WWE Money in the Bank 2017: Ellsworthgate | Smark Out Moment

WWE Money in the Bank 2017: Ellsworthgate

Posted by Callum Wiggins Monday, June 19, 2017
Money in the Bank 2017 left a bad taste in the mouth for many WWE fans. If you enjoyed the show on Sunday, then congratulations, you had a much better evening than I did. I don't want to come across as a frequent complainer, as not all of this PPV was terrible, but it does feel like the company are not putting their best creative efforts into the current product. They tend to do this in waves, so maybe they've hit a bad patch of form. In my opinion, Money in the Bank was disappointing enough that an argument could be made that it was that bad intentionally.

SmackDown Women's Championship Carmellsworth
Credit: WWE.com
For those that still grip onto what little remains of kayfabe and lose themselves in storytelling, this PPV was awful. Naomi was the only babyface to register a convincing win, which paled in comparison to the consistent disappointing finishes. The Usos intentionally getting counted out while the New Day forgot how to leave the ring, Jinder Mahal's reign of tedium continued, and Baron Corbin became Mr. Money in the Bank in a predictable (but welcome in my view) outcome. But, these all were left in the wake of the first questionable decision of the night, and arguably the most controversial moment in WWE this year.

The first-ever Women's Money in the Bank Ladder match opened the show, as Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Carmella and Tamina Snuka battled over the brand new briefcase. Prior to the bell, an extensive video package played highlighting the greatest women's wrestlers in history, the record-setting moments in women's wrestling and an overall celebration in how this aspect of WWE has evolved and improved in recent years.

So, how did they cement this historic occasion? They had a man capture the briefcase.

For those that missed Money in the Bank and avoid social media like the plague (you don't know how much I envy you at times like this), Carmella's manager James Ellsworth knocked Becky Lynch off the ladder, climbed it unopposed, unhooked the briefcase and dropped it down to his fallen ally. The referees stood in confusion about if Ellsworth was allowed to take the briefcase, but in the end Carmella was announced the winner amid loud boos.

Now, this has led to heated debates and aggressive opinions on Twitter. Most have called this out as one of the worst decisions WWE has made in recent memory, and argued that this is another moment that tarnishes the attempts of women's wrestling to become a main event draw in WWE. Some have defended the decision as a great way to build heat on Carmella and James Ellsworth, which will serve them very well in their bid to cash in on the SmackDown Women's Champion, be it Naomi or another down the road.

This wasn't helped by the match being fairly underwhelming. I had seen quite a few concerned about the women taking too many risks in a bid to outdo the men's ladder match, particularly with Charlotte Flair's history. Instead, the match went too far in the opposite direction, as everyone seemed to be playing it safe. There were stiff ladder bumps and Charlotte's twisting moonsault to the floor, but overall it was pretty tame. Plus, it ran about ten minutes too short in my opinion, which limited their potential to have a match that would have lived up to this historic setting. Arguably, that was the real tragedy of a match that promised so much and delivered a lot of disappointment.

It's the finish that has everybody talking though. Let's first consider the positive impact. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon (both curiously absent from the PPV) announced that this controversy would be the first thing addressed on the next episode of SmackDown Live. Storyline progression is always a good thing, and it can't be denied that the next step for Carmella, the rest of the women's division and the Money in the Bank briefcase is incredibly intriguing. It's a huge talking point - all eyes are on the women's division after this PPV, which arguably wouldn't have been the case if any other result had occurred.

Furthermore, it is a genuine and proven method to generate heel heat. It's the first-time a non-participant in a Money in the Bank match has 'won' the briefcase for another person, which is a big moment for a match that has taken place 19 times now. It's rather remarkable it's taken this long for a finish of this nature to happen. And, there is a big argument to be made that if Carmella had a female manager or say it was The Miz in a ladder match and Maryse took down the briefcase, there would be far less anger towards this finish.

But, there's a time and a place for moments like this, and this was a huge misfire in my opinion. For those that argue a female manager winning for a man wouldn't get the same negative reaction, I'd retort by saying they've had 18 matches now with 'clean' finishes. The Money in the Bank has been predominantly won by heels, many through dastardly, devious and sneaky means. But they've always been the one ascending the ladder at the end to claim the briefcase, so why couldn't it have happened here.

WWE built this as a celebration of women's wrestling, and a man effectively won the match. By doing that, any heat that was generated towards the finish will be turned firmly in the creative team's direction, not at Carmella and James Ellsworth. They may be booed slightly harder now, especially after whatever happens at SmackDown on Tuesday, but overall WWE have brought upon themselves the wrath of a very vocal portion of their fanbase. And it was completely and utterly avoidable with a few subtle tweaks.

When Ellsworth interfered and pushed Becky Lynch off, I was genuinely excited for him to attempt to capture the briefcase. Most of the fans there seemed to agree with me, because most of us thought he would get up there, Charlotte or Becky would meet him up there, slam him from the top of the ladder to the mat below, allowing Carmella to recover, climb to the top and steal Money in the Bank. Still the same outcome, still brings heat onto Carmellsworth, still creates controversy, still would lead to an inquiry on the next SmackDown.

Instead, the immediate anticipation of the fans quickly turned to desperation and anger as Ellsworth climbed higher and higher unopposed, before he unhooked the briefcase and dropped it to an unknowing Carmella. She had no idea he had climbed to the top, looked in no shape to make the climb, and 'won' the match in the cheapest manner possible. This was not the moment fans wanted this match to be remembered for, and rightly so in my view.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted Carmella to win, but is it too much to ask for that the first-ever Women's Money in the Bank Ladder match ends with a woman claiming the briefcase from atop the ladder. We don't have that visual now, and what will happen next year if the match happens again? "Last year was the first-ever match of this kind, which was won by James Ellsworth on behalf of Carmella." Yep, sure sounds prestigious to me.

WWE built this as a showcase for the glory of women's wrestling and didn't follow through, which is the real sticking point in all of this. It's not like many were predicting a glorious triumph for Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair - in these matches you tend to assume someone undeserving and underhanded will snatch the victory. But the extent to which Ellsworth got involved was too blatant and lacking impetus from Carmella. Even if she told him to climb it would have been an improvement - this version of events took away a massive chunk of the significance of this match, and will undoubtedly hamper its legacy in future years.

It's not even like WWE can claim this is an isolated incident, as they have a noted history for having men win historic women's matches in the past. The most notable example is Santino Marella winning the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25 (the one where every Diva involved essentially grinded on Kid Rock during their entrance). I'm surprised the #GiveDivasAChance movement didn't start then and there. Furthermore, you could look to the instance where Ric Flair held back Sasha Banks during the Triple Threat match to determine the new WWE Women's Champion, allowing Charlotte to win. It's not exactly a trend, but it has happened numerous times before.

Frankly, and it pains me to say this, but I wouldn't put it past WWE to announce that James Ellsworth won the match and is therefore 'Miss' Money in the Bank, and he cashes it in to win the SmackDown Women's Championship at some point. Maybe I drank too much to try and forget watching this PPV, but you can't say it is an impossibility. Sadly, stranger things have happened. And really, even though I am intrigued about the future for the briefcase, is it really going to be anything more inventive than a five/six-pack challenge over the briefcase which Carmella wins again? I hope it is something more imaginative than this, but WWE hasn't exactly been giving me a lot of faith that this will happen.

Overall then, it was a totally unavoidable situation that could have been handled far better in my opinion, which compounded an already lackluster match. I don't think this will tarnish the SmackDown women's division going forward, as the storytelling for the most part has been great and they have been given a great deal of spotlight, especially compared to RAW's woeful equivalent. Maybe this is the start of a spectacular storyline and I will eat my words a month or two from now, and I really hope that's the case. Above all else I want to be entertained while watching WWE, and if this leads to that then it was all worth it.

But if this results in an unsatisfactory follow-up to an extremely underwhelming PPV, then it was a pointless exercise that will hold no value whatsoever. I hope if nothing else WWE learn from the outrage that this result has generated, as whether you agree with the booking, disagree or are indifferent, it's not something they want to reoccur regularly, especially when it comes to the women's division. The roster is filled with such diverse and talented women's athletes currently that can perform far better than Sunday night's display demonstrated, and deserved the moment of someone pulling down that briefcase for the first time. Instead we got the chinless wonder.

That being said, if this all culminates in a match between Becky Lynch and James Ellsworth, where Becky loses after refusing to let go of the Dis-arm-her for nearly five minutes, all is forgiven.

What did you think of the finish to the first-ever Women's Money in the Bank Ladder Match? Was it great heel heat or a travesty for women's wrestling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Callum Wiggins hails from Essex in the United Kingdom. He recently graduated from the University of York with a degree in History and has been a fan of professional wrestling since 2002. Outside of wrestling, he is also a fan of Arsenal FC and enjoys video games, darts, and Formula One. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter.


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