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WWE: Money in the Bank (2014)
What should have been the annual tradition of setting up the next challenger for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship instead marked a sour note for both pro-wrestling fans and for Daniel Bryan himself. "Money in the Bank 2014" marked the sad need for the crowning of a new champion well ahead of the logical schedule due to Bryan's real-life injury, which to this day puts his future in a state of limbo. Fortunately, the gimmick factor of the event itself lent itself to a novel, albeit obvious solution: hold two titular matches, the first a standard anytime, anyplace contract for a title shot, the second for the crown jewel of the sport itself. With six other matches to fill the card, "Money in the Bank 2014" had a tall order to fill on the crowd enjoyment side of the spectrum. Natural biases aside, on paper, the night looked to be a crowd pleaser.
Opening with an enjoyable Tag Team Championship match pitting the defending Usos against the Wyatt Family, "Money in the Bank 2014" set the pace of the event early, despite some bumps in the road yet to spring up. Giving fans a nearly 15-minute match with two sets of crowd favorites was a step in the right direction; the Divas Championship match that followed was a bit of a steam killer, but mostly due to defending champion Paige, not having the top caliber opponent one would ideally hope for in a Divas match. All this was rather inconsequential as Adam Rose's bout against Damien Sandow killed any leftover momentum from the thrilling opening, leaving the first Money in the Bank match with a hefty order to fill.
Thankfully, the match paid off several times over, with the rivalry of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins remaining a focus on the match, while paying close attention to not overshadow the solid lineup of Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, RVD, and Jack Swagger as fellow competitors. The 25-minute offering is intense, brutal and damn near worth the price of admission on its own. More importantly, it helped firmly plant the seeds of rivalry between Rollins and Ambrose, which to this very day have yet to yield their full bounty. Following such a great spectacle, The Dust Brothers (Goldust and Stardust) saw tag action against RybAxel. In the grand scheme of things for the evening, it's a filler match, but everyone involved did a fantastic job entertaining the crowd, with Cody Rhodes continuing to shine as Stardust after having been poorly utilized the past few years. The Rusev vs. Big E match and Layla vs. Summer Rae offerings are pure filler, with the latter barely breaking the three-minute mark; they are an obvious break from the packed middle of the program to let excitement build for the main event.
While the ultimate outcome was pretty obvious and the competitor pool a bit so-so, John Cena, Kane, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Bray Wyatt, and Cesaro all do well in closing the show. No one will argue that having to see Daniel Bryan forfeit the title and a new champion crowned in this fashion is anything but a letdown; that said, there's some real showmanship in the match, not as spectacular as the mid-card match, but with enough moments to keep you guessing that the inevitable conclusion isn't too terrible to take.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sports brilliant, rich color reproduction of the event itself. Detail levels are not as strong as something sourced from a modern HD broadcast should be, possibly due to some minor compression artifacts that seems to be the standard for WWE DVD releases (it's much better than a few years back).
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio is a solid, albeit non-mind-blowing experience. Commentary is front and center, but never mixed to overpower the sounds of the arena, nor do the mics focused on the in-ring action feel off-balance. A few matches in, and the sound isn't as immersive as being live (simply due to the constant commentary), but there's nothing to detract from the experience.
The lone extra is the kickoff show interview with Daniel Bryan.
All in all, a solid pay-per-view offering from the WWE in the wake of losing their top star to injury and having to go back to a very "safe" transition champion. The few filler matches don't begin to detract from a generally solid card from top to bottom. "Money in the Bank 2014" continues the tradition of offering a thrilling gimmick match guaranteed to garner repeat viewings. Highly Recommended.