The current global health emergency has forced the wrestling world into all manner of oddball creativity. WrestleMania gave us a handful of truly weird, “cinematic” match-ups that earned rave reviews, but WWE decided to pull out all of the stops for its second lockdown pay-per-view: Money in the Bank.
With its centrepiece ladder matches, the show is always one of the more exciting events on the WWE calendar, but this year seemed on paper to be even more unusual. Not only would there be the usual pair of ladder matches, but they would happen at the same time. And as if that wasn’t crazy enough, the two matches would unfold at WWE’s offices in Connecticut. The participants in the matches had to fight their way to the roof before they could even consider climbing a ladder.
The potential for carnage was certainly there, but did the show match up to that potential?
Kick-Off Match: Jeff Hardy defeated Cesaro via Swanton Bomb
Jeff Hardy started with a flurry of high-impact excitement, but it wasn’t long until Cesaro took the action to the mat and began to wear down the Charismatic Enigma with brutal strikes and submissions. Hardy came back and was able to land some of his signature moves, including a Whisper in the Wind that saw him crash down on Cesaro’s knee. Hardy hit the Twist of Fate, but only managed a two count. On the outside, Hardy smashed Cesaro’s injured knee into the steps and, back in the ring, hit a Swanton Bomb for the win.
This was an enjoyable in-ring return for Hardy and Cesaro was absolutely the right person to put in there in order to sell as his life depended on it. Hardy is now 42 years old and, as sad as it is to say, the years of bodily torture – both in and out of the ring – appear to be taking their toll. He had a fun match here against one of the best in the business, but this is not the Jeff Hardy of old.
New Day defeated Lucha House Party, Miz & Morrison and Forgotten Sons via Big Ending on Gran Metallik to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
Gran Metalik was at the centre of much of the early action, ending up on the wrong end of an inverted Spanish Fly from the top rope to a crowd of bodies on the floor from John Morrison. Lince Dorado came into the match in highlight-reel style before the New Day took control of the Forgotten Sons. There were lots of concealed tags, culminating in Morrison hitting a Starship Pain on Big E, only for Metallik to break up the pin. Jaxson Ryker got involved at ringside on behalf of the Forgotten Sons and was subsequently ejected by the referee. Back in the ring, Big E hit the Big Ending on Metalik to retain the belts.
WWE really knows how to make multi-man matches fly, and this was another very strong example. Lucha House Party, in particular, really shone in their rare chance to seize the spotlight and delivered a handful of truly eye-catching moments. New Day retaining was the right choice given the absolute lack of story, but there’s very little of note currently going on in the SmackDown tag division – and that needs to change soon.
Bobby Lashley defeated R-Truth via Spear
R-Truth and MVP made their way to the ring for their scheduled contest. As MVP and Truth traded barbs in the ring, Bobby Lashley’s music hit and the All-Mighty gave MVP the night off. Lashley swiftly beat down a shocked Truth, chucking him around the ring like a ragdoll. Inevitably, he crushed Truth with a match-winning Spear after just a couple of minutes in the ring.
Really, it’s unclear why this happened at all. Lashley is definitely in a holding pattern at the moment and it’s hard to say WWE gained much by replacing a match that didn’t have a story behind it with another match that didn’t have a story behind it. No one needs convincing that Lashley is a big, strong man. We can all see him.
Bayley defeated Tamina via crucifix pin to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Tamina’s power was, of course, at the heart of the action early on, but Bayley was able to gain control after wrapping Tamina’s leg around the steel post, making it harder for the bigger competitor. The challenger fought back into it and attempted a superkick, but Bayley caught her leg and transitioned impressively into a kneebar. Bayley gloated at ringside and threw water into the face of Tamina, who fought back with a devastating lariat on the floor.
Firmly in control, Tamina tossed Bayley over the announce table and, back in the ring, landed a superkick and Samoan Drop. Tamina prepared to pin Bayley, but Sasha Banks crawled into the ring and distracted the challenger. When Tamina went for another Samoan Drop, Bayley wriggled free and countered into a crucifix pin for the victory. After the bell, Banks felled the angry Tamina with a knee strike.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) May 10, 2020
This was probably Tamina’s best singles match in WWE, though admittedly there isn’t much competition on that front. The women’s division on both WWE brands seem to be treading water at the moment and that’s certainly true with the story around Bayley, which is just meandering until it makes it to the inevitable feud with Banks. They’ve been on the verge of telling that story for years now, so they really just need to pull the trigger.
Braun Strowman defeated Bray Wyatt via running powerslam to retain the Universal Championship
This one was predictable from the moment Bray Wyatt emerged as the sweater-wearing, Mr Rogers version of his character, rather than the unstoppable Fiend. Strowman dominated in the early going, with Wyatt seemingly surprised by the champion’s power. Eventually, though, Wyatt was able to sidestep Strowman, sending the champion crashing into the edge of the announce table. Huskus the Pig appeared at ringside to cheer on Wyatt, who seemed to be suffering inner turmoil as he became increasingly aggressive in the match. Sister Abigail only earned him a two-count.
The challenger readied for another Sister Abigail but hesitated long enough that Strowman was able to grab him by the throat for a devastating chokeslam. Wyatt knocked Strowman to the floor and the champ emerged wearing his sheep mask from the days of the Wyatt Family. Delighted, the Firely Fun House host fell to his knees and was joined by his former minion, with the two men embracing in the ring as the various Fun House puppets celebrated with cries of “Braun is home”. The ruse soon ended, though, with Strowman stomping on the mask and flattening Wyatt with a powerslam to win the match.
— WWE (@WWE) May 11, 2020
This was an interesting match that played heavily on the past between these two competitors. Wyatt, as always, showed a remarkable grasp on the nuances of his character and played to those nicely, right up to the flashes of The Fiend’s image as he lay beaten in the ring. Strowman got himself a strong win here, with the feud set to continue for quite some time.
A brief message aired from the SmackDown hacker, who addressed questions about his identity with the ambiguous promise that he is “everyone” and indeed “everywhere”. Finally, he noted that “nobody is safe” from his surveillance. Under the assumption that the hacker is indeed Mustafa Ali, as has been suggested, this is a really interesting direction for his character that will be really interesting when he eventually reveals himself.
Drew McIntyre defeated Seth Rollins via Claymore to retain the WWE Championship
Rollins came out to a more Messiah-like theme tune as he continued the growth of his current gimmick. The two men jockeyed for control early on, with McIntyre goading Rollins to give him a true challenge. Rollins duly obliged with a suicide dive and a series of submission holds, putting real pressure on the champion. The Messiah leapt around ringside, hitting knee strike after knee strike on McIntyre before another suicide dive resulted in Rollins being caught and suplexed over the announce table.
A flurry of kicks from Rollins only got a one-count and a Frog Splash caused another forceful, quick kick-out at one from the champion. McIntyre fought back with the Glasgow Kiss, but Rollins pulled off an incredible feat of strength to hit his patented Superplex/Falcon Arrow combination. A Futureshock DDT from McIntyre got two.
— WWE (@WWE) May 11, 2020
McIntyre went for the Claymore, but Rollins countered with a superkick followed by the Stomp, only for the champion to pop his shoulder up. Rollins tried for another Stomp, but McIntyre popped up and blasted the challenger with a Glasgow Kiss. He ate a superkick but rebounded into the Claymore for the victory. McIntyre thanked Rollins after the bell for giving him what he needed and shook the arrogant challenger’s hand.
This was a very solid wrestling match, with the chemistry between McIntyre and Rollins evident. This seems like a feud that is far from over, and it’ll be very interesting to see how the rivalry deepens as the coming weeks pass, especially given the unusual post-match handshake. Rollins, in particular, is really coming into his own as the Messiah – a heel character with plenty of mileage.
Asuka and Otis won the Money in the Bank Ladder Matches
This one started in baffling fashion, with the women arriving in the WWE lobby to their entrance music and the men arriving in the gym area, where they had awkward banter while they waited for the bell. Asuka immediately took out the rest of the women with a dive from a balcony and hopped into the lift for an early advantage. The other women took the stairs while, for some reason, the men forgot this was a race and just hit each other with gym equipment for a while until they ran past Bruce Prichard in a bathroom.
The men and the women briefly bumped into each other by the lifts and Doink the Clown was there for some reason. The women brawled into a conference room and Dana Brooke got hold of a briefcase dangling above the conference table. Stephanie McMahon showed up – clearly filmed on a webcam, far from the HQ – and informed Dana she had grabbed the wrong briefcase, telling her to clean up after their brawl. AJ Styles, meanwhile, got scared by a picture of The Undertaker and then Aleister Black shut him in a blue-lit room containing a coffin.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) May 11, 2020
A food fight broke out in a room where, for some reason, Paul Heyman was eating the table of food from the first 10 minutes of every episode of Channel 4’s You Are What You Eat. For some reason, Shayna Baszler decided to choke out Rey Mysterio, despite the fact he was competing in a different match and the group continued to race up the building, but not before Otis put a pie in the face of John Laurinaitis. Some weird sitcom music played as Asuka yelled at a cleaner in Japanese and Brooke slipped on the wet floor. One for the slapstick fans.
Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles fought into a very fancy-looking room that turned out to be Vince McMahon’s office. The boss yelled at them to leave – odd, given he booked the match – and the duo amusingly rearranged the chairs back to normal before leaving.
— WWE (@WWE) May 11, 2020
The women made it to the roof first and Asuka scaled the ladder, before being met by Baron Corbin, who tried to thwart her, despite the fact they were in the different matches. Asuka came out best, though, and won the women’s match.
The focus shifted to the men, with Otis getting the better of Corbin with the Caterpillar, only to eat a Black Mass from Black. Styles knocked both Black and Mysterio off a ladder and then Corbin threw them both off the roof, in an act of shocking double homicide nobody felt the need to address or really react to at all. Corbin and Styles fought over the unhooked briefcase at the top of the ladder until Elias showed up to hit his long-term rival, Corbin, with a guitar. This forced Styles to drop the briefcase, which landed in the grasp of a delighted Otis.
— WWE (@WWE) May 11, 2020
It was admirable of WWE to use the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic to take the well-worn Money in the Bank gimmick somewhere different, and there was certainly plenty about the match’s unhinged silliness to enjoy. The nods for hardcore fans were fun, even when the comedy sat really awkwardly against the seriousness of the opportunity on offer and the excessive violence of what we can only assume were murders on the part of Baron Corbin. Asuka’s win makes a tonne of sense, while Otis’s is an odd one – albeit justified given his popularity right now.
Overall, Money in the Bank will almost certainly stand as one of the strangest shows WWE has ever done. The wrestling quality was absolutely all over the place, but the two world title matches were very nicely put together and there was enough insanity in the main event to make it well worth a watch. It certainly won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
All photos courtesy of WWE.com