WWE Money in the Bank 2017: Best and Worst Booking Decisions in PPV's History

Tom Clark@tomclarkbrFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2017

CM Punk
CM Punkcredit: wwe.com

WWE will present the eighth edition of the Money in the Bank event on Sunday, June 18. The SmackDown Live brand will be on display, and five matches are booked for the night. 

SmackDown women's champion Naomi will defend against Lana in a match that has no direct ties to any past storyline. The Ravishing Russian demanded a title match, and she got one. While fans scratch their heads over that, it's clear WWE wants to put Lana in the forefront to establish her as a real player on Tuesday nights.

The New Day has returned to the fold and will be challenging The Usos for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. Jimmy and Jey Uso have never looked better and should be on their game for the match. The New Day is fresh, and fans are surely ready for the trio to get back into the groove as a top faction once again.

Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens
Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owenscredit: wwe.com

WWE champion Jinder Mahal will defend his belt against former titleholder Randy Orton. The Modern Day Maharaja stunned the world when he defeated The Viper at Backlash, and Orton is back for redemption. Considering WWE seems to be going in a new direction, fans could see Mahal retain the championship at Money in the Bank.

Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler will battle in a ladder match for the Money in the Bank contract. The man who walks away with the briefcase will pick the time and place when he challenges for the WWE Championship.

The same will be true for the women of SmackDown Live, as the first all-female Money in the Bank ladder match will take place. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Carmella and Tamina will fight for the right to face the women's champion at a time of their choosing. Once again, WWE is breaking new ground for the female Superstars, and that's a good thing.

But while fans are surely looking forward to the event, they may also be looking back. Money in the Bank has always had the potential to be huge for the company, as new main event stars can be created at a moment's notice. It's worked before with varying degrees of success, and fans are hoping it will work again this time around.

     

The Best

Christian Manipulates the World Championship from Randy Orton, 2011

Some fans believe Christian was a cheap-shot artist in 2011, choosing to take the low road to the top when he had the ability to do it on his own merit. They also believe his storyline with Randy Orton was in place merely to give The Viper something to do, spotlighting him as the tough champion who couldn't be conquered.

They were right on both counts, but in the end, this was about highlighting Christian's strengths.

The fact it was fun only added to this run, as Christian's "one more match" mantra quickly became the stuff of legend. Fans quoted it, Christian delivered it with a smirk, and everyone knew he was in his element.

That's why the storyline worked and why giving the World Heavyweight Championship to Christian at Money in the Bank in 2011 was the right move.

The match was a run-of-the-mill singles bout with one important proviso; if Orton were disqualified, he lost the title. The moment that stipulation was added, fans realized what the outcome would be.

Christian had The Viper right where he wanted him. 

The heel should always be the smartest guy in the ring, and that was especially true in this match. Christian knew how to play Orton and how to get under his skin, and that's exactly what he did. By spitting on The Viper, he caused the champ to snap, and when he did, the match ended.

Orton was disqualified, and Christian became the world champion.

It was a good move because it positioned Christian as a big-time player. Winning by manipulation was the right thing to do because it played to his character. It was an interesting storyline, it was frustrating for Orton's fans but, most importantly, it was fun. 

Christian finally got some main event swagger, and it was well-deserved.

      

Seth Rollins Wins Money in the Bank, 2014

When The Shield took WWE by storm and became the hottest act in wrestling, fans were acutely aware of two important things: The Shield was the most dominant group in the history of WWE and that it would eventually self-destruct.

But no one could've seen Seth Rollins as the one who would pull the trigger.

By aligning himself with Triple H and The Authority, Rollins positioned himself as a man on the way up. He became the focal point of Monday Night Raw and the center of attention for The Game. Rollins may have been The Architect, but it was Triple H who was building his main event career from the ground up.

However, without Money in the Bank, it would have all been for nothing.

Twenty-seven days after betraying Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, Rollins won Money in the Bank. Everything he had said to that point was hollow, the ranting of a selfishly entitled man. He was just another heel out for himself and nothing else.

But when he won the contract at Money in the Bank, he took a major step on his path to the top. Rollins did not win without help, as Kane came to the ring to provide the assist. But that didn't matter.

Rollins was a heel backed by the strongest corporate entity in professional wrestling; of course they were going to have his back.

The Architect's win legitimized him as star, and he emerged from the shadow of The Shield. Had his rise come by other means, he may still have been successful, but Money in the Bank established him in precisely the way he needed to be.

      

CM Punk Defeats John Cena, 2011

When fans think of the most infamous moment in Money in the Bank history, it has to be CM Punk's win over John Cena for the WWE Championship in 2011. It also happens to be the best booking move as well.

Punk was disillusioned with WWE. He had been to the top of the mountain as world champion but had never seen the Holy Grail that was the WWE title. He was tired. He was hurt. He was frustrated. More importantly, he was angry.

That anger brought on the pipebomb promo, which led to Money in the Bank.

The Voice of the Voiceless earned that nickname because he spoke up for the fans. The WWE faithful had grown extremely tired of seeing the same main event stars week after week and longed for something new. 

Punk was tired of it as well and decided to voice his concerns. It was a brilliant angle because it blurred the lines between fiction and reality. Punk was obviously working with chairman Vince McMahon's blessing, but there was always the feeling that perhaps he was going out on his own when he talked.

Did the company know what he was always going to do, or was he going into business for himself?

That uncertainty fueled his match with Cena at Money in the Bank. Some fans likely believed there was no way WWE would put the belt on Punk; all of this had to be a way to get Cena over. But when the hometown hero got the three-count that night in Chicago, everything changed.

Suddenly, it was no longer just about Cena. The evolution of WWE in the years that followed brought The Shield, Daniel Bryan and NXT. The promotion was no longer the land of giants, as other guys were finally getting opportunities.

But without WWE's willingness to give Punk the shot at Money in the Bank, and his ability to take advantage of it, the company may never have moved in that New Era direction. 

     

The Worst

John Cena Wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, 2014

On the same night WWE took a step forward by making Seth Rollins Mr. Money in the Bank, it took a step back with John Cena.

When Cena won the ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, many fans groaned. They did so with good reason, as WWE seemed to be moving upward by focusing on new talents yet Cena won the belt.

Once again, Super Cena had prevailed.

Even though fans knew he was still the top guy, and likely expected he would win, it did not stop them from anticipating something different. It was less about him personally and more about WWE once again playing it safe.

Suddenly changing course may not have been feasible or even smart, but that did not mean WWE couldn't test the waters.

Instead, Cena walked away with the title yet again. It was a risk-free choice that was completely rejected by fans. Money in the Bank is supposed to be about creating new stars and taking a glimpse into the future.

But WWE chose to maintain the status quo.

In the end, the company did change direction. Cena's schedule has since been reduced, new faces have taken over and fans have moved on. But that doesn't prevent those fans from wondering what would have happened if WWE had taken a chance at Money in the Bank in 2014.

      

Layla vs. Summer Rae, 2014

WWE fans are living in the new age of women's wrestling. The women are Superstars, not Divas. They're no longer participating in silly matches; they're working main events on pay-per-views. There has been an evolution for the division. 

But that was not the case in 2014.

There's nothing remotely redeeming about Layla versus Summer Rae from Money in the Bank 2014. The storyline between them was silly, and fans wanted no part of it. They were vying for the affection of Fandango, who ditched Summer for Layla as his new dance partner.

That was evidently enough for WWE to book a match on a night when new stars are born.

Perhaps Summer Rae and Layla were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe Fandango had not lived up to expectations and this storyline was a way to flesh out his character a bit more. 

Or perhaps WWE was way off with this booking for a match that never should have happened.

Fans had no connection to the angle, and that's when WWE lost them. Without a way to hook the fans, the company is unable to do much of anything. That was especially true for Layla and Summer Rae.

The women's division has come a  long way in a short amount of time, and fans are happy about it.

      

Mark Henry Comes Up Short vs. John Cena, 2013

When Mark Henry interrupted John Cena on Monday Night Raw in June of 2013, fans were more than surprised. Was he going to take Cena down? What was he there for? When Henry delivered a "retirement" promo, those same fans respectfully applauded him.

Then he delivered The World's Strongest Slam to Cena and popped the crowd.

This was the man fans had witnessed destroy Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship just two years earlier. Henry had finally reached the apex of his career and was treated like the main event presence he had earned the right to be.

That was the man who slammed Cena. That Mark Henry was back.

So when he challenged Cena for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank on July 14, 2013, many were hoping he would win the gold. It was a night he had worked hard to be a part of, and it was a title he should have won long before then.

But not only did Cena beat him—he made Henry tap out. 

The World's Strongest Man, the one who manhandled every Superstar put in front of him, surrendered in the middle of the ring. This was not about whether Cena should have won; he was the top guy after all.

This was about Henry being put in a position to fail.

His promo with Cena that night on Raw was powerful. It was emotional, and it was straight to the point. But when he slammed Cena, it meant so much more. It was a declaration of war against a guy who sat atop WWE for so long that fans felt he may never be taken down.

Henry should have won the title from Cena at Money in the Bank. WWE should have continued with his momentum, but that did not happen. The magic of Money in the Bank eluded a veteran who had earned it, and WWE didn't hesitate to shut him down.

      

Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com.

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