We are now two months into the empty arena era, and I gotta tell you it seems like it’s been a lot longer. Maybe that’s because there’s no end in sight, I don’t know. But while I know some of you guys just aren’t feeling the empty arena thing enough to watch every week I’ve gotten used to it. Yes, I prefer having fans in the building (except when it’s time for a promo or an interview) but this is what we got for now so it is what it is. Now while the weekly shows have been up and down, WrestleMania by most people accounts was a success. Which bring us to Money in the Bank. Conventional wisdom was thrown on it’s head when it was announced that this year the Money in the Bank ladder matches would involve “climbing the corporate ladder” and take place inside WWE headquarters. The briefcases would be located on the roof of Titan Towers thus adding a whole new element to potential mishaps with the ladders, and there were some promises to toss someone further than they’ve even been in a match. And oh yeah, there were some other matches too. So what did I think of it all?
Cesaro vs Jeff Hardy
Very good preshow match here. Cesaro is a perfect opponent for Jeff; he can carry the workrate end so Jeff can hit his spots and do a little more. And it was a prime example of how being on the preshow can be preferable in that they got more time than they would have on the main show. I was expecting Sheamus to do a run in based on their encounter on the go home episode of Smackdown, but instead this was a match to reestablish Hardy as a presence on what’s being billed as his last run for greatness.
Smackdown Tag Title Match: New Day (c) vs Miz & Morrison vs Lucha House Party vs Forgotten Sons
Good opener. The stars of this match was the Lucha House Party; the last few weeks have seen them get a real opportunity to shine and they’ve taken advantage of it so well that a lot of people I talked to going into this show were rooting for them to win. I was fine with anyone but the Forgotten Sons winning this one, and thankfully they didn’t. Lucha House Party has been on a roll since the Elimination Chamber match in February, and I’d be happy to see them get a title run now that they’ve gotten a chance to show they’re more than six minute match spot guys. New Day retaining is fine here since they just won them a few weeks ago.
MVP Bobby Lashley
As much as I love R-Truth I was perplexed as to why we were getting him in a match with MVP on a pay per view. We found out pretty quickly as Lashley came out and told MVP he had the night off, which led to another classic R-Truth bit before Lashley took him out in short order. And as we saw the night after on Raw this is the beginning of a Lashley/MVP partnership, so there is a plan here all along.
Smackdown Women’s Title Match: Bayley (c) vs Tamina
The build up for this match was excellent with the vignettes that Tamina did over the past few weeks. For the first time in a decade Tamina got to do more than be the muscle behind someone else and show some personality and the end result was that what could have been a throwaway match had some real interest going in, and a lot of people I talked to were actively rooting for Tamina to win. This was easily the best singles match of her career that I’ve seen, and both she and Bayley deserve kudos for that. Tamina is admittedly not a workrate dynamo so the heel shenanigans that Bayley and Sasha Banks did throughout made things entertaining in between spots. They kept it to the right length, about 10 minutes, short enough to not hang Tamina out to dry but not so short that it made her look like she could only do two moves, either. The finish allows for a rematch if they want to do it, and I hope they do. They need to kill a little more time before the inevitable Bayley/Sasha falling out comes, so why not?
Universal Title Match: Braun Strowman (c) vs Bray Wyatt
The surprise match of the night! I had way low expectations of this one just like all you guys did. Braun carrying around a title that was meant for Roman Reigns is a bit of a sore spot for some of us, and two guys who usually need a great opponent to have a good match didn’t add up to anything that looked like it was going to be good. But boy did they over deliver. The action was good (Bray even pulled a tornado DDT out on us), and there was excellent storytelling including Bray’s puppet friends cheering him on and Braun putting on the Black Sheep mask to lull Bray into thinking he’d turned. Match was the right length, 10 minutes, so both guys got to do exactly what they were capable of for a good match and weren’t hung out to dry. Good effort all around and a surprisingly good match.
World Title Match: Drew McIntyre (c) vs Seth Rollins
This was the workrate match for the night, and the best one overall from an in ring standpoint. To be honest I was ready for the Money in the Bank matches to start when this one rolled out so I wasn’t all the way dialed in at first but the second half drew me in and the closing few minutes were top notch. I know some of you guys aren’t sold on Drew as World Champion but I’ve wanted to see him get to work at this level so we can get a real idea of what they have with him. And so far he’s passed the in ring test if nothing else and I’m on board. Rollins held up his end of the bargain too, and helped deliver another great match that will unfortunately be underappreciated because of the circumstances but should be on anyone’s best of list for the year.
Money in the Bank Matches
Because they went on simultaneously and the two groups crossed paths early and often it’s best to judge both matches as a single entity. This was billed as a unique for of match and it definitely was. Shot in the cinematic style that is all the rage now, it played more like an installment of Cannonball Run than a wrestling match as they went all through WWE headquarters.
We got a food fight, cameos from Brother Love, John Laurinitis, and Doink, and the moment we were all waiting for when the action spilled into Vince’s office. Now look, if you wanted workrate or even the traditional spotfest Money in the Bank match then this was not for you. This was slapstick comedy not to be taken too seriously. For me it was what the doctor ordered. In a time where there is too much clamoring for Real Serious Wrestling, sometimes you need something that cannot be fit into any kind of logical analysis. And that’s what this was. Mission accomplished in my book. The only real issue I can see is that the women’s side was minus someone like Naomi or Bianca Belair who would have made for some more acrobatic spots; that’s a legit beef to have.
As for the winners?
Asuka was a favorite so her pulling it off made sense but Otis was a total shocker. I have no idea what the plan is going forward but for all of you who think the briefcase should be used to build a new star this should be right up your alley. I don’t think Otis is going to succeed in his cash-in attempt but let’s see what kind of story we get. As for Asuka, well we found out what the deal was when it was revealed that the ladies match was not for the briefcase but the title itself now that Becky Lynch is off to prepare to give birth. Which makes Asuka’s win and de facto face turn all the more logical. Asuka has been the MVP on Monday nights in the no fans era, so she should do well in her new role as Raw women’s standard bearer.
Good show. Some good undercard matches (Cesaro/Hardy, the Fatal 4 Way), 2 good Men’s singles title matches, a well executed Women’s Title match, and a fun double main event in the two ladder matches. The only throwaway was the Lashley/Truth match and even that served some storyline purposes. And to top it all off the main show only went two and a half hours! As far as I’m concerned this one’s a win.