Monday 30 June 2014

Money in the Bank 2014 review

The chief selling point of this year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view was the crowning of a new WWE champion. The titular briefcase took a backseat to the title, with all three of the company's top rising stars and all but two of the active main eventers bring piled into the ladder match for the vacant title. This left the Money in the Bank contract match looking like a mid-card affair. This being the first time there's ever been a MITB match with only one world title on the roster that shouldn't have been the case. It should have been presented as something more prestigious than a mid-card prize.

WWE was hit with an unfortunate number of injuries but they still had options. A non-ladder bout could have been held for the championship, freeing up the bigger names to work meaningful matches against one another. Or the competitors for the pair of matches could have been jumbled up to create a mixture of former champions and undercard guys in each. Dolph Ziggler would have been accepted in the world championship ladder match for example.

But they made the decisions they made and presented the card they did. Was it as good-looking a piece of booking work as other shows bearing the Bank brand have been? No. Was it the above average offering it had the potential to be even with its clear limitations? Read on and see.

In notable happenings from the kick-off show WWE debuted a new Money in the Bank stats video, in the same vein as their Rumble by the numbers one and Daniel Bryan made his first appearance since being stripped of the championship. Bryan received a huge reaction and announced that he doesn't know when he'll return to the ring, mentioning the possibility of another operation.

This photo sums up perfectly why I like Bo Dallas.
Or, if you will, why I'm a Boliever.
After answering a couple of trite questions Michael Cole had collated from Twitter Bryan was interrupted by Bo Dallas. He was given a pep talk and responded by saying "Bo, leave!" It was a pretty insubstantial sequence but it did at least get D-Bry and Bo on TV. That's never a bad thing.

Money in the Bank proper kicked off with the tag team title match. That came as a surprise. I'd expected the briefcase match on first with the championship match closing the event. The Usos dictated the pace for the first several minutes, ultimately losing control when a Jey was shoved off the turnbuckle and landed face first on the crowd barrier. After absorbing punishment for a while he managed to tag out to his bro and the match phased into a brawling, double teaming and leaping over the top rope session. After a near fall heavy sequence Jimmy and Jey retained off a double superplex and a pair of splashes on Erick Rowan.

It was a satisfying opener. I can't help but feel it would've been nice to see the Wyatts win the belts but that can come later. The lack of meaningful teams practically guarantees a Battleground rematch.

Next up was a series of video recaps reminding us why Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose dislike one another. Then Ambrose was shown backstage cutting one of his eccentric, lively promos. Which, for the record, are hard not to enjoy. He said he planned to use ladders to win the contract and smash in Seth's face.

Match two was Paige against Naomi. They worked what I think we can at this point refer to as a standard Paige defence. The challenger was in control for much of the match and most of the time when Paige got the advantage she opted for submission holds. There was, however, the added thrill of seeing Cameron looking smug at ringside when her fellow Funkadactyl took a move. Paige won with a guillotine DDT.

After an expert panel segment and a repeat of the MITB by the numbers vid Damien Sandow came to the ring to call the crowd halfwits and say New York's better than Boston (because cheap heat, that’s why). He got his comeuppance at the hands of Adam Rose.

The Money in the Bank match followed that but was preceded by talking heads from the competitors. It was overly scripted nonsense not worth my time repeating. Ziggler was the best of the bunch, and got a heartening pop when he appeared on the screen. Also, it was announced Bad News Barrett would be unable to compete due to injury. That was a pity. He's been doing great stuff since WrestleMania and deserved to be included here.

The also-rans of the match.
The first ladder battle was the match of the night (although it didn’t have much competition). Impressive spots and storyline points in order of occurence: Ambrose entered last and went straight for Rollins; Ambrose butterfly suplexing Rollins onto a ladder; a Rob Van Dam tumbling senton onto Rollins, laying on a ladder propped in the corner; JBL lecherously saying that Jack Swagger is a weapon; Swagger power bombing Van Dam off the top of a ladder, followed moments later by Ambrose suplexing Rollins off the top; Swagger catapulting Ziggler into a ladder and Ambrose; 'The Lunatic Fringe' getting taken out of the match on doctor’s orders after "landing awkwardly on a shoulder"; Kofi back dropping Rollins off the top of one ladder onto another; 'The Show Off' super kicking a ladder into Swagger's face; Ziggler pulling himself up a ladder while trapped in a Patriot lock; Rollins doing a number on Ziggles with a chair; and an effective finishing sequence which saw Ambrose make his (inevitable) return to stop Rollins winning, only to be stopped from winning himself moments later by Kane.

Kane’s interference (specifically a Tombstone piledriver) allowed Rollins to take the briefcase, causing Michael Cole to kick off about the injustice of Ambrose being cost the match. The scene was topped off by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon coming out to celebrate with their charge. It was a well booked match that delivered the required thrills and spills and furthered the Rollins and Ambrose rivalry. Not bad considering it was missing Bad News and RVD got injured halfway through.

The need for some comedy was pretty high after such a hard hitting ladder battle. Thankfully RybAxel were on hand to provide it. Because there's little funnier than Ryback's perma-anger and Axel's depressing Better Than Perfect T-shirt and poorly designed ring gear featuring an axe that looks like a Wi-Fi emblem. They were facing the not unfunny Goldust and Stardust. Their team name really needs to be Gold Star.

The match went longer than their first encounter on RAW. But that wasn't hard as that match lasted less than two minutes. It was inoffensive but utterly unmemorable. Stardust got the win for his team off a roll up on 'The Big Guy'.

In the back Byron Saxton asked Fandango about the love triangle he was involved in. Fandango's response was that he loves triangles. Next he called Byron's question about fairly officiating the match "fascinating." It was a great example of why WWE needs to do more with its mid-carders. The Fandango gimmick isn’t cut out for the top of the card but it, and the man behind it, could do so much more in a thriving, well-booked mid-card. Summer Rae and Layla rocked up and bickered. Fandango remained the most captivating thing on the screen.

The talking continued in the ring with cheap heat act Lana and Rusev. They were met with a USA chant. Lana screeched for the crowd to shut up and, amazingly, they did. After some pro-Putin patter Rusev said something in (presumably) Russian. Part of it sounded like “super athlete.” Then Big E came out. A box appeared in the corner of the screen. In it was a pre-recorded talking head of E in which he seemed to be channelling Abraham Lincoln. The pair had a physical match but it never progressed beyond average (although Big E nailed his ever impressive spear through the ropes. 'The Super Athlete' went over with the Steiner Recliner then posed in front of a large Russian flag.

Fandango is magical.
Summer Rae v Layla was the penultimate match of the night. It was a standard Divas match but with the added twist of the two women flirting with guest ref Fandango throughout. Layla won after elbowing Rae in the face. She and Fandango had a kiss and a cuddle after the match. It was heart-warming to see, although Summer didn’t seem to think so.

And then, finally, it was time for the WWE championship match. The order of wrestler entrances was actually pretty interesting here. Bray Wyatt came out second (missing out on the impactful first spot to Sheamus), hometown star Cena was out fifth (and in fairness he tends to get booed in Boston just as much as anywhere else), followed by Orton. The final man introduced should have been Roman Reigns, presenting him as the star and holding off his big pop for as long as possible. Instead he was the penultimate man out and Kane took the final entrance.

The match was a slow starter. There just weren't any big spots happening and none of the men in the ring seemed interested in trying to draw the crowd in. That included the usually reliable Cesaro, Wyatt and Cena. It was a disappointing effort. The audience amused themselves by booing Cena and chanting "Boring!" For that to happen during the main event of Money in the Bank should cause the writing team some concern.

There were a few memorable exchanges, although most of them got subdued reactions from the crowd: Cesaro dangling above the ring from the belts; Orton doing the draping DDT off a ladder propped up between the ring and the announce desk; Reigns lifting up a ladder as Cesaro and ‘Great White’ stood punching one another on top; Cena doing the same; Wyatt suplexing Cena on to a ladder; Cesaro giving Sheamus a Swiss Death off a ladder; and Orton giving Cesaro an RKO to Cesaro off a ladder.

Roman Reigns should have looked like the star of the show.
People finally started reacting when Reigns was booked to storm through all of his opponents, presumably because that’s what they’d been waiting to see. It’s understandable. With three rising stars in the match WWE should have prioritised giving them all impressive moments and booking them to dominate the veteran headliners. That’s what audiences want: new stars. That the Reigns sequence culminated with him facing off with John Cena was a good call but the visual failed to get the sustained cheer it merited. That was probably a result of it taking too long to come about and-or the first portion of the match being so bland.

Cena and Reigns briefly traded punches to boos and yays but stopped pretty quickly. They should have recognised that it was drawing the audience in and gone a bit longer. Thankfully Bray Wyatt was in next, stopping the audience from cooling off too much. A roar of approval went up when he floored 'The Viper' with Sister Abigail. Unfortunately the pacing was off again as 'The Eater of Worlds' quickly vacated the ring to make way for ADR and a continued sequence of run-of-the-mill attempted title grabs. In an ideal world Bray would have hung around for longer.

The closing moments saw Reigns fight a bloody Orton off the ladder with headbutts and punches before being choke slammed by Kane. Cena then slipped in from nowhere and AAed 'The Demon', yanked Orton off the ladder and then jauntily scampered up the ladder to unhook the belts and become a fifteen time world champion. The show went off the air with Michael Cole saying "Ladies and gentlemen you can boo him or you can cheer him but there can be no doubt that John Cena is the greatest champion in WWE history." It’s hard to think of a comment more clearly designed to illustrate that Cena is above Daniel Bryan in the WWE pecking order.

Money in the Bank was not a good show. The opening match and the briefcase ladder match were both very enjoyable offerings but everything else was either forgettable filler or poorly formatted. Some of the matches were better cut out for an episode of RAW or SmackDown than for the undercard of what’s become the company’s fourth biggest event of the year.

The champ is here. Again.
The main event was the worst offender. Cena did very little before winning the thing and the opportunity to build up Wyatt, Reigns and Cesaro was horribly squandered. With the number of men involved the match could have been used to launch some fresh feuds for Battleground and SummerSlam. Even the obvious feud for those shows, Reigns v Orton, didn’t get the treatment it should have: there was no clear point where Orton (with help from Henchman Demon Kane) clearly and definitively cost Reigns the championship via shady tactics.

Money in the Bank 2014 was a missed opportunity and a below average offering. That’s partly attributable to injuries. It’s mostly attributable to WWE not knowing where they’re going or what their audience want.

No comments:

Post a Comment