Money In The Bank Ladder Match For A Future WWE Championship Opportunity: Sheamus vs. CM Punk vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Christian vs. Rob Van Dam
Seven established babyfaces, all former world champions, square off in what’s being billed correctly as an all-star encounter for a future shot at the WWE title. In the eight-year history of the MITB match, this has never happened before. (Usually, the participants are a mix of heroes and villains.) What a welcome change from tradition.
Furthermore, four of the combatants have previously won this match. The returning Van Dam retrieved the desired briefcase at WrestleMania 22. Punk snagged it at both WrestleMania 24 and 25, making him the only 2-time winner. Kane won the 2010 World Heavyweight Championship MITB match (July 12 UPDATE: Thanks to a recent attack by The Wyatt Family on Raw, he’s been taken out of the match.) and Bryan was the surprise victor of that match at this event two years ago. All successfully cashed in to become either WWE or World Heavyweight Champion.
Despite seeing any number of ways this match will play out, for me the final result comes down to just two names: Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. The Viper’s untimely injuries and typical stupidity have kept him out of the world title picture since September 2011. Nonetheless, he remains hugely over with audiences and is ready for another title run. When this match was announced, my gut told me he was going to get the push. But after reading reports online about possible plans for this year’s SummerSlam, I’m reconsidering my guess.
Daniel Bryan has been nothing short of a revelation since the “weak link” angle, mentioned just in passing during commentary at the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view last October, became a central focus of his character. His explosions of offense have been electrifying audiences for quite a few weeks now, especially in his highly exhilarating in-ring interactions with all three members of The Shield. Even more significant, he’s breathed new life into the stagnating Orton who has benefitted immensely from this, his best program since his work with Christian two years ago. Although one wonders why they haven’t had that one-on-one pay-per-view battle yet, their TV matches have been consistently heated and engaging as the duo continue to draw interest in their babyface dispute.
I don’t know if Orton will be turning heel at any point during this match but a Bryan victory would assure it will happen shortly thereafter. I’m counting on that to happen.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan wins his second MITB ladder match.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match For A Future World Heavyweight Championship Opportunity: Wade Barrett vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Antonio Cesaro vs. Damien Sandow vs. Jack Swagger vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Fandango
If the babyfaces can get their own ladder match this year, why not the heels? The difference here is that the retooled Swagger is the only previous winner and therefore, the only former world champion. (He was pushed at WrestleMania 26.) The MITB match is known for giving a much-needed boost to an underappreciated superstar ready to move up to the main event level, so count out Zeb Colter’s charge who pretty much fucked up his shot at another world title reign earlier this year when he got arrested for driving while high. Thankfully, he won’t serve any jail time and is now back to full-time performing after briefly being sidelined with a tendon injury.
Fandango was looking at an InterContinental title push last month at Payback until an unfair, last-minute concussion allowed the less deserving Curtis Axel to take his spot. As much as I like the character (he’s a real throwback to the days of Gorgeous George), he’s not ready for a world championship just yet. Neither is United States Champion Ambrose who is doing just fine right where he is. The Shield angle is still going strong.
Antonio Cesaro’s stock would certainly rise with a victory here. But with a constantly changing character (the five languages gimmick, temporary girlfriend Aksana, the yodelling, now the alignment with Colter), the former U.S. Champion is still having a difficult time resonating with the audience. It’s a real shame because he’s a tremendously skilled wrestler. It would be a true shocker if he retrieves the suitcase but I highly doubt it will happen.
That leaves The Rhodes Scholars and former three-time IC Champion Wade Barrett. If I was booking this match, I’d have Damien Sandow screw his partner (thereby turning Cody Rhodes face) and have him take the briefcase. (I have a soft spot for funny, well-developed villains. Besides, he desperately needs a title.) But my feeling is the former Nexus/Corre leader is finally going to get the push he was expected to get last year before that unfortunate shoulder injury just before WrestleMania 28 completely derailed those plans. God knows he needs it.
Prediction: Wade Barrett wins the WHC MITB ladder match.
World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
Poor Dolph Ziggler. He wins the World Heavyweight Championship in dramatic fashion on the first Raw after WrestleMania 29, a proper push he was long overdue to receive. Then just before the Extreme Rules pay-per-view where he was to defend that title in a triple threat ladder match he gets kicked so hard in the head by former tag team partner Jack Swagger on Smackdown that he needs five weeks away from the action to recover from a serious concussion. If that weren’t bad enough, by the time he recovers and is cleared to finally defend that title (which amazingly he wasn’t stripped of due to this unexpected inactivity), he has to drop it to the same man he cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase on, Alberto Del Rio.
When Ziggler dropped the title to Del Rio at last month’s Payback, an unexpected event happened. Del Rio, who targeted The Show-Off’s head for much of the match, turned heel during a post-match promo. That meant the now former champion was the good guy. Ziggler gets his chance at redemption in a rematch at this year’s MITB event.
Because of the delicate concussion matter, the match at Payback was announced less than a week before the event which meant there was very little TV time to build to it. That hasn’t been the case this time around.
Del Rio’s six-month babyface turn was botched from the start and never really clicked in the long run. His promos rarely, if ever, gave you a reason to cheer for him. I only liked him when he wrestled, quite frankly. During his verbal encounters with the now super conservative Jack Swagger and his “founding father” Zeb Colter, Del Rio often lacked the ability to successfully deflate the Real American’s anti-Mexican rhetoric.
Meanwhile, Ziggler’s limited interaction in this continued rivalry has been restricted to physical beatdowns which literally come out of nowhere. Every chance he gets, The Show-Off runs out and attacks Del Rio in a fit of frustration over what happened to his abbreviated title run, something a sore loser would do. (Maybe he should take out his rage on the bookers backstage, the ones really responsible for him dropping the belt so quickly.) Unfortunately, this isn’t credibly getting him over as a babyface. He needs to cut a promo to really get the crowd behind him. Putting down the useless 3MB singlehandedly on Raw, which a villainous Brock Lesnar did much more emphatically on the same program quite some time ago, isn’t the way to do it. He needs to talk.
All that aside, this storyline is now entering its fourth month and needs to end at Money In The Bank. I prefer Del Rio as a villain but most certainly not as a world champion. (This is his second WHC push this year.) If Ziggler can rally the fans to his cause through his much improved mic skills, he’ll become the popular babyface he deserves to be. And that will make all the difference when he regains the belt at MITB.
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler wins back the World Heavyweight Championship by pinfall.
WWE Championship: John Cena vs. Mark Henry
It was the greatest fake retirement speech in the history of wrestling. The World’s Strongest Man Mark Henry hinted on his official Twitter account that he was hanging it all up on Raw. Just before the speech, a brief backstage interaction with a crying Darren Young kept the deception going. Then, with WWE Champion John Cena conveniently in the ring, Henry came out, put his wrestling boots on the ramp and appeared to drop his monster heel character as he delivered a rather touching address, complete with tears, wit and dramatic pauses, to a most appreciative audience. Cena at one point even handed him his belt to much applause. Henry gave it back saying he hadn’t earned it. After telling his daughter he was finally coming home and having his arm raised by the champion, Henry delivered a blistering World’s Strongest Slam setting up this title match for MITB.
If you remember the first Raw after WrestleMania 29, Cena offered to defend his newly won title at the start of that very episode. Out came a hungry Henry hoping to get the shot. Cena accepted. But then Smackdown General Manager Booker T arrived to tell him he needed to win a non-title match against him first. Henry lost it by countout. Then Ryback arrived, cleared the big man from the ring and turned heel on Cena setting up their two consecutive pay-per-view matches.
After hoodwinking pretty much everyone with his magnificent performance, Henry finally gets his opportunity to become WWE Champion (without having to win a non-title match beforehand). It’s such a shame that it won’t actually happen. As much as I would love to see him get another world title run, I suspect Cena will be defending the title at SummerSlam against a much smaller opponent with a ridiculous beard.
Prediction: John Cena retains the WWE Championship by pinfall.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, July 4, 2013
UPDATE: So, how did I do? Well, let’s see. Curtis Axel retained his InterContinental Championship against The Miz, so I got that one right. Ryback beat Chris Jericho. That’s two correct picks. The Shield successfully defended their tag titles against the Usos. That’s three. Even though I picked John Cena to retain by pinfall and AJ Lee to keep her title by disqualification (rather than the two submissions that actually happened), that brings us to five correct guesses. Unfortunately, Dolph Ziggler didn’t regain his World Heavyweight Championship. He lost to Alberto Del Rio by disqualification. Randy Orton won the WWE Championship Money In The Bank ladder match over my eventual pick Daniel Bryan. I’m cursing the fact that I didn’t stick with my first instincts on that one because they turned out to be right. Although I was wrong about forecasting Wade Barrett winning the WHC MITB ladder match, I’m very happy that Damien Sandow won. He was my preference even though I didn’t expect him to get the push. So, all in all, I went 5 for 8. Meh.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 14, 2013