By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Money in the Bank Ladder Match Competitors Staked Their Claim at Winning the Briefcase; Teddy Long Returned
We knew these six Superstars would deliver a hell of a wrestling match at Money in the Bank, but who knew they were capable of producing such an entertaining talking segment? Everyone played their roles well and I popped big at the "I'm from Winnipeg, you idiot" line from Chris Jericho (re-watch Survivor Series 2009 on the WWE Network if you didn't get the reference). Long coming out was beyond random and I'm not sure whether him fumbling him lines was intentional or not, but it was nice to see him after two years away. Stephanie McMahon, one week removed from her belittling of WWE Women's Champion Charlotte, set the tone for the night nicely by announcing three singles matches with the Money in the Bank combatants.
Cesaro def. Chris Jericho
We saw this match only a handful of times back in 2013, so seeing them mix it up here was a refreshing change of pace. They worked very well together and say what you will about Jericho, but he's more than holding his own at his age and is constantly putting in excellent performances. It took the crowd a little longer to get invested in the action, but the final few minutes were fantastic and this was a big momentum builder for Cesaro heading into Money in the Bank. He's definitely my dark horse to win.
United States Champion Rusev def. Jack Swagger by Count-out (Non-title)
I wouldn't have minded this match as much had we not seen the exact same thing on SmackDown days earlier (thank the lord for the impending Brand Split). That said, why wasn't this match held on Memorial Day last Monday? If nothing else, the show did emanate from Swagger's hometown of Oklahoma, so Swagger was obviously more over than usual and the crowd didn't sit on their hands entire time. Otherwise, the match wasn't any different than their past encounters, though I did like the unique finish with Rusev winning by count-out and shoving Swagger into Titus O'Neil. Speaking of whom, he fared well on commentary.
John Cena Called Out AJ Styles
Criticize Cena all you'd like for his unfunny comedy, but we got serious Cena here and he was absolutely on point. I could have done without him calling Styles a "bust," but at least he hyped him up as a big star on the mic by alluding to his accolades and comparing him to The Rock. Styles, never the greatest mic worker, did excellent with his promo as well and answered the question on everyone's mind as to why he reunited with The Club. The New Day making the save effectively built toward the six-man tag team match main event. All I can hope for is that New Day aren't associated with Cena as much as The Usos were a few years ago because that's when the fans started to turn on them. Anyway, if last week and this week were any indication, this feud is going to be a lot of fun, but I think most of us already knew that.
The Vaudevillians def. Enzo Amore and Big Cass by Disqualification
At the rate Amore and Cass were dominating The Vaudevillians, I was worried the match would be over relatively quickly. The Vaudevillians were responsible for putting Amore on the shelf for a month, so I'm glad they're picking up where they left off with the feud. This was an interesting way of ending their initial encounter, though. Cass walked away from this as the central focus, and while I liked how he's developed more of an aggressive edge, I don't want it to mean that WWE will be transitioning him into a singles role soon. He and Amore still have plenty left to accomplish as a tandem.
Alberto Del Rio def. Sami Zayn
Although he's the sole former Money in the Bank winner in this year's Ladder match, Del Rio still sticks out like a sore thumb compared to everyone else. Nevertheless, he remains a talented wrestler, even though he puts audience members to sleep because of his lack of character evolution. That was evident here as the crowd was hardly engaged in the match, though I didn't hate Del Rio winning because he had to be made to look like a threat somehow. Rather, the biggest takeaway from this match for me was how ridiculously long it takes for Del Rio to set up his finisher.
Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens
These two have had their fair share of battles over the past six months, so they have experience working against each other and have awesome chemistry together as a result. This was along the same lines as their past matches in that it was well-wrestled and had a good pace to it. The crowd was quiet for a majority of the matchup, but I think that was more a reflection on them and not Ambrose and Owens. They definitely put forth a strong effort and I liked Owens getting his heat back with the post-match attack.
Natalya and Becky Lynch Interrupted WWE Women's Champion Charlotte and Dana Brooke
The constant replays of Charlotte kicking Ric Flair to the curb two weeks ago have grown tiresome. Of course, it was a major storyline development, but it looks like there will be more to the angle, and that's a shame because the focus should be mainly on the title. On the bright side, Charlotte seemed to be much more comfortable on the mic here than she has in the past, and Lynch did well with the time she was given to talk. The brawl that ensured was a mess, though. A tag team match between the two teams seems to be in the cards for Money in the Bank, so hopefully that will be made official sooner rather than later.
Tyler Breeze vs. R-Truth Ended in a No Contest
Ugh. The silence these two teams entered to spoke volumes, though I will admit that Breezango is starting to grow on me. Yes, Breeze should be much more than a glorified enhancement talent, but at least he's receiving consistent television time again, and he and Fandango are going all out with the gimmick, so I commend them for that. Oh, and the match was total throwaway, as you likely expected.
The Club vs. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match
I liked the pre-match brawl that saw Styles took Xavier Woods out of the equation with a Styles Clash. It was something different than what we're used to and a nice hook going into the commercial break. It also protected the tag team champs in defeat because they had the odds stacked against them. The action was entertaining while it lasted and The Club went over as they should have, though I could have done without Cena going the better of them so easily afterward.
This was a vast improvement over last week's episode, which shouldn't be too surprising considering that was a holiday show. The Styles vs. Cena feud was well furthered, the matches involving the Money in the Bank participants were all enjoyable, and there was plenty of hype for the pending pay-per-view (as well as for NXT TakeOver: The End on Wednesday). The card is shaping up to be one of the best in years, so here's hoping they can deliver a strong go-home show next week. On a side note, the Muhammad Ali tributes throughout the night were fantastic. R.I.P. The Greatest!