SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Fans are back. There is a lot at play during WWE’s annual Money in the Bank PPV event, but topic 1A? Hello audiences. Yep, Vince McMahon, its back from the ThunderDome paradise of controllable wonder and into the wild you go.
It’s not the time to take the Universal Championship off of Roman Reigns, but how do they protect Edge and keep him hot for a Summerslam match coming off a significant loss? Bobby Lashley likely isn’t losing to Kofi Kingston, but what road is travelled down to protect Kingston? Is he protected at all? Drew McIntyre faces his audience as a seemingly cold act. How does WWE address that fact in the Money in the Bank ladder match? Hell, maybe he isn’t cold at all and a Stone Cold pop is waiting for him. Nobody knows, but with fans back in the building, everyone will get a good sense soon enough.
Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?
Bobby Lashley vs. Kofi Kingston – WWE Championship
This was the best built match from Monday Night Raw and it fell on the shoulders of Bobby Lashley. His performance on the show closing angle of the go-home Raw solidified him as a top player. Lashley showed range and a depth to his personality that was unseen to that point. He brought authenticity to the table and drove interest in him as a character, but in his match as well. Check, and check. Kingston hasn’t found the same KofiMania magic from a few years ago and while it’s fun to try and relive old times, Lashley is the now and will win in convincing fashion with a major match at Summerslam on the horizon.
Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair – WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Dear god, this is still going on. We’ll see who or if the live audience sides with anyone here, but neither are likable and never have been. The feud stalls out with that prominent fact on display each and every week. Charlotte no-sells Ripley’s every attempt at credibility, leaving her flailing to find her footing. Ripley doubles down on that misstep and showcases an attitude that she thinks is “bad ass,” but that really is overcompensation for a lack of comfortability in her role. These two need to get far away from each other at this point. Charlotte is the made star and will take the belt with her and hey, maybe a returning Becky Lynch looms.
Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Natalya vs. Liv Morgan vs. Zelina Vega vs. Asuka vs. Tamina vs. Nikki ASH vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi
All of these women have something happening in their WWE lives that makes their appearance in this match explainable. It may not be deep or intricate material, but it’s there. The build to this has missed on providing all of the participants an avenue to convey the stakes of the match and what a win would mean to them. Liv Morgan has gotten it and to an extent Alexa Bliss and Nikki ASH have too, but not in a way that has fans salivating at the notion that either may win the match. Given the time they received; they are the potential winners. Morgan for the underdog story, Bliss because well, she has super powers, and ASH because it’s a new gimmick rooted in positive thinking. If you’re betting with your friend at a bar, take Morgan. WWE loves a good underdog story and the reaction to her on Smackdown Friday night was noticeable. This is a good tool to catapult her to the next level without having to lean on performances from Morgan herself.
A.J. Styles & Omos vs. The Viking Raiders – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Well, what do you say? A tag team championship match in Vince McMahon’s WWE. It’s an afterthought and has been treated as such. Have the championships even been mentioned? Omos and Styles are the key here. As the champions, they’ll need time to shine ahead of a predicted showdown with RK-Bro at Summerslam. Styles is the glue that makes everything stick, but look for Omos to lay his spots in to stay strong. The Viking Raiders are one note nonsense at this point. Fine filler opponents for a show like this one, but not serious threats – even in a depleted picture on Monday Night Raw.
Roman Reigns vs. Edge – WWE Universal Championship
This feud has clicked nicely and the proof was in the pudding Friday night. Roman Reigns booed. Edge strongly cheered. A title match on the horizon between both stars. McMahon is proud of this one, folks and why shouldn’t he be? Reigns continues to be a dominant and effective character that injects life into the Smackdown product. Edge has found an aggressive demeanor again, but is able to channel it at the strongest heel to help cultivate his big reaction. Weaving Reigns fearing Edge’s crossface submission hold and Reigns tapping to said hold gives the match a narrative to follow and presents Edge as a viable potential winner. We know he isn’t one, though. We know Roman Reigns wins here and that’s why we know this has worked so well. Reigns is retaining the title, but maybe not because of this, this, this, and this. That’s the kind of debate WWE wants its fans to have.
Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Riddle vs. John Morrison vs. Ricochet vs. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Big E
Like the women’s match, this is a three-act race, but a less defined one. Drew McIntyre, Big E, and Riddle are the only viable victors and the rest don’t have much to lean on like the women do to prop up their best case for leaving with the briefcase. McIntyre’s character needs the win to get back on track toward the championship, but McIntyre the performer, doesn’t given the cold reaction to his story time filled gimmick at the moment. That’s an issue. Riddle is Riddle and will be primed for a big reaction, but doesn’t have a consistent credibility for a major win like this. Big E. He’s the one. On an upward trajectory, in need of a defining next step in his career, with the strong heel in Roman Reigns in need of a babyface opponent to help elevate down the road. The stars are aligned there and that doesn’t happen always. Run with it, WWE. Run.