This Week in WWE: the build to Money in the Bank begins

Robert O’Neill: Welp. Time for Raw! Kurt Angle is in the ring to lead off the show. This should be exciting.

Chris Novak: I imagine some stock, standard, MITB-related announcements will be made. Hopefully this is the start of a needed rebound for WWE programming because the last month has been a trip. Last night was bad. Kurt does in fact make the announcements: Two qualifying matches tonight. Ruby vs. Ember vs. Sasha, and Sami vs. Finn vs. Roman. Both of those matches should own. Out comes Braun Strowman now. Braun tells us a story about destroying a treehouse with people in it. Sounds about right. Kurt says that Braun is as deserving as anybody to be in Money in the Bank.

Robert O’Neill: And now Kevin Owens is here to interrupt!

Chris Novak: Owens says he’s the RAW MVP and that he deserves to be in the MITB Ladder Match. On the contrary, Braun says he deserves to “get these hands.” Kurt made another qualifier, pitting Owens against Strowman. So, we’ll be doing this to start the show.

Robert O’Neill: There will be two MITB matches (one men’s, one women’s) and each will have eight superstars. Four from each show. Neat.

Chris Novak: Anyways, Owens vs. Strowman was pretty great. KO bumping like crazy for Braun has been a fun sight these past few weeks. And he did so even more tonight. Strowman won after a Running Powerslam. Gonna go with a B for that match. Unironically quite good.

Chris Novak: Roman is then interviewed by Mike Rome after we came back from the break, and… they are going with that he’s being screwed over by backstage politics. Yup, THAT’LL go over well. Big shock, big surprise, they’re still trudging on with this.

Robert O’Neill: Good lord they need to give this a rest.

TOP GUYS WATCH! The Revival are in action in a six-man tag against Titus Worldwide and No Way Jose and… GODDAMMIT THEY’RE TEAMING WITH BARON CORBIN. I DON’T WATCH BARON CORBIN MATCHES AND NOW I HAVE TO.

It really is pretty stupid how they continue to treat The Revival though. Not to go on a tangent, but American Alpha, Revival, and Authors of Pain are probably the three best NXT tag teams of all time and WWE has severely mismanaged two of the three. Why should I believe there’s any hope for AOP?

Anyways, Corbin pinned No Way Jose.

Chris Novak: I will only contest with you that at least American Alpha won titles and had good programs with The Wyatt Family and The Usos, and had their fair share of very good tags. The others… well, it’s early on AOP but they have no real place. And The Revival… have been snakebitten, and I don’t know what to make of it. Anyways, looks like a loaded SmackDown Live tomorrow. Miz/Hardy, Bryan/Rusev and Charlotte/Peyton, all in MITB qualifiers.

Robert O’Neill: Alright so Ember Moon, Sasha Banks, and Ruby Riott had a triple-threat qualifying match and it was actually very good! Bayley came out to try and save Sasha from a beatdown from Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan and she did but also Ember was able to win over Ruby Riott in the meantime to qualify for the MITB match.

Chris Novak: Bayley coming out was… odd, but the match itself was very, very good. As expected. Not sure about them seemingly portraying Ember as an “underdog,” but I’ll hold out on it I suppose. Wondering what happens here, because it seems like they’re having Bayley and Sasha tangle with The Riott Squad. And, if that’s the case… where does that leave Nia? Weird stuff here. But nonetheless, away we go.

Robert O’Neill: That was a really good video of Bobby Lashley’s career that got completely wiped away when he started speaking. I really don’t know what they’re planning on doing with him.

Chris Novak: That was ultra-confusing. Didn’t seem like Renee was listening, which… I mean, do I blame her? I don’t know. Next up here, Jinder Mahal vs. Chad Gable. If this is as good as their match in St. Louis was, we’ll be in for a fun little wrestling match here.

Robert O’Neill: That was alright! A lot of people are mad about Jinder winning cancelling out Gable’s win in STL, but 50-50 booking is generally fine.

Chris Novak: Eh… I’m not so annoyed at 50/50 booking as many people are. What’re you going to do? You have to make a heel look credible somehow. Gable will be fine.

Robert O’Neill: So after a Jinder match, Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler tagged against Heath Slater and Rhyno. We were SO CLOSE to all of 3MB in the ring at the same time. Ziggler and McIntyre did a Zig-Zag/Claymore combo for the finish. It was fine.

Chris Novak: This tag team division has all the heat of an igloo right now, though. Like, almost at 2009-11 levels. Amazing that this is the same company that has all the great tag teams on SDL.

So here comes the IC Champ, Seth Rollins. Rollins says he wants to be a fighting champ, and starts up an Open Challenge. Who else but Mojo Rawley answers the bell? So, we’re going to have an IC Title Match here. Mojo and Seth had a really fun match here, as Seth’s heater continues. This was a heat check for me. Mojo busted out the POUUUUUUUUUNCE~!!! (Period.) but, to no avail, Seth hit the Superkick, the knee to the face and then the Curb Stomp for the 1-2-3.

Robert O’Neill: Seth Rollins is having the best year of anyone not named Johnny Gargano at this point. This match was excellent, and probably Mojo’s best match in his WWE run. I’m going to keep saying it, Seth Rollins needs to be the guy to beat Brock Lesnar.

Chris Novak: On to… tag team action.

Robert O’Neill: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt beat Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. AOP was left off the show again.

Chris Novak: They were, and that’s a hard feat, as there were three (count ‘em, 3) matches with tag teams on this show. Anyways, decent tag match. At least the champs got on the show. I have zero clue what they do with this division though. Much as the Hardy-Wyatt team is a fun act, they certainly don’t have the… uh, workrate capability of others. Especially on SDL. The tag division is the worst part about Raw right now, and I don’t think that’s a debate.

It’s main event time now!

Robert O’Neill: Alright, well. There’s a lot going on there. Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and Roman Reigns had a good match, as you would expect. Balor and Zayn double teamed Reigns for a bit of time and took him out of the match. Of course, since you’ve watched a WWE program in the past four years, you know what happened next. Reigns came back from the beatdown and looked like he was going to get the upper hand and win the match, but Jinder Mahal tripped him while he was going for the spear and Balor hit the coup de grace for the win!

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Raw was pretty good! I liked how they’re building up to the Money in the Bank PPV with qualifying matches. If I had to make a small nitpitck, I would say they probably shouldn’t have automatically put Braun in AND had a match tonight. Suddenly two of Raw’s four spots are filled and we’re still five weeks from the PPV. It’ll be fine, but I would have done it differently. Other than that, I was fine with mostly everything. Rollins doing an IC Title open challenge is an excellent idea that I hope they stick with, and while the stuff with the women is confusing (where was Nia?), they can have a pass for this week as they look toward what they want to do next. B

Chris Novak: A strong B- for me for RAW. The qualifiers were all very good matches, even though the women’s match had some weird stuff happen afterwards. And, like Rob said, the lack of Nia Jax was… um, concerning? I wish I knew what they were doing with her (Also, where’s Ronda?). I’m fearful that they’re going to have Reigns beat Jinder next week and put him in the MITB match anyway, even after he lost his opportunity tonight. But anyway, this show was perfectly acceptable and a nice bounce back from the previous night.

Chris Novak: Loaded show going into tonight after Backlash. Bryan vs. Rusev and Miz vs. Jeff Hardy on the men’s side, and Peyton Royce vs. Charlotte for the women’s side. All three are qualifying matches. Here’s hoping for the best here, because those three matches alone can bring some serious noise.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah this should be a lot of fun! We get going with Miz//Hardy, and it’s… very good. Has Jeff Hardy become one of the company’s most underrated workers? After an excellent back and forth, Miz rolled Hardy up after a Swanton Bomb for the win.

Chris Novak: That was yet another excellent match from The Miz. He continues to be on a hell of a roll in 2018. Jeff wasn’t too bad himself in this match, either. Really, really dug this. ANd really liked the finish.

Robert O’Neill: Meanwhile Renee Young tried to interview Shinsuke Nakamura, who, as you may know, does not speak English.

Chris Novak: Alright, on to another qualifier: Peyton Royce vs. Charlotte. This match was something else. Peyton threw the kitchen sink at Charlotte, a Billie distraction included, but Charlotte ‘overcame the odds’ and won the match with the Figure Eight. The match was good, and while Peyton certainly looked capable against Charlotte, the act with Charlotte is getting a touch bit tiresome. I don’t think she had much to lose by taking the fall in that match to elevate Peyton and put her in the MITB match. But, alas, this is where we’re at. Char had a couple bad spots in the match as well. Not the greatest week for her.

Robert O’Neill: Charlotte is awful. It’s hard to deny it at this point.

Chris Novak: I wouldn’t go that far… but her booking is bad, and she can’t elevate talent like someone in her position should while being in the ring. She plays up to her competition and down to her competition.

Chris Novak: Up next, we had Cesaro vs. Xavier Woods. Unsurprisingly, this turned into a pretty good match. Cesaro won with a huge uppercut after Xavier went for his springboard elbow drop. They teased some tension between Cesaro and Sheamus earlier, based on the fact that Sheamus didn’t beat Woods last week, while Cesaro said he could. Since he did… will this further tension between them? I suppose it’s a fine possibility.

Robert O’Neill: More singles matches for Woods please. I say it every week. He’s gotten so good in the ring after being a long-time third option in the New Day.

Chris Novak: On to more women’s action here!

Robert O’Neill: Mandy Rose faced Becky Lynch and got a stern talking to from Paige before the match began. Sonya Deville didn’t get to go to ringside because “Absolution is over”. Mandy won anyway. Good showing. Probably could have been against someone other than Becky though.

Chris Novak: Becky is completely dead in the water and it’s sad to watch. I mean, geez. You have an angle about how Mandy couldn’t have help from Sonya, who she’s been tagging along with for six months. And she wins anyway? Terribly bad booking. I get having hope, but I can’t believe that there are people who think she could win MITB. She’s not doing anything of note. I don’t even know if she’s gonna be in the dang match.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! Rusev and Daniel Bryan had an excellent match that Rusev won to qualify for Money in the Bank, and I’m perfectly fine with that for multiple reasons.

Chris Novak: And clean as a sheet, no less. This decision definitely took many by surprise, but it certainly works for a couple reasons. Firstly, it gives Rusev a HUGE win over an established guy. Secondly, Bryan is not hurt at all by it. Thirdly, it keeps Bryan and Miz apart (again). Fourthly, having Bryan in a multi-man ladder match could be terrifying. This decision works for both sides here, for the greater good.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Like Raw, Smackdown was fine. The Charlotte match was outright bad, but the four other matches made up for it. Keeping the Usos and Bludgeon Brothers off TV for the second straight week was weird, but they seem to be doing something with the tag teams that I can’t quite put my finger on. A tag team Money in the Bank match? Regardless, I enjoyed the show. B.

Chris Novak: I very much enjoyed this episode of SDLive. Apart from Charlotte’s booking, and the nonsense involving Mandy and Becky, Peyton-Charlotte was fine as a match on its own, and everything else on this show hit the right notes. Miz-Hardy was a terrific match, and Bryan-Rusev was a very good one with a shocking finish. I’m going to give this episode of a B+. SDLive has been getting very good, and should only progress upward as time goes on.