|Peace out, Vince|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
You get Money in the Bank 2011.
First thing's first, both nominal matches kicked major ass. Let's start with the Smackdown match. I mean, first up, how about the ladder power bomb? Sin Cara showed major cajones taking that move, because man, it looked fucking brutal. I also loved the Road Warrior tribute with Sheamus and Kane doing the Doomsday Device on Daniel Bryan. Bryan took a beating during this match, but I had a feeling that once it was he, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett on the ladder at the end that he might have a chance. Then, he knocked RED BELLY off the ladder, and boom. He grabbed it, and my house erupted. I hadn't been as excited to see a match result since... well, uh, I don't know, when Bryan beat The Miz for the United State Championship at Night of Champions last year? Maybe I do have a problem.
Then there was the RAW match, which some are saying may be the best MitB match ever. I'd be very hard-pressed to disagree with them. Each contestant lining up to create one massive Mexican standoff with all the ladders was a brilliant way to start. From there, it was spot after spot after spot. It bordered on overload at one point, when Rey Mysterio and Kofi Kingston jumped from the top to the floor, and then Evan Bourne moments later saw the crowd milling about, was like, "Pfft, nbd" and shooting star pressed as an effective form of riot control. Calling all 5'8" beanpoles who can do flips? You've got jobs in your local police departments. There was a spot in the match where I got legitimately concerned for Miz's health, as when Alberto del Rio knocked him and Bourne off the ladder, Miz was assisted out, limping and hobbling. Keep that in mind.
The spots just kept coming and coming. Kofi bouncing around like a pinball. 619s all around. del Rio trying to be a high-flyer and whiffing. Then, maybe the most magnificent sight I've ever seen in a MitB ladder match ever. The seven remaining men in the match all started to climb ladders. At its apogee, you had all of the men alternately reaching for the briefcase and trying to push the others down. It was a clusterfuck, but it was a breathtaking clusterfuck. One by one, the wrestlers fell like dominoes until no one was left. When the heel crowd roared for Miz's limp-race down to the ring, it sealed the deal for me. This match didn't have to finish to be the best Money match ever. But it did, and Alberto del Rio claimed the briefcase after claiming Mysterio's mask...
...baaaaaht, chu already knew that.
There were two other non-title, non-ladder matches on the card. The Divas match, to me, was inoffensive, which made it the best a match between Kelly Kelly and Brie Bella could be. At least right now. Remember, when Trish Stratus started out, she was kinda terrible too. However, Mark Henry and Big Show? That was a tremendous big man vs. giant brawl. Wigs were split, and we were pleased. I think Henry getting air and dropkicking the steps was my favorite part of the match, just because it was so unexpected. You know, if they had gotten this right with the World's Strongest Man in 1996 instead of just 2011, we'd be talking an all-time great here, but hey, we're getting it now, and I'm happy for the lug. The finishing flurry at the end was a nice touch, like Henry couldn't believe one World's Strongest Slam couldn't finish Show off. So he did it again. And again. And then a couple of Death from Above splashes. He looks just as good decimating a giant as he does tossing around the Christians and Trent Barettas of the world. That's the sign of a good wrestler.
The two World Championship matches had me the most worried about this event, but both delivered in ways that were different but still satisfying. The World Heavyweight Championship match was more a character study than it was a wrestling match. It was basically Christian, right from start, trying to goad Randy Orton into losing his temper. It pretty much redeemed a month of lackluster build in one match, because it was so masterfully crafted. To his credit, Orton did what he had to do and then some. And how about the Viper going all ROH-midcarder with his offensive outburst? I kinda dug it, especially the Canadian backbreaker into the neckbreaker. But the finish, my God, it just showed how much of a master Christian is at match psychology and how well Orton plays (is?) the guy who flies off the handle. The post-match beatdown worked almost too well. I expected Bryan to come down and effectively kill me of wrestling fan euphoria. But then again, he's way too noble to cash in that way.
In a related note, if Friday comes and Bryan announces he's cashing it at WrestleMania, then I will lose my shit.
But all of the above described? That was just the appetizer. A tasty appetizer, but the thing that we all looked forward to most was Punk and Cena. And in a rare moment, one that was a throwback to the old days, when the main event almost always felt like a big deal after the match, not just before it, this match delivered in ways that I can't even describe. There were so many elements at play here. The crowd was so instrumental in creating the atmosphere, and they were hot almost the entire match. Hell, I'll give the kids and skirts credit here too. The ones that audibly chanted "Let's go Cena!"? Yeah, you get a million points from me. Totally provided a light contrast to the vast majority of people there screaming for Cena's blood every time Punk went in for the kill.
And before the elephant overshadows everyone else in the room, yes, I saw more than a few botches in the match. But as I've said before, if it's handled right, it's alright. Here, they handled it better than correctly. And in a way, it was a perfect contrast. You had Punk, who in front of his hometown wrestled with such passion, emotion, a classic babyface. Then there was Cena, whose ring savvy allowed him to be cold, almost emotionless (at least until the end), going about his duty with a business-like attitude that in a way exemplified the "dynastic Yankee" label Punk put on him in Boston. It almost felt ironic in a sense.
Then, despite what the fans chanted, there was the wrestling, brought by both men. I mean really, how could you say Cena couldn't wrestle when he dropped Punk (and himself) on the canvas with that faux-superplex to the outside, RIGHT in front of Punk's mom and his two best friends in Colt Cabana and Ace Steel. Christ, that was such a subtle dick heel move. I loved it. I also loved the segue from the STF into the Anaconda Vice. That submission exchange was probably the best spot of pure chain wrestling that you'll find in the States all year with the exception of what Johnnies Saint and Kidd will provide in a couple of weeks.
Then the finish. Vince McMahon's paranoia, Cena clocking Johnny Ace, the attempt at the Chicago Screwjob, Go to Sleep, New Champion. New Champion. They followed through on CM Punk potentially leaving WWE with the title. And then what was better, McMahon got on the headset and called for del Rio to come out. And there he came, look of steely determination on his face, like he was going to cross armbreaker his way into the heart of his boss, but BOOM. Holy shit, Punk kicked him in the back of the head like it was no big deal. If I were Alberto del Rio? I'd have thrown up my arms when I regained consciousness, said "I ain't even mad" and just applauded because that was maybe the most perfectly executed flash kick I've ever seen. And then the picture, that I have posted above. Punk blowing a kiss goodbye to McMahon and heading through the crowd. Priceless. Absolutely priceless.
It was the perfect end to a perfect pay-per-view. The WWE gets ragged on a lot, but even the coldest, blackest, darkest heart had to have been warmed tonight by what they put on. Their PPV has always been a strong point, but until tonight, they hadn't come close to perfect since maybe the second One Night Stand. This event stands in rarefied air right now. I would be hard pressed to come up with an argument against it being one of the best, if not the best WWE PPV of all-time.
And it's all because they took a chance and let CM Punk escape with the title. Well-played, gentlemen. Well-played.