And the big reset
Money in the Bank is usually the biggest pay per view after the big four, but this year it had a special significance in that it was the first one with a full capacity of fans since Elimination Chamber 2020. There were also rumors of people returning and that a draft may be happening sooner rather than usual. And finally there is another element in the ever present cloud of negativity that surrounds darn near everything they do. Monday Night RAW has been getting killed by online reviewers almost every week, and their closest competitor on AEW has been putting on TV shows that are being much better received by the same folks. The batches of releases that came post WrestleMania were also ill received by the Internet community, seen as cruel moves to appease investors and not the necessary cleaning out of the closet. So there were real questions that needed to be answered at this point. But as we know it’s times like this when you can count on them to come through. So would they do it again?
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: The Mysterios (c) vs the Usos
Hell of a match to have on the preshow, probably the best preshow match all year. Rey and Dominick have shown to work well as a team while Jimmy and Jey haven’t missed a beat. There some cool spots from both and they clicked really well together. These two teams should have some really fun matches against each other over the next few months.
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match:
This was not as good as 2018 and 2019; but it was fine. Naomi pulled off some great athletic moves as always and there was some good work done by match newcomers Zelina Vega and Liv Morgan. But other than that it wasn’t anything to write home about. Nikki ASH was a mild surprise winner for me but outside of Alexa Bliss there wasn’t a plausible winner who made sense. There was a lot of sentiment for Liv Morgan on my twitter timeline but that made zero storyline logic at the time. There needs to be some visible path afterwards for the winner, and unless you wanted to see Liv cash in unsuccessfully on Bianca Belair then I don’t get why you would pick her to win. Nikki winning made sense going forward so there you go. This was easily the worst match of the show, though.
Raw Tag Team Title Match: AJ Styles and Omos (c) vs The Viking Raiders
What looked like a cool off match on paper turned out to be pretty good. AJ Styles still is one of the best workers in the business well into his 40s and Omos continued to show his progression in the ring. Give this guy another year and some great things could happen.
WWE World title match: Bobby Lashley (c) vs Kofi Kingston
As I was expecting this was a summary execution. Kofi’s taunts at the champion over the last few weeks led to him getting put down like Old Yeller. If you’re going to squash a name guy like Kofi this is the way to do it, in a way that makes the guy doing it look like a stone cold killer. This was downright painful to watch at times, it was that brutal. It looks like they are all in on Bobby Lashley as World Champion and this match showed it. Next up is Goldberg and likely another notch on the belt on his way to WrestleMania 38.
RAW Women’s Title Match: Rhea Ripley (c) vs Charlotte Flair
This was put up or shut up time for Ripley, and she came through. After struggling on RAW for the past couple of months she was in a spot where she needed to deliver up to the level of the hype, and was in there with a future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever do it in Charlotte. This match was superb and very physical with a lot of heavy shots laid in, and was better than the great match they had at WrestleMania 36. Charlotte added another one to her catalog of great matches and Rhea got her first one as a full fledged member of the main roster.
Charlotte looked more at ease interacting with the crowd than ever before, too, reacting to some ‘we want Becky’ chants with a shocking middle finger to all the naysayers that were there. Then she and Ripley went on to put on a match of the year candidate. The two work really well together and went at it like a heavyweight fight. Charlotte rarely has had an opponent who was closer to her size along with some mobility,
Some people weren’t happy with Charlotte winning, but it was the right decision. Rhea got rushed into a tough situation due to Lacey Evans and then Charlotte having to miss time, and became Women’s champion probably a year earlier than she needed to be. She did struggle out of the gate, but now there’s time to reset a bit and get her footing. At 24 years old she could be around for another 15 years easy and it’s important to get her on track to peak at the right time, which isn’t 2021. And I’m sorry but until she’s on her way out the door Charlotte is not going to lose every big match she’s in like some folks want her to. If a loss to her after a great match derails somebody’s whole career that badly then they weren’t that great to start with.
And as we saw the next night when Nikki cashed in the briefcase, Charlotte winning here had a purpose just like pretty much all of her title wins over the last three years. It’s really missing the forest for the trees to not see that since 2018 her wins have been used as a catalyst for other people more than her own edification. Hopefully she’ll get another reign before she’s done where she actually gets to keep it for a while and defend it a few times but for now this is where things are with her. It’s a testament to her staying power that she can get cashed in on with the Money in the Bank briefcase 3 times and take some losses to help some other people advance but some of you guys are still afraid she’s gonna win every time she’s in a big match. Oh well, on to number 15.
Men’s Money in the Bank ladder match
This one did live up to the hype. Kevin Owens showed us again how crazy he’s willing to get for our entertainment. Ricochet showed just how otherworldly an athlete he is. Riddle pulled off some great spots. Seth Rollins and John Morrison impressed. Big E and Drew McIntyre gave us some great big man action. And even Shinsuke Nakamura pulled off a few cool spots. Great match all around, and the winner was absolutely the right one. Look at this guy’s reaction and tell me it was wrong.
More importantly there are multiple pathways laid out for him going forward. There have already been some interactions between E and Paul Heyman to plant seeds for an eventual showdown with Roman Reigns, but now there’s also a revenge motive to go after Bobby Lashley. Either way can put E in the top tier of the company in 2022 and beyond. E, along with his New Day brethren, Bianca Belair and Nikki Cross all do something that is extremely difficult and that is communicate a genuine sense of joy and happiness. Forget pro wrestling that’s just hard to do in life for a lot of people. That gives them a real leg up on most of their coworkers across the business. So congratulations to Big E here, sky is the limit for real.
Universal Title Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs Edge
This was an old school, NWA style match where the two men built it slowly over time up until the big stretch over the last 10 minutes. Roman and Edge have both been working longer since last year and have really shown that they know how to work in the old school way while adding some of the new things from this era. Another great offering from these two.
Roman has shown throughout this entire run that he can work. He’s pulled out moves he didn’t do before and he’s been going over 20 minutes every time. All the people who claim that he’s the product of the WWE system and is thus pigeonholed into one way of doing things have been proven dead wrong since he came back in August. He has more than held up his end against workrate darlings like Daniel Bryan and Cesaro and a former indie darling in Kevin Owens. He had a match of the year candidate with Jey Uso last year, who at the time was known as strictly a tag team guy. If you need to have some 45 minute, do everything, ‘unrestricted’ match to satisfy you then I don’t think you’d be satisfied anyway.
As for this match, it was a fine display of his and Edge’s talents. The interference from Seth Rollins that led to the finish was both expected and well executed. But that ultimately was not the story. No, the story of the night was this:
Now as you read this we’re already progressing with the road to the match, with Cena having called Roman out in multiple promos and Roman now having answered. So it’s just a matter of the stops along the way to what I’m sure will be a great one in Las Vegas.
Best WWE PPV of the year, easily. Not a bad match on the show and the last three should all be on best of the year lists. And at exactly the right time. After a year with no fans, where they did do some great things but also treaded water a lot, it’s time to turn it up again. The landscape has changed with their only real competitor in AEW having shown that they will compete for the top available people out there. This show was exactly what they needed to get back in the saddle, to continue the storylines that were already underway and start some new ones. Highly recommended checking it out if you haven’t.