Climbing The Corporate Ladder, No Zayne in The Membrane and The Man Becomes a Mum
One week removed from the strangest WWE PPV in some time and there has once again been a raft of newsworthy events for the weird and wonderful World Wrestling Entertainment. Our King of the Ring Andy Spoors guides us through a busy seven days in and out of the squared circle.
Seldom a day goes by where the WWE Universe goes to bed digesting the latest news or action. With weekly broadcasts for all three of their brands in the shape of Raw, Smackdown and NXT, there are very few down days in between shows as it is. Add in monthly PPVs and there’s even more material to set social media abuzz. Good, bad or indifferent, you can guarantee that fans will have something to say.
The switch to behind closed doors shows has yielded the typically mixed response WWE seems to find itself mired in for the past few years. This year’s WrestleMania tried to place itself outside of the box for at least a couple of matches and the company was rightly lauded for its efforts to do so.
The more cinematic approach to matches has been utilised a couple of times since Mania, notably for the “Final Beat” match between Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa on NXT. But at this year’s Money In The Bank, the WWE Universe were given something to take to the pages of Twitter and Facebook that they had never seen the like of previously.
Since the moment WWE announced the Money In The Bank match would be taking place at the company’s corporate headquarters, speculation and intrigue spread like wildfire. The idea of two matches taking place at the same time, as both male and female Superstars raced from the ground floor to the roof and up a ladder to claim the MITB briefcase, on paper sounded ludicrous. But potentially crazy enough to work.
It turns out the reality wasn’t too far removed from the theory. Closing out the show, a smorgasbord of inside jokes and comedy gags ensued. Some of it worked, some of it was cringe-inducing. All of it was entertaining. Some Superstars might have been better served steering clear of the match: Shayna Baszler and Aleister Black, in particular, looked sorely out of place. After being quite literally buried by Undertaker at WrestleMania, AJ Styles put in a great turn, threading some further details into a newly found fear of the aforementioned Deadman, as well as testing out his comedy chops with Daniel Bryan.
In probably the highlight of the “match” the pair brawled into Vince McMahon’s office, (complete with his infamous T-Rex skull fossil on the wall) before a dressing down from the boss himself and a naughty school-boy style apology before straightening up the mess made.
Eventual winners Asuka (more on her later) and Otis, now have in their possession contracts to a championship match whenever they want. Whereas Asuka has been around the block and won pretty much every title going in WWE, the choice of Otis sure raised some eyebrows. Until now, the big man has been little more than the butt of all jokes, but a potential shift in his fortunes, could see one of the most intriguing rises to the top of the company.
Elsewhere on the PPV, Bayley and the New Day defended their championships in routine matches. Braun Strowman’s first title defence saw the Monster Among Men play some mind games of his own against Bray Wyatt. Unlike his match at Mania to win the Universal Championship from Goldberg, Strowman found himself in an entertaining bout. Rather than the insidious Fiend, Wyatt’s Mr Rodgers style persona took to the ring complete with his Firefly Funhouse puppet friends at ringside. This very brief rivalry appears to offer much more for the future and a logical rivalry helped massively. For Strowman, it was a much-needed storyline to flesh out his character and prove he is more than just a running powerslam.
The title of ‘match of the night’ was easily claimed by Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins. Every champion worth their salt has that one match where they elevate themselves in the eyes of fans and WWE Champion McIntyre may have just experienced his. A bruising and rapid back and forth made both men look strong, but more importantly saw Drew vanquish a legitimate challenger in the shape of Rollins.
Curiously, the PPV lasted little over two and a half hours, making it the shortest PPV WWE have presented in quite some time. Great for UK fans that were watching live, but more evidence that WWE is aware of the jarringly silent matches they have been forced to put on in the current climate. Summerslam was due to be the next major event in August, but recent mass gatherings bans by the planned host city of Boston, seem to have thrown yet another spanner in the works for Vince McMahon.
One night removed from MITB and the WWE Universe received a bombshell. Raw Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch, made an emotional proclamation that she would be leaving the company for a while. With a confused Asuka demanding answers, The Man announced she is to become The Mum later this year. Clearly torn between happiness at her impending motherhood and devastated to walk away from a company she has arguably kept going in the last couple of years, it truly was a bittersweet moment for all involved.
The outpouring of praise and well wishes is unquestionably deserved. Lynch has written herself into the Hall of Fame all the way back to the foundations of her run as ‘The Man’ roughly two years ago now. Seldom do Superstars, male or female, pick themselves up from obscurity and force themselves into the main event of WrestleMania due to a groundswell of support from the fans. In the past decade only Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan have really achieved the same level of success through people power.
Her time away comes at a perfect time. She can hand over the women’s division in a much better place than when her title reign started. Let’s be clear, it took every woman that has stepped inside of a WWE ring to elevate their division to where it is today but Lynch will go down, whether she returns or not, as one of thebiggest factors in its success. It’s time for others to pick up the baton and start running, starting with the newly crowned champion Asuka.
Another title found itself vacated just hours later, as Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn was stripped of his title due to not being able to compete (according to reports, Zayn has elected to not perform in the current and ongoing pandemic). The WWE Universe again took to social media to voice their displeasure at the decision to announce a tournament to crown a new champion. Zayn’s recent tweets have echoed that sentiment, allowing him to stay relevant even from the safety of his home.
Outside the ring WWE released the first part of what is shaping up to be a magnificent documentary series focusing on the last few years of The Undertaker’s career. Part one appears to have originally been filmed under the presumption that his match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 would be his last, merely adding to the levels of emotion on display. WWE’s resident Clint Eastwood cowboy style character has never given access like this before, barely breaking character in the public eye for his entire career. As the last great gunslinger in the company, every wrestling fan, whether pro WWE or not, should make sure they check out this astonishing series.
MITB Prediction Results:
Reese: 2 (out of 6)