Heading into last Sunday's Money in the Bank pay-per-view, few knew what to expect from the two signature matches. In the men's match, expectations were split between the potential of instant pressure on AJ Styles and the WWE championship on SmackDown and delayed gratification for a Raw winner hoping to get after Brock Lesnar's Universal championship.
As for the women, it seemed most likely that one of the four representatives from Raw would have the best shot at walking away Ms. Money in the Bank, if for no better reason that Ronda Rousey was a clear-cut favorite to emerge as Raw women's champion without a clear-cut long-term rival.
Few expected Alexa Bliss, still just a few months removed from her latest Raw women's championship reign, to walk away with the briefcase in hand -- and fewer still imagined she'd be the one walking out of the Allstate Arena with the Raw women's title in hand. But after winning the briefcase, Bliss attacked Rousey to trigger a DQ just moments before it seemed Rousey was likely to triumph -- and then proceeded to cash in against longtime rival Nia Jax to become a five-time women's champion.
That win and Rousey's reaction the next night on Raw have both women cracking the top 10 in the latest ESPN WWE Power Rankings, with Rousey's outburst and impressive showing in her first one-on-one match pushing her all the way up to No. 4. Though she's now serving an in-storyline 30-day suspension, Rousey seems poised for a big moment heading into SummerSlam in Brooklyn.
Rousey snaps on Kurt Angle, Alexa Bliss
Ronda Rousey shows her frustrations by attacking Alexa Bliss and Kurt Angle. Rousey slams Bliss through a table before storming off.
As for the top spot in the Power Rankings, it was an exceedingly tight race among the top three. A single voter shifting someone one or two spots would've changed things dramatically, but thanks to the power of four first-place votes, men's Money in the Bank winner Braun Strowman edged out AJ Styles and Seth Rollins to regain the No. 1 spot this time around.
His victory Sunday night makes Strowman one of the prohibitive favorites to dethrone Lesnar as Universal champion, though it seems likely that he'll be waiting behind whoever wins the multiway No. 1 contender's match to come at Extreme Rules for his clear path to victory. Considering the rarity of a Lesnar appearance these days, the anticipation for a cash-in will rise dramatically the moment the Universal champion finally reappears on Raw or pay-per-view.
Strowman's first one-on-one challenge of Lesnar didn't go quite as well as most hoped, and that and the triple-threat Universal title match that also featured Kane stand as the only two real blemishes upon a stellar run over the past few years for "Mr. Monster in the Bank." After WWE took its time to push Strowman to the very top of the heap, the time of his ascension to the role of Universal champion seems near -- and it's unlikely Strowman could be more ready for the opportunity.
Rankings are based upon the perceived value of a superstar to the on-screen product of WWE, which is determined by the voting of a panel of WWE on ESPN contributors. Number in parentheses ( ) indicates first-place votes.
Think about how exciting it could be for Braun Strowman to be holding a Money in the Bank briefcase with a champion who actually showed up on Raw on a regular basis. Still, any time Brock Lesnar shows up, the stakes will be raised by having a monster looming in the shadows, ready to strike. (Tim Fiorvanti)
As long as AJ Styles is an active member of the WWE roster, he is going to be a part of this list -- and usually near the top of it. He's that good. His rivalry with Shinsuke Nakamura finally lived up to the hype at Money in the Bank as the two put forth the match of the night. Styles is an all-time great, and nothing he does at this point in his career is going to change that. (Sean Coyle)
Seth Rollins is on fire. It feels like Rollins is putting on a PPV-quality match every week against any opponent who stands across from him. His match against Elias at Money in the Bank was arguably the match of the night on a show deep with quality matches. He then put on another show in a losing effort to Dolph Ziggler the next night on Raw. Although his Intercontinental title run was memorable, Rollins will now head toward where he belongs -- in the Universal title picture -- as we get closer to SummerSlam. (Michael Wonsover)
Ronda Rousey has the rare trait of being green in the ring while still being able to draw big amounts of green at the box office. A WrestleMania main event for Rousey used to be a pie-in-the-sky prediction, but now it is looking a lot more like the potential culmination of one of the best rookie years pro wrestling has ever seen. (KC Joyner)
Chicago is a notoriously loud crowd, but the Allstate Arena was never louder at Money in the Bank than when Daniel Bryan was in the ring to open up the show. Bryan made the most out of a difficult situation with Big Cass and followed it up with two outstanding performances against Big E and Samoa Joe in SmackDown's No. 1 contender's gauntlet match. If he looks this comfortable in the ring after such a long hiatus, there's no saying how high his ceiling is as he gets further acclimated. (Wonsover)
Alexa Bliss had the best night of her career on Sunday, capturing the women's Money in the Bank briefcase, attacking Ronda Rousey with it and cashing in her opportunity over the course of just a couple of hours. In doing so, she not only reclaimed her spot atop the Raw women's division but set up grudge matches against Jax, her longtime rival, and Rousey, once her suspension is lifted. (Matt Willis)
With The Miz off on SmackDown, Raw needed a superstar who served as the straw that stirs the drink -- the one driving multiple storylines forward. Kevin Owens has slipped into this role perfectly, playing the primary foil for Braun Strowman by getting knocked off the top of a ladder through a table and trucked by the behemoth running at full speed on the outside of the ring for the better part of the past two months. He played the wounded animal to perfection Monday night; his promos are as strong as ever; and every time he steps into the ring, you're almost certain to get a great match. (Fiorvanti)
Rusev's unlikely groundswell of support has reached its peak, as he's become the No. 1 contender to AJ Styles' WWE championship. He, along with Aiden English, have shown that there's a reward for organically getting over with the crowd and staying that way for long enough. Hopefully it's not a one-time-only main event slot before SummerSlam. (Willis)
Whether he wins or loses, The Miz creates heat like no one else in the WWE. But what might be the most impressive thing about Miz at this moment is that he's on a 10-match televised losing streak, and he's still pretty much the man, as he hasn't lost an ounce of his swagger. (Matt Wilansky)
The polarizing nature of Reigns is ultimately what keeps him relevant. However, for someone who has main-evented WrestleMania for four straight years, he's had an awful time in succeeding in his biggest matches. In the short term, he was relegated to a feud (albeit one that ended in a win) with Jinder Mahal, which was, in no uncertain terms, the worst match Sunday at Money in the Bank. (Wilansky)