I hate to be the guy to bash WWE. Trust me when I say that, I hate to be “that guy”. Like Ricardo said on our post-Wrestlemania podcast, there is enough WWE bashing out there on the interwebs, we don’t need to add to it. Unfortunately, sometimes booking is so bad, so incredibly terrible that you can’t not talk about it. Adding to the misfortune is when WWE has a full week of questionable booking – like this week.
Money in The Bank
So let’s start at the beginning of the week with Money in The Bank. Now, I will begin by saying that none of the booking decisions from Money in The Bank on their own were too bad. But as these things usually go, context is important.
The show opens with the FIRST EVER WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH! (TM) The match in and of itself is a little uninspiring. There aren’t the typical big ladder spots that we are used to. Charlotte does her typical flip off the top rope. A couple of the ladies get pushed off the ladder once or twice, but for the most part it’s a largely boring match by the standards of most MITB matches. Then we get the finish. Listen, I am all for heels heeling to win a match. But to end the FIRST EVER WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH! (TM) with a man, James Ellsworth, pulling down the briefcase and handing it to his friend who is a girl, Carmella, was just asinine. I would have been willing to look past it too if this was the only booking issue on the show. But by gawd there was more.
So we go from the Women’s MITB match to the Tag Team Titles match of the Usos vs The New Day. These teams are always capable of putting on a show, which they did. I understand, to some degree, wanting to delay New Day’s Smackdown tag champs coronation until SummerSlam or to even just a month from now at Battleground. But to run an intentional count-out finish after the results of the first match, pretty rough booking decision. Maybe the challenge here is the heel-heavy status of WWE right now, but man it got worse.
Next up on the docket was the Women’s Title match between Naomi and Lana. Naomi, for the record, is still the only clear babyface champion in WWE. Yes, you read that correctly, in the entire WWE. So we have this match, it was what we expected it to be, not much of a match. Lana is not ready for that type of main roster push (as I quiver in fear about the prospect of her winning this week). To spice up the match WWE ran a cash-in tease. A Carmella cash-in could have worked. The false cash-in however, only succeeded in unnecessarily muddying the finish of an already underwhelming match.
Next up was the WWE title match. I won’t say much about this. The match was good for what it was. There was a story to the match, which depending on how you feel about it, either worked or just didn’t matter. Jinder retained, which I imagine is only leading to him being sacrificed at the altar of John Cena’s record-setting seventeenth title reign. To be honest, as much as I supported the idea of Jinder Mahal becoming WWE champion, WWE has done little to make this matter in any meaningful way.
Now, I say this with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but arguably the most disappointing booking decision on this card was not having American Alpha be revealed as Breezango’s attackers. No one cares about the Ascension at this point. I imagine they will be going the route of the Vaudevillains as soon as AOP gets the call-up from NXT. They have a much more interesting gimmick and the benefit off Paul Ellering. The Ascension are just another example of WWE not knowing what to do with NXT guys when they get called up.
In all honesty, the worst booking decision of the night, particularly because it happened after the mess of the rest of the ppv, was to have Baron Corbin beat up Shinsuke Nakamura before the men’s MITB match even started. People will argue that his eventual comeback and house of fire few minutes, as well as the staredown and face-off with AJ Styles made it worth it. But after everything else that happened on this night, this was a dumb move. Watching the match live, the immediate aftermath of this moment was a dead crowd. They eventually got back into it – which, kudos to St. Louis for being the best crown placed in the worst situation on ppv in a while – but that doesn’t make the decision right. Baron Corbin was always the most obvious candidate for winning this match, so no real commentary here. Unfortunately the Shinsuke attack wasn’t the end of WWE’s bad booking decisions this week.
Roman Reigns. I get it. WWE has decided to let you be a heel to their adult male audience while remaining a face to kids and women. On some meta level, I imagine this works for them. But to open Raw with Roman just declaring that he is the next contender for the Universal Title undid a lot of the goodwill that Raw had earned over the last few weeks with making Joe the number one contender. We get it Vince, Roman is your guy, but you had the perfect counter to this announcement sitting there the whole time.
Yes, WWE did eventually get this right by having Braun return and cost Roman his match against Joe, but this fan would have approved much more if Braun just came out and destroyed Roman as soon as he came out to make the announcement. You know the fans are all in on Braun, push the Roman announcement back a week or two or four. Let Braun interrupt Roman at every turn until he finally got the opportunity to make the announcement. But no, now we shift the focus from Joe as an awesome number one contender back to Roman waiting in the wings for his title opportunity. Way to suck all the fun out of this WWE. Way to go.
For the record, I am okay with the split of Enzo and Cass. I would have preferred if Corey Graves, Investigative Reporter, was not involved and if they had run the reveal after the first “attack” on Cass, but nonetheless, this was fine.
I am not as mad about Smackdown’s booking this week. I will say, Carmella should win the rewind of the MITB match. Much like Alexa Bliss, she showed something really impressive on the mic this past week. Her ability to spin the heat that WWE was getting back on to her and Ellsworth was genius. It makes me realize why they were giving her the briefcase in the first place. Like Alexa last year, she can go on the mic and that will take her far.
One note, the best booking decision of the week was the return of Daniel Bryan. What a breath of fresh air he was for WWE programming in general. I hope we get to watch Daniel in this role for a long time as he is the perfect counter balance to so much of the heel negativity on the roster. I worry that his desire to wrestle again will lead him out of the WWE and out of this role, but man we should really cherish him for as long as we have him as GM.
In saying all of the above, I will say that WWE has an opportunity to course correct over the next few weeks. There are two ppvs left before SummerSlam – Great Balls of Fire for Raw and Battleground for Smackdown Live. We now have the possibility of MITB cash-ins, John Cena’s “free agent” return, a Samoa Joe title run, another round of demolition of Roman Reigns and so much more. Here is hoping that SummerSlam lives up to being the smark Wrestlemania as it has been in the past and WWE moves past a rough week or so of really bad booking decisions. Sometimes all we have is the hope of better.