This Week in WWE: Money in the Banks
This edition of This Week in WWE will be done a little differently than normal. Chris was the only one able to watch RAW this week, as Rob was out of commission on Memorial Day. Both Rob and Chris were able to watch SmackDown Live, however, so that recap will be done in its usual fashion.
MONEY IN THE BANKS
Sasha Banks became the final entrant in this year's Women's MITB Ladder Match on Monday. Banks entered the Last Chance Gauntlet Match and submitted Ruby Riott to earn her way into the match after Riott had eliminated Bayley, Dana Brooke and Mickie James consecutively. Here are a few thoughts on all this.
- Sasha winning was the right choice and right decision. While I would've had no problem with Ruby winning, or Bayley, the match is in desperate need of an elite in-ring worker. No disrespect to anybody who was in this Gauntlet, or who's in this match already, but Sasha Banks is so clearly the best in-ring talent on the women's roster. You could probably make the argument that she's Top 5 in the company, as well. So putting her in gets no qualms from me.
- Had no problem with the booking of both Bayley and Ruby Riott. Riott looked genuinely good at times and this is the second time that her and Sasha have connected well in the ring. Imagine what a title feud would do for both? Bayley, meanwhile, mowed through Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan before Ruby eliminated her. To which I say, about time they threw her a bone in a situation like this. Liv only lasted like 20 seconds against her, to which I say, "Well, they've already embarrassed Bayley enough times. Liv will be fine. Maybe."
- The qualm I do have with this match was its length. Giving the women 25 minutes for this kind of match was a foolhardy decision. Especially after the men's gauntlet match a couple months ago got so many rave reviews. I'm not saying, "Give the women 106 minutes" like the men got. But at least give them more than 25, for goodness sake. This was the only blemish on this match though.
NOT A ROUSING START
So, after we had the contract signing last week, the Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey contract signing hit its next stage. And, um, a lot was left to be desired here.
First things first: You have to love the fact that the narrative around Nia Jax inexplicably did a 180º turn out of nowhere. So, for the last two months, she spent time being "anti-bully" in her feud against Alexa Bliss. Now, in her feud with Ronda Rousey for the Women's Title, she's... become the bully, as she chastised Ronda and her jobber opponent. With this and the fact that Nia, last week, didn't try to rebutt anything that Stephanie McMahon was saying, I'm not sure what exactly they're doing here.
As for Rousey, she was on commentary while Nia was using a mic throughout her match. Whoever decided that should happen... well, let's just say it was ill-advised. Ronda didn't do much here, although she appears to be back to her smiling-and-waving phase, even though it's so obvious that she's so much better when she's just an ass-kicking badass. Not the first time they've missed the mark in that regard, though. Won't be the last, I reckon.
I'm not sure what this means going forward, but this was a step backward. Adding onto the fact that next week, we have a match between Nia Jax and Natalya, Ronda's "friend" and "ally," I'm not sure what to think here. Will Jax try to take out Nattie? And if that's the case, is Nattie going to be out of MITB? Will they put her in anyway, and go forward with the program they've been teasing between the two of them? I'm not entirely sure here, but I do know that this program hasn't been it so far. Which is something, since it probably shouldn't be happening in the first place.
So, we got two matches this week featuring the four competitors in the MITB Ladder Match on RAW's side. Bobby Roode faced Kevin Owens, while Finn Bálor faced Braun Strowman in a rematch of last week's epic.
Finn looked pretty strong in his match against Strowman, and nearly defeated The Monster Among Men. However, Owens came out and caused a DQ to end the match. He wasn't particularly liked by either Bálor OR Strowman, as evident by the fact that Strowman nearly hit him with a ladder he tossed from the ring.
Owens got the last laugh of sorts later on, when he defeated Bobby Roode to pick up a huge win going into MITB. Quietly, KO has been gaining a lot of momentum on the RAW side of things. I'm not saying he's going to win the MITB Ladder Match. But right now, of the RAW competitors... he kind of looks like the strongest choice right now.
ALL THE REST
- Seth Rollins defeated Jinder Mahal to retain his Intercontinental Title. Honestly thought we'd get some kind of interaction with Roman Reigns here, but it never wound up happening. This was a pretty fun match, and continued Rollins' strong run. He was promptly hit with a guitar by Elias afterward. Later on in the week, we learned Elias vs. Seth for the IC Title will be happening at MITB. Sounds good to me.
- Sami Zayn issued an "apology" for last week's gutter-trash segment. That brought Lashley out, and the two made themselves a match for MITB. I guess this will be fine, although I will give Sami credit: He did TREMENDOUSLY here and he continues to be a tremendous heel. Remember when everyone thought he should just be a babyface for life? We didn't know you had this in you, Sami.
- I continue to have absolutely no clue what they're doing with the RAW tag team division. But next week's battle royal should clear things up. It seems telegraphed that The B-Team will win, and all credit to Bo and Curtis: They're making the most of this and then some and have provided some extremely entertaining bits and interactions. That being said, Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, from a name-brand standpoint is low on the bar, and you could probably do better. Meanwhile, hearing that AoP are being put on milk cartons and we need everyone's help in trying to find them.
Grade: A C+ for me here. There wasn't anything standout about this RAW, but nothing was terrible. It was just very average. The women's gauntlet had a lot more promise than what was delivered, and if they gave that match more time, I very well could have pushed this up to a B- or even a B or B+ if it really carried through. But its abbreviated form did no one good, the Women's Title segment bombed, and everything else was just... okay.
Chris Novak: Away we go here for SDLive. Samoa Joe begins the night with a mic in his hand, as well as the MITB briefcase, and a ladder in the ring.
Robert O’Neill: And now Bryan is here because Joe was talking about Brie and Birdie, and they’re ready to fight RIGHT NOW, but instead Big Cass is out here in a suit and on crutches. Cass says he talked to Paige and Joe won’t be facing Bryan tonight, but instead Joe will face Cass!
Chris Novak: Paige is backstage after the break. She talks with Absolution, who say there’s more deserving people out there than Asuka to contend for the title. So,Paige makes a match between Mandy and Asuka. Then, after the chaos that happened before the break, she tells Renee Young that Big Cass vs. Samoa Joe vs. Daniel Bryan for the final MITB spot is the main event. Completely fine with this, to be honest.
Robert O’Neill: Shinsuke Nakamura is facing Tye Dillinger, which I actually really like. Obviously a lot of it comes from Dillinger’s 10 gimmick and Nak being in a last man standing match, and that’s a story they told in the match. Nakamura would try to keep Dillinger down for a 10 count and Tye kept getting up and looked good in getting some offense in. Nakamura obviously won with a Kinshasa (and a 1-2-3, instead of going for 10 that time), but it was a solid match.
Chris Novak: This was a perfect use of Tye Dillinger, to be honest. You have Shinsuke face a guy who’s impressive enough to look good but also take the fall.
Robert O’Neill: Lana and Naomi had a dance off, which is a pretty insulting way to promote women’s wrestling in 2018. I get it, they both have dancing gimmicks, but come on.
Chris Novak: Yeah. Hard pass on that. It sets up a mixed tag next week, featuring Aiden English instead of Rusev. Methinks that means English gets pinned, and Lana uses that as a way to pit Rusev against him. But… we’ll see.
Robert O’Neill: The Bludgeon Brothers said they were going to “liquify” Gallows and Anderson. Gross.
Chris Novak: Yeah, that’s one word for it!
Robert O’Neill: This will shock you (it will not shock you), but The New Day vs. The Bar and Miz was absolutely excellent. When you have six guys who are really good, you’ll get a really good match. We still don’t know which member of the New Day will be in the MITB match, but that’s fine.
Chris Novak: It feels like we’re not going to know until the night of the event. Which is completely fine with me.
Robert O’Neill: Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose beat up Asuka before Mandy’s match with her. Asuka still prevailed, but Mandy looked solid and Carmella was excellent on commentary.
Chris Novak: People were impressed with Mandy, I’m just sitting here, meanwhile, remembering that I’ve been on the bandwagon since late 2016.
Robert O’Neill: Speaking of the women’s division. Becky Lynch (remember her?) was talking to Charlotte backstage and things got a little heated about who was going to win the MITB match and Paige came and set up Becky vs. Charlotte for next week. I’m entirely here for that.
Chris Novak: It’s about damn time. Would be great if Becky showed off her ‘desperation’ in that match somehow, someway. Then we got a backstage segment between Andrade "Cien" Almas and Sin Cara. Allow me to be the one to say it: HERE. FOR. THIS. Sin Cara and Andrade Almas will shoot fight the hell out of each other for about 10-12 minutes at MITB, it looks like. And it will be a thrill.
Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event. I have a problem with saying you’re going to give us Joe vs. Bryan, a match that hasn’t been seen in a decade, and then adding Cass. I get it, they didn’t know if he was hurt, but that’s pretty much exactly what WCW used to do in terms of false advertising. It was a very good match that Joe won with the Coquina Clutch on Bryan, who passed out instead of submitting, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had it been a singles match instead.
Chris Novak: I enjoyed that match for what it was. The right guy won and we’ll get Bryan-Cass II at MITB, likely.
Robert O’Neill: Since I missed Raw and have nothing to compare Smackdown to, I guess my grade is a tad harsher than it would normally be. I liked the matches and the content of the show, but not getting the promised main event was a bummer. Regardless this was a solid B.
Chris Novak: SmackDown Live continues to be the better show and brand since WrestleMania, and it gained momentum quite a bit heading into the big show, as well. The matches were all pretty great. Despite the fact that we had that nonsense dance off, the show didn't suffer too greatly from it at all. Going to give this a strong B here, as well. But make no mistake: This is the A-Show.