In lieu of my normal Best/Worst list for Money in the Bank 2017, I would like to compose a piece about what I felt was the major shortcoming of the evening. Late last week, in my normal perusing of wrestling dirtsheets, I came across a comment from – I believe – a former WWE writer who stated that Vince McMahon and co. ‘don’t care about long-term storytelling’ and prefer to build shows around ‘moments’ — apparently this is where they feel the money is found.
Now what constitutes a ‘moment’? That’s pretty difficult to define; as Justice Potter Stewart would say, “I know it when I see it.” Conversely, we also know when we see WWE desperately trying to construct a ‘moment.’ Michael Cole makes certain of that with his earsplitting calls on commentary every WrestleMania. However, the force-fed ‘WrestleMania moments’ are not the only pitfall of this hard focus on moment-based storytelling.
I took some time in writing this article post-MITB because I wanted to truly digest the events of this past Sunday and process their place in whatever exists of a WWE canon. Case in point, I was actually mildly entertained by James Ellsworth securing the Women’s MITB case and handing it off to his partner, Carmella.
For better or for worse, this was a ‘moment’ – and it will likely be remembered for some time. In this, the WWE was somewhat successful in their pursuit of moment-based storytelling. Where they faltered was in preserving the incredible era of women’s wrestling that has been cultivated up to this point. Sure, not everything has been stellar as of late in the women’s divisions, but in their chance to make the first ever women’s MITB match another inflection point for their female roster they handed the case to a man. A heel male manager of a female talent, but a man nonetheless. For all of time, the history books of professional wrestling will read that James Ellsworth retrieved the case in the first-ever Women’s MITB match. Despite the fact that the decision was overturned on SDLive, the facts remain. Was this worth the slight smirks it garnered from the arena audience and the people watching at home?
Money in the Bank is effectively the second Royal Rumble, with an even better prize. In my own humble opinion, it has risen to stand on par with the Big 4 PPVs – even with being a brand exclusive show now. I had mentioned in my preview that I absolute adored MITB 2016. Last year’s show was chockful of incredibly memorable moments – memorable moments in service of long-term, albeit informal, storylines. The shocking Michinoku Driver from Sami Zayn to Kevin Owens onto the beams of a ladder – another brutal moment in the Zayn/Owens Saga. A tense WWE Championship match between Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, capping off with Dean Ambrose’s cash-in and title victory – a massive juncture in the tale of the SHIELD.
MITB 2017 felt nearly devoid of any of that — save for the (again informal) faceoff between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, a callback to their NJPW days. But this moment, truly the single semblance of a legitimate ‘moment’ in the show, was interrupted for Baron Corbin’s limp victory.
In striving to build this saltatory system of entertainment – moment to moment – the WWE has lost what truly makes a ‘moment.’ Long-term storytelling is not the be-all, end-all of professional wrestling, but it can – and is – often the groundwork for truly memorable moments. There was not a massive deluge of “Hey, remember the SHIELD?” or “Hey, remember Owens and Zayn hate each other?” leading up to MITB 2016, but when those moments happened, and fans recalled the past, it paid off in spades.
MITB 2017 was not, to me, a terrible show. There was a lot of good, there was a decent portion of bad, and some middling mixed in for good measure. The sufferings of the show were very apparent and, despite its average quality, it absolutely pales in comparison to last year’s iteration. The system in place at WWE, a system focused entirely on building ‘moments’, can easily blow up in the faces of Creative and neuter a show of its genuine emotion and crowd connection.
Predict-O-Meter: 4 or 5 out of 7, depending on if you count the Usos retaining as a victory
Leave a comment below on your opinion of Money in the Bank 2017 and the state of WWE’s creative system. Meet me back here in just a few weeks’ time as we get hyped for Great Balls of Fire!