WWE Money in the Bank 2014: Grading Each Superstar's Performance at Event
The Money in the Bank pay-per-view is traditionally a show that features breakout performances by Superstars looking to make a name for themselves.
As Sunday night's pay-per-view showed, however, veterans of the ring wars also had a message to send as they looked to climb the ladder to glory.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose added to their already impressive resumes with outstanding performances in the Money in the Bank match. Dolph Ziggler turned in another show-stealing effort as he continues to solidify his reputation as the most consistently great wrestler on the roster.
The Usos legitimized their tag title reign with a great match against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of The Wyatt Family.
Accomplished stars such as John Cena, Alberto Del Rio and Kane disappointed in their matches, as did bright young stars such as Bray Wyatt and Cesaro.
Who earned high marks for their performances at the annual event?
Click on to find out for yourself.
The Usos continued their stellar 2014 with a great performance in the night's opening match.
The twin brothers have become one of the most reliable acts in all of World Wrestling Entertainment thanks to the level of energy and excitement they bring to their work. They have perfected the tag team formula and consistently deliver above-average performances.
Working with two guys like Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, who complement The Usos' style so well thanks to their size and power, only helped enhance the quality of the match no Sunday night. In what was the highest-profile tag title match of the year, The Usos rose to the occasion and lived up to what were fairly lofty expectations.
A series of rematches against Harper and Rowan are likely to occupy the champions' time over the next few months. If those contests match the quality of their Money in the Bank clash, fans could witness one of the best series in WWE history.
Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
It is no secret that Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have rapidly developed into the top heel tag team in WWE.
Harper has always been good. His indy record speaks for itself. But there was a lot of concern about Rowan's ability to perform up to the standards of the main roster. Easily the most improved wrestler of 2014, he has become a very good big man with a move set incomparable to those of other men his size.
Sunday night, the challengers to the WWE Tag Team Championships used their power and size to offset the speed and agility of The Usos. They controlled the match and nearly captured the titles on several occasions.
In their first major pay-per-view bout without Bray Wyatt by their side, Harper and Rowan turned in an excellent performance that will likely earn them rematches in the weeks and months that follow.
They will one day wear the tag titles, and rightfully so. How long it takes them to get there is the question at this point. With no other real heel competition to The Usos' reign on the horizon, that time may come sooner rather than later.
There are many complaints to be made about Paige's booking since debuting on the main roster, and most of them would be valid.
She has been portrayed as the female John Cena in the sense that she takes a beating for the entire match, then makes her comeback with her signature offense and scores the win shortly thereafter.
The crowds have not reacted to her as they did in NXT, largely due to the fact that she has not looked particularly strong in any of her title defenses. She always fights from underneath and never really dominates a match the way she showed she could while in developmental.
That her character has been so woefully underdeveloped since arriving on Raw has done little to help her cause.
Sunday, she was her typically solid self in the ring. She and No. 1 Contender Naomi wrestled a very good match, even if commentary was more concerned with Cameron and her ongoing story than they were with anything going on in the ring.
Paige helped keep Naomi's sometimes erratic offense toned down to the point that everything was crisp and on point. Her experience helped guide Naomi to the best match of her career, which is exactly the sort of thing a champion is supposed to do.
There is no denying Paige's ability. She is arguably the best female worker on the roster. But the booking has to change, or she risks becoming another nameless, faceless Diva in a great big pond full of them.
Naomi wrestled her first singles Divas championship match on pay-per-view since December 2012's TLC pay-per-view. She did not disappoint those fans who always suspected she had breakout-star potential.
Capitalizing on the opportunity she was presented with, the Funkadactyl and Total Divas star delivered her best performance yet. Her dynamic move set was on full display, and unlike other occasions where time constraints lead to her being a bit sloppy, everything she hit was on target.
She may not have won the match, but if her performance is any indication she is ready to split away from Cameron and embark on her own singles career.
Naomi and Paige demonstrated some sound chemistry and could be capable of even better displays if given the chance to compete in rematches. Given the lack of any other immediately ready contenders, that may be exactly what happens.
How Cameron plays into the picture remains to be seen, but a heel turn is most definitely on the horizon.
If you have seen one Adam Rose match at this point, you have seen them all. Whether that is the fault of the booking or the performer himself, one thing is for certain: The character is dying a slow, painful, horrific death on a weekly basis, and no one seems to know what to do to stop the bleeding.
The crowd in Boston was significantly more into Damien Sandow than the NXT export, never a good sign considering how poorly Sandow has been used on WWE television over the last six months.
The presentation is solid, but the character itself is simply not registering with the audience. Instead of fixing or tweaking it slightly to alleviate the problem, management seems content to let it be the way it is and watch as crowds reject it.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Rose the worker. His match with Sandow was meant to be nothing more than a showcase in the hopes that the Boston crowd would inject some life into the character. It did not, but he still worked hard and delivered his greatest hits, if you will. Nothing more, nothing less.
With that said, if something does not change and crowds do not begin showing interest in the character soon, do not expect WWE Creative to waste much more time with Rose. There are far too many other young performers waiting in the wings who have the potential to do something special with the company.
Poor Damien Sandow.
A year ago, he captured SmackDown's Money in the Bank briefcase and appeared well on his way to capturing the World Heavyweight Championship. Then he lost a feud to former partner Cody Rhodes, was shuffled into the mess that is the WWE midcard and unsuccessfully cashed in his briefcase against John Cena last October.
Since then, he has wasted away as a comedic character, dressing up as characters or historical figures from the cities from which Raw and SmackDown are broadcast. It has been quite an embarrassing few months for someone once considered a potential face of the WWE future.
On Sunday night he stepped out into Boston's TD Garden dressed as Paul Revere and cut some cheap heat promo on the crowd. From there, he worked Adam Rose in a very basic, fairly boring match. Still, Sandow worked hard and even had the crowd behind him as he hulked up and delivered a second-rope moonsault to no avail.
He lost the match and a little more of his dignity, but that has become par for the course of late.
Grade: C, if only for the unexpected moonsault
No one had as great a night at Money in the Bank as Dean Ambrose.
The Lunatic Fringe turned in a star-making performance that instantly elevated him in the eyes of the fans. Everything from his pre-match promo—in which he questioned whether bashing Seth Rollins' face in or retrieving the Money in the Bank briefcase was more important—to his antics in the Money in the Bank match itself was perfect.
The superplex to Rollins was one of the spots of the night, but it was the shoulder-injury angle and everything that followed that really helped the former Shield member steal the show.
The anger and frustration he showed when confronted by medical professionals and referees was outstanding. The fire he demonstrated when returning to the ring to attack Rollins was even better, and the way he climbed the ladder with one arm showed such guts and determination that the fans in Boston had no choice but to support Ambrose.
He lost the match thanks to interference from the Demon Kane, but Ambrose came out of Sunday's pay-per-view looking far better than he did going in.
If anyone had any questions about Ambrose's ability to get over as a singles babyface in a post-Shield WWE, they don't anymore.
Seth Rollins was not only the heel on whom the Money in the Bank match centered but also the tackling dummy for all five of his opponents.
Rollins took some truly scary bumps in Sunday's match, but all of them made his eventual sneaky, dirty and unfair victory that much more effective. Fans hated the idea that he took the beating that he did, but thanks to Kane he was able to emerge both victorious and with a guaranteed championship opportunity in his possession.
The Money in the Bank match is the one match each year in which the fans typically cheer the victor regardless of who it is because they respect the hard work put in by all involved. Rollins did such an excellent job of playing the despicable, unlikable villain that people actually booed him despite the dangerous bumps he took, which tells you how strongly invested the crowd was in the story being told.
Rollins was perfect, as both he and Dean Ambrose proved that they will not only succeed but thrive in their singles careers.
For someone who appeared to be filler heading into Sunday's contract match, Jack Swagger played a far bigger role in the match than expected.
The self-professed Real American was the pesky heel who just kept preventing the popular babyfaces from scaling the ladder and retrieving the briefcase. He was also on the receiving end of the DDT that instigated the Ambrose injury angle.
His biggest contribution to the match was during the segment in which Dolph Ziggler brought the crowd to its feet and nearly captured the briefcase. Before the Showoff could resurrect his main event career with a second Money in the Bank win, Swagger grabbed hold of his ankle and pulled him down the ladder.
Determined not to give up, Ziggler climbed rung to rung until he had the advantage and kicked Swagger in the face, ending his night.
For a guy barely able to knock off Kofi Kingston on the June 23 episode of Raw, Swagger got a lot of offense in Sunday night and was consistently a factor throughout the match.
Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was as motivated as he has ever been since returning to WWE, which showed in his performance Sunday night. He was crisp, fast and looked more energized than he has been in years.
A veteran of Ladder matches, Van Dam kept his spots simple but effective, and the crowd ate them up. Perpetually over because of his laid-back attitude and his crowd-pleasing move set, RVD is essentially bulletproof at this point in his career. Which makes the strength of his performance on Sunday night that much more surprising.
He does not have to try as hard or work as hard as he did. He was brought back to serve as star power and a veteran presence in a locker room full of younger talent. On Sunday night, it was if he felt he had something to prove.
Whether he was delivering a big spot that popped the crowd, bumping around the squared circle for Jack Swagger or Seth Rollins, or preventing one of his opponents from retrieving the briefcase, none of RVD's energy was wasted.
A solid performance by someone who may not be as good as he once was but can still deliver that one great showing when the situation calls for it.
Dolph Ziggler was the dark horse to win Sunday's match, especially when it was announced that Bad News Barrett would not be competing. A longtime crowd favorite thanks to the consistently great performances he turns in, Ziggler was greeted with a huge pop from the Boston crowd, establishing him as the favorite early on.
Then he suddenly disappeared, as focus turned to the raging war between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.
After Ambrose departed as part of his injury angle, the match became the Ziggler show. WWE's resident Showoff hit the ring and took out all four of his opponents. He made the climb up the ladder but was trapped in the Patriot Lock courtesy of Jack Swagger.
Fighting through the pain, he continued to climb the rungs before kicking Swagger off and looking as though he would grab the briefcase for the second time in his career.
The crowd rose to a fever pitch before the hated Seth Rollins ended Ziggler's night with two well-placed chair shots.
Showing as much passion as he ever has before, Ziggler turned in a great performance. If history is any indication, however, it is unlikely it will result in anything resembling a legitimate push.
Kofi Kingston, like Jack Swagger, delivered a very understated performance Sunday night.
A dynamic performer known for his ability to pull off unprecedented displays of athleticism and agility at Money in the Bank and the Royal Rumble, expectations were high for some sort of breathtaking spot from the Ghana native.
Instead, he delivered several low-key, high-risk spots that popped the crowd but never stole the spotlight away from Rollins and Ambrose, who were clearly positioned as the stars of the bout. He was, however, involved in the big backdrop spot that saw Rollins fall from one ladder back-first onto another.
Any chance Kofi had of one day ascending to the top of the industry as a featured babyface are essentially over at this point. Too many bright young talents have debuted recently to even suggest that Kingston may one day return to prominence.
With that said, he remains a workhorse for WWE and one of the more popular undercard talents the company has employed over the last decade. When it comes to putting younger talent over and helping prepare the next generation of stars, his experience could prove invaluable.
A solid if unspectacular performance from Kingston that is unlikely to lead to any increased exposure or television time.
Goldust and Stardust
Goldust is perhaps the best babyface-in-peril worker in all of professional wrestling.
That much we knew entering Money in the Bank, and he confirmed as much with his typically great performance. The big question was how well Stardust would perform in his first pay-per-view match.
While the gimmick may be hokey, Cody Rhodes is doing everything he can to get it over. He has completely thrown himself into the Stadust character, going as far as to change up his mannerisms and move set as to suggest that it is not him under the gold-and-black paint.
He worked very well with both Curtis Axel and Ryback, especially the latter, whom he pinned to win the competitive tag bout.
With The Usos as babyface tag team champions, it is unlikely that Goldust and Stardust will leap into title contention. Where that leaves them is a mystery, but for now simply allowing the Stardust character to develop into something the crowd can truly sink its teeth into would be a wise move on the part of WWE Creative.
RybAxel is an interesting duo.
One of its members is absolutely convinced he is still a main event star and will likely be rewarded one day for working hard despite his disappointing spot on the card, while the other seems content with remaining where he is.
Ryback carries himself like a star. He looks like one, and fans still react to him like he is far more relevant than his spot on the B-level tag team indicates. That he continues to develop as a worker and is one of the best old-school heels in recent memory only makes him that much more likely to break out one day, perhaps sooner than we think.
Axel, on the other hand, is among the most generic wrestlers in WWE history.
A second-generation star, he is a technically sound wrestler who knows what he is doing between the ropes but does not have the charisma to succeed at the next level, nor does he seem all that interested in letting his personality shine through.
With that said, together they work extremely well, as evidenced by their performance on Sunday night. A really strong, ground-and-pound tag team that has potential to get even better, they should be contenders for the tag titles again before the end of the year.
Everything Big E did Sunday night has been seen by fans countless times before in his other matches.
It was his aggression that made Sunday's performance one of his finest since debuting on the main roster two years ago.
Big E provided Rusev with the stiff competition he needed to get more over with the audience. The way the former Intercontinental champion was able to match The Bulgarian Brute's impressive speed and strength, offsetting it and creating a much more competitive match than most of the other Superstars were capable of, was impressive.
The suplexes and the dangerous spear stand out as Big E's key contributions to the bout. The look on his face as he attempted to fight out of the Accolade helped to add drama and intrigue to the finish, even if he did tap out just moments later when Rusev wrenched down on the hold.
Many have waited for Rusev to have that one breakout performance indicating he was capable of more than the repetitive, tiresome squash matches he has been part of on Raw and SmackDown. They were rewarded Sunday night, when he turned in the best showing of his young career.
Rusev was mean, nasty and aggressive, showing an intensity unmatched by any other competitor on the card.
The spear by Big E through the ropes and to the floor looked to have legitimately hurt Rusev, but rather than letting it affect his performance, he used it as motivation. It fueled him throughout the rest of the match as he delivered a stiff kick to the face and the Accolade for the tapout victory.
The Bulgarian Brute is a freakish athlete the likes of which WWE has not seen in a long time. Someone his size should not be capable of the speed and agility that he possesses, but those characteristics are there in spades. Like Umaga, he is a man of great bulk, but one whose ability to keep up with opponents of any size or shape make him a very valuable asset.
The more he works with top stars, the better he will be. For now, it should be fun to sit back and watch him grow as a performer and perhaps one day capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Summer Rae clearly has the support of WWE management, what with her upcoming appearance in WWE Studios' The Marine 4, but Sunday's match against Layla is not one she will brag about anytime soon.
It was a sloppy, bad match in which the love triangle involving Fandango was of more importance than the actual action.
Summer Rae was excellent in the backstage segments and catfights leading into the match, but for some reason she has yet to deliver that one match that proves to the WWE Universe that she is an acceptable in-ring performer.
Her post-match display of emotion was good and indicated that the loss, coupled with Fandango choosing Layla over her, truly crushed her. If she can replicate that as soon as Raw, there is an off-chance that the WWE Universe develops something in the way of sympathy for her.
Otherwise, she is much better suited to playing the heel.
There was a time when Layla was one of the better female workers on the roster. Having worked so closely with Michelle McCool and competed against the likes of Beth Phoenix and Natalya regularly, she developed her skills to the point that she became a multiple-time Divas and Women's champion.
Since returning as the dance partner/love interest of Fandango, any semblance of strong ring work has disappeared. That is not saying much considering most of her matches have been extremely short and comedic in nature.
Still, the Layla of old would have been able to get something much more watchable out of Summer Rae than the mess fans witnessed Sunday night.
With Paige out of viable heel contenders at this point, Layla could get back to being the talented worker she once was by sharing the ring with the champion for a few weeks. Otherwise, she seems doomed to regress while dancing with Fandango on the undercard for the foreseeable future.
Grade: D-, because she's better than what she showed Sunday.
Look up the definition of "toughness" in the dictionary and you should find a picture of Randy Orton after Sunday's WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
Bloodied and dazed following a nasty shot to the head with a ladder, Orton soldiered on and delivered his best performance of 2014.
Seemingly angered by the injury, he seemed to increase the aggression and intensity with which he worked throughout the remainder of the bout. Orton made it back to the squared circle for all of his planned spots and still took further beating from the likes of Roman Reigns and John Cena.
One of the central figures in the bout, he battled through a crimson mask and nearly retrieved the titles he wore with pride earlier this year before ultimately falling prey to the Attitude Adjustment from Cena.
Love him or hate him, Orton has been one of the best workers in WWE for the better part of three years, and Sunday night he once again proved why. A workhorse for the company, he went above and beyond to ensure that the match went through as planned, even if he may not have been aware of everything going around him at the time.
It is difficult to find a guy more consistently great in 2014 than Sheamus has been since returning at the Royal Rumble. Sunday night, the United States champion put on his work boots and helped carry the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match despite having no real shot at winning the gold.
Whether he was battling Cesaro at the top of a ladder, planting Randy Orton with White Noise or Brogue-Kicking John Cena out of the ring and to the arena floor, Sheamus seemed to always be involved in the action.
The spot in which he and Cesaro exchanged hard rights and lefts above the specially constructed contraption, hanging on for dear life and praying that the ladder propping it up did not become dislodged, was spectacular and helped add to the contest.
The rest of the year should be interesting for Sheamus. Right now, he is seemingly stuck in the midcard as others star in the marquee matches. At the same time, it is clear that management sees him as one of the elite performers in the industry.
Whether that earns him another shot at the top prize remains to be seen.
Much like his post-WrestleMania XXX run, Cesaro's work in the Money in the Bank match can best be described as lackluster.
Sure, he was involved in that great moment in which he dangled from the ladder contraption before climbing his way around the side and exchanging rights and lefts with Sheamus, but the rest of his performance was low key.
Part of that has to do with the sheer number of stars he shared the ring with, but that cannot be the excuse forever. At some point in his stint as a "Heyman guy," he is going to have to deliver a performance that suggests he is ready for the main event push WWE was ready to give him coming out of the Showcase of the Immortals.
If not, he will forever be labeled a midcard guy, never allowed to move past a certain level of success.
He was good Sunday night, but when he is given an opportunity such as a WWE title match he has to be far better than "good." At Money in the Bank, he was not, hence the disappointing grade.
Alberto Del Rio
Does anyone even know why Alberto Del Rio was involved in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match?
Sure, he is a former WWE and World Heavyweight champion who has name recognition, but he has been portrayed as a midcard talent for so long that it is easy to forget that he was one of the top stars in the industry just a year ago.
Nothing he did Sunday changes the way fans will perceive him. He showed some fine intensity but otherwise was just a guy in a match filled with too many of them. Leaving him on the sidelines and narrowing the match to six would have made for a much better, less jumbled bout than the one we got.
Instead, Del Rio can celebrate the fact that he main evented another pay-per-view, even if most forget he was there by Monday afternoon.
Once a strong worker who was given championship opportunity after championship opportunity, WWE Creative seems lost as to how to handle Del Rio without one of the big titles in the picture. A shame, really, when one considers the talent of the individual involved.
The Demon played a key role in both Ladder matches Sunday night.
During the Money in the Bank match, he interfered and helped Seth Rollins retrieve the briefcase. Later in the night he nearly assisted Randy Orton to victory, only to have John Cena thwart The Authority's plans. As integral as he was to the night's booking, one cannot help but realize how bad Kane has become between the ropes.
Perhaps it is age or disinterest in his current angle, but Kane is nowhere near the quality of performer he was even two years ago. He has regressed significantly and at this point is a burden on a match like Sunday's title bout.
His involvement in the match itself was not necessary. In fact, everything he did during the night's main event could have been achieved if he did a simple run-in, not unlike the one earlier in the evening.
Kane's best days are clearly behind him. Using him as a henchmen for The Authority is a great way to keep him featured on the shows, but overexposing him in the ring is only going to show the audience just how diminished his performances have become.
Easily the most disappointing of all of the performances Sunday night was that of Bray Wyatt.
In his first Money in the Bank match, many expected him to be one of the stars of the bout. Some even thought he might walk away with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Instead, his involvement was limited and really only served to add star power to the bout.
Not once did it ever appear that Wyatt would win the title. In fact, his climbing of the ladder was extremely limited. He did his famous Spider Walk, flattened Orton with Sister Abigail and delivered a nasty suplex to John Cena onto a ladder, but that was about the extent of his work in the bout.
Had there been less bodies crowding the ring, he may have been able to get more stuff in. As it stands, however, Wyatt's first exposure in the popular gimmick bout will go down in history as a flop.
There was so much expected from Roman Reigns that he may have been set up for failure.
Pushed extremely hard following the unofficial split of The Shield, Reigns became the centerpiece of booking on Raw and SmackDown. A second-generation star who is clearly being set up for the push of a lifetime, he has scored victories over several top stars over the last three months.
So hard was the pre-event push that it would not have been a shock to see him exit Boston with the WWE title in his possession.
Instead he played a limited role throughout most of the match before popping up at the end. There, he delivered his trademark offense, laying waste to the majority of the field.
Ascending the ladder, he traded some vicious headbutts with Randy Orton and appeared to take joy in opening up The Viper's head wound more than it previously had been.
Then he ate a chokeslam from Kane and was a non-factor in the finish.
For someone so involved in the hype of the match, the fact that Reigns did not play a role in the end of the bout was majorly disappointing. The exchange with Orton, however, does suggest that he and the Viper are on a collision course for a match at Battleground.
Ah, Super Cena reigns supreme once more.
John Cena's performance on Sunday night was obsolete. Nothing he did in the match was really worth noting.
Sure, he took a nasty suplex onto a ladder by Bray Wyatt, displayed his strength a few times and popped the crowd on occasion, but otherwise he was there for one thing and one thing only: to retrieve the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and reign as the company's top dog for the 15th time in his career.
From a logical standpoint, it was a smart and sound booking decision. As any fan will tell you, it was a poor choice that will result in the same boring reign that has plagued WWE programming over the last five years.
As the face of the company at a time when the booking team is struggling to get things in order following the Daniel Bryan injury, Cena is the perfect choice to carry the title.
As long as the run is short. Anything too long could result in backlash and disgust, something the company cannot have as it prepares for the first round of WWE Network subscriptions to run out.