With the WWE's Summerslam approaching, Mr. Money in the Bank got his title match and did nothing with it.
Baron Corbin goes into the WWE’s Summerslam this Sunday with a big “L” on his head. Earlier this year, he won the Money in the Bank match which gave him the Money in the Bank briefcase and the ability to, at any moment, get a championship match. In the past, briefcase holders have used it opportunistically to get matches after champions have endured grueling matches and defeat them. Corbin tried that strategy Tuesday on Smackdown Live and lost. Now he has no guaranteed match, no special opportunities, and no title belt.
John Cena was wrestling Heavyweight Champion Jinder Mahal and had just laid Mahal out in the ring after an Attitude Adjustment off the second rope. Corbin charged into the ring, messed with Cena, who he’ll face at Summerslam, then started to return to the backstage area. Then, on the ramp, it occurred to him that he could easily beat the prone Mahal, so Corbin went to the referee and cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Cena jumped up on the ring apron, so Corbin went to knock him off. During that time, Mahal got up, got behind Corbin and rolled him up from behind for the win. Corbin not only squandered his opportunity but get an embarrassing pin for his efforts.
I’ve seen some speculation as to why the WWE separated Corbin from his briefcase, one being that the company hasn’t been happy with his work since he won Money in the Bank (and his recent program with Shinsuke Nakamura makes that sound credible). Another suspects that the WWE wants to use this loss as an excuse for him to become more angry and consequently, more devastating. Also possible. After his first smug walk down the ramp to the ring with the briefcase, Corbin never seemed suited to the security of knowing that he could get a title shot any time he wanted. The character’s concept is that he’s a lone wolf, and maybe he needs life a little flintier. Whatever the case, Cena’s role in Corbin wasting his shot builds heat for their match at Summerslam, which until now had little.
The winners going into Summerslam are Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, who ended their will they/won’t they reunion dance on Raw with one last round of recriminations and brawling because boys just have to work shit out. When Sheamus and Cesaro came to the ring to beat on the squabbling former Shield members, Ambrose and Rollins took beatings individually before they teamed up to clear the ring and put their fists together again Shield-style to show the world they were back. Raw’s tag team division has needed some new life since The Hardys were the wrestling equivalent of Mountain Dew, and Rollins particularly could use something new to do after his flat program with Bray Wyatt. At Summerslam, they’ll face Sheamus and Cesaro at Summerslam, who have one of my current favorite gimmicks as they often wear each other’s clothes.
My other favorite gimmick (while Elias Samson is on the bench) is Jinder Mahal’s mining of his Indian heritage. I’m still uncomfortable with what looks like a lot of stereotyping in his presentation, but I’m a mark for old school bits like demanding that the audience stand and remain respectful while someone sings another country’s National Anthem as Mahal did Tuesday. It guarantees heat, and he made the moment even funnier by having an older woman sing it to a booing arena. Shinsuke Nakamura will face Mahal at Summerslam, so he came to the ring to confront him, do his “strong style” thing, then leave. Nakamura’s English is still rough, but his presence did the heavy lifting as he kept the moment tight.
Highlights from Raw: Finn Bálor finally faced Bray Wyatt and owned the match until Wyatt hit him with a Sister Abigail for the win. Then, after one of Wyatt’s NIN-style blackouts, a pail of “blood” is mysteriously in the ring, and Wyatt pours it over the still prone Bálor. He comes to, freaks out, and 15 minutes later we discover that Bálor will be in his Celtic demon makeup/persona at Summerslam when he faces Wyatt again. Since the wrestlers’ demons are the engine that drives this program, no one could be surprised by this announcement.
We learn that Enzo Amore will be suspended over the ring Sunday in a shark cage while Big Cass faces Big Show in a battle of the Bigs. Cass gets a lot of heat from the audience, but it’s more for what he has done than what he says. Once he plows through the audience’s booing to talk about Enzo and Big Show, that heat cooled quickly. Enzo made his entrance, brought out Big Show, and the two headed to the ring. Once there, Anderson and Gallows raced to the ring and, with Cass, beat down Big Show, slamming the shark cage door on his wrist to weaken him before Sunday. At this point in his career, Big Show’s an interim figure—someone you face on the way to somewhere. That and the flatness of Cass’ promo work makes me think Sunday’s match will be decided by a double-cross from Enzo who’ll reunite with Big Cass as heels.
Speaking of flat, there’s Jason Jordan. The storyline that he is Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son is the WWE at its most overthought, and audiences aren’t buying. He couldn’t even get love facing The Miz; it wasn’t until The Miztourage intervened—which prompted The Hardy Boyz to come to Jordan’s defense—that the audience woke up.
Sasha Banks beat Nia Jax to face Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship at Summerslam. I still assume that the WWE is saving Jax to be Bliss’ comeuppance at Wrestlemania, but they’re tarnishing her luster by having her take a lot of losses for someone who’s pretty much bulletproof. This week, Banks got her in the Banks Statement and Jax couldn’t get to a ring rope to break the hold.
Highlights from Smackdown Live: I’m not sure why the WWE felt that Shane McMahon needed to be part of the A.J. Styles/Kevin Owens match-up since Styles and Owens are two of the most entertaining performers in the WWE and certainly on Smackdown. McMahon will forever get props as the most able in-ring performer in the McMahon family, and he did take a fall off the top of the Hell in a Cell cage through a table 20 or so feet below in 2017, but Styles and Owens don’t need him to make a good match. Still, he’ll referee their match at Summerslam. Because. Last week, Styles and Owens started scrapping in the ring and Styles landed a Pele kick in McMahon’s face instead of Owens’. This week, Styles called McMahon to the ring to apologize and to try to gauge how much damage he did to his chance of winning. McMahon assured him that he understood, but things went as badly as you’d expect if you’ve watched 10 minutes of professional wrestling. Owens came out, they brawled again, Styles tried to deck him but almost caught McMahon instead. Owens threw a superkick at Styles, but he ducked so McMahon took the kick in the face. Now we’ll go into Sunday wondering who McMahon’s madder at.
It would be nice to think that the Rusev/Chad Gable match was the start of something, but no, it was all a long, meaningless lead up to Randy Orton’s run-in to drop an RKO on Rusev in advance of their match at Summerslam.
Becky Lynch has been treated like a hot commodity since she moved to the WWE main roster from NXT, but she’s booked as one of the top obstacles the actual top women have to overcome, not the person who actually wins. At Summerslam, Natalya will face Naomi for the Smackdown women’s championship, and she warmed up Tuesday night by getting Lynch to submit in the Sharpshooter—not even a dirty finish or a cheat-to-win moment to preserve her legitimacy as player in the division. At the moment, Naomi, Natalya, Charlotte, and the women’s Money in the Bank winner Carmella are all above her on the food chain. The WWE can be slow to genuinely embrace its hot commodities. If there was a hint that something bigger was down the road as is the case with Nia Jax, her use as a jobber would be less glaring.
The best part of the confrontation between Mahal and Nakamura that started Smackdown was the dance-off. Bollywood dancers danced down the ramp to the ring as part of Mahal’s celebration of all things Indian, and it was one of the moments where the WWE’s production expertise showed. Their dancing and costumes seen in front of the bright, warm colors on the rear projection wall gave the audience at home a spectacle that people in the arena didn’t quite get. Shortly after, Nakamura similarly danced down the ramp, but in his spastic, electrified Michael Jackson way. The sequence subtly built Nakamura’s face status by making his moment about his magnetism and putting him, alone, against the 10 or so people who surrounded Mahal. It also served as a reminder that even when you don’t get booking, the WWE usually knows what it’s doing.
Then again, encouraging the audience to respond xenophobically on the Tuesday after Charlottesville says maybe not.