By Brad Carroll
Sunday’s Money in the Bank PPV was a complete dud until Shinsuke Nakamura saved everything, returning from a pre-match attack by Baron Corbin and catapulted the men’s ladder match to epic standing before a finish that left many fans disappointed. So, while the show was a complete clunker throughout, the main event at least left everyone feeling good about a match that delivered on the hype.
Here are the winners and losers from SmackDown’s Money in the Bank PPV:
Baron Corbin: Obviously the biggest winner of the night was Baron Corbin, who despite all of his shortcomings, including his lack of charisma, won the Money in the Bank ladder match and eventually will become WWE world champion. When is anyone’s guess, but we all know it will happen. Corbin didn’t really do anything more than being in the right place at the right time to win, as he took advantage of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura’s late confrontation to climb the ladder and win. Now, hopefully Corbin grows into being a main event-level player over the next few weeks and months, but he still has a long way to go. He just doesn’t have “it” and that’s everything in pro wrestling. Still, he won the briefcase, so he’s easily the biggest winner on this night.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura Preview: Did you hear the reaction when the two fan favorites went head-to-head in the ladder match? It was epic. With the crowd chanting “AJ Styles” - “Nakamura” the two stars put on an entertaining battle that was short in time but not in intensity. It’s too bad they couldn’t drag it out a bit further before Corbin ended up winning, but it’s a good gauge to just how big a match between the two will be. These two are connected winners, but the fans deserve a lot of the “winners” credit too for making it feel special.
Shinsuke Nakamura: I hate to bring someone up twice, but this needs to be done. When Nakamura was beaten to start the match and was helped backstage, I tweeted either he’s going to win the MITB match now, or if he didn’t return, the WWE had completely destroyed his character. Well, he didn’t win, but the WWE didn’t destroy his character either, as him simply returning to the match saved that. But when he returned, it took the match to another level. When he got in the ring, the crowd beyond-loudly hummed his theme song and Nakamura took off from there, attacking everyone with a level of intensity that has been lacking since his debut on the SmackDown roster. If they are going to allow Nakamura to wrestle this style, he’s going to be rule SmackDown before long. This was truly Nakamura’s arrival on the main stage.
Jinder Mahal: He’s not the greatest thing going in the ring, but he got another win, beating hometown hero Randy Orton, and elevating himself another level in the process. He still needs to get better, of course, but Mahal is doing his job as champion. He’s helped immensely by the Singh Brothers being there, not only to help him in matches, but for legitimacy. He needs an entourage. He also needs time. Remember, the WWE did nothing with him in the ring or on the mic for a year, so how could he be expected to jump in immediately and be great on either? Give him time and he’ll continue to get better and better.
Carmella: I truly don’t understand why people are questioning whether or not Carmella really won the MITB ladder match. It’s a no-disqualification match, so of course anything and everything is legal and winning is winning. That doesn't mean you can’t rag on the way the match ended, and I will later, but for Daniel Bryan, the “GM” of SmackDown, to tweet out calling the win cheap and whatever, and he’ll address it first thing Tuesday night, just doesn’t make any sense. If Bryan has a problem with the finish, maybe he should have banned Ellsworth from the start, or better yet, just tweet at the writers who thought of the idea in the first place. I know it’s wrestling and everyone is playing a character, but it’s tough to listen to this level of stupidity. Now, I picked Carmella to win the match in our preview, and while it would have been better if she got help from Ellsworth and then climbed the ladder herself, or pushed Ellsworth off the ladder and then won the match, it would have been perfectly fine. In fact, if she turned on Ellsworth it would have been an awesome finish. Yes, Carmella could have been a bigger winner if she unhooked the briefcase herself, but it doesn’t change the fact she’s the first ever Ms Money in the Bank, and nobody will remember how she got it when she cashes it in and wins becomes women’s champion.
SmackDown Women’s Division: For a first-ever MITB ladder match, historic in some regards, it’s a sad commentary when the writers had to come up with a controversial finish, featuring a male valet, to crown a first ever Ms. Money in the Bank. Why they just couldn’t have Carmella climb the ladder on her own, even with help from Ellsworth, and win, I have no idea. Most of the women in the match are more talented in the ring than Ellsworth, yet he’s the one getting the classic shot holding the briefcase at the top of the ladder. It just doesn’t make any sense and ruined what was an interesting match to that point. Give it another five minutes, and a clean winner, and it’s an instant classic. But WWE dropped the ball.
Naomi: She just looks like a weak champion, and one that was taken to the limits by Lana, who just happened to be wrestling her first ever singles match in WWE. Crazy. Naomi might be athletic, but she has no ring awareness. It was especially evident when Carmella was seemingly going to cash in her MITB briefcase. Naomi should have been ready for the potential cash-in, but instead, she ignored it and was putting some basic moves on Lana while everyone else, the crowd, the fans watching at home, the commentators, probably Lana too, were all watching Carmella. Yet the SmackDown champion didn’t care one bit. She’s just lost being on the main stage. There are so many better options as champion, a lot with some real ability in and out of the ring, Charlotte and Becky Lynch to name a pair, it’s a wasted opportunity by WWE to keep putting Naomi out there. And Naomi hasn’t done anything with the opportunity.
Randy Orton: He again carried the match with Jinder Mahal. He again destroyed the Singh Brothers with some insanely dangerous moves (Orton clearly takes advantage of the their small stature to throw them around like rag-dolls). And again, Orton lost the match, in pretty much the same exact way as the last encounter. Mahal has been a better champion than Orton was prior, and that says more about Orton than it does about Mahal. We’ll see where Orton goes from here, but it’s definitely going to be a sharp turn down to the mid-card for Orton.