Monday, June 18, 2018
It’s the Kickoff match on the too-long Money in the Bank card. The champions have been pretty dominant in 2018, especially since WrestleMania. Gallows and Anderson were looking to turn things around, as they’ve been mostly irrelevant since early 2017. Harper and Rowan continued the trend of being monster champions. They picked apart the challengers and isolated former G1 Climax finalist Karl Anderson. The hot tag came to Gallows, but it’s not exactly his strong suit. The champions weathered the storm and cut off the Magic Killer. They then hit the Bludgeoning to retain in 7:36. An opener that was better than expected. The crowd was into it, it wasn’t a total squash, and it had some solid action.
Last month, Bryan beat Cass at Backlash in a decent match (**¼). I can’t recall another top star returning and getting thrown into a two month program with someone as low on the totem pole as Cass. As expected, Cass was the big aggressor here. The biggest problem with that is that he’s literally all height and nothing else. There’s not a single thing about him that’s intimidating. He’s the least imposing seven footer in company history. At no point did any of his offense look that good, even his decent middle rope fall away slam. Bryan found openings for hope spots but couldn’t sustain it. He went after the knee, which Cass mostly sold poorly. It set up the knee bar that got Bryan another submission win in 15:18. It was better than Backlash, though not by much. They told a fine story, but the in-ring stuff was so boring at points. Cass should not be going 10+ minutes.
Bless Sami’s heart for trying his best with this program. The writing has completely failed both men. Lashley feels like just another guy already. Nobody cares about him. Sami played this smart, immediately going outside to avoid Lashley and getting in his head. It worked for the most part as he gained early control. However, Lashley caught him leaping and got going on offense. Lashley went in on vertical suplexes, which supposedly gave Sami vertigo in the past. A second one ended this in 6:35. Again, Sami tried his best. His stuff at the start was kind of entertaining. Lashley’s offense was dull and didn’t really have any fire behind it.
Other than the Money in the Bank matches, this was all I was excited for on this card. Working a more methodical style than usual, Seth held serve early. But, he took a nasty bump on an apron clothesline, landing on the back of his head. That turned things around for Elias, playing off the guitar shot to the back of the head a few weeks back. Seth was in trouble for the next portion of the match and then his rally saw his knee buckle on a springboard attempt. Unfortunately, Seth sold it rather weakly. Like, I understand how much of a factor adrenaline is, but he did a superkick and frog splash with only minimal grabbing of the knee. However, I did like him doing the falcon arrow mostly on one leg. Elias avoided the Curb Stomp and got vicious, throwing Seth all around the ringside area. That led to a great near fall on a big elbow. The resilient champion countered Drift Away into a rollup for two. He then countered an Elias rollup into one of his own and used a handful of tights to steal this in 17:00. The finish was interesting. It did help sell Elias as a credible threat and Seth as a guy willing to go the extra mile to retain. I appreciate that just because he’s a babyface, he’s not above things like that sometimes. This was the kind of performance Elias needed to silence any doubters. Dude is money and Seth continues to be one of the best in the world.
A much better field than last year. This was frantic from the start, but controlled enough that it didn’t feel weird. They found ways to bring some unique spots, like Naomi’s split on a ladder and her hopping on one to attack Natalya. As expected, Sasha seemed to be in the match to take the most bumps. Naomi and Ember had a great exchange during the match, while old rivalries like Sasha/Charlotte and Becky/Charlotte were renewed. More than a few things looked very dangerous (Charlotte aggressively pulling Lana off the ladder and Nattie powerbombing Sasha into one). Naomi came really close to winning once but I guess it was too soon and she kind of just got stuck up there. Everyone attempted to climb and got cut off near the end. Becky was right there to winning and it would’ve been great if she did. Instead, Alexa knocked her off the ladder and won at 18:26. Really good match and better than last year’s. They had some impressive spots and cool callbacks. It all worked as an exciting, cohesive match. I do think the wrong person won. I’m not anti-Alexa at all, but she’s been in the title picture forever. The women’s division is basically booked like this. Charlotte > Alexa >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Everyone else >> Becky Lynch.
The Chicago crowd decided not to give this match a chance. They chanted for totally irrelevant things a minute into this match. If you don’t care about something, don’t be a dick about it. They never gave it a chance. It was a relatively fine match, with some solid back and forth. A lot of it felt hollow and maybe that’s because I don’t care much for either guy. I do think that Jinder’s style doesn’t suit Roman. It worked with AJ because AJ got to fight from behind. Jinder works a methodical style and that has never meshed with Roman, who is best when he gets to go all out. Roman eventually took out Sunil, who was in a wheelchair, with a Spear. Jinder nearly stole it with a rollup, but Roman kicked out. A Spear to Jinder later and it was over in 15:37. A solid little match, but very unspectacular. It was kind of just there and like I said, I don’t think these are guys who have styles that mix well.
The story coming in is that Asuka’s been a different person since the streak ended (still a terrible decision) at WrestleMania. Carmella is trying to get in her head by bringing that up. She also did a fair amount of trash talking and taunting in the opening minutes. As soon as Asuka got something going, Carmella resorted to the cheap stuff, like threatening to walk out with her title. Other than that, she found clever spots to get going. Asuka got near a win when someone in an Asuka mask stood on the apron. A distracted Asuka nearly got rolled up. The mask came off to reveal James Ellsworth! Carmella kicked Asuka and retained in 11:04. It followed the same general idea of Charlotte/Carmella last month. Carmella wasn’t as good as the challenger, but she was smarter. Mania killed Asuka, to be honest.
It’s the most underwhelming feud in years. While I feel like this was the best match in their series, it still never really reached a great level. IT started off kind of slow and felt like they were never going to get going. Especially after watching Ciampa/Gargano II, this underwhelmed. Luckily, they picked things up and built to a much more interesting back half of the match. They went into their series of dick kicks, playing up the history of the feud. The Styles Clash off the steel steps and Phenomenal Forearm spots (both which we’ve seen from AJ in the past) were the best parts. They overdid a bit of the stuff where AJ survived so very much, as it neared John Cena levels. It seemed like no matter what Nakamura threw at AJ, it was never enough, though that did play up the “Nakamura can’t beat AJ” stuff. That Phenomenal Forearm through the table was enough to end this at 31:03. I think you could talking about an all-time classic LMS match if you shave off the first 5-10 minutes. Not enough of interest happened there. The final twenty minutes were strong and the final ten were fantastic. Nakamura is a loser.
Rousey’s first singles match and it’s against a girl who isn’t exactly considered a ring general. Nia overwhelmed Ronda with her size and strength right from the start. Ronda tried finding openings for submissions, but Nia was too strong. Commentary harped on how Ronda had never faced someone like Nia or competed in a match that went this long. Nia dominated until missing a corner charge. Ronda dug deep and pulled out a cross body off the top. She then fired up and nearly killed Nia with a judo throw. Ronda went for the armbar and the crowd was eating up her attempt to break it free. As soon as she did, Alexa Bliss ran in and clocked Ronda with the briefcase for the DQ at 10:50. This was going great. I’m glad Ronda didn’t just dominate. She came into wrestling and is out of her element. She had to fight to find something new and it was working in the end. Ronda still has plenty of kinks to work out, but she’s picking this wrestling thing up quickly.
Alexa Bliss continued the attack with the briefcase and cashed in.
Bliss hit a DDT and Twisted Bliss to win back the title in 0:29. So, Alexa is nearing Charlotte levels of BIG DOG status. She feuded with Becky, Bayley, and Sasha, and dominated them. Lost the title at Mania and is already right back to having it.
This is one of the most loaded MITB fields ever. They only announced it during their entrance, but Kofi Kingston was the New Day member chosen. As usual, it led to some of his cool ladder match spots. Everyone ganged up on Braun and buried him under ladders by the stage. A great character moment came when Miz used that distraction to try a sneak win. There were also awesome spots involving Kofi and Finn doing dives. Braun got back into the match, only to get beaten up by a group again. He fought them off and threw Owens off a massive ladder through a table. It was Ryback/Seth TLC 2012 levels of big. Another highlight was Finn’s Coup de Grace off a ladder into the ring. The thing is, with so many of these MITB matches happening in history, it’s hard to really break new ground with it. Not much here blew me away, but it was a lot of fun. The finish turned out to be very cool, as Finn and Braun went after the briefcase. Kofi hopped on Braun’s back and nearly used that to win. Braun fought them off and pulled down the briefcase to win in 19:54. This was towards the bottom of MITB matches, with 2015 and the Raw one in 2012 being the bottom two off the top of my head. However, that doesn’t mean it was bad. There was a lot to like, with several cool spots and character moments sprinkled in. A very enjoyable way to close the show.
Overall: Though making the show 4+ hours is again a bad move, it wasn’t as much of a problem here. Unlike Backlash, the show didn’t end with a whimper. There were several good matches, especially late. It started weak and hit a bit of a lull in the middle, but the IC Title, two MITB matches, AJ/Nakamura, and Ronda/Nia were all strong matches.