Two years and three some-odd months ago I started watching WWE. Due to all the talk surrounding Wrestlemania, I decided to join my friends, who were already fairly invested in the product, in following the build-up to the big event and then watching it. I kept watching the show out of habit past Wrestlemania, then out of interest in R-Truth's crazy persona, and then I was swept up in the hype surrounding CM Punk. By the time Money in the Bank happened I was already a wrestling fan, and the event itself ensured that I would remain so for a good while. As a result, Money in the Bank is easily my favorite WWE pay-per-view, and from what I understand, WWE tends to be fond of it as well due to its tendency to draw a good number of buys. Money in the Bank is exciting because it is, in multiple ways, the beginning of a new chapter in WWE. It is the start of summertime storylines, and also a look into the future - often the long-term future - because of the titular Money in the Bank matches, which are all but technically extra championship matches. Last year's Money in the Bank was disappointing because it was so ridiculously easy to predict, save for the behavior of AJ in the WWE Championship match. I'm fairly certain that I correctly called the winner of every single match, and if I didn't, I certainly called both Championship matches and both ladder matches. This year looks very different in that respect, and seriously reminds me of the event that so enthralled me two years ago in that I have a feeling of what's going to happen, but I hold onto a glimmer of hope that things will go much better. Only time will tell... Anyway, let's get into it.
Brief thoughts on Payback:
-Overall the show was much, much better than I anticipated. This serves further evidence that I should go into every goddamn pay-per-view with low expectations, because the worst thing that can happen is my expectations are met (as with Wrestlemania), but it certainly beats being disappointed (as I was with the Royal Rumble), and at best I can be jubilantly surprised (as I was with TLC). It's been a while since I had high expectations for a show and they were met, hence while I am looking forward to Money in the Bank, I am trying to keep my enthusiasm somewhat reserved.
-Curtis Axel winning the Intercontinental Championship was the first pleasant surprise of the show and I like the way that he won it. I was watching the show with MechaGM and we agreed upon viewing the replay that it was believable, plus a nice way of making Axel seem that he was lucky to get the pin without making anybody look weak or stupid - and in my opinion, anyone who says otherwise is just doing so to try to sound smart.
-AJ's match with Kaitlyn was fantastic, and certainly the best Divas match I have ever seen. WWE has stumbled onto something wonderful here and they need to find AJ as many competent wrestlers to compete against as she possibly can. And also not have the Bellas talk. Ever.
-The Shield's victories were a bit underwhelming following their actual title wins, but they still looked strong and we got Daniel Bryan competing regularly in singles matches again out of it, so I'll shut up now.
-The Del Rio-Ziggler double turn was fascinating to watch unfold and it got me really excited to see where the two would go next. Unfortunately...well, we'll get to that...
-CM Punk's return and win over Chris Jericho was great, but not the greatest thing ever. I feel like some people who were starving for Punk to come back blew it out of proportion.
-Cena vs. Ryback dragged the whole show down from being a four-star deal. What a mess.
Off the Card
Due to the inclusion of so many different wrestlers on the card as a result of the two ladder matches, it's hard to think of anything of recent relevance that ISN'T going to show up on the show. The only one that we don't know for certain is the Wyatt Family, and RUMORS ABOUND that Bray Wyatt may replace Kane in the WWE Championship Money in the Bank match. I personally don't think this would be a very good move because it feels too early for Wyatt to be thrown into that sort of situation. He's sure to seem very vulnerable and out of control and that doesn't seem like something that should happen yet. It's hard to imagine that they're not going to do SOMETHING on the show though. Maybe they'll interfere in the match somehow.
There's also that whole thing with the tension between the McMahons but good GOD I don't want to burn brain cells thinking about that. Brad Maddox is Raw GM though, and that's fucking great.
Kickoff Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: The Shield (Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns) vs. The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso)
It's awesome to see the Usos finally getting a chance at the tag team titles, because they're probably my favorite actual tag team in WWE. I was quite upset when I learned that they would be relegated to the pre-show, because it's the goddamn pre-show and therefore less significant than if it were on the main card. The build to this match has been simple and straightforward, and I think the thing I appreciate about it most is that The Shield seem focused on beating The Usos. You'd think that they might be looking past them after having beaten far more prestigious wrestlers, but in keeping their focus on the immediate threat to their championships, they make it seem as if they care about those championships, and that they matter. Rollins and Reigns can't go any higher in the tag team division, so it makes sense that they're not looking ahead to bigger things. That's for Ambrose to do. Rollins and Reigns should be, and are, focused on defending their spots at the top of the division. The Shield as a unit have evolved beautifully over the past eight months from frightful mercenaries to a destructive unit to traditional competitors in WWE, and are now established competitors whose achievements carry weight, and it matters when they succeed and when they fail. Whether or not they can resurrect the tag team division - which people have been predicting for fucking eons - remains to be seen, but for the time being, people are paying attention to an Actual Tag Team competing against another Actual Tag Team for the Tag Team Championship, and that's awesome.
Chris Jericho vs. Ryback
WHO WILL LOSE!? Ryback, the man with the eight-pay-per-view losing streak? Or Jericho, the only man ever to job to Fandango? If this match results in a double count-out and neither wins, I will laugh my ass off.
This match is probably the most randomly put-together on the card, as neither guy really has a long-standing beef with the other. Ryback is in the midst of a weird character tweaking where he's now less unstoppable monster and more a guy who seems less concerned with looking tough for the purpose of playing the long game. What that game is or how he intends to play it, I'm not sure. Everyone, myself included, was shocked and appalled by how Ryback simply gave up in the middle of a match to The Miz (and then got Codebreakered for no reason, because Jericho is an asshole), but since his segment with Vickie Guerrero this week on Raw, I'm starting to get the feeling that there is some sort of plan in the works for Ryback. The obvious explanation is that Vickie is going to become Ryback's manager, but that isn't necessarily what's going to happen - or all that's going to happen. I get the feeling that Ryback is going to take a slightly different approach to things. Here's the thing - he came out, flattened Cena, and did everything that should have given him the edge over Cena. He attacked Cena at opportune times, he destroyed opponents he knew he could easily defeat, he ducked out of matches he knew might potentially get him injured...basically, he stacked the deck perfectly in his favor. And he still couldn't win the championship. With two chances. If Ryback were still the character he was portrayed as while he was a hero, he would get up and try again and again. But as a villain, Ryback has been shown to be intelligent, observant, and logical (just not all that great at seeming so when he has to talk on the fly). If you go about things one way, executing your plan to the absolute best of your abilities, and you still fail. Twice. Then you might very well consider backing off and approaching matters from a different angle.
This match looks like shit at face value. But if it's the first step in revitalizing Ryback's character, and making him interesting and intimidating again, then it might just have some hidden potential.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Curtis Axel (c) vs. The Miz
Axel has spent half the time since Payback being used as a pawn in the building tension between CM Punk and Paul Heyman, so it was nice when attention returned to his championship and his upcoming match with Miz. However, I feel like the right amount of time was spent building this match up, because there's not a lot to it. Axel got a lucky win at Payback and Miz wants his title. That's really about it.
Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee (c) vs. Kaitlyn
Good god has this feud had the piss knocked out of it. First Stephanie McMahon shits all over them, then the writers come up with jack shit for them to do other than insult each others' appearance, then the Bellas are on commentary and shit all over both of them, all over the storyline, all over people who care about the storyline, all over the entire Divas division and everything they are involved in ever that isn't a stupid fucking reality show on and god fucking Bellas stop making them audible they're individually almost as bad as Layla and their horribleness is not increased sequentially when they are both talking it is increased fucking exponentially and I lose brain cells and my heart blackens with every fucking exhalation they make.
But hey they should be able to put an alright match hopefully.
World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank Ladder Match: -deep breath-
Antonio Cesaro vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Fandango vs. Jack Swagger vs. Wade Barrett
This match REALLY intrigues me. For one thing, I cannot for the life of me think of an all-heels match with THIS many guys involved in it. The crowd will certainly have its favorites that they'll cheer for anyway, but that's not what grabs me about this. Other than Swagger, these are all guys who have never held a World championship - most have never even come close. This is the match I'm most looking forward to in terms of impact it will have in the distant future, because it's going to elevate one of these guys to a level of importance we've never seen them at before. I don't really have a pick to win this match, I just have picks for who won't - namely Swagger and Fandango, for entirely different reasons. Swagger was in the World picture too recently and fucked it up too recently for him to be given another shot at it, and Fandango hasn't been around long enough and lost a ton of momentum with his concussion. Fortunately, I'm cool with ANY OTHER GUY winning this thing. Barrett? Sweet, dude deserves better. Sandow? Awesome. Cesaro? YES FUCKING PLEASE. Rhodes? OH GOD PLEASE LET CODY WIN.
There aren't really any interweaving storylines going into this match, but there didn't need to be. This single segment that showed up on Raw was enough. It told you all you needed to know: here are seven guys who don't like each other who realize what a big opportunity is at stake and will kill each other to get it. Barrett will knock his opponents out. Fandango is a weirdo, but he knows what he's gotta do...he's just gonna do it in his own, flamboyant way. Ambrose doesn't even bother crowding around the same camera as everybody else, because he's Dean Fucking Ambrose and he doesn't need to put himself on their level. Two pairs like each other, but one - Swagger and Cesaro - have only been thrown together recently, so there's no reason to believe they won't turn on each other; while the other - Sandow and Rhodes - have just a smidgen of tension being teased between them. That one bit where Sandow claims to have spoken for Cody spoke volumes. It's not enough to make you go TROUBLE IS BREWING IN THE RHODES SCHOLARS TEAM, but it's enough for you to suspect that maybe - just maybe - a break-up can occur, ESPECIALLY if one wins the briefcase. GO CODY!
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Over the past several weeks I have grown increasingly disappointed with where this story has gone. Payback got me really hyped to see Ziggler become a new character and enter a new stage of his career, and since then WWE has been completely uninspired in what to do with his character. He's been thrown through the motions of a standard heel-face turn, while doing nothing of consequence and giving the audience no reason to cheer for him. He's gotten cheers for two reasons - because there were people in the audience who cheered for him already, but are cheering for the performer and not the character, and because he is feuding with Del Rio, who is still an excellent heel. I love Dolph Ziggler the performer, but I hate Dolph Ziggler the character right now, and I REALLY don't want to. Look, this isn't fucking hard, okay? You want to make Dolph Ziggler become a good guy? Here:
"I took advantage of you while you were weak and vulnerable to become World Heavyweight Champion, and you got everyone to rally around you so that you could get your shot at taking it back. Then what did you do? You took advantage of me while I was weak and vulnerable, and you took the championship that I've worked my entire career to earn. I might've taken a shortcut, but you claimed to be better than me and you did the exact same thing. Not only that, you tried to end my career so that you wouldn't have to face me again. You made yourself out to be some noble hero who had been wronged, but you're just another cowardly opportunist. The next time we fight, there won't be any shortcuts, it'll just be you versus me in a fair fight, and I'm going to prove once and for all that I'm better than you."
I thought that out and typed it up in five minutes. It needs to be embellished and rewritten so that someone could say it naturally while cutting a promo, but in my opinion it is leagues better than whatever the hell came out of Dolph's mouth on Monday when he made a joke about the size of Del Rio's dick and performed the single worst parody of Ricardo's introduction that I have ever, ever seen. And then there's all this crap with Sin Cara out of nowhere. Ziggler has the potential to be an exciting heroic figure with a very different feel to him than the typical WWE face, but right now he needs a LOT of fleshing out.
WWE Championship Money in the Bank Ladder Match:
Christian vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Sheamus
Hey look, RVD's back! I barely know who that is!
So yeah, I really like what WWE's been doing for the last couple of years with Money in the Bank - the WWE match just gives an established star a slight push up to the main event, while the WHC match gives a big boost to an up-and-comer. Each match feels important for different reasons, and thus both feel more important overall. Really the only guy in this match that I have difficulty seeing as getting into the WWE title picture WITHOUT the help of the briefcase is Christian - all the others have been there at one point or another. Going into this match, we have CM Punk being gradually pushed towards a match with Brock Lesnar, Christian being involved in various matches with The Shield, and Daniel Bryan working his way through prominent big-name wrestlers and gaining tons of momentum. Logic dictates that there is no way in hell that Punk or Christian win, because the WWE Money in the Bank briefcase tends to get cashed in sooner rather than later, so upcoming feuds would eliminate the chances of them doing so, and Bryan's building momentum and rumors that he'll headline Summerslam with Cena leave him as the easy pick. I'm not ready to put all my eggs into that basket, because it's certainly possible for Bryan to get into the WWE title picture without the briefcase too, but he seems a better fit to win and to hold the briefcase than Orton or Sheamus. Those two, by the way, still have a whole fucking load of nothing on their hands. Maybe they'll feud with the Wyatt Family. Or each other. Or I don't care anyway.
You can probably tell I don't care as much for this ladder match as I do for the other. I get the feeling something UNEXPECTED will occur here to make it more intriguing, but I guess we'll see.
WWE Championship Match: John Cena (c) vs. Mark Henry
Ohhhhh please let Mark Henry win. I know it's got only a very small chance of happening but god I want it to. It's pointless for me to talk about this objectively, so let me lay out for you exactly why the result of this match matters to me. I really like Mark Henry. Because I've only been watching WWE for a couple of years, I've only witnessed what is apparently the very best work he's done, but it's been phenomenal. The fake-out retirement speech had me literally tearing up at the thought that I was never going to get to see the guy cut another promo or work another match. There is some sort of visceral joy I get from watching Henry pick people up, slam them into the ground, then scream random things at their corpses. He's over forty years old, he's been battling injuries for years, and there's no telling how much longer he has before he really has to retire. I want so badly for Mark Henry, the person, to hold this championship, even if for just the smallest period of time. Every other wrestler in WWE that I admire has more time left to accomplish great things. I want this for Henry, and I want it now.