AJ Styles' Triumphant Return, Liv Morgan's Slow Rise and More WWE Raw Fallout
Just six days before the most unique Money in the Bank pay-per-view in WWE history, Raw featured the return of a former WWE champion, dominance from a former intercontinental champion we had not seen in quite some time and a breakout performance by the future of the women's division.
AJ Styles returned to WWE television for the first time since WrestleMania and cashed his ticket to Sunday's pay-per-view event. But is he really the favorite to emerge from the men's ladder match with a guaranteed title opportunity?
AJ Styles WIns in Return, but Is He Favorite to Win Money in the Bank?
AJ Styles' surprise return to Raw and victory in the Last Chance Gauntlet Match would seem to indicate he is the favorite to win Sunday's Money in the Bank Ladder Match and earn a guaranteed title match.
But is he?
While WWE does to pad the resumes of its top stars, there are two others who would seem to have an inside track on the briefcase: Aleister Black and King Corbin.
Corbin is one of the best heels in wrestling, and with a babyface champion in Braun Strowman over on SmackDown, he would be a more-than-suitable winner.
Black is the type of competitor these matches were, at one time, made for. He is a star of the future, someone with every tool necessary to be a top guy in WWE for many years to come. He just needs a definitive win.
Getting that at Money In The Bank and setting up a potential year's worth of storylines will catapult him up the card quicker and more effectively than winning weekly squash matches.
Both of those Superstars, as well as the company's long-term booking plans, would benefit more than Styles, who can get to the title picture on his own and without much creative effort.
Lana Breakup Is Way Back to Credibility for Bobby Lashley
It has been a long time since Bobby Lashley was considered credible on WWE TV, but that stretch may be coming to an end if his dominance in Monday's Second Chance Gauntlet Match was any indication.
Without Lana at ringside to distract him, Lashley impressively bowled over Titus O'Neil, Akira Tozawa and Shelton Benjamin before his own aggression cost him advancement via disqualification.
A post-match interaction with his bride suggested there is trouble in paradise. For Lashley's sake, here's hoping the on-screen relationship gives way to a full-fledged divorce that sets The All Mighty free from a storyline that has done more to damage his reputation than elevate him.
Lashley still has plenty to contribute to WWE, but primarily as an ass-kicking force. Not a midcard comedy act. The only way he gets there is for WWE Creative to recognize its error, split the duo and let Lashley remind fans why he was one of the sport's most coveted free agents not all that long ago.
Becky Lynch Advert Reveals Creative Inconsistency Regarding Money in the Bank
Did WWE just tell the world that Asuka, Nia Jax or Shayna Baszler will win the women's Money in the Bank Match Sunday?
It certainly seems that way.
Early in Monday's telecast, the commentary team of Todd Phillips and Byron Saxton revealed Raw women's champion Becky Lynch will return next week to confront the Money in the Bank winner.
Later, an advertisement suggested Lynch would confront the winner, regardless of brand association. Then Phillips made sure to tell the viewing audience that if a Raw star won the men's match, they would challenge for the WWE title.
There is inconsistency within the company, and clarification is necessary. Otherwise, there is no accountability for the writing team and an audience left confused by exactly what the rules for the Money in the Bank contract are.
Liv Morgan Proves Potential Even in Defeat
Last July, Liv Morgan came seconds away from defeating Charlotte Flair on SmackDown. That loss sent her into a downward spiral that led to her disappearance from WWE TV. Back and looking to move up the ranks in the women's division, she confronted the now-NXT women's champion Flair Monday night and challenged her to a match.
The ensuing contest elevated Morgan's star even as she once again tapped to The Queen's Figure Eight submission.
Morgan went move-for-move with the champion, and the commentary team hammered home how impressive it was. Phillips and Saxton sold just how much Morgan had Flair reeling at points and applauded her efforts after her loss.
To her credit, The Queen sold everything Morgan threw her way. She made the New Jersey native look like a star, adding drama to every near-fall.
Morgan has been building momentum for herself with every passing week, including consecutive victories over Ruby Riott. While it would have been nice to see a few more weeks of wins before she built up the fortitude to challenge the woman who ignited her downfall, for storytelling reasons if nothing else, she gained nearly as much in defeat as she would have if she had outright beaten Flair in a non-title bout but then lost a title match.
The future is bright for the former Riott Squad member. Hopefully, more matches like this will follow, as well as that elusive championship opportunity.