Saturday 16 July 2011

Money in the Bank preview

Money in the Bank is a show built around three matches: the two ladder matches and the CM Punk versus John Cena WWE championship match. Those working on the undercard are going to have a tough night as those three matches simply won’t be overshadowed. Even Christian and Randy Orton, two of the company’s most over stars involved in the promotion’s most consistent feud could find the audience subdued during their match.

But with or without a subdued audience that match is likely to be the most satisfying wrestling match of the show. It’s been an enjoyable feud, there’s no question of that, but this will mark the third pay-per-view to give us a Christian v Orton match. When you consider the various matches they’ve had on RAW and SmackDown during that time this latest contest could begin to verge on overkill.

What should set this encounter apart from their others are the stipulations involved. If Orton gets disqualified or there are any questionable decisions made by the referee then Christian will become champion. The thing with the second part of that is that it’s not really been made clear who decides whether or not the referee’s officiating has been good enough. It’s a bit of a confusing addition to the match that would have benefitted from the announcers, Teddy Long or Christian himself clarifying who would “referee the referee”, so to speak. Perhaps it will be addressed on the show itself (though I’m not going to get my hopes up for that).

We’re on firmer ground with the disqualification stipulation. Christian did all he could to rile Orton on Friday’s edition of SmackDown in order to make him lose his focus for Sunday and get disqualified. It’s not an original idea but it’s easy to follow and it makes sense. Christian will likely pull out some cheap, heelish tricks throughout the match in an attempt to further infuriate Orton. My prediction is that ‘The Viper’ will hold his temper, overcome the odds (whenever the deck is stacked against a babyface to this extent it’s usually a sign that they’re going to win), and then pummel Christian in the post-match when his title’s not at risk.

I’m also predicting that this is the point at which Sheamus, the winner of the SmackDown Money in the Bank match (which I suspect will open the show), will chose to cash in his title shot. That will set up a triple threat match at SummerSlam and give the feud some much-needed fresh angles to play with: Orton can be the stoic babyface who promises he’ll get the title back in a fair fight, Christian can whine about Sheamus getting involved in his business, and Sheamus can gloat about being better than both of them.

I actually think this feud would have been better served by having Sheamus challenging Orton and losing clean, with Christian competing in and winning the SmackDown Money in the Bank match. That would have allowed Orton to defend against someone other than ‘Captain Charisma’ (though WWE don’t seem fussed about giving fans a bit of variety these days), given Sheamus a larger share of the spotlight, and kept alive the idea that Christian cannot beat Orton clean. I would still have allowed for a SummerSlam triple threat match, which seems to be the direction things will be heading after Money in the Bank.

At the other end of the enjoyment spectrum is Mark Henry v Big Show. According to Josh Mathews this match will be “like something out of Transformers”. He said that on Friday’s SmackDown, and got paid to do so. Whether it’s like something out of Transformers or not I don’t expect this match will be anything but atrocious. Why they couldn’t give a match to a combination of Tyson Kidd, Ted DiBiase, Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder, Santino Marella or any of the other talented/over performers not being used is something I don’t understand. I also don’t understand why they bothered moving Show to RAW in the Draft when he has continued to appear on SmackDown.

On the plus side at least Show and Henry aren’t clogging up one of the ladder matches this year and by having Mark Henry on pay-per-view we have the chance to hear his “better is better” catchphrase again. I want that on a T-shirt. I’ll pick ‘Sexual chocolate’ to win because he’s in the midst of yet another unwarranted push.

Kelly Kelly’s defence of the Divas’ championship against Brie Bella is another match that is all too clearly filler. Unlike the battle of the Transformers this match at least has a chance of provoking a reaction from the crowd due to Kelly’s popularity. The match should be kept short and basic and probably will be. I predict Kelly will overcome “twin magic” to retain the title.

As for the ladder matches, I previewed them earlier in the week. You can read my thoughts at this link, but if you just want to know who I’ve picked as winners I’m going with Sheamus for SmackDown and Alberto Del Rio for RAW.

Topping the bill is the most anticipated WWE match since Undertaker v Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII in April: CM Punk versus John Cena for the WWE championship. A month ago this would have been a popular match, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the talking point it is now. What’s changed? WWE’s injected some realism into its product, that’s what. And it’s worked wonders.

It started on the June 20th episode of RAW when Punk won a match to earn a WWE championship match at Money in the Bank, then announced that his contract would expire at the event and he’d leave with the title. The following week Punk cut a worked shoot promo in which he verbally trashed Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque, John Laurinaitis, WWE management in general, mentioned Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar, and knocked the federation’s use and promotion of him as a performer. It was a passionate, intelligent speech by one of the best talkers in wrestling and marked this feud out as something and exciting. It was one of the best segments on WWE television in years.

There are only two problems with this angle. The first is that by saying that John Cena will be fired should he lose the championship WWE have taken the focus off of Punk (perhaps intentionally) and made things seem far less realistic. The drawing point of the match was how real it all seemed. We know Cena won’t be fired if he loses because we can all remember his firing at the hands of Wade Barrett last year and because the company would not fire its number one star. This was illustrated by the fact that Vince McMahon negotiated with Punk, a lesser star than Cena, on television in a desperate attempt to get him to stay. If he’s desperate to keep someone of Punk’s status around isn’t it logical that he’s be even more keen to keep Cena around? It’s a frivolous addition to the match that seems designed to show everyone that Cena is still the star of the show.

The second point is that WWE has two world titles. Punk may well intend to take the WWE championship to New Japan or Ring of Honor but it shouldn’t matter to WWE because they still have the World Heavyweight championship. It’s a minor thing and hasn’t detracted from the enjoyment of the build to this event, but it’s worth noting.

So... will he stay or will he go? Personally I think Punk’s on his way out and Money in the Bank or Monday’s edition of RAW will be his last night with the company for a while. I’ve thought ever since this started that he intends to take a sabbatical and then return towards the end of the year. He’s been with WWE since 2005 and on the road with the main roster since 2006. Five years of touring is enough to make anyone want a little time off. At thirty-two I believe Punk’s too young to retire. Financially he’s probably in a very good position, but he’s a man who loves the wrestling business and is still young enough to contribute to it for years to come. TNA is such an embarrassment that I can’t imagine Punk would want to work there or that they could afford his asking price. Ring of Honor may appear to be in a similar position, but I think they’re in a slightly better position with regards to approaching Punk because he has several friends working there and, having made his name there, Punk may be willing to take less money to work there.

But these are moot points because I’ convinced he’ll be returning to WWE.

So how will this match play out? It’s very tough to say, because there’s so much to consider. I would love to see a victory from Punk because it would mark his first reign with the company’s most historic and meaningful title and also allow him to go out on a high. I’m leaning towards thinking that Punk will win the title and either immediately lose it to Alberto Del Rio (cashing in his Money in the Bank shot) or appear on RAW on Monday and lose it there, either to ADR or Cena. I have a feeling that a title change is planned in the next few days.

No matter who wins Cena isn’t going anywhere. He has been the rumoured SummerSlam opponent for Del Rio for months now and with Punk leaving I expect to see that match pushed heavily throughout the rest of July and August. So I predict a Punk win with the belt making its way to Del Rio or Cena within twenty-four hours, followed by a Punk sabbatical and a return towards the end of the year (or maybe at the 2012 Royal Rumble).

Now watch as Cena retains in a five minute squash and WWE undoes all its great work of the last month!

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