Fantasy Booking Series: The early build to Money In The Bank

It’s been about a month since I updated for my fantasy booking series, and while it’s coming along I thought I should post a couple of week’s worth of shows to keep it ticking over. Last time round we covered the entire nine days between Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash, so next on the calendar is Money In The Bank. Who’s going to qualify for the ladder matches? The first competitors are revealed here!

Monday Night Raw, 7th May

Balor v Zayn.jpg

Results: Bobby Lashley defeats Elias by pinfall, Ember Moon defeats Mandy Rose by pinfall, Alexa Bliss defeats Natalya by disqualification, Jimmy Uso defeats Shelton Benjamin by pinfall, Finn Balor defeats Sami Zayn

Promos: – Sasha Banks comes down to the ring to open the show. She says that for a week, WWE have been promoting a tell all speech from her. Banks says that ever since she attacked Bayley, people on Twitter have been asking her why. Banks plays the clip of her attacking Bayley after their match three weeks ago. People have told her that Bayley didn’t deserve that. Banks says it wasn’t about Bayley. Banks plays the clip of her attacking Naomi two weeks ago. Banks says that people told her Naomi didn’t deserve the beating Banks gave her, but it wasn’t about Naomi either. Banks says that people have been demanding that she explains her actions, she says that Kurt Angle didn’t ask her to explain her actions, he told her she would. Banks says she doesn’t have to explain herself to anybody. She pretends to leave, but then goes back to the centre of the ring and says she’s in a good mood, so she’ll throw the WWE Universe a bone. Banks says she’s in a good mood because she reclaimed her own fate. She says that for too long she pandered to the fans and the corporate sponsors and did whatever people wanted her to do, and whatever they asked her to do. Banks says people say she snapped, but she just got real. She says she attacked Bayley because she wanted to. Nothing more, nothing less. Banks says that she is writing her own story again, and now The Boss is back.

– Ronda Rousey and Natalya are backstage in Kurt Angle’s office, with Rousey asking for a title match against Nia Jax. Alexa Bliss walks in with Mickie James asking who Rousey thinks she is – she has only had one match and she is asking for a title shot? Bliss says she is a four-time Women’s Champion, and that means she’s ahead of Rousey in the queue. Rousey responds saying she’s been a champion before herself, and if Bliss doesn’t think she can win she should get in the ring with her. Things threaten to get physical, so Angle interjects saying that tonight there will be a number one contender’s match between Alexa Bliss and… Natalya. Bliss and James leave, and Angle turns to Rousey apologetically, saying that Bliss was right, Rousey has only had one match and he can’t go giving her title shots just like that, even if she was ready.

Angle Rousey Natalya.jpg

– Nia Jax is asked by Renee Young about the number one contender match Kurt Angle set up for later tonight. Jax says that she doesn’t know why Bliss is getting another opportunity after Nia beat her twice, but if Nia has to beat her again she will, with pleasure. Nia puts over Natalya’s experience and ability, saying that being in the ring with someone will make Nia a better performer, but that being in the ring with Nia will make Natalya hurt. Young asks Nia about whether she thinks Rousey should have gotten the opportunity, and Nia looks at her and leaves.

– Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt are backstage in their lair. Hardy says that they have now seen off the man with red hair and his partner, because their mortal vessels lost control after the red mist descended upon them. Wyatt says that it doesn’t matter who is next to challenge them, because the expedition of gold will live on. Wyatt says that they will turn any thoughts of taking the red straps from them sour, and teams would be better served by doing one thing… run.

– Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman come down to the ring, with Heyman carrying the Universal Championship. Reigns gets on the mic and laughs at the fans for booing, says that it’s getting old and they should really be more original. He gives the mic to Heyman, who says that in nine days, Roman Reigns beat two of the toughest guys to ever have stepped foot inside the squared circle. Heyman says that last night’s match didn’t have to be for the title, but after a year of the former champion running from challengers at all costs, Roman Reigns stepped up like the big dog he is and put his money where his mouth is. Paul Heyman says his client took an unnecessary risk, and that usually he would advise someone not to do it, but he doesn’t have to worry about Roman Reigns losing the title, because there is nobody who can wrestle the belt from Reigns’ vice-like grip.

Samoa Joe Raw mic

That brings out Samoe Joe. Joe says that he wants another shot at Reigns. Reigns grabs the mic from Heyman to ask if he wanted another match just so that he could say he lost to Roman twice? Joe says he doesn’t even care about winning or losing anymore. Joe says that last week, Reigns and Heyman treated Joe like he was nothing. Joe says that nearly 20 years of wrestling all around the world is not nothing. Joe says that he’s accomplished more than most of the chumps in the back can ever dream of. Reigns says that Joe can only dream of getting a win over him, and that last night all of Joe’s years of experience counted for nothing.

Bobby Lashley then comes out. Lashley says that he thinks the Universal Championship picture needs some fresh blood. If only there was someone who has been on such a roll that they haven’t lost since coming back to WWE. Oh wait, there is, and he’s standing right here on stage. Reigns says that Lashley has been beating nobodies since he came back because he’s been scared of getting too close to Reigns. Reigns says that he’ll gladly put that first loss on Lashley’s record, but he needs to beat somebody that has a reputation first. Kurt Angle comes out, and says that Reigns can disrespect everyone around him, but they need to find the next challenger for the Universal Championship. So next week, Bobby Lashley will face Samoa Joe, with the winner facing Roman Reigns at Money In The Bank.

Storyline: – It is announced that there will be qualifiers for both the men’s and women’s money in the bank ladder matches over the next few weeks on Raw and SmackDown, starting tonight with Finn Balor vs Sami Zayn and Ember Moon vs Mandy Rose.

– Mickie James and Ronda Rousey each interfere in the Bliss vs Natalya match, but the referee only catches Rousey and so disqualifies Natalya.

– Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks vs Sonya Deville are announced as next week’s Money In The Bank qualifying matches, as is AJ Styles’ return to Raw.

SmackDown Live, 8th May

Jeff Hardy

Results: Bayley defeats Sarah Logan by pinfall, Sanity squash local talent, Seth Rollins defeats Mike Kanellis to retain the Intercontinental Championship, Jeff Hardy wins a battle royal

Promos: – Shinsuke Nakamura saunters down to the ring to open the show. He makes a point of standing at every corner holding up the WWE Championship. Nakamura says that AJ Styles got a knee to the face. Daniel Bryan got a knee to the face. And now Nakamura is the WWE Champion. Nakamura says AJ Styles doesn’t matter, Daniel Bryan doesn’t matter, he is the best. Daniel Bryan then comes out to the stage with a mic of his own. Bryan says that Nakamura didn’t pin him two nights ago at Backlash. Bryan says that people told him he was making a mistake by using his title shot from the Greatest Royal Rumble in a triple threat match, but he felt it was a risk worth taking. Bryan says things didn’t go his way, but he was never pinned. Bryan says he thinks that entitles him to another shot at the WWE Championship, and asks if the fans would like to see Daniel Bryan vs Shinsuke Nakamura to get them chanting yes. When the crowd dies down Nakamura tells Bryan that he doesn’t deserve it. Bryan says that he and Nakamura go way back, but he didn’t fight to be able to resume his in-ring career for two years to sit back and wait for chances to come to him, and he wants to be WWE Champion. Paige comes out and joins Bryan on the stage, and tells him that she understands where he’s coming from. But she reminds him that while he was battling to get medically cleared for two years, he was GM of SmackDown, and he always used to tell people that they had to earn their opportunities in the ring. Paige said that with AJ Styles permanently on Raw, there is no obvious candidate to be Nakamura’s next challenger. So in tonight’s main event, there will be a battle royal, and the winner will face Nakamura at Money In The Bank.

Charlotte Renee Young

– Charlotte is with Renee Young backstage. Renee asks her how it feels to be SmackDown Women’s Champion again, and Charlotte says it feels right, because she belongs at the top of the mountain. Renee asks about the prospect of another Money In The Bank contract holder coming after her saying potentially it could be Charlotte’s friend Bayley. Charlotte says that when there’s a contract holder around, you always have to have eyes in the back of your head. She notes that Bayley just qualified for the match, and she has faith that Becky Lynch will join her next week. Charlotte says that she knows first hand how MITB works, but that knowing Becky and Bayley they would want her at her best. Carmella interrupts them to ask if Charlotte is already looking past her, because she still has a title rematch, and she’s going to take it at Money In The Bank. Charlotte responds by saying she’s surprised Carmella would want another shot, knowing that she’s not in Charlotte’s league. Charlotte says she assumed Carmella would try to worm her way into the MITB ladder match so that she could carry a contract around for another 300 days. Carmella says that she always has a trick up her sleeve, and leaves.

– Eric Young gets on the mic after Sanity’s win. He introduces the rest of the group – Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross. He says that they are a force like no other in WWE. He says that most people try to stay away from destruction, but they embrace it. He says that the Bludgeon Brothers walk around with their hammers trying to strike fear into everybody, but they are the true creators of chaos.

Sanity

Storyline: – Becky Lynch is in Bayley’s corner, and the Riott Squad are in Logan’s corner for their Money In The Bank qualifying match

– Before the battle royal, Baron Corbin attacks Daniel Bryan on Bryan’s way to the ring. He throws Bryan into the barricade and steel steps, and then dumps him over the top rope first when the bell rings. Jinder Mahal eliminates Seth Rollins, but the final two are Bobby Roode and Jeff Hardy.

– Becky Lynch vs Billie Kay and Daniel Bryan vs Andrade “Cien” Almas are announced as the Money In The Bank qualifying matches for next week.

Monday Night Raw, 14th May

Braun Strowman Kevin Owens.jpg

Results: Braun Strowman defeats Kevin Owens by pinfall, Jey Uso defeats Chad Gable by pinfall, Sasha Banks defeats Sonya Deville by submission, Tye Dillinger defeats Goldust by pinfall, Nia Jax squashes a local talent, Bobby Lashley defeats Samoa Joe

Promos: – The Deleters of Worlds are in their supernatural room looking up at a light. They talk about the duality of white light. They said it can mean a genesis or a finality. It can mean clarity, or a clouded fog of mystery. They say that in the present, the next challengers for their championships are unclear. But mysteries always have a way of finding a resolution, and whoever attempt to wrestle the titles away from then will be facing an obsolete task.

– Alexa Bliss and Mickie James come down to the ring. James conducts a mock interview with the number one contender. James asks Bliss how she feels about her win last week – Bliss answers by saying that she doesn’t know why anybody would have doubted her. She says that she calls herself a goddess for a reason, she’s just that much better than anyone else on the roster. Bliss says that Nia Jax has clearly gotten lucky against her twice, and that at Money In The Bank she will finally regain her title. James asks Bliss about Ronda Rousey wanting to be in the match last week, and Bliss laughs. Bliss says that Rousey must have been dreaming if she thought she could jump ahead of Bliss in the line. Bliss says that she may have gotten fights based on her reputation in UFC, but that’s not going to cut it in WWE. Bliss says she worked for years through NXT, SmackDown and Raw to get to where she is, and Rousey is not about to get the same opportunities without putting in the same amount of work. Bliss calls her a rookie, and says that even Rousey was in the match last week, it would still have been Alexa Bliss standing here as your number one contender. That brings Ronda out, and she storms down to the ring. Bliss throws James in front of her, and Rousey takes her out. Rousey then chases down Bliss who tries to run away, and lays her out too.

Alexa Bliss Ronda Rousey

– AJ Styles comes down to the ring to discuss losing the WWE Championship at Backlash. He says that he’s pissed off. Styles says that Kurt Angle gave him last week off because he was scared of how Styles would react, but he’s still not happy about how things went down at Backlash. Styles said he knew he could beat Shinsuke Nakamura. All he wanted was one last opportunity to prove it fair and square. But Daniel Bryan changed the game. Styles says he respects Daniel Bryan, and he doesn’t blame him for taking the opportunity to try and win the WWE Championship, but if it weren’t for his presence Styles would still be standing here as your WWE Champion. Styles says that the match was made with the promise that it would be the last time AJ Styles would face Shinsuke Nakamura with the WWE Championship on the line, and he’s going to honour that. He still wants to be able to call himself a champion, so now that he won’t get a rematch for the WWE Championship, he’s coming for the Universal Title. Styles says he’s not expecting to walk straight into a championship match, but there is a PPV called Money In The Bank coming up. Styles says he has a qualifier next week, and he is going to win that, cash in and become your next Universal Champion.

– Nia Jax is stopped by Renee Young just behind the curtain as she heads to the ring for her match. Renee asks her about Bliss’ comments earlier. Jax says she said it last week and she’ll say it again, it didn’t matter who won last week because Jax isn’t giving the title up anytime soon. Young asks about what Rousey did, but Jax’s music plays and she excuses herself for the match.

Miztourage backstage

– The Miz is in his dressing room with The Miztourage. He tells them that it was a disgrace that Kurt Angle couldn’t find a place for him on the show last week. Miz says he may not have regained the Intercontinental Championship that is rightfully his, but he is still the biggest star on Raw. Miz then turns his attention to AJ Styles, saying you wouldn’t know it because Styles never mentioned him, but it’s AJ Styles vs The Miz next week in a MITB qualifier. Miz says that Styles has never respected him, but that suits him just fine. Miz says that he has been proving people wrong his entire career, and next week he will beat AJ Styles and go on to grab the MITB contract.

Storyline: – Naomi vs Mickie James and The Miz vs AJ Styles are announced as next week’s Money In The Bank qualifying matches

SmackDown Live 15th May

Almas Vega

Results: Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Big Cass by pinfall, Becky Lynch defeats Billie Kay by submission, Seth Rollins defeats Baron Corbin by pinfall to retain the Intercontinental Championship, Heath Slater & Rhyno defeat The New Day, Andrade “Cien” Almas defeats Daniel Bryan

Promos: – Carmella approaches The IIconics backstage, and asks if she can count on their help at Money In The Bank against Charlotte. Kay asks why they would do that, since she can’t offer them anything. Royce says that while she was champion, it was good for their image to be seen with her, but they have their own ambitions and Carmella has already shown that she can’t beat Charlotte. Kay tells her that they’re focusing on the MITB ladder match, and when the contract becomes iconic, they are going to take Carmella’s spot.

– Jinder Mahal appears on stage after Seth Rollins’ victory. Mahal says that he was the last man to beat Rollins, and he eliminated him from the battle royal last week. Mahal says that he is the better man, and he will take the Intercontinental Championship from Rollins. Mahal says that he is already a champion to the people of India, and at Money In The Bank the Maharaja will wear gold again.

Jinder Mahal

– Renee Young catches Seth Rollins backstage after his match, where he accepts Jinder Mahal’s challenge for MITB.

Storyline: – The Revival’s music hits during The New Day vs Slater & Rhyno, distracting New Day and costing them the match.

– Zelina Vega distracts the referee during Almas vs Bryan, allowing Baron Corbin to attack Bryan with a chair leading to Almas getting the win.

– Peyton Royce vs Liv Morgan and Drew McIntyre vs Baron Corbin are announced as the MITB qualifying matches for next week.

And I’m going to leave it there for now. That’s two weeks of Raw and SmackDown covered, but it’s a lot of words to get through. My hope is that I can get to the stage where I’ve caught up to real time and I can do Raw and SmackDown as separate articles each week, going back to the format I used with the Superstar Shake-Up. But until then, I’m going to be putting up a couple of weeks at a time as often as I can.

I do want to make a point of saying though, I have the whole thing broadly planned out through to Wrestlemania. It’s just a case of filling in specifics for each show, which is actually quite time-consuming, at least at this stage. I just want this to be clear, because I’ve noticed some pairings or things being hinted at on actual Raw and SmackDown that I’ve already planned, so I don’t want any confusion over whether I’m just copying what’s actually happening, which would then defeat the point of me doing this.

Current Money In The Bank card:

Roman Reigns (C) vs Bobby Lashley for the Universal Championship

Shinsuke Nakamura (C) vs Jeff Hardy for the WWE Championship

Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match – Finn Balor vs Braun Strowman vs Andrade “Cien” Almas vs ? vs ? vs ? vs ? vs ?

Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match – Ember Moon vs Bayley vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch vs ? vs ? vs ? vs ?

Seth Rollins (C) vs Jinder Mahal for the Intercontinental Championship

Nia Jax (C) vs Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship

Charlotte (C) vs Carmella for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Bludgeon Brothers (C) vs Sanity for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships

Extreme Rules 2018 Spotlight: 30-Minute Iron Man Match for the Intercontinental Championship

Quite often when I put together these PPV Spotlights I talk about a match that I think will prove to be a quality show. Usually it’s a pairing that on paper looks like the competitors will mesh really well, sometimes it’s the passion within the story that could bring something special out of the bell to bell action. It can even be a match that I think has flown under the radar and could surprise people. But it’s rare that I can talk about the potential of a match and have as much concrete evidence to support that as I can this time round.

That’s because I’m writing about the always-reliable Dolph Ziggler defending his Intercontinental Championship against WWE’s MVP of 2018 so far, Seth Rollins.

The roll that Rollins has been on is incredible by WWE’s standards. He has almost single-handedly proven that if WWE lets their talent shine in the ring, they can prove their worth to everyone watching. He hasn’t been involved in these intricate stories, it’s pure and simply been about competing for a championship. Read More

Fantasy Booking Series: Backlash

Here’s the next installment of my fantasy booking series! The last edition covered the week from the Superstar Shake-Up to the Greatest Royal Rumble, and now it’s time to cover the fallout from Jeddah to Backlash. There are quite a few title rematches here which booked themselves on the card, but the big story is that in Saudi Arabia Roman Reigns aligned himself with Paul Heyman. Why? The answers are here…

Read More

Fantasy Booking Series: Greatest Royal Rumble

This has been long overdue. I finally sat down and worked out where I wanted to go with the fantasy booking I started way back at the Superstar Shake-Up, and I’m going to be working on it from now on. I’m going back to my original format of posts for the time being, and hopefully once I catch up with the real life timeline I’ll go back to the Shake-Up format of post.

As a reminder, I didn’t set myself any rules before – I have full control of NXT call-ups, heel/face turns, and the formation or break-up of tag teams. But since writing in the return of Big Cass and his subsequent departure from the company, I’m going to say that if someone genuinely leaves or joins the company, I must adhere to that timing. For example, I’m not going to bring Neville back, and not just because I’m not dealing with the Cruiserweight division. Equally I’m not suddenly going to have Kenny Omega in WWE, unless he actually does sign in real life. Similarly, the matches WWE already announced for Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash have mostly been kept the same.

This post only covers a week of programming, one Raw, one SmackDown and the Greatest Royal Rumble. It’s not a huge amount, but I think it’s a good way to ease back into these articles. So now that this is back (the link to the Shake-Up is at the top of the article if you want a refresher), let’s get back into it! Read More

Tempering NXT UK Expectations

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a UK wrestling fan. Major moves are being made behind the scenes in the UK market, and that has resulted in the official announcement of NXT UK – as well as the first four sets of tapings.

WWE seem to be creating their own tiered feeder system, and this is the first step towards creating a new tier. You’re going to have Raw and SmackDown at the top, NXT next, then the regional promotions like NXT UK that are starting up, and below them the companies WWE have working relationships with, like Progress and ICW in the UK. It could completely revolutionise the wrestling industry.

But it’s early days, and there are still questions over where and when the new NXT UK show will actually be aired, but even these happenings are so encouraging after a year of nothing really moving. The likes of Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate have stolen shows in that time, but it’s great to see others finally get the recognition that a WWE stage will undoubtedly lead to. Read More

WWE’s Fandom Conundrum

When I wrote my column about becoming more interested in companies outside WWE, I briefly mentioned naming this blog. “That Wrestling Fandom” was specifically named to not be WWE specific. But I also deliberately picked the term “fandom”, because I anticipated that at some point I’d be talking about fan culture. And here we are.

I think WWE and their fans are in an endless cycle of no-win situations.

Fans, myself included, cry out month after month for long term storytelling. Shotgun booking appears to be public enemy number one at times, and yet is all too prevalent in WWE’s programming. The obvious example going back a few months was when Finn Balor lost to Kane towards the end of last year when he was considered to be Brock Lesnar’s obvious next challenger.

And yet, when WWE try to have a feud simmering under the surface for months, that doesn’t go down well either. Sasha Banks vs Bayley is a rivalry that has burst back to the fore after last night’s Raw, and nobody seems to care anymore. The time for a heel turn, based on crowd reaction, was 14 months ago. People say this is a feud that has gone nowhere for six months, but Banks looked like she was turning heel around Wrestlemania 33 – over a year ago in April 2017. Read More

MITB 2018 Spotlight: Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

I said in yesterday’s Women’s MITB Spotlight that I’d previewed every Money In The Bank match since I started this blog, so I couldn’t leave out the men’s match in 2018. I was looking back through old previews and noticed I used a slightly different format last year to what I’ve normally done, and I’m going to use it here too. So let’s break down the match!

The Miz

Miz

How can he be the star of the match?

By playing the spoiler role. Whenever any of the faces in the match get anywhere close to the top of the ladder, The Miz can be the one to stop them grabbing the contract. He should avoid all the high risk spots and just appear at the worst possible times for the fan favourites. Miz should also be around at the end, either to win the match or to finally get his comeuppance by getting literally knocked off his perch by the winner.

Will he actually win?

He has every chance. The Miz has proven his worth in the last two years, and it’s very possible that he can get back into a world title picture via the contract. He would actually have been my pick to win this match last year, but it was a SmackDown-exclusive PPV and Miz was moved to Raw post-Mania. A year later, it’s a tougher field with superstars from both brands, but Miz hasn’t cooled off too much. It could still be his time. Read More

MITB 2018 Spotlight: Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

I love the Money In The Bank concept. It adds a storytelling element like nothing WWE had before it. It was originally designed to be that final push for superstars to get over the line to main event level. It was a way of elevating people. It was a way of putting guys who had been at the top of the mid-card for years the opportunity to finally break through. And of course, once the gimmick got established, it could be used in other ways.

It was a featured part of Wrestlemania for years, and eventually it evolved to the point of getting it’s own PPV, and having two contracts. Last year WWE took that a step further by having the first ever women’s Money In The Bank ladder match, and then just over a week later, the second. Now we’re here, just over 24 hours away from Money In The Bank with the strongest line up on paper yet.

It has evolved yet again this year, with the number of competitors rising from six to eight, and also with the match becoming dual-branded. Since I started writing about wrestling, I’ve gone through the MITB competitors every year. So let’s get to the 2018 edition, starting with the women’s line up.

 

Sasha Banks

sasha-banks-banner

Sasha Banks has racked up an impressive list of firsts in her time under the WWE umbrella. She was in the first iron woman match, the first women’s hell in a cell match, the first women’s matches to main event both a WWE PPV and NXT TakeOver, and she was the first ever entrant into the women’s Royal Rumble. But being on the Raw brand, she missed out on being in the first women’s Money In The Bank match last year. With the arrivals of Ronda Rousey and Ember Moon on Monday nights, and the face turn and championship reign of Nia Jax, Sasha has been pushed way down the pecking order.

Something is missing from The Boss. A heel turn may help that. But getting back in the title picture may also do the trick. And the MITB contract is an immediate opportunity to put her back in that conversation. With Banks’ track record, she is always going to be in with a chance in these situations, because she has instant credibility whenever you want to throw her into a top position. Banks is likely to be the workhorse of the match, all over the shop and involved in spots with everybody. But I think her role will be to be the nearly-woman that never quite gets there.

Chances of winning: Possible

 

Naomi

Naomi

Look, Naomi is good, but I was surprised that she got the escape spot at the Royal Rumble, and I was surprised that she won the battle royal at Wrestlemania. It’s not that I don’t think she deserves the spots, it’s just that this year there’s been so little follow up that those moments have seemed… forgettable. She seems to be very clearly the fourth face on Tuesday nights, and without the backing of the NXT fans that Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Asuka have, unless something radical happens that’s not going to change.

Because of that, I don’t feel like she’s a threat to win. I could be wrong, because as I said before, she has been put in spots to stand out before. She even won the title at Wrestlemania last year. But as far as this field goes, I have Naomi right near the back of it.

Chances of winning: Unlikely

 

Lana

IMG_1703.JPG

Granted I lost track of Raw and SmackDown for a while there, but why? Just… why? Like… why?

Chances of winning: (Surely?) None

 

Natalya

Natalya-1

A year ago Natalya was exactly who this match would have been created for. She was a long tenured superstar who was always seen as being good, but for whatever reason never got her opportunity. But then she finally got her run as SmackDown Women’s Champion last year that was arguably well overdue.

Since moving to Raw in the Wrestlemania aftermath, she became a de facto face by virtue of her history training with Ronda Rousey. And that has meant she has been one of the more prominent characters on the show. More than that, with Rousey being in a title match tomorrow night it has given Natalya a really obvious storyline with the contract. It makes Natalya a red hot pick to scale the ladder, with the only thing stopping her is that it’s not really a necessary prop to go into that story. But it is the best way to protect all parties.

Chances of winning: the favourite.

 

Becky Lynch

Becky Lynch

If last year I might have said that Natalya was the kind of superstar MITB was designed for, Becky Lynch comes the closest this year. It’s already been two years since Lynch was Women’s Champion, back when she was riding the crest of the SmackDown post-draft wave. Her line on this week’s SmackDown about being sick of saying “I was”, and being ready to say “I am” again summed it up perfectly. She has never lost that much popularity, but first Alexa Bliss, then Charlotte, and now Asuka has taken over her mantle.

For me, Lynch is probably the person who could benefit most from a win here. She is the one with the biggest up-side who is most likely to get lost in the shuffle. She would be a reliable champion, able to work with pretty much anyone. At the very worst Lynch is a solid option, but potentially she can be much more than that.

Chances of winning: Possible

 

Alexa Bliss

Alexa Bliss

Bliss is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle on Raw. Having been champion for so long across both brands, I get that she needs to take a step out of the title picture for a while. But she needs to be kept relevant, and at the moment looks like she could become a victim of WWE’s perennial lack of ability to create secondary and tertiary storylines for anything other than it’s main event scene. On a show as long and with as much filler as Raw, that’s really unforgivable.

But at the same time, Bliss has an advantage over everybody else in this match. Her character fits the archetypal cash-in more than anybody else, and that will keep her in with a shout regardless of who else is in the mix. Having a contract in her possession would also keep her in the spotlight without having her directly chase the title. And really, with her gimmick, she should be in no rush at all to get involved when the title scene currently involved Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey.

 

Charlotte

Charlotte

I can echo some of my other sentiments here with Charlotte. She is proven as the leader of the division, she’s a safe bet, her resume means you can throw her in the mix at any time with credibility. But because she was champion as recently as two months ago, there is also a sense that Charlotte doesn’t need this win as much as the others do.

There are some story points that I quite like with a Charlotte win though. I would find a poetry in Charlotte trying to cash in against Carmella, who won the title so recently by cashing in on Charlotte. And obviously there would be the threat of another loss to Charlotte hanging over Asuka should she become champion tomorrow night. That paranoia could lead to some development for the Empress of Tomorrow. All that being said, while there would be some cool off-shoots to a Charlotte win, I’m not really expecting to see it.

Chances of winning: Unlikely

 

Ember Moon

Ember Moon

Ember Moon is the person that I think has the most to gain from this match. She is the most recent addition to the main roster out of these eight women, and while the Eclipse will always be spectacular, it feels like the right stage for Moon to have a show stealing performance. An Eclipse off a ladder anyone?

Because she’s so new, to an extent it seems to early to be talking about Moon as a title contender. That’s why MITB is perfect for her. It would be a sign of faith from WWE that she is a big deal, that she is going to be a star, but an acknowledgement that right now is not her time. 2019 should be Ember Moon’s year in terms of main roster gold,  and carrying the contract around for the forseeable future should safeguard that.

Chances of winning: Dark horse

TakeOver: Chicago II Spotlight: Shayna Baszler vs Nikki Cross

It’s a big weekend for WWE, as they try to tell us it is any PPV weekend. But this time round it’s actually kind of true, and Money In The Bank is only a little bit of the reason. No, this weekend is really TakeOver weekend, as NXT return to Chicago for the second year in a row. And with that comes a TakeOver Spotlight as always. So what match have I gone for this time?

Is it the match that could steal the weekend in Ricochet v Velveteen Dream? Is it what will presumably be the culmination of a year long classic rivalry between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa? Well, no.

Instead I’ve gone for Shayna Baszler’s first TakeOver defence of the NXT Women’s Championship against Nikki Cross. Because on paper, I think this is one of the most intriguing title matches in a long time. Read More

Life Outside WWE

So let’s just get into it. I haven’t really posted here for two months, and that has been for a few reasons. For one, work has gotten very busy. For two, there’s been some personal stuff that I had to deal with that took priority. But for three, and I think this has been the most important part of the lack of writing here, WWE just hasn’t been that interesting.

The reason I say that’s the biggest factor is that I was still busy with work around Wrestlemania season. But I was so excited for the biggest show of the year that I rebranded this site, came up with new concepts for articles, and wrote something in the region of 15,000 words in roughly a week. I don’t have the exact figure to hand, I could sit and work it out, but around Wrestlemania this year I think I wrote more than I did in the entirety off 2015.

Ronda Rousey Wrestlemania 34
I mean, it’s like there were one or two things to write about. Anybody remember any?

Because here’s the thing, when WWE is good, it forces it’s way into my life. No matter what else is going on, WWE becomes a priority. I will find the time to watch and write about it, even if that means surviving on less than 20 hours sleep in a week. Yes, I’ve done that. Read More

Backlash 2018 Spotlight: Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe

Real life gets in the way sometimes, but tonight is Backlash so that can only mean one thing – a PPV Spotlight from yours truly! I’ve picked this match because I expect both men to be in the world title picture in the coming months, and I think that creates an interesting dilemma for tonight’s encounter. I’m writing about Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe. Read More

WWE Brit(ish) Report 2

Welcome to the second edition of my weekly round up of what WWE’s UK & Ireland contingent have been up to! It was a huge week of news with the Superstar Shake-Up, but where did that leave them?

The big news is of course the return of Drew McIntyre to the WWE main roster. He left the company in 2013, made a big name for himself on indies each side of the Atlantic, and got signed to NXT on Wrestlemania weekend last year. He quite quickly rose up the yellow brand to become NXT Champion before losing to Andrade “Cien” Almas in November, where he also injured his arm. Read More