The Money in The Bank pay-per-view was the return to a regular touring schedule for WWE, as Smackdown had its live audience last week and Raw hosted a full house as well. While the fans in the building will provide a much needed jolt of energy to the product in the short term, the novelty of being back in the building will decrease within a few weeks, which will put the quality of the show to the test without the safety net of a producer pushing buttons for a recorded reaction in the thunder dome. That being said, in many ways, the hiatus of the live audience gives management a chance to get a fresh start for the entire organization, but if they alter their usual playbook is a completely different matter.
The show started with the Women’s Money in the Bank match, and while it had its moments, the bout seemed more like a traffic jam at various points. If I had to guess, I’d say the major flaw with this contest was that it looked way too choreographed and there were times when it was obvious that a competitor was just waiting around the ring for their next spot instead of actually trying to win the match. Don’t get me wrong, the women’s division has the talent, but with eight athletes involved in the match, it’s a tough scenario, especially because of the risks using ladders. A few side notes, Alexa Bliss is a very good performer and she’s done the best that anyone is probably going to do with such a goofy gimmick, but the scripting of her character is just awful. If the writing team wants to portray her as a more dangerous character then script that direction and let her performance get the point across to the audience. The hypnosis spot in the ladder match and all the other sci-fi stuff are just lame scripting that hinders her progress for the character on television. Nikki won the briefcase and as we saw, she cashed in on Raw to win the championship. To be honest, I’m not sure if the ASH, reportedly a change because of Karrion Kross’s arrival on Raw, gimmick is something that will have any longevity and could lead to her getting lost in the shuffle. In many ways, it’s a comedy gimmick, which is something that the MITB stipulation isn’t usually used for, especially after the Otis debacle last year. Nothing against Nikki, but with the way the number of championships Charlotte won was mentioned, the fluke cash-in is probably just a way to add another reign to her resume in a relatively short time frame when she wins the title again. I don’t know where this puts Rhea Ripely because I think she should’ve held the title longer than just a few months. I get that management wants Charlotte to surpass her dad’s record, and I’m sure Ric wants her to win 17 championships as well, but Ripely must get a meaningful storyline after dropping the belt or she will get lost in the shuffle on the brand.
AJ Styles and Omos beat The Viking Raiders to retain the Raw tag titles. The contest was fine, nothing epic, but nothing terrible either. More than anything, this was a bout designed to showcase Omos, which makes sense if management wants to make him a more featured wrestler on television instead of just Styles’ body guard. In truth, Omos has an entertaining persona and the look of a monster, but this could be a situation where his height might actually hinder his mobility in the ring, similar to Khali. I understand why they paired him with AJ because Styles is such a polished pro and a tag run gives him something new to do on the show, but I just don’t think that even with experience that Omos will be effective outside of the limited role of the tag team. Again, it’s not meant as a jab against him, but his height at legitimately over seven feet tall could limit what he can do in the ring. It’s more a matter of physics than in-ring experience. Is Omos really going to be able to work 15 minute matches outside of a tag team? For now, the AJ and Omos pairing works well so at least it provides some entertaining TV for he tag division.
Bobby Lashley beat Kofi Kingston in what amounted to a six-minute squash match. I understand they wanted to present Lashley as completely dominate ahead of the Goldberg match that was set up for Summer Slam, but I still don’t think that Kofi was the wrestler that should’ve been used for this. Kofi’s promos the past few weeks on Raw show why he’s still money and he could still be a main event contender. It’s very disappointing that Kofi’s run with the title will be remembered for being defeated in mere seconds by Brock Lesnar on the Fox debut, and even at this point, he was used as a secondary wrestler to build to a match with Lashley and a part-timer. Quite simply, Kofi deserves better and he’s been underutilized in the past several years. As I said in the article I wrote when the news hit social media that Goldberg was announced for a return to Raw, the fact that a 54-year-old Goldberg is being shoehorned into a title match on a major pay-per-view is just an example of lazy booking. Furthermore, with the John Cena/Roman Reigns match being set up for Summer Slam, the Lashley/Goldberg match will clearly be the “B-side” of the main event so was it really worth sacrificing Kofi Kingston’s momentum on television?
Speaking of sacrificing, Keith Lee made a surprise return to the WWE after a six-month hiatus for undisclosed reasons. Lee was defeated by Bobby to add more fuel to the champion before he was confronted by Goldberg. In theory, I get why you want to make the champion look strong before the challenge of a Hall of Famer, but similar to the use of Kofi, what exactly was the logic here to book Keith Lee for this spot? First of all, he returns to the brand and loses the match so there’s not much optimism about his status on the show. Also, the fact he returned was completely swept under the rug and will be overlooked because a title match for a pay-per-view in a stadium was set up in the same segment. I hate to say it because Keith Lee is a unique athlete that has a lot of talent, but management just doesn’t get him and I really doubt that he will get a chance to realize his potential under the WWE umbrella. Again, I usually wouldn’t say this because the entire point of the wrestling business is to make as much money as possible, but if Keith Lee wants a chance to accomplish the most he can in his career than he should look for a spot outside of the WWE.
We’ve already discussed that Nikki cashed in to win the belt, but it should be mentioned that the women’s title match at MITB was a really solid match. Charlotte has really polished her skill set the past few years and she’s probably in her prime as an athlete. Rhea Ripley can go bell-to-bell and assuming the office doesn’t botch the way she’s presented on television, she could be a major star for the promotion.
The men’s MITB match was an entertaining spot fest, and it highlights how much pure talent is one the roster when it’s not diluted with terrible scripts. Big E won and it was the right call because he’s one of the best performers in the company. That said, I’m skeptical that management will truly give him a chance to be the top guy. They had the perfect opportunity with Kofi and his push was derailed in 15 seconds by Brock Lesnar on Smackdown so I don’t think there’s any guarantee that the MITB bank will translate to success for Big E as champion.
The main event was a quality bout, even though it could’ve been about five minutes shorter and still accomplished the same goal. Edge can still go and assuming he can continue this level of a performance, he might have the best run of his career. However, more than anything, Roman Reigns has really developed his persona during the heel run and he’s undoubtedly doing the best work of his career. When the office didn’t try to make him a carbon copy of a John Cena baby face, it allowed him to evolve as a performer to find what works best for him. In my opinion, this heel run has given Reigns the chance to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together to become a more complete performer. Obviously, Reigns got the win, but the bigger story was that Cena returned at the conclusion of the show to set up a match for Summer Slam. At the very least WWE brass had a legitimate main event for the stadium show, and Cena is scheduled to work the live event tour ahead of the pay-per-view so that will sell tickets. On the flip side, another part-timer wrestler has to be used to boost a major event because of a lack of star power for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta