Pruett's Pause: WWE Money in the Bank 2013 - John Cena defeats the monster, Randy Orton grabs a briefcase, Daniel Bryan shows fire, Ziggler and A.J. begin breaking up, and more!
By Will Pruett
Towards the end of the All Star Money in the Bank Ladder Match (for the WWE Championship contract), Daniel Bryan went on a tear. He took out multiple wrestlers with his lethal kicks and high-risk offense. Everything seemed set up for him to run up the ladder after an amazing offensive display and grab the briefcase. Obviously, it didn't happen. It would have been too easy.
John Cena lifted Mark Henry up on his shoulders in the WWE Championship match and dropped him with the Attitude Adjustment. The referee dropped onto the ground to count, but couldn't quite get to three. It would have been too easy.
Cody Rhodes, we were told, was about to experience the biggest moment of his career. He was ascending the ladder in the opening contest of this show, when he was abruptly stopped by his tag team partner Damien Sandow. Rhodes had the briefcase in his hands, but he couldn't grab it. It would have been too easy.
In major WWE matches, nothing ever happens easily. Compare this to actual sporting events, where halfway through the game, one is praying for a miracle as their favorite team is losing in a rout. The teams may have looked even coming in, but they weren't on that particular night. Things like this happen everywhere, except for in WWE.
In WWE things have to be difficult. A wrestler can never just run through their opponents and win. This is probably because WWE is an entertainment product and blowouts aren't entertaining (unless your team is winning). The second a win becomes predictable, WWE strives to change it. Is this because the entertainment value of a match is in the struggle?
Look at John Cena vs. Mark Henry: the match was originally about Cena's inability to lift Henry. After Cena accomplished this, but did not win, the new struggle began. Cena had to lock in the STF (which he usually does), then lock it in again. This struggle is meant to produce a passionate response from the audience as they cheer for the good guy to finally overcome. Would they cheer without a struggle? Would a wrestler who isn't struggling still be seen as good?
The obvious can never happen consistently in WWE. This is why the man who won't win stands tall on the show before a major pay-per-view. This is why a wrestler dominating a match is not likely to walk out of it victorious. The obvious in the moment isn't supposed to happen. Wrestling is ultimately predictable when it attempts unpredictability.
- It was odd for so many of the wrestlers going into the blue Money in the Bank match (yes, I am referring to them by color now) to cut heel promos on their way to the ring. Yes, they are all heels, but WWE couldn't have wanted everything in the match booed.
- In front of any other crowd, the opening Ladder Match may have fallen flat. In front of a crowd like Philadelphia, this match played extremely well. It was hard to get behind one star or another, but the action was dynamic enough to keep it interesting.
- The participation of two tag teams in the Money in the Bank spots was really enjoyable. Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro stood out as an especially fun tandem when executing big moves. It provided something different than what we've seen in the past (aside from the involvement of Rated RKO and The Hardy Boys at WrestleMania 23).
- Damien Sandow's win really surprised me, but it did so in the best way. It created a new story between Sandow and Rhodes, instantly making (what had become) a directionless jobber tag team into an actual compelling story. I definitely see Sandow holding onto his briefcase for a while and I would even be fine with him not winning the title with it.
- This is my annual reminder to fans: There is a better potential story to be told in a wrestler failing to cash in the briefcase for a title than there is in said wrestler winning a title.
- Brad Maddox's tribute to Vickie Guerrero was boring, obnoxious, and just plain awful. I really like the Maddox character, but if these stupid little skits are the plan for him, I'd rather just hear him on NXT commentary.
- Are authority figures actually necessary in wrestling?
- The Miz's trick to get Paul Heyman ejected from ringside carried the whole "WWE good guy doing a bad thing" vibe with it for me. Am I too old fashioned when I want to cheer a guy who does the right thing for the right reasons?
- Curtis Axel vs. The Miz was what I expected it to be. Axel is improving his portrayal of this character, although I believe he may have tried to shoot too high on this show.
- A.J. Lee vs. Kaitlyn was fairly forgettable. It wasn't a bad match, but it just doesn't stand out the morning after the show. It's a shame, because these two showed last month how great of a match they could put together. This month, their story has devolved as well as their wrestling.
- I still enjoy the mid-show discussions with the pre-show panel. They seem heavily scripted, but they also give us a nice little break from the normal flow of the show.
- Ryback vs. Chris Jericho was on the level of other Ryback vs. technical wrestler matches, which usually turn out to be good. Both men were trying hard in the ring and it consisted of minimal awkwardness.
- I was definitely hoping for some Vickie Guerrero involvement in Ryback vs. Jericho. The hug on Raw was too great to let pass without more!
- Ryback won his match with a roll-up, which would hurt his gimmick if he was still playing said gimmick. He stopped being the unbeatable monster a while ago.
- Once again, the crowd for this show made bad booking right. This time, it was with Dolph Ziggler, who received strong babyface support. I truly hope WWE finds a way to get Dolph this support in every city and not just heel-friendly ones.
- Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio lacked the surprise urgency of last month's double turn, but it packed in some great action. Right up until the finish, the match was well structured.
- WWE often lacks subtlety, which was shown with the beginning of the Ziggler and A.J. breakup. It would have been great to see this be an exception for them, but I understand why such a broad entertainment form can't rock subtlety often (or at all).
- John Cena vs. Mark Henry was probably the right match to put in the semi-main event slot. It wasn't bad, but the finish was sure to leave the crowd flat, especially at the end of the show. This way, they still had a ladder car wreck to look forward to.
- Cena vs. Henry was another well wrestled match from Mark Henry (and another example of Cena enhancing a talent in the ring, but people will instantly forget that part). I believed, during multiple points in this match, Henry would actually get it done against Cena.
- The finisher kick-outs in this match both worked and didn't work for me. I understand why they were there. To make a match feel special now in WWE, wrestlers must kick out of each other's finishers at least once. Perhaps this is a trend dating all the way back to Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania 17. It does take away from finishing maneuvers a little bit and it can hurt the wrestlers doing them.
- Many people will be upset about Henry tapping out to Cena, but what did you expect? Cena is the hero of WWE right now (although his actions often paint him as a villain) and Henry was a monster coming after him (although 90% of the build to this match had Henry actually being more relatable than Cena). This is how the formula works.
- The Wyatt Family video left me expecting the Wyatt's to interfere in the main event. I was slightly disappointed when this did not happen.
- Rob Van Dam looked to be in much better shape than when last seen in TNA and a half step or two faster as well. RVD should be commended for being so ready for his WWE return, but also criticized for phoning it in so much for years in TNA. A little more pride in his work would have served him well.
- The All-Star Money in the Bank match (the red one, if you're into color coding) was intense and brutal. It had some moments I never expected to see on WWE TV. It definitely showcased the danger of these matches, which was not always a positive.
- Daniel Bryan's flurry in the match was fantastic proof of just how good Bryan is. I didn't mind it not finishing the match since it would have been odd to see a wrestler basically run the table then actually win. A feud with Curtis Axel for Bryan doesn't excite me too much though. Axel isn't quite up to Bryan's level and I would rather see Bryan get elevated instead of helping to elevate others.
- I predicted a Bryan win going in, but I am kind of glad he didn't actually win the contract. There is still time to get to Bryan vs. Cena at some point this year and Bryan will (hopefully) still be as hot.
- Paul Heyman's turn on C.M. Punk was relatively predictable, but also well executed. At first, I wondered if it would be called an accident, but the multitude of ladder shots proved this theory wrong. Heyman vs. Punk is in full swing now.
- Randy Orton seemed to pop up as a choice to win in the last couple of days and I can't complain about it. Orton holding a briefcase should be fun, knowing his propensity for coming "out of nowhere" with moves. Orton and Cena may be able to find some of the magic they never quite had as rivals in their previous seemingly never ending feuds (2007-2009).
- Orton may also be the wrestler from this batch who doesn't win a title with the briefcase. It wouldn't shock me to see John Cena turn back the challenge of whoever holds the contract, much like Punk kept Cena from winning last year. It would bring John Cena's year of redemption around fill circle.
Wrestling is at its best when it is unpredictably unpredictable, but this rarely happens. When you've watched wrestling for a long time, you start to know what's going on. Sometimes we must hope for the best, but appreciate what is in front of us. This was a hard-worked show with a fantastic crowd. It lacked the net-friendly surprises of the past two years of Money in the Bank shows, but it was still fun.
In a way, Money in the Bank Ladder Matches are a lot like Summer blockbusters. They are fun to watch, contain a lot of action, and sometimes things blow up, but they ultimately lack substance. Storytelling becomes secondary to spectacle, which is what we saw from both Ladder Matches. They're fun, but like a vapor. Today, I can recall some big spots. Tomorrow, I'll remember the winners and not much else. They aren't bad, but they just don't matter. I like a good action flick as much as the next guy, and these are basically the wrestling version of Transformers.
It wasn't a home run show by any means, but it clocked in at a B- for me. Predictability hurt it, as well as a slightly lacking undercard and heavy-handed storytelling. The next few weeks will show us the road to SummerSlam, which should be a very exciting show, especially with the expected Brock Lesnar vs. C.M. Punk match.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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