Carmella strikes again with second win in women’s Money in the Bank match

One week ago, Carmella stood in the ring, eyes wide and mouth agape. She couldn’t believe the news general manager Daniel Bryan was delivering.

The Money in the Bank briefcase she had won just days earlier was not hers to keep. There would be no shot at the SmackDown women’s title at her discretion, thanks to James Ellsworth and the questionable way in which that match ended.

Dumbfounded at the decision, Carmella became angry — enraged, even — as the verdict and its consequences set in. Bryan said her shady sidekick had no business climbing the ladder and interfering in what should have been a monumental moment.

Instead, she would have to compete against the same four wrestlers she thought she’d beaten nine days earlier.

When Tuesday night’s show began, Carmella continued her irate protest. “How can there be rules, when there are no rules?” she yelled. SmackDown was not the land of opportunity, but the land of injustice, according to Carmella.

In retrospect, perhaps she is now considering SmackDown the land of retribution. In a wild, high-risk contest, Carmella once again walked away from a Money in the Bank match with a briefcase in tow.

From the start, there was an energy surrounding this match that made it feel as though it would be something special.

Carmella started strongly, taking advantage of an opening while her four other opponents battled outside the ring. But in a quick twist, each returned inside the squared circle and took their frustrations out on Carmella. It wouldn’t be the last time they briefly set aside their differences to keep the princess of Staten Island away from the prize at hand.

Soon, it was Becky Lynch‘s turn to catch fire. She took out the entire field, but Tamina Snuka interfered and, emulating her late father, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, flew off the top rope and landed a superfly splash on Lynch. Charlotte Flair also channeled her father, Ric, moments later with a vicious open-handed slap on Natalya.

In a clever attempt, Lynch took advantage of an opportunity to grab the briefcase, running up a perfectly vertical ladder held on either side by Flair and Snuka while they threw swinging punches at each other, but her gambit was to no avail.

Later, Natalya had her chance to snag the briefcase, but as she climbed the ladder, Charlotte grabbed another ladder, wedged it in between the steps of the first one and sprinted skyward. As the two exchanged blows, Carmella bounced back into the ring and pushed the ladder over.

The wreckage and high-risk moves continued. At one point, every woman except Carmella found herself on a single ladder before it collapsed from the instability. She took advantage of the opening, but the other four competitors carried her away from the briefcase, with each holding a leg on the ladder in a brilliant defensive display.

Then out of nowhere, it appeared unscrupulous tactics might supersede the action again. Ellsworth, who earlier in the night was banned from the arena, magically found his way into ring from the crowd, but Lynch saved the day by getting her revenge by tipping the ladder over and forcing Ellsworth to land rather uncomfortably, straddling the top rope.

It was just enough of a distraction to keep Lynch from winning. Carmella brought a chair to the ring and clobbered Becky with it several times, setting herself up to grab the briefcase — this time with a far less controversial ending.

Leveraging Carmella seemed like the right choice before the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, and that she capitalized on a second opportunity should give her some more respect. Though she’s still a relative newcomer, she had been mired in midcard status before the events of the past few weeks drew her significant heat from the crowd.

Of the women’s performers who have not spent copious time in the spotlight, she has the upside of youth, personality and an in-ring skillset that can help her make the leap to the next level.

Whether Carmella ever becomes a champion, if not a longstanding one, is, of course, unknown right now. But SmackDown, in particular, desperately needed a legitimate heel.

The mulligan Bryan issued a week ago was the right choice as well, considering the head-shaking manner in which the first-ever women’s Monday in the Bank unfolded. The creative decision to end the match, the first bout on the card, with such controversy and confusion did little to help a women’s field that hasn’t gained much traction since the Superstar Shakeup in April.

In particular, Flair has had trouble finding a heated rivalry with anyone after standout feuds with Sasha Banks and Bayley on Monday Night Raw. She has found herself stuck in a landscape of late that has focused more on parity than building a single performer. The reality here is that the women’s division has been an afterthought, up until the last few weeks.

But this week might be the turning point. One night after Banks, Nia Jax & Co. put on a thrilling main event on Raw, this match fully delivered. And if you haven’t had enough great women’s wrestling, Wednesday’s NXT main event, a falls count anywhere match between Asuka and Nikki Cross, should also display excitement.

Bringing attention to the women’s division is one thing, but execution is another thing entirely. Tuesday’s Money in the Bank mulligan was action-packed and much more worthy of pay-per-view status than the first. Each participant had time to showcase her skills much in the way the male performers did at their most recent MITB battle.

There were high-risk moves throughout the 20-plus-minute battle. As great as men’s Money in the Bank match was, the women had creative spots that had to make Baron Corbin and his rivals shake their head in awe.

Carmella got her revenge Tuesday night and, just maybe, signaled the start of a brighter future for the SmackDown women’s division.

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