By Chuck Carroll
WWE is going to make history on Sunday when women compete in a Money in the Bank ladder match for the first time. When I spoke with Naomi last week, she said that even she was studying tapes of old ladder matches, even though she won’t be in this one. There’s a real buzz in the locker room for this one, and fans should be just as excited about what is coming.
On the men’s side, everyone is clamoring to see what Shinsuke Nakamura will do in his first ladder match in WWE. The MITB match itself is one of the most anticipated of the year and arguably stole WrestleMania on a number of occasions. I don’t see this year’s match being any less enjoyable. But will it be Nakamura’s night? That remains to be seen.
Then we have Jinder Mahal in his first title defense as WWE Champion. Is he a one-and-done guy? That’s doubtful. And what about the relaunched Lana coming out swinging with a title shot in her debut singles match? Is an upset brewing?
Helping me as always to sort it all out are my pro wrestling compadres, Channel Guide’s Scott Fishman and The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Oster.
Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Kevin Owens (United States Champion) vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Scott: When you look at the field, the one that could really benefit from the Money in the Bank briefcase is the emerging talent like Baron Corbin. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner and Money in the Bank winner has a nice ring to it. If WWE is in fact serious about getting behind Corbin as a main event-level star, this is one way to do that. Pick: Baron Corbin
Chuck: One could argue that WWE needs as much name recognition as possible right now given the continued erosion of ratings. But with all due respect to everyone involved, no one is close to being a household name such as The Rock or John Cena that will bring in the casual fan. With that said, it’s time for someone to take a step forward. I see mainstream potential in Sami Zayn, but I don’t see him winning and Nakamura needs a little more grooming in WWE before he becomes the face that runs the place. So, I’m with The Lone Wolf. Pick: Baron Corbin
Aaron: AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are above the briefcase. Dolph Ziggler isn’t winning. Nakamura and Sami are both intriguing options, but when in doubt, put the briefcase on a heel. We know that Baron Corbin is loved by the powers that be. He has a character that would truly benefit from carrying the briefcase for months. Give him the briefcase, and let the briefcase fully legitimize him before winning the belt. Pick: Baron Corbin
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Carmella
Scott: It might not be the most popular choice, but I’m going to go out on a limb with Carmella securing the briefcase. Much like with Baron Corbin, she would benefit from a big win in such a historic match. My sentimental pick is Natalya, since she deserves another good run with the championship. However, I’m sticking with my upset pick. Pick: Carmella
Chuck: This is such a big match for the women that I can see WWE leaning on their biggest star to carry the briefcase for the first time. I see The Queen winning this one and then going back to her old nefarious ways. That’s what’s best for business. Pick: Charlotte
Aaron: With both Money in the Bank matches, I’m simply asking myself the question: who could use the briefcase the best? Charlotte doesn’t need it. Becky could, especially with a potential heel turn, but I don’t see that happening. While Natalya would be good, the idea of Carmella with the briefcase, Ellsworth as the valet and Tamina as her muscle creates a cool mirror image of Ziggler’s time with the briefcase that I’d like to see replicated. Pick: Carmella
>>MORE: From the world of Pro Wrestling
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
Scott: With John Cena returning on the Fourth of July, it’s too perfect for his new adversary to be Jinder Mahal. Cena is great at elevating talent, and here is another opportunity. So because of this, Randy Orton’s chances of regaining the WWE World Championship is slim. Plus, I’m sure Rusev is lurking somewhere and could use the match to make an impact. Pick: Jinder Mahal
Chuck: I don’t really need to echo what Scott said. John Cena is as American as apple pie. With him returning on the Fourth of July, it sets up the perfect scenario where he clashes with The Modern Day Maharaja. For Orton, that means his hometown advantage on Sunday won’t count for much. Pick: Jinder Mahal
Aaron: Jinder Mahal needs to win here. However you feel about the sudden title win, you can’t pull the plug now that you are at this point. Jinder should win, Randy should reset himself. And Captain America — I mean John Cena — can come save America from the evil foreigner if they want to go that route. Should they go that route? Probably no, but at least that would give a decent reason as to why they kicked the foreign aspect into overdrive over the past few weeks. Pick: Jinder Mahal
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
Scott: Just because New Day is on SmackDown Live now doesn’t mean WWE needs to give them the tag team championship right out of the gates. The Usos have been impressive on the mic and in the ring as of late. They have clearly reinvented themselves. At the same time, I wouldn’t rule out the New Day getting the gold sooner rather than later. Although I’m still bummed the Fashion Police didn’t win at the last pay-per-view. Pick: The Usos
Chuck: Is it time for a New Day in the WWE SmackDown tag team division? Eh, maybe. But we’re still going to have to wait a while longer for the sun to rise on it. The Usos have really hit their stride as bad guys, and WWE has recently rewarded them with their first t-shirts as heels. #DayOneish Pick: The Usos
Aaron: This really could go either way. I fully expect The New Day to be champs by the end of the summer, probably even by the end of July. But that doesn’t mean they have to win here. Let The Usos win cheaply to get even more heat on them, and have The New Day gain the titles a little later. The one catch… could the Usos be disqualified or intentionally counted out? Very possible. Either way, I don’t see the New Day gaining the straps here. Pick: The Usos
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Naomi (c) vs. Lana
Scott: It’s a tossup as it relates to Lana winning the women’s championship. There is definitely the potential for it to take place. It’s too soon though for the “Ravishing Russian,” and look for Naomi to retain the title. That said, we could see a cash-in, either here or in the WWE World Championship match, to get people talking. Pick: Naomi
Chuck: It would be bizarro world if Lana were to win the gold here, but it’s WWE and anything can happen. I just don’t seeing the “Kremlin Cabaret” (just seems better than “Ravishing Russian” at this point) going over here. Besides, I’m picking Charlotte to win the MITB match, and that sets up a sweet feud for the title. Pick: Naomi
Aaron: Could Lana win this? Absolutely. We’re in a world where Jinder Mahal is WWE champ. I just don’t see it happening here though. I have heard some good things about Lana in house shows, but she’s not quite ready for that in-ring spotlight yet. I do expect her to be champion sometime in the not-too-distant future. Just not now. Pick: Naomi
News and Notes
WWE is sending the Golden State Warriors a customized championship belt in honor of their second NBA title in three years. Triple H tweeted a picture of the belt Tuesday. You’ll notice the team logos on the side of the belt.
Congratulations are in order for our pick leader, Aaron Oster, who tied the knot recently. Chris Jericho took notice of The Osters epic reception entrance… and they “just made the list” of people who have been retweeted by Y2J.
After nearly three decades in the ring, former WCW and (briefly) WWE wrestler Buff Bagwell is retiring. The final match of the “Bye Bye Buff Daddy” is set for May 2018.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.