Money in the Bank is recognised informally as the fifth of the big WWE pay-per-views. It’s certainly a lot more exciting than Survivor Series in the age of the brand split. The Wild Card Rule has rendered brand distinctions rather blurry and so there are very few certainties in WWE today, other than the knowledge that Bray Wyatt’s ‘Firely Fun House’ will be the most entertaining thing on any show.
At least, the presence of the titular briefcase gives Money in the Bank something that fans can latch on to, and it looked set to give WWE an opportunity to get back on track and give people an idea of the stories to come.
But did it manage to do that? Let’s take a look at the show…
Kick-Off: The Usos defeated Daniel Bryan & Rowan via Double Uce on Bryan
This was pretty much the standard meaningless pre-show tag team match and, as such, it was fairly exciting. All four of these guys are great talents and so there was a lot of fun stuff at play, even if WWE did deliver its usual succession of distracting adverts throughout the Network stream of the match. The Usos picked up the win following a double splash on Daniel Bryan, pinning the SmackDown Live Tag Team Champions in a result that will presumably not matter even slightly because the Wild Card Rule has rendered the brand split entirely pointless.
Bayley defeated Carmella, Dana Brooke, Ember Moon, Mandy Rose, Naomi, Natalya and Nikki Cross to win the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Nikki Cross proved to be a rogue element early on, spinning the ladder around into the face of just about everyone. Mandy Rose trapped Carmella’s ankle in a ladder, triggering a tense moment in which Carmella seemed to legitimately tell Rose to get away so she could get medical attention. Soon after, she was helped to the back by officials, while Naomi performed a selection of quite incredible ladder stunts. The brutality kept coming as all seven remaining women took huge risks. Brooke took a nasty powerbomb into a ladder in the corner, while Moon dived from a ladder into the ring to hit the Eclipse on Natalya.
Carmella made her return and took out Rose with a vicious assault at ringside, revealing the injury was a work. Sonya Deville showed up to ensure Carmella couldn’t climb the ladder and, in a tremendous feat of strength, lifted Rose to the brink of victory in a fireman’s carry. Bayley rushed up to meet them though and shoved both members of Fire and Desire to the mat, allowing her to unhook the briefcase.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) May 19, 2019
In a post-match interview with Charly Caruso, Bayley said she was proud of what she had pulled off as part of her tag team with Sasha Banks, but said she had come to the Blue brand to make a statement, which she managed by winning what was a very good ladder match. Naomi was undoubtedly the star, with her stunning athleticism, but Bayley feels like the right choice for a winner who can go ahead with real story momentum at their back.
Rey Mysterio defeated Samoa Joe via roll-up to become the new United States Champion
In a call-back to their WrestleMania 35 match, this was a brief affair. This time, though, it was Mysterio who came out on top after capturing Joe with a headscissors into a roll-up. Joe had his left shoulder up during the pinfall, which was heavily discussed by the commentators and will definitely set up a rematch down the road. Somehow, Joe had managed to get busted open in the one minute or so the match ran for, and this made him look all the more terrifying when he ran back into the ring to destroy Mysterio as his son Dominik watched.
This storyline is clearly set to run further, with Dominik’s involvement almost certainly set to get more active in the coming weeks and months. This time around, it was absolutely more segment than match.
Shane McMahon defeated The Miz by escaping the steel cage
McMahon, perhaps unsurprisingly, tried the standard heel approach of attempting to scramble up the walls of the cage and escape early on. Miz was having none of it, but the Best in the World soon took control, slamming Miz into the steel and setting up for Coast to Coast. The A-Lister caught McMahon and locked in the Figure Four, but Shane tried to crawl out through the door of the cage. Miz pulled him back in, but McMahon brought a chair with him. It was Miz who took custody of the weapon, though, and peppered Shane with shots, culminating in a Skull-Crushing Finale on the chair.
Miz covered McMahon, but he got his foot on the ropes. The announcers, and indeed the crowd, reacted like this was somehow an example of Shane’s corporate influence, when actually it’s simply a manifestation of actual wrestling rules – someone with their foot on the ropes is technically outside the ring and therefore not able to be pinned, regardless of No DQ rules, unless it’s a Falls Count Anywhere match. Miz went for a second Skull-Crushing Finale, this time from the top rope, but McMahon battled out and tried to escape again.
The babyface met McMahon at the top of the cage and, after slamming his face against the steel mesh a few times, dragged him painfully to the mat. Miz then hit the world’s ugliest Frog Splash for a two count, with McMahon almost immediately locking in a triangle. With Miz prone, McMahon tried to escape again, but Miz met him at the top rope and attempted to hoist McMahon up and over for a superplex in an echo of their WrestleMania contest. McMahon, though, slipped out of his shirt and to the floor, winning the bout. This lacked a lot of the energy of their WrestleMania match, and should definitely mark the end of the rivalry. Especially as WWE seems set on Shane feuding with literally everyone.
Cruiserweight Champion Tony Nese defeated Ariya Daivari via running knee
It was a pleasant surprise to see the Cruiserweight belt make it out of the kick-off show wasteland and on to the main card, especially with a very solid match. I’ll hand over to our far more informed 205 Live expert Humza Hussain for the review of this one…
The past few months have seen a positive run of pay-per-view outings for 205 Live, but the early stages of Tony Nese vs. Ariya Daivari made me fear that good run was about to come to an end. Daivari does not have the athleticism or natural ability that a lot of cruiserweights possess, and that was clear for all to see in this match. Two clunky spots, which came during Daivari’s period of offence nearly derailed this match, and almost left Nese with a dud on his first big show as champion.
Thankfully, the match began to flow as it wore on; as Nese looked like a man on a mission as every aerial manoeuvre felt like it had extra gusto. The ending gave us two great nearfalls, one coming after Nese kicked out of his opponents’ finisher. Daivari did his part in the back and forth exchanges, but it was thanks to Tony Nese that this match ended on a high note. In the end, Nese retained in a weaker bout compared to his recent standards. However, considering the rough start, it wasn’t a bad night for the champion.
RAW Women’s Champion Becky Lynch defeated Lacey Evans via submission with the Dis-Arm-Her
Becky Lynch’s tough night started with Lacey Evans, who entered the ring firing dollar bills from a pair of gun-type things, despite the fact money has never been a part of her character and no one else felt the need to lean quite so hard into the whole Money in the Bank idea. Even Shane McMahon. And his entrance theme is literally about money.
Evans dominated the early part of the match, with the Sassy Southern Belle working on the Champion’s left arm. Adding insult to injury, he forced her sweaty handkerchief into Lynch’s face. This just fired up Becky Two Belts and she fought back with the Bexploder. Evans didn’t stay down for long, though, hitting a rope-assisted cutter and a vicious knee to cone within a second of winning the title. The challenger took advantage of a distracted referee to hit a chopblock and rolled up Lynch who, after some weird hesitation from the referee, countered into the Dis-Arm-Her for the instant submission.
This was a decent showing and particularly served to establish Evans as a real contender in the division. It’s not going to win any Match of the Year prizes, but it was an enjoyable contest.
Charlotte Flair defeated Becky Lynch via big boot to become the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion
As Lynch celebrated her victory over Evans, Charlotte Flair appeared, hoping to take advantage of the exhausted champion. Flair tried to pick the bones, but Lynch fought back with intensity and fire, as we have come to expect from her. The challenger attempted the Natural Selection on the apron, but Lynch held on to the rope and Flair crashed to the floor at ringside. For reasons that didn’t make any sense, Becky decided she wanted to win by count-out, sending the referee off to count Flair. This left her vulnerable to an interfering Evans, who hit the Woman’s Right and seemed pleased about possibly handing the belt to someone else. Nope, I didn’t get it either.
Flair rushed back into the fray and tried for a suplex, but Lynch rolled her up for what looked like a three count. The referees were clearly told to act even more incompetent than usual on this show. Flair hit a big boot on Lynch and pinned her to win the title. This was a disjointed mess that never really felt as good as a match between these two should. The new champion and Evans teamed up to beat down Lynch after the bell, until Bayley and her briefcase rushed to the ring.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN LIVE on @WWENetwork…
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) May 20, 2019
Bayley defeated Charlotte Flair via an elbow drop to become the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion
The Hugger seemed to even the odds on behalf of Lynch and was eventually left in the ring with Flair. After throwing her into the turnbuckle, she cashed in her briefcase. Bayley dragged Flair to the centre of the ring and hit a diving elbow drop for the pinfall. She celebrated with the fans, who admirably reacted better for her than any crowd has for about two years.
None of the booking here made anything even close to sense, but WWE clearly wanted to shift a belt on to Bayley without having her pin Lynch. Bayley is always on a fine tightrope between being the hottest babyface on the roster and an “eww, she’s too squeaky clean” boo magnet in the Roman Reigns mould. This was likely deemed the best way to get her into the main event while keeping her teetering on that rope.
Roman Reigns defeated Elias via a spear
As Reigns walked the corridors of the building before the contest, Elias appeared behind him and broke a guitar across his back. Elias then made his way out to the ring. He sung about how awful Hartford, Connecticut, is and declared that he didn’t love anyone in the audience before making his way back up the ramp, promising to “get the hell out of Hartford”. Reigns’s music hit and The Big Dog hit a Superman Punch on Elias on the stage. He rolled the arrogant singer back into the ring and, as soon as the bell rang, he hit a spear for the victory.
This is the sort of Reigns booking that WWE can just about get away with at the moment and, on a card that seemed so crammed on paper, it’s a mercy to have some of the segments turn out to be a lot shorter than others. The company is going to have to find a real direction for its biggest star soon, though.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins defeated AJ Styles via a Stomp
Two of the best in-ring workers in WWE today squared off in a highly anticipated match, with the Universal Championship on the line. There was a lengthy feeling out process as the two competitors sized each other up, with Rollins getting the first sustained advantage, until Styles tried for a Styles Clash off the apron and was then able to hit a nasty sliding knee on the champion. Rollins hit a pair of suicide dives, but then saw a ripcord knee attempt countered into an Ushigoroshi.
A buckle bomb and terrific Frog Splash – Miz, take note! – got two for Rollins and a reverse superplex into an inverted falcon arrow earned the champion another near fall. Styles locked his opponent in the Calf Crusher and subsequently came out on top of an incredible battle of traded strikes. Eventually, Rollins was able to battle through and land his signature stomp for the win.
This was a very well-executed back and forth contest between two terrific performers. At times, it felt a little mechanical without much of a story behind it, but both men are so good between the ropes that it was impossible not to enjoy the match. Styles and Rollins exchanged a handshake of respect afterwards, and I very much hope they continue to tangle in the coming weeks. On the basis of this, they have a classic in them.
The three members of Lucha House Party made their way to the ring in buoyant form, preparing for six-man tag team action. They cut a garbled promo about how much they love Money in the Bank and then Lars Sullivan showed up. He made short work of Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado at ringside and then managed to split his own head open with a headbutt on Kalisto, followed by a running powerbomb.
As entertaining as it is to watch Sullivan beat the heck out of unsuspecting babyfaces, he’s going to need a storyline eventually.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston defeated Kevin Owens via Trouble in Paradise
Owens dominated the champion early, flattening him with a Frog Splash from the apron to the floor. Kingston fought back with a brutal double stomp on the apron, but got caught with a superkick when he tried for a dive to the outside. An intricate sequence of counters ended with Kingston hitting a SOS for two, but he then found himself locked in a Boston Crab after Owens caught Trouble in Paradise. Kingston then wriggled out of an attempted stunner and was able to hit Trouble in Paradise, only for Owens to roll out to the floor.
Back in the ring, Owens finally hit the stunner, but Kingston was able to reach out and grab the bottom rope. An attempted Swanton Bomb from the challenger saw Kingston drive his knees into his back. He hit another Trouble in Paradise to score the win and retain his belt. This was, without doubt, the best match of the night. Kingston’s title reign continues his inspiring story and both men here conjured a rapidly shifting battle of wits and counters that culminated in a satisfying finish.
Brock Lesnar defeated Ali, Andrade, Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor, Randy Orton and Ricochet to win the Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Earlier in the night, we witnessed the macabre image of Sami Zayn dangling upside down, having been discovered by a rampaging Braun Strowman. The Monster Among Men was banned from the arena and an empty spot lingered in the main event ladder match. The remaining seven competitors, however, created more than enough carnage, as Michael Cole delivered one of his most passionate performances in years. As someone who has commentated on more or less every iteration of this match ever staged, he seemed stunned by every single ladder spot.
There was babyface fire, heel ingenuity and flat-out daredevil chaos as everyone tried to grab the briefcase. Finn Balor seemed to bear the brunt of the biggest moments, including a ridiculous sunset flip powerbomb on to a ladder bridge by Andrade and a handful of devastating shots from Drew McIntyre. Ali and Ricochet, meanwhile, fulfilled the high-flying quota with suicide dives, absurd bumps and a Spanish Fly off the ladder from Ali to Andrade.
Just as things seemed to be going the way of Ali, however, Brock Lesnar’s music hit and, for some reason, he slotted himself in as the eighth competitor in the match. He knocked out at least three cameramen on his way to the ring, dealt with Ali and then scaled the ladder to nab the briefcase. It was something of an anti-climax after such a memorable demolition derby, and Lesnar’s return isn’t entirely welcome, but it certainly delivered as a genuine surprise.
— WWE (@WWE) May 20, 2019
This year’s Money in the Bank was emblematic of so much of WWE’s recent output. The performers worked their socks off and most of the action really worked but, from a storytelling perspective, there’s no clarity or logic. With the Wild Card Rule wreaking havoc and the Superstar Shake-Up never really getting chance to take effect, it’s a chaotic time in the WWE. Money in the Bank was fun, for sure, but it was seldom coherent.
All images courtesy of WWE.com