6/29/14 Money in the Bank Review: Death, Taxes, and Cena

 

This year’s Money in the Bank PPV was a stepping stone between the injury-shortened Daniel Bryan title reign and whatever WWE has planned for the bridge from SummerSlam to Wrestlemania. As WWE often does when it has to call a storyline audible, it went with John Cena as the safety valve (just like the company did with Hulk Hogan in the early 90s and WCW did with Ric Flair in the late 80s). Although some fans will complain about Cena’s omnipresence in the title picture, the bottom line is that the top matches at MITB delivered and the PPV was very enjoyable despite the fact that Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Brock Lesnar- possibly the three biggest draws WWE could theoretically book at the moment- were not available for various reasons.

John Cena def. Randy Orton, Kane, Roman Reigns, Sheamus, Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio, and Bray Wyatt in a Ladder Match to Become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

Grade: B+

Jim Ross recently wrote that the Money in the Bank match is a glorified battle royal. If we accept that premise, then the main objective of the match should be for everyone involved to get an opportunity to shine. By that standard, the main event ladder match was a success. The match is always more of a succession of high spots than its own story, and this match was full of those spots. Kane tried to help Orton whenever he got the chance, but Cena and Reigns consistently made it hard for him to get any traction. Cesaro and Sheamus hung from the belts early in the match when the ladder was shoved out from under them and onto Orton. It busted Orton’s head open so badly that the ringside medics could not prevent a steady flow of blood down his face for the rest of the match. When everyone tried to climb at the same time, Sheamus cleared the ring and Brogue Kicked Cena to the floor. Wyatt made an impact with a suplex to Cena onto a ladder bridge in the ring. Reigns took his turn with a series of Superman Punches and seated dropkicks before a huge Spear on Cesaro. The finishers started to come fast and furious for Wyatt, Del Rio, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Orton, who topped them all with a catch RKO to Cesaro off of the ladder. While Kane, Orton, and Reigns jostled with each other, Cena took advantage with AAs to Kane and Orton. He climbed the ladder unabated and won the title. It is Cena’s 15th title reign, putting him only one shy of Flair’s record. It speaks to his longevity and stability, which are both positive attributes. Complaints about his poor wrestling ability are outdated and I think Cena is the best bet of the available wrestlers to put on a great show with Lesnar at SummerSlam if that is the intended main event.

Seth Rollins def. Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, and Rob Van Dam in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match

Grade: A-

It was not especially surprising that the secondary MITB match featured more high flying and more risks. Even the old dog Van Dam put his body on the line with a Rolling Thunder onto a ladder with Swagger underneath it. He took another big bump when Swagger returned the favor with a powerbomb off of a ladder. Ambrose and Rollins went at each other throughout the match and parroted the Matt Hardy-Jay Briscoe bump from last week’s ROH PPV when Ambrose superplexed Rollins off the top of a ladder. Rollins impressively recovered and took another crazy fall on a back body drop from Kingston off the top of the ladder and onto another ladder. Ziggler got some momentum going as he cut off Kingston at the last second, superkicked a ladder into Swagger, and hit a Zig Zag on Kingston onto another ladder. When he tried to make a climb, Swagger grabbed him by the ankle to hold him in the Patriot Lock while he tried to climb. Ambrose, who had been taken to the back with a shoulder injury, reemerged to a huge pop and cut off Rollins. He repaid his double cross with a series of stiff chair shots. It looked like Ambrose had a chance to win the match, but Kane emerged and prevented him from reaching the top. He hit Ambrose with a chokeslam and a tombstone and then guarded the way while Rollins climbed to the top for the win. The Kane-aided finish helped to cement the heel status for Rollins after his performance in the match was so good that it had to evoke some support. It also reminded fans that Kane would be in Orton’s corner later in the night. This match was more of a traditional MITB spot fest and it was highly enjoyable. I liked that guys like Kingston and Swagger who were less likely to win got a chance to look very good because those strong performances help keep them relevant in the midcard. I also think that Rollins winning was the right call because the cheap title is a perfect complement to his entitlement storyline.

The Usos def. The Wyatt Family to Remain Tag Team Champions

Grade: A-

My favorite non-ladder match of the show was this one that kicked off the PPV. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan got another new entrance theme, a generic southern guitar rock song to replace the awful organ grinder they used last week. The Usos used their speed early to hit a missile dropkick into a cradle on Rowan, but the Wyatts isolated Jey and wore him down. When he finally reached Jimmy, their team rallied with a series of superkicks, but Harper answered with a sit-down powerbomb that nearly ended the match. A series of three suicide dives from Harper, Jimmy, and Harper again led to a double team Razor’s Edge-style powerbomb from the Wyatts that nearly won them the belts. Rowan went to the top rope for the first time in memory, but got crotched on the turnbuckle. The Usos hit a double superplex on him and followed it with a pair of Superfly Splashes to get the pin. While The Usos are not at a level where they would sell PPVs on their own, they fortify the secondary part of the card and keep the tag team division relevant for up-and-comers around them. They would be a perfect mid-80s tag team in gimmick and as the co-headliners on the split roster for house shows. While they are a bit anachronistic now, that does not undermine the work they do in the ring or the quality of matches in a tough spot.

Paige def. Naomi to Remain Divas Champion

Grade: B

Aside from a couple of shaky spots, Paige’s performance at the PPV was the kind of eye-catching match that she has needed after a series of forgettable title defenses. She and Naomi brawled early on- Paige hit a nice backbreaker and Naomi threw her from the apron to the floor by her hair. Naomi cleared the top rope for a splash onto the floor then brought Paige back into the ring for a series of pinning combinations that led to a submission hold. Paige escaped and went to the top rope to attempt a superplex, but Naomi stumbled and they both tumbled to the outside in what looked like a blown spot. Paige maintained control briefly, but Naomi hit her with the Rear View for a two count. Paige came back and delivered an elevated DDT to get the win- a much better finisher than the Paige Turner and an improved complement to her PTO.

Stardust and Goldust def. Rybaxel

Grade: C+

The Dust Brothers did not have any history with Rybaxel so the entirety of this match’s draw was Cody’s new attitude. Axel finally gave in to the pressure from his partner and father and donned a singlet in the ring, which is a much better look for him considering his build. He controlled the match early and gave way to Ryback, who nailed Goldust with a big spinebuster. Goldust finally reached Stardust, who was too agile for the big guy. He dodged several punches, floated out of a gorilla press, and escaped Shell Shocked to hit Cross-Rhodes on him. Axel broke up the pin at the last second, but the ensuing scramble allowed Stardust to roll up Ryback for the pin. Axel came after the Dusts and got a double team finisher- a lift by Goldust into a DDT by Stardust- to leave the faces looking very good. It is hard to say what the ceiling is for such a tongue-in-cheek gimmick, but I am deeply appreciative that there is an outlet for Cody Rhodes’s talent.

Rusev def. Big E

Grade: B

Big E brought out the best in Rusev and forced him to overcome some adversity in a way that actually made use of all the squash matches over the last few months. He threw Rusev to the floor, hit a belly to belly suplex, and got a two count off of a nice side slam. He avoided a thrust kick from Rusev and made a nice overhead belly-to-belly throw. A spear off of the apron brought blood to Rusev’s mouth and put him in a daze. He snapped out of it and fired himself up to avoid the Big Ending, hit a couple of stiff kicks, and lock in the Accolade to eventually force Big E to tap out. I was glad that Big E put up a fight and would have even liked to see him reach the ropes once before losing to force Rusev to dig deep.

Layla def. Summer Rae with Fandango as the Guest Referee

Grade: D+

Summer and Layla insulted each other’s bodies backstage before the match and spent most of their time in the ring trying to flirt with their referee. Summer distracted him from a choke on Layla with her boot by flaunting her leg for him. Layla responded with an Indian Leglock while the fans became distracted enough to chant for CM Punk. About three minutes into the match, Layla delivered an elbow strike and a high kick to win and make out with Fandango. Hopefully this match marks the end of Summer’s storyline with Layla and Fandango. It is hard to see how a spiteful jilted lover persona would get her over as a face.

Adam Rose def. Damien Sandow

Grade: D

The only highlight of Sandow’s turn as Paul Revere was his proclamation that “the elbow is coming, the elbow is coming” before he delivered his Elbow of Disdain. He also managed a full nelson slam for a two count before Rose uneventfully delivered the Party Foul to win.

Other Notes:

  • Daniel Bryan got a great reaction on the preshow when he came to the ring for an interview with Michael Cole. He stressed that, even though he might have to have another surgery, he will come back and retake the WWEWHC when he recovers. Bo Dallas interrupted him and told him to keep Bo-Lieving in himself and Bryan told him that he is acting like a “Bo-ner.” It was a funny interaction and it was a good rub for Dallas.
  • Stephanie McMahon encountered the Bella Twins backstage and had security escort Brie out of the arena. I think there is intrigue in an eventually Stephanie-Brie match, so it makes sense to keep the thread alive in fans’ minds.