By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Stephanie McMahon Called Out SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero
Nothing annoys me more in today's WWE than The Authority opening the show. It's been what feels like every single week and it's more asinine on this episode in particular because there's a pay-per-view in six days. What did this have to do with anything? One thing fans have learned in the last several years is that we should not at all take Vickie's firings seriously as she gets hired back a short while later. It's been rumored for a while that Vickie's on her way out for good this time and I hope they're true. Announcing Vickie vs. Stephanie for later in the night was nice and all, but as previously mentioned, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Money in the Bank pay-per-view.
Luke Harper def. WWE Tag Team Champion Jimmy Uso
We've seen these two teams clash in singles competition before and with Jimmy and Jey basically acquiring the same in-ring skills, this wasn't anything out of the ordinary. They had a nice back-and-forth match a few weeks back on Main Event a few weeks back that actually resulted in Harper losing, but this was nothing more than a glorified squash. Jey's challenge to Erick Rowan was a good hook going into the commercial break, though it isn't the most anticipated match in history.
WWE Tag Team Champion Jey Uso def. Erick Rowan
The fans were more into this match than the were the predecessor, but it was still too brief to really mean anything. Even still, it evened the odds with a win for the Usos and The Wyatt Family members got their heat back quickly by attacking them afterwards. Them holding the tag title belts was a cool visual and put over the fact that they could leave Money in the Bank as champions. As for their new entrance theme, it's not great, but at least it gives them their own identity.
Naomi def. Alicia Fox
Naomi and Fox are two of the better workers in the Divas division and they had a pretty decent match. However, most of it was overshadowed by the bickering between Cameron and Paige on commentary, bu that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm just happy there's an actual story developing in the division right now. I expect Paige and Naomi to clash on Sunday for the Divas Championship while Cameron does something to solidify her heel turn.
Bo Dallas def. Tius O'Neil
Did they run out of face jobbers to feed to Dallas so they gave him a heel O'Neil instead? If not, this match was confusing. It wasn't even much of a match since it was over within a minute anyway. O'Neil hasn't meant anything his heel turn so I can't say I'm surprised. Dallas continues to entertain me with his promos, but the crowd were behind him at one point, so I'm not sure if it was WWE's intention to get him cheered here.
Triple H Announced the Money in the Bank Ladder Match Participants
The list of individuals competing in the match doesn't surprise me since most of them clashed on last week's SmackDown, though Jack Swagger was an odd pick. Why would he be inserted in the match over Kane, who has been a favorite of The Authority for months? Strange. Anyway, the verbal exchange between Rob Van Dam and Seth Rollins was enjoyable and probably the best promo RVD had cut since his WWE return. It also tied in nicely to their subsequent matchup.
Seth Rollins def. Rob Van Dam by Disqualification
I was excited for this match from the moment it was announced and it certainly met expectations. They worked a fun pace and Rollins was made to look like RVD's equal throughout. I would've liked to see this match go a bit longer, but it was entertaining while it lasted. Dean Ambrose's interference, albeit predictable, gave Rollins the victory that he probably would have picked up anyway, gave Ambrose an extra edge, and put him in the Ladder match with Rollins. I've been loving their feud thus far and I can't wait for their interactions in the Ladder match on Sunday.
Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler
This match didn't have any prior hype aside from the non-title match between these two on SmackDown, but that didn't stop them from having a great match. The Intercontinental Championship has been treated better with Barrett than it was with Big E, but it still lacked a certain something. I'm not saying that with this win that the belt is automatically prestigious, but it's a step in the right direction. Barrett and Ziggler delivered an excellent match and showed the world (no pun intended) that they're both capable of being top-tier talent. Seeing how invested the crowd was in the action goes to show that both competitors should be higher up on the card.
Stephanie McMahon def. Vickie Guerrero in a Pudding Match
The substance was never directly referred to as pudding, but I'm just assuming. I never expected a traditional match between the two and this was probably the better route to take. All the male viewers got to see three lovely Divas as well as Stephanie get drowned in pudding in addition to hearing Eddie Guerrero's old entrance theme on Raw for the first time in nearly a decade. It was an insanely cool moment and a great way to Vickie to go out. Her character grew tiresome and it was time for her to go, but I will miss booing the hell out of her on a weekly basis.
Jack Swagger def. Kofi Kingston
While it was a nice matchup, neither guy has meant anything in ages, therefore the crowd couldn't have cared less. They put forth a decent effort, but it really didn't matter who won. Sure, it felt like filler, but it was important in building toward the Money in the Bank Ladder match for the contract since both Swagger and Kingston will be taking part in it.
Big E def. Abe Lincoln (Damien Sandow)
I'm still of the mindset that these impersonations from Sandow are a waste of his talent. Some are more entertaining than others, and while it was comical to see him dressed up as Lincoln, it served as a sad reminder that he isn't even in the Money in the Bank Ladder match this year despite winning it last year. The match was a glorified squash to set up Rusev's post-match attack on Big E. I expect the two to collide in a rematch from Payback on Sunday in order to kill some time in between matches.
United States Champion Sheamus, John Cena and Roman Reigns def. Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio, Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton
No wonder no one watches SmackDown. Any half decent match you get on that show is repeated days later on Raw! Though, that's been the case for years and it isn't worth complaining about at this point. The match was as solid as it was the first time and it received good time. The finishing sequence was fun, but I could have done without the faces getting the better of the heels for a second time. I figured Kane would be added to the contract Ladder match, but apparently they felt that they'd add him to the title match despite losing the qualifying match last week. Reigns looked like a star at the end of the show and his stare-down with Triple H planted the seeds for their heavily rumored SummerSlam match.
On paper, the card for Money in the Bank looks great and this episode of Raw did a very good job of hyping the card. There was some filler here and there, but most of what was featured pertained to the pending pay-per-view and what didn't was well done (i.e. Vickie Guerrero's "firing"). This was a successful go-home show that hyped up each of the advertised matches on the card. I'm not any more excited for the event than I was before, but I'm still very much looking forward to it.