|Rollins was a good winner, but his mode of victory felt tired and safe|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
- The Usos retained the Tag Team Championships over the Wyatt Family with two Superfly Splashes on Erick Rowan.
- Paige retained the Divas Championship with the cradle DDT over Naomi.
- Adam Rose bested a Damien Sandow who was dressed as Paul Revere with the Party Foul.
- Thanks to an assist from The Demon Kane™, Seth Rollins won the Money in the Bank briefcase.
- The Dust Brothers defeated Rybaxel when Stardust got a rollup pin on Ryback.
- Big E Langston almost broke out of the Accolade, but Alexander Rusev's iron grip was too much.
- Layla defeated Summer Rae for the affections of Fandango.
- In the WWE World Heavyweight Championship ladder match, John Cena bested seven other wrestlers to win his 15th top Championship in WWE.
- I missed the preshow because I was out for a friend's birthday dinner in downtown Philadelphia. From what I heard, I didn't miss a whole lot, just Daniel Bryan being molded into the next John Cena in terms of lame dick jokes at the expense of the midcard talent.
- WWE GOT RID OF THE WYATTS' AWESOME CONCERTINA THEME SONG ALREADY? Jesus, I know the company likes to market itself to the aggro white male between 18-34 demographic, but not everyone needs a fucking butt rock theme song.
- It's hard to call meathooking a dude's head off while he's on the apron awaiting a tag "the little things," but Luke Harper does the little things so well. Any other guy would've just shoved Jimmy Uso off the apron. Harper went the extra mile.
- For a dude built like a goddamn tree trunk, Erick Rowan bumps pretty fearlessly. He took the Ziggler-shoulderfirst-into-the-ringpost bump pretty seamlessly.
- Harper pulled out two superman dives in short order. If he had done the AR Fox routine and finished with a tope con hilo (over the ropes senton atomico), I might have shit myself.
- I haven't seen someone as absurd as Rowan take to the air since I first saw the movie Dumbo.
- Paige and Naomi getting the second match spot instead of the second-to-last match spot? COME UP.
- They repaid the faith by going HARD from the bell. Most Divas matches don't get a feeling out process, and yet Paige and Naomi took their lockup prison-rules style to the floor. Then Paige went and hit a basement tilt-a-whirl, and Naomi followed up by arm-dragging the Champ off the fucking apron to the floor. I think the opening of this match was a message to the h8rs.
- Naomi letting Paige get counted out was bad match planning, but I'd be willing to forgive it because she ever so subtly heeled it up while counting along with the ref. If she had just kept the eye-patch (*pours out a 40 for Aksana*), her rudo character would be the most personally anticipated one on the women's side of the ledger since Bull Nakano.
- PAIGE PULLED OUT A STUMP PULLER? AND JERRY LAWLER ACTUALLY CALLED IT? FUCK AND YES! Additional props to Naomi being on that Melina flexibility shit to get her leg up that high for Paige to pull back.
- Not a whole lot to say about Adam Rose/"Paul Revere" except that Damien Sandow yelling "THE ELBOW IS COMING! THE ELBOW IS COMING!" before dropping the Cubito Aequet was just sublime.
- I'd really dig Jack Swagger's shirt in a vacuum, but the dude plays a racist xenophobic heel. He shouldn't have awesome merch like that.
- Kofi Kingston had the best moment of the early going. He was climbing the ladder until Dean Ambrose shoved it over. Kingston jumped off, springboarded off the top rope, and landed on a fray of people on the outside. I'd complain that he doesn't get more of a shine, but basically, these prop bumps and stunts in multiman matches are the only things he really does well anymore. Appreciate them while you can.
- Seth Rollins took no fewer than four giant bumps in this match. I understand wanting to be a prop bumper and invest crowds into a match through your own personal pain, but FOUR FULL ZIGGLERS IN ONE MATCH? Seth, you have your career to think about this, bro.
- Ambrose, on the apron, took a punch from Rob van Dam, after which he staggered punch drunk and collapsed off onto the floor. Dude's the complete package.
- SERIOUSLY ROLLINS, YOUR LIFE IS TOO IMPORTANT TO BE TAKING LADDER SUPERPLEXES AFTER TAKING TWO HUGE BUMPS BEFORE GETTING TO THAT POINT. GAWD.
- And just like that, Ambrose "hurt his shoulder" and had to be wrangled to go to the back by doctors. The setup was obvious, but it would pay off later on as the arena came the fuck unglued when he came back into the ring.
- Kane? Really? Yuck.
- Shout-out to the guy in the skull-and-crossbones t-shirt who was rocking the fuck out after Rollins won though. That guy was living life.
- Curtis Axel got new gear, a singlet with an axe on the back of it! He's a fine in-ring wrestler, but man, everything else about him is just wrong. He's lucky to have Ryback as a tag team partner.
- Seriously, Ryback broke out a sequence of Tarzan-like chest beating that I didn't think would ever end. Okay, I'll admit, I didn't want it to end.
- Big E Langston continued his morphing into Muscly Martin Luther King, Jr. in a pre-recorded inset promo. It might have been more effective if the black preacher gimmick wasn't done to death in wrestling.
- Langston tried to go for the apron spear he pulled out against Alexander Rusev at the last special event, but Rusev blocked it. I love callbacks, but I wasn't so much a fan of it when Langston connected on it later in the match. That spot should be kept special, not an every PPV type thing.
- I suspect Langston fighting out of the Accolade would have gotten the fans behind him. I wish he would've broken out, even if he ended up losing a few minutes later anyway. He's too talented to be mired in bullshit. He needs a spark.
- Brie Bella was backstage with her sister, which drew out Stephanie McMahon to chase her away. I really don't need a McMahon/Bella subplot to be drawn out over time unless it morphs into something other than "YOU'RE A BIG MEANIE TO MY HUSBAND."
- Speaking of stupid, sexist bullshit, hey, Layla vs. Summer Rae was a thing!
- The main event ladder match began and within minutes, the dueling John Cena chants were in full force. No matter how hard WWE tries to create new stars (but to be fair, it does a terrible job most of the time), the crowd remains a referendum on John Cena.
- Cena deserved credit for bumping in this match. He took at least two sick ladder bumps from Bray Wyatt, and he's always put his best chin forward taking the Swiss Death from Antonio Cesaro, which he did here.
- Randy Orton got busted open pretty good on the top of his head. I'm not a proponent of blood in every match, but I have to admit the hardway color here looked gnarly.
- The best visual in this match came when everyone else in the match swarmed on the ladder when Orton made one of his ascents towards the top. I imagine that kind of panicked rushing towards a singular goal was inspired by WWE agents observing doorbuster deals on Black Friday.
- At one point in this match, Roman Reigns did a signature move of his on everyone. Everyone. Superman punches, apron sick kicks, and he fucking speared Cena out of his boots.
- One part of me appreciated that Kane didn't go into business for himself and that he kept on helping Orton get to the belts. Another part wanted him to turn his back on Orton and complete the Authority's purging of the old order for something new. And yet another part of me wanted finally to try an In-n-Out burger. To be fair, that third part never really dies, ever.
Match of the Night: Jimmy and Jey Uso (c) vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, WWE Tag Team Championship Match - Two of the best tag teams working today were tasked with opening the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, and they may have stolen the show away from the rest of the packed slate that would follow them. When one competitor can improve a match just by widening his eyes, and the two brothers across the ring from him do very little to disprove theories that twins are psychically linked, then the odds for a good match are extremely good. Both teams had their working boots on and thus gave those following a tough act to follow, even when the later competitors would have the advantages of ladders in their favor.
The heat segment that Jey Uso underwent pretty much turned out to be the Luke Harper show. His crazy eyes and zombie walk are the best things going in wrestling. He has a perfect understanding of how to meld character and work ability in the ring, and that talent is going to take him far in WWE. He did big and little things well. Cutting off a tag and knocking the other guy off the apron is basic tag team stuff, but when you're running at big rig speeds to decapitate Jimmy Uso on the other side of the ring to prevent the hot tag, well, you're on another plane. Kudos to the Uso for taking that bump off the apron as well. Erick Rowan did a lot of things well in this match as well. Even though his endgame was missing the move, his form going from the mat up to doing that twirling leg drop was beautiful stuff, and by the time he was ready to accept the Usos cutting him off, I was ready to see him fly off the top.
But the Usos were more than willing to hold up their ends of the bargain. To call them the Samoan Young Bucks would be a disservice to both teams, but their uncanny knack of leg placement on their superkicks is second only to the Kings of Reseda. The one spot where Rowan scooped up Jey on the outside only for Jimmy to hit him with the superman plancha was beautifully timed and one of the few dives that I recall hitting the mark. Their synergy on the finishing sequence was amazing as well. The Usos winning in this case felt so unfinished, even with the decisive pinfall. However, if one feud could continue into the future indefinitely, I wouldn't mind it being this one.
Overall Thoughts: With the spectre of Brock Lesnar looming on the horizon, WWE had a myriad of options in front of it to offer up as a sacrifice to the Red Beast God Incarnate. Daniel Bryan's injury status is unknown right now, but even if he was the original plan, putting him up against a guy whose recklessness seems to be a big selling point would be too morally reprehensible even for Vince McMahon. Sheamus and Alberto del Rio had less heat than Antarctica in winter night. Authority vs. Lesnar made absolutely no sense at this point without a major, TNA-esque reboot. So the options ahead of the company were Roman Reigns, Antonio Cesaro, and John Cena. Two were unknown but interesting quantities. The other one held a certain comfort, both in his ability to carry a title and to have a great match with Lesnar in a money scenario. WWE went the safe route.
On one hand, I can't blame them. Bryan's injury put the clamps on what should have been a fun, experimental summer where the little guy could go on fending off all challengers. When an experiment fails due to unforeseen circumstances like an injury, the tendency is not to go with something even more experimental without the benefit of a build like Bryan had, but to go with what has worked in the past. It's the maxim by which sports teams select interim managers/coaches when midseason firings are afoot. On the other hand, both Reigns and Cesaro could have been fabulous options for title wins and defenses against Lesnar, neither of which would have required all that much a leap of faith for the audience to accept.
Cesaro and Lesnar share the common manager, and that Paul Heyman fella spent a lot of time during his initial run as Cesaro's advocate not putting him over in favor of the other client. Resentment and professional jealousy are more than acceptable plot devices for pro wrestling. Reigns may not have had the convenient storyline in, but he would've been just as credible a physical specimen for Lesnar to battle. With the right stories, neither guy's inevitably short two-month title reign would have seemed transitional at all. Title reigns, as everyone knows, are not truly measured by length as much as they are by booking providence.
But WWE went the safe route. I can understand traveling the well-lit path occasionally, but Cena had 14 reigns with some form of the top title in the company before tonight. That safe route is well-worn, and more adventurous paths have yet to be traversed. Once you stop trying to innovate, you stagnate. When you stagnate, the people you're trying to draw in know the score. I am not well-versed in the ways of how financial trends correlate with anything (your best bet would be to follow Chris Harrington on Twitter.), but if WWE wants to look at blame for not getting numbers as robust as its projections for the Network, maybe it ought to look inward.
That conservative attitude permeated the other ladder match as well. I understand the need to have Seth Rollins win the briefcase. Dean Ambrose doesn't need titles to be the coolest guy on the block. Boston was hot for him tonight, and I suspect Hartford will be tomorrow. But the deus ex machina of the overbearing authority figures has deflated far past critical mass at this point. Last year, WWE booked a hot angle in the finish of the blue briefcase match with two wrestlers it was clearly not behind in the long term. Rollins and Ambrose clearly are higher on the totem pole than Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes were even last year. Why not put the thinking caps on again and look for some way where Rollins could have gotten the win WITHOUT The Demon Kane™ ensuring victory? Lazy, lazy, lazy.
Recursion and regression plagued Money in the Bank this year, and because WWE traveled the safest route possible, this year's event has been by far the weakest since it became its own pay-per-view. The wrestling was still solid, especially the first two matches, and even the ladder matches had a lot of visually stimulating spots and memorable moments. But it's clear WWE is waiting for an Anomaly to save it instead of doing anything active to try and get the ball rolling towards magnifying Lesnar's impact on the company. It's frustrating to watch at times, even if the answers are somewhat justifiable.