Heniff’s WWE Money in the Bank Review – Hug Life & The Beast

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WWE’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view took place Sunday night at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. The main event of the show was an all-out seven-man brawl for the men’s Money in the Bank briefcase which featured a big surprise at the match’s climax. Elsewhere on the card, we saw the dream match-up of Seth Rollins and AJ Styles for the Universal Championship, Kofi Kingston defending his WWE Championship against Kevin Owens and we saw “The Man” do double duty against Lacey Evans and Charlotte Flair for the RAW and SmackDown Women’s Championships, respectively.

Dana Brooke vs. Naomi vs. Nikki Cross vs. Natalya vs. Bayley vs. Carmella vs. Mandy Rose vs. Ember Moon

I have no idea why Naomi came out before the pre-show went off the air, although I suppose that was to gain some more last-minute interest to buy the show. Nikki Cross received a very excited reaction from the XL Center, so I hope WWE hears that and figures her into RAW storylines going forward. I have to give a special recognition to Dana Brooke in this match. I haven’t been the biggest fan of her since her NXT debut back in 2015, but I will fully admit she has been making quite a few improvements to her mic and in-ring work and doing her damn-dest to shine on a very stacked women’s roster.

I will say this was a very fun match overall with each woman having an opportunity to show off her personality in the ring. Naomi (clad in some really neat glow-in-the-dark honeybee attire) played the part of the high-flyer in the match energetically. Ember Moon channeled her inner Bruce Lee with many strategically placed kicks. Cross looked damn-near indestructible after surviving several falls and slams on the ladders. My original pick for this match was Mandy Rose, but unfortunately, my pick came about an arm-length short before Bayley knocked her and Sonya Deville off the ladder. I am very happy with Bayley winning the briefcase which should give her a nice little career boost after losing the Women’s Tag Team Championship and having a subpar 2018 (more on that later). A very top-notch match to start off the night.

Winner: Bayley           Time: 13:50     Rating: 3.5 Stars

Samoa Joe (C) vs. Rey Mysterio

There isn’t a whole lot to report or review on this match, if I’m being honest. Joe received a broken nose on a springboard Senton early in the match and just struck Rey like a punching bag in the match’s lone seconds. I wasn’t a big fan of the execution of the ending of this match, although I don’t fully know if it was to further the storyline between these two, build more sympathy for Dominic and build more hate for Joe or just that someone got injured and they quickly canned the match before any more damage was inflicted. That being said, I thought this fell a little flat and came off a little clunky. I hope these three can build to a boiling-over emotional brawl soon as we march into the summer.

Winner: Rey Mysterio            Time: 1:40       Rating: 1 Star

The Miz vs. Shane McMahon 

I will give these two a lot of credit for keeping the emotional fires stoked on this feud entering its third month of direct conflict. For as great of an antagonistic heel Miz played from 2016-2018, he has been able to really drum up a lot of support from the crowd and has turned into one of the more popular babyfaces on Monday Night RAW. And even the immensely likable Shane McMahon has been able to turn the crowd against him by channeling his inner “McMahon” and coming off like the biggest chauvinist on planet Earth.

This match had all the makings of modern day emulation of a Bruno Sammartino “lose his cool and absolutely destroy his opponent” cage match. But unfortunately, this match just stuttered to start and couldn’t string together more than a couple of hits at once. The introduction of a chair helped create a bit more needed mayhem in this match and Shane (almost) looked like he had paid for his sins with chair shots and falls off the cage. But, the rope-break during a cage match and the unfulfilling ending of Shane slipping through the Miz’s fingers left two big black marks on this match for me. Never since Brock Lesnar created a no-contest finish at Hell in a Cell between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman last year was I more confused by a referee decision in what’s supposed to be a borderline bloodbath of a match. While this all but guarantees one more match between these two (more than likely in Saudi Arabia), this was just an underwhelming follow-up to their excellent street fight at WrestleMania. 

Winner: Shane McMahon       Time: 13:10     Rating: 2 Stars

Tony Nese (C) vs. Ariya Daivari  

For as much of a disappointment as Shane-Miz was earlier, this Cruiserweight Championship match was exactly what I needed to cleanse my palate and put a good taste in my mouth again. I can always appreciate a good, old-fashioned heel move like Daivari rubbing Nese’s eyes on the top ring-rope. Tony Nese has been steadily building himself up over the last two years or so into a certified and believable champion with a few more high-flying moves under his belt alongside his powerful slams and suplexes. Shout-out to Daivari who has been building his own reputation on 205 Live and at one point looked like he was about to knock off Nese and become the new Cruiserweight Champion via a superkick-Persian Lion Splash-hammerlock lariat combo. But in the end, Nese was able to kick his opponent to the curb and extend his championship reign another day. A very fun, fast-paced match.

Winner: Tony Nese     Time: 9:25       Rating: 3 Stars

Becky Lynch (C) vs. Lacey Evans 

Lacey Evans came out to the ring first with two holstered money-pistols creating a fog of thousand dollar Lacey bucks. While I’m all for the addition of props in trying to drum up more effects in entrances, I’m kind of confused by what money has to do with Evans’ gimmick as a “Sassy Southern Belle” and a former MPO with the United States Marine. Regardless, a majority of Evans’ early offense came from using her legs and lower-body to smash Becky’s body into the mat. I thought this match told a halfway-decent story with multiple momentum changes that created back-and-forth match that felt like it could go either way. In the end, one quick lock-in of the Dis-Arm-Her was enough to take care of Lynch’s first challenger for the night. 

Winner: Becky Lynch  Time: 8:40       Rating: 2.5 Stars

Becky Lynch (C) vs. Charlotte Flair

I originally thought they would break up this match and the Evans match to split up the Becky workload here. But I will say I liked the decision to put them on back-to-back in order to build some more heat for Charlotte acting like half of her work had already been done for her and she had all but won the actual SmackDown Women’s Championship. I will say that these two (from the benefit of working with each other going back five years and especially often in the last year) have a lot more chemistry together in the ring than Evans and Lynch. This felt like another chapter in a Godzilla-Mothra lineage of battle history (albeit not as epic as some of their other confrontations in the past few months). And then, out of nowhere, here comes King Kong slapping Godzilla in the face…sorry, let me start over. Lacey coming back out to deliver her finishing punch to Lynch in order to stun her just long enough for Charlotte to execute a big boot and become a nine-time Women’s Champion. With an absent Sasha Banks still technically on the RAW brand, this should bring the Four Horsewomen split to a nice and even two-per-brand.

And then we had the post-match brawl which led to the emergence of the recently crowned Miss Money in the Bank in Bayley. Thanks to a beat down from Becky and a well-timed counter to a Charlotte spear, Bayley was able to pick the bones of the Queen and become a SmackDown Women’s Champion for the first time in her career. Shout-out to Hartford for cheering on Bayley like it was 2016 all over again and giving her the biggest ovation she has received in months. As a self-admitted Bayley fan, I am a big supporter of this new push to add some new lifeblood to the SmackDown women’s roster not named Charlotte or Becky. I can only assume that Charlotte will be the natural first opponent for the Hugger, and considering they had a respectable SmackDown match a few weeks ago, I can go for a sustained summer feud between these two.   

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Winner: Charlotte Flair           Time: 6:15       Rating: 2.5 Stars

Roman Reigns vs. Elias

I am a big fan of Elias just attacking Reigns before he even sniffs the entrance route as well as being able to pick up an electric guitar for the first time in the ring. I’m going to withhold a rating on this because this was just a quick and easy beat down of Elias by the Big Dog once he emerged from the entrance. Considering a year ago Elias had his greatest match to date for the Intercontinental Championship against Seth Rollins, this felt like a step down for the Drifter. But, maybe we’re due for some more payback in the coming weeks on SmackDown Live. Wished they could have given us a proper pairing between these two. 

Winner: Roman Reigns          Time:  0:10

Seth Rollins (C) vs. AJ Styles

Man, what a dream match-up this was for wrestling nerds everywhere. This is the past and the present meeting together when the two are still at the top of their game. Arguably, this is in the same library as Hogan-Rock from WrestleMania X8, albeit on a much smaller scale. If there was one match that had the potential to steal the show tonight, by sheer name value and in-ring reputation alone, it was this one.

The match began with the two men sniffing each other out like huskies looking for the perfect opportunity to pounce. This had an epic, big-time match feel to it where each man had to resort to nearly every play in their playbook just to make a dent in the opposition’s armor. Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War that in order to defeat one’s enemy, he/she must know their enemy as much as they know their self in order to predict their enemy’s movements and motives. That line came to my mind during this match as some of the biggest momentum killers would be AJ taking too long trying to set up for the Phenomenal Forearm or Rollins preparing for the Stomp just a second too long before AJ would roll him up into a Calf Crusher submission hold. These two are inarguably two of the top-five performers in the WWE, at least in my estimation. Together, they each proved why they both belong on that hall of excellence. Big moves, big counters, jaw-dropping moments for the crowd that kept them on the edge of their seat throughout this near-twenty-minute bout. A fantastic match and a highly recommended watch. 

Winner: Seth Rollins   Time: 19:45     Rating: 4 Stars

Kofi Kingston (C) vs. Kevin Owens

This match to me felt a lot like Daniel Bryan’s match with Kane in 2014, Seth Rollins’ match with Randy Orton in 2015 or Roman Reigns’ match with AJ Styles in 2016 in their respective Extreme Rules title matches after WrestleMania. None of those match-ups had any inclination that they would lead to a new champion being crowned so soon after such major championship wins at WrestleMania the month prior, but said matches would help strengthen the champion’s reign and be the proverbial “first test” for the new champion. For a new champion like Kofi Kingston, you can’t pick many better foils for your first big title defense than the easily hate-able and equally dangerous Kevin Owens.

For as fast as he moves and as high as he flies, as soon as Kofi stops moving, Owens was there to deliver a momentum-killing kick to the head or lariat to the collarbone. I really liked the story they tried to tell in this match with Kofi continuing to play up his “underdog who can persevere” story arc paired off against a ring general and former champion in Owens who can and will do anything to prove that the show you and I are watching is the Kevin Owens Show. But no matter how much offense Owens would throw at the elder New Day member and how much humiliation he would put him through like removing Kofi’s shoes and throwing it into the audience, the beloved underdog would just not quit. Shout-out to both men for playing to their parts exceptionally and putting on a fantastic match.

Winner: Kofi Kingston            Time: 14:10     Rating: 3.5 Stars

Drew McIntyre vs. Baron Corbin vs. Ricochet vs. Finn Bālor vs. Andrade vs. Randy Orton vs. Ali 

I’ll admit I was looking forward to (at first) Braun Strowman appearing in his second MITB ladder match, but then I was looking forward to the newly heel Sami Zayn appearing in this match to make up something of a wild card in a field of former winners and first time opportunists. But given the surprise we received at the end, I was satisfied that neither of these wishes came true.

This match made me realize how much I want to see a cross-promotional match between Ali and Ricochet. If there’s two guys who could live up to the hype of a WCW cruiserweight spectacle from the likes of Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Juventud Guerrera and Psychosis, those are your two-contenders. That Franken-Steiner Ali delivered to Ricochet was so picture perfect, it deserves recognition here as well. On top of that, his Spanish Fly off the ladder on Andrade was nearly all you needed to see to give the M.V.P. award of this match to Ali before the bell had even rung. Shout-out to Andrade and Finn Bālor as well for that insane sunset-flip powerbomb spot off the top of the ladder that made Bālor bounce nearly a foot in the air.

I can’t even list the number of amazing spots and slams in this match without adding a thousand more words for you to read. To say this match was an endless car crash wouldn’t do it justice. And to top it all off, a two-ton semi-truck named Brock Lesnar crashed through the carnage and created his moment for greatness in what we can assume to be Seth Rollins’ next opponent for WWE Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia in a few short weeks. I liked the surprise ending, although many people online and in the audience visibly and verbally did not enjoy it as much as me. I’m looking forward to hearing what the justification was for the adjustment on RAW. This match capped the night off on a strong, chaotic note.

Winner: Brock Lesnar Time: 19:00     Rating: 4 Stars

Overall Thoughts: I thought this was a very “peak and valley” kind of show. I really liked a lot of parts between the ladder matches and the two world title matches, but there was a lot on this show I wasn’t happy with between the cage match, the early cut to Joe-Rey and the lack of a proper Elias-Reigns match. That being said, I think there was more good than bad on this show and thought this was a pretty fun show, overall. Match of the night honors go to the men’s Money in the Bank match followed by AJ-Seth. My least favorite match has to go to the Miz-Shane cage match that did not live up to my expectations after their stellar WrestleMania match. 

Final Money In The Bank Rating: 3 Stars