By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
I know the pro wrestling world isn’t predicated on the Internet Wrestling Community … right?
Hopping onto Twitter or Instagram or Reddit isn’t a true snapshot of what constitutes good taste and bad taste in the larger wrestling landscape … right?
We all have fun, spouting off our immediate reactions to decisions made in a make-believe world oftentimes dictated by one single man, but we know that even as we make our claims in 240 characters or less, it’s all nonsense … right?
And furthermore, we all know that no one is 100 percent correct, 100 percent of the time, and, conversely, no one is 100 percent wrong, 100 percent of the time, so all the opinions, analysis, reaction and criticism we read of pro wrestling events should be taken with a grain of salt … right?
Well, if you muttered “right” to any or all of those questions …
… Can you please explain to me what exactly WWE has to do in order to earn a W when it comes to judging its shows in the court of public opinion?
Money In The Bank was Saturday night. I’m not sure if you noticed. It didn’t happen on a Sunday (Jah bless!), and it also came during the weekend of the single most American holiday to exist, so you could have been doing things like grilling, camping or watching the UFC prelims. It also came ensconced in a smattering of humility as the plan was to hold it in a football stadium, but because of lackluster ticket sales, the show found a home in a regular, old arena.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cody’s hurt, Roman doesn’t wrestle anymore, Charlotte is basking in the glow of being married, Bayley is just chillin, Sasha and Naomi said, “Nah, we out,’ and Cena showed up on a Raw to hug his colleagues and remind the world that even he isn’t sure when he’s going to step back in a wrestling ring again.
So yeah. Maybe you missed it because maybe you weren’t sold on it.
And if that was the case, good for you. We live in the age of Never Enough Pro Wrestling, and between AEW, who had Rampage on Friday, GCW, which ran shows Thursday, Friday, Sunday and today, New Japan, which offered an episode of U.S.-based Strong as well as a Kushida-led card in Japan over the weekend — and all the other independent promotions I’m missing, including PWG Sunday night — maybe you needed a break. Maybe the star power wasn’t there and maybe a box of sparklers proved to be more enticing.
But if you missed Money In The Bank, you did so on your own accord. You weighed your options and you made your life choices. You didn’t begrudgingly carve out four hours of your Saturday night just to watch something you knew you weren’t going to like. Instead, you knew what was best for you, and you lived your best Fourth of July weekend.
Now, as for what you missed …
A FINE SHOW
Well, you missed an OK show. In a twist, WWE listened to some fans and ditched the pre-show matches. Oh, and even better, instead of packing 93 bouts into six hours of a premium live event, we got six advertised matches with an additional seventh short match that saw a Money In The Bank winner cash in successfully and win the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
That winner, of course, was Liv Morgan. She won the first match of the night, which was the women’s Money In The Bank bout, and even though she swore she was simply going to spend her night celebrating that win, wouldn’t you know it, Morgan’s music hit after Ronda Rousey retained her title against Natalya, and within about half a minute, we had a new champ.
I liked it. I mean, why not? It was fun, even a little fresh. Of all the people I thought might win the MITB match to begin with, Morgan was probably somewhere in the middle of the list. And Rousey … I mean, at this point, I just sort of resigned myself to the thought that Rousey was going to be Smackdown Women’s Champion forever. Those wheels have been spinning so deep into the mud since she returned to WWE that the belt, in my mind, was almost a non-starter. WWE wasn’t going to beat her anytime soon, I thought, and it certainly wasn’t going to come at the hands of Liv Morgan.
So, to me, the development was good, innocent fun. WWE has grown into a reputation of being formulaic — so much so that even its most passionate fans have been critical of things like the company’s propensity for rematches as well as its insistence on circling through only a select few names as the creative team (or, well, Vince McMahon) mulls the top of the card. Liv Morgan winning twice Saturday night was a very welcome, very pleasant surprise.
And I was basking in that surprise, in the feel-good nature of the moment, when I picked up my phone to open Twitter and gauge what the rest of the wrestling world was feeling. There were some happy people. There were some overly happy people. There were some ambivalent people. There were some negative people. And then there were some overly negative people. And that, friends, is where we’re going to start.
A BRIEFCASE’S RELEVANCE
As it goes, I happened upon a discussion that ostensibly dismissed the Money In The Bank gimmick as old hat. The argument was that winning that briefcase doesn’t mean anything anymore. Then, after pondering that for a minute, the statement was extended to the notion that the briefcase actually never meant anything to begin with. To which I say …
Lest we forget CM Punk? Edge, twice? Daniel Bryan. Even John Cena (who, we all know, failed to actually cash in successfully). These are A-list names. If you want to bash the briefcase these days because bashing WWE is the lowest-hanging fruit of all low-hanging fruit, I guess you can go ahead and do that. But to say that the novelty of this gimmick never held any weight in WWE is revisionist history at best, neglectful at worst.
The Money In The Bank concept is fun. So fun that we’ve since seen it ripped off by pretty much every other company in the world in some form or fashion. If a heel wins it, the opportunistic portion of our brain is on constant alert each time we tune into WWE programming; if a babyface wins it, the hopeless romantic portion of our brain begs to be satisfied after each championship match. Could now be the moment? Are we finally going to see [insert your favorite wrestler] win the big one?
I’m not a WWE apologist by any stretch of any imagination, but the company is at its best when Money In The Bank matters. Heading into Saturday’s men’s and women’s matches, I couldn’t pick a clear-cut favorite. And that’s the beauty of the thing — it’s designed to give someone like Damien Sandow a moment in the spotlight, even if that moment results in a loss, which it did for him in 2013. It can elevate some and cement others.
Speaking of which, that brings me to my other point …
WHAT’S WRONG WITH MOMENTS?
Dominating certain corners of the dismissive chatter was the argument that winning the MITB match actually doesn’t propel a wrestler to the next level anymore. People who win the match and successfully cash in the briefcase don’t typically have long title runs, is what was argued, and therefore, the whole exercise is meaningless. I’m not so sure about that either, and I certainly don’t know about that in the case of Liv Morgan.
Like it or not, Morgan has amassed a bit of a following through the years. On top of that, she’s drastically improved her game inside the ropes and the NXT Liv Morgan of eight years ago is certainly not the Smackdown Liv Morgan of today. She deserves credit for that, and, don’t look now, but let’s not forget that she is also a homegrown WWE talent, and attention must be paid, especially considering how topical the notion of someone being homegrown to a company is these days.
Running parallel to the thought that the cash-in is rendered meaningless — or at least so said various viewers on Twitter — is the argument that the whole routine is devoid of anything substantial. I.e., it’s all about the moment and not about actual change. That’s flawed for two reasons. One, anyone who thinks they can predict a pro wrestling future is either stupid, ignorant or stupidly ignorant because we’ve seen time and time and time and time again that plans change, pal, and for all we know, Liv Morgan could have that belt around her waist come WrestleMania next year.
But secondly, and more importantly … Well, so what? If the MITB prose exists only to create memorable moments for WWE stars and fans, what the hell is wrong with that? Do we really always need a six month program between two wrestlers before they can earn their right to have a meaningful title match? And by the way, isn’t every title change, for the most part, a memorable moment anyway? Yeah, WWE’s booking can be the drizzling poops anymore and sure, they mistakenly play hot potato with belts too often, but aren’t we supposed to treat world title changes like a real, honest-to-goodness memory in the first place?
The novelty of MITB, as far as I’m concerned, can never really be compromised. Turns out, the novelty of Survivor Series can be. And, for that matter, Hell In A Cell can probably be thrown in that same pile. But the Royal Rumble? No way. The surprises and the countdowns will never get old. The same can be said for Money In The Bank. It provides built-in intrigue from the second someone grabs that briefcase to the second you hear that person’s music hit, either later that night or hundreds of days after the fact.
And so it must be said …
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
I don’t understand why anyone who was so wildly inspired to find fault in Liv Morgan’s moment Saturday night would even watch the show to begin with. It embodied the good in WWE these days, which as we all know, is getting increasingly hard to find. A wrestler who spent eight years in the company, always working to get better, taking on any role they gave her (remember the Lana/Liv craziness?) won the most prestigious thing she could win on that night. If you can’t get up for that, what are you going to get up for?
So much breath is wasted on the AEW vs. WWE narrative that you don’t need me to rehash any of that. Besides, what I’m talking about here is different anyway. AEW, or any other wrestling company, has nothing to do with someone spending the most valuable asset they have, which is time, on consuming a product they don’t like. Then, to take it a step further and be so vocal about it … what’s the point?
If you know you weren’t going to like it anyway, change the channel. Grab a beer. Or shoot, if you yearn for the old days of WWE, pull up WrestleMania 3 or something and remind yourself why you like pro wrestling to begin with. But to poo-poo a moment like Liv Morgan’s for the sake of some blind hatred for a wrestling company feels a bit counterproductive for everyone involved, does it not?
From here, we go to SummerSlam, where Morgan will reportedly defend her title in a rematch against Rousey. The cynics will be quick to note that Rousey will most likely gain her title back, less than a month after she lost it. With any luck, that will include a heel turn on Rousey’s end because The Baddest Woman On The Planet is in need of a refresh in WWE. If all of that happens the way so many think it will, we may be cooking with gas because Morgan is now in the top tier of babyfaces and Rousey is far more interesting when she decides to be ornery.
Still, no matter what that future holds, one thing is for certain: Liv Morgan can now say she’s a world champion in WWE, and even if she loses it in a few weeks, nobody can tell her otherwise. And to me, that’s the kind of W that WWE can build from — even if so many people are committed to making sure all that company does is take L’s.