In need of a big showing after the NXT TakeOver card from the night before continued to reset the expectations of WWE fans, Sunday's Money in the Bank card finally came through late after an incredibly bland start. Along with a strong women's Money in the Bank match earlier in the night, it was the final three matches of the evening that helped the show save face in front of a smart and passionate Chicago crowd. And like WrestleMania 35 just two months earlier, it was newcomer Ronda Rousey who may have stolen the entire show on this evening.
Rousey, a former UFC champion, turned in a nearly flawless effort in her first televised singles match against Nia Jax for the Raw women's championship. The men's MITB closed the show, and the WWE championship feud between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura likely also saw its final chapter.
If the constant negative reaction from the crowd during Roman Reigns' match again Jinder Mahal was any indication, WWE's main roster currently has some issues in terms of booking and presentation. Anyone who watched the top-shelf storytelling and action from NXT on Saturday can certainly attest to. But all in all, Sunday night turned out to be a net positive, largely because of how well the order of the card was presented, saving the best for last.
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WWE Money in the Bank results, grades
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- Bludgeon Brothers (c) def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via pinfall to retain the titles (Kickoff Show): The dominance of Harper & Rowan continued as the bludgeoning duo relied on their methodical offensive attack to control the majority of the match, which took until the finish to truly heat up. After working at length from underneath, Anderson finally triggered a hot tag to Gallows. Unfortunately, the Good Brothers' attempt at a Magic Killer on Harper was broken up when Rowan speared Anderson. The champions then hit The Bludgeoning (full nelson slam sit-down powerbomb) on Gallows for the 1-2-3. Grade: C+
Daniel Bryan def. Big Cass via submission: Cass' theory that "a good big man beats a good little man every single time" was proven irrelevant as the "7-footer" was unable to finish Bryan on multiple occasions down the stretch. Even Cass' fallaway slam from the second turnbuckle, which turned out to be the spot of the match, could only produce a two count. This one was likely the final chapter in Bryan's first feud following his emotional WrestleMania 34 return. And even though Cass deserves credit for playing a competent evil heel throughout the build, his limitations prevented this from being anything more than a warmup for Bryan on the road to what should be bigger plans at SummerSlam. Cass' limitations also prevented this one from heating up, despite how much the crowd was behind Bryan during his late rally. Bryan escaped from Cass' second torture rack and instantly hit a running knee to the face. He followed by applying the heel hook as Cass quickly tapped out. Grade: C
Kevin Owens strategizes with New Day: While discussing their plans for the night in the locker room, New Day was interrupted by Owens, who came baring gifts -- a garbage bag full of pancakes and two tubs of maple syrup. Owens asked New Day if they could consider discussing plans for the match, such as the other two members taking out Braun Strowman. They initially declined, but Owens convinced them to talk ... until he told New Day that he didn't like pancakes, cereal or any breakfast food except toast. They flipped out in response and kicked him out ... but not before stealing the syrup.
Bobby Lashley def. Sami Zayn via pinfall: Lashley's first WWE PPV match in over a decade proved nearly as forgettable as the puzzlingly awful build to get to it. Whether or not it was a coincidence, WWE even decided against playing the pre-match video package highlighting how we got here. The match was brief and appeared as if it belonged on Raw. Lashley dominated late behind a trio of delayed vertical suplexes. The third one saw Lashley largely unsuccessful motioning the crowd to cheer with his free hand while holding up Zayn with the other before securing the pinfall. Grade: D
Intercontinental Championship -- Seth Rollins (c) def. Elias via pinfall to retain the title: Favoring his storyline-injured left knee and neck throughout, Rollins put forth a gritty effort in order to hang onto his title. He also did his best to raise Elias up to his level as the second half of the match escalated nicely following a bland start. While Elias attempted to hold his own by working stiff, Rollins deserves the majority of the credit for raising the rent with his selling and typical fast-paced assault. Rollins popped the crowd late by hitting a superplex into a Falcon Arrow for two. Elias then nearly stole a victory when he sidestepped Rollins' suicide dive onto the floor and hit an elbow off the top rope for a dramatic near fall. The finish came when Rollins' knee buckled on a powerbomb attempt. Elias' ensuing attempt at a Drift Away was unsuccessful as Rollins rolled him up for two. Elias then did the same to Rollins, who finally countered with a roll up of his own for the 1-2-3. Grade: B
Women's Money in the Bank -- Alexa Bliss def. Sasha Banks, Ember Moon, Natalya, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Naomi and Lana to win the briefcase: Bliss, a former Raw and SmackDown women's champion, will have a shot to regain the red brand's title after becoming Ms. Money in the Bank. The problem, in a sense, is that Bliss' character is arguably the one who needed the briefcase the least, denying the much-deserving Banks and Lynch, along with the storyline potential opposite Ronda Rousey that could've come with Natalya winning. While the match succeeded in terms of providing entertainment, there were a number of obvious timing and psychology issues, including multiple performers choosing to take out already fallen opponents on the canvas with a move instead of climbing the ladder or preventing someone else who was seemingly inches away from winning.
The action was hot early with Moon hitting a particularly stiff Lionsault onto Banks atop of a ladder. Naomi also used the ropes to springboard onto the ladder and prevent Moon from grabbing the briefcase. Flair enjoyed a pair of memorable staredowns opposite both Banks and Lynch, two members of the Four Horsewomen, and landed a big spot late as she ducked under a ladder in the middle of the ring to spear Moon into another ladder propped up in the corner. The finish came when Lynch climbed the ladder but curiously had trouble removing the briefcase (explained by the announce team as her not having the ladder centered). Bliss tipped the ladder over to dump Lynch off and climbed it for the victory. Grade: C+
Baron Corbin makes noise again: Raw's new constable interrupted a conversation between WWE's two general managers. Kurt Angle and Paige were having fun boasting about the dual-branded pay-per-views when Corbin said he and Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon expected the red brand to win both briefcases tonight. Paige responded by making fun or Corbin for failing when he cashed in the MITB contract a year ago, and the constable quickly walked away.
Roman Reigns def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall: It didn't take three minutes for the match to start before the Chicago crowd drowned the action in a series of disapproving chants, which included everything from "this is aw-ful" and "C-M-Punk" to "end this match," "boring" and "N-X-T." For as obnoxious as the constant chants were -- they lasted until just before the finish -- it's hard to blame the paying customers for speaking out against what they don't want. In this case, that's Reigns stubbornly presented as a babyface in a meaningless feud against Mahal, one everyone knows Reigns will win. While Mahal and Reigns certainly tried to salvage the mess, the match featured too many rest holds and predictable turns. Sunil Singh, who was wearing a neck brace and sitting in a wheelchair, leaped out to throw Reigns into the post outside the ring from behind. He tried the same move late in the match and ate a spear for his troubles. After Reigns kicked out of a cradle attempt from Mahal as he entered the ring, the "Big Dog" rebounded to hit another spear to end the match. Hopefully this marks the end of the program as there's nothing here to see. Grade: D
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Carmella (c) def. Asuka via pinfall to retain the title: For WWE fans only accustomed to seeing Asuka win dominantly, including her two-year unbeaten reign in NXT, her main roster run continues to be puzzling. This absolute snoozer of a title match was luckily rescued by the surprise return of Carmella's former friend, James Ellsworth, who dressed up as Asuka to interfere late in his return to WWE after being fired last November. Ellsworth, wearing Asuka's mask and robe, provided a distraction by standing on the ring apron, allowing Carmella to land a kick to the back of Asuka's head to defend her title. The late swerve certainly didn't cover up what became yet another loss for Asuka since suffering her first WWE defeat to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania, but it provided a moment to remember just the same. Grade: C-
WWE Championship -- AJ Styles (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura by beating the 10 count in a Last Man Standing match: The fourth meeting between these former New Japan Pro-Wrestling rivals since WrestleMania 34 turned out to be the best of all, even if it was violently unconventional. No, this wasn't a five-star classic in the traditional sense and certainly took more than two-thirds of the match to come close to the intensity and drama of its climax, but boy did that ending deliver.
Nakamura delivered a huge spot midway through when he ran across two announce tables to hit a stiff Kinsasha on Styles, who was prone on the third. The finishing move began a string of dramatic near falls in which Styles rose at the count of nine to avoid losing his title. Nakamura finally hit his patented low blow outside the ring before a second Kinsasha to produce another nine count, but the injured knee Nakamura nursed -- suffered earlier when Styles ducked out of the way of an earlier Kinsasha, causing the heel to land against the exposed top turnbuckle -- played a key role late. Nakamura's leg gave out after hoisting Styles up onto a table, which led to a Phenomenal Forearm.
With Nakamura reeling, Styles hit his Styles Clash from the stairs onto the floor. Nakamura barely beat the count, which led to Styles taking a page from the challenger's book with a direct kick to the crotch. Styles then landed the finishing blow by springboarding from inside the ring, landing a perfect Phenomenal Forearm and sending both through the announce table. Styles rose at nine, leading to Nakamura being counted out. While it would've been nice to see Nakamura actually record a victory in this feud, Styles appears poised to move on to bigger things. Grade: B+
Raw Women's Championship -- Ronda Rousey def. Nia Jax (c) via disqualification: For as difficult as her adjustment to life on the microphone has been since joining WWE, Rousey remains nothing short of a natural inside the ring. The former UFC champion's first televised singles match, which doubled as her women's title debut, turned out to be one heck of a piece of business. Just like in her WrestleMania match, Rousey's timing was near-perfect throughout. But this match saw Rousey shoulder a much heavier load in terms of selling from underneath, including being on the business end of some incredibly stiff moves from the much larger Jax.
The match also deserves credit for how well it was booked, incorporating the constant threat of Rousey's armbar finisher, along with other aspects of her mixed martial arts background. An early triangle-and-arm choke attempt by Rousey saw Jax reverse her into a powerful sit-out power bomb. Jax then threw Rousey into the barrier wall upside down like she was a rag doll. Jax went on to land a series of press slams and Samoan drops with Rousey landing face first each time, but could not get the three count.
Rousey turned the tables for good late by dodging a splash in the corner and hitting a very impressive cross body off the top rope. After hulking up with a series of punching combinations, which brought the crowd to a fever pitch, Rousey hit a stiff jumping knee and a series of suplexes and judo throws which showcased her strength. But after a lengthy battle to finally apply her arm bar finisher (including a two-count from Jax on a rollup), Money in the Bank winner Alexa Bliss ran in to force the disqualification by hitting Rousey with her briefcase before a sustained attack on both. Bliss then threw Rousey over the announce table.
Raw Women's Championship -- Alexa Bliss def. Nia Jax (c) via pinfall to win the title: Bliss, who won the women's briefcase earlier in the night, used it twice more on Jax before handing it to referee John Cone for the official cash in. After Bliss hit a DDT on Jax, she landed her Twisted Bliss finisher from the top rope to begin her fifth reign as a WWE women's champion. The Rousey-Jax match itself was fantastic, but credit to WWE for an even better swerve finish. Grade: A-
Men's Money in the Bank -- Braun Strowman def. Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Bobby Roode, The Miz, Samoa Joe, Rusev and Kofi Kingston to win the briefcase: If the road to SummerSlam officially begins at Money in the Bank, don't expect Strowman to leave Brooklyn in August without someone "getting this briefcase." Dad jokes aside (on Father's Day, no less) Strowman winning and becoming what announcer Michael Cole called "The Monster in the Bank" was somehow both highly predictable and curiously surprising at the same time. In theory, someone of Strowman's size and character doesn't need the gimmick of the briefcase because he's a threat to the world title every day he's breathing. But at the same time, WWE appears to be listening to the fans who have helped make Strowman arguably the most over superstar in the company and appear poised to give him a huge push entering the summer.
To his credit, Strowman was fantastic in the match on Sunday, which featured far more big spots than an overall cohesive storyline or flow. But luckily the spots sustained the entertainment level just fine. Strowman was attacked off the start and eventually was buried under a pile of ladders on the stage. Later, Strowman broke free from being held down on a table and climbed up an extra tall ladder to block Owens' dive attempt before throwing him through a separate table below in the biggest spot of the match. Strowman then created more carnage but running through a ladder that was held up by Roode and Balor, slicing it into two pieces like a knife. Rusev popped the crowd with both a double and then triple Accolade on Miz, Roode and Kingston. Soon after, Balor climbed an extra tall ladder outside the ring and hit his Coup de Grace on Roode laying inside of it. The finish came with Strowman and Balor climbing up separate sides of a ladder in the center of the ring. Kingston springboarded onto Strowman's back to knock off Balor before Strowman dumped him to grab the briefcase. Grade: B
WWE Money in the Bank live recap, highlights
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