The 8th edition of WWE's Money in the Bank PPV is in the books, and the reviews are falling into the mixed to negative range. As with anything in sports entertainment, much of what worked and didn't work on the show is subjective, however a few universal statements can still be made.
Money in the Bank 2017 is going to be a PPV that will be remembered, and probably not in an overly positive light. As WWE's women's divisions continue to grow, and future women's MITB matches take place, fans will think back to the first ever women's MITB match. Whether those are positive or negative memories remains to be seen, but one can take a guess.
The story of the first men's MITB match has been and will continue to be remembered fondly, but this is probably not what will be the case for the first women's version of the match. That isn't the fault of any of the women involved, rather a questionable booking decision which will surely be debated for years to come.
Fans who are old enough, remember Edge winning the first ever MITB match at WrestleMania 21 fondly. The first such match was such a success it became a WrestleMania tradition until it necessitated its own PPV. Edge's cash-in 8 months later also set the precedent that the MITB contract offered more than just a title match, it was the ultimate opportunist's dream.
This WWE tradition continued Sunday night. Here are 10 things WWE got wrong, and 10 they got right at Money in the Bank.
20 Got Wrong: James Ellesworth Wins the Women's MITB Match
Let's just get this one out of the way right off the bat. Money in the Bank 2017 is a PPV which will always be remembered as the night James Ellsworth won the first ever women's MITB match. As Nia Jax pointed out afterwards on Twitter: A man won the first ever women's MITB match.
There would be nothing wrong with doing this finish in a future women's MITB match, but doing it on the first one ever? A decade from now when the 10th such women's MITB match takes place and they create video package showcasing all the great women's MITB matches, they will have no choice but to show James Ellsworth dropping the briefcase down to Carmella as the WWE Universe collectively groaned.
Yes, this will lead to an angle, but history will still not look kindly on what happened here.
19 Got Right: Lana's Theme Music
This might be incorrect, but it appears Lana's new gimmick is that she loves her new theme music so much it gives her unwavering confidence in her wrestling ability.
Right from the beginning of the match this was evident. The bell rang and instead of beginning to wrestle, as wrestlers tend to do at such times, Lana started dancing and singing the tune to her ring music. Naomi took advantage of this by immediately pressing her up against the corner and kicking and punching her however. It still shows just how much Lana's new music has impacted her.
WWE portrayed Lana as a babyface wrestler in the match. She took the bulk of the offence, kicked out from the "Rear View", and only lost the match on a distraction from Carmella. All signs point to her being in line for a big push soon.
18 Got Wrong: Tag Titles Retained on a Count-Out
Imagine if this rule existed in boxing or MMA. A fighter, in the middle of a title defence, decides to just leave the match. What if instead of facing Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey had just left the cage in-between rounds, took her title and gone home? Under WWE's rules, she would still be champion!
The reason such a non-sensical rule exists is because it allows the company to turn 1 PPV match into 2. Now, New Day will get another title match, most likely at Battleground, with some stipulations. We will end up with a NO DQ match, or something similar happening between these two teams shortly.
In a sense these finishes are as if the WWE is saying "just kidding! This isn't the real title match, that will take place later."
17 Got Right: Numerous Near-Falls in Tag Title Match
Some credit should be given for the match itself, even if the ending was terrible.
New Day and the Usos must have known they needed to have a good match here because the scripted ending was sure to disappoint. Not only that, but the live crowd had just sat through James Ellsworth winning the women's MITB briefcase.
Luckily, New Day and Usos had a great match up until the finish. Numerous near-falls had the crowd chanting "This is Awesome!", although those chants would eventually lead to groans and boos.
There were numerous spots leading up to the finish that seemed like they could have been the end. Kofi was trapped in a single-leg crab after his knee had been established as injured, Big E hit the "Big Ending" for a near fall, then New Day hit "Midnight Hour" for a near-fall the live crowd bought as the finish. Pretty exciting stuff, up until it wasn't,
16 Got Wrong: Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal Re-Run Finish
At Backlash last month, Jinder Mahal won the WWE championship from Randy Orton. In that match, Orton was winning but when he turned his attention to the Singh Brothers, it was all the distraction Jinder needed to hit his Khallas (cobra clutch slam) and win the title.
Then at this month's PPV, Jinder again defeated Orton after his opponent became distracted with the Singh brothers. You would think after losing the title to Jinder because of his underlings there would be some stipulation in place preventing them from doing the exact same thing in this match, but evidently not. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon may want to better get on top of things.
The Singh brothers started to rough up Randy's dad at ringside, Randy turned his attention to them and then Jinder hit the Khallas on Orton and pinned him. Same thing, different match.
15 Got Right: The Return of Maria Kanellis
Maria is a smart lady, and talented performer. Unless hampered by backstage politics beyond her control, Maria should do great things in WWE during her second stint with the company.
The 35 year old spent from 2004 to 2010 with WWE after the 2004 Divas Search. She appeared in ROH, NJPW and Impact during her 7 years away from the promotion. In that time she also got a degree in "Sports, Entertainment and Event Management", which seems fairly relevant to her current employment. She officially completed the degree last month.
Maria was in OVW when Paul Heyman was the booker, and it is said that Maria's mind for the business impressed Paul enough that she began contributing storyline ideas. In general, people who Paul Heyman are impressed by tend to do well in the wrestling industry.
Mike Bennett taking her last name in storyline is also a hilarious addition to the pair's gimmick.
14 Got Wrong: Dominated by the Heels
Smackdown is incredibly bad guy-centric. Aside from Naomi, every champion, including Mr. Money in the Bank, is a heel.
Not including the Kickoff show, The Fashion Police were the only good guys to really come out victorious on Sunday. Naomi defeated Lana, but Lana was arguably the bigger baby face in the match, plus she only won after a distraction from Carmella. New Day technically won, but The Usos retained the title, and other than that the heels won every match of the actual PPV.
The only non-wrestling segment of the night, Maria and Mike Kanellis' debut, was also a heel dominated event. WWE did not give the St. Louis crowd much at all to cheer about.
While the heels need to win for the good guys to have obstacles to overcome, Smackdown is going a little overboard with their heel-centric approach.
13 Got Right: Ellsworth Mic-Drops the Briefcase Perfectly
As stupid as the ending to this match was, it was actually executed beautifully by the performers involved.
While you can argue that James Ellsworth's involvement in the match cheapened the historical significance of it, you can't say the guy isn't giving his all to the character.
Ellsworth actually performed one of the most flawlessly executed briefcase retrievals in MITB history. While most wrestlers, including Baron Corbin, struggle to detach the briefcase, Ellsworth had no such issues. The really crowning accomplishment for him may have been his perfectly executed mic-dropping of the briefcase so that it landed perfectly in Carmella's arms. To her credit, Carmella caught it perfectly and immediately adopted a shocked and amazed face.
Carmella and James Ellsworth did the best with what they were given.
12 Got Wrong: American Alpha Still MIA
Taking characters off of television as part of an angle is a great way to allow the characters a fresh start once they return. Having characters take time away from action because creative simply doesn't have anything for them is an entirely different story.
In storyline, American Alpha are off TV because they lost a whole bunch of matches in a row throughout March and April. They lost their titles on an episode of Smackdown, then lost to the Colons, then lost a Beat the Clock challenge in April and haven't been on TV since. To fans it seems like they lost so many matches in March and April that they are no longer good enough to be on the show.
WWE could have had the Usos attack and injure American Alpha, which would have kept them looking strong and provided an excuse to keep them off television for a bit. They didn't go that route however, and now who knows when we'll see them again?
11 Got Right: AJ Styles' Fall From the Briefcase
In the main event, AJ Styles fell while dangling from the cord which attached to the briefcase. It looked as though he fell from up over 10 feet onto the ring below, but that's not what really happened. AJ, because he's really good, only made it look like he fell from that distance.
He pulled himself as high up on the cord as possible and flailed his legs and torso around, creating the appearance he was higher up than he was. In reality, AJ only let go of the cable once his body was maybe 7 feet off the ground. He was at the same height someone standing on the 2nd top rung of the ladder would be.
It was still a big bump, it's only that AJ did a really good job at making it look a lot bigger than it really was.
10 Got Wrong: Kevin Owens Injury
Details aren't too clear at the moment, but live reports from the show are that Kevin Owens had to be helped to the back after the main event. It is said he looked to be favouring his leg.
Owens took one big bump during the match, having been slammed onto a ladder by Sami Zayn and landing somewhat awkwardly. He does not appear to have injured his leg during that spot however.
Owens has been a big part of WWE programming ever since debuting on the main roster. Losing him for any extended period of time will hurt the brand. Owens is the kind of guy who could sit in on commentary for months or host his own interview segment, and still manage to keep himself relevant while not actually wrestling however.
9 Got Right: Fashion Files Miami Vice Style
WWE does a lot of bad comedy, but not here. Somehow, Tyler Breeze and Fandango have found away to take a series of amateur sketch comedy attempts and turn it into something legitimately entertaining.
Neither of these guys has ever been given anything good to do. Fandango was given the gimmick of a ballroom dancer, and Breeze as a guy who takes selfies all the time. That they managed to stay employed is something of a miracle. Then their talent for comedy was discovered in the Southpaw Regional Wrestling sketches. Following that, WWE gave them the opportunity to do some more bad comedy and they hit a home run!
They may have had their best sketch yet at Money in the Bank! Their hilarious take on the 80s show, Miami Vice, showed off how comfortable they have become in their characters.
8 Got Wrong: The Ascension Revealed As The Fashion Police's Opponents
One of the many loud groans the PPV generated was when the Ascension were revealed as Tyler Breeze and Fandango's mystery opponents.
After all those sketches of Breezeango trying to determine who it was that attacked them and destroyed their office, fans were given a 4 minute match involving a team nobody could possibly care about.
If it was going to be the Ascension revealed as the mystery team, there were ways to make it more entertaining. Perhaps Konnor and Viktor could have revealed they were secretly jealous of Breezeango's fashion style, and while originally they wanted a match with them, now they wanted a makeover. This would lead us to several future segments of Breezeango giving the Ascension a gimmick change.
While it will surely lead to something else down the road, this 4 minute match after weeks of mystery seemed a bit of a let down.
7 Got Right: Teasing Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles
Before Baron Corbin ruined everything, it looked as though the MITB match was going to come down to Nakamura vs. AJ Styles. The two one-time rivals in New Japan Pro Wrestling, locked eyes when they were both on either side of the ladder.
They moved the ladder out of the way, knowing they must finish off the other before they had any hope of continuing. For those who have seen AJ vs. Nakamura before, they know the two have are capable of blowing the roof off a building. They are two of the best active wrestlers on the planet. Many have suggested their first one-on-one meeting in WWE could take place at WrestleMania.
If that is the case, WWE has planted the seed early here.
6 Got Wrong: Neither Daniel Bryan nor Shane McMahon Attended Live
How are any of us supposed to treat this PPV as important when neither the GM nor Commissioner of Smackdown could be bothered to attend?
Daniel Bryan, mind you, just had a child, but why wasn't Shane there? It's the first ever women's MITB match and Shane couldn't be bothered to attend?
Of course this needed to be the case for the angle in the women's MITB match to make sense. After all, if one of them had been at the PPV to reverse the decision then the match would have continued, instead of everyone now waiting for Tuesday to get a decision.
Still, Shane only has to attend 4 tv shows and 1 PPV a month, you would think his character would find a way to be there in storyline, especially if Daniel Bryan can't be.
5 Got Right: Teased Briefcase Cashing In
Neither Shane nor Daniel Bryan being in attendance to rule on the decision, also allowed Carmella to almost cash in her briefcase later in the night.
While the stench of how she won the briefcase was still in the air, the teased briefcase cash-in by Carmella at the end of the Naomi vs. Lana match actually went quite well. The distraction allowed Lana to lose without looking weak, and it set up a possible program between Naomi and Carmella.
If anything, Carmella marching down to the ring with the briefcase reminded everyone that she is actually the briefcase holder, and not James Ellsworth. Even though the MITB match itself ended on a sour note, we still get the fun part of the briefcase stipulation, with Carmella teasing cash-ins up until the exciting moment she finally does take advantage of an opportunity.
4 Got Wrong: No Tye Dillinger
In a recent interview, Road Dogg, who is the head of Smackdown's creative team, stated that he is thrilled to have Tye Dillinger on his roster. This begs the question, so why doesn't he use him?
Dillinger beat Aiden English on the Backlash Kickoff show, and neither has been since on television since. Evidently there was no room on the Kickoff show this month for Tye, as it was important that the Hype Bros defeat the Colons.
Dillinger is a journeyman wresters, who now at 36 years of age, has finally hit the heights he had probably long been hoping for. He took the distant and painful route to the main roster, having once been released by the company. Some great matches in NXT, combined with a "Perfect 10" gimmick that fans embraced, and Dillinger should be able to provide something to the Smackdown roster.
3 Got Right: Randy Orton's Old School Offence
St. Louis is a city rich with wrestling history. It was more of an NWA or AWA territory than a WWE one back in the olden days however. As such, their wrestling heroes tend to have more of a deliberate, old school style. Randy Orton, who is from St. Louis, is no different.
Orton, who berated indy wrestlers recently with a series of "....dive" tweets, wrestled a very old school match against Jinder Mahal Sunday night.
Orton gave a shout-out to numerous old school wrestlers with different moves he used. The "Garvin Stomp" is a move Orton has used numerous times in the past (as well as on Sunday), and is a throwback to former NWA champion "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin. Most notably, Randy used a super-plex from the 2nd rope, the exact same move his father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, used as a finisher for years.
2 Got Wrong: It Felt Like Vince Russo Wrote the Show
Three interference finishes in important matches, and a match being won by a person who isn't of the same gender of the other competitors. Those are the hallmarks of a Vince Russo booked show. You don't think they would have hired him back, do you???
In fact, Russo has talked about discussing a WWE return with Vince McMahon recently. Luckily for WWE fans everywhere, it appears Vince McMahon was none-too-thrilled at the idea of him returning to the company.
It didn't seem like WWE was straying too far away from some of Russo's booking trends at MITB however. Naomi won on an interference, Carmella won via interference, the Usos just bailed on a match, and Jinder Mahal won based on interference. The only clean finishes on the show were the Hype Bros beating the Colons, the Fashion Police beating the Ascension, and to a certain extent the main event.
1 Got Right: St. Louis Crowd and St. Louis Legends
You have to hand it to WWE here. They featured great legends from St. Louis' history, even if those stars never wrestled for WWE.
The St. Louis crowd deserves a lot of credit as well. Even though they were treated to arguably the worst WWE PPV of the year, St. Louis did their level-best to get behind it. The poor crowd had to put up with their hometown hero losing (in exactly the same way he lost last month), a man winning the first ever women's MITB, the Usos bailing on a tag title match, and the general chicanery that was Money in the Bank 2017. Yet they were still willing to cheer and get loud during the main event.
They even kept trying to get behind the show when Nakamura was eliminated from the first 20 minutes of the main event. In the end, when Baron Corbin won, completing a night of disappointments, even the great effort of the St. Louis crowd could not save this show.