that feels like you’re actually invested in Jinder as champion and not just making excuses to put him over your top guys.
Also, for real, Jinder needs to take a vacation and not show up to work on July 4. Just stay at home, man. I know you think America is the worst, most of us feel like that right now, but no amount of muscles and Punjabi hip-hop threats is going to save you from AMERICAN GRIT.
Here Is An Ascension Match, On Pay-Per-View
The Ascension look like they prepared for this match by sitting still for two months and then getting sunburned. At least Breeze and Fandango got another win.
Best: Wolf, Blitzer
When Baron Corbin interrupted Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance and took him out of the match before it even started, I got some pretty depressing PTSD flashbacks to Roman Reigns sitting out most of a Royal Rumble. If they’d had Nakamura get hurt, come back and win, it would’ve … well, it would’ve been what Raw would’ve done. I’m conditioned to expect the worst from Raw until they’ve spent more than one 3-hour period proving me wrong.
The good news is that Nakamura’s return from injury is the best Nakamura’s looked on the main roster, and maybe the best he’s looked since he and Sami Zayn threw hands in Dallas. It’s especially important that it happened when you factor in Sam Roberts’ goober pre-show analysis about how Nakamura hasn’t shown us anything except cool ring entrances, as if “cut a promo you shouldn’t be cutting on Smackdown” and “wrestle Dolph Ziggler” have afforded him any opportunities. But yeah, Nakamura showing up like a badass to wreck Baron Corbin and systematically knee-destroy everyone who stood up to him while the crowd sang his entrance theme was PERFECT.
Also pretty perfect: the showdown with AJ Styles. I love that they made the match all about them, as they should’ve. These are your main event guys. Sami and Owens and Corbin are all great in their own way and Dolph Ziggler is also a wrestler, but Styles and Nakamura are your guys. They’re your aces. Sami’s the guy you believe could be an ace if he could stop getting his ass kicked for five seconds, and Owens is the guy who you love because he’s mad he’s NOT the ace. But Styles and Nak have a built-in chemistry and compatible offense, so devoting some time to their first official fight in a WWE ring was a good call. You could send these guys to Smackdown in a match akin to Nak/Zayn and it’d tear the damn roof off the building. Or hell, keep them running into each other every month or so until WrestleMania and do it then.
I guess the major downside of the match is that the beginning feels kind of deflated, and the finish is the same thing that set up the women’s ladder match finish. In that one, Becky, the person most of us want to win, is climbing the ladder. Ellsworth pops in, shoves the ladder over and makes Becky stun-gun herself on the ropes. Here, Nak and Styles, the big name popular babyfaces, are fighting under the briefcase on top of the ladder. Corbin pops in, shoves the ladder over and makes them stun-gun themselves on the ropes. It’s the same thing.
The final, let’s say two-thirds of the match makes up for any of those shortcomings, though. These guys were murdering each other. Zayn’s sunset flip powerbomb to Ziggler was sick, as was Styles’ … what was that, an Attitude Adjustment? To Owens on the ladder. Nak’s offensive bit was a breakthrough.
And hey, who better than Baron Corbin to sneak attack John Cena and steal the WWE Championship after Cena’s murked Jinder on the 4th of July and decides he’s been around for a few weeks and needs to leave again? You could do Cena vs. somebody for the championship at SummerSlam, put Corbin and Nakamura on the undercard, and then pull the trigger on the next Smackdown. OH, PUT CENA AGAINST RANDY ORTON.
Don’t, I’m kidding.
sigh you never know when I’m kidding, do you, WWE
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
A bunch of indie guys killing themselves only for Corbin to slide in and win the MITB briefcase is the perfect metaphor for the WWE.
I’m surprised Randy showed up. Last time Orton had a chance to represent America he went AWOL.
AJ Styles, Sami Zayne, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, and the aptly named “Sir not competing in this match”
The Fashion Police getting themselves over just to get paired with The Ascension is like if you worked at a Walgreens and broke your ass just to be rewarded with working with The Ascension.
i hope when the Acension come out, Breezango just say, “Oh…” and walk away.
I thought the St Louis Legends was gonna be a WNBA team
If Lana wins the title but it’s actually Rusev in a blue dress and blonde wig, I’d forgive them anything.
The Real Birdman
Naomi looks like if the Demon Balor got hooked on molly
“Sure…Whatever” – Shane McMahon backstage
Dave M J
Seriously, if this angle doesn’t end with Becky Lynch going Cero Miedo on Ellsworth’s arms, something is deathly wrong.
What the competitors don’t know is that the briefcase hangs above an unbreakable glass ceiling.
Thanks for reading.
Before you go, I’d like to say,
And to explain WWE’s role in all of this,
Make sure you drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, and how Smackdown can fix some of these problems going forward. Is it weird that Smackdown’s a better show when you don’t watch the pay-per-views?
Anyway, see you in a couple of weeks for GREAT BALLS OF FIRE PAY-PER-VIEW®, the show brave enough to just call itself “balls.”