A few weeks ago I posted an article that advocated the idea of WWE presenting one Money in the Bank match instead of two (read that here... if you like). My logic was that one guy being able to cash-in on either champion would make unpredictable television, allow WWE to present a single match packed with the best talent, and make the Money in the Bank concept in general seem more prestigious.
We're getting the tried and tested two ladder matches format. It has been altered a little though, which is nice to see. Last year saw the ladder bout for the red (WWE championship) briefcase featured only former WWE champions. This year that match has become the bout for former world champions in general. The blue briefcase match will feature guys who have never (with the exception of Jack Swagger) held either of WWE's two world titles.
For those who aren't sure who the more important wrestlers are the red case match has been dubbed the All-Star match. The other match features up-and-comers. Those aren't my words. No, those are the words of Teddy Long (holla!). Yes, Teddy has made a seven man match and described the entrants as up-and-comers even though only two have debuted in the last twelve months and one has held the World Heavyweight championship before.
The other thing to note about the two matches is that one exclusively features faces while the other exclusively features heels. It's an interesting choice for WWE to have made. I imagine it was largely decided to do an all heel match because the event's being held in Philadelphia, a city whose fans will take in their stride an all bad guy battle. My assumption is that they'll pick one or two guys to cheer as the match goes on. Some of the guys may be booked sympathetically too, encouraging the audience to support them. Fandango has been used as a pseudo face on this week's TV and has proven popular in the past so he may be laying the blue eye on Sunday.
Both matches should be good, but i think the All-Star match is likely to be the best. It will consist of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, the returning RVD, Sheamus, Christian, Kane and Randy Orton. Well, I say 'The Big Red Machine' will be involved but he might not be: WWE are reporting that he suffered injuries after being attacked by the Wyatt Family on RAW. He may miss the event to sell that.
Bryan is an obvious guy to select as the winner. Over the last several months he's been striving to prove his worth, first as part of Team Hell No and then in his rivalry with Randy Orton. The natural progression of this is for Bryan to defy the storyline odds and unhook the briefcase, setting himself up to climb WWE's ultimate mountain: defeating John Cena for the WWE championship.
Bryan is my pick to win. It's a combination of wanting to see him enter the WWE title's orbit and the belief that Cena v Bryan is one of the best feud WWE could offer fans this summer. Besides Punk v Lesnar (more on which below) what other fresh matches and stars does WWE have access to?
They could do the feud without the briefcase or they could simply not bother with it all together, which means 'The Dazzler' is not the only option. Sheamus has been directionless for a while now. That's been a rarity over the last eighteen months. He could easily be plucked from obscurity to challenge for the WWE title. Cena v Sheamus is not a wholly fresh match but it is one we've not seen for a while.
It could even give us a surprise 'Great White' heel turn, not that I think that's likely. Speaking of which, a briefcase victory for 'The Viper' could play into that heel turn he's been rumoured to make for around a year. He could cash in, lose, and go nuts or opportunistically take his match against a prone Cena like a true villain. Either way it would set 'The Apex Predator' up as a bad guy.
Ultimately the MITB concept is one designed to favour wrestlers that have yet to become truly ingrained headline personalities. That's another reason I favour Bryan over Orton, Sheamus, and the rest.
The up-and-comers in the blue case battle will be Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro, Wade Barrett, and Faaaaaan... daaaaaan... goooooo. The best part of this match? There's nobody that even resembles an obvious winner. Swagger and Fandango were both in prime spots a couple of months ago but have lost momentum because of injuries (an arm injury for Swags, a concussion for Fandango). Had they not been forced to take a few weeks off either or both could be favoured. As things are they seem as likely to win as everyone else.
As a member of The Shield Ambrose has been used well since late last year and is now more of a singles guy than a trios guy but it feels too soon for him to be close to the WHC. The Shield will likely split before any of the three become that big.
Rhodes and Sandow have done nothing of note for months. The flip-flopping on their split during the WrestleMania build hurt them both. And Barrett and Cesaro both spent significant portions of the first half of the year as mid-card champions who lost more often than they won.
Arguments could be made for any of the seven men being potential winners. Most of them have been on the roster long enough to deserve the chance to be a top guy and all of them would inject freshness into the World title scene.
Of all the names involved I like Barrett's chances best. He has a handy combination of having very little to do and tenure on the roster. He'd be accepted in the role of 'Mr Money in the Bank' and world champion. That he dropped the Intercontinental title at Payback could have been WWE freeing him up for bigger things as much as anything else.
That's one busy ladder
I'm hopeful that this match will be a cut above the average Ryback outing. He's shown in the past that he can have very good matches with smaller, faster men who are better wrestlers than he is. If they're given some time I think they'll have a very good night together.
Who'll win? The Ryback. This match seems designed to give him his much needed first pay-per-view victory of the year. It could also see Jericho written off TV too. He's got some Fozzy gigs coming up, y'see, and who better to be credited with his disappearance than the company's resident psychopathic musclehead?
Curtis Axel's first major title defence will be at MITB. He'll face former two time champion The Miz. I can't see why Axel would lose the belt after just four weeks so I expect a successful night for him. This match is unlikely to he wonderful. Axel is good and has connected well with crowds (Heyman's certainly helped in that regard) but 'The Awesome One' has been treading water for a while now. Fans aren't into him as they were. I still think he could be huge as a babyface but it's not something that can happen overnight.
The feud between Kaitlyn and AJ Lee, which had been teased for well over a year but only started just over a month ago, had been uninspiring until this week's TV rolled around. For too long it was basically AJ and Kaitlyn dressing up as each other and causing distractions. RAW saw them actually meet in a tag match and SmackDown on Friday will see the old contract signing trope trotted out. It may not be new but at least the ladies are being treated more seriously than they were.
I like both gals but this has been neither's finest hour. With just a bit of work this could have been one of Money in the Bank's hottest rivalries. Given some promo time and a remit to be a little more serious they could have built up a story of a friendship gone bad. It's a shame WWE left it so late to give them more to work with.
This isn't to say the match will be bad. I think it will be at least good and probably better if they're given the time. Their meeting at Payback was comfortably the best Divas match in some time. I expect AJ to win. She's the most effective female performer on the roster. I can't see what taking the title off of her would achieve.
The pre-show will feature one match (as is typical). Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defend the tag team titles against Jimmy and Jey Uso. This is a wonderful example of why WWE should've spent a little more time on the tag team scene before The Shield became champions. That one of the promotion's best acts is wasting time on a pre-show wrestling against glorified jobbers is very disappointing.
Don't expect the Usos to win. It will take a massive disaster somewhere in WWE for them to ever be considered for a tag title reign.
World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio will defend against Dolph Ziggler. They'll have a tough job topping their excellent effort at Payback, especially in terms of storytelling. It was one of the smoothest plots to a wrestling match, in any company, that I've seen in a long time, and the greatest double turn since WrestleMania 13.
I had mixed feelings on ADR as a babyface. On the one hand he'd proven far better at it than I'd expected. He changed his facial expressions and wrestling style really well and managed to portray himself as a sincere individual (a not inconsiderable achievement). But on the other hand Ricardo Rodriguez outstripped ADR in terms of popularity and the programme with Jack Swagger had outstayed its welcome by the time it wrapped up.
Ziggler's turn had been building for a while. WWE's been smart to keep him mostly apart from 'The Essence of Excellence' over the last few weeks. It's made us keen for Ziggler to enact his revenge on the unsportsmanlike champion. The mini feud with 3MB is neither here nor there, as is the case with everything pertaining the 3MB. It was only meant to be a short term thing to keep the Zigster occupied.
This match could be won by either guy. Winning the title back would certainly help Ziggler's perception as a good guy that can be believed in but a Del Rio win could set up another match between the two with the same dynamic for SummerSlam. 'The Show Off's' size and unparalleled bumping ability make him a natural underdog babyface, so I'm leaning more towards Del Rio winning via nefariousness. That would allow Ziggler to go into SummerSlam as the challenger again. Then he can win it and reign into the autumn.
I'll probably be happy with whoever wins. This feud has been great for both men. It should continue into SummerSlam regardless of who's champ because it's one of the best things going on in WWE right now.
Topping the bill there's the WWE championship match. John Cena's feud with Mark Henry got off to a strong (and well received) start with the lauded retirement swerve on the June 17th RAW. Henry dominated Cena on that show and has dominated him since. On this week's RAW they even went so far as to tease that Cena can't lift Henry for the AA. That only happens when WWE are going all out to convince us someone's a threat. Sadly it's ridiculous because Cena's managed the feat of lifting Henners many times in the past. That means we can probably look forward to Cena trying and failing to hit the move throughout their match at Money in the Bank... before he inevitably does it and the crowd go nuts (and they will).
I'm surprised a stipulation didn't get added to this. Neither man excels in regular wrestling matches. Some sort of rule relaxation would have played to their strengths. There's still time for something to be announced I suppose, but it doesn't seem likely. At least without a gimmick they'll be able to focus on telling the story of Cena hefting an overweight man on to his shoulders. Who doesn't want to see that?!
A win for Mark Henry isn't the most ridiculous prediction that could be made. He's been built up as Cena's equal and, more importantly, WWE have displayed a worrying tendency to treat him as a valuable main event asset over the last few years. I thought him defeating Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight strap was an impossibility. Look how that played out. I shan't underestimate WWE's devotion to 'The World's Strongest Man' again.
But just because I recognise the possibility of Henry winning doesn't mean I think it will happen. Cena is still very much the top dog, pushed at everyone else's expense. Henry's been built up as a standard issue Cena challenger: someone big and heavy who can muscle 'The Champ' around before falling to an AA. This is just a particularly good example of the standard formula as far as I can see.
Then there's Brock Lesnar.
Don't be surprised if you see 'The Pain' make an unannounced appearance on this show. It's easy to envisage him stopping Punk from winning Money in the Bank to move their feud along. They could, in fact, achieve a similar result simply by playing Lesnar's music. That obviously wouldn't be as good though as it would deprive us of the chance to see some hot, hot Lesnar on Punk action.
This year's MITB instalment looks like it will continue the event's hot streak from previous years. It also looks like it will continue WWE's recent streak of very good PPV events. If they want to they can start building towards a spectacular SummerSlam card here. Whether they'll choose to is a question we won't have answered until next week. But I'm going remain hopeful.
Predictions summary:John Cena to defeat Mark Henry
Alberto Del Rio to defeat Dolph Ziggler
Daniel Bryan to win the WWE championship Money in the Bank match
Wade Barrett to win the World Heavyweight championship Money in the Bank match
AJ Lee to defeat Kaitlyn
Ryback to defeat Chris Jericho
Curtis Axel to defeat The Miz
The Shield to defeat The Usos