By Matt Straub
WWE has long wanted Money in the Bank to be one of the company’s signature shows, and the nice break in the schedule this year allowed the company to give it the build it needs, in terms of qualifying matches, and deserves, from a prestige standpoint. The long break between PPVs makes MITB feel important, and not just a show thrown in to fill an already tight calendar.
With such a long time to prepare and hype the show, WWE had a real chance to put MITB on the same level with SummerSlam and the Royal Rumble. A 10-match card indicates this was the idea. What they produced, however, was a card half-full of strong matches. The rest of the show will consist of throwaway bouts and matchups which show the company has no clue what to do with certain performers. Let’s look at the good, bad, and inexplicable, and predict who’s leaving with the belts and the briefcases.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bludgeon Brothers
vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Because WWE is going with such a big card, they’re going to have to make good use of the preshow. Or, they could just air this match instead. On the bright side, it’s something different from the blue brand, and the company in general. We’re not getting The Usos vs. New Day round 37. The bad news? WWE felt just giving us something different was enough, so there was no need to build this feud into something which felt even remotely important. The champs retain because they need some time to develop their run, and because WWE ruined Anderson and Gallows a long time ago by failing to determine what their characters would be. The ‘beat up John Cena” promo was their bright spot. They’ve done nothing memorable since.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The only build-up to this match has occurred on Twitter, which had Luke Harper tweeting Karl Anderson, “Is your hot Asian wife coming Karl?” To which Anderson replied, “Sorry man my #HotAsianWife won’t be there. But I’ll be at #MoneyInTheBank fighting you and your partner, who everyone, funny enough, still only sees as #BraysBitches, see you in a Chicago.” Two tweets that ended up giving this match more juice than two hours of SmackDown every week since the title contest was set. Yeah, that’s WWE. Gallows and Anderson have been ruined, just like so many other tag teams that have come into the WWE in recent years and even months (The Revival and Authors of Pain are recent examples of teams having big NXT runs and then getting completely ignored once promoted to the main roster.) Anyway, the Bludgeon Brothers win to keep their momentum going (and do they actually have any, considering WWE ignores the whole division? We’ll ignore that for now).
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: With a number of awful matches on the card, WWE needs to open the main show with something worth popping over. For some reason, their fans think that’s Daniel Bryan. Bryan has to win, since he’s building for his program with the Miz, which I hope WWE gives enough time to heading into SummerSlam, but the real story here is the beginning of a pattern you’ll see on the card. Big Cass came back to much fanfare, and seemed as though he could be built into something. Now he’s jobbing in a match which will likely open the show. WWE has turned the page way too quickly on some big names of late, giving up on the chance to let new talent develop.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Here’s two more guys who have been completely butchered by WWE’s writers. With both returning from injuries, either Daniel Bryan or Big Cass, or both, could have been turned into title contenders immediately, taking advantage of the newness each would have brought to the roster, especially Bryan. Instead, both are locked in a go-nowhere feud that is based on a tall guy taking on a small guy. Talk about stupid. Big Cass’s height jokes are ripped from the 1980s and everything else about the feud isn’t worth bringing up. It’s a waste. Bryan wins and moves on to something better (maybe), while Cass loses and moves on to something else (good, bad or indifferent, probably the latter).
Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: So, does Sami miss riding the coattails of Kevin Owens yet? This feud featured one of the worst skits in years, and has been highlighted by, well, nothing. I guess Lashley wins because he needs to get some kind of momentum, while Zayn spends the rest of his life trying to live down the “sisters” skit.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I hate to be a broken record, record, record, but Bobby Lashley is another guy who has been completely destroyed since his return. He’s played up to be a big thing on the Raw roster, but WWE has done absolutely nothing to help him. The biggest thing they did was introduce his sisters in one of the weirder interviews in WWE history, which of course backfired in fantastic fashion. Nobody cares right now about Lashley and if he left WWE tomorrow, nobody would bat an eye. Nobody would even notice. That’s bad. This feud with Sami Zayn has been one of the worst in recent memory, with nothing hitting right. Actually everything has missed in epic fashion. Zayn hasn’t done a bad job trying to get this thing over, the material is just bad. But Lashley is going to win and then we’ll have to see if WWE can come up with a way to save his career. For Zayn, he’ll continue in the mid-card for probably ever.
Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins vs. Elias
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Let’s hope WWE follows the disaster of the previous match with a good one like this. Elias needs to decide once and for all if he’s a comedy act or a badass, but he has some talent and natural charisma and is worth letting grow. Rollins, meanwhile, has been the best act in the company for months now, both with exceptional work in the ring and his ability to consistently produce at least passable efforts on the mic and in angles. There’s never a bad Seth segment, even if they’re not all classics. As for the pick, it comes down to who needs a win for me. Seth can be placed into any feud right now and be a star. The new guy needs a belt if he’s going to take off. This might be a huge mistake, but I’m walking with Elias Sunday.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Elias and Seth Rollins have been two of the best acts on Raw, so WWE pairing them together instead of branching out two different sets of opponents is a bit puzzling. But this match could deliver something memorable and gives each a big part of the PPV. Elias is great on the mic and him busting on Rollins for his crossfit obsession was a highlight of Raw. Rollins finally became a true fan favorite and leader of the brand with his performance in the gauntlet match and the carryover since. He’s been the best wrestler on Raw and the No. 1 draft pick (remember the draft?) has finally lived up to those expectations. His IC title run can’t end now, though, because Brock Lesnar is holding the show hostage by never defending or even showing up with his Universal title. And, by the way, that isn’t Brock’s fault, but rather WWE’s. Blame them. Having just one men’s singles title on Raw hurts, but having Rollins holding it at least gives the show a legit champion.
Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: So, the NBA Draft is Thursday. The Knicks need a point guard or a big, while the Nets and Celtics will be looking to make splashes through trades. Brooklyn needs to shed salary, while Boston would love to get rid of some soon-to-be free agents to push a money crunch down the line a couple of years by trading them for younger pieces. Ok, I’m sorry. I was just trying to put off talking about this match as long as possible. Roman’s going to win because … so Brad, this Yankees-Red Sox battle is going to be fun, isn’t it?
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Much like the Yankees squashing the Red Sox whenever they play this season, including the playoffs if Boston is so lucky, Roman Reigns is going to squash Jinder Mahal Sunday night. I don’t like it. You don’t like it. Straub loves it, but that’s another story. It is what it is. Let’s just hope it’s not the main event. Anyway, Straub has the right idea, the less said about this match the better.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella vs. Asuka
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: OK, back to our wrestling discussion, and our big theme of the night. Asuka and Charlotte fought in one of the biggest women’s matches ever not even three months ago. Now we’re here. Common sense says WWE comes to its senses and gives Asuka the belt so she can fight Charlotte this summer. Does WWE have any common sense? Are they willing to give up on a Carmella run they spent what seemed like years building toward? They can’t be. But, they can accomplish both goals, keeping Carmella strong while putting the belt on Asuka by using the returning James Ellsworth to get his revenge on Carmella and costing her the belt. Ellsworth brings in a woman from NXT to be his proxy in the ensuing fight with Carmella, and Asuka goes on to something meaningful.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I didn’t have an issue with Charlotte ending Asuka’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, as if anyone deserved that honor it was Charlotte. But since then Charlotte has lost the title to Carmella, lost a rematch cleanly, and got beat by Becky Lynch on an episode of SmackDown. Asuka, at the same time, has been floundering on SmackDown, not even having a chance to do anything meaningful. One huge WrestleMania match, one huge result, and one huge disappointment for both. Asuka should have just won the title at Mania if things were going to turn out like this. But there was that briefcase out there, and it had to be used, so I guess this is where we end up. Carmella is a great heel on the mic, but a terrible wrestler in the ring. It’s too bad, because WWE needs her probably more than anyone right now. She’s the only heel they really have on SDLive. It’s also a reason why she might actually walk out of here with a win over Asuka. Now, if they had her pin or submit Asuka, that would be a total mistake. But, then again, look what they did to Charlotte. But before we even dissect that option further, I love Straub’s idea above, with James Ellsworth playing a role in the match. There are rumors he’s set to return, so this would be perfect. Asuka wins the title she should have won at Mania while Carmella and Ellsworth go in a different direction. It’s a nice reset of the SDLive women’s division.
Raw Women’s Champion Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Speaking of champions who suddenly got the rug pulled out from under them by creative, hi Nia! There’s only two possible outcomes here. Either Ronda wins and ends Nia’s push prematurely, or Stephanie McMahon interferes, allowing Ronda to take a loss without losing steam and putting her in to a feud against someone she’ll look good against for the summer. There’s just no way Ronda loses clean, so I’m going with option No. 2 and keeping the belt on Nia for a while, setting up another big mainstream-media feud for the summer for Ronda (giving her easy work to improve in the process).
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Cringeworthy is the best way to describe this feud and really anything involving Ronda Rousey speaking into a mic. Nia Jax is just as bad speaking as Rousey, making for a rare combination of embarrassment for anyone who has had to watch it without a fast forward button. This was the worst possible build to a match that is likely to be a trainwreck. I think Rousey will be good in time and could put together a solid match right now against a Sasha or Bayley or even Alexa Bliss, but Nia Jax? Oh man this could be botch fest. The result depends on the placement of another match on the card, the women’s Money in the Bank contest. If the women’s MITB winner is determined before this match, I can see that person (maybe Alexa Bliss) cashing in during what she thinks is the closing moments of the match, only to get caught in a triple threat match for the title. Then, that person eventually pins Jax to win the title. That gets the title off Jax, allows Rousey to keep her mystique and lets a feud develop more organically for Rousey and the new champion. That benefits everyone, well, except Nia Jax, who has failed as champion so far.
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: If I’m right about the women’s title matches, then Raw will be the brand looking for something for its champion to do. If we’re going that way, the only Raw member who can really benefit from a win here is Ember Moon. Alexa and Sasha will give us some great action in the match, but we don’t need them to fight for the title. The only SmackDown performer with a chance is Charlotte, but she won’t need the briefcase to challenge Asuka in Brooklyn in a couple months. Let’s give Moon the briefcase and a long build before she cashes it in.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Well, we know what I think about this match, and who could possibly win the briefcase and walk out of Chicago women’s champion as well. The easy pick is Alexa Bliss, as it makes perfect sense with her past feud with Nia Jax and her ability to carry a feud with Ronda Rousey on the mic, something we can’t undervalue any longer after seeing what Rousey-Jax was. But the dark-horse would be Sasha Banks, who has been lost in the shuffle of new arrivals and a “feud” that went nowhere with Bayley. Banks could easily turn heel and carry it over to a feud with Rousey. Does WWE have the backbone to pull that off, though? I’m guessing not, so I’ll go with Alexa Bliss not only winning the match but stealing the show.
Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Finally, a way to get the belt off Brock Lesnar. A Raw superstar wins here, throwing a swerve to anyone sure each brand will win one briefcase. He can then score a cheap win over Brock at some point, setting up a rematch when Brock is ready to fight again, sometime around Wrestlemania 35. My money is on Finn Balor, who desperately needs and deserves the title run he was deprived of years ago and has been ever since. The only dark horses I see here are Samoa Joe, who can be thrown right into a title picture at any time, and Kevin Owens, who could do some great mic work with the briefcase in hand. Nothing would truly surprise me here, other than the New Day winning. We will, however, get a great Kofi moment. It’s Finn’s time, however.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I’d love if Straub was right on this one, as Finn Balor cashing in on Brock Lesnar and winning would get the biggest pop in probably years. But we all know Brock isn’t going to lose the title on a Money in the Bank cash-in. Sorry Straub. The winner of this match is coming from SmackDown, because, you know, they actually have a champion who shows up every week, meaning they can create drama whenever they want with a teased cash-in. From that side, I can only see Samoa Joe winning this match and then putting together some great promos to get under the skin and in the mind of AJ Styles (or Shinsuke Nakamura). The crowd might not be happy with it, but it makes the most sense.
WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Last Man Standing Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I get why this is a last man standing match. It’s a tribute to the fans for staying awake during one of the most disappointing feuds in WWE history. This awful program hit a new low during the recent contract signing, which saw Nakamura play “mind games” by pretending his pen didn’t work. The language barrier has been a much bigger problem for Nakamura than I had envisioned, as he just can’t build much heat without a good heel promo. AJ, no great orator either, will finally put this angle to bed once and for all, then find something else to do for the summer. Nakamura, meanwhile, could plummet down the card after this if he’s not careful. Of course, I feel like I’ve been saying this for months now.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: If Samoa Joe is going to win the men’s Money in the Bank contract, as predicted above, it only makes sense for AJ Styles to successfully defend his championship here. But could this feud between Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura really end like this? After all the build and multitude of matches, will WWE really have Nakamura lose again, effectively putting him out of the world title picture for at least another year? Sure Nakamura can survive another loss and still be a threatening heel, but will the fans care as much about him after so many high-profile losses? I’m not so sure, as the fanbase from NXT, where Nakamura became a star in the US, makes up a very small percentage of the total WWE fanbase. Styles can afford a loss here and not look bad at all. Plus, he gets to stay in the title picture as well. The problem with that is it means this feud, which is way far gone at this point, would continue. So, with all that written, that last point is what has made up my mind. This feud is done and has to end, which means Styles beats Nakamura again. Then we get Styles-Samoa Joe, which everyone is ready for.