As Money in the Bank draws ever closer, it’s that time of the week where we take a look at which of WWE‘s two flagship shows fared better in the ongoing battle between Raw and SmackDown Live.
To do this, we will divide each show into three categories, those, as always, being the ‘Quality of Matches’, the ‘Storyline Progression/Pay-Per-View Build’, and any ‘Fun’ moments from either show.
This week’s shows aired on tape delay as they emanated from London, England, but was it the red brand or ‘Team Blue’ that had the better show this week?
Quality of Matches
In this section, we only focus on what happens bell-to-bell. We review each match before awarding each show a ‘Match of the Show’, and deciding whether it was Raw or SmackDown Live who put on the better matches overall this week.
Seth Rollins (c) defeated Kevin Owens – WWE Intercontinental Championship
Well, what did we expect? Of course, this match was excellent, which should go without saying given that it involved two of the best in the business. There were a couple of neat spots, namely Rollins hitting a Falcon Arrow onto the apron, which I winced at every time it was replayed, and also Owens hitting a top-rope Fisherman Buster on the ‘Kingslayer’. However, it was Rollins who came out on top following a Curb Stomp, to retain his Intercontinental crown once again.
Bobby Roode defeated No Way Jose and Baron Corbin – Triple Threat Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
The highlight of this match was the London crowd signing “He’s going bald, he’s going bald, he’s going, Corbin’s going bald” to the tune of ‘Three Lions’. That is the best chant there has ever been at a wrestling event. Ever. Regardless, all three men managed a fair amount of offense, with the commentators interestingly focusing on the potential of No Way Jose. It was Jose who took the fall, however, as the ‘Glorious One’ advances to Money in the Bank.
The B-Team (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel) defeated Breezango (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) – Tag Team Match
We’ll get into more detail with the B-Team later, but they came out on top in a comedic-yet-actually-quite-good tag team match against Breezango. The newly re-branded Dallas and Axel’s first ever win as a pairing came following a Belly to Back Suplex/Neckbreaker combination, with Dallas pinning Fandango for the 1-2-3.
Natalya, Sasha Banks and Ember Moon defeated The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan) – Six-Woman Tag Team Match
I’m not entirely sure what the point of this match was, but anyway, the Riott Squad worked over their ‘babyface’ opponents, before Natalya came in off the ‘hot-tag’ with a really nice sequence. After the match practically fell apart with bodies flying all over the place, Natalya locked Liv Morgan in the Sharpshooter, forcing Morgan to tap out. I find it odd that Natalya was the one to get the fall, but the match itself was fine.
The Deleters of Worlds (Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy) defeated The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) – Tag Team Match
The WWE Raw Tag Team Champions picked up yet another win on Monday night, but this one wasn’t as convincing as I predicted. The Revival worked over Hardy’s left leg before a Bray Wyatt ‘hot-tag’ led to a double Sister Abigail that is being billed as the “Kiss of Deletion”, and Hardy pinned Dawson for the victory. This match was quite enjoyable when Michael Cole wasn’t being a massive irritant – which unfortunately was most of the match.
Alexa Bliss defeated Bayley and Mickie James – Triple Threat Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
Bliss and James started this one off by working together, but it wasn’t long before the combustible elements came to blows. Alexa Bliss hit the Snap DDT on Bayley for the win, so the ‘Goddess’ is now a part of the women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match. The crowd wasn’t really interested in this one, and the match suffered because of that.
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler defeated Finn Bálor and Braun Strowman – Tag Team Match
The story of this one was that McIntyre really wanted to step into the ring with the big man on the opposite side, Braun Strowman. Except he didn’t, because he’s an intelligent man. It wasn’t long before the ‘Monster Among Men’ was running the Scot over on the outside though, which led to Strowman’s Greatest Royal Rumble trophy being destroyed. I don’t think this was intended because Strowman didn’t even react to it. Nonetheless, when all this was going on, Ziggler managed to score a quick pinfall over Bálor and pick up the victory for his team. This match was a lot of fun, and the right team won. (That is absolute poetry).
Kevin Owens defeated Elias and Bobby Lashley – Triple Threat Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
This match was initially scheduled to be between Elias, Lashley and Jinder Mahal, but Kevin Owens took Mahal’s place, for reasons we’ll get to later. Elias was undoubtedly the fan favorite in this affair and even attempted to perform a concert mid-match. When the crowd wasn’t singing Elias’ name, they were chanting “Bobby’s sisters.” Lashley himself looked like he was going to pick up the win before he was attacked by Sami Zayn (again, more on this later), which allowed Owens to capitalize with a Bullfrog Splash on Elias to pick up the victory.
Match of the Show
I think I’ll just call this section the “Seth Rollins Award of the Week” from here on out because the ‘Architect’ has won the ‘Match of the Show’ for three straight weeks now. His match against Owens wasn’t a classic by any means, but it stood out on a show that contained a fair amount of impressive in-ring action.
SmackDown (not) Live
The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods) defeated The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) – Tag Team Match – One Member of the Winning Team Qualifies for Money in the Bank
As we’d expect from this combination of men, the match was very impressive indeed. With a bit of entertainment thrown in, it was the New Day who picked up the victory, when Big E speared Sheamus through the ropes to the outside, and Woods landed the Limit Break elbow on Cesaro for the win. The question now is: which member of New Day will enter the Money in the Bank match? You can check out who Mike Johnson thinks it’ll be, by clicking here. Also, The Miz was on commentary for this match, for some reason.
Andrade Almas defeated Jake Constantinou
As advertised last week, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas made his WWE main roster debut on SmackDown last night, in a convincing win over ‘local talent’ Jake Constantinou. Constantinou is an MMA fighter based out of Leicester, England. He was no match for ‘El Ídolo’ though, who picked up a quick victory following a Hammerlock DDT.
Becky Lynch defeated Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville – Triple Threat Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
They like a Triple Threat Money in the Bank qualifying match in WWE, don’t they? The story of this one was the combustion of former Absolution partners Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. So as it turns out, Paige was right, Absolution really is dead by the looks of things. Despite losing to ‘God’s Greatest Creation’ last week, Becky Lynch locked Rose in the Dis-arm-her to pick up the win and stamped her ticket to Chicago next month.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated AJ Styles – Winner Chooses Stipulation for WWE Championship Match at Money in the Bank
I’d say this was one of the better matches between these two so far, during their feud over Styles’ WWE Title. They played off on the fact the pair have had multiple matches recently, repeatedly reversing each other’s signature maneuvers. Things got interesting when AJ Styles was very, very, close to landing the Phenomenal Forearm on the referee. Nakamura used this distraction to his advantage and feigned that the ‘Phenomenal One’ had struck him with a ‘low blow’. With Styles trying to convince the official otherwise, Nakamura capitalized with a reverse Exploder Suplex, followed up by a Kinshasa for the victory.
Match of the Show
SmackDown‘s ‘Match of the Show’ goes to the main event between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. As I mentioned, this was one of, if not the, best match between the two in their current program, and also ended with the best, and most satisfying, conclusion.
For me, this week is barely a contest. Despite the ‘Land of Opportunity’ concluding with a great main event, I was impressed by every single match Raw had to offer. The same can’t be said for SmackDown though, Almas’ match was a simple ‘squash’, and the women’s Triple Threat match wasn’t nearly as good as the one the previous night on Raw.
‘Quality of Matches’ winner – Raw
Storyline Progression/Pay-per-view Build
Much like last week, this week’s showed were stacked with Money in the Bank qualifying matches. With that said, there were still a lot of storylines that played out and advanced, so let’s see which show did it better.
Jinder Mahal – The hero we’ve always wanted
Roman Reigns opened the show by coming to the ring and having a moan about Jinder Mahal costing the ‘Big Dog’ his chance to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match in a Triple Threat match last week. Reigns demanded Mahal join him in the ring but was instead greeted by Raw General Manager, Kurt Angle.
Angle said that he had been told by WWE management that Roman Reigns will not have another chance to qualify, but Jinder Mahal will because that’s what’s “best for business.” The Olympic gold medalist went on to announce Mahal’s inclusion in the main event, where he was set to square off against Elias and Bobby Lashley.
Reigns then stormed off in a huff, and conveniently found the ‘Modern Day Maharaja’ waiting for him backstage. The two brawled their way back onto the stage, before being restrained by backstage personnel.
Later in the show, we found that Mahal had suffered an injury to his midriff, putting his place in the main event in jeopardy. Being the heroic babyface that he is, (I’m joking, but he did get cheered on Monday), he said he would fight through the pain and qualify for the eight-man ladder match in June.
While all this was going on, Kevin Owens was busy phoning Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon about getting another opportunity to qualify himself.
While Mahal was making his way to gorilla position, Roman Reigns Speared him through a wall. Braun Strowman calls gimmick infringement on that. Anyway, this meant that Mahal needed replacing. Was it WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne? Was it a hot NXT talent like EC3, Ricochet or Velveteen Dream? Was it a massively underutilized talent like Chad Gable or Mojo Rawley?
Nope. It was Kevin Owens because that’s what’s “best for business.” I wonder if Stephanie McMahon recalls Owens headbutting her 72-year-old father, busting him open, and repeatedly attacking her brother Shane? Apparently not.
WWE Raw Women’s Championship match set for Money in the Bank
Despite it already being announced on Twitter before Raw aired, a video was shown of Nia Jax challenging Ronda Rousey for a match at Money in the Bank, for Jax’ WWE Raw Women’s Championship. Click here for more details.
Before her Money in the Bank qualifier, Bayley encountered Sasha Banks backstage. Banks said “good luck,” and they smiled and walked off. Does anyone remember when they were tearing each other apart a few weeks ago? Yes, most people do, so why they’re suddenly BFFs again I haven’t got a clue.
Sami Zayn comes off as a little bit of a creep
Last week, Bobby Lashley told some stories about his sisters, who are now more ‘over’ than the ‘Dominator’ himself. Sami Zayn followed up on that awkward interview by contacting Lashley’s sisters on Facebook. That’s not weird at all. Apparently, Zayn found out Lashley was telling some fibs last week, and that his sisters will be at next week’s show to expose the “true Bobby Lashley”.
A small change has a huge impact
This is just a little thing that I think will have a massive impact going forward. Previous to this past Monday, Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler made their way to the ring flanked by Ziggler’s sparkly pink titantron display. This week, they switched it around, so McIntyre was second to make his way onto the stage, and the pair marched to the ring with the Scot’s theme music. This gives off such a badass feel to the team and really helps focus on the intensity McIntyre brings to the table.
Why do they always have to take away everything that we like?
Also, Elias didn’t perform a concert. Again. I think this is a not-so-covert attempt by WWE to stop him getting ‘over’, which makes me very, very sad.
With Money in the Bank being WWE’s next pay-per-view, here is a brief list of all the implications on that show, from this week’s Raw:
- It looks like we are building to Jinder Mahal vs. Roman Reigns. IN CHICAGO. That ought to be fun.
- Nia Jax will defend her WWE Raw Women’s Championship against Ronda Rousey
- Bobby Roode and Kevin Owens both qualified for the men’s Money in the Bank Ladder match.
- Alexa Bliss qualified for the women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match.
- It’s early in the program, but we could be looking at Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley come June 17
SmackDown (not) Live
Can Big Cass just leave us all alone?
SmackDown opened with a Renee Young in-ring interview with Daniel Bryan. Bryan cut an impassioned promo about how he will become WWE Champion before he was cut off by Big Cass. I genuinely rolled my eyes and sighed when Cass came out. Cass runs down how he has repeatedly attacked Bryan, but the ‘”Yes!” Man’ switched the roles and sent Cass packing, targeting the New Yorker’s previously injured knee.
We saw another promo/vignette of the Bludgeon Brothers running down every team on SmackDown, and before saying “We are waiting.” Waiting for who? Probably SAnitY. Or maybe the Colóns. Trust me, when Epico returns it will receive the biggest ‘pop’ of the modern era.
Money in the Bank falls on Rusev Day!
A couple of weeks ago, Lana hinted that something was holding Rusev down, and it looked like she was talking about Aiden English. However, last night, the three got along swimmingly. Lana announced that she has a qualifier next week against Billie Kay and that she and Rusev will be the first-ever “Mr. and Mrs. Money in the Bank.”
The “Royal ‘Mellabration” is as boring as the actual royal family
As promised, Carmella treated us to a “Royal ‘Mellabration,” because all of us Brits like the royal family. Disclaimer: No we do not. Anyway, this turned out to be a massive disappointment and ended when SmackDown General Manager Paige intervened and announced that Asuka will challenge Carmella for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship at Money in the Bank.
“Samoa Joe doesn’t care about Big Cass’ size.” I wonder if Carmella did?
It was also announced that next week, Big Cass will face Samoa Joe in the final men’s Money in the Bank Ladder match qualifier.
‘Protective Cup on a Pole’ match?
This came in the form of a match we looked at earlier, but we now know that Shinsuke Nakamura will choose the stipulation for his WWE Championship challenge against AJ Styles at Money in the Bank. I’m guessing a ‘Protective Cup on a Pole’ match.
Here is a quick list of all the Money in the Bank-related occurrences on last night’s SmackDown:
- One member of New Day will be a part of the Money in the Bank ladder match
- Asuka will challenge Carmella for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
- Lana will face Billie Kay next week in a qualifier
- Samoa Joe will square off against Big Cass in a qualifier
- Shinsuke Nakamura will choose the stipulation for his WWE Title match against AJ Styles
Both shows performed quite well in building to Money in the Bank, and taking that, and also non-Money in the Bank-related storylines into account, I think Raw did better this week. A few intertwined narratives throughout the show made for enjoyable and engaging viewing, SmackDown had a couple of duds with the opening segment, and the “Royal ‘Mellabration.”
‘Storyline Progression/Pay-per-view Build’ winner – Raw
In this segment, we take a look at any moments that made me laugh or just gave me a feeling of joy throughout the shows because, as always, that’s what it’s all about.
To make this segment and article series more interactive, in future weeks, you can tweet your “Fun” moments from Raw and SmackDown to @LiamTheShebang on Twitter, and your tweet will be included in this segment.
Everything with the B-Team
After being disbanded from The Miz, who was drafted to SmackDown Live in the Superstar Shake-up, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel wanted to rebrand themselves as the A-Team. Kurt Angle informed them that they can’t do that because it is, of course, the name of a popular TV show, so they went for the B-Team instead. They made their entrance with DIY (not that one) B-Team t-shirts, and their post-match interview was fantastic. I couldn’t be happier for these two guys.
British crowds are the best
As I mentioned earlier, the WWE Universe in London serenaded us with a “He’s going bald, he’s going bald, he’s going, Corbin’s going bald” to the tune of ‘Three Lions’ chant. Not only that, but they also sang the A-Team TV Show’s intro music during the B-Team’s match against Breezango. Amazing.
SmackDown (not) Live
The ‘Woken’ Street Crier
Before Carmella made her entrance for the “Royal ‘Mellabration” segment, a street crier came onto the stage, because Britain. He proclaimed that Carmella is the “Princess of the Isle of Staten,” and that she is the “esteemed SmackDown champion of all women.” This made me chuckle.
Raw wins because the B-Team is absolutely fantastic, and I hope they get to continue to show such character in coming weeks.
‘Fun’ winner – Raw
Using our completely flawless system of three categories, Raw has picked up the first clean-sweep in ‘Raw vs. SmackDown‘ history. It’s hard to argue with that, and I’m not going to, Raw was the better show this week.
Overall winner – Raw