WWE Money in the Bank 2018
June 17, 2018
Watch: WWE Network
Meet our previewers:
- Jeff Martin: After binge-watching about two months of New Japan, trying to decipher booking patterns in the Land Where Nothing Matters is going to be an adventure. Most of my time is spent drawing comic books, some of which are about wrestling, and all of which you should buy. You can also follow me on Twitter @HEATcomic.
- Barry Hess: Making his surprise return to the preview roster after spending many months in Parts Unknown developing a new move set. Follow him on Twitter @BFHess17
- Joe Lanza: Attempting to work out WWE booking patterns, or worse, booking logic, is akin to trying to predict lightning strikes or coin flips or single dice rolls or roulette spins. With the possible exception of Brock Lesnar matches, nothing that happens has any real impact on business. Long term storytelling beyond whatever the current PPV cycle is essentially does not exist. So, I won’t be making any predictions. It genuinely doesn’t matter who wins any these matches, and only an insane person would spend any intellectual effort predicting whether heads or tails comes up on a coin.
Women’s Money in the Bank
Ember Moon vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Lana vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks
Jeff Martin: Somebody at WWE wants Lana to die, and her inclusion in this match is proof. The only other alternative is that somebody at WWE wants one of these other ladies to die, and Lana is the instrument of their vendetta. There’s going to be at least one spot in this match that makes my jaw hit the floor, and at least one spot that will make me scream “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!?” at my television. It will probably be the result of Sasha Banks continuing her quest to nearly cripple herself in every type of gimmick match available. As I’ll elaborate on in a few matches, I really like the idea of the briefcase staying on Smackdown and being the instrument of Carmella’s success AND undoing. There could be some interesting symmetry with Charlotte being the one who cashes in on her, and I can’t get a read on what the story is for half of these women, so let’s say Charlotte wins. Preview Prediction: Charlotte Flair.
Barry Hess: This match is easily the one I’m most excited to see. I love the psychology of ladder matches and the creative opportunities they provide the performers, but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed many in the modern era. I’m down for a crazy high spot (or 10), but these things have turned into gratuitous spot fests with a drop of psychology thrown in at the end for good measure (generally speaking) and that’s not my wheelhouse. I don’t see that being the case with the female talent in this match. That said, I’m sure Sasha Banks and Charlotte have something crazy up their sleeves and that’s something I’m excited to see. I’m holding out hope we don’t get multiple ladders involved, it’s a long shot but I think it would be a nice way to differentiate the two ladder matches. I’d love to see Ember Moon continue her steady trajectory and win this match, but I smell shenanigans in the Raw Women’s Championship story and I think this match will play a role in said shenanigans. Prediction: Natalya
Joe Lanza: Do we really need EIGHT people in these matches? Does someone like Lana really merit inclusion? I realize we are mixing rosters here, but I don’t know, I’m a fan of making things feel important, and if nearly everyone aside from current champ and challenger is included, it dilutes the match and the stakes. I’d have gone with the three top contenders from each brand.
Men’s Money in the Bank
Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz vs. Rusev vs. Bobby Roode vs. Kevin Owens vs. Samoa Joe vs. TBA (Big E, Kofi Kingston, or Xavier Woods)
Jeff Martin: Anyone who has read a few of these previews is probably aware that I am an unabashed fan of giving Braun Strowman opportunities to throw furniture at other human beings. Braun Strowman is every element of 1994 cartoon wrestling that I love brought into a modern context and combined with a demolition derby. This combination of guys should lead to a pretty fun match, as they’ve all got something to contribute to a chaotic match like this. The Miz will be sneaky; Kevin Owens will be really creative and do something that should kill him but won’t; Finn Balor will Coup de Grace somebody off of a ladder; Bobby Roode… exists. Okay, he’s mostly there to catch people that fall out of the sky, but that still counts as contributing. There are a lot of potential story options here, but it’s hard to imagine somebody from RAW winning unless Brock is going to drop the title at SummerSlam. Samoa Joe seems like a prime suspect to walk out with the briefcase, but I always predict that he’ll win things and then he never does. Kevin Owens would likely be the most entertaining holder of the briefcase, so let’s say he wins and cashes in way down the road. Preview Prediction: Kevin Owens.
Barry Hess: It’s going to be impossible not to compare this match to the ladder match from TakeOver: New Orleans. Likewise, I’d be shocked if the men in this match weren’t determined to try and top the performance of their Full Sail-based colleagues. I wish they’d try to be different rather than better, but we all know what this match is going to look like. Including Braun Strowman in the mix allows him the opportunity to display versatility as a performer, which is nice, but I don’t think the concept of the Money in the Bank contract gels with his character. I’m thinking Strowman and Samoa Joe will play off one another quite a bit (drawing from the Killian Dain/Lars Sullivan dynamic from TakeOver). Finn Balor, Rusev and Kevin Owens are creative guys and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. The Miz will play the role of sneaky opportunist and he will be great. Bobby Roode and the mystery member of The New Day are the wildcards for me. I’d like to see Xavier Woods get the nod. We’ve seen Kofi Kingston in plenty of these matches and we already three hosses in the match. I think Woods would make the most of the opportunity. Rusev should win this match. Rusev will not win this match. Prediction: Finn Balor
Joe Lanza: The fact that the NXT ladder match in New Orleans didn’t move my needle like it did others probably shows that I’m over these wacky ladder matches. I’m sure this will be mindless, visceral fun, with plenty of WWE style storytelling involved, but at the end of the day it feels like I’ve seen a thousand of these and I think it would help if we saw maybe one per year, let alone two on the same show.
I’m very bored by Strowman being a literal MONSTER, and having three of the other upper mid-card/main event level dudes in this match face him in a handicap match on RAW encapsulates everything I hate about the creative tenor this company. With that said, he is who should be pushed as the top guy, so I suppose he should win this match. But it’s also a chance for him to “lose” without without taking a fall. The most boring outcome would be The Miz running around with the case for another year. Been there, done that.
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
Jeff Martin: Remember when Big Cass got a push when Enzo Amore KO’d himself on the ropes, and he kind of fit in at the top of the card? Yeah, that’s not how this current run is going at all. Now he’s the guy that Daniel Bryan is being wasted on, and apparently he also forgot how to say words that doesn’t sound like he’s delivering a memorized speech in his 8th grade language arts class. As I type this, Big Cass is wearing a suit and standing next to a height requirement sign from a theme park, because his character is now “I AM VERY TALL, YOU GUYS.” Daniel Bryan should be the biggest babyface in the company, but Vince McMahon is still alive, and has created a culture where stars go to die, so… this will be a match. Preview Prediction: Daniel Bryan, because I want to believe in a universe that is good.
Barry Hess: I was going to tread carefully on this one, but you know what, screw it. Daniel Bryan is exactly where he belongs on this card and on the SmackDown Live roster as a whole. There, I said it. WWE is not going to heat the guy up, slot him in or around the main event picture, allow him to have the best matches on high profile events and then watch him head on down the road to Ring of Honor or New Japan when his contract expires. You can argue that the way he’s booked between now and then won’t affect how hot of an act he’ll be elsewhere and you’d be correct. You can argue that WWE shouldn’t have bothered to bring him back as an in-ring performer unless he signed a new contract if that’s how they felt and you’d be correct. But the argument that Bryan, in his current contract status, should be receiving a major push is absurd. It’s absurd. Wrestling Twitter salivates at the chance to pounce on that kind of absurd if the principles involved were anyone other than WWE and Bryan. Should Bryan sign a new deal and continue to be used in this manner I’d be right there with the rest of you, but these are significant aspects of the situation that far too many people are either glossing over or outright ignoring.
Moving on to the match itself, Big Cass sucks. Big Cass sucked in NXT, he sucked when he and Enzo were called up to the main roster, he sucked when he was briefly on his own during Enzo’s injury, he sucked during the feud with Enzo and he sucks now. If he can’t have good matches with Bryan he can’t have good matches with anyone. Throw him in there and see what happens. Fine, I’m ok with that. Prediction: Daniel Bryan
Joe Lanza: Daniel Bryan lost two MITB qualifiers and has been feuding with Big Cass since the end of April, but there are people that will tell you he’s being pushed just fine coming off of his red hot return.
My earliest pro wrestling memories go back to about 1985 and I’ve never seen a hot act cooled off as quickly and definitively as Bryan, and there is no question it’s been deliberate, because there is no way anybody thinks a Cass feud was going to keep him hot. There is nothing interesting about this program whatsoever. Big Cass keeps telling us that Bryan is small, which has been the boring WWE Bryan playbook for 90% of his three runs. It’s a tired story, and all it serves is to remind viewers that he is small, and that it’s somehow a negative 20+ years after Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart initially moved this company away from tall + muscles = tough. It’s reductive, boring, short sighted, and lazy, and it’s the worst possible use of someone who could’ve been, and could still be, your hottest star. The fact is, they seemingly do not want that, and perhaps that’s because Bryan still hasn’t signed a new contract. If you’re a wrestling fan that pays any attention to wrestling outside of WWE and you don’t want him to leave when his deal is up, you’re insane. I’ll say it again for the back of the room, where the stubborn reside – your cavalcade of dream matches isn’t going to happen, and the ones that do won’t be what you want them to be. The outside world has so much more to offer him creatively, and ultimately us, as fans. Here’s hoping he leaves.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Seth Rollins © vs. Elias
Jeff Martin: If ever there was a sign that WWE is supremely confident in Seth Rollins’ ability to drag good matches out of people to fill time, this is it. Elias is tremendously entertaining, but has yet to have a match that really stands out. If he can become even an average in-ring worker, he has a ton of upside as a midcard heel who can pop into the main event scene now and then. Even if the match isn’t great, there should at least be a PPV-worthy musical performance. I don’t expect a title change here, though. Without the Universal Title on TV, putting the IC title on an unproven guy seems ill-advised. Better to keep it on Rollins and have him fill 20-30 minutes a week with a good match. Preview Prediction: Seth Rollins.
Barry Hess: This should be a nice little match. I don’t expect anything crazy good, but Rollins and Elias have decent chemistry together and should be fine as long as this doesn’t go too long. Prediction: Seth Rollins
Joe Lanza: Seth Rollins is this year’s Great WWE Hope of Wrestler of the Year contenders, but I just don’t see it. When you have guys putting in legendary performances in all time great matches elsewhere (including in Rollins own promotion on the developmental brand), having nice little TV bouts and *good* PPV openers isn’t going to cut it. I like Rollins, and he’s been fine this year, but the hype surrounding him is overblown, and as a result, he’s been the most overrated wrestler of 2018.
Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn
Jeff Martin: My favourite thing about this feud is that Sami Zayn gets a lot of mic time on a week-to-week basis, and is a great promo. Also, I wasn’t paying close attention and for a brief moment I thought the obstacle course was going to be run by Titus O’Neill, and that would have been a gift to GIF accounts everywhere. This match is probably going to be solid at bare minimum, so I’m looking forward to it as a bright spot in the midcard. I don’t see this as a continuing program – I think it’s meant as an attempt to connect Lashley to the audience and give him a win over a credible opponent so that he can move up the ladder. Preview Prediction: Bobby Lashley.
Barry Hess: Imagine how much worse this angle would have been if it wasn’t Sami Zayn on the mic these past few weeks. I get wanting to put these two together as Lashley’s first program, but the vertigo angle was enough of a starting point. I suppose the match itself will be good. I was never a Lashley guy during his first run with the company and nothing has changed my mind yet. When I see him I see Lex Luger; a guy who looks the part, feels like he should be a star but has this distracting self-awareness that never allows me to fully invest in the character he’s trying to portray. In other words, the exact opposite of Sami Zayn, whether he’s involved in a brilliant story or a terrible one like this. Prediction: Bobby Lashley
Joe Lanza: Bobby Lashley has been a complete bust, nearly killing people with botches and being exposed as the bad wrestler he is. We’ll see if Zayn can work a miracle here, but more interesting to me is if WWE stays the course with Lashley if he keeps shitting the bed.
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bludgeon Brothers © vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Jeff Martin: This header text is the first I’ve heard of this match, which is probably not a great sign considering I’ve actually had Smackdown on in the background the last few weeks, as opposed to following it exclusively through the Post Wrestling podcast. I really love the riff in the Bludgeon Brothers theme song. It’s not a particularly unique theme, given that it’s just metal guitars, but that crunchy riff is so satisfying. Somebody get me on Music of the Mat with that kind of musical knowledge! Also, I definitely did not remember that Gallows and Anderson were on Smackdown. What’s that, you say, this preview is giving you no insight into the match? Bludgeon Brothers retain, Gallows & Anderson keep making a lot of money to just kind of exist on the roster. Boom, previewed. Preview Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers.
Barry Hess: It’s difficult to criticize the manner in which Harper and Rowan have been booked this year. Maybe it’s gimmick fatigue, maybe it’s WWE’s lack of honest investment in the tag team division, but I’m pretty cold on this team lately. I feel like this foursome could have a fun match, but I see this being a cool down match, which means it will be quick with little to sink my teeth into. Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers
Joe Lanza: I’ve enjoyed the Bludgeon Brothers mega push. They kick everyone’s ass and win all of their matches, and that’s the kind of simplicity that WWE far too often gets away from. I hope they win this.
Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal
Jeff Martin: Yikes. Preview Prediction: Roman Reigns.
Barry Hess: We can get Roman Reigns in the men’s ladder match and all the annoying trappings that go along with that (especially after he wins the match) or we could have him simmering on the back burner with a spot program with Jinder Mahal. I’m good with the later. Mahal is a bad pro wrestler, a fact that never stopped WWE from pushing guys they liked in 1988, 1998, 2008 and 2018. I’ve had 30 years to recognize it, accept it and move on. Prediction: Roman Reigns
Joe Lanza: Jinder Mahal is arguably the worst major league wrestler on the planet, and while I think Roman is a good wrestler, I have less than zero interest in this and it’s going to be hard for him to get a good match out of it.
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Carmella © vs. Asuka
Jeff Martin: Asuka losing her streak and moving to Smackdown completely killed her aura, and that makes me sad, because she felt like a star, and completely different than everyone else on the show. Carmella remains a very entertaining promo who is mediocre at best in the ring, so on the plus side she’ll probably end up having one of the best matches of her career on this show. Asuka winning the title here doesn’t seem to accomplish a lot, as the bottle’s all out of lightning as far as another winning streak rebuilding her. I think it would be intriguing to have Carmella hold the title with the Money in the Bank briefcase hanging over her head. The story of a descent into paranoia fuelled by the very briefcase that won her the title she now desperately fears losing could be incredibly compelling. I have no expectation of that happening, but I do think she’ll hang onto the title in the short term. Preview Prediction: Shenanigans keep the title on Carmella
Barry Hess: It’s obvious that Carmella has a newfound confidence when performing, and that has dramatically helped improve her persona. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I love the screaming bit. If only there was a place she could go to refine her in-ring work, maybe she’d be more well-rounded as a performer. Nevertheless, like Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania, this should be a quick squash match. Like Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania, this will not be a quick squash match. Prediction: Asuka
Joe Lanza:Carmella is arguably the worst major league wrestler on the planet, and while I think Asuka is a good wrestler, I have less than zero interest in this and it’s going to be hard for her to get a good match out of it.
WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Nia Jax © vs. Ronda Rousey
Jeff Martin: I’m really interested in seeing what a Ronda Rousey singles match is like. Nia Jax isn’t the best wrestler on the women’s roster, but she does serve as a decent foil as far as match narratives go. A much larger opponent provides options for structuring the match that don’t make Ronda look like a weiner if she doesn’t just come out and murder her first singles foe. In terms of big-picture narrative for Ronda, it’s a pretty good first match to protect her character while providing singles experience in front of a crowd. I may be in the minority, but I don’t think she’s going to win the belt here. It doesn’t leave her any room to grow in the short term, and just creates a second Brock Lesnar character who just shows up more often. I don’t think she’ll lose clean, though, or even necessarily lose at all. She just won’t get the gold around her waist yet. Preview Prediction: Shenanigans keep the belt on Nia Jax, because like the WWE at the beginning of the year, I also repeat my storylines from RAW on Smackdown
Barry Hess: Nia Jax has the same ‘Lex Luger’ problem I referenced earlier only tenfold. She’s been on the main roster long enough at this point where I’m comfortable saying she’s not going to get much better. I can see the appeal in making the character a face as they did prior to WrestleMania, but making her a heel is the better instinct in my view. That said, the Mark Henry/Big Show-style phantom turn was terrible. Originally this felt like a program to just get the belt on Ronda Rousey and launch from there. Maybe that’s still the case, but this appears to be classic WWE booking themselves into a corner. They want Rousey on the show, but don’t want her to win the title yet…you know, the kind of creative where everybody involved comes out looking just great. I feel like the Money in the Bank match will be connected to the finish of this match. The common link between the MITB contestants and this match is Natalya. If the women’s ladder match goes on before this one, I can see Natalya getting involved and cashing in her contract on Nia. If this match goes on first, I see the Natalya heel turn being the crux of the story. Prediction: Shenanigans. Lots of shenanigans
Joe Lanza: How many matches are on this fucking show?
The Nia Jax phantom turn, with no angle or explanation, coming off the heels of being a hero to the bullied, is the ultimate example of WWE Goldfish Booking (trademark me), where nothing from the previous PPV cycle matters because all of you are stupid and won’t remember it anyway (paraphrasing an actual Vince McMahon quote). Just belt up Rousey. She’s arguably the biggest star in the company. Also, Nia Jax stinks.
Last Man Standing – WWE Championship
AJ Styles © vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Jeff Martin: Heel Nakamura is, if nothing else, far more entertaining week-to-week, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, AJ Styles has fallen off a cliff in the Road Dogg era, and seems to say something cringey at least once per promo, which is frustrating to watch. Each match in the series has been an improvement over the previous one, though, so I have some hope that this will be an entertaining tilt. I imagine Nakamura wins here, because otherwise the narrative starts to fall apart and turn into a Bray Wyatt “oh yeah, well beat me AGAIN” situation. With a Nakamura title win, I think they can extend this to SummerSlam and finish things off there. Preview Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
Barry Hess: I hate sounding like a WWE apologist, because I’m not, but this feud has been pretty good if you ask me. Pretty good. Not amazing, not outstanding, not any other superlative you can think of. Pretty good. That’s an opinion based on WWE’s creative style and nothing else. I understand it’s difficult to watch the Wrestle Kingdom match these two had several years ago (or the non-WWE body of work each man has compiled on the whole) and say how much WWE is blowing it. I understand it, but I don’t agree. If you enjoy that type of pro wrestling, watch that kind of pro wrestling. Don’t go to a steakhouse for supper and complain about the salad options. Sorry.
The match at WrestleMania shouldn’t have never been billed as a ‘dream match’, that was a mistake (although even had they not done so I can’t imagine the criticism would have been much different). Outside of that one misstep I think this story has been successful. The intensity level has gradually increased each time these two step in the ring together. A heel Nakamura is a far more compelling version of the character in my estimation. The ‘fight fire with fire’ type edginess that Styles has incorporated into his performances has also been a compelling addition to his babyface character. The last man standing stipulation leans toward the hero going over, but I’m not convinced. I can see Nakamura winning and continuing the feud or moving on in a few different directions. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
Joe Lanza: It’s pretty amazing that this company has managed to make me not care about AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, The Revival, Finn Balor, and pretty much anybody else on the main roster save Brock Lesnar, who I happen to love, but who a lot of other people are tired of. Never has such a loaded roster been so poorly utilized, even during the peak shit of bad WCW.
I’ve always felt like they would drag this feud all the way to SummerSlam, so look for more dick punchin’ action and another underwhelming match. Dick punchin’ is no doubt going to be Shinsuke’s gimmick moving forward, so don’t expect the dick punchin’ to stop even after this wet fart of a feud is over.