WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bludgeon Brothers(c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson - 4.5/10
They did the best they could, but it's really hard to get into a match for titles that don't mean anything and which only goes seven minutes, a good chunk of which you don't even get to see because they are interrupted for a commercial advertising the very show you're already watching.
Other moments of note on the pre-show were Daniel Bryan cutting a promo, Kevin Owens trying to form an alliance with Samoa Joe and getting turned down, and Seth Rollins once again being a dick to The Drifter.
DANIEL BRYAN vs. BIG CASS - 7/10
They told the obvious story of Cass' strength vs. Bryan's technique working over Cass' leg. There also had a little story about Cass' arrogance costing him the advantage several times, which I thought not only helped the match but also helped get Cass' character across in the ring in way that felt a lot more integrated with his matches than usual. They did some stuff you usually don't see in WWE (a TORTURE RACK!) and had a pretty great match which really got the crowd into the show.
KEVIN OWENS & NEW DAY BACKSTAGE - Bad. Owens has brought them pancakes, as well as "the finest Canadian maple syrup." He tries to find out which of them will be in the match, and to convince the others to interfere and take out Braun Strowman. They insisted that they would never cheat (which is hilarious, considering that they used to cheat as babyfaces all the time). This ended in predictably stupid fashion, with New Day freaking out and acting like obnoxious hyperactive goofs.
SAMI ZAYN vs. BOBBY LASHLEY - 2.5/10
Zayn ran around like a chickensh*t for a while, then Lashley beat him up and pinned him.
THE DRIFTER SINGS - Or not, because he doesn't like Chicago.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins(c) vs. "The Drifter" Elias Sampson - 6.75/10
The Drifter worked over Rollins' injured neck and they also did a spot where Rollins injured his knee on a landing so that got worked over, too. This one took a while to get into second gear, but the last few minutes were quite good. Rollins' pulled The Drifter's tights on the finish, and all three announcers had no problem with this, even though it is clearly cheating. It makes sense for Graves to be okay with it but not Cole and Coach.
WOMEN'S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss! vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Lana - 8.75/10
I LOVED this match (and, no that's not just because Alexa won). Not only did we get the usual sick bumps and cool athletic spots, but there were some little moments in here that were just AWESOME, like Sasha and Charlotte's stare-down, or all of the stuff between Charlotte and Becky. Everyone had their role to play, whether it was Alexa opportunistically hiding on the outside most of the match until the time was right to strike, or Sasha taking the big bumps, or Naomi doing her athletic stuff, or Ember just flying around or Charlotte and Becky telling their story, everything clicked together wonderfully.
The other thing I really liked about this match was how (pardon the pun) raw it felt, which is even more shocking when you consider that the women apparently all got pulled form last night's house shows to go over their matches. There was a point in the match where two women were fighting on a ladder under the briefcase and a third woman then pulled a second ladder over while a fourth woman was getting into the ring and I groaned because I figured we were about to get that usual stupid phony-feeling spot where all of a sudden everyone gets in the ring and they've got a bunch of ladders set up right next to each other so they can have everyone pairing off trading punches on ladders right next to each other at the same time and then eventually the ladders all get knocked over and blah blah blah... you know the spot I'm taking about? Well in this match I was presently surprised that there were no other ladders added after the second, and they managed to get about six women fighting just between the two ladders. There was a lot of stuff like that which (especially when you compare it to some of the stuff in the men's match) made this feel a lot less scripted.
And, best of all (well... okay, second-best, down to Alexa winning): NO ELLSWORTH!
KURT ANGLE & PAIGE BACKSTAGE - Pointless, over-scripted idiotic waste of time banter. They then put over how nice the co-branded PPVs are. They hinted that Kurt was trying to sign Smackdown talent away. Okay... how does that makes sense with the way we've been told that this brand split works?
Then Baron Corbin showed up to yell at Kurt about not disappointing Steph. Paige then made fun of Corbin for losing MITB. This was stupid and pointless.
ROMAN RIEGNS vs. JINDER MAHAL (w/Sunil Singh) - 5.5/10
Sunil is sitting in a chair at ringside in a neckbrace and a sling. He was, predictably, faking his injuries, using them as a cover to attack an unsuspecting Roman from behind, and then running back to his wheelchair before the referee turned around.
The match had some exciting moments, but most of it was pretty boring. The crowd seemed to think so as well, seeing as how they spent most of the match doing the wave and chanting for guys who weren't in the match.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Carmella(c) vs. Asuka - 6.75/10
Well... when James Ellsworth didn't show up during the women's MITB match, you kind of had to figure that this would happen. The shocking part- and the thing that makes it even more frustrating- is that these two were actually having a really great character-driven babyface vs. heel match before Ellsworth showed up. I guess Asuka really can pull a good match out of anyone.
They announced a stadium show in Melbourne, Australia on October 6th which will be on PPV. Already booked is Triple H vs. Undertaker.
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH FOR THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - 9.5/10
OUTSTANDING! A wonderful story of two men who don't like each and so badly wanted to be the one to put the other one down. The match build phenomenally, the selling was excellent, and they played off of the big theme of the feud, and managed to use the stipulations to imbue their blow-off match with a true feeling of finality. I truly believed that these two men would rather die than stay down and would never stay down so long as they were able to move.
WWE RAW WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Nia Jax(c) vs. Ronda Rousey - 6.25/10
Everyone was wondering what they would do here. Would Ronda just squash Nia? Would Nattie turn on Ronda and screw her out of the title? Would Steph screw Ronda out of the title as revenge for Ronda breaking her arm (for no reason, might I add) the night after WrestleMania?
Instead WWE did the crazy thing and just let these two have a professional wrestling match... and it was pretty good. They had their story (Ronda's use of leverage and technique vs. Nia's power, plus the question of Ronda's ability to adapt to the WWE rule-set and Nia working over Ronda's back) and stuck to it 100% and did an excellent job of telling it.
That being said, this is a match I probably would have enjoyed a lot more in any other company. Quite frankly, even by the beginning of last week's show I was sick and tired of hearing WWE beat the same points into the ground over and over about how Ronda has never been in a situation like this before, and WWE's style of announcing has the announcers not so much call the match as keep beating those points into your head, occasionally using things that happen in the match as examples, so I found it pretty infuriating. Throw in gems like Michael Cole actually telling us to "remember: if Nia taps out here, she will lose the title," or calling Ronda going to the rope by not only shouting that this is something we haven't ever seen Ronda do before but then adding that the reason we haven't seen her do it before is because "she didn't do this at WrestleMania," it was not fun to listen to. But then...
THE FINISH OF THE RAW WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH - No rating, excellent segment. Ronda was just about to lock in the armbar on Nia, but Alexa Bliss! ran in and hit Ronda with the briefcase. Alexa beat the sh*t out of Ronda and Nia both. She pitched Ronda to the outside and worked over Nia's injured arm with the briefcase. Then she contemplated cashing in, but instead she showed everyone why she is so much smarter than everyone else in WWE by first going back to the outside and making sure that Ronda was out of the way and hitting her with the briefcase some more, then tossing her over the announcers' table. Then she got back into the ring, hit Nia some more, and cashed in her Money in the Bank contact. She worked on Nia's arm, hit her with a DDT, hit Twisted Bliss, and won the title. Best MITB cash-in ever. Also, best Ronda Rousey match ever. And best Nia Jax match ever. Alexa is just that talented.
MEN'S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe vs. The Miz vs. Bobby Roode vs. Finn Balor vs. Rusev vs. Kofi Kingston - 7/10
This certainly wasn't bad at all, but I did find it a little disappointing for an MITB match in the main event spot. They did some cool stuff and had a bit of a story with everyone trying to gang up on Braun, but a lot of the stuff they did like the three-man accolade, and the "Strowman returns!" spot where he yanked on the ladder Balor was dragging felt way too cutesy. Also, they really should have had something bigger to put Roode, Miz, Kofi, and Balor down when Owens, Joe, and Rusev were trying to put Brawl through the table on the stage. A freakin' dive onto a whole pile of dudes isn't going to keep guys down for several minutes. Braun won, likely because, as James Hornsby of Botched Spot mentioned in his PPV prediction column, you just know WWE is WAY too in love with the phrase "Mr. Monster in the Bank" for them not to want to say it on every show from now through eternity.
A GREAT show from WWE, and it wasn't just the Ladder Matches propping it up (although the women's MITB was a big part of that). The stuff that I thought would deliver mostly came through, while most of the other matches exceeded expectations, leaving the only really bad match being the Zayn vs. Lashley match which we knew wasn't going to go well, and Roman vs. Jinder which wasn't bad so much as just pretty dull for the time it got. We got some pretty surprising results with all of Alexa's victories, Bryan winning his second straight PPV match over Cass, and AJ retaining the title, and a night of pretty darn solid matches. For the first time in a long time, I'm relatively excited for Raw tomorrow night.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Coach (about Rollins pulling The Drifter's tights on the finish to the IC Title match)- "It's very difficult to criticize Seth Rollins for pulling that one out of his bag tonight."
No it's not. He cheated, and cheating is wrong.
2. Coach (as Nia had Ronda in a bear hug) - "This is actually benefiting Ronda. It is giving her a chance to catch her breath."
Why was he not immediately summoned to the Gorilla Position and then summarily fired?