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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank for June 19, 2016.
Worst: Everything Falls Apart
WWE made the weird booking decision of putting two DOA tag matches — Golden Truth defeating FaBreeze due to a tanning accident that somehow got worse the longer it had to heal, and a Dudleys/Lucha Dragons match that made Mauro officially devolve into Matt Striker trying to make everything about dragons — on the pre-show, then starting the show proper with a fatal four-way for the Tag Team Championship. It’s like nobody looked at the card order before the show started. Three tags in a row, then all the crowd-killing stuff, then make it top heavy as hell.
The four-way had its moments (and even got a “this is awesome” chant at one point, because dot dot dot), but it fell apart at all the worst times. I think the most egregious is the finish. Everybody’s running in and hitting stuff, and Aiden English gets caught with a Magic Killer. Big E runs in to break up the pinfall, scooping Karl Anderson up for a Big Ending in a great spot. Unfortunately Big Cass isn’t where he needs to be to take out Luke Gallows, so Luke just kinda stands there against the ropes stuck in a Mortal Kombat “finish him” animation, waiting for his cue. Eventually Cass finds his way in, Gallows gets knocked out of the ring, and The New Day hit their finish on Anderson. And then, uh, pin Aiden English. It felt like what would happen if Dragon Gate put together a six-man and made everyone involved do 10 shots before they started.
Note: Now I really want to see that. So much beautifully timed vomiting.
I think the true highlight of the match happened during the pre-match promo, wherein the New Day declare themselves the “elite team” in the industry. Somewhere Kenny Omega is looking for the perfect insincere meme to respond. What Triple H indie utopian JoBu do we have to pray to to get the Bucks showing up at SummerSlam and taking the tag titles?
Best/Worst: A Little Too Late
Dolph Ziggler is so good at wrestling that he feels like he can micromanage a match in front of a live audience over a period of months independent of crowd response. That’s the only explanation I can think of as to why he wrestles the same guy so many times in a row, so many cycles in a row. It’s become his defining characteristic, and his most fitting joke.
The issue as I see it is that we can’t respond to something we’ve seen five times like it’s the first time, no matter how good it is. If you beat a concept into the ground, you’re killing our organic response, and missing one of the most wonderful things about crowd/wrestler interaction: the euphoric call and response of new interest. If last night’s Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin match had been their first, or even their second, and there was any logical character development or story behind it, we’d probably be praising it. It was a good match. Corbin has developed into an extremely underrated performer who’s able to pretty blatantly help a veteran through his mistakes, i.e. not let him look like an idiot when he slips on the ring steps trying to set up a Deep Six on the floor. Ziggler has finally figured out the right equation to make their rivalry interesting … building up the idea that Corbin is smart and intense and his Ziggler scouted, so Ziggler has to work harder to get his sh*t in.
It got time, the work was good, the right man won, and a popular veteran put over a newcomer who needs it. But, like I said, this isn’t the first time. The announce team is screaming about how a win over Ziggler makes Corbin legit, as thought we haven’t seen him beat Ziggler twice already. Any rub that Corbin would’ve gotten is lost in two months of moving in circles. They put this feud in a jar of mayonnaise and left it out in the sun.
In a few years, when I’ve forgotten how badly I never want to see these dudes interact again, I’m going to go back and re-watch this with fresh eyes. Let’s hope the feud isn’t still going when I do.
Ziggler vs. Corbin got a “boring” chant, so they were like, “let’s follow it up with the women’s tag and a Sheamus match.”
If you didn’t watch this match, jump to about the 56-minute mark on the pay-per-view and watch Natalya try to make the hot tag. It’s the most embarrassing thing in the world. It makes Luke Gallows standing around waiting for Big Cass look like Ricochet and Will Ospreay. She’s just floundering there in place “unable” to make the tag, like she’s caught in the jaws of a shark, waiting for Charlotte to cut her off. And then all she does is turn over, push Charlotte away with a foot, turn back over and make the tag. Was that cut-off really that important?
An additional supplemental Worst for Natalya and Becky doing a Hart Attack, and the announce team being like, “that was a move done by her uncle!” Yo, who was the other half of that move again?
The good news is that when they lose, Natalya goes Full Luger on Becky and beats the sh*t out of her. It’s probably the most believable offense Natalya’s ever thrown. Let’s hope they put Natalya in the Charlotte/Dana Brooke group so Charlotte can form a full Four Horsewomen group out of ladies who look like imperfect clones of Charlotte. Dye Rachel Ellering’s hair blonde and make her the fourth.
Worst: None Of These People Are Sasha Banks
Hey, at least she made the Battleground commercial!
Nothing: Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus
If you took away the ladder match and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, aired the rest of the show on TBS and called it “Clash of the Champions,” I’d probably be super into it. As it stands, most of Money in the Bank makes me go to my new go-to standard of boredeom excellence statement, “this reminded me of Smackdown.”
Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus was the Apollo Crews of wrestling matches. It had all the tools to be great and was perfectly likeable, but there was nothing to it, and you’d honestly rather be watching something with a little personality. It was also the Sheamus of wrestling matches. Big, pale, and not doing anybody any favors.
Sheamus hits White Noise off the second rope, and Crews kicks out. Sheamus is upset about the kickout, so Crews rolls him up (in a crucifix at least, and not just a schoolboy) and gets a win. So Crews won, but not really with any emphasis. Sheamus lost, but he lost because of his own mistake. Nothing was said or proven about the New Era, pro or con. It was fine. It was nothing. One day, hopefully soon, Apollo’s gonna show up on Raw or Smackdown with an actual character trait and I’m gonna be so f*cking relieved.
Best: Cena vs. Styles
At this point, WWE’s like, “all right, it’s time to start the show.”
As you might know from the last decade or so of WWE programming, John Cena is secretly the dopest wrestler. When he’s motivated and appears to understand the story he’s trying to tell, and he’s not wrestling Randy Orton, he’s as good as anybody in the world. Not everybody’s going to agree with that, and trust me, I talk as much deserved sh*t about the guy as anyone. Cena is this column. He’s the best of pro wrestling and the very worst of it, simultaneously.
What I love about this match (until the finish, which we’ll get to) is that it’s a flipping of the normal Big Cena Match. Most of the time when an indie guy steps into the ring with Big Match John — and we’re counting folks like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan here — it’s about them having to “figure out” John Cena. Cena’s accepted as a pro wrestling Superman, even still, where beating him requires a combination of unparalleled skill, a ton of luck, or well-timed cheating. Cena’s like the Borg, though, because when you beat him using any of things he adapts, learns, immediately challenges you again and beats you as many times as necessary. Here, the story is about Cena having to figure out Styles, and having to adapt on the fly. Amazingly, that’s not a story Cena tells very often, even though he’s been working crotchety vet offense into his repertoire for a while now.
The time off may have done wonders for Cena’s in-ring storytelling, because now more than ever he feels like a man on the other side of his career. He brags about his 15 world titles and all the things he’s done and how the future has to go through him, but with that boast comes the side-truth that he’s IN this spot because he’s been around forever and done everything. Now all he has to do is try to hold on to it, and stay relevant in the face of a new generation that’s getting better and better at pushing him to the limits. In this match, he looks like he’s worn. Styles hits him, and he goes down so hard the announcers seem shocked by it. He tries the old stalwarts like whipping dudes into steps, but Styles hops over them, slides back into the ring and tells him to bring it. He goes for a Five-Knuckle Shuffle late in the match and tries to do his normal adrenaline rush no-selling, but he looks TIRED. He looks like he can barely move, and he throws one of the worst Five-Knuckle Shuffles you’ve ever seen. That’s GREAT. That’s an old warrior finally facing the unstoppable march of time, and realizing that yeah, he’s John Cena, yeah, he always kicks out at two and yeah, he’s got Wolverine healing powers, but it’s getting harder.
I’ve made the joke before, but AJ Styles deserves a Pulitzer for the work he’s been doing in WWE since his arrival. He’s doing suicide dives onto nothing and springboarding into crash-and-burn 450 splashes (sorry, “shooting star presses”) that look like they should’ve caved in his ribcage. He’s out here making John Cena sell on offense.
Worst: The Finish
Most Cena finishes are spoiled for us now. If he wins, it’s “LOL Cena wins.” Cena buries guys and has to beat everybody. If he loses, we know from observable trends and facts that he’s getting his win back, probably two of them, probably at the next two pay-per-views. He did it with Kevin Owens, he did it with Rusev, and he’s gonna do it here. The only way to break that cycle is to have someone actually beat him in the rematch, and to let Cena deal with that as a character instead of pulling the Dolph Ziggler “here’s ANOTHER reason why you beating me doesn’t matter, let’s wrestle again!”
The match is great (x 10), and then Styles’ feet brush into the referee during an AA attempt. The referee goes into a coma, allowing The Club to show up, hit Cena with a Magic Killer and pull Styles onto him. Styles wins, which is good and all, but it comes with a Monday speech about how Cena challenged him to be a REAL MAN WITH BALLS or whatever and wrestle him one-on-one. Now there has to be a rematch, which will be good, but it’ll be wrought with Odds Overcoming and Real Ball Having. It’s the setup for the worst of John Cena, substantiated by the best of him. I hate it, but it’s an inevitability.
Best: Kevin Owens, Genius
The best part of the entire show, non-child-humiliating division (more on that in a sec) goes to this backstage interview where Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio try to do their shtick and Kevin Owens relentlessly picks them apart and tears them down like some smark with a wrestling blog. Man, I hate those guys.
I particularly love this exchange:
Owens: “I’m shocked you didn’t just call me a perro, because that’s what you do all the time. Because Perro means dog in Spanish, right? Yeah yeah, why do you call everybody perro? Do you have a dog at home? What’s the issue here?”
Jericho: “Perro means dog in Spanish?”
Jericho: “Oh you speak Spanish now?”
Owens: “No, I just learned that word because he calls everyone that.”
Jericho: “You know what’s funny? I don’t see any dogs around here, the only perros I see are the perro idiots standing right here …”
I hope that exchange was inspired by the terrible fictitious conversation transcripts from this column, but I’m definitely not gonna take credit for having the same Dad Joke sensibilities as Chris Jericho. Cruel Dad forever. Also great: Jericho ending the conversation with, “STUPID IDIOTS” and getting a pop for it.
There’s so much good here. One of my favorite under the radar parts is when Owens is giving them sh*t for repeating the same talking points, saying that “Todd” (Tom Phillips) wanted to interview him because he’s “very interesting” and doesn’t say the same thing over and over. Under his breath, Jericho responds, “His name is Tim.” F*cking love it.
Best: Money Inside Of The Bank
As per usual, the Money in the Bank ladder match is so full of dudes hurting themselves in increasingly dangerous ways that you’re simultaneously thrilled for pretty much the entirety of it, and overloaded a little. It’s hard to watch a ladder match and remember everything that happened in it, because, say, someone getting giant-swung into a ladder or Cesaro just running into one face-first feel like transitional moves.
That said, two things stand out for me, both involving Kevin Owens getting murdered. The first is Cesaro falling off a ladder into a springboard Psycho Crusher, which would be a miracle if Cesaro didn’t make it look as easy as brushing his teeth:
The second will make you say curse words out-loud in real life:
Sometimes it’s hard to analyze a Money in the Bank ladder match, because the only available story is, “these guys want to pull down the briefcase!” I appreciate that they developed enough rivalries to have a few of the pairing-offs mean something — Zayn and Owens in particular, but Jericho and Ambrose, as well — and you always have to give it up for the Superstars’ willingness to put themselves in danger. That fall off the ladder near the end from Del Rio where he looked like he was trying to pull a Sin Cara at WrestleMania and accidentally pulled a Sin Cara Everywhere Else looked gruesome.
As for the winner, it was a layup. You’ve got two of the Shield guys with claims to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship battling each other in the main event, so you’ve got to put the Money in the Bank briefcase on the third and have him get involved. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious that if they didn’t do it, it’d be out of dumb spite.
Best: Rusev Forever
Rusev vs. Titus O’Neil for the United States Championship was better than expected, but still the most predictable match on the card. Look at the look on Titus’ face when he walks to the ring. Look at the look on his kids’ faces. Nobody expected Titus to win. It might as well have been Titus O’Neil versus an oncoming train.
I’m giving it my strongest possible Best, though, for Rusev harassing O’Neil’s kids after the match. “You see your father over there? He’s a loser. HAPPY FATHERS DAYYYYYY!” Rusev is the king.
Best (With A Small Worst): The Year’s Wettest Main Event
WWE needs to chill on two things:
1. Going in for extreme closeups between moves, when it’s very clear the wrestlers are trying to communicate with each other and probably don’t need cameras in their faces, and
2. Forced epics
Roman Reigns vs. Triple H is one of the best examples. It was a match that would’ve been great at about 12 minutes, but went half an hour. Last night’s Rollins vs. Reigns affair was the same way. It went almost half an hour, but would’ve been great going 12-15. ESPECIALLY if you’re cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase at the end. Hit your points, tell your story, get your pops and move forward. You don’t need to pad it. Rollins always does too much, whether it’s in a match or in a promo, and Reigns would be one of the best wrestlers in the company if you’d stop asking him to go 25 with three moves.
Understanding that, Rollins vs. Reigns was still good. The Pedigree counter to the spear was clever as hell, and probably the first clever thing in a Rollins match since that RKO at WrestleMania 31. I kinda wish that’d ended the match, but the second Pedigree and the Reigns actually straight-up losing by pinfall (!) with goofy-faced Rollins celebration was great. I wish they hadn’t done a ref bump and a visual pin, especially after doing the same damn thing with Cena and Styles what, three matches earlier? Pretty on the nose with those Reigns and Cena parallels, guys.
This was, of course, the ending to the story set up earlier in the night. As mentioned, you can’t have two Shield guys with legitimate claims to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship main-event a pay-per-view with a Money in the Bank ladder match on it, featuring the third Shield guy, and not have him win it and get involved. What I liked about the cash-in is that Ambrose had been teasing screwing over Reigns, but ultimately was still his bro … there’s enough evidence to believe that Ambrose saw Reigns lose, then cashed in to get the belt off Rollins. There’s a 0% chance Reigns will see it that way, but I’m just saying. Friendships are salvageable.
I think the way to go here would be to do Ambrose vs. Rollins at Battleground with Reigns getting involved somehow, the match getting thrown out, and the Shield WWE World Heavyweight Championship triple threat finally, finally happening at SummerSlam. How cool is it that not only have all three Shield guys been WWE Champ, they were all WWE Champ on the same night?
Congratulations to Dean Ambrose for bringing a championship home to Ohio after a 40-minute drought.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
JBL: “Welcome to Monday Night Raw live from Phoenix! I’m JBL along with Byron Saxton and a fish tank!”
Fish Tank: “:Glub:”
JBL: “Haha, you said it fish tank!”
The Real Birdman and Clay Quarterman, on Roman’s crucifix powerbomb:
How’s that for symbolism Crossfit Jesus?
By a Roman no less!
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
This match nicely set up a double turn. I turned it on, then turned it off almost immediately.
Reigns’ ring gear looks like he gold Sharpie’d a Hefty bag.
Rusev ain’t a real dad. He ain’t a fake dad. He’s THE DAD.
“I think Titus is a good man. I like him. I got nothing against him, but I’m definitely gonna make orphans of his children” -Rusev
Uh, you know they have a mother, Rusev?
“Yes, but I would imagine that she would die of grief.” -Rusev
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
I was going to watch the end of the NBA finals, but I flipped over to WWE to watch something that wasn’t so scripted.
Del Rio was rich of course he had an erector set!
Cortez and Ryan jump the barricade and take Del Rio in for questioning
It just makes sense for wrestling Superman to be defeated by magic.
Thanks, everybody. See you on Monday night (and Tuesday afternoon) for Raw.
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