Money in the Bank is less than a month away, and speculation is wide open about who will climb the ladder—realistically and figuratively—to elevate their careers.
A few names have been bantered around, but no one has emerged as a clear favorite. Maybe WWE wants to keep it that way, at least outside of the Creative Team’s inner sanctum, in order to keep fans and pundits guessing.
Over the next few weeks, we may see a few Superstars start to break away from the pack. We also will hear from insiders, outsiders and in-betweeners about who are prospective contenders for the briefcases and who are pretenders.
With that in mind, here are five WWE Superstars who make a case for the case and who among them makes the best case.
Cody Rhodes has to wonder when his next big break will be coming.
Over the past several years, one of the most all-around talented stars in WWE has watched others get the push that comes with Money in the Bank briefcases. In the meantime, he has remained in the midcard, teetering on the edge of reaching the next level only to be the subject of inferior booking.
He has seen his former tag team partner and storyline best friend, Damien Sandow, get placed in a good program with Sheamus. During Sandow’s run, Rhodes has been the beneficiary of two Brogue Kicks from the Celtic Warrior and has essentially been jobbing to his opponents in the ring.
That’s not to say Rhodes’ time in the midcard has been all bad. He has held the WWE Intercontinental Championship on more than one occasion and ushered in the return of the classic IC belt. He also has been a world tag team champion.
A good resume, right? But is it good enough to grab the briefcase and run to the head of the line for a shot at a main card single’s title?
Definitely. Rhodes still has youth on his side. But we all know how time flies.
He needs to get the shot while he is young enough to enjoy it and not wait until close to retirement before getting his chance. That is WWE’s equivalent of a gold watch for years of service.
And speaking of his tag team partner Sandow…
WWE could rewrite the old axiom about the spoils going to the victor to state, “To the one with the momentum goes the briefcase.”
And among the midcard talent, Sandow has momentum. As mentioned earlier, the Sheamus program has been surprisingly entertaining, and Sandow has not rolled over like so many of the midcarders who have climbed in the ring with Sheamus.
Sandow has shown much more aggression over the past few weeks than he had before. He has faced Sheamus and not blinked, even attacking and leaving the big man lying on the floor. How many people in the midcard can claim that and still have all their teeth?
While it has not been a five-star feud, it should be enough to place WWE’s “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” into the Final Four of competitors for the case. It could be interesting if Sandow and Rhodes wind up as the last two men in the ring.
While Rhodes has been a heel in the “annoying little brother” sense lately, Sandow has been building enough heat to the point where his victory would get more of a crowd reaction than if Rhodes were to win.
Who knows? With the MITB briefcase in hand, Sandow could replace Triple H as the WWE “cerebral assassin.”
Like Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett is a solid ring worker who has knocked on the door of the main card for some time now, but it has not opened for him.
He seemed to be on the verge of an MITB push a couple of years ago, but an elbow injury shelved him for several months and put him out of the picture. Does WWE owe him the chance this year to make his case for the case?
Barrett is a multi-time intercontinental champ, and WWE appeared to be rewarding his work with a quick regain of the IC belt after he lost it to The Miz at WrestleMania 29. But that turned out to be more of The Miz clearing his schedule for a movie shoot than a pat on the back for Barrett. But even with the belt around his waist, Barrett’s barrage was no match for the main card faces to whom he has been jobbing lately.
A face turn was teased for him against Fandango, but Fandango’s injury put the brakes on that. And at Payback, fellow heel Curtis Axel took the IC title away from him.
With seemingly nowhere to go but up, Barrett could be making his way up the ladder at the end of the MITB match this year.
It’s fashionable to be jumping on the Cesaro bandwagon for the briefcase.
WWE has placed him in one of the more interesting storylines so far this year by pairing him with Zeb Colter. This came after Cesaro was a chameleon for much of his career, from Aksana’s boy toy to flag-draped anti-American U.S. champ to Swiss yodeler to beret wearer.
It’s the anti-American persona that makes teaming him with WWE’s poster boy for the Tea Party so fascinating. They say politics makes strange bedfellows, but apparently so does wrestling.
It remains to be seen if this pairing means WWE has given up on Jack Swagger or plans to bring him back in the stable or fight his former mentor, a la CM Punk. In the meantime, having a mouthpiece like Colter seems to be agreeing with Cesaro so far.
Despite what his character may be spewing, Colter is considered a master of story development in professional wrestling. If anybody could get Cesaro over the hump, it is Zeb Colter. With him at ringside shouting encouragement, Cesaro could be the next MITB winner.
Colter should advise Cesaro not to wear what he did on Monday night when their partnership was announced. He looked like he had forgotten his gear and was forced to wrestle in his tighty-whities.
The list has to have a babyface on it, even if the babyface is biding his time until a heel turn.
At first glance, the choice appears difficult. Most of the faces are either recent winners of the briefcase or are involved in more intriguing storylines.
Daniel Bryan could have been a choice, but he won MITB two years ago and seems destined to enter the WWE championship picture without a briefcase in hand.
Sheamus is another possibility. "The Great White" has won most of the singles prizes WWE has to offer—WWE and world championships, the U.S. title, the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring. But I don’t see him factoring into the picture here.
Kane? Too old
Kofi Kingston? Hurting.
Chris Jericho? Part-timer.
Dolph Ziggler? He has his rematch clause for the world belt.
The Miz? Like Bryan, a recent winner. Plus, he's just not that over right now.
So we come to Orton. He held the WWE and world championship before, but he never has entered the title picture as an MITB winner.
Orton said in an interview earlier this month that he will build up his babyface routine to the point that when he finally switches sides, it will be big. If he has an MITB briefcase to cash in on John Cena or Daniel Bryan and turns heel in the process, that would qualify as big.
Orton has been out of title consideration for a while. Having the briefcase in hand would put him back in contention, where someone with his talent belongs.
Now we have seen all the evidence for these five Superstars. After careful consideration and weighing of the evidence, which Superstar makes the most compelling case for an MITB case?
Like Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes has the wrestling bloodline. Like Damien Sandow, he has heel magnetism. Like Antonio Cesaro, he has brashness. And like Wade Barrett, he has a solid work ethic.
Rhodes knows what it is like to wear, chase and retain titles.
So why does Rhodes come out on top? It has nothing to do with his mustache.
He is just plain due.
Rhodes has not gotten a serious push since his days with Legacy. He dashed through his Dashing days and brooded through his mask-wearing days. He had an OK run with The Big Show leading up to WrestleMania 28, but it was nothing more than foil work to get Big Show out of his WrestleMania funk.
Team Rhodes Scholars looked like it was going to be the traction that he needed to return to the top level, but WWE's fascination with Team Hell No and the World Tag Team Championship kept getting in the way.
With the Rhodes Scholars now in his rearview mirror, it's time for Rhodes to put his stamp on the World Heavyweight Championship. Sure, he could wind up in the ladder match for the red briefcase, but his best bet is Big Blue.
Rhodes was born to be a world champion. Now is his time to realize that dream.
So who is your choice for a red or blue briefcase? Is it one of these five Superstars, or do you have someone else in mind? Share your thoughts with your fellow fans in the comments section.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.