I don’t like this.
I don’t like that it’s not even June and I’m already having to write about WWE’s Money In The Bank WWE Network special. ( Note: At some point we all will stop referring to these events as pay-per-views now that they are not, you know, pay-per-views, right? RIGHT? I will die on this anal-ass hill.) I should be writing about Backlash. I should be writing about whatever WWE Network special took place at this time last year. (Remember when everything was so simple for pro wrestling fans’ calendars? Armageddon in December. Vengeance in June. New Year’s Revolution in January. Enough Member Berries, Chase. Jesus.) And yet, it’s the middle of May and here I am writing about what has been traditionally a middle-of-summer thing since exiting from the WrestleMania fold. I don’t like it, have I mentioned that yet?
Part of the disdain for writing about this special event now rather than later is that this event has become one of the biggest in the company in recent years, replacing Survivor Series as the Big 4 with WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam. If the WWE were to flip Fastlane and the Royal Rumble next year and we got those two events back-to-back it would feel just as weird. You need a breather before you jump from one gigantic, long-ass event to the next. I want the Kofi Kingston WWE title reigns to start to get stale before I have to fantasy book how Sami Zayn is going to cash-in on with the help of his old frenemy Kevin Owens. I don’t want to have to start audibly sighing at the possibility of WWE once again pretending that they’re going to go all-in with Braun Strowman.
Maybe that’s why I miss the Backlash and Judgement Day and Vengeance days of pro wrestling. The big matches felt inevitable. It was fine that Triple H vs. Batista was happening again on back-to-back PPVs because Batista just had his moment at WrestleMania and you just wanted to see him continue to win matches and retain his title. The same was true for John Cena and JBL and others like them. As a fan, you just want to enjoy a summer of dominance from your favorite babyface superstar who had their crowning moment on the biggest stage of them all at WrestleMania. With low ratings, a chaotic brand split, and stiff competition from the Game of Thrones series finale, anything can happen -- but I just want to see Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins and Kingston retain their titles and continue with their moment in the sun.
With all that said, here is what I care about heading into tonight’s event.
Definitely Not Roman Reigns vs. Elias
Yes, this is kind of cheating. No, I don’t give a shit. We need to talk about Roman Reigns becoming the primary protagonist on both Raw and Smackdown Live in this Wild Card-filled world. It should come as no surprise that the Big Dog is back on top, even without holding the top belt on either show, as that has been the story of Reigns’ career to this point -- even when he is away from the title picture, his storyline feels bigger than whatever else is going on around him.
So why is he facing...Elias? For one, it feels like these two have wrestled more than The Ascension and Roode & Gable did in that month-long slog of insanity on Raw. But this also doesn’t feel like the right match for this card. It feels like it should be Roman Reigns & The Miz vs. Shane McMahon & Elias and Lashley and Insert Boring And Generic Heel Here in a handicap match that ends with Reigns and Miz overcoming the odds. You could even make the case this kind of match should close the show because of how the television shows have been written over the past month.
Instead, we’re getting Shane vs. Miz again and Reigns vs. Elias again. Why? Who cares? This is just lazy and a waste of time.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship between Tony Nese and Ariya Daivari
Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander did not die for this.
Pull The Trigger On Andrade & Nikki Cross
Another problem with the Money in the Bank ladder match happening right now as opposed to later is that nobody has any momentum right now. They haven’t had time. (It doesn’t hurt that the Wild Card rule has muddied up creative more so than usual, too.) Winning this kind of match should be the reward for getting over leading up to the event. It should be a fun-as-hell feeling for fans who have jumped aboard that particular wrestler’s bandwagon.
Who fits that description in this match?
So you have to adjust. You have to work around the “Who Is Ready Right Now” question to something more along the lines of “Who Can We Get Ready?” So the obvious two choices are then Andrade “Cien” Almas and Nikki Cross.
With Almas, you’re betting on the best in-ring worker in the company right now to get over. Vince’s English-concerns aside, Almas has the look and work rate to be the Top Guy on Smackdown Live when they move to Fox this fall. If the dirtsheets are to be trusted, the blue brand figures to be a sports-centric show with less focus on character development and more focus on quality matches. With that likely being the case, what is the argument against placing your top title on the best worker in the company to kick things off on Fox on the right foot?
With Cross, you suddenly have a character with an intriguing storyline and the in-ring work to back it up. Granted, Alex Bliss’s injury-status is paramount to this booking decision ultimately being worthwhile. Sure, this company did something similar with Nia Jax last year, but, initially, it was the right call use Bliss is a foil to get Jax over as a top babyface in the division. This is because Bliss is that good at what she does and what followed falls on Jax being extremely bad at her job as both a likable babyface and good pro wrestler, nothing more. Fans want to cheer Nikki Cross, and if Bliss can return from injury, heel her way to the Raw Women’s title once again with the help of a naive Cross, WWE could stumble onto their next over, likable babyface who is actually good at her job.
Lacey Evans Is A Character That...Works?
I cannot believe I’m here, but here I am. Put the belt, on Lacey Evans, man. She is Actually Good at social media; she is Actually Good at character work when given the chance; she is Actually Good at holding her own with Becky Lynch. Again, I cannot believe that I am here, but here I am. An over-confident Lynch getting blindsided by an Evans fist wouldn’t be the be the worst route to take. Lynch is an established, beloved character now -- she can handle a loss, especially after spending the last several months beating Charlotte Flair at every turn and pinning Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. Evans needs something to establish herself in the upper-echelon of a Raw Women’s Division that has devolved into whatever is worse than a dumpster fire -- Natalya, Tamina, Dana Brooke! Let’s Go! Lynch needs to move on from Flair, but she needs a new rival that much more -- Evans surprising Lynch with a knockout here sets the stage for a fun summer program.
Book it, Vince.
Not AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship
I should and it’s the WWE creative team’s fault for booking a dream build match with this stale of a build. (Yes, the hype promo from WWE television this week was phenomenal, but that doesn’t excuse the weekly booking decisions leading up to this match.)
Yes, this match will be awesome. Yes, the build sucked. So why do I care who wins again?
I Think Kevin Owens Should Win And I Am So Sorry
KofiMania was fun and different and unexpected. After 10-plus years of being trapped in midcard purgatory, Kingston escaped by chance. If he loses here, it is hard to see Vince ever put the belt back on him. The roster is too deep and too many mouths eventually have to be fed. ( For instance, Daniel Freaking Bryan is on the preshow of this event. Daniel. Bryan. In 2019.)
But Kevin Owens is really damn good. For years, I have said that Owens is the best professional wrestler in the world. On a random episode of Monday Night Raw, the man cut a heel promo while walking out to his match and ended the match with the crowd firmly in his corner. Not many wrestlers today can pull that off, but KO can. From a purely entertainment perspective, I would rather have Owens on top because I know I will enjoy seeing him on my television screen each week. I would like to see how Zayn gets involved in his future once again. I would like to see if this led to Big E’s return and a big-time match between the WWE’s best Twitter follow and the WWE’s best talker. And, really, if anyone is going to get an interesting feud out of Roman Reigns at this point, it is Kevin Freaking Owens. As fun as a “I respect you, and you respect me” program between Reigns and Kingston would be, I would rather see what Owens could pull of.
I’m so sorry.