Considering WWE is on the unofficial "Road to SummerSlam," Sunday night’s "SmackDown" exclusive Money in the Bank pay-per-view accomplished exactly what it needed to.
It generated more questions than answers and gave fans a taste of potential feuds that could pay off at SummerSlam.
WWE delivered a quality product with Money in the Bank, but a few moments from Sunday night failed.
Most importantly, though, "SmackDown" proved it has a variety of options for its top superstars with SummerSlam nearing.
First ever Women’s Money in the Bank match misses major opportunity
WWE focused much of its marketing campaign leading up to Money in the Bank on the first ever Women’s MITB match.
Therefore when the match concluded with Carmella’s hype man James Ellsworth climbing the ladder, grabbing the briefcase and tossing it down to Carmella for the win, people were pissed.
Don't want to take anything away from Carmella but in the first ever #MITB Women's ladder match A MAN takes down the briefcase— Nia Jax (@NiaJaxWWE) June 19, 2017
For those who do not know, James Ellsworth is male. Think about that. The first ever Women’s Money in the Bank match finished the same way every Money in the Bank match in WWE history has ended — with a male retrieving the coveted prize hanging above the ring.
It was a major disappointment following a match that had some exciting spots in a division filled with talented wrestlers.
Ellsworth had no business even being in the ring, nonetheless winning the match.
What could be next?
Both "SmackDown Live" general manager Shane McMahon and commissioner Daniel Bryan tweeted about their disappointment surrounding Carmella’s victory.
Expect WWE to try and correct this mistake by forcing Carmella to put the briefcase she just won on the line in a match involving the other four competitors.
With recent reports about "SmackDown Live’s" low ratings, it would not be a surprise if WWE decides to redo the match all together and just have a MITB match on cable television.
WWE Champion Jinder Mahal defeats Randy Orton in Backlash replay
To be clear, Mahal and Orton’s rematch delivered in a lot of good ways. The "Modern Day Maharaja" is over as an old-school heel, and keeping the belt on him is the right choice.
WWE tends to protect its top stars, and Orton continued to be the beneficiary of this practice. Just as he did at Backlash, Mahal needed a distraction from the Singh Brothers to win. (Here is Mahal’s win from Backlash last month.)
Compared to Sunday’s ending, it is the same conclusion as Backlash. WWE creative made a safe booking rather than a progressive one.
A clear and dominant win for Mahal would’ve been fresh, and Orton taking a bad loss is something a wrestler as respected as Orton can afford.
What could be next?
It has been reported that Mahal is receiving positive reviews as champion. His Punjabi Celebration alone generated 1.5 million YouTube views.
Expect Mahal to continue as champion through Battleground on July 23 and go into SummerSlam with the belt. Whether Mahal faces Orton for a third time at Battleground or the returning John Cena, Mahal dropping the WWE Championship to Cena at SummerSlam seems like the next logical WWE move.
"SmackDown’s" viewership numbers are down, and Cena is always the safe bet to stabilize ratings.
Men’s Money in the Bank match elevates classic heel and teases dream match
Baron Corbin dominated the Money in the Bank match from start to finish. He caught the biggest heat of the night when he interrupted Shinsuke Nakamura’s electrifying entrance and attacked him.
Nakamura missed about 20 minutes of the match after Corbin’s assault, but returned and shared the most memorable moment of the night with AJ Styles in center ring.
Fans inside the Scottrade Center made it clear — Nakamura vs. Styles is a match the WWE Universe wants.
But the night belonged to Corbin, and just as he stole the spotlight from Nakamura’s entrance, he ended Styles and Nakamura’s deadlock by knocking them off the ladder and eventually grabbing the briefcase.
Nothing to complain about here because WWE delivered a WrestleMania-quality match.
What could be next?
Corbin is set to become WWE Champion at some point this year, but figuring out where he fits in the current title picture is difficult. He’ll likely feud with one of the other five men from the MITB match before cashing in his WWE Championship match contract near year’s end.
Could he serve as a bridge champion between Cena’s next run and putting the belt back on Styles before WrestleMania 34? Cena putting over Corbin as WWE Champion could provide a fresh transition between SummerSlam’s aftermath and the Road to WrestleMaina.
As for Nakamura and Styles, it is only a matter of time before the two square off. The only question: will WWE make people wait until WrestleMania 34 or fast-track the match for SummerSlam on August 20?
Either way, WWE knows it has a marquee matchup in Styles vs. Nakamura based off the electricity the two created Sunday night.