The John Report: WWE Money in the Bank 2018 Preview

John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Money in the Bank preview for a show that features two Money in the Bank contract ladder matches featuring stars from Raw and Smackdown. The show takes place this Sunday, June 17 in Chicago, Illinois. Please note that the start time of WWE PPV events have changed with Money in the Bank starting at 7pmET/6pmCT and there’s an expected run time of 3 hours and 30 minutes. There’s also a Kickoff Show one hour earlier at 6pmET/5pmCT. I tweeted out what the schedule looks like on WWE Network for Sunday night. Oh and please follow me on Twitter if you don't already.

The show could still run four hours, but I just wanted to let you know how it looked on the WWE Network schedule.

We have polls up for all ten matches, so please vote in the polls because we want to see what you think. Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Mike Holland and Matthew Phillips.

 (Note: All graphics are from WWE. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)

 

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper & Rowan) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Kurt: Real shame this is a kickoff show match. Two badass tag teams going head to head. G&A have really reinvented themselves getting into phenomenal shape and look poised to be the force they were in Japan. I think the Bludgeon Brothers are two of the coolest presented stars in WWE, from their entrance to look to mannerisms. This should be a really good tag team feud as the brand segways from The New Day vs. The Usos. Hopefully it’s allowed to develop that much.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers retain (since it’s on Kickoff)

Mike: Has the debate about whether tag team wresting in the WWE is dead and buried ever reached its conclusion? Following the high water mark set by The New Day and The Usos, we're back to kickoff show territory with a team that has been repackaged twelve times as essentially the same exact people going up against a team that had quite a bit of buzz coming in but has largely failed to catch on with the public at large. Gallows and Anderson have great chemistry and an impressive resume, but shuffling them off Raw and away from Balor Club fun has further dulled their stardom.

The Bludgeons are fun, if more than a bit one-note. I like that they've been presented as monsters destroying everything in their path. Harper is a solid worker, but Rowan needs a Strowman-like presentation to be effective, and this has established that. I was a bit surprised (and relieved) to see the Brothers Good overtake The Usos in the chase for the championship shot, as it's good to pretend there's a solid and competitive division here. There really isn't, though. I don't see the Bludgeons dropping their straps so soon.

Winners (and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions): The Bludgeon Brothers

Matthew: I like every individual in this match. They’re all good workers and have been parts of matches that I’ve very much liked in the past. That said, I don’t really care to see this match. I more so need to talk about the Bludgeon Brothers.

I’ve been watching Harper/Rowan cosplay Kane for months and simply don’t understand it. It always looks goofy to me, even as they decimate teams with relative ease. I wish that they had made the whole gimmick into a meta storyline. That Harper and Rowan have been lost without the Wyatt Family, but a low level WWE executive (played by whatever actor or manager you can find) has decided to take them on as a project.

He tries a bunch of different things, but goes with Bludgeon Brothers, because it “sounds cool”. That way the outfits/props are goofy, because the whole thing is simply marketing by an executive that acts as their manager. “They’ll smash you, they’ll bash you, They’re the Bludgeon Brothers” then they come out in their costumes and beat the shit out of people because they are legit dangerous. It would have been fun, layered storytelling. I’m going to write about them next week.

Winners and Still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Bludgeon Brothers (because of course!)

John: The reason I am against WWE putting Raw and Smackdown talent on every PPV is because of situations like this. Titles become watered down or completely ignored due to the other matches on the card. This match is on the card without any storyline and not much of a build other than G&A winning a match to get a title shot. The US Title has been ignored too. It’s a shame. Anyway, this should be a win for the Bludgeon Brothers.

Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers

 

Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

Kurt: No… Just no. Here is your 2018 Gooker Award Winner. Shoutout to Wrestlecrap.

Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Mike: Oh dear. Bobby Lashley's return to the WWE has been the wrestling equivalent of flatulence in church, and the latest twist in this silly saga is pairing him off with Sami Zayn, always game and always getting the short end of the stick. Zayn was fantastic paired with Kevin Owens, and this feud has been as energy-draining as it has been pointless. Why they broke that partnership up for something like this I will never know, but it's done neither side any favors. The attacks by Zayn have been ridiculously out of touch and tactless, with the "Sisters" sketch being of particularly poor taste. I don't care if you want to do bad comedy, but make it have a point.

Lashley's issue has always been personality, and he frankly doesn't have enough of it to make anyone invested in this claptrap. When will Zayn catch a break already? The guy has wrestled his butt off, but is right where he started, trying to elevate questionable material and never breaking through the Cesaro ceiling. He's clearly being positioned here to become a victim of the Lashley steamroller. That leading to some kind of pulse for Lashley is the only bright spot.

Winner: Bobby Lashley

Matthew: The build up to this has been awful, save for this week’s Raw with the obstacle course. I actually quite liked that segment and how it played out, despite it further making Bobby Lashley look pretty dumb for not seeing what was coming.

I feel bad for both of these guys. The segments they have had were pretty much universally panned, and it’s not for a lack of effort on Sami’s part. The writing is awful, but Sami’s performance has always been top notch despite the cringeworthy nature of the segments themselves.

I feel bad for Bobby because I feel like they are trying to embarrass him. I know they don’t know how to book a babyface at all, but this has been pathetic even by their standards. It’s sad because Bobby had improved so much in TNA/Impact, and you’d never know watching him right now on Raw.

Winner: Bobby Lashley (because he better for how weak he’s looked over the last couple weeks)

John: It’s a shame to see how bad this feud has been booked. The only part of it that I really liked was the end of last week’s obstacle course where Zayn nailed Lashley with a Helluva Kick in a very cheap manner. The feud has needed more physicality. Lashley beating up three dudes pretending to be his sisters isn’t going to interest the average fan. Zayn’s promos have been fine, but the material has been bad. Lashley did improve as a talker and in the ring during his TNA/Impact run and like Mike said above, you would never know that from watching Raw. I think the match could be pretty good with Zayn bumping his ass off for Lashley’s power moves. I just don’t know if the crowd is going to care enough. As for the result, a win for Lashley seems very likely.

Winner: Bobby Lashley

 

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Asuka

Kurt: The last time I was here doing a preview for you fine folks, I said that Carmella would have a breakout performance against Charlotte and she was ready for big things. How wrong I was. I also said Baron Corbin would win the Royal Rumble. I’m surprised John keeps asking me back to do these. Nonetheless, there was something unique about Carmella before winning the title and to me, she’s lost it since winning the title. She amped up her character way too much. I think she’s better when she’s got something to go after than when she is trying to hold on to it. Asuka needs something big to regain the momentum she had before WrestleMania and I think it’s a good time for her to win the title here. A loss would do real damage I think.

Prediction: New Smackdown Women’s Champion, Asuka

Mike: I'm of two minds concerning Carmella. I will give her credit that she showed me little leading up to becoming champion in surprising fashion to make me think of her as more than a one-trick pony. Since that time, though, she has consistently delivered solid promos and been the epitome of an effective heel titleholder. I don't think it's necessary that she's flawless in the ring since the storytelling doesn't require her to be. I'm through filling my preview time complaining about Asuka losing at WM (almost through!), but it would seem it's finally time for her to get her main roster run as the big story.

Appearances can be deceiving, though, and WWE writers do love their semi-swerves at this point in time. The insistent rumors of James Ellsworth returning make complete sense if the plan is to reunite him with Carmella. It doubly makes sense if the champion intends on some chicanery to prevent Asuka from landing the gold. I don't see Asuka straight up losing for a plethora of reasons, not the least of which is that she needs protection to avoid looking too weak. A disqualification is therefore likely. Asuka wins but the chase continues.

Winner by DQ: Asuka

Matthew: Carmella as the annoying heel Champion is pretty great. She’s not their best in ring worker, but as a character, she does what she’s supposed to do, and she can get heat from a crowd. She’s a naturally engaging performer, so I’m very happy for her success. I don’t think her time as Champion is up yet.

I could see them doing some kind of “Asuka has lost a step” angle where she loses in a fluky way to Carmella, but I don’t think you even have to go that far to keep the title on Carmella. his show has two ladder matches and Shinsuke vs AJ, so this match could end in a DQ and nobody will care. Keep this thing going another month.

Winner by DQ: Asuka (because let’s say the Iiconics or Mandy and Sonya interfere and attack Asuka)

John: The days of Asuka as an unbeatable face are over, so I’m going with a Carmella win. There’s a rumor that James Ellsworth is going to return to WWE and I have reason to believe that the rumor is true. I think that’s going to lead to Ellsworth coming back for this match, helping his former buddy Carmella win and Ellsworth will be back as a regular with Carmella. By doing it that way, it keeps the title on Carmella, she can brag about beating Charlotte and Asuka and continue her reign as a cheap heel champion.

Winner: Carmella

 

Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal

Kurt: How many more “if we do this with Roman, they’ll cheer him” plans does the WWE creative team have? Can it be many more? This current one of “put him against the heel that everyone hates” was a failure because it’s not that we all hate Mahal, we just don’t care about him. We boo him because he bores us. I had no problem with Mahal’s sudden push because I like trying new things. What we’ve learned though is that Mahal wasn’t ready for that spot, and still isn’t. His work just isn’t meant for main event status. The Chicago crowd is going to eat this match alive. The only thing that I’m looking forward to is whether the crowd will chant for CM Punk or if he embarrassed the city too much last weekend.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Mike: I have no idea what the actual blueprint for Roman Reigns’ coronation looks like, nor which wall it hangs upon at Titan Tower, but I've a feeling there's been a hell of a lot of corrective fluid unleashed upon it by this point. The latest oddity in the string of attempts to get Reigns over with the large portion of the crowd that detests him is to pit him against perhaps the only person further detested, Jinder Mahal. Mahal's limp title reign is well-documented, and this sudden feud between the two feels forced at best.

What it means for Sunday is a heck of a lot of booing and not much else in my view. Nobody cares about Mahal, and I don't know that anyone will again. He's trying, but the act has gone stale and the vaguely political nature of his palaver pales in comparison to real world news events. Reigns has a date with Brock Lesnar in August, and that's not only not the best kept secret, it's the secret you tossed out on the curb for refuse removal last Christmas. There's little reason, therefore, for Jinder to win here. The long, plodding road rolls on.

Winner: Roman Reigns

Matthew: They have pulled out every trick in the damn book to get people to cheer for Roman. They tried an endorsement from The Rock, they tried making him into Stone Cold Roman Reigns by doing an arrest angle. They tried making him the voice of full time wrestlers against the part time spot stealers, having him be Braun Roman, and they even reunited The Shield. Now they’ve gone with having him wrestle a guy nobody really likes and think has been shoved down their throats as a top heel for about a year. Bold prediction: This Won’t Work Either!

It’s becoming kind of embarrassing at this point how easy this could have been. A 6 month heel run would have gotten him over by now. I can see that, you can see that, we all can see that… and yet we’re watching the same thing play out again. Oh, and this match will kinda suck on top of everything. It’s almost pathetic at this point. Like watching Urkel continuously try to win over Laura Winslow.

Winner: Roman Reigns (who will still be booed and we will all lose having to watch this match)

John: This will be a boring match that the crowd will reject as soon as they see Reigns, yet WWE’s creative team will continue to try to do everything they can to get the fans to cheer Reigns. I think this is just a case of WWE wanting to give Reign something to do until we get to SummerSlam, where he may or may not to be the guy to end Brock Lesnar’s boring reign as Universal Champion. I would rather see Rollins or Strowman as the next Universal Champion. Mahal may get a few false finishes, but I don’t think anybody will believe he can win this match. It’s a win for Reigns.

Winner: Roman Reigns

 

 

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Kurt: I’m just going to quote Daniel Bryan himself for this match, because I feel a lot of people are mad that he’s “wasting his time” with this match, but here is his take: “I’m somebody that’s always been, whether it’s been here or Ring Of Honor or whatever, I’ve worked hard at helping to bring new guys up. The idea of the old-timer who is trying to ‘keep his position’ and hold everybody down… I don’t think that works. I don’t think that’s sustainable and I think we need to build everybody up, and if everybody seems like Superstars, then the whole company is more fun to watch. I enjoy the challenge of wrestling somebody who is that big and newer, that sort of thing. I think it’s a good opportunity to show everybody what he can do.”

That’s perfectly said. I’m not the biggest fan of Cass, but I totally understand they’re trying to see if they have a potential top heel and who better to put him against than Daniel? Maybe the Backlash tap out didn’t necessitate a rematch, but there’s no reason for Daniel to be in the Ladder Match.

Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Mike: I'll chalk this up to Daniel Bryan's desire to elevate those he works with or feels are overlooked, a la Chris Jericho. That's the only way to explain why you'd make the head-scratching, momentum-derailing decision to put Bryan's return into a program with Big Cass. Considering the stark truth that Bryan's next match could be his last, this feels like an utter waste. Honorable, perhaps, but marketable? Not so much. Cass has done his level best to up his "big bad" potential, but a new look and new intro music doesn't alter the fact his stock plummeted the second Enzo got canned.

The most entertaining thing about this match has been the backstage scuttlebutt, as tales of Cass being on the outs with upper management have persisted. There's been just enough evidence on a weekly basis to make it possible, but not likely. WWE loves them some big guys, and that's why this rematch becomes a bitter pill. I feared a Bryan loss last time they squared off, and now the likelihood increases exponentially. We'll have one more go-round at Extreme Rules before this turkey gets trimmed. The yes movement has become more of a maybe.

Winner: Big Cass

Matthew: This can be a fun mid-card match on this show. I’m actually very glad that Daniel Bryan was kept out of the Money In The Bank match, because I don’t need to see him get risky with ladders (side note, I wonder if I’ll ever not be worried about Daniel wrestling because of how things have played out with him over the last couple years?).

Cass has been good in his role, if not just a bit over the top with it. I truly don’t quite get his obsession with Bryan, but it’s working well enough. He obviously spent his time away injured working on promos because he’s far from the Enzo sidekick he once was in that regard.

I don’t expect some kind of classic here, but this can be a very good palate cleanser between Ladder matches. It should at worst be quite good.

Winner: Big Cass (because Daniel Bryan won the first match)

John: I would love to see Bryan win this and move on to feuding with The Miz or Samoa Joe, which are two feuds I really want to see. However, I’m leaning towards a Cass win since Bryan won at Backlash. It just feels like there’s going to be a third match at Extreme Rules next month with a stipulation on the match.

Cass must have a better showing here than he did at Backlash. His performance was not good. I know he’s coming off a torn ACL, but he should be better after six weeks on the road and working with Bryan a lot. If you can’t have a good match with Bryan then you are going to have problems working with the rest of the roster. I don’t mind WWE giving him a spotlight to see what Cass can do. I just don’t know if he’s good enough to really be a long term main event guy.

Winner: Big Cass

 

 

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Elias

Kurt: I’m convinced that if I was booking WWE, Elias would be my top heel of Raw and probably would be my Universal Champion right now. In fact, this might be my Universal Title feud. I love the work of both guys. Rollins is possibly the best he’s ever been in WWE, and Elias is someone that maximizes his minutes every time he goes out there and is one of the rare acts that can keep me entertained. I’d love for this match to be the longest match on the card and potentially steal the show.

This is a really hard match to predict as Rollins has done a great job in making the IC Title important again, but this seems like a prime opportunity for Elias to take that next step and win the title here. With everything else going on in the show, I think ultimately this isn’t the right spot for Elias to have a breakout moment, so after a competitive match, I think Rollins will win. Or perhaps Elias destroys him with a guitar again to lead to a rematch.

Prediction: Seth Rollins retains

Mike: This match is intriguing in that it bucks the trend of only one participant having some real momentum. Rollins has been a very solid choice as champion, as his ability to go has become nearly legend at this point. As for Elias, not since Bray Wyatt have we seen a very decidedly heel character garner such a level of cheering. That's a double-edged sword, because it risks becoming a comedy act, but that's not as much of an issue for Elias because comedy IS his act.

The big difference here is in the work itself. Elias has been better than expected but is still very raw, and that makes Rollins a great foil because he has the excellent ability to raise the level of his competition. The setup for this match has also been effective, with plenty of rancor and more than one broken guitar along the way. I wish I could tell you the timing is right for Elias to get his first run with a belt, but I don't see it just yet. I don't know the company feels he needs it to continue to get over, and it might hasten his face turn. Slow and steady.

Winner (and STILL Intercontinental Champion): Seth Rollins

Matthew: Seth Rollins has been of fire in terms of putting on wonderful matches. I don’t anticipate that this match will be any different. He’s hit another level as of late, in terms of his connection with the fans. I don’t think it’s just the whole “Burn It Down” thing, because that’s been there for a while and it wasn’t until recently that that has gotten over like gangbusters. I think the rise of Rollins has coincided with the return of The Stomp as his finisher (he was toying with a lot of stuff that just wasn’t working for him for a while), but I don’t think that is the only reason. Frankly, I can’t really put my finger on what has changed for him, and find how over he is right now to be rather shocking.

To touch on Seth’s opponent, Elias is a pretty great character who can also have a great match in his own right. He has an entertaining shtick that works so much better on the main roster than it did on NXT, which is rare. These two together should be fun to watch, despite the fact that they look like twin brothers separated at birth.

Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins (because we need to keep this thing going for a little longer)

John: The build to this match has been decent. Elias was sick of Rollins interrupting him, so he hit him in the back with a guitar and that set up the rivalry. I have mixed feelings on Elias. On the one hand, I’m glad he has a gimmick that allows him to stick out and being on Raw gives him a chance to “sing” for five minutes every week while berating the crowd. My issue is when the bell rings. He’s just very basic in everything he does in a match. He has yet to wow me or have a match that I’d consider memorable. The matches with Bobby Roode were very boring. This match is a big test for him because Rollins is arguably the best in ring performer in WWE (along with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan), so he should have the best match of his career considering the IC Title is on the line and it’s a PPV match. I want him to do well. I just need to see him do it.

I’ll go with Rollins to retain although if Elias were to win then it would really elevate Elias, which may be the goal of this feud. If Rollins does retain, hopefully he can feud with Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens because I would enjoy those matches a lot. I know I mentioned it earlier, but here’s hoping that WWE comes to their senses around SummerSlam time by putting the Universal Championship on Rollins because he deserves it more than anybody else on Raw. Plus, listen to the crowd – the people love him. Listen to the fans, WWE.

Winner: Seth Rollins

 

Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey

Kurt: The only appointment viewing for me every week is Ronda Rousey. I just love her. I started to get worried after WrestleMania that WWE was going to bungle her as there was a week where she came out to Natalya’s music as if she was just some random valet. She should be presented as a huge deal every week. She transcends the division. Luckily, they realized they weren’t doing right by her and have spotlighted her much better since announcing this match.

The problem with this match is WWE booked themselves into a corner. Nia was gaining some real momentum as a babyface champion, but then they realized they couldn’t have Ronda off two straight PPV’s and since she’s nowhere ready for a MITB style match, they booked her into a title match and basically cut Nia off at the knees. Natalya interfering in the match seems logical, but do you really want Ronda losing a match in any way this early? In hopes for Nia’s push being for naught this quickly, I’m going to predict her to retain but this is going to be a doozy seeing how they book it.

Prediction: Nia Jax retains

Mike: Well, that was quick. The speed of Ronda Rousey's rise from outsider to the next big thing in the WWE has been relatively unmatched, and whether you prefer to take the pragmatic view that it's been her solid performance at WrestleMania and professed love of all things pro wrestling or the cynical view that WWE wanted a big star front and center to sell broadcast rights, one thing is not open for debate: She continues to put butts in seats. Given that this is a critical marketing period for McMahon and friends, it's perhaps in everyone's best interests to hit the fast forward on the Rousey experiment.

The fact that she's competing this quickly for a major belt is somewhat surprising, and I'll acknowledge that WWE may have jumped the shark a bit by already having Rousey demonstrate her ability (and effectiveness) in locking her armbar on champion Jax. It's also clear they don't know how to present Jax as a full-fledged heel, and she's stuck in Braun Strowman territory at this point. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. I could see Stephanie McMahon involvement and a phony finish, but no chance Rousey loses straight up here.

Winner (and NEW Raw Women's Champion): Ronda Rousey

Matthew: I’m not quite sure who I’m supposed to be rooting for here? Am I rooting for the anti-bullying, anti body shaming Raw Women’s Champion who has spent a few weeks bullying people herself, or am I supposed to root for the novice that cut to the front of the line despite having done nothing to prove herself within the division? Decisions, decisions.

Maybe that’s what they are going for, complete unobstructed confusion of their audience. The way this turns out completely relies on how they want people to react to Ronda. If they want us to see her as heroic, she should lose here. Like in a movie, bumps in the road early lead to earned triumph later. If they want us to turn on Ronda (which might be a better role for her personality long term), she wins here.

Winner and Still Raw Women’s Champion: Nia Jax (because I’m pretty sure they want to keep Ronda a hero for a while longer)

John: I’ll begin by saying I think this could be the main event of the show. If you look at the advertising for the event, this match is what is featured most. I think WWE wants to put the spotlight on Rousey so much that they are willing to put her on last in the first singles match of her career. No pressure huh? Jax doesn’t have the feeling of a long-term champion due to her being limited. You can only do so much with her as champion, which is why WWE booked this match. Plus, Rousey going into UFC’s Hall of Fame is likely something WWE knew about and they probably want Rousey to put that WWE Women’s Title on her shoulder when she gets that honor.

This feels like the kind of match that doesn’t need to go long. Five minutes or less is fine with Jax using her power early, Rousey escaping, slapping on the armbar and Jax tapping out. I don’t expect a woman to cash in the Money in the Bank contract on Rousey at this show either. I think it will end with Rousey’s celebration and plenty of coverage from mainstream news outlets like ESPN, which is what WWE loves. There may be a cash in before SummerSlam, but not on Sunday.

Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey

 

Women’s Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match: Ember Moon (Raw), Alexa Bliss (Raw), Natalya (Raw), Sasha Banks (Raw), Charlotte Flair (SD), Becky Lynch (SD), Lana (SD), Naomi (SD)

Kurt: The first thing that stands out to me is that there are 7 babyfaces to 1 heel. It’s such a discrepancy that I almost expect something big to happen to switch at least one of these participants. The one that comes to mind immediately is Becky turning on Charlotte. I think that would do a lot for Becky and be a fantastic storyline on Smackdown. I laughed when watching Naomi tell the other SD women this week that, “don’t forget I won the first ever WrestleMania women’s battle royal.” EVERYONE had forgotten that. That was an awful callback.

I like matches of this magnitude where I can make a case for anyone winning, and the men’s version has it but this one doesn’t. Ember has no momentum, Alexa and Charlotte just came off a lengthy title reign, Sasha has been in purgatory for a long time now and hasn’t had a big win in forever and Lana as great of a story as she is, is nowhere near ready for a moment like winning MITB. So to me, that leaves two choices: Natalya and Becky. I can’t decide between either, because I think both would be a good decision, so the deciding factor will be the fact that a Smackdown woman won it last year (since it was only for Smackdown women), so I think a Raw woman will win it this year.

Prediction: Natalya wins MITB

Mike: Making these ladder matches eight person competitions has increased the difficulty level of picking a winner exponentially, but I'm all for it. It also adds a level of brand versus brand rancor that WWE has really struggled with executing overall and will seemingly have even further difficulty with once each of their big shows airs in a separate corporate broadcasting structure. MITB has become a big event for WWE, and it feels big thanks to these simple changes. All in all, good show.

That said, let's get down to brass tacks and try to pick a winner. I'm on the record with saying many times that it's much more effective (and fun) to have a heel winner chasing down their opportunity. This is obvious, since they are much more likely to cash in during a moment of obvious advantage. It's also very clear to me that having two ladder matches only makes sense if each brand claims a winner and a briefcase, so that has to factor into the prognostication here. I'll begin by dismissing those with little shot in my mind: both Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair have had long championship runs, so they don't need the case, and I don't see either Lana or Naomi getting it done either. That leaves fan favorite Becky Lynch as the only real option from the Smackdown side.

On the Raw side of the ledger, I personally would love to see Ember Moon get a big opportunity right out of the gate, but it's highly doubtful. Sasha Banks is always a solid choice, but the fact that Bayley is not involved makes me smell a rat. It's high time that feud got way more emotional and way more personal, and it's in everyone's best interests. Natalya has been booked really strongly for the last couple months, including the last couple Raws, and the backstory of her and Rousey being such great friends plays into Rousey winning the title and then Natalya suddenly cashing in on her at the expense of their history. It's a simple story that could be told really well, and allows Natalya to help Rousey in a major way. It's for that reason I'm going with Nattie to land the case.

Winner: Natalya (Raw)

Matthew: I figure that one person from each brand is going to win a briefcase. I also figure that the Men’s Briefcase will be going to Smackdown, given the strength of their field of competitors, so by my own logic, the winner of the Women’s Briefcase will be from Raw.

Now the entire Raw field could be great with The Briefcase. Sasha could finally turn heel with the Briefcase being the catalyst. Ember Moon could really make a splash by having it. Alexa Bliss would be a wonderful Keeper of the Case given her superior mic work and charisma. Finally, Natalya is currently tangentially involved in the Nia/Ronda Championship feud, and giving her the briefcase ads an interesting element to that.

Winner: Natalya (because her winning ads more storyline potential to current story threads, including a possible same night cash in on Ronda… everybody else could be interesting, but Natalya winning IS interesting regardless)

John: I’m going to break it down by going name by name to let you know my train of thought for this match.

Lana (SD) – There may be a fun moment where she comes close to doing it, but I don’t see WWE pulling the trigger on it with her even though the crowd might like it.

Naomi (SD) – As the best athlete in the match she may do something memorable. I doubt she wins.

Sasha Banks (Raw) – A win would help her a lot because there’s nothing going on with her thanks to that Bayley storyline that isn’t going anywhere. I just don’t feel like it’s the right time.

Becky Lynch (SD) and Charlotte Flair (SD) – The best friends story is fine, but it’s more fun when friends have issues in a match like this. I can see a situation where one of them of them is very close to winning and the other one pulls her down to stop it. That will lead to an issue on Smackdown. Perhaps this can be a story to turn Lynch heel or maybe Charlotte is the one that goes heel since I think she’s more comfortable in that role.

Ember Moon (Raw) – I would love to see her win because Moon is a tremendous talent with a lot of upside potential as we like to say when we watch the NFL or NBA. She continues to impress every time I see her. I just feel like maybe it’s a bit too soon for her and that WWE may want to develop her more instead of putting the contract on her.

Alexa Bliss (Raw) – It fits her character to be a sneaky heel with the briefcase in hand. I would be all for it. I just think she’s had enough of a run with titles on both shows and that WWE may be looking in another direction.

Natalya (Raw) – My favorite woman in the match makes the most sense because she mentions her good friend Ronda Rousey nearly every time she’s on camera. That’s been done for a reason. I think Natalya wins this, Rousey wins the Raw Women’s Title and there will be teases of a Natalya cash-in for weeks until the perfect time for a heel turn cash-in by Natalya leading to a summer time feud between them. You could have Natalya (and perhaps Nia Jax) as Stephanie’s allies that make Ronda’s life a living hell since Stephanie wants to do the Vince-Austin story with Rousey. For the last two years, Natalya was a heel and I think that’s the best role for her. Natalya wins as a face here, but the heel turn is coming soon.

I hope it’s a good match that gets around 20 minutes with some good spots that are also safe. Don’t overdo it, ladies. You can tell a story without taking 15 foot bumps off ladders.

Winner: Natalya

 

Men’s Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match: Braun Strowman (Raw), Kevin Owens (Raw), Finn Balor (Raw), Bobby Roode (Raw), The Miz (SD), Rusev (SD), Samoa Joe (SD), One member of The New Day (SD)

Kurt: I could only make a case for two women in their MITB match, but I can make a case for everyone except maybe Bobby Roode in this match. I think Roode should’ve been left on Smackdown and I’m just not feeling him on Raw so far. He needed more time and opportunity to shine on Smackdown. Now, even though he’s in this match, he’s lost in the shuffle of all the top talent they have on Raw. Miz is ready for a top title storyline again. We’ve come a long way since the last time he was at the very top of the card. To steal a line from Chris Jericho, he’s the best in the world at what he does right now. Rusev should be pushed much stronger than he is with all the popularity of Rusev Day and someone new like him getting a MITB briefcase would be fun to see. Balor is the Raw equivalent of Miz in the sense that he’s ready to be at the top of the card. He’s never gotten his Universal Title rematch and that’s a shame. Owens is always going to be one of the best heels in the business and could do some great things holding the briefcase. Joe would be the most dangerous participant with the briefcase and would really enhance his persona. Strowman is the biggest babyface not named AJ Styles in the company, but has yet to have that huge singles win. Someone like him with the briefcase and potentially calling his shot against Lesnar would also be fun.

There’s one participant left, one that we don’t even know, that I think makes the most sense and would lead to the most entertainment. Imagine the MITB briefcase being treated with the Freebird rule. Sure, maybe Kofi joins the ladder match, but what stops Big E or Xavier climbing the ladder if he’s incapacitated? Imagine the possibilities if The New Day’s music hits, but you have no idea who’s coming out with the briefcase to cash in. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with a Big E or Kofi being in the WWE Title picture either. I just think perhaps the MITB concept has run its course and this would be something to really rejuvenate the gimmick and be able to have a lot of fun with it.

Prediction: The New Day wins MITB

Mike: As for the men's match, we'll follow the same formula outlined above. On the Raw side, Bobby Roode has been on a one-way trip to Heelsville and Owens already had his big moment. Neither will factor into the decision. Balor is a great choice and has had some exceptional matches since the shakeup, but there's just too much talent in this match. Should Team Red get a clean sweep, it would be Braun Strowman that would get it done. The idea of Strowman in a match like this frankly makes me giddy with the possibilities. He's been the victim of short shrift more than once, and this would be an opportunity to redeem those issues. Would there be any doubt that Strowman would win when he cashed in the contract?

On the Smackdown side, I have no idea why they haven't revealed which member of New Day is involved, but it hardly matters. Ditto Rusev, who's having a moment due to the fantastic Aiden English and the fans' outright refusal to abandon Rusev Day, but isn't a big enough draw to be elevated here. That leaves two very equally solid options in The Miz and Samoa Joe, excellent heels both, who recently moved over to a new show and would be tailor made for briefcase cash-in drama. The Miz would make a lot of sense, particularly since he's being presented as a big name on Smackdown and has himself a new "reality" show. That said, I really like Joe's heartfelt and bowling-shoe-ugly promos and he's been the maid of honor in the wedding party a few too many times. He deserves a moment of his own and something to back up what he's selling.

Given those options, it's a tough call for me but I'm going Joe, mainly because I expect each brand to claim a winner. Samoa Joe has shown a propensity to pop up at the juiciest times, and the prospect of him waiting in the wings to cash in and become a champion is downright inspirational to think about. He deserves it, and he ought to get it here.

Winner: Samoa Joe (Smackdown)

Matthew: Following my logic from above, the winner of this match will come from Smackdown Live. Their field is just more interesting and fun. You could have The Miz winning his second Briefcase, eventually cashing in to ruin a Daniel Bryan moment, leading to the two of them having a HUGE Championship match at a later date. You could have Rusev win it and promise to cash it in on Rusev Day! You could have Samoa Joe win it and be one of the most legit and threatening holders of the case in recent memory, waiting in the wings for the right time to strike, or you could go in a whole different direction and have The Briefcase in the hands of The New Day!

All have their strengths and weaknesses. Miz winning it would be reward for simply extraordinary work over the last couple years and creates a road map to a much anticipated match… but it’s also fairly predictable. Rusev winning would be fun, but doesn’t quite feel like a big enough deal. Samoa Joe is amazing and given his promo ability and in ring ability, he could carry it well for some time before cashing in and winning the title, which would be a delight… but I just don’t see him carrying it for that long, nor do I really believe he needs it to get a championship match or to win the title.

For me, the best case scenario is New Day winning it. Not just because I’m a huge New Day fan, but also because I think it makes for the most creative aftermath. First of all, you have the whole mystery as to which member will be competing in the match itself. I think it should be Kofi, given he has the most experience, with the other two helping him finally win the contract. That story in and of itself is a triumph. It’s a shocking moment, and it affords a Championship opportunity to guys that I don’t see getting one otherwise. All the directions you can go from there are bountiful as well. Does the briefcase sow mistrust and dissension in the ranks of New Day? Does it cause their divorce, with each getting custody of the Briefcase (which will of course be named) for certain months after weeks of mediation. Will Xavier and Big E rally behind Kofi to drive him to a WWE Championship that has eluded him his whole career. Does this launch Big E on his own as a serious singles competition threat. I could go on and on.

Winner(s): The New Day (because their story is easily the most creatively fertile, which is likely why the WWE will not go in that direction, but I’m picking them still, out of principle)

John: I’ll break it down like I did for the women.

Bobby Roode (Raw) – He’s just not over right now to the point where I could see him winning this match. What I’d like is for something to happen that leads to him turning heel soon because his face run has been boring.

One member of The New Day (SD) – I know two of my buddies above picked New Day to win. It’s a nice thought and the fantasy booking scenarios would be cool, but I’m not for it. There are better options in the match.

Finn Balor (Raw) – I like him a lot and the fans are behind him, but is the WWE creative team going to push him to that next level? I just don’t think it’s going to happen. A move to Smackdown would have benefited him a lot because I think he’ll keep getting lost in the shuffle on Raw.

Rusev (SD) – It would definitely be a Happy Rusev Day if he won. Winning Money in the Bank would give him the perfect boost to get to that main event level. Like with Balor, I’m not sure if the creative team is behind him enough. In terms of talent and reactions from the crowd, he certainly deserves it.

Kevin Owens (Raw) – Owens would be a lot of fun as the obnoxious heel bragging about being Mr. Money in the Bank. I don’t know if he really needs it as a former Universal Champion, though.

Braun Strowman (Raw) – The scenario that makes a lot of sense is for WWE to announce Lesnar vs. Reigns for the Universal Championship. Just as the match is about to begin, Strowman shows up, says he’s not going to wait until one of them is beaten down to cash in, he wants to do it right now. That sets up a triple threat, Strowman wins to become Universal Champion and SummerSlam ends on a happy note. I’m sure if he’s going to win especially because I have a Raw woman winning. I’m leaning towards a Smackdown guy.

The Miz (SD) – It feels like a lifetime ago when The Miz was WWE Champion even though it was seven years ago, which isn’t that long. He has improved as an all around performer. The days of being in the IC Title picture for years are behind him. I want to see him as the top heel again. Winning Money in the Bank would do that for him. He would be my pick if it wasn’t for a Samoan named Joe.

Samoa Joe (SD) – Joe was my pick from the moment he was announced for the match, so I need to stick with my gut instinct. I think he was moved from Raw to Smackdown so that they could put the WWE Title on him as a credible heel champion that is believable in that role. You can have faces chasing him. Joe would make for a dangerous MITB contract holder. I think he’s the best choice.

This match should be outstanding with a lot of unpredictability. I remember last year’s MITB match being very predictable with Baron Corbin as the favorite that won it. This year it’s up for grabs. That makes for a very exciting match.

Winner: Samoa Joe

 

WWE Championship Last Man Standing Match: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Kurt: Will these two finally be unleashed to show everyone what they can do? If this closes the show, I think so. If not, then probably not. I still love the Nakamura heel turn, but I can’t help but feel that this is the most disappointing feud of 2018. I’ve just expected so much more from both of them and all we’ve gotten is nut shots and bad finishes on matches. I think to see what Nakamura can really do as a heel, you’ve got to give him the title. If not, the turn is for naught.

There’s so much AJ can do, with or without the title, so he doesn’t need it to continue to be the top guy. I would have Nakamura repeatedly nail AJ with the Kinshasa until he can’t get up for the 10 count. It continues to establish that move as a top finisher and it lets Nakamura finally get to that next level everyone expected him to be at since day one.

Prediction: New WWE Champion, Shinsuke Nakamura

Mike: This is a particularly tough one for me, because I'm so excited to watch these two square off and it's been largely underwhelming on the WWE stage. It's hard to believe this is the fifth go-around between the two, and we've yet to even come close to reaching what's been seen elsewhere. I know many critics will blame creative, and that's fair enough, but there's also been something missing from the execution end. The nagging injuries to AJ Styles may have as much to do with it as anything else. I will never complain about having this match anywhere on any card, but at this point it's tough to avoid tempering your expectation.

I'm obviously a big fan of the Last Man Standing stipulation, both because it adds a level of physicality that spices things up, and also because it plays right into the overall theme of low blows that has ended up defining this series of matches. I have also enjoyed the build. Nakamura is a natural heel, and whatever verbal limitations he has have been cleverly covered over by the contract signing and other events. Needless to say, if we're done with this tandem, Styles wins here. There simply is no reason to continue this showdown at that point. If, however, Nakamura were to win...things still have an opportunity to get interesting.

I expect this to be their best match in WWE. I also expect it to be the best match of the night by a large margin and one of the best matches in the company all year. And I am completely aware I said a little while ago to temper your expectation. I just can't quit this feud and my hope that it propels Nakamura to his rightful place in the company just as Styles found his not too long ago. These guys are just too good and it's high time we got through the excuses and just let them do their jobs. Don't screw this up, WWE.

Winner (and NEW WWE Champion): Shinsuke Nakamura

Matthew: I don’t know if there’s anything to say here that I haven’t said in previous previews or pieces written about these guys. Heel Shinsuke might be my favourite thing in this company right now and I think these two are going to have an incredible match. I’m hoping it’s the best of the bunch for their WWE matches and leads to a definitive winner.

I think if they don’t give Shinsuke the title here, it isn’t going to happen for him, which will be a shame. I can see it happening too. He loses and moves on to a feud with Jeff Hardy over the United States Championship, with AJ moving on to feud with Samoa Joe. I hope this doesn’t happen, not because I don’t like AJ or the idea of AJ vs. Joe, I just really think Shinsuke has risen to his new role spectacularly and I think he deserves to be rewarded. He can still feud with Jeff over the WWE Title and AJ and Joe can feud over being next in line for a shot. I just want Nakamura to get the belt. I sincerely hope he does.

Winner and New WWE Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura (because he deserves it)

John: I really hope the talk after Money in the Bank is how great this match was. It’s going to be tough to follow the NXT Takeover show one night earlier, but if Styles and Nakamura go 20+ minutes in a grueling battle they can have one of the best matches of the year. I hated some of the endings of their other matches so far, but I get why they were done in controversial fashion to lead to this Last Man Standing match. The best match they had was on Smackdown a few weeks ago when Nakamura won clean (sort of) and got to pick the stipulation. I would not have done that Smackdown match because the story going into this should be that Nakamura can’t beat Styles. Since Nakamura did beat Styles, that hurts the story.

I would have liked to pick Nakamura to win because the heel turn has worked out well for him, but I think Styles will retain. It feels like one of those matches where both guys are down for the ten count, Styles gets up at 9, the ref counts Nakamura down and Styles is announced as the winner. After the bell, Styles falls back down to show how even it was. I don’t think Styles will leave the show as WWE Champion, though.

Winner: AJ Styles

After this grueling match where both men will take a beating, Samoa Joe’s music hit leading to Joe walking out with his Money in the Bank contract. Joe will cash in on Styles, put him in the Coquina Clutch, Styles will pass out and Joe will become the WWE Champion. That would set up storylines for Joe against some fresh contenders like Styles, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton and others. It sounds good to me.

Winner and New WWE Champion: Samoa Joe

 

BONUS TOPICS!

The Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax.

Mike: Take a guess. Styles/Nakamura, as usual, is the class of the card.

Matthew: Shinsuke vs AJ.

John: The men’s Money in the Bank ladder match because it’s always a favorite of mine. Styles vs. Nakamura is a close second.

 

The Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley.

Mike: Reigns/Mahal is pointless, but I'm going Zayn/Lashley. Only worth doing to end the feud.

Matthew: Lashley vs Zayn.

John: Reigns vs. Mahal. I like Sami too much to ever pick him.

 

Longest Match

Kurt: Men’s MITB.

Mike: Both ladder matches will be lengthy, naturally. I'm going Styles/Nakamura though. Plenty of false finish options.

Matthew: Men’s MITB Ladder Match.

John: I think the men’s ladder match will be the longest.

 

Shortest Match

Kurt: Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass.

Mike: The pre-show tag match is a good contender for this. I'm going Jax/Rousey to show Ronda's dominance.

Matthew: Nia vs. Rousey.

John: Rousey vs. Jax should be under five minutes.

 

Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: The product may be suffering, but two loaded MITB matches and Ronda vs. Nia is enough to make it a 7 for me.

Mike: I'm more than fine with less PPVs as long as they are better quality. This has the potential to be very good at best and more than passable at worst. The second half of the card is weighted big time, and there is some filler for sure, but two loaded ladder matches and the Styles/Nakamura throwdown overcome the lack of Lesnar and make this a very respectable 7.5 for me.

Matthew: 6.5, mostly due to TV leading up to this being underwhelming, but there’s still a lot at stake here so I’m interested.

John: I’m at about a 7 because I’m a fan of the ladder matches as well as Styles/Nakamura. Some of the booking decisions intrigue me too. I’m genuinely curious how WWE is going to book some of these finishes.

 

Final Thoughts

John: That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will write a live review of Money in the Bank on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night, so check that out during the show or after it's over.

Kurt - @KTankTMB

Mike - @DharmanRockwell

Matthew - @MJDP_GSE

John - @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.