Money In The Bank 2017 was supposed to be a historic moment for women’s wrestling. All of the signs were there, down to the video package that aired (bizarrely after the women all entered) showing the history of women’s wrestling in the WWE (minus some people of course). Instead, we had James Ellsworth, a man (yeah, he’s a man, Triple H) climb the ladder, pull down the briefcase, and toss it off to Carmella. Stealing what should have been a historic moment and denying WWE an image that could have been used in video packages for years to come. I mean, when Jerry “Puppies” Lawler says he found the whole thing “disturbing” within the context of what WWE has supposedly been trying to do for women’s wrestling – something is terribly wrong.
Much has been said about the finish to the ladder match. Some people “don’t care” and others are super angry over it. I’ve used it as the “final straw” to stop watching and caring about main roster WWE. But, it goes without saying that WWE could have gone with this plan to have Ellsworth grab the case and handled the fall out much, much better. I mean a huge portion of the people on the “angry” side of this were completely fine with Carmella being the winner – they just didn’t like the “how” of the finish. Let’s look at some ways WWE could have possibly mitigated this disaster.
1. Have an Authority Figure at the PPV
So, look, I understand that Daniel Bryan was on paternity leave and possibly legally wasn’t going to return to TV until Tuesday. But, really, there is absolutely zero reason that Shane McMahon shouldn’t have been at the show looking at this in kayfabe. You know, it’s only a PPV on the show he supposedly runs featuring a historic match, several title matches, and the men’s Money In The Bank match. It makes absolutely zero storyline sense for him to be absent – thus creating this “wait until Tuesday” to deal with the problem situation. Sure, they clearly wanted to get people to tune in Tuesday, because the ratings have been in the toilet – but seriously, this “use the PPV to get people to watch the free show” is some “it’s almost dead so we don’t care” WCW level nonsense. If you knew you were going to do something potentially controversial, it would have made more sense to have Shane on hand if the live crowd and internet backlash clearly was showing within a few minutes you were going to have to fix the booking. Theoretically, Shane could have come out, restarted the match in some fashion – even later in the same show – and you could have STILL gone with a Carmella win and keep a shred of the heel heat on her. Obviously, with no Daniel Bryan or Shane McMahon there (at least as far as we know) that did not happen.
2. Use the “Controversy” to Your Advantage the Next Night on Raw
If WWE was really concerned with “fan Backlash” enough to issue a “do over”, maybe start this off by heavily featuring the women the next night on Raw. Have Kurt Angle take a minute away from whatever his bizarre storyline with Graves is to have a backstage segment with the Raw women’s division saying he would never allow such things to happen on Raw under his watch. Use that promo as a springboard to have a number one contender’s match or ANYTHING to give the women something to do on the show. It would have gone a long way towards WWE saying “okay, you didn’t like what we did on Sunday, but we hear you”. Instead, WWE waited until 2 hours and 48 minutes into the show to have a Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax “match” that just devolved into a schmozz featuring the entire women’s division as we’ve seen ad nauseam on Raw for weeks now. Raw was a huge opportunity for the WWE to hedge their bets if they thought the fan reaction was negative enough that they were going to have to undo MITB on Tuesday’s SmackDown. However, what they did was show many fans that they are right in their assumption that the writing staff has zero idea how to use or write for the female talent at the main roster level.
3. Maybe Not Have Triple H Make the Comment He Did About Ellsworth
— ProWrestlingSheet (@WrestlingSheet) June 20, 2017
If WWE is worried about the optics of this entire ordeal at all, it was a terrible look to have Triple H go on UK television and make an off-handed remark about James Ellsworth’s manhood. Seriously, this comment and what eventually went down on SmackDown don’t really jive at all. Clearly, WWE was shook enough to undo the result of a high-profile PPV match, but they have a high-ranking brand official making remarks in jest that I saw several people flat-out call “transphobic”. Perhaps, assuming the way the MITB finish looked is the issue here, have Triple H either refuse to address the controversy or break company kayfabe (I know, will never happen) and admit that maybe “we made a mistake and we’re not going to make that mistake again”. Really anything other than “random joke about whether or not Ellsworth is male” would have been better.
4. Don’t Strip The Case From Carmella
Hey, WWE. You made a bad booking decision at the PPV. Own that mistake, but learn from it. Pulling the case from Carmella and redoing the match IS some late-era WCW garbage. Again, recall, most of the people angry about MITB DO NOT MIND CARMELLA WINNING THE MATCH. One way this could have been handled would have been to have Daniel Bryan kick off the show. He asks Carmella and Ellsworth to come out. Now, instead of pulling the case, he lets Carmella keep it. Even have her cut a heel “justification” promo first to get those boos. Then, even though he technically “didn’t do anything wrong”, Bryan kayfabe suspends James Ellsworth for 30/60/90 days. Of course, using the justification that Ellsworth has interfered numerous times and giving the company and the brand this bad look at Money In The Bank was the final straw. This would at least keep some of Carmella’s heat intact going forward. In storyline it wouldn’t be ideal, but given the scenario it seems like a decent compromise. So, instead, WWE decided to have that opening promo where it looks like Carmella managed to get herself over as a heel in spite of all that happened. Daniel Bryan acts like he’s making “Sophie’s Choice” for most of the episode and then ultimately strips Carmella of the briefcase and orders a “redo” of the PPV match next week. Best case scenario – Carmella wins the “do over match” and gets, maybe, a small fraction of the heat she would have had otherwise. Worst case scenario – someone else wins and Carmella is dead in the water. Again, almost everyone angry about this ordeal would have been fine if Ellsworth took out Lynch with the ladder and Carmella climbed the ladder herself and grabbed the case. Carmella holding the briefcase has never been the issue here. Essentially, WWE tried to “fix” this situation by doing the one thing that would both damage Carmella’s character AND make the entire division look like a joke. “Well done”.
I get it. Hindsight 20/20. But not really in this case. WWE bungled this entire thing from conception to execution to damage control. It really does feel like how a dying WCW would have booked and handled something like this and that’s an ominous feeling.