Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of June 30
Money in the Bank 2014 fired two bull's-eyes and Chris Jericho rejoined WWE in what were the week's biggest highlights.
The Usos, The Wyatt Family and six men in search of becoming Mr. Money in the Bank thrilled at the latest pay-per-view. That and a stellar NXT match were almost enough to make up for the fact that two recent champions had disappointing diagnoses, a hurried narrative surrounded the Divas title, and WWE made rapid judgment regarding Emma.
Being a WWE fan as July started was a turbulent experience, but nothing like Emma must have felt.
At its best, the company showcased great talent and added to 2014's best matches. At its worst, officials made decisions that made one want to yank out handfuls of hair.
Best: The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family Feud Flourishes
WWE's tag team division suffers from inconsistency and a lack of depth, but the two squads at the top are thriving against each other.
Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and The Usos' chemistry has made their battles appointment television. That continued at Money in the Bank, where the Tag Team Championship match kicked off the pay-per-view in stellar fashion.
The Wyatt Family came off as beastly, ravenous challengers. They pushed The Usos with brute force and grittiness. The champs responded with toughness of their own, outlasting Harper and Rowan's power moves to retain.
One could argue that the tag bout was the best match of the pay-per-view and both The Usos' and The Wyatt Family's career highs.
WWE seems to know what it has with this feud, as it signaled that the rivalry will continue. The two duos met again on Monday's Raw, this time in six-man action with Sheamus and Bray Wyatt added to the mix.
This tag team feud is carrying the division, something WWE has to address by getting excitement from other sources as well. Eventually, the spark will fade from this series and the company will need something to replace it.
Worst: Injury News on Bad News Barrett and Daniel Bryan
After hurting his shoulder at last week's SmackDown tapings, Bad News Barrett wasn't able to compete in the Money in the Bank Ladder match.
That missed opportunity wasn't the only bit of bad news he received. WWE.com reported that "Barrett underwent a ligament reconstruction in his shoulder, as well as a distal clavicle resection, where the end of the collar bone is shaved off." In layman's terms, that means he won't be wrestling for a while.
The company then stripped him of the Intercontinental Championship. And so ends a run of great momentum that Barrett had this year.
His wasn't the most disheartening injury news of the week, though.
Daniel Bryan announced before Money in the Bank kicked off that he hasn't regained strength in his arm, adding that he may need a second neck surgery. Just weeks ago, the discussion about Bryan centered around if he could make it back in time to avoid losing the WWE title.
The conversation now introduces the idea that no one knows how long it will be until Bryan comes back or if he even does at all.
Fans have seen enough wrestlers retire early or not return to form to know that there are no guarantees when it comes to neck surgeries. The members of the Yes Movement are just going to have to hold their breath until more info comes out on Bryan's progress.
Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for both men.
Best: Money in the Bank Ladder Match Delivers
The Ladder match that ended Money in the Bank was excellent, but it couldn't top what Seth Rollins and company delivered before that.
With a contract for a future WWE title match on the line, Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Rob Van Dam and Dolph Ziggler collaborated to compose one of the most thrilling Money in the Bank Matches ever. Well-paced action and a mix of story and spots powered a memorable bout.
Fans are going to rewatch some of the highlights from this for a long time.
Ambrose superplexing Rollins off the ladder and Kingston hurling Rollins onto a propped-up ladder are among the big moments that made up the match. Kingston played the acrobat, Rollins the crash dummy and Swagger the ladder-swinging destroyer.
The Ambrose and Rollins rivalry tied the whole thing together. It provided emotion in the beginning when they brawled before the bell rang and at the end when Rollins enlisted Kane to help him fell Ambrose and take home the briefcase.
The Money in the Bank pay-per-view certainly had its flaws, but with this contest and the tag title bout on the card, fans more than got their money's worth.
Worst: Another Rush-Job Title Change
WWE hasn't seemed to have heard that line about learning from history to avoid repeating it.
On April 7, Paige debuted and defeated AJ Lee for the Divas Championship in about as much time as it takes to make a sandwich. Paige did her best to create emotion from the moment, but the story was too abridged to have fans invest in it.
Not three full months later, AJ returned from her hiatus, challenged Paige and won the title back.
The match featured just a handful of moves and not nearly enough drama that a title change warrants. Meanwhile, it took two victories at WrestleMania for Daniel Bryan to earn the WWE title and outlasting 19 foes to win the United States Championship.
To see the Divas belt change hands so easily diminishes its significance.
If it takes one pouring themselves out on the mat to win a belt, it will likely be a compelling scene. If it just takes getting slightly sweaty, the effect isn't as great.
WWE likely wants to save a long Paige and AJ match for a pay-per-view, but there has to be more drama when someone is dethroned, or folks will struggle to care even when the big showdown arrives.
Best: Chris Jericho Is Back
Monday's Raw saw The Miz, AJ Lee and The Great Khali all come back to WWE. The biggest news, though, was that Chris Jericho is wrestling again.
He interrupted The Miz and silenced him by way of a Codebreaker to the mush. The Wyatt Family then appeared from the darkness, pouncing on the former WWE champ.
That likely points toward a Bray Wyatt and Jericho feud.
A wrestler of Jericho's stature getting injected into the general mix is exciting enough, but having him collide with The Eater of Worlds elevates that feeling. The promos between the two promise to be fantastic, and the wrestling should be a great contrast of styles.
With Daniel Bryan and Bad News Barrett out with injury, Brock Lesnar likely not back until SummerSlam, Undertaker taking his annual hibernation and CM Punk at home binge-watching TV, WWE was hungry for star power. Jericho is now here to satiate.
Worst: The Emma Fiasco
After being arrested for allegedly shoplifting at Wal-Mart, as reported by TMZ, Emma then had to strap in for an up-and-down ride.
On Wednesday, WWE announced (h/t PWInsider) that it had released the Diva from her contract. Just hours later, WWE called for a do-over. The company informed fans on WWE.com that it had reinstated Emma.
The second half of that rollercoaster was the right move. WWE clearly overreacted.
Mike Johnson writes the following on PWInsider:
In asking around, one of the beliefs as to why Emma was reinstated was that other talents have been arrested for far more serious crimes and were not let go, which could have left the door open for questions to WWE about why she was let go for a far lesser offense. A few wrestlers also believed that TMZ running a headline noting she was let go for a $22 item could have led to WWE re-thinking the release as it made them look bad.
If this is indeed the reason WWE changed its mind, why didn't officials think of those things before making the decision? If Emma had committed a heinous crime, one that was attracting major negative press, one could understand acting so quickly.
That wasn't the case. There was no need to jump to firing Emma.
She shouldn't have been let go in the first place. As Johnson says, other WWE Superstars have done far worse and are still working for the company.
According to TMZ, Cameron was arrested for a DUI and allegedly tried to bribe the arresting officer. Last year, as TMZ reported, Swagger was arrested "after allegedly driving under the influence...with pot in his car." If those incidents don't warrant a release, swiping an iPad case hardly seems like a fireable offense.
It's hard to know how much of WWE changing its mind came from common sense prevailing or as a response to a backlash from fans.
Best: Justin Gabriel vs. Sami Zayn (NXT)
For the first time in weeks, someone other than Adrian Neville competed in NXT's main event. Sami Zayn and Justin Gabriel ran with that opportunity.
A intriguing subplot about Tyson Kidd trying to get Gabriel to embrace his dark side and Kidd's continued slow descent into villainy bubbled under the surface as the match began.
Two wrestlers known more for their aerial work stayed on the ground. A grappling display broke out between them, each man sliding smoothly from move to move.
Gabriel grew more aggressive as time went on. Zayn responded to his punches with defiant gutsiness.
Zayn's dramatic escape from a pinfall attempt where he wobbled into the ropes and Gabriel cracking his foe's head against his knee were some of the highlights that followed as the pace quickened. The emotions picked up at this point, namely frustration and desperation.
This was the best non-pay-per-view match of the week. It was a display of Zayn's potential and a reminder of Gabriel's talent, and WWE should allow them to show off their skills much more frequently than it does.