Hell In A Cell is in the rearview mirror, and here comes Money In The Bank just over the horizon.
For years, I have been a strong proponent of Money In The Bank going to a winner who could really use it. It goes back to the reason why the Money In The Bank match itself was created in the first place. Chris Jericho saw a bunch of talented wrestlers who weren’t yet on the WrestleMania 21 card, and he pitched the idea for them to be in a match. Initially, it was to be a match where the winner received a World Heavyweight Title shot the night after WrestleMania. Brian Gewirtz, a writer for Raw at the time, tweaked the idea to what it would be finalized as. These six men (Jericho, Edge, Kane, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, and Christian) were all big names, but at that point, there just wasn’t anything going on for them.
Through the years, Money In The Bank has been used as a launching point for many names. Edge became a main event player by winning the first match. Rob Van Dam joined the main event after winning the match in 2006. CM Punk, Jack Swagger, The Miz, Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Carmella… all Money In The Bank winners who would either go on to become main event performers or would outright win World Titles of some sort because of their victories.
When the Twitter preview for Raw came out before the show, it caused a lot of people to shake their heads right away. Ricochet vs AJ Styles? We all know who is going to win that! Randy Orton vs John Morrison? Another easy one to predict. Drew McIntyre vs Riddle? Oh, come on, they’re not even TRYING to hide it!
What ended up happening? Those three matches went in the opposite direction than everybody expected. Ricochet defeated AJ Styles. John Morrison beat Randy Orton. Riddle beat Drew McIntyre. Three men who could really use the main event “rub” all won their matches. Everything looked good.
Then, because WWE simply can’t help themselves, we heard that the three losers of this week’s qualifying matches will meet up next week to decide Raw’s final entrant in the Money In The Bank match. This happens every year. Instead of more matches with people who could really use the spotlight, we’re giving second chances to people who lost. Look, I don’t care if you think the trio of Styles, Orton, and McIntyre are bigger and better than the trio of Jinder Mahal, Jeff Hardy, and Cedric Alexander. No matter what, the latter (heh) trio had good points about not even being given an opportunity. If you’re going to have eight spots in Money In The Bank, as it appears we’ll be getting again this year, then there should be eight qualifying matches. You can make them singles matches, multi-man matches, or whatever the hell you want. The only “rule” should be that you don’t get in if you lose. Simple.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. There’s a desire to have extra “star power” in the match. Styles, McIntyre, or Orton will provide that in spades. It’s just lazy writing to do the exact same thing every year.
So… Ricochet, John Morrison, Riddle, and either AJ Styles, Drew McIntyre, or Randy Orton will represent the Raw side of things. What about Smackdown? There aren’t a lot of options. Literally, as there are only 22 men on the Smackdown roster. Go ahead and take Roman Reigns out, since he’s the Universal Champion. That leaves 21 men. WWE is acting like Dominik Mysterio will be out for a while after the beating he suffered at the hands of Reigns, so you should probably remove him. That leaves 20 men. Kevin Owens tweeted that he needs to take some time off, so he’s probably out. That leaves 19 men. I don’t think WWE even remembers Slapjack is on the roster anymore, so let’s take him out. That leaves 18 men. Chances are, we won’t be seeing a lot of double duty, and you have to assume this won’t be the only match on the show where Smackdown has anybody involved. In only one show, Raw wrestlers are already going to be involved in four matches at Money In The Bank. If there’s going to be a Universal Title match on the card, that means you remove at least one more name from consideration for the Money In The Bank match. If there’s an Intercontinental Title match, you’d be removing Apollo Crews and anybody that he faces. A Smackdown Tag Team Title match probably won’t happen because of the aforementioned “injuries” to Dominik Mysterio, but the point remains. Smackdown is going to fuck around and have no qualifying matches at all. They’ll just pick the four remaining men on the roster and put them in the match. Congratulations to Rick Boogs, Otis, Commander Azeez, and Robert Roode!
Seriously, though… let’s talk about this. Who should win this year’s briefcases? Let’s start with the women’s match.
Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Naomi, and Asuka have all qualified on the Raw side. Remember the talk about Smackdown’s male roster having slim pickings? Well… there are eight active women on Smackdown right now. Remove the brand’s Women’s Champion, that leaves seven. Reckoning is in the same boat as Slapjack, so… six women left. We’re approaching three months since we last saw Sasha Banks, so who knows if she’ll even be involved. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions reside on Smackdown, which means Natalya and Tamina could be pulling double duty on the show, or they won’t be defending the titles on the show, or they’ll be dropping the titles before Money In The Bank even gets here. Yikes. On second thought, let’s not talk about the women’s match. If WWE doesn’t give a fuck, why should any of us? Just let Nikki Cross get the win and we’ll march ahead.
Honestly, Ricochet could be a good option, but there has been so much damage done to his character recently. He closed out 2020 and started 2021 with an 11-match losing streak on television and pay-per-view. That was six months between victories. It has been a long, long two years since he dropped the United States Title.
Going back to the Smackdown roster, some of the top names have been at the mercy of Roman Reigns at some points over the last year or so. Rey Mysterio? Cesaro? Kevin Owens (if his “break” isn’t too long)? Edge (if he makes his return soon)? Jey Uso? They’ve all lost to Reigns on at least one occasion. As good as those guys are, what percentage of the WWE Universe is going to buy them as legit threats to Reigns right now if they win Money In The Bank?
Looking elsewhere on Smackdown, you run into situations where other options are full-fledged heels. Those types of matches are almost always very tough to sell to wrestling fans. Roman Reigns vs Sami Zayn? Reigns vs Apollo Crews? Roman vs Seth Rollins? Shit, even with the backstory of The Shield, Reigns vs Rollins is not only the weird sell that I mentioned, but we’ve already seen Money In The Bank situations involving those two before.
My friends, barring some shakeups during the upcoming WWE Draft, I think we have to focus our attention on two names from Smackdown.
Having either of them hunting Reigns would be something fresh. Roman hasn’t faced Nakamura in a singles match since October 2019, and he has never faced Big E one-on-one. Ever.
I would love to see Nakamura get a push like being the Money In The Bank winner. If he has to step into the ring with Reigns, he has the in-ring skills to make it something special. His unorthodox mic skills, personality, and facial expressions would also match up well with what Roman is doing these days. Nakamura damn sure isn’t going to let Reigns intimidate him on the mic. It is also beyond time to have Nakamura back in the main event scene. I thought it was going to happen on the second Smackdown episode of 2021, when Nakamura defeated Rey Mysterio, King Corbin, and then Daniel Bryan in a Gauntlet Match. The winner of the Gauntlet Match would be named the new #1 Contender for the Universal Title. In the end, though, it was merely a way to get more heat on Reigns, as he paired up with Jey Uso to attack both Nakamura and WWE Official Adam Pearce. Pearce was placed atop Nakamura, and Reigns forced a referee to make the three count. Boom. Adam Pearce was the new #1 Contender. Just when it looked like Nakamura was going to be getting a major push, he went back to floating around in the midcard.
The more I think about things, though…
It has to be Big E, doesn’t it?
We’ve been waiting… and waiting… and waiting… for WWE to finally pull the trigger on making Big E a main event talent. What is the company waiting for?
After I typed those last two sentences, I took a break for the night and went to sleep. I woke up to continue writing, only to check on Kate Beckinsale’s internet and see that the big buzz right now is WWE has plans to move Big E to Raw in the Draft. The plan is that he’ll move to Raw, while Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods remain on Raw, but E will remain a singles worker. Needless to say, that puts a bit of a monkey wrench into the entire “Big E should win Money In The Bank and cash in on Roman Reigns” idea. Unless, of course, you think he’s going to win Money In The Bank on July 18th and cash in before the WWE Draft, rumored to take place on the August 30th episode of Raw and the September 3rd episode of Smackdown. That would mean Big E, as the Universal Champion, heads to Raw, and we would then assume the WWE Champion coming out of SummerSlam would be heading to Smackdown. I mean… I guess it’s still a possibility. We’ve certainly seen WWE’s World Champions switch brands in the Draft before. It just seems rushed. On top of that, what happens to Reigns? In that scenario, either he loses the title to E and then loses at least one rematch before E moves to Raw, or he lets the man who “disrespected him and his family” just leave with “his” title… orrrrr… Reigns is also heading to Raw, and we get the continuation of their feud on Mondays instead of Fridays.
Do we stick with Big E as the “favorite” on Smackdown? Are we switching back to Cesaro? I’m frustrated in real time here, as I had a whole thing planned out to praise Big E as the favorite for his big moment on Smackdown down the road, and then WWE might be messing with all of that right away.
I’m sticking with Big E. I apologize for how all-over-the-place this column is. Big E is still the person I feel should win Money In The Bank this year. Would a feud with Roman Reigns be awesome? Yes, it absolutely would. However, he’ll make it work if he holds the briefcase on Raw, too.
Pull the trigger, WWE. I don’t know how many more times I can keep saying that.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Bobby Lashley vs Drew McIntyre: It was one of the more physical Hell In A Cell matches ever. Think about that for a moment. Just great work from both men, and specifically McIntyre for sacrificing his body time and time and time and time and time again.
- Drew McIntyre vs Riddle: What a week for McIntyre. Well… other than losing both matches, that is.
- Kushida vs Kyle O’Reilly: It’s magic when these two face each other. Other than squaring off for a few minutes to start a Gauntlet Eliminator match back in September, this was their first time facing each other since a match for RevPro back in 2017. The rumor is that NXT is going to put an increased focus on the Cruiserweight Title and the entire division. This was a damn good start to that. The post-match stuff is another good way to make that happen…
- The Diamond Mine: Roderick Strong, Hideki Suzuki, and Tyler Rust, with Malcolm Bivens as the group’s mouthpiece? Sign me the fuck up.
- Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn: I might be off by one or two, but I believe this was the 78,548th time they’ve had a match against each other over the last few years. You know what, though? It was also the 78,548th time they’ve had a good match against each other. Just wild physicality, matching the theme for pretty much all of the matches that took place at Hell In A Cell.
- Cesaro vs Seth Rollins: Another physical battle taking place at Hell In A Cell. The right man won, too. Rollins needed something in this feud, which had been pretty one-sided up until this.
- Darby Allin vs Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky: A Handicap Match where everyone involved came out looking better than they did going in. That’s pretty rare.
- Bianca Belair vs Bayley: This match had zero business taking place inside the Cell. As I said in my Running Diary, it was almost as if WWE just felt they needed to put a women’s match in the Cell for the sake of equality, and they just randomly threw these two in there for the match. The match itself was good. It just wasn’t what a Hell In A Cell match should be.
- Roman Reigns vs Rey Mysterio: Speaking of that… here’s another match that was pretty good, but just didn’t seem like it belonged in the Cell. It made more sense to put this one inside the Cell since Reigns THREW DOMINIK MYSTERIO SMOOTH THE FUCK INTO THE ETHER, but then things were hurt by the outcome never really being in question.
- Adam Cole vs Carmelo Hayes: NXT might have themselves a future star in Carmelo Hayes. I’m just saying.
This Week’s Playlist: A couple episodes of George Lopez (the sitcom) on Peacock, followed by Mick Foley’s episode of The Broken Skull Sessions.