The card for Money in the Bank is stacked as hell. Which champions and challengers set out to gain the upper hand just one week from the event? Let’s dive on in and see.
WWE Raw Champions
The Universal Title
Apparently, Brock isn’t scheduled to defend his Universal Championship until SummerSlam which is a very, very long time away indeed. I know that Brock’s absence creates a big gaping hole in this feature, so I’ve decided that if a member of the Raw roster becomes Mr Money in the Bank, he will take the champ’s spot in this article.
Until then, let’s just move on to a champion that always shows up: Seth Freakin’ Rollins.
The Intercontinental Title
Raw opened this week with Elias. He ran down Rollins, playing the clip where he took the IC Champ out with his guitar, and he strummed a lovely little ditty to accompany the clip, too. The Architect hit the ring to shut The Drifter up, but interference from Jinder Mahal, followed by a save courtesy of Roman Reigns, set up for a tag match between the heels and the faces.
The bout was pretty decent. Rollins was the top man in the match, selling a neck injury throughout, and even taking what I thought was a genuinely bad bump when he crashed into the barricade head first doing a Suicide Dive. The Modern Day Maharaja kept The Big Dog out of the end sequence by throwing him into the crowd. This led to Sunil Singh baiting Rollins with a chair which Rollins was eventually DDT’d into by Elias. Following up on the DDT, Elias hit the Drift Away on the IC Champ to pick up the win.
Seth did a great job in selling his neck issues, the DDT, and Drift Away. The man just looked like a rag doll out for the count. It was nice to see Elias get a victory on Rollins, too. It looks like The Drifter has The Architect’s number which will surely lead to a more intense match at Money in the Bank next Sunday.
The Raw Women’s Title
After definitely turning heel last week (she did, she damn well did), Nia Jax was back to being a babyface in a match against Natalya. And joining the commentary team yet again was Ronda Rousey.
I felt like the bout between Jax and Natalya was a tad too slow. Jax does her best work against fast and charismatic opponents, whereas Natalya is more methodical and technical. That said, it wasn’t a terrible clash by any means, and both women obviously put effort into the bout. After tweaking her knee, WWE’s biggest cat lover found herself flat on her back for the three-count, thanks to a Samoan Drop from The Irresistible Force. After the match and in a backstage segment, Ronda Rousey was acting like Nia was completely at fault for Natalya’s injury. The sequence ended with the Canadian hobbling away from all the bickering between the MitB opponents.
There was nothing particularly enjoyable about the Raw Women’s Title scene this week. The match was a bit below average, Ronda was horrible on commentary (“Ripe for the picking is what my husband calls me.” What does that even mean?), and I’m not quite sure whether WWE wants Jax to be a face or heel. Who are we meant to be cheering? My expectations for the Jax / Rousey match have hit rock bottom. Maybe they can salvage something from this wreck next week.
The Raw Tag Team Titles
Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt took a break from deleting teams this week in favour of letting the other teams delete each other. But before the battle royal to determine the new No. 1 contenders to the Raw Tag Team Titles started, the champions came out to send the soon-to-be winners a warning.
Bray said the duo who would go on to face him and Hardy would not be facing men; they would be facing Woken Warriors! Matt went on further to say they are unmatched, unbeaten, and unstoppable. The winners of the battle royal will know what it’s like to suffer and then they will be… DELETED!
The BR itself was really naff, but the comedy pairing of The B-Team came out on top, and will soon face the Deleters of Worlds for their Raw Tag Team Titles.
Matt & Bray were excellent on the mic this week. There was so much passion and conviction in their voices. I like that Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas are getting some decent wins, too. Obviously, it will be a massive upset if The B-Team wins the titles, and it will probably kill a lot of Matt & Bray’s aura, but I really do hope they get a chance to look strong. I predict the match will be fun though, no matter which team holds the straps after the final bell.
The Cruiserweight Title
The champion wasn’t on 205 Live this week, but his former opponent, Buddy Murphy, refused to rest. Looking to stay in the title scene, Murphy fought Mustafa Ali in the main event of the cruiserweight show to prove he deserves another shot at Alexander.
Murphy and Ali just have the most amazing chemistry in the ring. Once again, they proved why they are future champions, not just in the cruiserweight division, but in the midcard and possibly even the world title scene, as well. The bout was called off after interference by Hideo Itami. The Japanese superstar took both men out, standing tall to close the show.
When Itami was first called up to 205 Live, many speculated he would go straight to the top of the division. After months of being one of the most forgettable stars on the roster, it looks like he’s coming back with a bang to remind everyone why so many people considered him the future of WWE. Itami is great in the ring and he’s a new challenger to the title. If he becomes the no. 1 contender, Alexander might very well drop the belt.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura met this week to make their Last Man Standing match official. In what was a nice change, the contract signing took place backstage as opposed to in the ring with a smarky crowd chanting for violence.
Nakamura played his mind games perfectly and oh so simply. Without even putting pen to paper, he said his pen was out of ink, and when he borrowed AJ’s, he said it too was broken. The champion snapped and slapped Nakamura in the face, leading to him being escorted away by two agents. Happy at getting under The Phenomenal One’s skin, The King of Strong Style signed the contract, and left the meeting room.
I don’t usually like pointless contract signings, but this one was fine. It’s great when someone doesn’t get put through the table because it makes a change from the norm. Add to that the great low-key heel work by Nakamura, and you get a short and entertaining segment. Good job.
The US Title
Where is that nefarious Brother Nero? This is two weeks on the trot!
With the Money in the Bank Ladder matches taking centre stage — and with a card that’s already stacked — I’ve come to the conclusion Jeff and his US Championship are being kept off TV until next Sunday is over. No one appears to be clamouring for a shot at Hardy’s title, but even so, I feel as though the champ should be in a backstage segment at least.
The SmackDown Women’s Title
After the lukewarm reaction she got last week, ‘Mella was back on form in Corpus Christi. Carmella opened the show to expose Asuka for the defeated loser she is, and she worked the crowd beautifully; the comment about the guy drooling because ‘Mella is even hotter in real life than she is on TV being a particular favourite line of mine.
Asuka came out to confront the Women’s Champ, but she was immediately interrupted by Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville. After some back and forth, and a little GM magic via Paige, Asuka agreed to take on Rose & Deville in a handicap match, with Carmella joining the boys on commentary.
Much like last week, The Princess of Staten Island was just too repetitive on commentary. If she has to be ringside for Asuka’s matches, I feel like she should stick to trash-talking from the outside. Carmella did her best to make The Empress of Tomorrow lose, but it was game over for the former Absolution stable mates after Deville found herself caught in the Asuka Lock. Post-match, Carmella attacked Asuka, hitting a Super Kick to stand tall.
It took a while, but there’s finally been a serious altercation between the champion and the challenger. With only one more SmackDown broadcast to go before MitB, I feel as though Carmella has been screwed over by not competing in the ring regularly. Her mic skills won’t carry her to a good match, as proved when she took on Charlotte Flair. The title match is going to be a bust, but at least the ride there was pretty funny.
The SmackDown Tag Team Titles
It feels like a lifetime since either of The Bludgeon Brothers competed in a match, but this week broke that trend. Harper looked to assert his dominance over Karl Anderson in a one-on-one bout, with their respective tag partners at ringside.
Things started bad for Anderson. He received the jobber entrance, took a dropkick right from the off, and he was decimated throughout the whole match. Harper missed a kick in the corner which gave Anderson an opportunity to end the match. With Harper rattled, Anderson rolled up the tag champ for the victory, and he and Luke Gallows took straight to the back.
This was a fairly average segment. Harper looked very strong and domineering, and it was nice to see him in the ring for once. Anderson sold every attack well, and his win makes it look like he and Gallows have a real chance of becoming champions at MitB. But all in all, it wasn’t that exciting and it was a very short match, too. I’ve no doubt their clash at the PPV will be much better, but I’m not massively invested in what’s going on.
Next week is the final chance for the champions and the challengers to build up a head of steam for MitB. Most of the champions seem to be on the back foot, so will they break before their title matches? Come back next week to get all the fallout.