Money Talks: What Delivered The Bang for the Buck at MITB?
Sunday's Money in the Bank PPV appears to have been a fairly divisive one, at least going by the reactions I've seen all over the Internet and social media. Having seen firsthand the crowd reactions in one of wrestling's toughest (and best) cities, I can speak to that attitude being prevalent in the building as well. In honor of that, I'm going to switch it up a bit this week and focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly from MITB. Big bucks will be reserved for the wrestlers and events that made the grade, and small change will be the way of reacting to anything that was less than successful. How did the WWE do setting the stage for SummerSlam? Let's find out:
Big Bucks: Ladder Match Winners
Both MITB ladder matches delivered in terms of performance, and that of course is no surprise. What may be more of a shocker is that the WWE made the right call in both matches with who came down with the briefcase. In the opener, the all-heel match was entertaining and enjoyable, delivering the goods to a raucous crowd and giving us something different to cheer for. Given the participants involved, having Damien Sandow win was the correct move, and an unexpected one. Sandow has been booked poorly overall, and his recent skirmishes with Seamus were one-sided and not as much fun as they should have been. In order to prevent him from becoming a latter-day Lanny Poffo, the WWE smartly used this match to get him relevant again in a hurry. Equally important in this decision was breaking up Rhodes Scholars and pushing Cody as a face. Rhodes stole the show in this match with his move set, and he's improved enough on the mic to be able to carry the hero's torch. I expect a set of excellent matches between them, and Sandow's intellectual gimmick will serve him well as he thinks about the appropriate time and place to cash in. I also loved the reactions of both men, as they played their parts brilliantly in terms of emotion. Cesaro and Swagger are making an effective team, and Ambrose frankly doesn't need it at this point. Great call by the WWE to give the briefcase to someone who's done an awesome job of late.
In the final match of the night, it was not shocking to me at all that Randy Orton walked away with the briefcase. Orton has also been a victim of seesaw booking for most of this year, and his recent flare-up with Daniel Bryan once again put the viper in the position of uncertainty. CM Punk, of course, was obviously not going to come down with the prize due to his impending feud with Lesnar (more on that in a bit), and Christian was not happening. RVD was the sentimental favorite, but it didn't make sense to hand it to him coming in and gave the Philly crowd a chance to get their hearts broken. Bryan has been booked very dominantly for the past couple of months, and frankly doesn't need the briefcase. Orton is at his best when he's a heel, and it's been long overdue. The title shot gives him a solid plotline that can be booked as slowly as they wish, no matter what else is going on. While I would have preferred someone else getting the nod here, Orton makes the most sense.
Small Change: Brad Maddox
I know I'm picking on good old Brad, and I don't want to jump the gun, but his segment was terrible. In addition to killing whatever momentum was gained from opening the show with a ladder match, it just didn't make sense to waste more time on this Vickie Guerrero firing storyline. Maddox is being presented in a very inane way, and while I get that that might be the purpose, it is not coming across well in person or on TV. Any on-screen talent needs time to get into their role, but the General Manager of Raw is a far too central position to pawn off to someone not ready for prime time. Once again I found myself having Mike Adamle flashbacks. Ostensibly, Vince McMahon put Maddox in charge of Raw on purpose to piss off the fanbase, and that's fine, but less is more when it comes to this stuff. Get Guerrero in a manager's role already and let's run with that. It's fresh and she is very entertaining. As for Maddox, I'm okay with giving him a shot at working in this spot, but he needs to do a better job with his timing and presentation in order to not make it painful television.
Big Bucks: WWE Championship Match
I've never been a big Mark Henry fan (admittedly), but this match was better than it had any right to be. Henry's retirement angle was pure gold, Jerry, and that did a great job of setting up this match which we've seen many times before in a new way. I really enjoyed the pacing of this match, with Henry hammering John Cena with offense early and the focus on whether JC could hit the Attitude Adjustment. Of course we know he can and has, but it worked here. Mark Henry's offense was ugly and effective, which is perfect for his style of wrestling. What he does is kick ass and sweat profusely, and both were on full display here. The best moment of the match to me was when Cena hit the AA and Henry kicked out. While not too many felt Mark had a chance at winning, that was well done. It also made sense for Cena to use a submission hold to win. I'm a bit confused as to where this leaves the caretaker of the Hall of Pain (perhaps a face since the Shield attack on Raw the next night), but I hope it's not that. It's amazing to me that someone who was presented in such a comedic way for a large portion of his career has been reinvented as a true heel. It would be a shame to step away from that. Well done by both parties.
Small Change: Chris Jericho vs. Ryback
I don't put this in the small change category because Jericho lost, as I think all Jerichoholics are accustomed to him putting people over like it's going out of style. My reasoning is simple: this match was booked wrong from the get-go. Ryback has almost been completely ruined by his outlandishly bad booking recently, and the only way for him to get out of that tailspin is to start destroying people. I appreciate the attempts to get him more over as a heel, but these small touches are overshadowed by his almost total lack of relevancy. To think this is a guy that was involved in some of the biggest storylines in the company not too long ago. I felt the match itself was decent. Jericho can make anybody look good, and Ryback's contribution was better than average. The ending made no sense to me whatsoever. I appreciate Jericho saying a small package is a heel finish, but heels pull the tights. To just have a rollup pin was deflating. If you're trying to put over Ryback's power, have him do a couple of Shellshockeds on Jericho and be done with it. I have not enjoyed the fake injury angles and I didn't like this one, either. The WWE writing crew needs to figure out how to start booking Ryback in a better way, and take advantage of having rare workers like Jericho to help them. Opportunity missed.
Big Bucks: Paul Heyman
Heyman pulled double duty last night, and as usual played his part extremely well, pun intended. The reaction for Paul is going to be different in the home of ECW, and WWE smartly decided to avoid that potential issue by having Heyman tossed from the Axel/Miz match. That match was decent for what it was. I encountered nobody that thought Miz had a chance at winning, but he did a credible job. Heyman carried on all the way to the back, and got the crowd hot, which is always a good move. The best was to come later, however. During the second ladder match, Axel returned and laid out Daniel Bryan, apparently to help Punk clear the decks and get the briefcase. Punk of course did not appreciate it and hit the GTS on Axel, and then the fun began. Heyman reappeared to castigate Axel and exhort Punk to climb the ladder and reach his destiny. This was not his grand plan, however, as he entered the ring and delivered three ladder shots to his former best friend in the world, busting him open in the process. To see Heyman get involved physically was unexpected and appreciated. It was also a smart business decision. Of course everyone is not happy that Brock Lesnar did not appear, but with limited dates this was a great way to get that match set up. It also allowed two of the best sellers in the business to do just that, sell, as Punk turned his head to his former manager with that betrayed look before the final blow. His reaction sitting outside the ring with the match over and Orton victorious was money indeed. Great work all around.
Small Change: World Championship Match
Another tough decision, as I felt the match itself was very good. Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler are extremely comfortable working with each other, and it showed. While I still don't appreciate the up-and-down way Dolph's been booked since his concussion, he delivers night after night, and Del Rio has always done a good job in that regard. I get that the point of this match was to further drive a wedge between Ziggler and AJ Lee (a wedge that was finished off on Raw to set up Big E Langston as his next opponent), but to have a match this good end on a random disqualification is lazy booking. The angle played out the next night could have just as easily been done at MITB, with Big E and AJ attacking Ziggler outright due to his fluctuations between heel and face. Instead it took a great match and left a sour taste in everyone's mouths. Even the way the distraction was handled was odd. There was too much discussion between AJ and Dolph, letting everyone know what was coming. Not all matches are going to end with a pinfall or submission, of course, but this one deserved to.
Big Bucks: The Pre-Show
I'm surprised I'm writing this, but the WWE finally gave people a reason to tune in before the PPV. This is a bit of an unexplored area for the company, and opportunities abound. How they handle this moving forward could potentially get some folks to make that snap judgment in purchasing the PPV. For the moment, though, let's start with a good quality match or two, and The Shield and The Usos delivered in that regard. They told a good story, had time to tell that story, and even though the outcome wasn't really in doubt, I was impressed with this match as a freebie to kick things off. I also like the idea of the panel of superstars. Big Show in particular brought a great perspective to this feature, and it's used in pretty much all major sports effectively already. Cutting back to it throughout the event itself was okay, but as I said I feel like this could eventually be a real strength when they get the right folks on the panel. Might I recommend some Hall of Famers or old schoolers be added to the mix? It would add a different dimension and give the fans a chance to see some of their favorites without having them involved in the middle of the action. Still, a strong opener makes a big difference. Nice job with this.
Small Change: No Wyatt Family
The buildup for the Wyatts to debut has been immense, and their takeout of Kane last week was perfect. Removing him from the MITB match made sense as a great way to get the lunacy and destructiveness of the Wyatts over immediately, without subtracting too much from the quality of the match itself. Initial rumors that Bray Wyatt would be added instead of Kane didn't make much sense. There was nowhere to go but down after that debut, and unless the plan was to have Wyatt capture the briefcase in his "debut" it would be a buzzkill. Not having Wyatt or his family on the show at all, though, with the exception of the video package, was a mistake. This angle has everybody talking and the charisma of Wyatt is palpable. Not taking advantage of that in a show that did have a bit of filler made no sense to me. While I would have preferred the Wyatts invading the ring during or after a match and making another big impact, I would have settled for a backstage vignette or furthering the angle with the injured Kane. As it was, no appearance whatsoever stalled the momentum temporarily and missed a chance to make the Wyatts an even bigger threat. A halfhearted beatdown of R-Truth on Raw did not fix this, although Wyatt on the microphone was excellent and needs to continue in a major way. That said, I can't help but think the reaction to having this group in the building in any way would have been a huge deal.
Big Bucks: RVD
Rob Van Dam returning to the WWE is a very good thing, and I think we saw why in the last match of the evening. RVD has always been a different sort of superstar, to say the least, and doesn't always translate well to the television. I find him to be one of those wrestlers that you have to see in person to truly appreciate. His work since leaving the WWE has been a bit spotty, and there was much riding on his shoulders heading into this comeback match. He's always been a high-spot wrestler, and this would be a match full of them. I'm curious to see how RVD is handled with his part-time deal, but if this is any indication it's going to be one hell of a ride. He looked to be in great condition and put on his best match in a very long time. I liked the WWE's booking of his character in the match, with everyone else ganging up on him to start and then several high spots throughout that played to his strengths. He was booked like a winner even though he didn't win, and that's what you want to do in this type of situation. It gave me very high hopes for the coming months, and gives the WWE another big time player who can go with that "next generation" of superstars they've been working on. Well done.
Small Change: Staring Up At the Briefcases
It's a minor quibble, perhaps, but enough already. I can't be the only one thinking this! We've already been treated to the infamous staring that goes on at the Wrestlemania sign when it hangs high in the arena, particularly during the Royal Rumble. As if that wasn't onerous enough, now every participant has to spend a quarter of the match staring at the Crayola-colored briefcases hanging from the rafters. We know that they're there, and you might want to get climbing instead of reminding yourself of their presence every twenty seconds. It feels like a way to try to add forced importance to moments that we as fans already know are important. The tendency to try and add drama often backfires, and that's definitely the case here. While individual moments were excellent (one that leaps to mind was Cody's reaction to Sandow's win), overall it killed time and was not needed. If you want to check out what's up there before the match starts, that's fine. Once during the match. Okay. More than that is pointless. Enough already.
Overall, I'd say the show deserves some of the back and forth it's gotten. It wasn't even close to bad enough to get bashed, but the inconsistencies continue. You can't push everybody all of the time and it very often comes down to who needs it. I think the WWE called it right more often than not, and that's hard to do. Not much that was incredibly newsworthy came out of this event, but it set the stage for what we'll see going into Summerslam very well and at the end of the day the right guys came down with the title shots. Hope you enjoyed the format of this article. If you didn't, small change me below in the comments. If you did, big bucks are certainly welcomed. I can't afford my own TJR cubicle just yet.
That's all I have for this week. I am definitely hoping those Wrestlemania in Philly reports are true. As always, I can be reached via Twitter @coffeyfan77 (bring your sense of humor) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, this is Mike Holland saying thanks for reading, nice to see Warrior in the facepaint again, and see you next week!