Monday 11 July 2011

Next Step

There’s a reason the Royal Rumble tends to be WWE’s second most successful pay-per-view every year. It’s because it sets up several months of storylines in one night: world champions for the WrestleMania season are usually decided upon at the Rumble, and the winner of the titular match goes on to headline (or at least feature in a prominent match at) WrestleMania.

Money in the Bank has the potential to perform the same function for SummerSlam and beyond. Being held in July means it’s the last big stage to set up world champions for the big summer show, and the Money in the Bank matches themselves are natural starting points for main event pushes and fresh storylines.

This year’s Money in the Bank show will once again feature two eight man matches with the winner of each being the first man to grab a briefcase suspended above the ring, entitling them to challenge for their brand’s world championship at any point within the next twelve months. The scope this gives WWE’s writing teams is huge, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Firstly, the fact that everyone who’s cashe din the briefcase has gone on to become champion indicates that WWE sees it as a match guaranteed to make a headliner, which limits the number of potential winners to those WWE thinks would work well in the main event (a small number). This can make narrowing down the winners a little too easy for audiences. Secondly, having two men walking around with guaranteed title matches lessens the gimmick and means that one of them will need to be cashed in within a few weeks of the show.

This year’s two ladder matches look pretty good on paper. RAW’s bout will pit Jack Swagger, Evan Bourne, R-Truth, The Miz, Alex Riley, Alberto Del Rio, Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio against one another while SmackDown will offer up Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Wade Barrett, Kane, Sin Cara, Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Sheamus in their its ladder spectacular. There’s a pleasing lack of Mark Henry and Big Show in those matches. Both men were involved in ladder bouts last year. Neither should have been.

Let’s look at the SmackDown match first:

I think there are three potential winners in this match. The five likely losers are Kane, Sin Cara, Daniel Bryan, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. I wrote Kane off last year and he surprised practically everyone by winning, but how likely is it that that would happen two years in a row? Slater and Gabriel seem to be featuring in an attempt at re-establishing tag team wresting in WWE which makes it unlikely either one of them will suddenly be handed a heavy singles push. Of the two I think Gabriel could make it quite far as a singles wrestler sometime in the future, but Slater has no chance. Daniel Bryan is clearly seen as a mid-carder for the moment, there to make others look good. Sooner or later WWE will find itself so light on talent that they’ll have to elevate him but for now they’re trying out others. As for Sin Cara, he’s being protected by the booking team (because he was handpicked by Triple H as a replacement for the aging Rey Mysterio) but is still far away from being booked as a world champion. Before he reaches that level he’s going to have to stop the sloppy performances and learn some English so he can cut promos.

Cody strikes me as a potential winner because he has been the recipient of a steady push all year. It petered out a little after Extreme Rules (when the Mysterio feud ended) but has been resumed successfully since. With his above average ring skills, a unique gimmick, and strong verbal ability Cody is clearly a man WWE have earmarked for progression into the main event. If his push continues at its current rate I think Cody could be ready for a world title run by the end of the year. Winning Money in the Bank would help to show the company’s serious about his future.

The other most likely contender is Wade Barrett. He’s got a bit of a head start on Cody thanks to his involvement in various high profile feuds pay-per-view mina events last year (against Randy Orton and John Cena no less). He’s got the height, build and verbal skills WWE (and Vince McMahon in particular) are known to prefer and has lost quite a few matches in the last two months (which is often a sign of a big push being planned). Should he win Money in the Bank I think he’d be quickly accepted by fans as a credible top of the card performer.

Sheamus has a chance because of the way he’s been used in the Christian and Orton feud. Bearing in mind one of the briefcases has to be used fairly quickly it would make sense for Sheamus to win the ladder match and then cash in after the Orton versus Christian match. Assuming ‘Captain Charisma’ is booked to win the title, immediately losing it to Sheamus would give him something more to whinge about and help set up a three-way match at SummerSlam, keeping the feud fresh.

Of the three I think Sheamus is the most likely to win, with something along the lines of what I’ve suggested above happening later in the night or possibly at the SmackDown taping two nights later. I had originally thought that Alberto Del Rio would be the man cashing in the briefcase quickly but I no longer think that’s necessarily the case.

The RAW Money in the Bank match:

I originally made two assumptions about this show, both of them pertaining to the RAW ladder match. The first was that Dolph Ziggler would be involved. Surely with all the hard work he’s put in improving himself over the last few years he’s earned a slot in a match such as this? And he’s young enough to be able to take some impressive bumps too. His omission from the match means it won’t fulfil its full potential in my view.

The second assumption was that Alberto Del Rio win and get involved in the aftermath of the WWE title match should Punk win or simply go on to challenge Cena for the title at SummerSlam. Cena v Del Rio has been rumoured as the SummerSlam main event for months. Considering how little has been done with ADR since he arrived on RAW I would imagine a match with Cena is the sole reason SmackDown lost him.

I think that match will happen and happen at SummerSlam. But a proverbial spanner was thrown into the works last week on RAW when Del Rio became number one contender in a triple threat match (during the period Punk had been stripped of his shot in Chicago). WWE hasn’t yet clarified whether Del Rio’s victory still entitles him to a championship match. If he is the number one contender then they could promote the SummerSlam match without needing him to win Money in the Bank. If he isn’t the number one contender then he has to be considered the favourite to win as having him announce on RAW that he will cash in his title shot at “the biggest pay-per-view of the summer” is the simplest way of establishing the match.

But there are so few viable alternatives to ADR though. For that reason I am picking him to win. My assumption is that he’ll win and get a title match at SummerSlam based on his victory on the July 4th RAW. He could lose the match, only to gain the victory in an immediate rematch by cashing in his briefcase. It’s something that’s not really been done before and could work very well.

What other options are there? Mysterio is winding down his career and has become such a liability (he is injury prone and has been known to refuse to put people over in the past) that I can’t imagine WWE would want to book him into a position where they’ll feel compelled to make him champion. For the record I think Mysterio could actually have a pretty enjoyable ten minute match with Cena, but we’re not likely to see it as WWE seem to be against promoting that match.

The other options are Miz and Kofi Kingston. Miz did very well with the will-he-won’t-he gimmick of being a Money in the Bank winner and still seems a favourite with management despite losing the strap to Cena in fairly unceremonious style at Extreme Rules. It would be a nice way of getting him back into the title picture, and could be used to turn him face to feud with Del Rio after SummerSlam (presuming ADR is champion then).

Kofi is a real outside chance. I think he’s a possibility mainly because he dropped the US title a month ago, which could be taken as a sign that he’s headed for a promotion. He certainly has the ability (though his promos could do with a little work) and is over by today’s WWE standards. The promotion could do worse in looking for a new headliner but is this the right way to advance him up the card? People cashing in their Money in the Bank matches tend to appear callous and uncaring. These are desired traits in a heel, but not in a babyface. If they are planning to try Kofi out at the top of the card they’d be better off giving him a title shot against ADR at the September pay-per-view and booking him to lose. That way they can stuff the match with near falls for Kingston and see how the crowd react, then plan a title chase if he’s deemed a success.

As for Riley, Truth, Bourne and Swagger, I don’t think any of them have much of a chance. Sadly, it looks as though R-Truth’s main event stint has been discontinued. He’d done a lot of good work in his two months at the top, but right now I think they’re just killing time with him until John Morrison returns. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens at this event, giving WWE ample time to set up a singles match between the two for SummerSlam. Bourne has been included to perform some impressive bumps and add to future highlight packages. He’d make a good mid-card champion, but his smiley-happy-babyface routine is not the stuff that WWE champions are made of. Swagger seems to be involved just to make up the numbers. Ziggler would have been a better choice for the spot but maybe a title defence will be announced this evening on RAW. As for Riley, I think WWE are pleased with the progress he’s making and want to keep things slow with him. He’s not ready to be rushed to the top and I think WWE (and Miz) deserve credit for protecting him. Riley himself deserves some credit for doing everything asked of him well. I hope his development continues.

I’ll be previewing the rest of the show later in the week. These matches are so big and there’s so much else lined up for the show that I thought it would be best to do two Money in the Bank entries. Just to make things nice and clear my predictions to win the ladder bouts are Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus.

Now stay tuned for victories from Evan Bourne and Kane!

No comments:

Post a Comment