Two huge main event matches tonight. Seth Rollins returning to face the champion Roman Reigns, which we'll talk about below, and AJ Styles against John Cena. I'm legitimately excited for both of those contests. Add in the Money in the Bank match and the top of this card is stacked. Add in some solid undercard matches and this could and should end up being the best non-major PPV of the year. But this is the match of the night I'm most looking forward to.
AJ Styles has been on a tear in 2016 ever since he's debut at the Royal Rumble. If you're reading this blog post you probably don't need to be reminded of his run so far. But, he does need some wins if he's going to continue to be a top-level guy in the company, which the WWE will need him to be with the brand split coming soon. As good as he's been he's had a lot of big losses: he lost in the Royal Rumble, he lost at WrestleMania to Jericho, and he ultimately lost both of his championship matches against Roman Reigns. And then he lost his shot to get into the Money in the Bank match against Kevin Owens. Styles can be as great as he is, and he has been great, but if you keep losing it's going to effect your spot on the card. Styles NEEDS to start getting some wins. A historically speaking, if you need wins the place to go look for those wins isn't normally a feud with the face that runs the place John Cena. Especially if that John Cena is returning from a long absence. That's what makes this match so exciting.
You would think with Cena returning he'd get the victory here. Add in the underlying WWE vs. TNA aspect to this match and a Cena victory seems predetermined. But I just don't think Cena can defeated Styles here, I just don't. Now I've said it before but a lot of times I think I put too much faith in WWE. There are many times I feel like I'm Charlie Brown and the WWE is Lucy, and every time I get my hopes up and go try to kick that football the WWE pulls the football and hope away from me right as I go to kick it. And that is definitely in play here but I think the WWE goes with Styles here. He needs to win, he needs the momentum, he's the guy on the verge of being a big star. And if Styles would lose on Sunday, the WWE kind of made him look like a punk on Monday night with that contract signing, Making him state whether he is fighting with or without the help of The Club. I can't see them making AJ pick the non-club option and then lose to Cena, that would make AJ look terrible and I just can't see the WWE doing that to a guy who could be a huge star for them almost immediately. Cena can survive a loss, Cena will be the man regardless of what happens in this match or the next year for that matter. I think you have to go with AJ Styles, not just in this match but in the overall feud as well. You can't pull a Cena/Owens where Styles wins the first matchup and Cena wins everything else. Go all-in with Styles, try to make something happen with him, and let Cena continue to be Cena.
This is another match where I'm not sure how WWE can go with either outcome. The WWE has put almost 2 years of time, work, and energy to get Reigns to this championship run. And most of that 2 year span was not smooth. I can't see WWE going to all that work just to take the belt off of him this quick at a non-Big 4 pay per view. But with that being said, I also can't see Seth Rollins losing his comeback match. He was the title holder for over half a year, carried the company through a down period, got injured, returned from injury, and gets placed right back in the main-event title scene. He's not losing his debut match back, right? So that puts us into the schmozzy finish category. Reigns can't lose, Rollins can't lose, so do we go to some type of draw or double DQ? Does someone interfere? Or does the Money in the Bank winner (more on that below) cash in right away?
I really don't know how they get around this one but the WWE always finds a way to make it work. Sometimes it's not the most satisfying result but a majority it is, so I'm intrigued on how they get there. But somehow I think this feud is prolonged and continued to SummerSlam. And I think Ambrose finds a way into that main event as well, either as the Money in the Bank contract holder or not. I know that The Shield reunion match is a WrestleMania worthy match but I don't know if you hold it off that long. The time to do it is now and SummerSlam is the next best thing to a WrestleMania. I'd rather have a hot SummerSlam match hitting the feud at the right time rather than a WrestleMania match that has been building and stretched out for too long just to get to that PPV.
Real interesting Money in the Bank match this year. Unless they add someone on the night of the PPV, which I don't think is out of the question, I think all six guys in the match are studs. Really makes for a fun match when you don't have any duds in the match. All 6 of these guys are talented and legitimate. By my count, I think 4 guys have a legitimate chance of winning this thing and would be shocked if the other two won. And I think these ladder matches and Money in the Bank matches always work out a little better when there are only 6 guys in the match compared to 8 which they've done in the past. So I'm really looking forward to the match and the outcome. Putting the briefcase in someone's possession is always a big deal and a sign of faith or sign of an upcoming push from the company. It doesn't always work out but the adventure getting there is always fun.
A new added twist this year to the Money in the Bank match, at least for me, is the upcoming brand split. How does that potentially impact the winner? If they haven't cashed in their contract by the brand split, do they get the opportunity to cash in on either champion on either brand? Or just the brand they are on? Or will there even be two champions after the brand split? Or, does WWE try to eliminate that problem right by having the winner cash in before the brand split, possibly at this PPV? And if that's the case, does that effect the outcome of who wins the MitB match tonight or even possibly the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match tonight? A lot of questions on the table, which I always enjoy. Wrestling is fun when there is some unpredictability mixed in.
Ranked in order of least likely to most likely to win:
6. Alberto Del Rio - They could give Del Rio the briefcase just to give him some direction or add some significance to his character but that seems unlikely to me. Del Rio doesn't seem to have much of a direction or feud right now so I can't see him ending up winning this match. And if he did, it feels like it would feel like a disappointing ending so he gets my 6 spot.
5. Sami Zayn - Another guy I can't really see winning is Sami Zayn. Winning the MitB contract generally guarantees the winner a world title win. And normally that's done by the winner cashing in quickly after the champion has competed in a match or been beaten down by someone. Sami Zayn cashing in that way and winning his first world title that way would just seem wrong. Zayn is going to be the ultimate underdog when he wins his first world title and it should be a moment. The crowd should be begging for it and the place should erupt win he wins his first WWE World Heavyweight title. Similar to the way it was built up and carried out for his first NXT World Title win. That was a moment and the crowd ate it up. That's how his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship victory should play out, which means he has no use for the MitB contract.
4. Cesaro - Now we start getting into the guys who I think have a shot to win this thing. You can tell the WWE is completely sold on Cesaro yet. They know they have something in him and would like for him to be a big deal (I think) but something is missing. Something is missing from Cesaro or his character or his gimmick or his mic skills or something. If they can figure that out, Cesaro could print money for the WWE. MAYBE....the MitB briefcase is that thing he is missing. Or at least winning the briefcase could help Cesaro find out what it is.
3. Chris Jericho - I think Jericho has a good shot at winning this match. They've really played up this "I'm the one who invented Money in the Bank" angle with him the past 2 weeks, I mean really played it up. It's probably been mention 3 times on each RAW and SmackDown the past 14 days. Maybe that's just Jericho's claim to fame or reason to be in the match but I'm buying it. I mean, Jericho can't retire without eventually winning this match, right? And his heel run has been really good this time around. And agree or disagree with it, he did get that WrestleMania win over AJ Styles so even has recent history of winning big matches you think he shouldn't. Out of the six guys in the match, Jericho is the one I'll probably be pulling for on Sunday night.
2. Kevin Owens - The Money in the Bank contract is designed to make someone a champion. It's also been used in the past to take someone who is right on the edge of the main-event title scene and boosting him into that tier (Edge, Punk, Ziggler, Bryan). It's hard to argue that Kevin Owens isn't exactly in that place right now. A win here could be the signal that the WWE is ready to take that leap with Owens, which they probably should and may need to with the brand split coming up which will require more star power on each separate show. And for everything above I said about Sami Zayn's first title win not coming from a MitB cash in, I think the opposite is true for Owens. I can definitely see Owens winning that way and fitting right into his character and personality.
1. Dean Ambrose - If it wasn't for the upcoming brand split, I think I would have Ambrose in the 2 spot here. He's kind of in the same boat as Owens where he is right on the verge of entering the world title scene and this could be the boost he needs. But I think Owens is a little more ready for that spot, and Owens being able to brag about his inevitable world title seems perfect. But with the brand split coming up I have the feeling that WWE will want this briefcase cashed in before the split and if that is the case then Ambrose is the better option to cash in. With his fellow Shield buddies counterparts fighting for the world title, he seems like the obvious person to cash in on one of them. They teased it as much on Monday night. And I could even see it happening tonight. Ambrose wins MitB earlier in the night and watches the main event at ringside with his briefcase, teasing a cash in and getting all 3 Shield members around the ring at the same time. Things break down late in the match, Ambrose gets invovled, and inadvertently costs Reigns the match and Rollins is your new champ. Ambrose then gets pissed, cashes in his contract, and beats Rollins and Ambrose is your new champ. Reigns is pissed at Ambrose for costing him his title and attacks Ambrose to end the night. Now you have all three Sheild members legitimately pissed at each other and your main event for SummerSlam is set. A Triple Threat match at SummerSlam for the title and you promote it's a one time event since they would have already been separated through the draft to different rosters. So there has to be a winner and it feels like a huge main event.
I like having a solid tag team division where the Tag Team Title match is a main drawing point to the PPV and not just another match on the card to fill some time. I hope that trend can continue after the brand split. It's a Fatal Four Way match but I think this comes down to two teams, The New Day or The Club.
The Vaudevillains are there to take the pin. I like their act but it will need some room to build and grow and breathe and then evolve. They aren't winning here. And as over and as great as Enzo and Cass are, I can't see them winning this match this soon in a Fatal Four-way. Similar to the Sami Zayn section, I think their eventual first title win should be built to be a big deal in a traditional tag-team match after a good feud. I think them winning a somewhat thrown together match in a fatal four way would cheapen their moment a little. So I think they are out.
That leaves us with either The New Day or The Club, and I'm torn with where to go. I want to go with The New Day finally dropping the titles but I just read an article where they are really close to becoming the longest reigning WWE Tag Team champions of all time. It's one of those things that really shouldn't be a big deal but I think WWE thinks it is. I think if they get to the next PPV they will get the record. So why not just wait one more PPV? But I also think this is a good time to get the straps off of them. I may get blasted for this but UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: The New Day is becoming a liiiitttttllle stale.
They are still entertaining more often than not but it does feel like they need a spark, or a reason to do stuff. It seems like they've gotten into a routine where they come out, cut a funny promo, then have a random match. When was the last time they had a real meaningful program or people to go after? They had a lackluster feud with the League of Nations at WrestleMania which seemed like a step down for them at the biggest event of the year and ultimately was there just to bring back Austin, HBK, and Foley. Then they sponsored the tag team tournament that basically kept them idle and out of action for a month. Then that ended abruptly win Enzo's injury and they were forced into a weak feud with the Vaudevillains, which you never had any indication they were losing or in danger. I'm just not sure how much longer they can come out with no real purpose or real direction. And shouldn't the ultimate goal for the WWE be to elevate them as high as they can? Why couldn't The New Day be a dominant stable in the WWE? Why couldn't Big E be a contender for major singles title with Kofi and Xavier there to support him. Right now they just seem to be in a holding pattern. Them losing the belts to The Club here gives them a real feud and a real purpose. And it also gives The Club some momentum. If they win and AJ wins, they are in a power position heading into RAW on Monday. So I'll pick The Club here.
If you recall, we made just over $229 the first time we tried betting on these WWE PPVs but then didn't get bets in in time for the next PPV. By the time I started looking at the lines they had already moved so much by Sunday afternoon that it telegraphed the probably winners too much so we didn't get any bets in. So I checked for the betting lines on Saturday morning and are going to use the lines that were current as of Saturday morning. Not all the lines are out yet so we're just betting on the lines that are posted, which is fine because I'm not sure I would bet on any of the pre-show matches or Corbin/Ziggler anyways.
Full disclosure if you are actually making these bets in real life: I'm going underdog heavy this month. I'm going with my heart and putting a lot of money on AJ Styles over Cena first. He is favored so hopefully that gives us a little extra cash to work with and then going underdogs the rest of the way and hoping to hit on a couple. Do with that information/strategy as you will.
Current Total for the year: $1229.84 (+$229.84)
$600 on AJ (-200)
$200 on Rollins (+240)
$100 on Ambrose (+250)
$60 on Jericho (+600)
$60 on Cesaro (+900)
$100 on The Club (+200)
$100 on Titus (+375)
- Man there are a lot of matches on this card. Eight matches on the main card and two on the preshow. We've talked about the top four matches on the card already but I hope the other six can hold their own and find some parts that are entertaining. If not, the first part of the PPV could really drag which could be trouble for WWE since it's going against a Game 7 of the NBA Finals and apparently a big Game of Thrones episode.
- In the kickoff matches give me the Lucha Dragons and the Golden Truth. Not sure why we are even trying to get in a Dudley Boyz vs. Lucha Dragon match in on the preshow. I didn't realize they were in the midst of an intense feud that required a match here. And it feels like the time that the Golden Truth pick up their first win. Could be interesting where they go from there.
- In the women's tag match I'll go with Natalya and Becky. I'd imagine some more dissension between Charlotte and Dana leads to their victory.
- I put $100 fake dollars on Titus winning in the betting section. I don't think he wins the US Championship but I think he wins by DQ or some type of chicanery. The whole feud has a weird flow to it so I don't think they are ready for a straight Rusev victory to end it already. Titus didn't really do anything or win any matches to get the championship opportunity, he just ran in and saved Kalisto during a Rusev beatdown. And then he hasn't really wrestled or won many matches in the build up to Money in the Bank. He just keeps running in and saving people from Rusev or getting beaten down himself by Rusev. I like Titus and think the fans are starting to get behind him a little bit more so I don't think he loses here but I also don't see him winning the title. So maybe he wins by DQ or countout and pushes the feud along to the next PPV. Then in between now and then he can get some matches in, pick up some wins, and build momentum going into Battleground and make the US Championship match a little more meaningful than this one is.
- I'm not sure anyone on the roster needs a fresh start after the brand split worse than Dolph Ziggler does. Now I'm not saying that's going to drastically change anything for him but it can't hurt. But I'm not really sure what you would do with him after the brand split anyways that could elevate him too much. I think the WWE sees him as their guy to put on great matches and put guys over to push them up the card and make them look good. Eventually though, those losses and lack of credibility can catch up to Ziggler and we may be getting to that point soon, if we aren't there already. And that hurts me being a big Dolph Ziggler guy. I'm not sure you can turn him heel at this point but I'm not sure you can really move him up the card as a good guy. Will be interesting to see where they go with him after this Corbin feud ends, especially since I think Baron Corbin wins tonight.
- A big match for Apollo Crews here against Sheamus. His first real big time PPV match for him while he's in an actual feud. It's been good to see the WWE try to do something with Crews and give his character a little personality. I'd like to see a little bit more of that in the upcoming months, not only from Crews but from the entire roster. Doesn't feel like to me wrestlers get enough opportunities to express their character or personalities in backstage skits or out of ring situations anymore. The only time they really go backstage is when Steph, or Shane, or HHH, or some Authority figure is talking with someone to set up a match. I enjoyed the backstage stuff with Sheamus and Crews even if it wasn't that great or didn't accomplish a whole lot. But it was an opportunity for Crews/Sheamus to get some interaction outside of the ring. Think of Golden Truth. They have done next to nothing in the ring but have gotten over just because of their chance to perform outside of the ring in their goofy backstage stuff. I'd like to see more wrestlers get that opportunity to give us more of a reason to care about these guys. But for the match, I'll take Crews. Not confident about it but I'll guess that they give him a win to build upon his new momentum.
PS- Lucha Dragons
PS - Golden Truth
8 - AJ Styles
7 - Natalya and Becky Lynch
6 - Dean Ambrose
5 - Seth Rollins
4 - The Club
3 - Barron Corbin
2 - Titus O'Neil
1 - Apollo Crews