By Chuck Carroll
WWE Money in the Bank features 10 matches, including men’s and women’s ladder matches for an all-important guaranteed title shot. But it isn’t the matches for which the pay-per-view is named that is generating the buzz. Former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey gets her first crack at gold in WWE, as she takes on Nia Jax for the RAW Women’s Championship.
In some regard, Rousey’s title shot has backed WWE into a corner. On one hand, a strong case can be made that WWE is pulling the trigger too quickly with Rousey. After all, if she wins the title, what else is left to build to? A slower climb to the top would enable the company to maximize her celebrity and give those who followed her from the octagon to the squared circle a reason to stick around.
On the other hand, a loss would significantly weaken Rousey’s push as the baddest woman on the planet. Even if there are underhanded tactics and shady dealings that cost her a victory, damage will be done.
It will be interesting to see have WWE’s creative team navigates these treacherous waters.
Theoretically, the conundrum makes the match a difficult one to pick. But oddsmakers are thinking this pick is a piece of cake. Rousey is the overwhelming favorite to walk out of Chicago with gold around her waist. It would be her first championship since relinquishing the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship nearly three years ago.
Elsewhere on the card, AJ Styles will defend the WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing Match against Shinsuke Nakamura. Ordinarily this one would be a no-brainer for match of the night. But with two MITB ladder matches on the card, stealing the show is highly unlikely.
Joining me to make their picks for how everything will shake out are seasoned wrestling journalists and my Press Slam Podcast co-hosts Scott Fishman and Aaron Oster. Aaron had only one incorrect prediction for WWE Backlash last month.
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RAW Women’s Championship
Nia Jax (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
Chuck: WWE isn’t going to put Ronda Rousey in a title match only to have her lose. Nia Jax goes heel, and Rowdy Ronda goes home with gold. Expect a full-blown media blitz on Monday to capitalize on her victory and get some mainstream attention. Pick: Ronda Rousey
Scott: I can see Ronda Rousey winning the title, but quite frankly, there is more money in the chase still for her. She is just getting started. It’s bad enough to me she is already getting a title match. Although with the talk of her deal, maybe that is the reasoning for why it’s happening. Nia Jax could use this feather in her cap to defeat Rousey. It wouldn’t surprise me if Natalya costs Rousey the championship somehow. Pick: Nia Jax
Aaron: I still don’t know why this match was rushed so much. The only thing that makes sense is that, for whatever reason, WWE decided the belt needed to be on Rousey right now. She’s certainly not losing, even if there is interference. So, Ronda wins the match. I do question if anyone cashes in on her Sunday night though. Pick: Ronda Rousey
Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Braun Strowman vs. Finn Bálor vs. The Miz vs. Rusev vs. Bobby Roode vs. Kevin Owens vs. one member of The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, or Big E)
Chuck: The Miz is red hot right now, and carrying around a MITB briefcase would be the icing on the cake. He’s at the top of his game and has a new reality show premiering next month. I see him coming away the winner here, but everyone in the match is going to “get these hands” first. Braun Strowman is going to be a force to be reckoned with here. Pick: The Miz
Scott: It’s hard to pick a winner, but Bálor would be a good candidate to carry the briefcase. While a match with Brock Lesnar would be intriguing, I’d be surprised if a match formulates. He can hold on to the title opportunity while whoever faces him next unseats him at potentially SummerSlam. My second guess would be The Miz due to the fact he has been on fire and has a new show to promote. At the same time, I think there is money to be made with Miz and Bryan if they are both freed up to continue their rivalry. Pick: Finn Bálor
Aaron: I’m always in favor of having a heel win this match. It just leads to better storytelling with a heel carrying it. So while Braun is a dominant force, I just don’t see him using the briefcase that well. To me there are two strong possibilities: The Miz and Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe has kicked everything into another gear over the past two months, and the argument could be made that he’s the best all-around superstar on the roster. The briefcase would give him that final nudge to putting him solidly at the top of the roster. However, looking long-term, the best thing I can see WWE doing is letting The Miz win the title in the fall while having Daniel Bryan win the Rumble. So I have The Miz winning here, hopefully setting up the match we all want to see at WrestleMania. Pick: The Miz
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Lana vs. Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Ember Moon vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks
Chuck: With Ronda Rousey as the newly crowned champion, she’s going to need a formidable opponent. It makes all the sense in the world for her BFF Natalya to be that foe. One scenario has the cat-loving Canadian winning the MITB earlier in the night and then unsuccessfully cashing-in following Rousey’s match. Two wins in the same night give WWE double the fodder for the mainstream hype machine on Monday. Pick: Natalya
Scott: Looking at the field, Becky Lynch is the one who could use the briefcase to build upon in a story. She has faded somewhat in the background, so it would be nice to give her this accolade. Maybe it will spark a heel turn or at least reason to give her more character development. Pick: Becky Lynch
Aaron: This match is really open. Unlike past years, I don’t think there’s a clear favorite. However, I’m going based on what I see for the title picture. If Ronda does win on Sunday night, a reason to rush it would be if they have plans for Ronda and Natalya going forward towards SummerSlam. So Natalya winning, and then cashing in on Ronda, even as early as Sunday night, would make sense. As there’s no other obvious choice, I’ll go with that. Pick: Natalya
WWE Championship – Last Man Standing Match
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Chuck: These two have been doing battle since WrestleMania, and until now AJ Styles has managed to hold on to the title. That should change here, just to freshen up the final stretch of the feud. Any match between these two has five-star potential, so enjoy it. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Scott: Shinsuke Nakamura has gotten comfortable in the heel role on WWE TV, and it has helped. It can go either way. However, I’m going with Styles as we inch closer to SummerSlam and other opportunities for the “Phenomenal One” to front the brand with gold in hand. Regardless of the ending, maybe Styles will make the smart decision to come prepared by wearing a cup. Pick: AJ Styles
Aaron: Everything about this match says Nakamura should win. There’s one thing that’s gnawing at me though. Why is this a Last Man Standing match? I know it often doesn’t matter, but a Last Man Standing match should be a feud-ender. How is that possible if Nakamura wins? That being said, this heel turn is pointless if Nakamura doesn’t win this match, so I’m going with him. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Carmella (c) vs. Asuka
Chuck: An interesting rumor is floating around that Carmella’s former partner-in-crime James Ellsworth will be at MITB. His appearance spells bad news for the champion who turned on him shortly before he was released last year. He would be looking to settle the score and cost “The Princess of Staten Island” the championship. Ellsworth has denied PWInsider’s report, noting that he is scheduled to wrestle in China that day. Pick: Asuka
Scott: Asuka winning the title would be too easy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “Princess of Staten Island” lose the gold before SummerSlam. This can be another case where Carmella escapes by hook or by crook or some sort of interference. Pick: Carmella
Aaron: There is going to be interference in this match. This is a situation where I don’t think you want either side to lose. So I think the best thing to do is have a DQ finish where Asuka wins the match, and Carmella retains the title to push the feud another month. Pick: Asuka
Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal
Chuck: Roman is out of the title picture but WWE isn’t going to let him fall too far. Expect a competitive match, but the former leader of The Shield will come up roses. Pick: Roman Reigns
Scott: I don’t see WWE having Reigns lose here, but I can also see the scenario where it’s a disqualification or another finish to lead to another chapter in their rivalry. Reigns could use more time out of the Universal title picture, and Jinder isn’t a bad opponent for that. Pick: Roman Reigns
Aaron: Roman Reigns is going to win this match, especially if we expect to see him getting back in the title picture by SummerSlam. Pick: Roman Reigns
SmackDown Tag Team Championship (Kickoff Show Match)
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Chuck: It would be fun to see the Good Brothers hold the gold, but a title change on the kickoff show seems unlikely. The Bludgeon Brothers are heavy favorites in this match for good reason. If Gallows and Anderson are to become champs it’ll be on a main card in the future. Perhaps that will be at WWE Extreme Rules next month. Pick: The Bludgeon Brothers
Scott: As much as I like the “Good Brothers” and appreciate WWE giving them some momentum heading into the match, I’m going with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. They haven’t had much TV time or matches really leading into this one. Their title reign isn’t much thus far, so they could use a decisive victory against Anderson and Gallows. Pick: The Bludgeon Brothers
Aaron: I like that Gallows and Anderson are getting some sort of spotlight. I don’t see that spotlight lasting too long though, and if they are the ones to dethrone the Bludgeon Bros, it’s not happening here. Pick: The Bludgeon Brothers
Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn
Chuck: This feud is ready to be put to bed, and Bobby Lashley will walk away as the victor. Sami Zayn left Lashley laying on Monday, and that’s as close as he’ll come to scoring a win here. Pick: Bobby Lashley
Scott: After the atrocious build of the match, Bobby Lashley has never needed a clear-cut win more. He and Sami Zayn did the best they could with what was given, but hopefully it’s a one-and-done type deal. Let’s hope we don’t get any run-ins from Bobby Lashley’s “sisters.” Pick: Bobby Lashley
Aaron: This feud has made me not want to see Sami Zayn on TV, which is a travesty. Just get this match over with, and never speak of this feud again. Pick: Bobby Lashley
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Elias
Chuck: Both Seth Rollins and Elias are way over with the WWE Universe at the moment. In my opinion, Elias should be rewarded for preserving with a character that fell flat when he debuted on the main roster. Entire arenas boo him mercilessly while simultaneously wanting to Walk With Elias. Look for him to score the upset. Pick: Elias
Scott: Seth Rollins doesn’t need the Intercontinental championship and should be in the Universal title picture. However, I’ve enjoyed his work with Elias. I think winning the IC gold gives “The Drifter” a good boost in taking him to the next level. Pick: Elias
Aaron: This is going to be a spotlight moment for Elias, and maybe one that solidifies him as a guy who, while maybe not a main-eventer right now, is certainly at the top of the mid-card. However, Seth Rollins is too hot right now to take the belt off of him. Pick: Seth Rollins
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
Chuck: It’s unfortunate — although understandable — that Daniel Bryan isn’t in the MITB Ladder Match. Instead, his feud with Big Cass continues on. This should be the blowoff match, which means Bryan gets his hand raised once again. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Scott: I’m hoping Daniel Bryan wins this, so he can move on from Big Cass, as the basis of the story hasn’t been the best. I appreciate Bryan being used to help elevate talent, but at the same time he should be featured in the best possible spot. Maybe this is the holding pattern until he signs a new deal. Cass has already gotten the rub, so he doesn’t really need the win if he gets enough offense in during the match. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Aaron: This is a classic case of head vs. heart. My head says there’s no reason to have this match unless they’re planning a three-match series, which means Cass wins. My heart says that absolutely nobody wants to see another month of this. I normally go with my head, but in this case, I hope they realize that Daniel Bryan should be moving on. So I’ll go with him winning and ending the feud. Pick: Daniel Bryan