Backlash is firmly in the rear-view mirror as WWE immediately forgot about the event (like the rest of us) to plough straight ahead with the build to Money In The Bank on Raw and Smackdown this week.
WWE’s flagship show saw Braun Strowman tear through Kevin Owens to book a place in the men’s MITB ladder match and also hint that he murdered a bunch of kids in a treehouse, as you do.
Finn Balor also joined him in the high-stakes match with victory over Sami Zayn and the ever-popular Roman Reigns in the night’s thrilling main event. Even an appearance by Jinder Mahal couldn’t spoil it.
As for the women, Ember Moon shined and rose to the occasion (sorry, but I love puns) when she defeated Ruby Riott and Sasha Banks in the best bout of the night. WWE are still persisting with dragging out the Bayley/Banks story for as long as humanly possible. The series Lost wrapped things up quicker than this. Meanwhile, The Architect Seth Rollins continued to prove he’s the best in the the world (sorry, CM Punk) by actually getting a good match out of Mojo Rawley of all people. And Elias and Bobby Roode continued their rivalry which I’m still not sure is about. Any ideas?
Over on Smackdown, Rusev was finally able to celebrate his holiday with a massive upset over Daniel Bryan to qualify for MITB. Probably wise not to let Bryan anywhere near ladders at this stage of his comeback. The Miz also advanced with victory over Jeff Hardy in a fun opener. The A-lister is my pick to win it unless Elias is in it.
Charlotte Flair rebounded from her surprise loss to Carmella at Backlash by advancing to the Women’s MITB Match thanks to her win over Peyton Royce. When are WWE gonna give The Icconics their own talkshow? I’d pay to see that. The New Day and The Bar, two of the best tag teams in the business, continued their rivalry in singles competition….. And the WWE Championship was treated as an afterthought (and this time, not even to Roman Reigns).
Here’s the Top 10 things that happened on Raw and Smackdown this week. Bear with me, because neither was great.
10. AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura speak about Backlash.
These two broke WWE’s unwritten rule of not mentioning Backlash ever again. They each had backstage interviews with Renee Young, who is so wasted on these. Remove Corey Graves from the Smackdown announce team and give her a shot at it. Trust me, she would be awesome. Anyway, back to Styles and Nakamura. Shinsuke was hilarious again when he said he did learn English but now he’s forgotten it. Priceless. Unfortunately he’s not as entertaining in the ring. Styles spoke of his regret at stooping to his rival’s level by low blowing him in their match. Perhaps he also regrets not investing in a cup. AJ said he’d be happy to wrestle Nakamura again. I think we’ve all given up on the pair actually having a good match together now. Just throw Samoa Joe into the mix and be done with it. Send Nakamura back to New Japan and we’ll have Chris Jericho back.
9. Bobby Roode Def. Elias.
I’ve been thinking long and hard as to why these two are feuding and I can’t think of anything other than Elias likes to play music, Roode likes to twerk, and neither likes the other doing their favourite thing. It’s a long shot but it’s the best I can come up with. Elias destroyed Roode’s throat last week and it was touch and go for the Glorious One until he showed up at Backlash to dance with The New Day and render the whole thing pointless. He then defeated Elias cleanly on Raw without once mentioning his throat injury, not even a single cough. One of these guys will be in MITB, and as I’m picking Elias to carry the Universal Championship sometime this year I’ve gotta back him to prevail. Who would’ve thought that Elias would be the one to slay The Beast? But it could very well happen. I can’t wait to hear what song he comes up with for that one. “I’m better than Roman Reigns”, perhaps?
8. Cesaro Def. Xavier Woods.
Why WWE keep booking their two best tag teams not named The Usos into single matches is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still entertaining but they’d be so much better in tag bouts. Last week, Sheamus was humiliated when he lost to Xavier Woods, and Cesaro found it funny so The Celtic Warrior told him to face Woods to see if he could do any better. Turns out he could. Now, next week we will finally see the two teams collide although the winners will get to pick a member of their team to advance to the Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match. That’s some confusing stuff right there. It’s gonna be Kofi Kingston, surely? I might be wrong though. Why didn’t WWE just book a MITB Match for the tag teams as well? That would’ve made a lot more sense.
7. Braun Strowman Def. Kevin Owens to advance to the Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match.
Raw kicked off with General Manager Kurt Angle hyping up the Money In The Bank PPV, which is exactly how Smackdown started to once again prove that the creative teams aren’t very creative at all. This led to Braun Strowman delivering his worst promo to date about when he was a kid and not being happy that his friends built a treehouse without his help and then wouldn’t let him play in it, so he waited for them all to enter then tore it down, presumably killing them all. I guess PG means you can hint at murder but don’t outright say it. Anyway, Kevin Owens had heard enough (as had the rest of us) and demanded Angle put him in the MITB Match. Obviously Angle didn’t do that, and instead put him in a bout with Strowman for the opportunity to advance. Owens had about as much chance of winning as Swansea City do of staying in the Premier League. Owens was allowed to look strong against Braun though, which bodes well for the future. The Monster Amongst Men in a multi-man Ladder Match is going to be a lot of fun. Everyone will be praying they don’t get those hands.
6. Charlotte Flair Def. Peyton Royce to advance to the Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match.
Charlotte losing to Carmella in clean fashion at Backlash was a perplexing decision to say the least. Charlotte overcome everything at WrestleMania to vanquish the undefeated streak of Asuka, but at Backlash one tweak of the knee was all it took for Carmella to capitalise and pick up the win to remain Women’s Champion. I know WWE would to add credibility to Carmella’s character, but I fear that may kill the character. She’s not very good in the ring, but she’s loud, brash and has an uncanny knack of making fans hate her every time she says or does something. That’s what WWE need to focus on. Make her a female version of Edge and they have money on their hands. Speaking of money, Charlotte rebounded from her loss by advancing to the Women’s MITB Match with victory over Peyton Royce. Peyton is good between the ropes, but her real talent lays on the microphone. She’s a heat magnet. WWE give every Tom, Dick and Harry a chat show, but not The Icconics? What are they waiting for? They would be incredible, and it would give the women a platform to have promos as opposed to meaningless and listless matches on the blue brand. Let’s face it, if your name isn’t Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown creative team couldn’t care less. Just ask poor Becky Lynch.
5. Seth Rollins Def. Mojo Rawley to remain the Intercontinental Champion.
If anyone says Seth Rollins isn’t the best wrestler in the world right now is lying, or they’re too in love with New Japan to realise what a good wrestler actually looks like. Rollins is killing it on a nightly basis. He’s dethroned AJ Styles of being the best in the business, and that’s no easy feat. And just when we thought Seth couldn’t get any better, he went and brought back the open challenge for the Intercontinental Championship. John Cena made this the best segment of Raw for several months when he was United States Champion, so you can only imagine how much fun The Architect is going to have with it moving forward. If this past week’s encounter with Mojo Rawley is anything to go by, buckle your seats because we’re in for one hell of a ride. Rollins gave Rawley the best match of his career. That takes some talent. Who will answer the challenge next week? Hopefully they keep it going until Dean Ambrose returns, viciously assaults Rollins for stealing his thunder and setting up a fiery feud between the best and the hardest working guys in all of WWE.
4. Rusev Def. Daniel Bryan to advance to the Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match.
When this match was announced I was convinced that Big Cass would interfere and cost Daniel Bryan the win, but that’s not how it went down. Cass must still be sulking about tapping out to the Yes Lock quicker than anyone in history because he didn’t show up. As for the main event, it was what you’d expect from Bryan and Rusev. It was hard-hitting, entertaining and perfectly structured. Rusev going over clean has to be considered the upset of the year, maybe even the century considering how poorly The Bulgarian Brute has been booked as of late. But perhaps we’re overlooking the power of Rusev Day, we should really get time off work for such an important holiday. Hopefully this isn’t a false dawn and WWE are serious about building Rusev back up. As for Bryan, he’ll be fine. Although I am a little concerned that he’s kind of taken the Chris Jericho mantle of being there to put other guys over and make them look good in the process. I don’t think that’s what any of us had in mind for Bryan once he was medically cleared to compete. Where’s the five-star matches with AJ Styles over the WWE Championship?
3. Finn Balor Def. Sami Zayn and Roman Reigns in a Triple Threat Match to advance to the Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match.
To make people completely forget that Backlash ever existed, WWE did their best to press the reset button and start the immediate build to MITB, which isn’t for another six weeks. Thankfully the qualifying matches delivered, not only in the ring but also in terms of winners. Did anyone want to see Roman Reigns in the Money In The Bank Ladder Match? No, didn’t think so. But I think even less people wanted to see him face Jinder Mahal on PPV, but it seems as if that’s what we’re going to get after The Maharaja cost The Big Dog the bout. Sami Zayn was excellent as he has been ever since turning heel. His relationship with Kevin Owens is a joy to watch. WWE really need to stick the Tag Team Titles around their waists and let them have some fun. Finn Balor prevailed, and I’m expecting big things from him in the Ladder Match. He won’t win it, but he will most probably be the standout performer unless Seth Rollins gets entered into the mix of course.
2. The Miz Def. Jeff Hardy to advance to the Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match.
Smackdown kicked off in strong fashion with yet another show-stealer from The Miz. Shawn Michaels may come out of retirement to take back his gimmick if this fine form continues. It’s still hard to believe that Jeff Hardy is in his forties but wrestles like he’s in his twenties. Okay, he’s a little slower than he used to be, but the things he can still do in that ring amaze me. The A-Lister pulling out the win was the correct call. The Miz deserves to be back in the mix for the top prize in the industry. As for Hardy, he’s the United States Champion and his priority should be restoring some pride to the title that was tarnished by just about everyone who held it these last twelve months. The finish to the bout was unexpected and original, definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it already.
1. Ember Moon Def. Ruby Riott and Sasha Banks in a Triple Threat Match to advance to the Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match.
The Raw main event was good, but I believe this one stole the entire show. It was the best thing that happened on either brand this week. The women really stepped it up with a lively, high-octane three way. Ember Moon going over was the right call, I can’t wait to see her attempt her finishing move off the top of a ladder, and for Natalya to completely botch it and injure herself leading to Ronda Rousey to come out and kick Ember’s butt. Back to Raw, and Ruby Riott is quietly becoming the MVP of the Women’s division. She is so smooth in the ring. As for Sasha, can she really call herself The Boss anymore? I think she’s been demoted to supervisor. She’s still excellent in the ring, but her character is crying out for a change. She might be the only person on the roster who needs to turn heel more than Roman Reigns.