1. Damian Sandow wins but should this have been Cody Rhodes night?
Despite the manner in which WWE presents the World Heavyweight Championship and the way it booked the two Money in the Bank matches leaving nobody in any question as to which of the company’s top tier titles is most important (as if there was any real doubt anyway), the value of Damian Sandow’s victory last night should not be underplayed. If past Money in the Bank winners are anything to go by, Sandow is now in a position which should lead to a significant elevation to his place on the roster. Sandow has a wealth of talent and deserves his push, but last night the undoubted star of the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank match was Sandow’s on/off partner Cody Rhodes.
Rhodes has been toiling way on the WWE roster for 6 years now, and has developed into one of the most consistent performers in the company. Unfortunately, the push he has received has been anything but consistent. The great thing about Money in the Bank though, is that you don’t have to be in the middle of a push in order to win it, as Damien Sandow’s victory proves (and as was the case with Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger and CM Punk when they won their Money in the Bank matches) you can come from nowhere to being thrust into the conversation for one of the two big titles. Last night could have been the night Rhodes got his big break instead he may have to be content with a face turn and a feud with Sandow for the time being.
2. The firing of Vickie Guerrero should not be celebrated
One of the lowlights of last night’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view was the weak segment in which Brad Maddox made his way to the ring and proceeded to sarcastically pay tribute to Vickie Guerrero. The segment was poorly scripted from the get go, but Maddox’s poor delivery and uncomfortable manner in the ring showed that there is more to being a great authority figure than simply being endorsed by Vince McMahon on Raw. He is not a satisfying replacement for one of the most over heels in the company.
Vickie Guerrero remains a heat making machine, nobody receives the level of derision from the fans on such a consistent basis as she does. The decision then to remove her as General Manager of Raw this week was a perplexing one unless they have plans with her that have yet to come to fruition. Whatever the case, the video package that Maddox introduced as showing Vickie’s ‘best moments’ merely reminded the viewer that she has been one of the most entertaining parts of WWE over the past 5 years or so and that Raw will be that bit weaker for her not being a regular part of it. Ultimately, what this whole segment achieved, or why it couldn’t be saved for tonight on Raw, is a mystery to me.
3. It’s small details like this that make good booking
Being that this was Philadelphia, it was no surprise that the “E-C-W” chants were heard ringing around the arena when Curtis Axel walked out accompanied by the former owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling, Paul Heyman. It was clear from the get go that very few of the people on hand gave a damn about the Intercontinental Title match between Axel and The Miz, and part of that was due to the presence of Heyman at ringside, who quite frankly is a far bigger star and far more over than the competitors that were in the ring.
As such, the decision to have the referee eject Heyman from proceedings following some chicanery by The Miz was done in the best interests of the match. Once Heyman was out of the picture The Miz and Axel were able to get the crowd interested in them and ended up playing out a decent contest which elicited at least some reaction from the live crowd. When WWE puts their mind to it, they can make simple booking decisions which make complete sense and enhance the product.
4. John Cena should take lessons from AJ Lee
AJ Lee’s victory in defending her Diva’s title against Kaitlyn last night should have come as no surprise to WWE fans. As I wrote in the 10 Talking Points for Payback, AJ is the one Diva that the current division of females can be built around given that her character is over, she has good mic skills and most importantly of all can actually go in the ring. At the centre piece of her in-ring work is the move with which she extracted the submission win last night: The Black Widow.
When John Cena’s STF is employed on the same show as the Black Widow it is quite frankly embarrassing that the company’s premier champion and biggest star, defeats or weakens his opponents with a move that more closely resembles an affectionate spooning, when its Divas Champion (a title which has always been considered midcard at best) is able to apply a move with that much more believability. Wrapping her whole body around her opponent whilst yanking their arm in an unnatural direction, AJ’s Piece de resistance is the maniacal facial expression she wears whilst applying it. All this makes for a move that genuinely looks like it hurts. Cena should take note.
5. Ryback is in no man’s land
Last night Ryback managed to get his first victory on pay-per-view in a year, but what difference it made to his stagnating career one can only guess. Ryback was one of the success stories of last summer in terms of the company getting a young star over with the crowd, and yet now it’s almost impossible to see how his career can recover from the last 4 months which have seen him go from upper midcard babyface bubbling under, to a washed-up heel in the space of no time at all.
Things continued to take a downward trajectory for Ryback in his victory over Jericho, coming as it did after a match which made no attempt at beefing up Ryback’s monster aura and as a result of a roll up. Given Ryback’s limitations on both the mic and in the ring, the one thing Ryback had going for him (no matter how many unflattering comparisons there were to Goldberg) was his aura of invincibility. Having been completely stripped of that by the succession of high profile matches, his premature heel turn and his metaphorical castration by John Cena, there is very little value left in the big man, one has to wonder where he goes from here.
6. The Dolph Ziggler face turn, phase 2 begins
After Ziggler and Del Rio’s brilliant double turn that took place at Payback last month, WWE fans had reason to believe that Ziggler was finally going to get the push his fantastic in-ring work deserved. It began well on Raw the night after Payback when an infuriated Ziggler attacked Del Rio following the latter’s match with CM Punk. Since then however things have cooled off considerably with WWE expecting the same character that was meant to be a heel just a few months ago to now be on the receiving end of cheers.
Thrust into a feud with babyface Chris Jericho and still carrying the baggage that came with his alliances with girlfriend AJ Lee and bodyguard Big E Langston, Ziggler’s first month as a face stuttered big time. The WWE didn’t even see fit to modify his garish ring attire to toughen his appearance slightly and as a consequence fans have found it difficult (and are unsure whether they are supposed) to cheer for him. Thankfully, though Ziggler did not capture the World Heavyweight Championship last night, the seeds were planted for the erosion of Ziggler and AJ’s relationship in order to slot him into the role of a fully defined babyface.
7. Mark Henry was just another bump in the road
As good as Mark Henry’s promo was a few weeks ago on Raw, where he fooled everybody with his ‘retirement speech’, and as noteworthy as his subsequent appearances have been, the truth is that Henry’s month feuding with John Cena wasn’t all a part of some grand plan to transition the WWE Title from John Cena to another babyface via Henry, or even the beginning of a significant battle for Cena and final hurrah for ‘The World’s Strongest Man’. All it was, was the most recent bad-guy monster heel that was set up for Cena to smash through in quick order.
There was no cheap finish or controversial talking point that might have elongated the feud or even something to send either Henry or Cena on a new journey in the future. This was standard, build ’em up and knock ’em down booking that simply gave Cena something to do prior to whatever his Summerslam programme is going to be. Like Ryback, after having been defeated with minimal difficulty by Cena, it’s difficult to know what Mark Henry will do next. In truth, it would be no surprise to see Mark Henry retire properly now that this storyline appears to be concluded, it’s just a shame it won’t have quite the same impact now that he’s already done the bait and switch version a month ago.
8. The Paul Heyman Reveal
In one of the big talking points coming out of the main event, Paul Heyman finally turned on CM Punk, screwing him out of victory in the WWE Title, Money in the Bank match. It was an inevitable development in this story which has been designed to lead to a CM Punk/Brock Lesnar match at Summerslam though I for one didn’t expect it to come last night, with Brock Lesnar nowhere in sight.
It surprises me that WWE didn’t leave this development for the big match itself, with maybe Paul Heyman finally showing his true colours by aiding Brock Lesnar in getting the victory there and thus paving the way for a rematch somewhere down the line (and a continuing of the battle between Punk and Heyman in the meantime). Of course, all of these things may still happen but they wont have the same effect now that we already know that Heyman has been plotting against Punk since the night after Payback.
9. Is Randy Orton back in WWE’s good books?
The past 2 years have been a tough time for Randy Orton, both personally and professionally. He’s been through a real-life divorce, disciplined for a 2nd breach of the WWE wellness policy and seen his in-ring career suffer massively as a consequence. Orton went from being the undisputed top heel in the company to becoming a babyface also-ran in the midcard. Many attributed Orton’s demotion to WWE’s concern that they would be forced to fire him if he had another breach of the wellness policy; it appeared that all long term booking plans had been put on hold for ‘The Apex Predator’.
It’s fair to say that Orton has being showing a far higher level of application in his matches and promos since the end of Wrestlemania season. His match with Big Show at Extreme Rules was a surprise contender for match of the night and his series with Daniel Bryan has reinvigorated him further. Last night Orton was involved in his first pay-per-view main event since Elimination Chamber 2011 and won for the first time in such circumstances since Survivor Series 2010, clearly something for Orton to feel positive about. Whilst I don’t imagine we’ll see an Orton cash in anytime soon (in fact Orton has got to be the most likely person so far, to cash it in at Wrestlemania) but the fact is that holding the briefcase is exactly what it says on the tin, Money in the Bank; no matter what booking decisions are made with regards to Orton over the next few months, he has a golden ticket back into the main event fold whenever creative feels they want him to be there.
10. Not the night of Daniel Bryan’s coronation
Perhaps the biggest talking point of all last night is that we weren’t ending it by talking about Daniel Bryan. Over the past month, Bryan more than anyone has been the focus of WWE television and as a consequence, many were predicting that last night would be the crowning of Bryan in the Money in the Bank match. Whilst that didn’t happen, Bryan’s performance and the level of reaction to it remained at the kind of level which has seen him become the toast of the WWE roster in recent weeks.
Tellingly, creative saw fit to protect Bryan in a way that they only reserve for the most important members on the roster, when Curtis Axel interfered to deny him victory. Furthermore, a win in the Money in the Bank is usually a signifier that their chance at the title will come some months down the line, rather than in the near future. With Cena having ploughed through another opponent, the manner in which Bryan has been pushed and protected over the past month and the level to which he is over, Summerslam does indeed seem poised for a match between Cena and Bryan for the WWE Title. Now that is one to look forward to!