Monday, 27 June 2016

TV Review: WWE Money in the Bank

It’s the event that can turn stars into superstars, but was it up to snuff? That’s what I was hoping to find out by watching WWE’s Money in the Bank, shown recently on Sky Box Office here in Britain.

The show began with the first title match of the evening as Enzo Amore and Big Cass, the Vaudevillains and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows challenged the New Day for the Tag Team titles in a fatal four way match.

Lots of jaw-jacking at the beginning of this one, but thankfully it was of the entertaining variety this time, and once the match started it proved to be just as entertaining as the opening promos.

All four teams looked in top form throughout as they went about their business, with Big Cass the man of the match for me. All of them got to showcase their big double team finishers as they all came close to getting that elusive win over the champions.

But in the end Big E and Kofi Kingston came out on top, thanks to a little help from Gallows and Anderson, who took Aiden English down with the magic killer, and after Cass booted Gallows over the top rope, Kingston helped Biggie take Anderson down with an assisted big ending before he pinned legal man English for the winning pin.

The singles action began with Baron Corbin taking on Dolph Ziggler.

So this rivalry finally made it into pay per view, and you know what? It wasn’t too bad, a nice little speed versus power battle with plenty of back and forth action and enough to keep you wondering just who was going to take the win.

I have to admit that I haven’t seen much of Corbin lately, but what I did see impressed me a great deal. He showed a nice mixture of size and speed here, and in Ziggler he had the perfect opponent, with the former World Champion showing off his own impressive move set while also making the new guy look good as well.

The end came after the two men jockeyed for position on the top rope, and when it looked as if Ziggler had won that particular battle Corbin knocked him down before taking him out with his end of days finisher. Nice stuff.

The Divas were up next as Women’s Champion Charlotte and her new BFF Dana Brooke took on Natalya and Becky Lynch.

Remember those comparisons I’ve been making between Divas and Knockouts lately? Well, I’m about to make them again, because once again the Divas outshone their TNA counterparts quite a bit with this one.

Although the action didn’t last too long they gave us enough to keep us entertained. The vile blonde heels did a good number on Nattie as she took the punching bag treatment for her team, and Becky looked impressive once again in the all hell breaking loose segment.

But when Dana sent Becky crashing into Nattie it was the beginning of the end for our heroines. Seconds later Charlotte took Nattie down with her natural selection move for the winning pin.

That wasn’t the end of things though, because after Becky tried to console her partner in the ring Nattie attacked her as she went to leave, delivering a spot of ground and pound before she left the Irish lass laying in the corner.

It was back to singles action for the next match as Sheamus went up against Apollo Crews.

This battle between veteran and relative newcomer fits firmly into the not too bad folder. Both guys put in creditable performances here, and it was a good way of introducing the new guy onto the big stage.

If truth be known Crews is one of those guys I haven’t seen much off, and it will probably take a little time for him to grow on me as it were, but what I saw here was a nice mixture of power and high-speed offensive moves, a mixture that gave the Irishman quite a few problems.

The Celtic Warrior thought he had the upstart figured out though when he took him down with white noise from the second rope. Sheamus couldn’t believe it though when Crews kicked out of the ensuing pin, and while the Irishman was arguing with the official about the count Crews hooked him with a crucifix and rolled him up for the three count.

Then it was on to the dream match between A.J. Styles and John Cena.

If you want to show a match as an example of almost perfect storytelling then this is the match for you, because this was nothing more than a classic, a definite match of the year candidate.

Styles put on the best performance of his WWE career, perhaps of his wrestling career, while Cena played his part perfectly. The Phenomenal One more or less dominated the proceedings. He was always one step ahead of his opponent, while Cena looked like a man who just couldn’t get a good start and had no idea how to handle someone like Styles.

Styles’ performance wasn’t just phenomenal, it was perfect as he stuffed many of Cena’s signature moves, halting his trademark sequences time and time again, and when Cena did managed to get going it wasn’t long before Styles got back into the game.

Eventually it turned into a war of attrition when they kicked out of each other’s big moves, and the turning point came when the referee took an accidental hit while Cena was trying to put Styles down with another attitude adjuster. As the official tried to recover at ringside and as Cena executed the move Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson arrived on the scene and took Cena down with the magic killer before dragging Styles onto Cena’s prone form.

After Gallows and Anderson beat a hasty retreat the official regained his senses and returned to the ring. The first thing he saw was Styles covering Cena, and a three count later Styles had the win.

The big Money in the Bank match followed, with Chris Jericho, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose fought it out for the title contract.

This one definitely lived up to it’s lofty expectations. It was carnage from start to finish as bodies flew everywhere and metal slammed into flesh as everyone tried to get that ever elusive prize.

It’s kind of hard to single out any one performer here because all six of them put in good stints. Del Rio and Cesaro had their moments, and Jericho was his usual sneaky self, while the likes of Zayn, Owens and Ambrose put in their usual top notch efforts.

As for the OMG moment, I’m giving that one to Zayn and Owens for when the former El Generico took his old buddy down with a Michinoku driver onto the side of a ladder.

In the end it went down to Ambrose and Owens, and after the Lunatic Fringe slammed Owens’ head into the ladder and sent him crashing down on one of the ladder bridges Ambrose stepped up and took the case, guaranteeing himself a title shot, much to the dismay of a certain cowboy hat-wearing commentator.

The penultimate match (or so we thought) saw that perfect gentleman Titus O’Neil challenging Rusev for the United States title.

Well, I guess this was the filler material this month, about eight minutes or so of two big guys beating on each other. It was okay I suppose, but I doubt if it will be included on their best of the year compilations.

Both guys looked okay, but if they’re trying to build Rusev up again then perhaps they should have more prominent stars challenging for the title. O’Neil’s good at what he does, as we evidenced here, but he’s hardly top draw at the moment.

As for the ending, the big Bulgarian took his man down with a couple of powerful kicks before locking in the accolade for submission win, and afterwards, the champion took to the microphone to taunt O’Neil’s boys at ringside.

The main event saw Seth Rollins challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE World title.

Now this was an interesting one. If you didn’t follow WWE too closely you’d have thought that this would be heel challenger against baby face champion. But as soon as the match started it was plain for all to see that this was the exact opposite, and this match was a lot better for it.

Early on Reigns dominated the clearly ring-rusty Rollins in an almost Lesnar-like fashion. The former champion just couldn’t get going as the current champion dealt with him time and time again, and this apparent shift in attitude gave Reigns that certain something that’s been missing from his time as champion.

For his part Rollins played the role that he’s never played before during his WWE career, that of the plucky underdog. At first it looked as if he was clearly under prepared for the task that was facing him. It was a vulnerability we’ve never seen from him before, and it was possibly his best performance in a WWE ring.

Rollins only really got going much later in the match, and when he took Reigns down with a sunset flip off the top rope into a buckle bomb, the kind of move that injured his knee and cost him months on the side lines it was as if something finally clicked in his mind, as if he finally realised that he was back where he belonged.

And so began the war of attrition, the sequence of events that gave us some tremendous back and forth action in which both men pulled out their moves and came close to getting that elusive pin on several occasions. But when Reigns crashed and burned when he tried to spear Reigns through the ringside barricade it signalled the beginning of the end.

After a brief cameo from a doctor the action returned to the ring. The referee took a brief nap after an accidental hit, and when Reigns went for another spear Rollins countered with a pedigree. It wasn’t enough to get the job done, and it was only when Rollins fired himself up even more and took the champion down with another pedigree that it was over. Rollins made the cover, and three seconds later he’d won back the title that he’d never lost in the first place.

The drama wasn’t over yet though. As the crowd erupted and Rollins celebrated his title win Dean Ambrose’s music hit, and as Rollins waited for his former running buddy to come down the aisle Ambrose came in through the crowd and clobbered Rollins from behind with the Money in the Bank briefcase.

Ambrose then cashed in the contract he’d won earlier just a short time before, taking a groggy Rollins down with the dirty deeds DDT for the title-winning pin, with the fans erupting even more than they did before.

In conclusion – so how best to describe this year’s Money in the Bank extravaganza?

Well, here goes. I really enjoyed this one. From start to finish the powers that be gave us a bloody good show. The under card definitely served it’s purpose, while the three main marquee matches were worth the price of admission alone.

As for my prestigious match of the night no-prize I was all set to give it to Styles and Cena, but then Rollins and Reigns came along with their tremendous storytelling. They played their new roles perfectly, and that’s why they’re getting the award this time around.

So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give the 2016 version of Money in the Bank the big thumbs up.