Woah…ok. That sure was a night of wrestling.
It’s easy to forget given the…something…that was the main event, but there were actually proper wrestling matches on this show, and almost all of them were pretty good. The lower number of matches than usual did feel a bit weird, especially when some of them didn’t get to go very long, but much like the two-night Wrestlemania, I think it was actually a good idea. Things felt like they were paced a lot better because of it and my interest never wained in the show because it didn’t drag on for an hour longer than it needed to. Sure, I would’ve prefered it if more high-profile talent got a spot on this show, but I’m thankful that they didn’t stuff this show with guff.
So, let’s get on with the matches.
7 – Bobby Lashley def. R-Truth
Oh yeah, Bobby Lashley is a thing…how did I forget about him?
Not a whole lot to say with this one. Truth and MVP’s promo was kinda fun but not really all that intriguing, I guess it probably would’ve been a bit better if I knew anything about basketball, but that’s my problem. As for the bait-and-switch, I’m ok with it, since I don’t think MVP vs R-Truth would’ve been all that great.
Admittedly, this match wasn’t anything special either, but I certainly didn’t hate it. When you get matches like this that are just slightly extended squashes, you have to look at them through a different lens than you look at a regular match through. I think Truth’s antics of trying to escape kept this thing going through Lashley’s relatively uninteresting offence.
That said, it was still a standard squash match, so I can’t bring myself to put it any higher than this.
6 – Bayley(c) def. Tamina
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
I really wanted to be optimistic about this one, but it just didn’t work.
It had it’s moments, mostly involving Bayley heeling it up, but the match ended up being quite slow for the most part and wasn’t able to carry the 10 minutes it got. I wish I could be positive about Tamina here, but there really wasn’t anything to like from her here. Her wrestling style is that of your standard “big-guy” in wrestling only she seems to have even less mobility than many of her counterparts. She can do a good superkick though…so there’s that I guess? Bayley didn’t seem to be at her best here either. I enjoyed her taunting Tamina throughout, and that aspect of her character has remained consistent, but something about her in-ring stuff just felt a bit flat to me; not to mention one of the worst knee-bars I’ve ever seen.
As for the finish, it’s about what I expected. It would’ve been nice to see a bit more of something between Sasha and Bayley (if that’s where we’re headed…it bloody well should be). Although, I understand that subtlety isn’t exactly WWE’s strong suit and they’re probably looking to keep this building until Summerslam, so maybe it’s a bit early. If Tamina does carry on pursuing this title, I can only hope it’s in the form of a multi-woman match, because I really don’t fancy sitting through another singles match between these two.
5 – Jeff Hardy def. Cesaro
You know, given that they spent a month hyping up his return, I really would’ve thought they’d have put this match on the main show…
As it stands, I enjoyed this one. Admittedly there’s not really all that much to say about it, as it generally filled the role of being a slightly above average TV match than anything else. I don’t wonder with matches like this whether I would’ve enjoyed it more if there was a crowd to react to stuff, even if I feel I’ve gotten used to the lack of background noise by now. I don’t really know what else to say here, there was no story going into this match since Cesaro and Sheamus have now disassociated from each other.
It was an enjoyable match from two great wrestlers, and I’d love to see more of this from both of these guys going forward.
4 – Braun Strowman(c) def. Bray Wyatt
The fact that the lack of a crowd means we can very clearly hear the wrestlers talking in the ring is something that I don’t think has been taken advantage of nearly as much as it could’ve been up until now. Bray Wyatt was the perfect character to play to this, and he did an excellent job. From his ramblings to commentary and the camera during his entrance, to his comments to Braun throughout the match, Wyatt was able to tell the story absolutely perfectly.
I wasn’t actually all that interested in the story going into this one, but thanks to the work done between the two of them in the ring, I came away more invested than I came in. The injection of the puppets was the only thing that didn’t quite land for me. I know they’re supposed to be Wyatt’s tools for indoctrinating people into the funhouse, but they’re so disconnected from what Wyatt and Strowman had in 2015/16, that they felt a bit out of place. Everything else was really well done though, from Bray’s pleading with Braun, to Braun’s tricking of Wyatt, making him believe that he had actually convinced him to come back. In a way, this even justified the decision to had Funhouse Bray wrestle the match rather than The Fiend.
When it comes to the action, it wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was entertaining enough and served the story like it was supposed to. This wasn’t much of a competitive match, which tends to be where Wyatt shines best, so there was only so much interest it could have. That said, his more reactionary role in the pacing made for a more compelling story.
3 – The New Day(c) def. Lucha House Party, The Forgotten Sons, The Miz & John Morrison
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
Multi-team tag matches are always great.
This match followed the simple, yet effective, formula that most matches of this elk do. That being it started out pretty slow, with standard action between the two legal men, throwing in the occasional tag and double-team move. Then about 5 minutes in all hell breaks loose and the following 10 minutes of the match is a barrel of fun.
Lucha House Party ended up being the MVPs of this match if you ask me, one of them was almost always involved in the action, and they did a really good job of it too. This kind of chaotic and fast-paced match is perfect for their style, so everything they did felt very natural and compelling. Miz & Morrison were great too. It wasn’t quite as overt as it was in their previous matches, but they filled their role of picking their spots and only getting involved when they stood a chance of gaining the advantage to great effect.
The Forgotten Sons were, unfortunately, who I was most disappointed. They got a few notable spots in there, but nothing all that consequential. They’re one of those rare cases where I don’t think we saw their full potential in NXT and I was really hoping that we’d start to catch glimpses of it here. The New Day was great though, and I think the match was structured in such a way so that you really felt they deserved the win by the end. Kofi took a battering like he always does, and Big E ran through the whole thing with a head of steam in the way that only he can.
I’m not entirely sure where the feuds will go from here. My guess would be a regular two on two match between New Day and Miz & Morrison just to finally put the cap on that, but The Forgotten Sons may get that featured spot instead. Either way, I think we’re in for a good match at Backlash.
2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Seth Rollins
Ok, when it comes to regular wrestling matches, this was far-and-away the best match on the show, but come on…
It seems Money in the Bank is just going to be the show where Seth Rollins had a brilliant singles match for a world title, his brilliant match with Styles was at last year’s show too. Given how dominant a champion Drew has been over the past month, there was a risk that making this too much of a competitive match might take away from some of that aura, but I think they did a great job of balancing it. Drew felt like he was in control for large swathes of the match and even in his more vulnerable moments, he never felt diminished because of it.
Rollins meanwhile has done an amazing job of making his fast-paced, high-flying offence – a style that typically only works for faces – into something quite methodical and heelish. The sequence where he did a bunch of flying knee strikes to Drew on the outside, in particular, felt very heavy and brutal, even though it’s usually a crowd-popping and exciting move.
Everything in this match worked to the benefit of both men. Rollins shows once again how he’s able to continually adapt and evolve his style for what his role is, and he genuinely looked like a credible threat to Drew’s championship. Meanwhile, Drew was able to look vulnerable without ever looking weak, and the handshake at the end solidified him as the top guy on Raw. Partly because it makes him look noble and honourable, but Rollins accepting it gives Drew a boost too, because Rollins’ whole point in this feud was his belief that Drew wouldn’t be able to handle leading Raw.
Combine all of that stuff with a sizable helping of exciting back-and-forth action, and you’ve got yourself a match of the year candidate right there.
1 – Otis and Asuka won the Money in the Bank Ladder Matches
Ok…ok. Let’s all take a breath…now let’s break this thing down.
First thing’s first, this whole thing was so incredibly dumb, but it was also absolutely brilliant. Let’s be honest here, the idea of a race through an office block to grab a prize on the roof is an absolutely ridiculous concept, so leaning all the way into that ridiculousness was the perfect way to play this match.
Things started off silly as Asuka did a dance on the balcony before leaping off of it onto all of the other women, meanwhile, the men fought in the gym, a sequence which featured Corbin being absolutely traumatised when he accidentally broke one of the mirrors. Then Asuka got into an elevator and seemingly danced the whole way up in it as the men ran past a bathroom, in which Brother Love was taking a piss for some reason.
Next up, then men fought into an elevator, which opened in the exact same place where the women had just started fighting. Some great spots included Asuka and Aleister Black doing shifty eyes like they’re in a Scooby-Doo cartoon before sneaking off. Meanwhile, Otis got carried away, cheering along with Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” kicks and also…there was a clown…I don’t know why there was a clown, but the was a clown.
Moving on, the women fought their way into a conference room that, for some reason, had a fake Money in the Bank briefcase hanging from the ceiling. After all the other women were laid out, Dana Brooke, for some reason, thought that the briefcase above the conference room must be the real one, despite every advert for the past month saying it would be on the roof. At this point, Stephanie McMahon appeared in one of the worst editing jobs I’ve ever seen (it didn’t even slightly look like Stephanie was actually in the room with Dana) to tell Dana that the real briefcase was on the roof.
We then revisit AJ Styles, who’s hunting down Rey after Rey left him trapped under a set of weights in the gym and we get a rare bit of continuity in WWE as AJ becomes traumatised by a photo of The Undertaker. Which makes sense when you consider The Undertaker buried AJ alive last month…you would’ve thought that would’ve come up a bit sooner, but oh well.
Then we get to the stupidest, but also the best part of the match. As Paul Heyman was sat down at a table full of food, both the men and the women ran into the room and stared each other down. Otis then picked up a sandwich and started having a fit. Everyone else in the room put on their best melodramatic “oh shit” faces until Otis called for a food fight and chaos ensued. Some of the highlights of this segment include Rey Mysterio being choked out by Shayna Baszler, then literally squashed by Nia Jax and the music being absolutely perfect. That isn’t the end of the food stuff though, as Otis went into the kitchen and found a row of pies laid out. At which point, MOTHERFUCKIN’ JOHNNY ACE rolls in on a scooter and takes a pie to the face.
Dana then manages to slip on a wet floor (we never see her again in the match after this) and Nia throws Shayna into a wall, we’d never see Shayna again in this match either. The men have managed to fight their way into the main conference room, and after a small skirmish, Styles and Bryan stumble into an office that just so happens to have Vince McMahon writing on a clipboard. Styles and Bryan then look at each other like school children that have been caught messing around and leave the office with their tails between their legs. After that, another skirmish happens where Corbin comes out on top and declares “I’m going to the roof!” to absolutely no-one.
We finally get to the roof, and this is where things get a bit more tense and series. The women get to the roof first, and there aren’t any major ladder spots on the roof, just vague fighting and attempting to prevent each other from climbing the ladder. After Asuka and Lacey fought on the ladder for a weirdly long time, Asuka was climbing to the top. Corbin appeared and tried to stop her from grabbing the briefcase for some reason. Seriously, WHY did Corbin give a shit about Asuka winning the women’s briefcase? The men’s briefcase was RIGHT THERE, if he had just left Asuka alone, he could’ve won the match in seconds. Anyway, Asuka kicked him in the face and retrieved the briefcase.
We’re not done yet, though, as now the rest of the men emerged onto the roof. Corbin decided that the best course of action would be to launch both Mysterio and Black off of the roof (I know there was actually a crash pad about 10 feet down, but they shot it to look like they went off the roof). The men fought for a bit and eventually Styles and Corbin found themselves at the top of the ladder, the briefcase came off of the hook with both of them holding it until Elias of all people showed up and smashed Corbin in the back with a guitar. That left AJ with the briefcase and the win, right? WRONG. Instead, AJ managed to fumble the briefcase, which knocked it perfectly into Otis’ hands. Seriously, they showed the slow-motion replay, and it’s the most perfect fumble I think I’ve ever seen.
GOD, this was brilliant. The Boneyard and Funhouse matches were great because of their uniqueness and the cleverness of the writing and filming involved. This was great in the way that it’s so bloody stupid I can’t help but love every second of it.
As for the winners, as much as I would’ve preferred Shayna to win, giving it to Asuka is still a great choice and I hope they make something good of it. In regards to Otis, it’s certainly not who I would’ve picked, but given that this was a comedy match, why not have the comedy wrestler win it? I don’t think he’ll ever actually get to cash-in as I stand by my belief that there is no world championship in his future. However, right now, I can’t help but smile at it. Like the match as a whole, it’s incredibly dumb, but also beautiful.
That’s all folks! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article, please let me know what your thoughts on the show are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time on Saturday, where I’ll be releasing the second part of my Minecraft Updates list!