The show opened with our current reigning and not-quite-defending Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar, gracing us with his presence. Paul Heyman hyped up Lesnar and the upcoming title match against Samoa Joe, who took offense to Heyman’s words and came out to brawl with Brock. The two got so into it that Kurt Angle had to come out with all the guys and stooges and assistance he could find to tear them apart (not before Joe kicked Lesnar right in the face!) Good, intense start to the show to help set the stage for their match; the only issue I have is that the build up and hype to Lesnar’s matches tend to be more physical and interesting than his actual matches.
Elias Samson caught a huge win by pinning Dean Ambrose after some shenanigans by the Miz. Still, a win is a win and this plays very nicely into my continuing call for both Ambrose and Miz to be separated and for some new blood to be inserted into the Intercontinental Championship picture (Ambrose is (still?) the number one contender, and he was pinned by the Drifter here, so Samson has a legitimate claim to the belt).
Cedric Alexander pinned Noam Dar within seconds, which was a complete waste of everyone’s time, then Bray Wyatt came out to waste more time by rambling on about Seth Rollins, who came out to talk smack right back to him in a bit of a flat segment. To be fair, it’s hard to take anything Wyatt says seriously, no matter who he’s facing or feuding with; couldn’t he have had a squash match as well, or something? You know, come out and destroy someone and pick up an actual win and then ramble on about how he’s all high and mighty?
Apollo Crews got his win back by defeating Kalisto. During the match Titus O’Neil repeatedly kept trying to recruit Akira Tozawa. Can this please be the last time Kalisto is involved with these guys? What am I saying, it’ll be a tag match between Kalisto and Tozawa against Crews and Titus next week, where Tozawa will turn on him and then we;ll get three more weeks of Kalisto vs. Crews/Titus/Tozawa!
All the women came out and bitched; Emma came back, and then Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Mickie James defeated Alexa Bliss, Emma, and Nia Jax. Didn’t Nia Jax go on a rampage last week? If she didn’t…why not? Can she just destroy all the others? Why should I care? Heath Slater and Rhyno then defeated the Miz and his partner…a guy in a giant bear costume. Who obviously turned out to be Dean Ambrose and cost Miz the match. I swear this is just like a Rivalry in a WWE 2K videogame where they guys just constantly interact and have matches and nothing else happens….except this time there was a bear!
Neville then kicked the hell out of Rich Swann and used the ring ropes to choke his ass out. He then went on a rant about how he’s the best and all that; good look for him, at least, it’s just a shame that, as always, the Cruiserweights have basically no exposure or time to shine on Raw at all. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson then continued the trend of looking good by actually winning a match where they took advantage of all the recent beat-downs and stuff to defeat Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Afterwards, the Big Show came out to check on Enzo and Big Cass wasn’t too thrilled, just like I’m not at the prospect of that match!
Raw concluded with a two out of three falls match for the Raw Tag Team Championships, which saw Sheamus and Cesaro retain the belts after they and the Hardys got counted out. Bit of a flat finish to an otherwise entertaining match; I like that they put the Tag Team titles on the line in the Raw main event; without the Universal Champion around, the other belts really should get the main event spot more often. The ambiguous ending is obviously to continue Raw‘s trend of never-ending feuds, but it’s a good sign that these guys are willing to constantly take things up a notch each time they fight.
SmackDown! Live opened with the New Day, so I’m instantly bored. They come out and yammer on about how they’re going to be the new SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions and then the Usos come out to dispute that, before Tyler Breeze and Fandango come out to mock the champions, and the Colons come out and, wouldn’t you know it, we have an eight-man tag team match where Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Breeze, and fandango defeat the Usos and the Colons after pinning….one of the Colons. The plus side here is that the Usos didn’t get pinned but I still cannot get over how weak the SmackDown! Live tag team division is these days. It’s too bad they had to all be smashed into this match instead of furthering other angles with two separate matches, as well.
SmackDown! Live continued to be a snooze-fest with an uninspiring non-title match between Naomi and Tamina, where Naomi won for a change, before the show (and the crowd) finally came alive for WWE Champion Jinder Mahal’s big “I’m better than you” speech, which led to Randy Orton sneaking in and hitting an RKO to put the champ in his place. I’m really glad that they held off from Orton interrupting or punking out Jinder until the show before Money in the Bank; now Jinder looks (or at least sounds) reasonably strong as he’s not been made to look like a chump every week, but Orton has sent a message that he can still hit the RKO out of nowhere to regain the belt.
The build towards the Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match continued with Charlotte Flair taking care of Natalya in a decent match with a pretty dull end before a massive main event match pitting Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, and Sami Zayn against Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin, and Dolph Ziggler. The faces took the win after, following a massive breakdown where big moves were thrown left and right, Sami Zayn came back from a complete and utter beatdown to grab another win off Corbin. After the match, the heels kicked the crap out of the faces but then turned on each other in a fight to climb the ladder. However, it was Nakamura who had the last laugh, laying out Corbin with the Kinshasa and (after a bit of fumbling) retrieving the briefcase. Everyone looked great in this match; strong and viable contenders to carry the briefcase and the match took a unique approach in having Sami take a beating and not even grab the hot tag; he just sucked it up and came out of nowhere to take the win.
Kickoff match: The Colons vs. the Hype Bros
After Zack Ryder made a surprise return on SmackDown! Live this week, this match appears to be the WWE’s way of reintroducing the Hype Bros to the tag team scene. However, I wonder if there isn’t a spectre hanging over this match; last week, Mojo Rawley complained the Shane McMahon that, since winning the Andre the Giant battle royale, he hasn’t really had a chance to do anything or been on television much. He also voiced some complaints about not being in the Money in the Bank ladder match, and that he’s the only guy to have pinned Jinder since his move to the blue brand. Plus, the WWE had a brief flirtation with pushing Mojo as a singles guy; that seems to have fallen to the wayside a bit but I wonder if we might either see a turn from Mojo or at least plant the seeds for it but having him be frustrated from a loss here. That could all still happen, to be fair, in the coming weeks rather than here and, as the Colons are so directionless, heatless, and useless, I see the Hype Bros taking the win here and kicking things off with a bang.
WWE Championship Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
WWE has done a great job keeping these guys apart leading into this match, but they haven’t married this with strong wins from Jinder. Jinder has spent a lot of time on the microphone rather than grappling, which makes him more of a chickenshit heel than a capable champion to me. With his physique and the Singhs backing him up, he really could have done with having a few more matches where he either physically dominated his opponents or at least established that he’ll do anything to win. Either way, I think the crowd will be a bit more into this match now that they’ve had a chance to let the shock of Jinder’s win settle in. I don’t think the belt will change hands here; I think we’ll see some shenanigans lead to Mahal stealing the win and retaining the championship.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: United States Champion Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
I’m not exactly thrilled that the United States Champion is in this match rather than defending the championship in a separate feud, especially as Owens has issues with all three faces in this match and all three of them can stake a legitimate claim to being the number one contender for his belt. Hopefully, after this match, he gets to move into some meaningful feuds over the belt and that is what is directing my prediction here. Everyone in this match would make a great choice to win; they’re all viable contenders and carrying (and cashing-in) the briefcase could help each of them ascend (or re-ascend) to the main event. However, I think Nakamura and Styles can afford to take the loss here; I reckon they’ll tease an inevitable showdown between those two but they’ll wipe each other out with some big moves. I reckon Owens and Ziggler will get taken out with some big spots (falling from the ladder and/or going through a table) and that the match will end with Sami Zayn reaching for the briefcase or having it right within his grasp, only for Baron Corbin to absolutely murder him and steal the briefcase. Mr. Money in the Bank works so much better when it’s a heel and I think Corbin could really use the boost and exposure from the briefcase; plus, he can then be built even more as a massive asshole and can then get some nuclear heat when he cashes in against whatever hot face manages to dethrone Jinder Mahal.
WWE SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. the New Day
Ugh, this match! It hasn’t even happened and already I’m bored of it. I am just so sick of the New Day and their weird-ass gimmick, which got old really quickly when it first debuted, and the Usos (despite the initial boost their heel turn gave them) are just another team in a stagnant division. Where are American Alpha? The Ascension? Why can’t the division be more interesting and exciting? Ugh, whatever. I guess the New Day will get the belts because they sell more merchandise and can brag about being the first team to hold both sets of belts but, where they go from there, is anyone’s guess as it’s not like SmackDown! Live has another decent heel teams to challenge them.
WWE SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Naomi (c) vs. Lana
Yep, you read that right, on a brand with so many talented female competitors, Lana gets to challenge for the belt after returning last week and having one match. Kind of stupid; I’d’ve rather seen Lana in the Money in the Bank ladder match (maybe even win it) and have Naomi get a competitive win over someone more on her level, like Charlotte or Becky. Whatever, though. I’m gonna say the WWE gives the win to Lana, if only because she’s popular and it would be a shock.
First-Ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Natalya
It’s been a long time coming but, as I said last week, how long will it be before we get Money in the bank ladder matches for the other championships? Or will the WWE run a ‘Feast or Fired’ kind of ladder match for the guys where they get to grab one of three briefcases to challenge for different belts? The implication here is that the WWE and Women’s Championships are on the same level and that level is above the United States and Tag Team Championship level; which is true, but all of the belts really should be treated equally. Ugh, well, I don’t have high hopes for this match; the women on SmackDown! Live all seem far more interested in teaming up and cliques than they do competing for the belt, to be honest, and they’re all so interchangeable and, frankly, annoying that I struggle to care about this match. However, if Lana (who is a face despite re-debuting as a heel….at least I think she is?) wins the belt I reckon we’ll see a hell grab the briefcase and what better smarmy, vindictive cow of a heel to carry about the briefcase and talk shit about Lana than Carmella? Think about it; she’s the only one with back-up (James Ellsworth) to help her cheat to win, she’s on the cusp of being a challenger but hasn’t (as far as I can remember) challenged for or held the belt before, and she needs to win more than the other women. I’d like to see Charlotte and Tamina get into a program following this and maybe see the WWE do something with Natalya, something good for a change, but anyone could win and I’d be just as satisfied.