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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank 2014.
Worst: Being More Excited To See Bo Dallas Than Daniel Bryan
Last night’s Money in the Bank Kickoff featured one of the strangest moments I’ve ever had as a wrestling fan.
Being a “smart” fan in the 90s meant cultivating and desperately clinging to an “us vs. them” mentality. The wrestling promotions told you to like this guy and this guy, but you didn’t go along with that … those guys were old and stale. Those guys couldn’t wrestle. These guys were the future. These guys could DO MOVES. You know how it goes. Some of you reading are still like that. You’re probably the ones who keep telling people TNA has a great roster of talent, they just don’t know how to “use them.” Saying a wrestling company doesn’t know how to use somebody is the “thou shalt not steal” of The Wrestling Fan Commandments.
As that bled into the early 2000s and independent wrestling filled the void of long matches and constant kickouts left by the WCW undercard, Bryan Danielson became the A-#1 guy to represent “us.” He was the best wrestler in the world, but mainstream fans said he didn’t have enough personality. He didn’t look like anybody else, but mainstream fans said he didn’t have the look. He could talk, but mainstream fans said he couldn’t. He was boring. Pale. Did too much. Tried too hard. Guys like Mr. Kennedy and Bobby Lashley were getting pay-per-view opportunities while Danielson wrestled Your Local Yokel in a glorified toilet stall 5 miles from your house. You know that mainstream fans just didn’t know enough about wrestling, at least not as much as you, and that if he got a shot, Danielson would be as great there as he was here.
Ten years later, Bryan Danielson is in the WWE as Daniel Bryan, and his character is built on these feelings and emotions. He’s the guy who never wins, but should, god dammit, because he’s the best wrestler in the world. He’s NOT a nerd! He’s NOT boring! Michael Cole doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Eventually enough lucky shit falls into place and WWE is sorta forced to accept Bryan as a thing they have to do. He battles the icons of modern wrestling sadness — Cena, Orton, Triple H, Batista — and comes out on top. It’s the absolute, undeniable vindication of everything you’ve felt about wrestling since you were yelling at an episode of Nitro for talking about Hogan and Piper during Jericho/Malenko.
Here’s where things get weird.
It is very possible for WWE to turn the thing you loved into the thing you hated, and it’s not entirely their fault. During last night’s kickoff, Daniel Bryan showed up on a pre-show to stand in the ring and answer Twitter questions because his neck got broken, he was unceremoniously stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship so they could toss it in a crate and ship it back to OVW, and he’s gonna need more surgery. The time between Bryan’s title win and this has been an ultimate mashup of hokey PG garbage matches, storylines about sassy wives being fired, tons of stalling and John Cena being repositioned as The Only Person That Matters. It wasn’t a story about a hero catching a bad break … it was the show’s most condescending characters standing in the ring going well THAT was worthless!
Bryan was interrupted by Bo Dallas, a guy from WWE developmental (the most wonderful place in the wrestling world) working an adorable, shockingly crowd-pleasing gimmick. The crowd comes alive. When Bo’s done talking, Bryan dismissively pats him on the shoulder and makes a boner joke. Jerry Lawler chuckles so hard under his breath he almost barfs up his Diet Mountain Dew. A lot of HE SURE TOLD HIM talk.
Daniel Bryan, like CM Punk before him, has become the John Cena. It’s easy to imagine Cena answering softball questions like “how did it feel when you found out you were injured” and being interrupted by a hot, YES-spouting Bryan only to make a wanky motion at him and call him a hairy penis, isn’t it? It’s a flip of the dynamic.
It’s nothing melodramatic. I’m not gonna claim Bo’s being “held down” or whatever. Bryan made a dick joke about him so the goobers in the crowd would laugh. A harmless thing on the pre-show. At the same time, though, what got us here? Why am I sad to see my favorite wrestler of all time, and thrilled to the point of happy clapping to see a guy I hated a year and a half ago? Is it because of how sad it is there we’re here, and not in the middle of an epic Bryan title run? Is it disappointment? Contrarianism? Me being afraid to cheer for a guy who is actually successful, because of the apathy and eye-rolling that WWE success actually constitutes? Are they not USING these guys right?
Or is it just the passage of time? We try to explain and justify everything, but sometimes time just passes, and things change. I’m honestly kind of envious of people who pick an opinion and stick with it forever no matter what happens to prove them wrong. Paying attention, growing up and moving on are the loneliest things in the world.
Best: Erick Rowan In The Land Of 1,000 Superkicks
oh hey, a pay-per-view
Now that I’ve written 1,000 words about what a Jim Croce f*cking crybaby I am, we can talk about what a workhorse Erick Rowan has become. That guy was HOT GARBAGE in NXT for a long, long time. If you never got a chance to watch him, he was one of those guys employed because he’s tall and wide that they hoped and prayed would be worth enough of a shit to put on television. Even when he got called up, he wasn’t very good. Harper was the worker, Bray was the expert character actor and Rowan was the tall and wide guy who could stand in the background and slightly tilt his head. That was his worth.
I’m gonna credit how protected he’s been and the quality of talent he’s been able to work with/against on the regular, but Rowan’s really turning into something. He’s not the weak link anymore. He’s not as good as Harper, mind you, but he’s good enough to be there WITH him.
Interestingly enough, the Usos appear to be devolving. They’re still putting on good matches and have great timing, but it’s just a deluge of leg slappy kicks and splashing people. Tag in, superkick, superkick, bounce off the ropes, duck something, superkick. OOOS OOOH chant, run and hit somebody with your leg. Jump on folks. Tag in the other guy, take turns jumping. That’s the Usos. It’s usually quick enough to not be a big deal, but when they get these 15 minute pay-per-view openers it all gets stretched out and (for lack of a less dramatic sounding term) exposed.
Best/Worst: Dives For Everybody!
Speaking of jumping, there was a hell of a lot of it last night, and not just in the ladder matches.
The opening match featured multiple dive sequences, including one where Harper dove onto a guy, the Wyatts blocked an Usos dive and then Harper went back in the ring and re-dove onto everybody. The Divas match had Naomi diving to the outside and a spot where a superplex became a big hair-pully tumble to the floor. Watching and nitpicking these pay-per-views has made me hyperaware of WWE’s pre-show meetings, and I’m assuming this one was “DIVES AND SUPERPLEXES.” Maybe they’ve got a Super Nanny chart backstage and you get a gold star every time you hit one.
I’m sorry if this all sounds like I’m asking for the show to be less exciting, I just want the matches to each be different kinds of exciting. If I wanted every match on the show to be exactly the same I’d order the Ring of Honor PPV.
Best: A Better Match Than The Crowd Would Lead You To Believe
Here’s the major problem with putting Paige/Naomi on the same show as Summer/Layla: the WWE crowd hasn’t yet been conditioned to know the difference. They see legs and boobs and it all goes to the same place.
The disappointing thing is that Paige/Naomi was actually very good. It wasn’t a game-changing statement or anything, but it was two women working hard to win a match for a championship. It was less about how they’re pouring milk on themselves and calling each other twats because boyfriends. There was a little too much Cameron for me and the murmuring crowd didn’t do it any favors, but it was something.
My only complaint is that Naomi needs to slow the hell down. She’s a fantastic athlete, but when she’s done with something she just hops up and jogs into position for the next thing. People will remember that awkward superplex bump to the outside, but watch how it’s set up … Naomi has Paige in a submission hold, lets go, hops up to her feet and basically runs to the far side of the ring to climb the corner. Why is she doing that? Why is she following up an effective submission with what, a flying headbutt attempt? Paige is on her feet by the time Naomi starts climbing. It’s very obviously just “and now we do the superplex bump.” Slow down and know why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Seth Rollins got new gear that looks like a leather bodysuit. Dean Ambrose is obsessed with the idea that Triple H is Seth’s “daddy.” This is all on purpose, right? Tobias Funke didn’t start booking these shows, did he?
Worst: You Know What’d Be Great Right Now? Diet Mountain Dew And WWE Brand Network!
“Watching this on the WWE Network? GOOD I GUESS, ORDER ANOTHER ONE. Watching on pay-per-view? What are you, an idiot? You’re not worthy of this low calorie piss-water! JERRY, DRINK IT ALL, RIDE THE SNAKE.”
Worst: “Damien Sandow Will Be Fine!”
Last week I ranked Damien Sandow’s failed cash-in attempt on John Cena dead last on the list of Money in the Bank cash-ins and was certainly bent the hell out of shape when it happened, but lately I’ve preached a lot about relaxing and not worrying so much about him. Because hey, he’s still got a job on the show, and he’s occasionally funny enough doing what he’s doing that people chant his name.
That said, I just want to point out that one year after winning a Money in the Bank ladder match, his contribution to the show was dressing up as Paul Revere and being effortlessly beaten up while a party of pay-by-appearance NPCs in Halloween costumes pointed and laughed at him. Sometimes WWE’s bad decisions are just bad decisions and they aren’t going anywhere.
Best: Those Extreme Close-Up “Well What Do You Think” Montages
“LOL, I have no shot at winning this. Trouble in Paradise! Boom!”
I love when WWE gets right up in peoples’ faces and turns up the lights like they’re Amateur Allure to ask them how they’re gonna do in an upcoming match. I wish they’d ditch the black backdrop, though, and go back to those green screen promos with the big logos in the background. I would care 100% more about Dolph Ziggler promos if he had a giant Trapper Keeper cover projected behind him. Kofi should never speak outside of an iMovie beach setting.
Worst: Zeb Colter Does Not Know American History
During Zeb’s prerecorded comments about the historical significance of Boston, he mentions that “right here” is where Sam Adams said “give me liberty or give me death.”
One, it was Patrick Henry who said that. Two, Henry said it at the Virginia Convention in 1775. In Virginia. Is the joke here that Vince McMahon and Zeb know nobody watching gives a shit about American history so they just say whatever sounds right? Is it part of the character? Are they working me? If so, why are they using it as a throwaway fact to set up Boston for the “your town sucks” followup, and where’s the babyface to tell him he’s got his facts wrong? These guys carrying around full-sized flags in case a Russian guy shows up and says America sucks, but nobody knows enough about it to tell the ignorant guy he’s being ignorant?
Worst: Jerry Lawler Finishes Masturbating Just As The Interview Ends
We jump backstage to find Fandango in an amazing, bedazzled referee shirt, being interviewed by Byron Saxton. Layla and Summer interrupt to explain that he loves them based on specific body parts they have (spoiler: they have the same body parts) and launch into these terrible “keep ABREAST of the situation” puns you’d see on Egotastic. I wanted Summer to be like I AM THE MOST BOOBTASTIC. I also wanted Byron to jump in and explain that Fandango’s in love with HIM because DICKS.
Anyway, they sorta rub themselves and argue and the interview ends, and this happens:
The next shot should’ve been a shirtless Lawler at the announce table, covered from the chest down in Diet Mountain Dew.
Best: Jon Stewart Is Here And Trying So Hard Not To Be A Part Of The Wrestling Program
Worst: I LOVE JON STEWART MAGGLE, AS SOMEONE WHO IS LITERALLY ON FOX NEWS I THINK HE’S HULLARIOUS. LOVE ALL THE THINGS HE SAYS ABOUT OLD RICH WHITE PEOPLE, KING, AS JBL I OBVIOUSLY THINK THOSE PEOPLE ARE THE WORST. THE DAILY SHOW, GOTTA LOVE IT. THAT’S THE SHOW THAT WON JON STEWART AN EMMY
Best: Two Things That Would’ve Improved The Contract Ladder Match
1. An acknowledgment of Dolph Ziggler. Dolph Ziggler makes me feel like Enid Coleslaw. My Ziggler fandom is in a “so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again” situation. I thought he was great, then I watched him have one of those aborted-by-injury Daniel Bryan title runs with a bunch of pandering main-eventer promos and turned on him. Now they’ve been treating him so apathetically despite how hard he’s working for so long that I’m back to liking him and wishing the best for him. Is that gonna happen with Bryan? When he comes back from injury finally in 2015 or whatever and loses to Rybaxel am I gonna get all crazy for him again?
Anyway, the crowd wanted Ziggler to win this. They reacted to Ambrose and wanted Ambrose to kick Rollins’ ass, but they wanted Ziggler to win. That’s an interesting dynamic. He got a few hope spots, but nothing serious. He was more of the “Kofi Kingston” of this match than Kofi was.
2. This just being a Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins TLC grudge match. Maybe I’m alone, but watching this, Rollins vs. Ambrose was really all I cared about. When Rob Van Dam was getting his legacy spots in, I spaced out. When Swagger would grab people off the ladder, I didn’t really care. Even when Ziggler was doing stuff, I didn’t really buy it. Granted, all of that was fun and entertaining, but it didn’t feel like anything.
Rollins vs. Ambrose feels like something. It has emotional gravity. Intensity. Purpose. So while I enjoy watching a bunch of guys jump and fall to their death as much as the next fan, I kinda wish Ambrose and Rollins had just been going at it one-on-one with an important next step to stardom on the line. I’m sure we’ll get plenty of that, especially if Rollins trying to cash in Money in the Bank repeatedly leads to Ambrose bumrushing him from behind before he can do it. If I was fantasy booking this, Rollins would try and fail so many times because of Ambrose that he’d be the first person to lose their briefcase via expiration.
Best: Kofi Kingston Making Me Buy A Kofi Kingston Win
First things first, that was incredible and I’m happy Seth didn’t die. I thought for sure he was gonna stand up and have blood-gushy Joey Mercury Face.
Second things first, the most impossible moment of the entire pay-per-view was this one, with Kofi Kingston dispatching the obvious winner of the match with a huge spot late in the game and being all alone up at the top of the ladder. The impossibility in play is that I thought Kofi Kingston was going to win. I bought it. I did that thing where I start saying IS KOFI KINGSTON GOING TO WIN? IS KOFI KINGSTON SERIOUSLY GOING TO WIN out-loud to nobody. Hook, line, sinker. Great job.
Worst: Please Be Sneakier With Your Kane Pyro
You can’t just put Kane’s pyro on the turnbuckles and expect us not to notice it. I don’t care if you painted it white. I thought maybe they’d just put it on early because the championship ladder match was next and they wouldn’t have time to switch it out, but that didn’t make any sense. It doesn’t help when you have a Kane-loving person in your household going THERE’S KANE’S PYRO, IS KANE COMING OUT?
To briefly address the finish, I didn’t like it necessarily, but I get it. It makes sense. If you’re The Authority and you want to make sure Seth Rollins wins, why not send out your biggest, strongest henchperson to make that happen? Although that begs the question of why they made a ladder match for the briefcase and went through these motions at all instead of just awarding the briefcase to Rollins. I know you’ve gotta make logic jumps for some stuff in wrestling, but I’d be a way happier guy if the bad guys whose whole point is “we do what we want regardless of what you think” didn’t keep softballing in these opportunities to do the opposite of what they want.
Best: Rock n’ Roll Rollins Guy
Keep on rocking in the free world.
Best: Political Cartoons Collide
Before I get too deeply into this, congratulations to Big E for learning how to wave a flag. I go back and forth between thinking WWE doesn’t know or give a crap about who I am and thinking they’re constantly, intentionally trolling me, but if I had any role in making someone show E how to wave a flag without looking like he’s trying to chop wood, I’m glad to have helped.
I always find myself enjoying these Rusev/Big E matches, and I wish they’d go a little further with them. The first time I saw Rusev wrestle live was that killer match he had with Dolph Ziggler on NXT. It went for like 10 minutes and ended with Ziggler Zig Zagging him and pinning him cleanly, but it made Rusev look a thousand times better than ANY of these super squashes has. A WWE Superstar being able to have a good, competitive match is so much more important than people realize. It’s what made John Cena seem legit. He didn’t show up on Smackdown and murder Colin Delaney for six months before getting into a midcard beef with Trevor Murdoch … he had a competitive, notable match with Kurt Angle on day one and was good to go. The Shield was the same way. They didn’t feud with R-Truth for a year; they showed up, made an immediate impact and followed it up with a string of bulletproof six-mans that impressed the shit out of everyone.
WWE shouldn’t be afraid to let E and Rusev really tear it up sometime. Barrett’s hurt, right? Give these two the “impress us for 15 minutes/this is awesome” spot on Raw. See if it works. Let them throw the biggest bombs they’ve got at one another until the crowd figures it out and learns they can respond. Nobody wants to do the incessant USA chants like you want them to, so why not try something a little different?
Best: Follow Up On Big E Almost Breaking The Accolade, Please
Worst case scenario, do another match at Battleground and let Big E escape The Accolade. You’ve gotta give him that. Even if he loses, he’ll look like he’s finally turned a corner and accomplished something. The crowd was ready for him to break it last night, and he probably should’ve. The faster you make your “unstoppable monster” stoppable, the faster you can put them into programs with people the crowd will care about. You’ll force him to grow. If you don’t, the only ending to the story is “Cena stands up for America and makes Rusev look like a chump.” See also: Triple H and Kozlov. Let’s not go there.
Worst: Hey Boston, Cheer For Stardust, What’s Your Damage
YOU WILL CHEER FOR STARDUST RIGHT NOW, DO YOU HEAR ME.
Here’s the thing about the Dust Brothers/Rybaxel tag: it was a cooldown match. They needed to throw a bunch of garbage into a hole to bridge the gap between people losing their minds at one ladder match and losing their mind at another, so the Dusts (and Rusev/Big E, and Summer/Layla) got crammed into that hole. Instead of it being a LOOK AT STARDUST YOU GUYS affair, it was mostly Goldust in a headlock so the crowd could relax. It’s weird, but that’s how wrestling works. Not everything’s supposed to be cool and exciting.
Still, though, cooldown match or not, cheer for Stardust. He’s the best thing and I don’t want to lose him to another black trunks gimmick because the wrong person watched the wrong show and decided the experiment was over.
Worst: Curtis Axel’s Singlet
What’re you doing, Axel, cosplaying Kevin Steen? Did you order that from Highspots? Did you tell them to make it look like a singlet from Fire Pro?
Worst: Summer Rae vs. Layla, For All The Reasons
What was good about this match: Fandango pretending he’s a SHIMMER fan and getting turned on watching women do submission holds. Fandango’s ref shirt. Layla’s Sander Cohen entrance attire. Note: she should’ve taken a picture of a knocked out Summer to add to her masterpiece.
What was bad about this match: holy shit, everything
I don’t even know where to begin. The match being a love triangle between a guy nobody likes and two women nobody likes is probably a good place. The fact that they built it on Twitter and poured stuff on each other is another. How about the fact that we got TWO VIDEO PACKAGES and a backstage interview to hype it? What about the announce team having a conversation about “chubby legs” and going “POOR SUMMER” in a condescending voice while Summer seriously lies in the ring SOBBING because she just lost a match and, I guess, an ex-boyfriend she’d already lost? Who’s the face here, guys? Anybody?
Worst: Spoiler Alert
John Cena is a 15-time champion. Okay! We all knew this was coming. Is there any reason to get mad about it? Bryan’s neck gave out on him, so they fell back into the safety net. It’s what they do. When the SummerSlam main leaked, there was really no other option. Cena becomes champ again by beating 7 other guys (including two at once with his finisher!), faces Brock at SummerSlam, assumedly beats Brock and spends all fall and winter beating Alberto Del Rio or whoever. Or, hey, maybe Brock wins, Cena’s historical footnote says “at least 11 of these were transitional roles, don’t let the number fool you,” and we use Brock’s limited dates arrangement to buy Bryan 6 months or a year or whatever to recover. Lesnar vs. Bryan would be worth all this bullshit, wouldn’t it?
The only thing you should really complain about is how lazy it all was. Of COURSE Cena was winning, and of course he was gonna do it with little-to-no effort after taking 1/3 of a bump and hanging around outside for 20 minutes. The worst part of a main-event style ladder match like this is that they get obsessed with showcasing these one-on-one situations and rivalries, so outside of the “everybody tries to climb at once” gag, it’s two guys fighting and six on the outside pretending they can’t move.
Worst: The Authority Is So Sads!!
Best: Before We Wrap This Up, Actual Main Event Ladder Match Highpoints
– Cesaro being so strong he can hang from a belt and punch you, but Sheamus not being strong enough to hang and punch back
– Cesaro being so strong he can Cliffhanger on a ladder and still get up and climb around and finish the spot
– Paul Heyman reacting to Bray Wyatt’s Spider Walk
– Randy Orton getting busted open and still busting ass for the rest of the match
– THAT RKO THO
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
John Michael Hall
“It’s still my time, it never ends
I beat the odds again and again
How many years now? It’s been over ten
You don’t like it? Tough sh*t, my friend…”
-New John Cena lyrics
Wait, didn’t they promise a NEW champ?
12 Years a Slave (To John Cena)
Is the WWE store selling that shirt Ambrose is wearing? I would like to eat pasta and yell at my wife later.
Kane, the free market is supposed to determine MITB, not outside regulation!
“Cody, you’re taking this B A Star campaign way too seriously.”
Rybaxel, aka “Hot singlets in your area”
Believe in DeShields
“Look Nikki, do you even understand what it means to be fired from the WWE?” “Yeah, John told me. It means you show up every week anyway.”
I was praying that the cable would snap from Cesaro’s weight and they’d have no choice but give him a title reign.
seriously, the win couldn’t have been more obvious if they had hung ODDS there instead of the belts
Thanks, everybody. Sorry about John. See you tonight for our Raw open discussion thread, and tomorrow for the Best and Worst of Raw. You know, if you’re still watching.