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June 18, 2018

WWE Money in the Bank: Ronda Rousey vies for a title, but Alexa Bliss walks away the winner

Wrestling WWE
061818_Ronda-Rousey_WWE @WWE/

Ronda Rousey enters the Allstate Arena for her first one-on-one championship match in WWE.

Chicago’s Allstate Arena hosted what many, including myself, consider the fifth-biggest pay-per-view on the WWE calendar on Sunday night, Money in the Bank. Complete with two women’s championship matches, a women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, a men’s Money in the Bank ladder match, WWE Championship match, and Intercontinental Championship match, the card was stacked from top to bottom.

Of course, WWE has no problems stacking cards for pay-per-views. Most, if not all, of their pay-per-views in 2018 have looked fantastic on paper. But only a few have delivered, so heading into June’s offering, I’d tempered my own expectations in hopes it would result in pleasant surprises throughout the night. 

Coming off of NXT TakeOver: Chicago II, it’d be a tough task for WWE’s main roster to rival that event, much like it always is with pay-per-views following TakeOver events. There’s nothing currently storyline-wise that touches the Tommaso Ciampa-Johnny Gargano feud, so it’s a bit unfair to compare the two, but the main roster is the main roster for a reason. It’s about time everybody in WWE step up their game (especially on their main shows) and make the fans love wrestling again. 

Would that begin on Sunday night? Let’s hit it:

The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan) © defeated The Good Brothers (Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) by pinfall to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship

Good match. Anderson and Gallows should be tearing up one of the tag team divisions. They should be champions. But, I guess getting the Bludgeon Brothers a big win is also a good thing. 

Anderson and Gallows got Harper up for the Magic Killer, but Rowan saved his partner and the duo eventually were able to retain their titles after a double powerbomb to Gallows, which was pretty impressive given his size. 

Daniel Bryan defeated Big Cass by submission

While Bryan already has a win over Cass in this feud, I’m not sure why this is a particular feud that needs to carry on. However, I understand a good use of Bryan returning to the ring is putting over others, and Cass could use the rub. But I’m kind of just over this feud.

I enjoyed the build-up in that Bryan just simply stated Cass isn’t a good wrestler and he’s much better. He had some of the best promos in his WWE career during this build, so for that, I’ll give credit.

Since Bryan’s return to the ring, he hasn’t changed his in-ring style at all, which could bode well for his future in WWE. He’s still yet to sign an extension, and his contract is reportedly due up on September 1, so it’ll be interesting to see if he re-signs soon. 

Bryan made Cass look like a star in this match, but credit has to go to Cass, too. He’s a big guy and that’s always a knock on certain wrestlers who don’t have the best technical ability. But Cass looked great during this match, even in defeat. I’m hoping that’ll be it for this feud, but I could see another match, maybe two, between these two because it could make Cass even better. But I think it’s time to move on and see what he can do with the others.

Bobby Lashley defeated Sami Zayn by pinfall 

Maybe the worst build-up to a match on Sunday night was this one. Lashley deserved a prominent position on Raw once he re-debuted, but this isn’t exactly it. Zayn and Kevin Owens have been broken up for the time being, so Zayn on his own was something I was really looking forward to. But the creative direction he’s been given has left a lot to be desired. It’s impossible to care about wanting Zayn to get his or Lashley exacting revenge. That’s how bad it’s been. 

It’s a shame for Lashley, because he was an absolute monster in Impact Wrestling. He was so good at what he did inside the ring and outside the ring, but hasn’t yet been given that chance in WWE. They need to right the boat quickly with him before it’s too late. 

To WWE’s credit, they didn’t give this match much time. In fact, it was a glorified squash with Lashley getting the win after a number of power suplexes and a backbreaker. This feud just didn’t hit, so the match placement was good, it didn’t run long, and it hopefully moved this feud into the abyss.

Seth Rollins © defeated Elias by pinfall to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship

I’ve got to give it up for Elias. He took a gimmick that wasn’t working NXT and made it translate to the main roster and is now one of the most over acts on either Raw or SmackDown. He knows how to cut a promo. He’s good in the ring. And putting him in a feud with Rollins during what might be his best year as a professional wrestler performance-wise was exactly what he needed to get even more over.

Rollins, in my view, is the best performer on WWE’s main roster right now. It shows just how far Elias has come since his debut to be paired with a guy that almost looks exactly like him.

This was a great match. The moment Elias sidestepped a suicide dive to the outside by Rollins and threw him into various objects before trying to pin him in the ring I thought we’d see a new Intercontinental Champion. But Rollins wasn’t finished.

Rollins sold the knee after landing on it inside the ring, and Elias exploited that. Good storytelling. However, Elias couldn’t get the win as Rollins and the challenger reversed several pinfall attempts before Rollins pulled the tights near the ropes to get the victory.

Heel move to win? I’m cool with it because it means we’re likely getting another match between these two next month at Extreme Rules. And it’ll be very entertaining seeing Elias expose Rollins for it.

Alexa Bliss defeated Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Naomi, Lana, Ember Moon, Natalya, and Sasha Banks to win the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match 

This was the third-ever women’s Money in the Bank match – since there technically was two last year – and this one didn’t disappoint. This had high spots, ladder bumps and so much more that we’ve seen in previous matches that it didn’t even feel like this was only the third women’s match. They all showed they belong in a high-profile match like this and it could absolutely headline this particular pay-per-view in the coming years.

Naomi was especially impressive with the high spots, and her showdown with Ember Moon was great. I could absolutely see these two in the women’s main event scene on either show together. Yes, they’re currently on separate brands, but that’s nothing a trade can’t handle, or another Superstar Shake-Up. 

Wrestler after wrestler after wrestler had their chance to grab the briefcase in a flurry, but nobody could grab it. Naomi was “too far away” and Lynch and Flair duked it out on the ladder, Natalya laid out Lana, Moon got the better of Natalya, Flair took care of Moon and Lynch took care of Flair, and then Bliss dropped Lynch off the ladder into another ladder, climbed the rungs and retrieved the briefcase to become the women’s Money in the Bank briefcase winner. 

It was a fantastic match with plenty of the same spots we’d come accustomed to in the men’s matches. Nothing stood out negatively and those matches will only get better from here on out. Bliss is the perfect villain to hold the briefcase and since she’s been champion before, having her cash in at any time could right an otherwise wrong decision, if it got to that point. Just great stuff all around.

Roman Reigns defeated Jinder Mahal by pinfall 

How about this match following that awesome Women’s Money in the Bank match? This feud hasn’t been bad, it’s actually been built up really well. I just don’t know if anyone wanted to see it. 

The crowd made their presence known, in the forms of random chants, beach balls and the wave. Like anyone couldn’t see that coming. I’m not entirely sure why WWE can’t right the ship with Reigns. It’s not rocket science. Pro wrestling is something where things can be fixed rather easily once stories are changed. WWE has refused to change Reigns’ story, and it’s costing him.

The thing with Reigns is that he can still be salvaged, as can anyone in wrestling in his particular position. WWE refuses to do it. I don’t know why that ignorance is there, but it is. This isn’t how to trot out the “next John Cena” time after time. Something needs to change. I know he’s getting reactions, but when people are chanting for former wrestlers, NXT guys and hitting beach balls in the audience,

Reigns defeated Mahal with a spear and everyone cheered that the match was over.

Carmella © defeated Asuka by pinfall to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Asuka’s first title match on the SmackDown brand after losing to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania probably was going to end in a title victory. At least that’s what I’d have told you back in January if you asked me.

On this fateful June night, I also thought Asuka would bring home her first main roster gold after defeating Carmella, but the savvy champion had a plan up her sleeve. When Asuka was ready to put away the champion, someone in Asuka’s clothing came from under the ring and climbed up on the apron. And, yes, all of those rumors were true. The person revealed themselves to be James Ellsworth, the same man who helped Carmella win the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank one year ago. 

Carmella rolled up Asuka due to the distraction, but Asuka kicked out. But then, still distracted by the figure, Carmella was able to nail Asuka with a superkick and pin her to retain the championship.

Will Asuka ever win main roster gold!? Yes. Just not on Sunday night. 

AJ Styles © defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing match

The fourth match in this series would hopefully prove to be the last. As much as I was looking forward to this match at WrestleMania, and the ensuing matches, I just wanted this feud to be over after Sunday night. And thanks to Nakamura, this particular match would be a Last Man Standing affair. 

Much of the match took place outside of the ring, as these types of matches tend to do. And obviously the many counts where both Nakamura and Styles had to reach their feet. I thought the Styles Clash off the steel steps to the outside would’ve ended the match, but Nakamura had some fight left in him and made it to his feet. However, Styles would hit Nakamura with a low blow and then a Phenomenal Forearm from the ring to the outside through the announce table, make it to his feet and retain the WWE Championship after Nakamura couldn’t make the ten-count. 

Alexa Bliss cashed in her Money in the Bank briefcase during Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax © to win the Raw Women’s Championship

I don’t think this match even needed a cash-in. It was actually that good. Rousey put on a great performance and showed just how much work she’s put in for pro wrestling. Jax was also very good in her role, but I just didn’t expect a cash-in during this match. In fact, it happened before the match was even over.

Rousey was ready to lock in the armbar to Jax after finally separating her hands, but Bliss hit Rousey with the briefcase, causing the disqualification. So, technically, Rousey got a win. But Bliss took her completely out of the equation outside of the ring and then officially cashed in her contract, which began a new match between her and the champion. Bliss attacked Jax’s injured arm, and hit her with a pair of DDTs before pinning her to become the new Raw Women’s Champion.

The Raw Women’s Championship picture just got a little more interesting. I’m thinking Triple Threat next month at Extreme Rules and then Rousey vs. Bliss at SummerSlam.

Braun Strowman defeated Kevin Owens/Rusev/Bobby Roode/The Miz/Finn Bálor/Samoa Joe/Kofi Kingston to win the Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match

I didn’t think there was a chance Strowman would win this match simply because he’s a monster and doesn’t need a shortcut to win something like this if he is eventually going to be champion. 

I was wrong. Strowman outlasted seven other superstars, maybe even killing a couple in the process, in order to claim the men’s Money in the Bank briefcase. He threw Owens off a ladder by the entrance and flung Kingston off his back onto the mat moments before climbing the final rungs to pull down that championship contract.

It felt like this match went a little fast, and maybe it did due to the fact it started a bit before 11:00 P.M. ET hit. But there weren’t as many highlights during this match as there were during the women’s Money in the Bank match. Kingston obviously is always a highlight reel, The Miz’s facial reactions to everything was fantastic, Joe and Rusev were good, and Owens was forgotten about after Strowman killed him.

But once Strowman unhooked that briefcase, my first thought was that he’d cash it in advance, allowing Brock Lesnar the chance to prepare for him at SummerSlam. It makes the most sense to me, considering I don’t think they’ll put the title on Reigns any time soon.

A good pay-per-view with some questionable booking, but WWE’s booking has been questionable ever since the week after Philly hosted the Royal Rumble in January. The build to WrestleMania was great, but since then, everything’s just been a question mark. Which is why I’m not going to assume anything regarding their booking heading into July’s Extreme Rules or August’s SummerSlam.

It’s a wait-and-see approach.

For what it’s worth, Strowman called out Lesnar in an exclusive video after the show.

Follow Nick Piccone on Twitter: @nickpiccone

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