SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
LECLAIR’S WWE MONEY IN THE BANK REPORT
JULY 18, 2021
FORT WORTH, TX AT DICKIES ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK
Announcers: Michael Cole & Pat McAfee (Smackdown), Jimmy Smith & Corey Graves & Byron Saxton (Raw)
-The show began with a video hyping the two Money in the Bank ladder matches, as well as the Universal title match, WWE title match, and Raw Women’s title match.
-Pyro shot from the new massive LED screen stage. Lights flooded the crowd in Fort Worth and they cheered loudly. Michael Cole introduced himself and Pat McAfee at ringside. McAfee was wearing a cowboy get-up. He talked about the potential winners in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
-Greg Hamilton introduced the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match to open the show. The crowd popped for the match announcement. Alexa Bliss entered first to a relatively modest reaction. Cole tossed to a clip of Bliss winning the contract in 2018. Liv Morgan entered next to a strong initial reaction that quickly tapered off. Nikki A.S.H., Natalya, and Tamina entered to minimal reaction, save for what sounded like piped in roars after their names being announced. Naomi received a strong pop. Asuka garnered a strong initial reaction from the crowd as well. Cole tossed to a clip of Asuka winning last year’s briefcase in the match on top of WWE headquarters.
Alexa Bliss stood stoically stop the turnbuckle throughout each woman’s entrance, staring blankly.
(1) ALEXA BLISS vs. LIV MORGAN vs. NIKKI A.S.H. vs. NATALYA vs. TAMINA vs. ZELINA VEGA vs. NAOMI vs. ASUKA – Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Alexa Bliss skipped around the ring happily as the bell rang and the rest of the women rushed to the outside to retrieve ladders. Bliss looked up at the briefcase and reached her arm up. Cole said she was trying to summon super powers. She was quickly thwarted by Zelina Vega.
Each woman gained a brief advantage before Tamina cleared the ring. The crowd booed her heavily. Bliss leapt on Tamina’s back and the crowd roared in approval. Tamina quickly got the better of the situation and shipped Bliss into a ladder in the corner. The crowd continued to boo her loudly. Tamina tried to set up a ladder, but Liv Morgan rushed in the ring and began climbing it. Tamina shoved her down. Vega returned. Tamina tossed her to the corner and crushed her with the body of Liv Morgan.
Tamina set up a ladder in the center of the ring. Asuka returned and shoved Tamina. The two came to blows. Tamina sold Asuka’s punches awkwardly. Natalya leapt onto the apron. Asuka gave her a hip check to send her back to the floor. Tamina tried to tip a ladder dangerously onto Asuka, but Asuka leapt out of the way just in time. She pinned Tamina under the ladder and drove the foot of it into her chest repeatedly. Asuka began to climb with Tamina pinned underneath. Tamina dead lifted the ladder to try to dump Asuka. Liv Morgan jumped onto the rung of the ladder to ground it. She tussled with Asuka, then tried to climb again. Natalya tossed Liv to the mat.
Liv Morgan and Natalya engaged in a tug-o-war of the ladder. Nikki A.S.H. leapt in the ring and wound up getting taken out of the ladder. Naomi jumped onto the ladder and Tamina grabbed her and have her a Samoan Drop. Asuka and Zelina Vegan pulled Tamina to the outside. In the ring, Bliss slammed Nataly’s head into the back of her knee. She pinned Morgan against the corner with a ladder and began crab walking toward her. Morgan looked terrified.
Natalya slammed Bliss to the mat. Bliss popped up and laughed. She tripped Nattie into the ladder. Liv Morgan approached, but Bliss dropped her and hit a rolling senton. She stared up at the ladder again, to the crowd’s approval. Bliss positioned the ladder in the center, but Zelina Vega beat her up the rungs. The two women met atop the ladder. Bliss took control of Vega and forced her to climb down. Bliss shot back up the ladder, but Natalya cut her off and gave her a powerbomb.
Zelina snapped out of her trance and tossed Natalya to the outside. Asuka returned and got planted with a bull dog by Vega. Vega met Liv Morgan in the corner and set her up for a superplex. Liv shoved her off, causing her to collide with a ladder propped up in the bottom rope. Naomi entered the fold. Liv tried to jump onto Naomi, but Naomi gave her a powerbomb onto Vega and the propped ladder.
Naomi got the better of Natalya and Tamina, then went to work on Nikki A.S.H. She gave her a slam onto a prone ladder, then began to climb the ladder. Natalya pulled her down and climbed herself. The crowd booed her loudly. Zelina Vega grabbed onto Natalya and applied a sleeper hold. Natalya climbed the ladder with Vega on her back. Natalya had a hold of the briefcase, but she wound up passing out from the sleeper. Vega tried to grab the briefcase. Liv Morgan pulled her down just past the 10:00 mark.
Chaos ensued as all eight women returned to the ring. Nikki A.S.H. broke from the pack and climbed an extra tall ladder on the outside of the ring. She dove onto the pile in the ring. Nikki set up a ladder for herself while the rest of the women rolled to the outside. Alexa Bliss cut A.S.H.’s climb short. She gave Nikki her version of Sister Abigail, then looked on toward the ladder. Bliss climbed slowly but was cut off by Natalya and Tamina. The tag champions tossed Bliss to the outside. The slammed Bliss into the ringside barrier then crushed her with a ladder. They pulled ladders onto Bliss. The rest of the women joined in. Bliss disappeared under a pile of ladders.
Liv Morgan slipped through the cracks and set up a ladder in the ring. Tamina tried to stop her, but Morgan took her out. Natalya cut her off and set up a ladder of her own. Morgan bounced Nattie’s head off the ladder. Vega and Asuka set up a third ladder in the ring. Morgan planted Asuka. She climbed the center ladder. Naomi climbed on the opposite side. Tamina and Natalya climbed adjacent ladders. Zelina Vega and Asuka joined them. Nikki A.S.H. pulled herself in the ring and climbed as well.
Seven women fought atop three ladders. Nikki reached up amidst the chaos and pulled the briefcase.
WINNER: Nikki A.S.H. in 16:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: What a strange finish. The other six women more or less just ignored Nikki up there at the top of the ladders and let her pull down the briefcase. I can’t say as I saw this coming, nor do I think this gimmick is particularly entertaining, but I do like Nikki and her personality and you could see the genuine joy on her face when she celebrated after the match. This was a total toss up. I know people felt like Liv Morgan was a “must win” here, but I still haven’t seen enough to make me think she’s worth investing a title run into quite yet. That’s not to say she can’t get there, but I didn’t find it crucial that she come out of tonight’s match with the briefcase. The match itself was chaotic, albeit entertaining. Commentary put Tamina and Natalya over hard, and the crowd was vehemently against them. I did not expect them to be met with such rejection. Conversely, the crowd didn’t seem to be super into anyone outside of Bliss and, at times, Liv Morgan. There were times during the entrances where it felt like the cheers may have been piped in. We’ll see if that continues throughout the rest of the night.)
-Cole and McAfee tossed to a recap of the Uso’s tag team title win during the pre-show.
-Jimmy and Jey celebrated their title win backstage next to Roman Reigns. Paul Heyman stood behind him with the Universal title. Roman said he’s happy for the two of them. He said Jimmy was finally smart enough to learn from his brother, the right hand man. Reigns said winning the titles was the easy part, especially because he did all the heavy lifting.
Reigns said he brought Jey back, and he stared down Jimmy as though he wanted to say something about his recent struggles. Reigns bit his tongue. He asked the brothers to acknowledge him. Jey said he’s the tribal chief and the head of the table. Jimmy stayed silent, but nodded in approval. Reigns gave them both a hug. The camera seemed to focus on Jimmy’s expression, which seemed to indicate doubt.
-The Viking Raiders headed to the ring for their Raw Tag Team title match. Jimmy Smith introduced himself, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton at ringside. Smith wondered if we’d see the Raw tag titles change hands the way the Smackdown titles did earlier in the night. Byron Saxton showed off the Viking Raiders “year in review”, which was comprised entirely of their weird, non-wrestling feud with the Street Profits. A.J. Styles entered with Omos. The crowd gave him a huge ovation.
(2) A.J. STYLES & OMOS (c) vs. THE VIKING RAIDERS (ERIK & IVAR) – Raw Tag Team Championship match
A.J. Styles tagged out to Omos as soon s the bell rang. The Viking Raiders tried to double team him, but quickly fell. Omos kicked Ivar to the corner and tagged in A.J. Styles. Styles gave Ivar a snapmare and a quick kick to the back. He followed up with a cover for a one count.
Ivar battled back and drove Styles into the opposing corner. He tagged in Erik. The crowd broke into a loud A.J. Styles chant. Erik planted Styles and tagged out. Erik bodyslammed Ivar onto Styles. The crowd booed. Ivar covered Styles for a one count. The Viking Raiders traded quick tags. Ivar tossed A.J. into Erik’s knee, which sounded especially brutal. Styles recovered quickly and dropkicked Erik to the outside. He kicked Ivar off the apron as well. Styles tagged in Omos.
Styles hit the ropes and leapt into Omos’ arms. Omos launched Styles over the top rope, onto Erik. Styles turned it into a great looking hurricanrana. Styles tossed Erik back in the ring. Erik recovered quickly, catching Styles with a back body drop. He tagged in Ivar. Ivar cartwheeled through a kick attempt and clotheslined Styles. Styles managed to reach his corner and tag in Omos.
Omos tossed Ivar into the corner and plowed into him. He applied a vice grip to Ivar’s shoulder, only breaking the hold at Styles’ command. Omos tagged out. Styles traded punches and kicks with Ivar. Ivar managed to roll over Styles’ back and tag in Erik. Erik fired off a series of punches, stunning Styles. He caught A.J. with a flying knee and followed up with great looking through. Erik tagged Ivar. The two double teamed A.J. and knocked Omos off the apron.
Ivar threw Styles into the grip of Erik. Ivar hit a springboard clothesline off the middle rope, immediately into a German suplex from Erik. Erik covered for a near fall. The Viking Raiders continued to rapid tags. Styles fought off another double team attempt and dumped Erik to the outside. He kicked Ivar in the head, then tagged in Omos. Omos lifted Ivar over his head and military pressed him. Omos covered with one booth, but Ivar kicked out at two just after the 10:00 mark.
The crowd broke into a “one more time” chant as Omos tagged in A.J. Erik managed to side step Omos and tag in Ivar. The Raiders traded running shoulder blocks, bringing Omos to one knee. Ivar managed to clothesline him to the outside. Erik dove through the ropes onto Omos, but Omos still wouldn’t go down. Styles surprised Ivar with a roll up for two. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Erik caught him. Ivar returned and they hit Styles with the Viking Experience. Ivar covered. Erik tried to prevent Omos from breaking the pin, so Omos tossed him onto the pin to break it up.
Styles managed to leap to Omos for a tag. Omos gave Ivar a spin kick, sending him to the outside. He planted Erik with a double arm choke slam and covered him for a three count.
WINNERS: A.J. STYLES & OMOS in 13:00 to retain the Raw Tag Team Championships
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was very good, surprisingly so. The Viking Raiders brought their A-game with creative, hard-hitting, believable offense. A.J. Styles sold like a champion, and worked brilliantly alongside Omos. Omos, while still incredibly limited, looks menacing in his limited in-ring time, and serves as a great counterpart to Styles’ offense. This just worked, start to finish. I certainly considered this to be a bit of an afterthought on this card, but wound up pleasantly surprised.)
-Kevin Patrick welcomed Drew McIntyre to the interview set backstage. McIntyre said something felt different. He remembered, and called for some noise for Fort Worth. They obliged. McIntyre said he’s proud of his work during the Thunderdome era, but he’ll be happy if he never hears that word again. He said he wanted to walk out in front of fans as WWE Champion, but that didn’t happen. McIntyre said he has to win Money in the Bank, because it’s his last chance. He said he’s rolling into Fort Worth to kick heads, break bones, climb the ladder, and become Mr. Money in the Bank.
-Jimmy Smith tossed to a video package for the WWE Championship match.
-New Day’s music hit and the crowd exploded, quickly erupting in a “Kofi” chant. Byron Saxton said that Kofi was aiming to recreate KofiMania from 2019. Kofi hyped up the crowd in the ring, quickly leading a “New Day Rocks” chant. Bobby Lashley’s music cut them off. Lashley headed to the ring, flanked by M.V.P., to very little reaction. Mike Rome provided traditional Championship introductions.
(3) BOBBY LASHLEY (w/ M.V.P.) vs. KOFI KINGSTON – WWE Championship match
M.V.P. grabbed Kofi’s foot as soon as the bell rang. Bobby Lashley tried to catch him with a spear, but Kofi broke free and leap frogged him at the last second. Kofi caught a quick roll up for a one count. Lashley immediately bounced to his feet and flipped Kofi over with a massive and brutal short arm clothesline.
Kofi retreated to the corner. Lashley drove his shoulder into Kofi’s chest repeatedly. Bobby backed up and charged, but Kofi leapt onto the apron and tried to catch Lashley with a springboard. Lashley caught and planted him, then shushed the crowd. Lashley dumped Kofi to the outside. Lashley met Kingston on the outside and hoisted him onto his shoulders. Lashley tossed Kofi into the ring post. Kofi went flying. Lashley broke the count, then returned to Kofi to continue to beating. He slammed him into the ring post a second time.
The crowd began pelting Lashley with boos as he started to taunt them. Saxton said Kofi may have broken ribs or internal bleeding already. The crowd began a Kofi chant. Graves said it’s just making Lashley more angry. Lashley clothesline Kofi again. Smith said a cover might be mercy at this point.
Lashley slammed Kofi again. M.V.P. hyped him up. Kofi tried to use Lashey’s leg to stand up. Lashley applied the Hurt Lock. Kofi spun out of it, but Lashley grabbed him and gave him a tossing suplex at the 5:00 minute mark. Graves said Lashley is prolonging the beat down for his own enjoyment.
Lashley pulled Kofi to his feet. Kofi threw blind punches at air. Lashley dropped him, mounted him, and fired off a flurry of shots to the head. Lashley dragged Kofi to his feet and gave him a Dominator. Lashley pounded his chest. The crowd booed. Lashley gave Kofi a second Dominator. The announcers begged the referee to stop the match. Lashley hit a third Dominator. He shushed the crowd again. This time, they responded with massive boos.
Bobby applied the Hurt Lock. Kofi couldn’t even get his feet under him. The referee called for the bell.
WINNER: Bobby Lashley in 7:00 to retain the WWE Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: Welp. So much for the return of KofiMania. In all seriousness, I don’t think anyone expected Kofi had a chance this one. I didn’t quite expect them to go full-on Brock Lesnar with Lashley, though, especially given the fact that he just lost to Xavier Woods on Raw. I understand that that loss is was kicked Lashley into this gear, and I guess that’s fine. In general, i think Lashley’s title reign started out strong as has petered off in recent months. Judging by the crowd’s initial reaction, I think they largely were uninterested in the character. He and M.V.P. managed to garner plenty of heat as the match progressed, though I can’t be sure if that was directed specifically at them, or at the booking decision. Kofi was very over, and crowd was certainly not pleased with how this played out. Hopefully they’ve got a big name opponent lined up for Lashley next month.)
-Jimmy Smith tossed to a video package promoting Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair.
-Rhea Ripley entered first. Graves called it “Champion’s prerogative.” She slapped hands with fans all the way down the ramp, presumably indicating that she’s now a babyface, or, at least, a babyface for this match. Charlotte Flair received a loud, but mixed reaction. Mike Rome provided standard title match introductions.
(4) RHEA RIPLEY (c) vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR – Raw Women’s Championship match
Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair circled the ring slowly as the match began. A small “let’s go Charlotte chant” developed, but didn’t catch on. The two women locked up. A louder “Rhea Ripley” chant broke out. Charlotte gave the crowd the middle finger. They popped, then broke into a “we want Becky” chant.
Ripley and Flair spilled out onto the apron. They traded punches and chops. Ripley downed Flair, stepped on her, leapt back in the ring, and caught Charlotte with a baseball slide to the floor. Flair regained control on the outside after Ripley missed a senton. Charlotte tossed Rhea back in the ring.
Flair gave Ripley an exploder suplex into the turnbuckle. She grabbed a rear chinlock. Ripley fought to her feet, but Flair planted her. Charlotte did a backflip for the sake of it, then dropkicked the champion. Flair went for a bodyslam, but Rhea slid down her back. Dueling chants broke out. Charlotte caught Ripley with a back elbow to the head. She tried to give her a knee to the face, but Rhea dumped her over the top rope. Another loud “we want Becky chant” broke out.
Ripley hit Flair with a trio of short arm clotheslines. Flair tried to block Rhea, but got caught with a headbutt. Rhea hit a back kick and then a Northern Lights suplex with a bridge for a two count. Flair rolled to the apron just after the 6:00 minute mark. Charlotte went for a backdrop but Rhea rolled through it and hit a German Suplex. Ripley climbed to the top rope. She went for a dropkick, but Flair caught her legs and rolled her into a Boston Crab. Ripley managed to roll through it into a cover, but Flair kicked out at two.
Flair went for a Figure Four, but Ripley rolled out. Charlotte gave her a big boot and covered for two. Flair dragged Ripley to the corner and set up for a moonsault. Ripley shot to her feet and pulled Flair down. She set her up in the Electric Chair position. Ripley spun her around, but Charlotte countered it into a roll up. Ripley rolled through it, trapped Flair in a deadlift, and brought her up and over for a suplex. Ripley covered for a two count.
Both women rose to their feet slowly. Ripley began peppering Flair with chops to the chest. Flair ate them and told her to hit harder. She shrugged Ripley off and tossed her to the corner. Ripley catapulted to the outside. Flair climbed the ropes and hit a standing moonsault. She began celebrating to the crowd’s adulation. Flair tossed Ripley back in the ring.
Charlotte went for Natural Selection, but Ripley blocked it. She applied the reverse Cloverleaf. Flair rolled through it into a cover for a near fall. Ripley set up for the Riptide, but Flair countered it into a DDT for another near fall. The camera pulled back to show both women selling their exhaustion right around the 12:30 mark. A small “this is awesome” chant broke out.
Ripley and Flair traded punches. Flair transitioned to chops. Rhea created separation with an elbow. Flair threw one of her own, then covered with her feet planted on the ropes. The referee caught her and stopped the count. She stared down the referee momentarily. Rhea caught her with a kick, then hoisted her onto the top rope. Rhea set up for top rope superplex, but Flair fought her off. She hit Natural Selection off the top rope and covered, but Ripley kicked out just in the knick of time.
The camera settled in on a close up for Flair’s shocked eyes. A full throated “this is awesome” chant broke out. Flair nodded and stalked her prey. She grabbed a leg and went for the Figure Four, but Ripley blocked it again. Flair fell head first into the bottom turnbuckle and collapsed to the outside. Ripley tried to retrieve her, but Flair slammed her head against the ring post. Flair trapped Ripley’s leg between the post and the steps. She kicked it repeatedly. Charlotte rushed back in the ring and applied the Figure Four. She bridged into the Figure Eight. Ripley screamed in agony and tapped out.
WINNER: Charlotte Flair in 16:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Really good match. The best of Ripley’s young career on the main roster, and the best we’ve seen from Charlotte in quite some time. These two had an uphill climb from the start, with a crowd desperate for a Becky Lynch return and happy to reject these two, and this match. But they won them over, and in a big way. My only gripe comes with the lead-in to the finish, which saw Flair pin Ripley’s leg in between the ring post and the steel steps. If Ripley was disqualified last month for using the announcer table cover, surely this move would also warrant a similar call from the official. It’s just poor planning and selective amnesia. With that being said, this felt like a step in the wrong direction. Ripley hardly got a chance to gt her footing under her, and they simply refuse to give anyone a chance to outshine Charlotte. There’s something to this if they tell a redemption story for Ripley where she fights hard to eventually beat Charlotte, but this doesn’t feel like that. Instead, it feels like a company that handicapped Ripley from the start with a confusing character, only to pull the rug out from underneath her at the very first opportunity they got. As much as I’d like to think there’s more to this, we’ve seen this one too many times with Flair.)
-Peacock’s feed became completely unwatchable at this point.
(5) DREW McINTYRE vs. BIG E vs. SETH ROLLINS vs. JOHN MORRISON vs. RICOCHET vs. RIDDLE vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. KEVIN OWENS – Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Coverage begins around the 10:00 mark when Peacock’s feed returned to some sense of stability.
Drew McIntyre hit a Future Shock DDT on Shinsuke Nakamura and then gave Ricochet a reverse Alabama Slam into a ladder propped up in the corner. McIntyre dove over the top rope onto a collection of wrestlers huddled together on the outside. He quickly rolled back in the ring to retrieve a ladder, but Seth Rollins cut him off. He dropped Seth with a Glasgow Kiss, then counted down for a Claymore. It connected.
McIntyre set up a ladder and began his climb. Jinder Mahal and his henchmen arrived, pulling McIntyre off the ladder. Mahal laid into Drew with a steel cheer. The crowd groaned. They dragged McIntyre out of the arena. Back in the ring, Riddle ascended a ladder. Ricochet tight walked the rope and leapt onto the ladder. He knocked Riddle off. Riddle bounced off the rope and pushed the ladder, toppling Ricochet. Ricochet landed on the top rope and flipped onto the waiting bodies on the outside.
Ricochet quickly returned to meet Riddle. They climbed the ladder together and traded blows on top of the ladder. Both meant attempted suplexes. Seth Rollins set up a ladder next to theirs and tried to retrieve the ladder. Big E pulled him down around the 16:00 mark. Riddle leapt at Big E and hit him with an RKO. He pulled Ricochet off the ladder and gave him an RKO as well. Rollins immediately returned to give Riddle a Stomp. Shinsuke Nakamura caught Rollins with a Kinshasa.
Nakamura began climbing the ladder. John Morrison met him on the opposing rung with the “drip stick.” He sprayed it in Nakamura’s face, sending him tumbling to the floor. Kevin Owens pulled Morrison down and gave him a stunner. Nakamura tried to intervene and ate a Stunner as well. Ricochet appeared. Owens tried to stun him, but Ricochet blocked it. Owens gave him a pop-up powerbomb instead. Owens climbed the ladder. Rollins caught his leg. Rollins power bombed Owens off the ladder, over the top rope and through a ladder propped up between the ring and the announcers desk.
Seth Rollins dragged the tallest ladder to the center and climbed to the top. He reached for the briefcase, but Big E grabbed at his leg. E hooked Rollins from underneath and hit the Big Ending off the ladder. E climbed the ladder and retrieved the briefcase.
WINNER: Big E in 19:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Well, the 9 or so minutes I did see were fun and chaotic. I’m excited to go back and watch this in its entirety, hopefully on a platform other than Peacock. Lookin’ at you, WWE Network with a VPN! Each of the eight wrestlers involved seemed to get their fair share of big spots and major moments. The only real downside here, it appears, was the appearance of Jinder Mahal. The crowd wasn’t into him. In fact, they seemed perturbed by his appearance. McIntyre seemed to receive quite a large reaction, which is very encouraging, considering how he’s been booked in recent weeks. This was a must win for Big E. He was primed for the position over the last few weeks, and they ramped up the push this past Friday. E has been long overdue for a major singles push, and it’s finally time for him to show that he can be a serious player in the main event scene.)
-Kevin Patrick approached an incensed Seth Rollins backstage. Patrick said it was a valiant effort. Rollins lost it on him, saying it wasn’t good enough. He said he shouldn’t have had to be in the ladder match to begin with, because he should’ve been challenging for the Universal title. “Edge stole that opportunity,” he said. Rollins said change has to happen. He said he’s not waiting. “Whoever wins that Universal title, I’m next in line.” Rollins walked off in a rage.
-Michael Cole threw to a video package hyping the Universal title match.
-Edge entered to a massive pop, yet again. He leaned into the turnbuckle and stared out beyond the crowd, intensely focused. The lights darkened. A “Roman sucks” chant developed. Roman’s music hit and the arena filled with boos. Cole said Reigns’ reign began on August 30th of last year. He said he’s been dominant for 322 days. McAfee said this is what Edge wants, but he’s not sure if he’s going to like what he gets. “Roman’s on a different level,” he surmised.
Reigns held up the Universal title to a sea of pyro. Paul Heyman looked on at him with admiration. Reigns rounded the corner at ringside and closed his eyes at the base of the steps. He looked up at Edge and nodded slyly. Cole remarked that Edge believes that Roman doesn’t quite know what he’s up against. He touted Edge’s resume. Greg Hamilton provided championship introductions. The crowd remained hot throughout.
(6) ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. EDGE – Universal Championship Match
Edge walked toward the center of the ring as the bell rang. Roman Reigns slowly stepped to meet him. A dueling chant broke out. Both men looked around. Reigns stepped to the ropes and began talking to the crowd. Eventually, the two locked up in the center. Reigns powered Edge to the corner. The referee broke the hold. Reigns slapped Edge across the face.
Reigns gave Edge some room. Edge shook off the slap and circled the ring. They locked up again. Edge backed Roman to the corner this time. The referee broke the hold again. Edge returned the favor, slapping Roman. Reigns snarled. Reigns shook his head at the crowd, who’d broke out into an “Edge” chant.”
Edge worked Reigns to the mat and ended up with a back mount. He slapped Reigns in the head a couple of times. Roman stood up. The locked up a third time. Edge grabbed a side headlock. Roman shoved Edge off the ropes and dropped him with a shoulder tackle. Edge rolled to the outside. Reigns immediately began jawing at the crowd. Edge rolled in the ring to break the count. Reigns gave him space.
They locked up a fourth time. Edge grabbed an arm and torqued it over his shoulder. He grabbed it a second time, but Reigns caught him with a stiff right hand. Edge fell to the corner Reigns delivered a pair of headbutts. He slammed Edge’s head into the turnbuckle, then hit a trio of clubbing clotheslines in the corner before being admonished by the referee. Roman went for a fourth, but Edge trapped his arm in the rope.
Edge tossed Reigns into the turnbuckle and then tripped him up, looking for a crossface. Reigns powered out and rolled to the outside toe regroup. Heyman gave Reigns a pep talk. He asked Roman what his father would do right now. Reigns leapt in the ring and punched Edge in the face. Edge shook it off and threw one of his own. They traded rights. Edge gave Reigns a boot to the injured arm. Reigns tried to shake it off. Edge dropkicked him to the outside.
Roman tried to loosen up on the outside. Edge went out to meet him. Reigns caught him with a Samoan Drop. Reigns returned to the ring to try to get Edge counted out. Edge made it back in the ring at a count of eight. Reigns tossed him outside again. Edge returned to the ring at eight for a second time. Reigns drove his knee into Edge’s midsection, toppling him in the corner. The referee checked on the challenger, eventually clearing Reigns to continue. Roman tossed Edge outside again.
Reigns made a slow descent to the floor to meet the downed Edge. The champion tossed Edge into the steel steps, then into the crowd barrier, then back into the steps again. Reigns tossed the limp Edge into the ring and covered him for a two count at the 10:00 mark. He mounted the challenger and delivered repeated forearm blows to the head and neck. Reigns started talking to himself, and to Edge. He tossed Edge into the ring post. He brushed off a “Roman sucks” chant. “I’m winning!” he said, “look at him, this is what happens when you step to the head of the table.” The crowd booed louder.
Edge coughed and heaved in the corner. Reigns let him drag himself to his feet, then delivered a suplex for another two count. Reigns grabbed a side chinlock and settled in. Edge slowly rose to a seated position and briefly broke Reigns’ grasp. Roman clamped back down. “I’ll lay on this little bitch all night long. 265 pounds, and can’t nobody do nothing!” Reigns barked. A small bit of blood started to leak from just above Edge’s eye. He slowly rose to his feet. Edge caught Reigns with a series of body shots to break the hold. Reigns let go, then dropped Edge with an uppercut, thwarting the comeback.
“That’s cute!” McAfee exclaimed, referring the Edge’s body shots. Edge rolled toward the apron. Reigns saw the opportunity, left the ring, and connected with the Drive-By. He covered for a near fall. Reigns looked out at the crowd and cocked his fist as the match hit 16:00. Edge dragged himself to his feet. Edge caught the Superman punch and pulled Reigns into a backslide for a two count. Both men shot to their feet and delivered tandem big boots.
The referee began a double count out. Both men answered just past five. They began trading punches again. Edge ducked a punch from Reigns and caught the Edgeucator for a near fall. Reigns returned to his feet and got caught with a quick clothesline. Edge immediately followed up with the Edgecution for a near fall.
Reigns dragged himself to the corner. Edge stayed on the offensive, giving Reigns little room. He lifted the champion onto the top rope. Reigns elbowed him off to create separation. Edge wound up on the apron. He slammed Reigns’ head off the ring post. Reigns fell back into a Tree of Woe position. Edge kicked at Reigns furiously.
Edge dragged Reigns to the center and applied the STF. Reigns briefly lifted Edge’s arms from around his neck, but Edge powered back into the hold. Reigns began making his way toward the ropes. Edge sense it and transitioned into a crossface. Reigns screamed in agony, but made it to the ropes just before the 22:00 mark.
Reigns gasped for air. Edge crawled to the corner and set up for the Spear. Reigns rose, Edge charged. Reigns caught the Spear and turned it into the Guillotine. Edge tried to force his body weight onto Reigns to dump him into the corner, but Roman resisted, locking the hold in tighter. Edge began to fade. He pushed himself, and Reigns, through the middle rope and to the floor.
Roman broke the count first, then rolled back to the outside. He charged at Edge, looking for a Spear, but Edge moved out of the way. Reigns went crashing through the timekeeper’s area. The referee’s count continued. Edge rushed in the ring to stop it. Edge rushed back outside and speared Reigns through the remaining barricade and into the crowd. Edge put Roman over his shoulders and carried him back into the ring, covering him for a near fall.
Edge looked to the crowd, feeding off their chants. He dragged Roman to his feet, looking for another Edgecution. Reigns blocked it and connected with a Superman Punch. Edge fell backward into the referee, buckling Charles Robinson’s knee. Reigns looked on in frustration. He retrieved a steel chair from ringside. Reigns broke off the support beam, a la Edge, and stalked Edge with it.
Reigns jawed at the crowd, telling them to shut up. He set up for the crossface, trying to place the bar in between Edge’s teeth. Edge fought it off, delivering rampant headbutts to Reigns to break free. He grabbed the bar, locked in the crossface, and secured the bar between Reigns’ teeth. Reigns went cross-eyed. He screamed in agony. The Usos appeared. Rey Mysterio and Dominick followed closely behind. They attacked Jimmy and Jey before they could reach the ring.
In the ring, Edge continued to pull back on the cross bar. Reigns appeared to pass out. The Mysterios ran the Usos to the back Edge continued to pull back on the bar with no referee in sight. Seth Rollins emerged from the crowd, slid in the ring, and kicked Edge in the back of the head.
Reigns dragged himself to his feet as the match crossed over 31:00. Edge struggled to stand. Reigns geared up for a Spear, he checked on his jaw. Reigns charged, but Edge caught him with a spear. Edge hooked the leg for a visual three count. A referee finally ran down the ramp. Reigns kicked out at the last possible moment. “This is Awesome” filled the arena.
Edge sized up the champion for another Spear. Rollins returned. Edge booted him off the ropes. Reigns caught Edge with a Spear and covered him for a three count.
WINNER: Roman Reigns in 33:00
Seth Rollins pounced on Edge shortly after the bell rang. He and Reigns came face to face in the center of the ring. Rollins told him Roman only has the title because of him. Edge attacked Rollins and tossed him to the outside. The two brawled into the crowd, and to the back.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Man, this was a ton of fun. They really tested the crowd’s patience in the early going with a long feeling out process, and some major domination from Reigns for several minutes. I wondered how this style of match would fare in front of an audience, and it still worked. Reigns is over enough as act to pull it off and garner major heat. Edge, meanwhile, continues to receive the star treatment, at least for now. There’s so much goodwill with him that they’re sort of starting every situation several points ahead. As Reigns really settled in and the match progressed, things got tense. Much like the WWE title match earlier in the night, I don’t think anyone had any real expectation of a title change. Still, Edge and Reigns told a captivating enough story to bring the audience along for the ride and really get them going for the near falls. My only gripe with this, and it was a minor one to begin with, wound up not even being a gripe at all. I was a little annoyed by the fact that Rollins, who said only days ago that he wanted to face Edge for the Universal title, then went ahead and costed him the match. Rollins’ post match stare down with Reigns brought even that into focus, though. Rollins was hoping that he’d curry some sort of favor with Reigns, and thus, be next in line for a title shot. While it’s not the most astounding logic, it’s good enough for me. It also brings added heat and focus to the all-but-guaranteed match with Edge at SummerSlam, which should be excellent.)
Roman Reigns took the Universal title from Paul Heyman and looked around at the crowd. He asked for a microphone. “Now the whole world can acknowledge me,” Reigns said. John Cena’s music hit.
The crowd absolutely exploded. Cena danced on the stage, tossed his towel, and ran to the ring. The crowd drowned out Cena’s music. Reigns looked on, holding the title at his side. Cena took one step toward Reigns, then another. Roman started to raise the belt, but Cena one-upped him. He waved his hand in front of his face and backed away, soaking in the adoration of the crowd. Reigns looked disgusted. The show faded out with no commentary, only the sound of the crowd at full throat for Cena.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Absolutely deafening. It’s not often that a crowd’s reaction for a wrestler nearly drowns out their music, but that was the case for John Cena tonight. And it was sustained! They were in full pandemonium from the moment the music hit, to the second the show faded to black. I think, at this point, Cena has earned legendary status and a warm welcome during his sporadic appearances. If tonight was any indication, WWE shouldn’t have a whole lot to worry about when it comes to babyface/heel dynamic between these two at SummerSlam. This match, and the next several weeks of build leading up to it, could be incredibly entertaining.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A formidable Pay-Per-View return to live crowds. These first two nights back in front of live audiences have proven to be a mostly positive barometer for WWE’s positioning throughout the pandemic. While I don’t think either night has been indicative of a particularly hot product, it has been a sign that crowds are excited to be back, and they’re engaged enough to give WWE an opportunity to improve upon their general inconsistencies. They’re going to have more leeway than usual, and it’s important that they not abuse it. For the viewer watching at home, the night was somewhat marred by a miserable Peacock experience. Still, this was an entertaining show from start to finish, and it only got better as the night progressed. I’m excited to go back and watch the men’s MITB in its entirety, but what I saw was impressive. The main event and aftermath was fantastic. The women’s title match, despite my disappointment with the title change, was excellent. Coming in, this felt like a pretty hard show to screw up, and they certainly didn’t.