Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank: WWE booked the historic first-ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, spent a month congratulating themselves for their historic first, then booked a guy (James Ellsworth) to win it. It was received so badly they had to re-do it on Smackdown and edit the finishes together to make it look better in video packages. I hope they don’t do anything ridiculous like that THIS year!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Money In The Bank 2018, originally aired on June 17.
Best: LittleBig Town
You can’t review a Money in the Bank® brand pay-per-view without focusing on the Money in the Bank ladder matches, so let’s start with the Mixed Match Challenge’s most unexpectedly romantic pairing winning “get out of push free” briefcases.
The best of the two goes to Braun Strowman, who anchors a chaotic dancing pile of ladders by being the Juggernaut from the X-Men plus a second goddamn Juggernaut from the X-Men. Highlights include this sequence, which pays off the “Kevin Owens is afraid of heights, but worked up enough courage to dive off a ladder and put Braun Strowman through the Raw announce table” angle by having Owens “man up” and climb the world’s largest ladder, only for Braun to jog up it and throw him to his doom.
As soon as Owens is dead in the cold cement ground, Strowman books it up the ramp and runs through a ladder like it’s a paper banner at a JV football game. The GIF is a little too large to embed in the column, but The Miz’s reaction to the spot really makes it. That goes next to Velveteen Dream getting horny about Ricochet being able to dive over the top rope to the floor and land on his feet as one of the best facial expressions of the year.
As for Braun winning? I don’t know. I’m interested to see where they go with it. Money in the Bank’s started to feel a lot like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania where it’s more like a decision from the company based on some vague merit or political reason rather than an organic part of a wrestling story. It’s more “who does WWE say wins” in our brains than “who actually wins the match,” as the company’s sorta systematically dismantled out suspension of disbelief by expanding and going ruthlessly global.
Still though, getting the championship off Brock Lesnar is beyond a good idea right now, and I think as long as they have Strowman announce he’s cashing it in you don’t have to take the ridiculous shortcut of THE MONSTER AMONG MEN having to wait for some cheesy opportunistic heel moment to become champion. He should just show up on Raw tonight saying, “I want Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, here, my cash-in is happening,” and then just beat Brock one-on-one for the belt. Don’t give this can’t-miss enormous country Hulk Hogan a cheap win as his first Universal Championship. Let him win it. Better yet, let him win it without cashing in and just let the Money in the Bank briefcase expire as a way to protect himself from, let’s be honest, the only way anyone should be able to pin Braun Strowman.
The other half of Team LittleBig — the little — is Alexa Bliss, who won a women’s ladder match built more around the drama of the climb than insane spots. It reminded me a lot of Bret and Owen Hart’s famous cage match, which is mostly lying around to build drama around the slow crawl out of the door. Instead of playing to the top of the cage, they played to a corner and just committed to it until everyone bought it. Here, the entire final third of the match is just people climbing up and getting pulled down. I think there were like six people pulled off the ladder into powerbomb position.
I like that it was character and story heavy, though, and that the format allowed the moments that WERE brutal to be especially so. I think Charlotte Flair and Ember Moon did most of the destroying of folks, and the most gruesome spot of the entire night goes to insane human being Sasha Banks for calling an audible on a fucked-up drop toehold spot and getting monster mashed into a ladder back-first.
That ended up being so much grosser than a Raven-ass drop toe-hold.
Other good things about this match:
- Natalya didn’t win it and was largely a non-factor, confirming (I guess) that she’s just bad at acting and wasn’t pulling a Money in the Bank cash-in fast one on her Good Friend Ronda Rousey like pretty much all of us predicted
- Naomi is an incredible athlete, and some of the stuff she was pulling off in this looked so effortless it almost made me mad
- The crowd really wanted Becky Lynch to win, which is good for her, because I’m always worried she’s a bad angle or two from un-salvageable Bray Wyatt territory with all the constant losses
- I’m coming around on Lana as an in-ring performer, too. The Accolade spot was cute.
And now we can’t talk about the ladder match without connecting it to the Raw Women’s Championship match, so let’s jump around.
Best, Mostly: Ronda Rousey Might Actually Be Good At This!
While it wasn’t close to the runaway success of her debut tag match at WrestleMania 34, I thought Ronda Rousey did a solid job of trying to be an Actual WWE Superstar here. This and the Bryan/Cass match are the two on the card that at least mildly exceeded my expectations.
I don’t think Rousey and Jax are a good pair, though. I like Nia Jax as a performer and as a character, mostly, but her logic has been so inconsistent lately that it jumbles up her in-ring work, so you build for like a month on her being “bullied” and hating bullies and jump directly into a followup angle where she’s a huge bully. And then she pulls back a little bit, because she’s not actually a bully, she’s just kidding, and then she’s suddenly a dominant heel.
And then she’s not dominant, and is screaming for Ronda to not arm-bar her like she’s a helpless Stephanie McMahon, and not literally twice Ronda’s size. The character doesn’t know who she is or what she’s supposed to be, so it hurts her ability to tell cohesive stories in the ring. I mean, that’s how I see it.
The actual content of the match isn’t important, though, as we’ve moved right back into Alexa Bliss as champion. That’s 16 of the last 18 months of WWE programming that Bliss has either been Smackdown or Raw Women’s Champion, and she’s such an omnipresent focal point that now she’s winning singles matches for the title she’s not even in.
I thought the cash-in was well done, although it doesn’t help the whole “Nia’s motivations don’t make sense” thing. Nia Jax was a dominant champion for a few weeks, and then she decided to challenge Rousey at the NBC upfronts and bully her for a month. Now Alexa Bliss shows up and bludgeons both of them with her novelty Halliburton, so … what’s the story here? That Alexa is still a bully and Nia isn’t, randomly, or that Bliss proved she was right and that bullies never “win?” It feels like a weird way to transition the championship at the expense of Rousey’s first singles match and Jax’s entire thing, but there’s one thing I like about it: it nerfs the standard “will they or won’t they cash in” drama.
When you do multiple Money in the Bank matches and end up with two MITB briefcase winners on the same show, you can’t Carmella it. You’ve got to approach each individual win creatively, so you don’t tire out the concept.
I’m already pretty tired of the concept, if we’re being honest, but I like that they set up (1) a women’s winner who cashed in immediately, because why not, and (2) a men’s winner who presumably won’t need to surprise cash-in on anybody, and can do the valiant John Cena and/or Rob Van Dam babyface thing of announcing the match beforehand to sell tickets.
Worst: The Other Women’s Championship Match
Something positive, something positive … okay, we don’t have to keep sarcastically and pessimistically fantasy booking James Ellsworth returns, because they actually did it, and in maybe the dumbest way possible.
Here’s the problem I have: I don’t mind an occasional surprise distraction roll-up or whatever, but to have Asuka stand there gawking at someone dressed as her on the ring apron to the point of complete detachment from what she’s doing is dumb as shit. For real, it’s Asuka. I can get her being temporarily confused, but she abandoned wrestling completely to stand there and stare at Ellsworth Asuka like he was Jesus Christ returned to Earth on a white horse. She was a complete deer in the headlights. It’s like, YOU know that YOU didn’t set this up, so clearly your opponent’s trying to distract you. STOP STANDING THERE. YOU ARE ASUKA. If this was against Charlotte Flair, sure, let Charlotte get in her head about it, but if they’re doing this finish Asuka should’ve immediately jogged over and kicked his head off, sending him and the mask flying into the crowd, and then Carmella sneak attacks her.
Instead, you get like two solid minutes of James Ellsworth reveal while Asuka looks like she had a lobotomy, followed by a “Princess Kick” that only kind of connected but still managed to knock out a wrestler who didn’t lose a match for like a thousand days. It’s one of those things I’d be madder about if I (and most of you) didn’t see it coming from a mile and a half away. Turrble.
Best: The Best Of The Undercard
The rest of Money in the Bank was a Clash of the Champions for filler, but it had its moments.
The best of the undercard matches for me was Daniel Bryan vs. Tallin’ Cassidy, which I think succeeded because they’re (forced to?) tell an unconventional story and actually put a talented little man over an untalented tall man. I was going to say “big,” but he’s not big, he’s just tall. He also has the worst Torture Rack I’ve ever seen. It looked like he put Bryan on his shoulders and tried to do the Macarena.
Bryan rules, though, and keeping him in the middle of the card to show him “working his way back up” to the top is a good call for the character. I want him in main event angles competing for the championship already too, but he got the following he did by being the workiest workhorse that ever worked on horses, slumming it against pre-Crisis Miz and Alex Riley and whomever else. Letting him show his superiority to tall goobers like this is a good way to remind fans that he’s actually very good at wrestling in addition to being popular, which isn’t always a thing they differentiate.
It’s good stuff, and I’m very happy Cass lost. Let’s ship Cass back to OVW in a crate for a few months and let him do something other than pointing out how tall he is. You can only get so popular robbing local carnivals for their signage. Daniel Bryan for life.
Also worth watching is the Intercontinental Championship match between Elias and Seth Rollins, because (1) Seth Rollins is the best wrestler in the company right now in a walk, and (2) Elias is secretly dope when he’s motivated and not booked as a comedy option. He’s got such a feel for main roster WWE wrestling, and it’s remarkable how far he’s come as a performer, pro wrestler and presence since NXT. “El Vagabundo” really worked wonders for that guy. “What if we make him funny like Edge and Christian in addition to being the Honky Tonk Man?”
There were some inconsistencies here, though, as Elias couldn’t decide if he was working Rollins’ neck or his knee. Rollins’ big weakness is still his “adrenaline” making him completely forget to sell moves, especially since the knee is his weak point, yet all his moves revolve around him jumping (using his knee) or hitting you with his knee. He’s very RVD in that way. Van Dam’s opponents would work his back for 20 minutes because all his offense uses his back, and then he’d get on offense and do all his back moves anyway. Maybe he’d grab his back for a second when he was done, but that was as far as you got.
In The Middle
I’m fairly sure I’m in the minority for this one. AJ Styles wrestled Shinsuke Nakamura one-on-one on pay-per-view for the WWE Championship and got 31 minutes … and I don’t ever want to watch it again.
No matter how good this could’ve been, it was hurt by two facts:
- Nakamura’s getting the Austin Aries treatment, where nobody’s going to take you seriously as a title contender no matter HOW many title matches you get if you lose three or four in a row.
- We’ve seen Nakamura vs. Styles five (5) times in the last month and a half. It was a dream match, and then they underwhelmed at WrestleMania, underwhelmed further with a double count-out at Greatest Royal Rumble, underwhelmed FURTHER with a double KO at Backlash, set up a last man standing match by having two guys get low blowed and neither of them being able to answer a ten count (negating the drama of any finish they could’ve done), and then had Nakamura lose AGAIN at Money in the Bank.
So if you can’t buy the challenger as the winner and do the match five times with one guy either winning or drawing on all five of them, even the diehards aren’t going to be that into your match. I think the majority of people praising this just wanted it to be the match that redeemed the series. I get that. I wanted it to be that, too, but now I just want Styles to wrestle somebody else and for Nakamura to probably go back to a promotion where he’s not booked like a caricature Booker Dewitt would try to kill.
Last Man Standing matches are piss-poor anyway. Not only do the constant 10-counts kill any momentum you could build, but the early match 10-counts you know couldn’t POSSIBLY be the finish make it boring. You’re adding an extra five minutes of match that’s just lying still while the referee counts. Plus you’re robbing a 30-minute wrestling match of pinfalls and submissions, meaning you’ve taken away the agency of the performers and the most basic storytelling tools they have. The finishes are almost always corny too, which they at least avoided here.
Worst: The Worst Of The Undercard
Look, we need to skip the bullshit and state some facts about this match.
1. Roman Reigns is very good at pro wrestling, so even though he was in there against Jinder Mahal, Jinder tried, and they didn’t do anything actively bad enough to treat it like Orton vs. Sheamus the night after WrestleMania.
2. It is pretty tone deaf to book Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal as a pay-per-view singles match, and even worse to book it in Chicago, one of the most loudly vocal and anti-“WWE’s pushing stuff down our throats” city in the country.
3. Everyone and their mother knew Roman Reigns was winning, as surely as we knew the sun was going to rise this morning, so there’s no drama, not even when Sunil Singh is doing the Lord’s work trying to be funny in a ringside wheelchair.
So accepting those three things … why did we do this, again? Did Roman need that big win against Jinder Mahal? Couldn’t we have just cut this and probably three or four of the other undercard filler matches and just done a really good 3-hour show?
Finally we have the match that deserved the reaction Reigns vs. Mahal got: Bobby Lashley’s garbage ass against Sami Zayn. I would say Lashley is cold boogers on a paper plate, but that’s an insult to the food service industry and humanity’s development of mucus membranes.
Brother, after the worst feud of the year — near House of Horrors level feuding here — Lashley hits Sami Zayn with three “devastating” vertical regular-ass motherfucking vertical-ass suplexes and pins him with one hand like a piece of shit. It’s making me type so many curse words, you guys. My Jim Duggan something-ass jokes don’t even work because it crosses my brain’s wires.
This is a ton of hyperbole, because otherwise I have to ask you what’s sadder: Sami Zayn getting pinned with one hand after three vertical suplexes from the most TNA ex-TNA guy in the world while everyone murmur-boos, or Cesaro losing a WrestleMania match to a nine-year old? Wrestling’s great.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
If KO wins this, you just know he’d find a way to help Sami win the Universal Title just so he could cash in on him.
Balor wearing the Buffalo Bills red and blue because he’s not gonna win the big one.
“Please don’t try this at home.”
“Coming up next: a special about two brothers who completely ignored that disclaimer”
AJ Styles is just like me when I go home after a few beers…guaranteed to slam a Shin into a table
My stream has a tendency of crapping out at the best parts of matches. Needless to say, it’s been smooth sailing during the entirety of this show.
This match would be great if I was trying to learn how to count to ten.
(before his match at WrestleMania)
Vince: “You’re good, Nak. You just gotta grab hold of the brass rings.”
Shinsuke: “Brass rings?”
Vince: “Yes. Just reach out and grab them.”
Shinsuke: “Grab his brass rings?”
Vince: “There’s your music. Go get ’em, Nak!”
The Face that Runs the Place against the Karl Gotch of Uppercutting Crotch.
WWE Super Show Down? Thats a strange name. I’d have called it WWE Chazwasers
NXT Asuka: rules from throne made of her victims’ skulls
Main Roster Asuka: is frightened to death by her own clothes
That’s it for Money in the Bank. If it read a little negative to you and felt like I was “trying not to like it” or whatever, go read the Best and Worst of NXT TakeOver: Chicago II. I want to like the wrestling show, I just have to actually like it to like it, you know? Crazy.
Drop us a comment, share the column, and be here the next couple of days for Raw and Smackdown present: What Are We Doing For Extreme Rules? Let’s Decide On Monday Afternoon.