I made the mistake of tuning in a few minutes early and thus was subjected to the pre-show, where I had to hear Booker T attempt to explain to Renee and Rosenberg why having absolutely no experience in Ladder Matches was actually an advantage and not a disadvantage as Renee had claimed. What a dumbass.
MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Tamina vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella (w/James Ellsworth) - 5.5/10
So all of the women make their entrances and now it's time for the match to start, right? Of course not. Because they had to do their "look at us making history! Isn't it so interesting how we're making history? PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO US!" video package. NO ONE GIVES A SH*T ABOUT YOUR WOMEN'S REVOLUTION/EVOLUTION/WHATEVER THE F*CK YOU'RE CALLING IT THIS WEEK! WE JUST WANT TO SEE THE WRESTLING MATCHES!
The other reason I didn't like this video package is slightly related to something I touched on in the previous paragraph. WWE PR has been all in on this "Women's Revolution" messaging, so as a result this video package was mostly about the collective history of women's wrestling in WWE and how all of these women are making history and this new generation is doing things that women have never been allowed to do before etc. etc., but as a result this video package had way too much of a team/"we" feel than an every woman for herself match should have.
I would also be remiss if I did not point out that despite WWE's desire to show everyone how totally feminist/pro women's empowerment they are, they are having the winner of this match be referred to as "Miss Money in the Bank." Shouldn't it be "Ms."? And while we're talking about issues related to feminism, allow me to chuckle at Tamina talking about living up to her family's legacy and yet not having her last name or who she is related to ever mentioned because the person in question almost certainly murdered his girlfriend while working for WWE. If you want to avoid this problem, why don't you work on trying to give Tamina some sort of personality of her own that she could talk about rather than just falling back on "I'm a second-generation Superstar" and having her be defined entirely by her father (which, again... not very feminist).
The ladies took some bumps, but it really wasn't much. The bar for Ladder Matches has been set quite high, and they didn't come anywhere near it. The biggest spot of the match- Charlotte's dive- didn't even involve a ladder. Then there's the finish. James Ellsworth goes up and gets the briefcase for Carmella. I am of the opinion that, according to the rules of the match Carmella is definitely the winner, no doubt about it, and I understand that they're trying to use this to get heat, but...
1) There are idiot fans out there that will pop for anything Ellsworth does because they think he's funny (because that's what some fans come to wrestling shows for nowadays, apparently) and as a result those people popped here whereas they wouldn't if Ellsworth had merely tipped the ladder over on Becky and then Carmella did the climbing the ladder and pulling the briefcase down on her own would have.
2) More importantly, whether they did it to get heat or did it to be funny, they took this match which they kept telling us was a big, historic moment for women, and they made it about a man. That is completely contrary to the messaging they send out (and the fact that they will continue that messaging even though the product they put out doesn't match up to that message is big issue, but not one I will discuss here, for brevity's sake), and shows an inability to understand what how to make their female Superstars into the heroines for women all over the world that WWE desperately wants them to be. No matter where they go with this, the fact remains that in the first ever women's Ladder Match, the only person to successfully climb the ladder and pull down the briefcase was a man. The woman who won did not do so on her own, but was almost literally handed the victory by her boyfriend, who did the hard work for her. Yes, they're heels, and you're supposed to dislike them, but this is too far. Like having a world champion who must cheat all of the time in order to win (more on Jinder later) will eventually damage the overall concept of the champion being the best wrestler in the division, so too does having a woman get a victory handed to her by her boyfriend completely stain the idea that this whole division is about empowering women.
DASHA INTERVIEWS LANA WHILE COSPLAYING AS STEPH - Lana's promo was good. Dasha was not. She came across like an idiot for not being able to remember what should have been basic, simple lines. Then again, maybe I shouldn't be too hard on her. When was the last time we heard someone in WWE talking about the champion being "ranked #1."
For all of their pushing of Punjabi-speaking Jinder, they don't even have a Punjabi announce team yet. That seems like something you should have if you're trying to market to a Punjabi-speaking audience.
NEW DAY PROMO - STOP WASTING TIME ON MY F*CKING PPV!
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Usos(c) vs. The New Day (w/Xavier Woods) - 6.25/10
Kofi was the babyface in peril. They had some good twists and turns, but Kofi should have sold his knee better after the knee-killer combo, and I absolutely hated that spot where Xavier distracted The Usos. What does that do other than taint the babyfaces' victory with their own heelish cheating? Then we had the finish, where The Usos just walked out and retained their titles by count-out. YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS FINISH ON A PPV! Maybe once or twice each year is okay. This is the sort of finish you do on TV to set up the PPV match!
They had four weeks to build up this match, but instead they kept New Day off TV for two of them so the champions could continue to feud with the comedy jobbers they just beat at the previous PPV (and despite said comedy jobbers' cheating, might I add). Then New Day finally showed up after at least a month of "coming soon" graphics, and were immediately handed a tag title shot, which we found out about at the end of a talking segment with the champs. Only then, once they had already been given this title shot, did we give them a win on the go-home show to attempt to establish any sort of credibility.
What they should have done with that time instead is do that first promo segment one week. Then, the next week, have Shane meet with New Day backstage and say that he will give them the same opportunity he gave Charlotte when she came to Smackdown: if they can beat the champs in a non-title match he will give them a title shot (as a side note, did you notice how none of the tag teams formed a "Welcoming Committee" to bitch about New Day getting a title shot? That's because WWE has no idea how to book female heels without them being catty). You have them be about to win but have The Usos, knowing that they are beat, get counted out on purpose. Shane would announce that New Day will get the title shot at the PPV. The Usos will try to argue that New Day's win shouldn't count because the titles wouldn't have changed hands if it was a title match so New Day haven't actually proven that they can take the titles from them and thus don't deserve a title shot, but Shane would instead declare that if the Usos get counted out at the PPV, the title belts will change hands. Then you do your PPV match with The Usos finding some other way to cheat them out of the titles (because G-d forbid someone win a match cleanly). You wind up in the same place (New Day vs. Usos feud still ongoing with Usos as the champs but New Day having clear cause to ask for a rematch), but you 1) don't do a sh*tty finish on PPV 2) actually build the feud up before the PPV in more than one segment 3) avoid making Shane look like a hypocrite for giving some people title shots without them having to earn it but insisting that others earn their title shots, and 4) make it feel like this story is actually progressing.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Naomi(c) vs. Lana - 4/10
Well... this match exceeded my expectations on just about every front. Even JBL's commentary was actually helpful! Unfortunately this was another match that didn't get a clean finish. Like with Xavier's trumpeting in the last match, we had a situation where the heels was clearly in a dominant position but someone caused a distraction which bought the babyface time to recover. Actually, in this case it was someone showing up completely at random rather than one of the babyface's friends doing something explicitly for the sake of distracting the heel, so New Day are more heelish than Lana, who is an actual heel. Hooray for WWE booking.
The distraction here was Carmella showing up to tease cashing in her newly-won Money in the Bank Briefcase... although I have to wonder why she wouldn't just wait until the match was over so that she'd only have one opponent to deal with rather than two and that opponent would be even more weakened.
Carmella decided not to cash in because... um...
Let's be honest here: the reason Carmella didn't cash in was because the primary purpose of her appearance here was to satiate WWE Creative's inexplicable obsession with teasing Money in the Bank cash-ins. It feels like every year unless the person cashes MITB in right away they book at least one tease every few weeks for the entirety of the summer, and the sad part about this is that they don't even seem to realize that while does get the immediate cheap pop right then and there, all this really does is trains the fans to not believe that any cash-in is real so they don't pop as loudly until we actually get a bell being rung.
The saddest part, perhaps, is that, when you think about it, Carmella cashing in her Money in the Bank contract tonight would have made perfect sense. They had already showed us a Tweet from Daniel Bryan saying that he wasn't happy with the finish of MITB and it would be dealt with first thing on Smackdown, so if I'm Carmella, I'm worried that Bryan is going to nullify my win and I will lose MITB if I don't use it tonight. But I'm absolutely certain that never even went through the minds of the people who book this sh*t because neither logic not thinking through the consequences of their actions has ever been their strong suit. Nor, unfortunately, those of most bookers of the past three decades.
FASHION FILES BULLSH*T - On a f*cking PAY-PER-VIEW! We're getting a match where we will find out who attacked Tyler Breeze last week. Why not just do the reveal on TV and maybe try to build up to your match?
Hearts? What new manner of stupid could they possibly be- HOLY SH*T IT'S MIKE & MARIA!
Bennett is going by Maria's last name. Wonderful... but why are we wasting PPV time on a promo?
They recap the "controversy" surrounding the finish of the women's MITB match, then they show us what Shane Tweeted about it. What a lazy bastard. If you don't like it then come out here and do something about it. The announcers tease that Bryan and Shane will do something about this on Smackdown. Again... why doesn't Shane just do something about it right now?
JINDER MAHAL VIDEO PACKAGE - ON A F*CKING PPV!
INTRODUCTION OF THE "ST. LOUIS LEGENDS" - Why are we cheering Baron Von Raschke? Has he even disavowed white supremacy yet? It'd be kind of great if Jinder worked this into a promo, but we all know that won't happen because in the world of WWE, once you retire everything you did becomes fake aside from the titles you won because I guess we're supposed to think those are legit?
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jinder Mahal(c)(w/the Singh Brothers) vs. Randy Orton - 7/10
This is now the third straight match where the heel has targeted the babyface's knee. That's not the sort of thing we see in Randy Orton matches particularly often so I liked it as a change of pace, and they did a very good job of telling that story until it got derailed by yet another bad finish. If the Singh Brothers wanted to cause a DQ so badly, why didn't they just run in and attack Randy? Instead they menace his father, which is definitely a heelish, but I really don't feel bad for Randy because of the number of times he's done this exact same thing to others.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Randy beats up the Singh Brothers using the announcers' tables. This buys time for Jinder to recover and hit Randy with the Khalas for the win. So yeah. The same f*cking finish as last month. Kind of makes Shane look like an idiot for not doing anything to prevent the heel from cheating the exact same way he did last time. They built up to this match by having Jinder cut the same exact promo every week that he had cut in the build-up to last month's match, and now they gave us the exact same finish as that match (and basically every other win Jinder has had). So basically they wasted an entire month doing absolutely nothing.
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE COMMERCIAL - Their pitch for us to buy this PPV was "listen to these wrestlers sing." Yes, really. They gave some modicum of sex-appeal for each gender with Jeff Hardy and Alexa Bliss! briefly dancing in a way that wouldn't even have been considered overly sexual when the original song was released sixty years ago. But yeah. This is how they have chosen to sell a PPV that will be main evented by Samoa Joe facing Brock Lesanr for the first time ever with the WWE Universal Title on the line.
TYLER BREEZE & FANDANGO vs. THE ASCENSION - 0.75/10
It was The Ascension who attacked Tyler Breeze. Oh goody. A jobber feud. That will keep people interested. It starts off with the big scary Ascension getting their butts kicked by two comedy jobbers. They had a short match with the babyfaces winning clean (Hey! Our first clean finish of the night, coming at just over two hours into the PPV). Meanwhile, Rusev, American Alpha, Luke Harper, Kane, and Sin Cara have been left off of this PPV. And all WWE TV for quite a while. F*ck this company.
MONEY IN THE BACK LADDER MATCH:
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens - 8.75/10
Corbin jumping Nakamura during his entrance was great. Taking him out of the match was not. Yes, obviously he is going to come back later and it will get a big pop, but on a show with finishes this bad you really are risking having the fans turn on the one match you're counting on to send them home happy- and they had to know the fans would turn on this show with all of these bad finishes, so doing this shows either a disturbing lack of awareness of their own fanbase or a disturbing lack of caring about how their fanbase will react. Also, I found it quite out of character for Sami Zayn to not run down and help Nakamura.
I would say Nakamura being taken out will kill all of false finishes until he comes back, but at this point I'm not certain they're not dumb enough to have him not come back. He did eventually come back, and while the false finishes before he came back did feel viable, things definitely kicked into another gear when Nakamura showed back up and ran wild on everyone. He and AJ had a wonderful little mini-match that really makes me hope that WWE is going in that direction for SummerSlam. Then Baron Corbin won the match, because even in the clear Match of the Night we still had to get a frustrating finish. This was the standard Ladder Match stuff, with lot of sick bumps and everyone worked hard, but it was the little touches of emotion from the wrestlers that put this over the top in to "go out of your way to see this" territory.
This was a very bad, very frustrating show from WWE. Yes, the main event was awesome and you should go out of your way to see it, but WWE basically put all of their eggs in the basket that this main event would be so awesome that people wouldn't mind having their time wasted for first three quarters of the show, so I'm not going to let them get away with that. The booking of this PPV absolutely sucked, and it has cemented in my mind that Smackdown is absolutely terrible right now, and the astounding incompetence of this booking team is not giving me any hope that it will get better.