Money in the Bank has become one of the key WWE shows of the year, just outside the Big Four. This year's event, on Sunday at XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, was a significant one, likely pushing storylines -- and starting new ones -- with an eye toward the summer and beyond.
The drawing card for Money in the Bank is the ladder matches from which the event takes its name. For the third straight year, there were two Money in the Bank matches -- one featuring men, the other women. The winners will get to "cash in" on a title match of their choosing in the future.
Money in the Bank 2019 featured 11 matches, including the kickoff show. In addition to the ladder matches, Seth Rollins defended his WWE Universal title against AJ Styles; Kofi Kingston put the WWE Championship on the line against Kevin Owens; and Becky Lynch played double duty, defending the WWE Raw women's belt against Lacey Evans and the Smackdown title versus Charlotte Flair. Plus, The Miz and Shane McMahon continued their heated feud in a steel cage.
Marc Raimondi recapped all the action as it happened, Sean Coyle provided ratings for every match and Andrew Feldman was live at the venue providing additional coverage.
This story was updated in real time.
Men's Money in the Bank ladder match: Brock Lesnar def. Ali, Andrade, Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor, Randy Orton, Ricochet
A shocking conclusion. Brock Lesnar came running down the ramp with Paul Heyman by his side as Ali ascended the ladder. Lesnar pushed Ali off, climbed the ladder himself and grabbed the briefcase -- and the contract to "cash in" a title shot of his choosing.
Lesnar, who has not been seen on TV since WrestleMania, was not advertised for the match or the show. Earlier in the night, a backstage segment saw Sami Zayn getting beaten up and hung up by his feet, putting him out of the match. There was speculation that the replacement would be Braun Strowman or maybe even Bray Wyatt. Nope, it was Lesnar, which likely will be to the chagrin of fans who celebrated when he dropped the WWE Universal title to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania.
The ladder match itself was excellent, with everyone working very hard and some bumping like absolute mad. Balor took the worst of the damage. Andrade and Balor were climbing the ladder on either side, got near the top, and Andrade landed a sunset flip bomb on Balor onto another ladder, which was propped up between the original ladder and the ropes. Just an absolutely insane spot.
Later, Corbin chokeslammed Balor onto the side of the ladder. And then a few minutes after that, McIntrye hit a vertical suplex on Balor onto the ladder. Brutal stuff.
Ali and Andrade had one of the spots of the match when both were climbing up two ladders on either side and Ali hit a Spanish fly, flipping backward to the mat. McIntyre later picked up Ricochet and threw him to the outside from the ring onto a ladder that was propped up between the ring and the announce table. The ladder snapped in half.
Orton's main highlight was a beautiful RKO of McIntyre while pulling McIntyre off the ladder. So smooth.
After all the hard work by the seven men in the match, we're left with Lesnar holding the briefcase. Lesnar is already booked for the Saudi Arabia show. Could he cash in on Seth Rollins or even Kofi Kingston then? Time will tell. But "The Beast" is your Mr. Money in the Bank for 2019. So that explains why we can't interview the main event winner. Freakin' Brock.
WWE championship: Kofi Kingston (c) def. Kevin Owens
Who needs shoes? Not Kingston.
Seconds after Owens inexplicably removed his shoes and threw them outside the ring, Kingston landed a Trouble in Paradise and got the three-count to retain the title he won at WrestleMania 35, and Xavier Woods was out to celebrate thereafter.
This was a solid match and the ending had some nice sequences. Kingston landed the Trouble in Paradise minutes earlier, but Owens rolled out of the ring. Kingston went out to fetch his opponent, and he rolled Owens back in. As the two were getting up, Owens landed a stunner, but Kingston got his foot on the rope to break the count. That's when Owens removed Kingston's shoes and went for a swanton bomb from the top, but Kingston got his knees up.
Kingston worked from underneath for most of this one and both worked hard. His reign as WWE champion will now continue on Smackdown. It's unclear on which program Owens will continue, or if WWE has something else in mind for Kingston. Owens' heel turn a few weeks ago was a bit abrupt, but there is probably more here if they choose to explore it.
If not, there's no shortage of potential title challenges on Smackdown. And then there's that whole Wild Card deal.
Universal championship: Seth Rollins (c) def. AJ Styles
Tremendous match. One of the best in WWE this year. Rollins won with a Curb Stomp following a superkick to a kneeling Styles that looked like it connected hard. The chemistry between these two was excellent.
The best sequence of the match -- and there were many very good ones -- came minutes before the finish. Rollins had Styles all setup for the Curb Stomp and ran up, but Styles caught him in mid-air and turned it into a Styles Clash. Rollins kicked out at two and the match went on.
Another incredible counter happened earlier on when Rollins went for a ripcord knee and Styles caught it and turned it into an ushigaroshi. Rollins landed a reverse superplex a few minutes later and then a reverse falcon arrow, a play off his usual move sequence. In other words, in the story, he needed to more than just his typical techniques to beat someone as good as Styles.
Afterward, Styles returned to the ring and stared Rollins down. Rollins held up the Universal title. Styles extended his hand and Rollins shook it. Hopefully, that means this program will continue and this was just the first in a series of matches. Honestly, if Rollins vs. Styles extends all the way to SummerSlam somehow, no one would really complain. These are the two best in-ring guys in the company. More, please.
Roman Reigns def. Elias
Elias attacked Reigns from behind backstage with his guitar, then proceeded to the ring for his usual musical number ripping the local crowd.
The inevitable happened from there. Reigns came out, landed a Superman punch, then a Spear to win what was apparently an official match -- there was a bell and everything -- in nine seconds.
Expect Reigns to be in a more prominent position as summer hits and SummerSlam season gets closer. If he's not in the SummerSlam main event or close to it, that would be a surprise. Elias, meanwhile, is pretty effective in this current role.
SmackDown women's championship: Charlotte Flair def. Becky Lynch (c), Bayley cashes in on Charlotte to win title.
There's no rest for the weary.
Minutes after duel women's champion Becky Lynch successfully defended her RAW women's championship against Lacey Evans, Charlotte Flair emerged and Lynch was pressured into beginning her second title match of the night.
Flair looked to capitalize on a worn-out Lynch, but the champ was game as the two traded chops in an early stalemate. Despite Flair's attempt to slow down the match with a Boston crab, Lynch continued to fight back with strikes.
A frustrated Flair yelled "you're nothing without me" as she delivered some stiff forearms to Lynch. The turning point of the match came when Flair attempted her Natural Selection face buster to Lynch on the ring apron, but Lynch held onto the rope causing Flair to tumble to the outside of the ring.
As the referee was turned towards Flair administering a 10-count, Evans reappeared and landed her women's right knockout punch on Lynch. Flair attempted to capitalize on it with an exploder suplex, but Lynch reversed it into a small package nearly stealing a victory. Flair kicked out, however, and then kicked Lynch in the jaw for a three count and her record ninth women's championship.
After the match, an angry Lynch attacked Evans, but the numbers game caught up to her when Flair and Evans began the double-team assault. However, Ms. Money in the Bank Bayley stormed the ring to even the odds and when she gained an advantage over Flair, she stared at her briefcase, thought about it and decided to cash in her contract to the roar of the Hartford crowd. When the bell rang, Bayley ascended to the top rope and connected with an elbow drop and won the SmackDown women's championship for the first time in her career.
That's two straight years that the women's Money in the Bank victor cashed in the same night. Last year, Alexa Bliss cashed in on Nia Jax to win the RAW women's championship. This year, Bayley rose to the top of the blue brand.
Raw women's championship: Becky Lynch (c) def. Lacey Evans
The end came abruptly when Lynch reversed a rollup into the Dis-Arm-Her. The odd part was the referee didn't make a count on the rollup despite Lynch's shoulders appearing to be on the mat. It's been a weird few weeks for Lynch and shoulders during a pinning combination after the Ronda Rousey finish at WrestleMania.
Anyway, Evans looked pretty solid in this match given this was her first singles match on a big show. She held her own and is a darn good athlete. Evans showed off a nice springboard elbow drop from the outside, an acid drop and a jumping crane kick. The story centered around Evans working Lynch's arm and it worked.
Charlotte Flair came out afterward and Lynch's second title defense began.
Cruiserweight championship: Tony Nese (c) def. Ariya Daivari
With high profile names like Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander transitioning to the SmackDown Live and RAW rosters, respectively, the brand revolves around the talented Cruiserweight champion Tony Nese. With a number of potential challengers waiting in the wings, his first challenger, just like him, was another 205 Live original in Ariya Daivari, who made his way to the ring in style in a Mercedes Benz.
Both Nese and Daivari impressed early with some athletic counters, but it was the challenger who secured an early advantage by injuring Nese's right eye. From there, the pace lessened as Daivari attempted to slow down the dynamic Nese.
As expected, Nese's vision improved a bit and he fought back by way of a spinning heel kick and a springboard moonsault. A few sequences later, Nese caught Daivari with a corkscrew moonsault to the outside of the ring and a 450 splash in what were two of the highlights of the match.
Daivari made it close, though. He caught Nese with a super kick, Persian splash and hammerlock lariat combination, but it wasn't enough. Nese kicked out and connected with his running "Kneese" knee strike for the victory.
Who will be next for Nese? Mike Kanellis? Oney Lorcan? Humberto Carrillo? There are plenty of worthy contenders on the 205 Live roster.
Steel cage match: Shane McMahon def. The Miz
Their WrestleMania falls count anywhere was a ton of fun and actually one of the highlights of the card. This one had its moments, but the confines of the cage actually limited its ability to shine.
The finish came when The Miz was attempting to hit a superplex on McMahon off the cage, not unlike the WrestleMania match finish from a platform, but this time McMahon slipped out - all the way out. He came out of his shirt and fell to the floor on the outside for the victory. The Miz was left on the top of the cage holding only Shane's shirt.
McMahon took some hard bumps in this one as expected. The worst was probably when Miz basically ripped him off the top of the cage and McMahon dropped like a rock all the way to the mat. Miz landed a Skull Crushing Finale on a chair earlier in the match, but McMahon put his foot on the bottom rope, prompting the broadcast team to criticize the referee because this was a no-disqualification match.
The nature of the finish means this Miz vs. Shane program is likely to continue. These two are capable of fun stuff, but have to be put in the right spots. At least this one wasn't too long. But the crowd was clearly getting restless.
United States championship: Rey Mysterio def. Samoa Joe (c)
Well, that was fast. This is the second straight big event with a Joe vs. Mysterio match and neither one of them has gone more than two minutes. The WrestleMania 35 match was just one-minute long. This is Mysterio's first time winning the U.S. title.
The finish here came pretty surprisingly when Mysterio countered a power bomb attempt with a huracanrana into a pin. Joe had already been busted up and bleeding from a Mysterio senton that landed on his face.
Afterward, as Mysterio was about to celebrate with his son Dominick, Joe came running back down the ramp to attack Mysterio. He proceeded to beat Mysterio down as Dominick looked on. The closing shot was Mysterio, covered in Joe's blood, being held by Dominick. This program will almost surely continue - hopefully getting a legitimate match at some point down the line.
Women's Money in the Bank ladder match: Bayley def. Carmella, Dana Brooke, Ember Moon, Mandy Rose, Naomi, Natalya and Nikki Cross
Your Ms. Money in the Bank is a hugger. Bayley shoved both Mandy Rose and an interfering Sonya Deville off the ladder, then secured the briefcase as the finish. She is guaranteed a "cash in" for either the Raw or Smackdown women's title.
The entire match was an adrenaline rush - spot after spot and the ladies nailed just about all of them. In the finish, Deville came out, put her tag team partner Rose on her shoulders and climbed the ladder that way, seemingly setting up Rose to snatch the briefcase. Bayley, though, climbed up the other side, got to the top and stared down the two women to a big pop. She shoved them off and then grabbed the contract.
Early in the match, Bayley seemed to get legitimately injured when a ladder fell with pretty fast velocity onto her right hip. It looked like Bayley was bleeding from a cut in that area, but she carried on and was a part of some other crazy spots, including getting caught in the middle of the ladder as Natalya and Rose repeatedly tried making a hugger sandwich.
Ember Moon might have stolen the entire match, nailing an Eclipse on Natalya from a huge ladder on the outside of the ring with Natalya inside the ring. Naomi also had a number of excellent spots here -- she is also money in ladder matches.
Speaking of money, Carmella seemed to hurt her knee early in the match and she was taken out by officials. But she later returned with a wrapped knee, only to be greeted by Mandy Rose and then Deville running in.
Overall, the match was a ton of fun and this is a very interesting development for Bayley's character following her and Sasha Banks' loss of the WWE women's tag titles at WrestleMania last month. Bayley has needed a refresher for some time and this could be it.
Kickoff show: The Usos def. Daniel Bryan and Rowan
This should set up The Usos as the top contenders to Daniel Bryan & Rowan's Smackdown tag team titles. So, presumably, The Usos will be spending time on SmackDown moving forward despite switching to Raw on the Superstar Shakeup.
The finish came after a Double Uce on Bryan. The Usos nailed Bryan with a double superkick on a suicide dive attempt, leading to the final spot just moments after The Usos took out out Rowan with a double suicide dive.
This was a solid match for what it was, simply a teaser for what will probably be a pretty solid tag program. Rowan did a lot of heavy lifting here, including a nice double superplex on both Usos, and looked perhaps the best he has since returning from injury.
Bryan & Rowan as a tag team was not something necessarily foreseen, but is a nice shot in the arm to a division that could use some freshness, especially on Smackdown. And no one is going to complain about The Usos being in the top title feud from an in-ring perspective. Now, maybe we can get some tag straps made of hemp.