JINDER LOOKS SYMPATHETIC…
Recap: Roman Reigns opened the show. He called Jinder Mahal to the ring. Instead of Jinder, Kurt Angle appeared, informing Reigns that Jinder would not be appearing.
Reigns accused Angle of speaking for Jinder, to which he replied he was speaking for WWE management. Angle said that after a call with WWE, he realized he was wrong to deny Jinder Mahal entry into a qualifier for the Money in the Bank match. He then announced a Triple Threat qualifying match between Jinder, Elias, and Bobby Lashley.
Reigns requested to be added to the qualifier, to “no” chants from the fans. Angle informed him that management had decided that Reigns would not have any additional qualifying opportunities (to cheers from the crowd).
Reigns informed Angle he wasn’t angry because he understood that Angle had a job and family, and was just doing what he had to do. Reigns then said he would likewise do what he had to do, and left the ring.
Reigns found Jinder backstage, and eventually drove him back out to the ramp. After a Superman Punch to Jinder, security came out and held back Roman. Jinder fled the scene.
Backstage, an injured Mahal asked Kurt Angle to postpone the match due to injuries sustained in the Reigns attack. Angle declined, and Jinder responded by saying he’d do what Reigns couldn’t: qualify for Money in the Bank.
In another backstage segment, Kevin Owens demanded another opportunity after losing his Intercontinental Title match. Angle declined, to which Owens threatened to call Stephanie McMahon.
Later backstage, after Jinder received treatment for his inuries, Reigns speared him through some drywall. Kurt Angle stated that the MITB qualifying match had to occur anyway, and that an incapacitated Jinder would be replaced.
In a later backstage phone call, it seemed like Stephanie McMahon was bullying Kurt Angle into giving Jinder Mahal another opportunity in the coming weeks.
During the match itself, Kevin Owens was revealed as Jinder’s replacement, indicating that his going over Kurt’s head to Stephanie was successful.
Evaluation: Roman Reigns’ once mixed crowd reaction seems to have become an almost universally negative reaction. It was bizarre when this was described by Michael Cole as being “serenaded by 17,000 fans”, as well as when Corey Graves called it “a typical UK reaction.”
Inexplicably, Jinder Mahal was written as a babyface tonight. He came across very sympathetic after being forced to wrestle after suffering injuries in the Roman Reigns attack. This was magnified later when Reigns defied Kurt Angle’s orders and attacked Jinder again. Instead of punishing Reigns or postponing the match, Angle simply stripped Jinder of his qualifying opportunity and had the match without him.
It also unfortunately seems that WWE is reverting to Kurt Angle being bossed around by Stephanie McMahon. His promos made clear that his decisions were being dictated from above against his wishes.
Forecast: With the tough Chicago crowd, I expect both of these guys to be booed at MITB.
A PURPOSE FOR LASHLEY’S SISTERS…
Recap: The coveted top of the third hour segment began with Sami Zayn in the ring. Sami criticized Bobby Lashley for timing his comeback such that it detracted from Zayn’s return to Raw. Zayn then recapped Lashley’s stalling vertical suplex from three weeks ago, which he claimed gave him the first ever recorded case of vertigo in WWE. He then proceeded to read a doctor’s note which defined vertigo.
Zayn want on to blame all of his losses since that suplex on the resulting vertigo. He blamed the fans for the continuing cheers and buzz Lashley had been receiving.
Zayn then cut to a clip of Bobby Lashley being interviewed by Renee speaking about his sisters.
Zayn went on to state that he had reached out to Bobby Lashley’s sisters, who painted a very different picture of Lashley than was shown during the interview. Zayn closed by stating that next week he would be bringing Lashley’s sisters to Raw.
In the main event qualifying match for Money in the Bank, Zayn interfered, costing Lashley the match and securing the victory for Kevin Owens.
Evaluation: Last week’s sit down interview with Renee Young seemed bizarre in its intense focus on Bobby Lashley’s sisters. We now know that focus was intentional, to set up this angle.
Tonight’s promo was odd, in that early on the fans seemed to give Zayn a positive reaction but then quickly reverted to not caring at all one way or the other.
Forecast: This is not the first time WWE has attempted an angle like this. They typically don’t go well, and I don’t expect this one to go any better. I would expect something in the vein of the “Momma Benjamin” angle from 2006.
I’m at least glad to see we’re getting a feud for Sami Zayn other than another program with Kevin Owens.
A TITLE SHOT FOR ROUSEY…
Recap: A video package was shown in which Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and Nia Jax were at an NBCUniversal promotional event. During the event, Nia challenged Ronda to a title match at Money in the Bank.
Ronda responded by stating that she had only had one previous WWE match, and therefore didn’t deserve a shot so early. Nia and Charlotte prodded her to accept the opportunity, however, so she relented and accepted. The three then walked away as if they were best friends.
Mainstream media coverage of the challenge was played up heavily.
Evaluation: Ugh. This was bad.
Ronda’s “humility” in turning down the title shot came across as very fake. I understand that WWE is concerned about fans turning on her out of resentment for her being shot to the top so quickly over the women that have been building the division over the past few years. However, having Ronda totally unbelievably decline a title opportunity actually makes the chances of the fans turning on her increase. The segment came across as blatant pandering to the fans.
This is also going to be a bad matchup in the ring. Ronda Rousey is going to be very, very green. Her WrestleMania match turned out much better than I expected, however that was one tag match which she had the opportunity to rehearse for months. It’s unclear if she’s capable of having a championship-quality singles match without that level of preparation.
Making things worse, she’s being paired with Nia Jax, who is also green. Nia’s match at Backlash was clumsy to say the least. Nia’s character was getting over with the fans going into Backlash, but the combination of the match quality and the extremely cheesy promo after the match has cooled her down considerably.
The Rousey-Jax angle at the media event did get mainstream media coverage, which is likely why WWE did it. I always consider it a folly for WWE to chase mainstream coverage. In today’s environment, studies consistently show that less people take the old fashioned media cartel seriously than ever before. Further, in a phenomenon not limited to WWE, aiming at casual fans typically doesn’t work. Most forms of entertainment and sports today are driven by a comparatively smaller number of more hardcore fans. [I have a lot to say about that phenomenon, but it would be an entire article all to itself.]
Forecast: All the elements are present here for a disaster at Money in the Bank. We’re going to have a green Ronda opposing a green Nia in what is unlikely to be a high quality match. If that weren’t bad enough, both competitors are “faces” coming off of overly pandering promo segments. Fans are already going to be in a bad mood about Roman Reigns facing Jinder Mahal. Add to this mix a notoriously tough Chicago crowd, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for the fans to turn on both faces and boo them out of the building.
That said, we’ve got five weeks until the PPV. If that time is filled with good writing for Nia and Ronda, there is a potential to avoid the outcome above. Even in that event, however, I wouldn’t expect a great reaction for what will likely not be a great match in the ring.
My hope is actually that the title match is interrupted early on by a jealous Mickie James, setting up a feud between her and Ronda. Unlike Nia Jax, Mickie is an experienced veteran and great worker who can help Ronda through her first big singles feud.
I really liked that during the B-Team’s match, Michael Cole emphasized the importance of wins and losses, and even implied that wins affect the wrestler’s pay….
The UK crowd seemed very dead overall tonight. They had little reaction to several segments, including Sami Zayn. They were eerily silent during a good portion of the women’s Triple Threat between Alexa Bliss, Bayley, and Mickie James…..
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 5/7: Rollins the Top Raw Champion, Braun Qualifies for Money in the Bank, Roman Doesn’t