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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Money in the Bank 2015



Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review! This is ya boy Ro taking over for Stan today, and while we’d love to say that this is a monthly thing, the WWE’s desperation when it comes to getting new subscribers for the WWE Network has given us three special events in the span of five weeks. You already knew that, though, from all the complaints we’ve had about it, so it’s the last time we’ll speak of it.

At the end of the night, the lack of satisfying build-up didn’t really matter. The formula now for special events is that the story told in the build-up is of no consequence as long as the major plot decisions made during the live event deliver emotionally. It’s an abusive relationship, when you think about it—we get battered with inanity as the cycle moves up, then we fall in love (for the most part) at the climax, and then we get battered when it winds down again. The process repeats, and most of us can’t walk away from it.

Before I make this whole thing a huge downer, I will say that, at the very least, the climax was satisfying. (#Pause.) Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because like Drake, we must start from the bottom.

But wait, before we begin: the Dusty Rhodes tribute that you need to see, and made Renee Young break down on air.



Kick-off: King Barrett vs. R-Truth


What you need to know: Truth feels like he should be named King (King What’s Up, I kid you not) because he eliminated Barrett from the Elimination Chamber at, uh, Elimination Chamber. Barrett is being the low-key racist by saying Truth is a smelly commoner. Can you believe this guy won a two-day tournament last month, beating the guy who now has a shot at a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? You’d think monarchs would have better positions in the fake standings.

This is a story of “King Barrett should win” because, really, Truth is the court jester. But that didn’t happen, because this is the real life, this is not fantasy. Truth gets the better of Barrett with a simple pin. They didn’t sacrifice the Bullhammer, but they also didn’t make him go down to a finishing move. If this is how kings get treated, who would want to be a king in the WWE?

Money in the Bank Ladder Match


There were two narratives I saw play out on Twitter over the course of this match: one is that Roman Reigns is supposed to win because he’s Roman Reigns and we’re all taking his anointing as the “Future of the WWE” pretty seriously. (I’m sure we all rebelled against that six months ago.) Like there was no other plausible winner, except…

...the other narrative, which is Kofi winning the briefcase. We all went from “LOL WTF is Kofi doing in this match with these other guys, he’s just gonna do the flippity-floppity high-flier things off the ladder” to “damn, I really hope Kofi wins this.” People are reading way too much into Kofi vs. Brock Lesnar in Tokyo on July 4th, and while I still think that’s going to change, they thought Kofi had a real shot at winning the contract.

But nope; again, the WWE doesn’t work that way. It did throw a buzzard-sized wrench in its own gears as Bray Wyatt comes out to screw Reigns out of a win, so that they could feud and Sheamus—yes, Sheamus—could go grab the briefcase. It’s a huge buzzkill of a result, and I did call in the latest episode of the podcast that people would groan if either Sheamus, Orton, or Kane won. I guess this is why they got the namesake of the show out of the way, and that they’re stashing Sheamus for when they need the status quo to be broken. But I feel like the WWE owes Dolph Ziggler another world title run.

The match felt a step slow and uninspired, but I guess that’s what happens when you put them in a ladder match two weeks after an Elimination Chamber. Roman Reigns, the guy who is (in theory) supposed to look strong, felt like he was just a part of the crowd. He stayed down far too long, which is uncharacteristic of his character, and beyond the amazing leap to the outside, he was largely forgettable. That’s a far cry from his performance in the 2014 Royal Rumble match, where he got over simply by spearing and eliminating dudes left and right. If you want your crowds to actually like your guy, you have to actually make him look heroic. 



Paige vs. Nikki Bella (c) for the Divas Championship


There were two things that hurt this match.

One was the general apathy of the crowd toward the Divas. Yes, #GiveDivasAChance. I would very much love to, but Creative must be deliberately sabotaging the movement with all the fence-sitting everyone’s characters are doing. It’s most clear now that Paige is the face and the Bellas are heels, and I guess the good thing is that at least they acknowledged that nobody likes either of them. (Yay?) Nikki and Paige, however, were able to get over this handicap by working their pretty asses off and delivering a pretty solid match by the end, up until…

...Twin Magic struck again. This time, Paige was ready for it and even managed to pin Brie (as in 1-2-3), but Brie reveals the trickery, Nikki comes back in and blindsides Paige… and the referee counts it. What the actual fuck? The commentators were even questioning this as it was pretty sure the match was already over; the least they could’ve done was restart the whole thing. If they didn’t want to do that, why not just let Nikki leave with a DQ loss? It was a great heel move on paper, but ridiculously illogical in real life. They were almost there. They just didn’t quite get it.

To look on the bright side, this is exactly the type of thing the Bellas should be doing. They’re better as heels because they get that reaction so naturally, so the only thing left to do (or not do) is to turn them back faces in a couple of months. You have something again with #TitMagic. Don’t fuck it up.



The Big Show vs. Ryback (c) for the Intercontinental Championship


Oh, wait, this happened?


Owens/Cena II


Let’s get one thing straight: this was a good match. This was a really good match. It was one of the two honest-to-God good matches on the show.

But there was something lacking.

The whole thing felt like Cena and Owens were talking in the back after their match at Elimination Chamber and agreed that yes, crowds love spotfests, so let’s go and give them a bigger spotfest in the next match!

I guess you can say there was a story. Owens has proven himself to be unbeatable, so his mettle is Cena’s test of will and skill. Cena also cannot be put away that easily, so it’s a test to see if Owens can adapt. But you, the viewer, could only have arrived at that story if you really thought about it and looked past the barrage of big moves they were just displaying out there. It was haphazardly communicated in the middle of breathtaking, awe-inducing rare maneuvers that Cena apparently had in his bag all this time, like a CANADIAN DESTROYER—there was no sense of danger because both men were kicking out well before three. It was, easily, the most “indy” match Cena ever wrestled. Cena just stopped short of pulling a Davey Richards, where he would have gotten back up after a huge move and proceeded to kick Owens repeatedly in the head like nothing happened.


Unfortunately, not the Cenadian Destroyer. We're still looking for some photographic evidence.


The first match’s stakes felt more real. Every move was allowed to breathe, because anything could happen. In kayfabe, it was a question of whether the upstart Owens could defeat the hardy veteran Cena; in real life, it was a matter of whether they’d actually pull the trigger on a decisive Owens win. That drama was palpable. 

You can’t say the same about the rematch because the pace became a sprint, and the question had been reduced to “Can Cena get his win back, like he usually does?” The inevitable yes just doesn’t feel as dramatic, and it doesn’t help when both men shrug off big moves.

But I will admit that the match and post-match goings-on did make Owens look very strong in defeat, something that Rusev, Wyatt, or Ryback couldn’t say for themselves. There’s no reason to complain about the result, because Owens remains a threat; just ask the last guy he gave an apron powerbomb. I want him to take the win in the rubber match, but because it’s Cena, one cannot put too much faith in such a thought.

Prime Time Players vs. The New Day (c) for the Tag Team Championships


The Prime Time Players won after five minutes. I don’t mind it because I’d like to see these two teams trade the titles back and forth; they certainly deserve it.

A couple of questions, though: did the New Day lose because Kofi wasn’t able to come out with them? Does this mean that there is a hierarchy in the New Day, and that Kofi is the ace of the group? Addressing such concerns means that a team is due for a breakup, and a New Day breakup will be too damn soon. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.


We finally got that second coming out party.



Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (c) in a Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship


At Elimination Chamber, all expectations were for Rollins and Ambrose to top what Cena and Owens had done earlier that night. Should’ve been easy, right? These two have been working with each other for years. But that didn’t happen; their world title main event fell flat, apparently because it was leading up to a Dusty finish. (#RIPDream.) It was to set up the bigger rematch, because WWE PPVs are not culminating events—they’re just chapters of a bigger story. (At least they’re no longer $60 chapters.)

Anyway, I really loved this match by the end. I was a bit tuned out at the beginning because Cena/Owens was exhausting to watch, and Seth and Dean started cold at first gear. One would expect the ladders coming into play really early when you’re facing a guy you really hate, but apparently not.

They kept it really simple and flavorful, with Dean taking out all his frustrations on Seth and Seth trying to kneecap Dean to stop him from going up. The action and intensity ramped up organically, until it culminated in Seth pretty much murdering Dean and burying him under pounds of steel. And the best part? He did it all on his own. Steph and Hunter’s little boy has finally become a man. Is it weird that I felt really happy to see Seth win the match all by himself? A Seth match not ending with any sort of Authority interference is a cause for celebration, and a lot of you are underrating it.

This match was actually legalized attempted murder.


One other point of contention: not a lot of fans of that finish, but I thought it was the best way you can end a ladder match between equals. The typical ladder match ending, a guy ascending to the top with no opposition, feels a bit anticlimactic; yes, you beat out other people to earn an uninterrupted ride to the prize at the top, but the visual still presents no struggle. Why would there be? You already beat everyone else. However, to see both men fighting on top of the ladder at the very end, both willed by pure adrenaline is a sight to see, telling the best story you can tell in a ladder match. Maybe it could have been executed better; maybe Seth could have kicked Dean off his back one last time. But to have Seth wrench possession of the belt on the way down honors both competitors. Seth was not lucky; both of them were equals. Unlike other challengers who lost decisively, Dean still has a reason to stick around and play for the championship.

By the way, you also need to watch this post-match promo. Not sure if it's going to be part of his character moving forward or if it was just a poignant little tribute to Dusty, but we approve.


And in my opinion, that’s a show stealer. Why can’t every story be written like this?


*****

All that said, this year’s edition of Money in the Bank gets a B-. That happens when there’s really only two matches worth seeking it out for, but when the show is also better than Elimination Chamber. That’s not saying a lot, though, but it is still something. Can we stop killing your employees now, WWE? Lesnar is already coming back. You don’t need another special event in two weeks to kill them further.

What did you think of this year’s ladder extravaganza? Let us know in the comments!

Photos from WWE, gifs from Wrasslor Monkey

*****


Romeo Moran is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.

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