Much like the Irish weather, a lot can change in just a month in WWE. While last month I lamented the annual lull the company went through, programming-wise, a spectacular WWE Payback pay-per view followed by a similarly scintillating broadcast of Raw the next night (that featured Mark Henry’s non-retirement speech and Brock Lesnar’s non-“I soooo won’t give you an F5 right now” moment) and WWE’s programming is about as exciting right now as it’s been all year.
This leads us right into this Sunday’s ‘Money In The Bank’ pay-per view, headlined by Mark Henry challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio trying to somehow outdo their phenomenal first two World Heavyweight Championship matches and, of course, the now-traditional dual ladder matches that decide which superstars will win contracts for respective WWE/World Championship matches within the next year.
Given the ‘Money In The Bank’ theme, I felt it apt – given that I’m an oft-heartbroken sports gambler – in helping you decide where your money would be safest in both ladder matches by looking at the participants of both matches and offering my odds for the night.
But where’s your money?
World Heavyweight Championship Money In The Bank Ladder Match
JACK SWAGGER: The case for Swagger is that he’s already won a Money In The Bank Ladder Match and, earlier this year, also won an Elimination Chamber match to earn a WrestleMania World Heavyweight Championship shot, so WWE aren’t afraid to give him big wins. The case against him is for the exact same reasons… because neither of the above wins have exactly been successful enterprises for WWE given that Swagger’s sole World Heavyweight Championship reign to-date has been one of the most forgettable in memory, and his push earlier in the year nearly fell apart after he was arrested for driving under the influence, marijuana possession and speeding (still serving probation for that one). Swagger seems like a money guy, until you try and actually invest in him, so for that reason I think the memory of being burnt will still linger in WWE’s mind…ODDS: 90/1.
FANDANGO: It was all supposed to be so different for Fandango. Having made a surprisingly competent debut under the spotlight at WrestleMania 29 – in a win over Chris Jericho – the very next night he went viral and became a worldwide sensation. Fans in New Jersey reacted to a rather dull Raw match between Randy Orton and Sheamus by singing Fandango’s ridiculously catchy theme song, leading to it charting on iTunes and Everton football club even being pressured into playing it before one Premier League game. But, like most memes, Fandango soon got old and an injury-enforced absence led to him being out of fans’ sight and mind. It speaks volumes for how far he’s fallen that his only real build-up to this match was a skit with the other match participants telling him to shut up as he tried to say his catchphrase, art imitating life if ever I’ve seen it. Fandango’s best hope is how far off beat WWE can be with pop culture references: if they’re the last to realize that he’s already played out, he might just have a shot. Probably not though…ODDS: 85/1.
DAMIEN SANDOW: Sandow’s 21st century reimagining of Lanny Poffo’s old genius gimmick is a sight to behold at times and makes him a very useful midcard talent for WWE, always capable of holding his own on either end of the card and making even the most fluff of segments bearable. That said, as good of an antagonist as he can be, he’ll need to dial down the comedy elements of his character over time to transform into a main event star, and it doesn’t seem as if WWE are gearing towards that anytime soon. Had that been the case, he might have won his Payback pre-show clash with Sheamus. As it stands, though, while it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Sandow will make a giant leap up the card this Sunday, it would be a bit random if he did so…ODDS: 15/1.
WADE BARRETT: I briefly worked with Wade under a previous moniker, Stu Sanders, while he wrestled on the Irish scene in 2006. His look is obviously in the WWE mould, but he never struck anyone as a standout talent in the ring or on the mic (despite being a terribly nice guy). You can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was, then, when he emerged as one of WWE’s most skilled villains upon his debut in the big leagues in 2010, winning the infamous first season of their NXT show. The 3-time Intercontinental Champion is somewhat lost in midcard obscurity at the moment, but is also primed for the elevation that a win like this would give him. My worry for him is that, like Sheamus, the added spotlight may unwittingly expose some of his flaws that time could gloss over and that perhaps a Dolph Ziggler-like slow burn to the top may be more beneficial in the long run. It would be a shame if his first major singles push went the way of Jack Swagger’s many attempts at being a top dog. But in WWE you have to take any chances you can get and sink or swim, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the PPV opens on Sunday with Barrett holding the briefcase…ODDS: 8/1.
ANTONIO CESARO: When discussing Cesaro, I almost have to separate his birth name and independent wrestling persona, Claudio Castagnoli, from how WWE have adapted that in Cesaro. Castagnoli is a highly-skilled wrestler, proficient in multiple styles and capable of stealing the show in either the midcard or main event. The Cesaro character has been a bit lazy and unimaginative since his WWE debut last year. From being built as a Swiss sensation (seriously? What does anyone know about Swiss people other than they have cool knives but don’t like to fight? And I’ve yet to see Cesaro in a backstage segment showing off how his knife can also double up as a nail clippers) to having a lengthy reign as US Champion that consisted of matches that either weren’t competitive, or were on the pre-show for bigger PPVs so didn’t really count. Castagnoli is talented, Cesaro is boring; and WWE are risking wasting that talent if they don’t do something serious soon. Fortunately, they seem to have noticed this and paired Cesaro with one of wrestling’s best ever heel mouthpieces, Zeb Coulter (played by the legendary Dutch Mantell). Despite the obvious flaw that Zeb Coulter’s character is that of a xenophobe and Cesaro is a foreigner on US soil, this could somehow be a match-made in heaven. If WWE are to pull the trigger on Cesaro, now is definitely the time. My only hesitancy is on whether or not they’re remaining neutral on him (see what I did there? Because he’s Swiss? Eh??). All will be revealed Sunday, I guess…ODDS: 4/1.
DEAN AMBROSE: And finally we have the obvious choice. Ambrose has been the singles star of WWE’s best new imports, The Shield, and currently holds the US Championship. The Shield have run rampant on WWE since their debut last autumn and a future showdown with The Undertaker looks on the cards after recently disposing of him, an ultimate indication that WWE has faith in you given that Taker wrestles an average of one match a year at this stage of his career. Following that, more gold was thrust upon them than Baby Jesus in a crib, as Ambrose’s teammates, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, were made Tag-Team Champions on the same night that he won his own belt. The fact that Rollins and Reigns have now been ‘relegated’ to a pre-show title defence against The Usos suggests that, perhaps, WWE have had the finish for this match in mind for several weeks. And the safe bet would be that The Shield run roughshod on a ring full of glorified jobbers, destroying them as Ambrose climbs to victory. Bank on it…ODDS: 2/1 (FAVOURITE).
Money In The Bank All-Stars Match
CHRISTIAN: Having just returned from a shoulder injury, Christian is undoubtedly the hipster’s choice for the win here. But that’s where his chances, realistically, end. Christian had his day in the sun with his 2011 World Heavyweight Championship run and now his return in the autumn of his career most likely heralds a continued gatekeeper place in the midcard of the WWE. Expect backstage comedy skits galore, consistent losses to newer talent that WWE see a future with and occasional spots in ladder matches given his glittering history of high quality performances in the genre. To quote his theme song, you can see Christian winning if you just close your eyes. But that’s about the only way you’ll see him winning this match…ODDS: 100/1.
KANE: Not dissimilar to Christian, Kane is another WWE mainstay savouring the remaining days of his tenure (a completely random career in politics appears to await him when he calls time, oddly) in midcard obscurity. His tag-team stint with Daniel Bryan helped him grasp onto relevance on WWE television. However with that now seemingly being put to bed, one would expect him to return to bouncing back-and-forth between the two roles he’s switched between his entire career: an angry monster or a comedy monster. Currently, he seems primed to be used in elevating the recently debuted Wyatt Family. Either way, there’s very little value left in having Kane competing for the WWE Championship, so his presence here will likely lead to him being disposed off by the Wyatts…ODDS: 90/1.
RANDY ORTON: Several suspensions due to WWE Wellness Policy violations have damaged the career trajectory of Orton, a man who once stood side-by-side with John Cena as the figurehead of the company. His career appears to be now permanently in limbo as one more suspension necessitates a mandatory release from the company, so WWE appear unwilling to take that risk by investing him in any major programmes. Instead, he’s seen himself drop to a mid-card utility talent – using his past accomplishments to punctuate the importance of feuds and storylines that would’ve been otherwise forgettable. Given that he’s a proven top draw talent, you can never rule out that WWE will give him one more shot at the top. However recent losses to both Daniel Bryan and Kane suggest that they’re still not completely sold on that idea yet. Orton as a Money in the Bank winner is something we’ve yet to see, though, and wouldn’t it be fun? ... ODDS: 10/1.
SHEAMUS: Ireland’s only interest in the PPV arrives into Money in the Bank with his WWE career at somewhat of a crossroads. Last year, Sheamus was thriving as World Heavyweight Champion and seemingly the successor to John Cena as the company’s top vanilla, do-gooder babyface. When his time as champion came to an end, he found himself, again, like John Cena – this time being the good guy who gets booed regularly. Sheamus is a prime example of a great wrestler who should never be asked to participate in cheesy comedy sketches, a role that he’s been thrust into as of late, as it simply plays to his weaknesses. His efforts feel forced and fans feel as if he’s being pushed down their throats. If WWE don’t consider pushing the reset button on Sheamus soon then they could undo a lot of the good work achieved in pushing him as a top guy last year. Perhaps a heel turn is on the horizon? While winning the Money in the Bank match has traditionally proved a great way of refocusing a star’s career path, Sheamus is at best an outside pick for the win here as there are simply more pressing issues. However, with World/WWE Championship runs, a Royal Rumble and King of the Ring win to his name, a MITB win remains to be the one major honour that he has yet to accrue, so don’t completely rule out his chances either…ODDS: 10/1.
CM PUNK: Punk made his much-anticipated return at WWE Payback to kickstart Stage 3.0 of his mega-push as a top-level talent (following Stage 1: Voice to the Voiceless and Stage 2: Longest WWE Championship reign in a decade). The comeback, thus far, has him returning as a fan favourite as he slowly burns ties with former manager, Paul Heyman (who is now officially 2013’s Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, building a ‘family’ of sorts with ‘Paul Heyman Guys’). Punk seems destined to meet another Heyman ‘guy’, Brock Lesnar, at WWE SummerSlam following the former UFC Heavyweight Champion’s F5 on Raw several weeks ago, so you would assume that his spot here will be used to forward that storyline more than anything else. However the case for Punk is that it’s difficult to keep wrestlers as popular as he away from the belt, and with his old arch-nemesis John Cena currently holding it, a Money in the Bank contract would be an easy way to get him back in the mix down the line without compromising either man’s babyface tags. That’s been done already, though. Twice. So, while I wouldn’t completely rule the possibility out, I feel WWE are looking at this from a fresher angle…ODDS: 9/2.
ROB VAN DAM: ‘The Whole F’N Show’s return to WWE, after a stint that included two years in rival company TNA, was announced to massive fanfare at WWE Payback. RVD hasn’t wrestled for WWE, though, since 2007 (aside from a cameo in the 2009 Royal Rumble match) and an infamous reign as WWE Champion that ended unceremoniously when he was suspended for drug possession. That reign was supposed to signify Van Dam’s arrival at the top of the pro-wrestling world after being a cult favourite in both the original ECW and WWE for a decade prior. And he blew it almost instantly. So that’s worth bearing in mind when weighing up his chances in Sunday’s Money in the Bank match. The reality is that we have no idea what WWE have in mind for Van Dam this time around. On talent alone, he’s capable of being a main event guy and a title match with John Cena at SummerSlam looks an attractive prospect. But a more pragmatic assessment of the situation suggests that he’ll find his spot firmly in the upper-midcard, alongside the likes of Chris Jericho in that he’ll be used to pad out a PPV and give the card some depth, while not being the show’s main selling point. Having said that, that’s just my opinion. And in the world of WWE, where your stock can rise and fall as quickly as in Wall Street, maybe the positive reaction to his return would’ve struck a chord with top brass…ODDS: 4/1.
DANIEL BRYAN: It’s fitting that Daniel Bryan now finds himself playing a guy who feels constantly under-estimated, because that’s exactly what he’s been his entire WWE career.
As a part of the NXT invasion of 2010, it took Bryan being released from his contract to placate sponsors (after they expressed concern when he was seen strangling ring announcer Justin Roberts during a major angle) for him to get noticed. His previous Money in the Bank win was shocking to many, yet almost immediately people predicted that front office’s apparent contempt for him would mean he was the first man to lose the resulting championship.
That wasn’t to be the case, and even as Daniel Bryan moulded into one of the most charismatic guys on the roster (in a World Heavyweight Championship reign that involved him screaming the words “YES!” and “NO!” a lot, to the fans delight), fans’ skepticism remained.
When he lost the belt in a matter of seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania 29, it seemed to confirm a lot of fans’ fears. We closed our eyes and braced ourselves for everything we’d come to love about Daniel Bryan’s new persona being phased out of existence, as WWE would surely reduce him to positions on the card so lowly that only the Brooklyn Brawler and the Mean Street Posse could relate.
Again, not to be. This new-look, charismatic Daniel Bryan refused to be reduced to obscurity in the mid-card and, either by fluke or sheer determination, found himself and Kane becoming one of the most popular and entertaining Tag-Team Champions in recent memory. Team Hell No almost single-handedly kept the tag-team division relevant and the WWE mid-card an enjoyable watch.
Now, with the tag-team seemingly on the way out, Daniel Bryan plays a character who feels that nobody values or respects his talents. The ironic thing is that he plays this character at the one time in his WWE tenure where fans aren’t worried for his future. His recent performances have been in a different league to most of the roster and he’s proven himself as perhaps the company’s MVP in the ring. Even Vince McMahon’s on-screen attempts to disparage Bryan’s talent serves as a knowing wink to smart fans to suggest he’s finally in on the joke. And, on Sunday, if Bryan is to win the All-Star Money in the Bank Ladder Match, the twist will be that not one person will see it as a shock or undeserved win. As a character who feels inadequate, finally the world recognizes him as one of the best…ODDS: 3/2 (FAVOURITE).
WWE Money In The Bank – Rick’s Quick Picks
WWE Championship Match: Mark Henry over John Cena
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler over Alberto Del Rio
Money In The Bank All Stars Match: Daniel Bryan.
World Heavyweight Championship Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Dean Ambrose.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Curtis Axel over The Miz
Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee over Kaitlyn
Ryback over Chris Jericho
(Pre-Show) WWE Tag-Team Championship Match: The Shield over The Usos
Rick Nash is a former professional wrestler and the founder of WWE Parties Ireland, who have just announced details of their WWE SUMMERSLAM BEACH PARTY in Woolshed Baa & Grill, Dublin. For your opportunity to win 2x tickets to this event, be sure to log onto the WWE Parties Ireland Facebook page and take part in the Money in the Bank prediction contest this weekend. He is also a DJ and terrible sports gambler, so feel free to share some tips with him on Twitter.