WWE Money in the Bank 2014: Last-Minute Predictions for Matches at PPV
The WWE that existed when Payback went off the air on June 1 is no more.
Gone is the dominant Shield, a trio of Superstars so unstoppable that the reformed Evolution was no match for it. The faction has been shattered, leaving three young competitors in its path who are ready to carry the promotion into the future. All three have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Roman Reigns could prove all speculation true by ascending the ladder and capturing the top prize in all of sports entertainment, becoming the latest breakout star for a company desperately in need of one.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, once brothers united as the Hounds of Justice, are now hated enemies. A guaranteed title opportunity awaits them if they can put their hatred aside long enough to focus on the task at hand.
Daniel Bryan is no longer the WWE World Heavyweight champion, his title stripped from him thanks to a neck injury and rehabilitation that are proving far more troublesome than originally expected. He will watch from the sidelines as eight Superstars do battle in a dangerous Ladder match for the title he never lost.
No longer is Cody Rhodes "dashing." Instead, the second-generation star has donned the gold and black face paint of his brother Goldust and become an enigmatic, bizarre character known as Stardust. He has the chance to shine brightest when he and Goldust meet longtime rivals RybAxel.
The theme of June has been change, and Sunday night, WWE could deliver on that theme with new champions and challengers that drastically change the course of the company's history.
Will it, though?
Take a look for yourself.
Summer Rae vs. Layla (Fandango as Guest Referee)
The drama between Summer Rae and Layla began when Fandango dumped the former over Twitter. With Summer disappearing from television to shoot WWE Studios' The Marine 4, her absence had to be explained. The tweet accomplished that and set up an angle for TV at the same time.
Talk about maximizing your social media exposure.
Fandango chose former Divas and Women's champion Layla to be his new dance partner. Their displays of public affection became regular occurrences on Raw and SmackDown, as one could not help but feel as though Fandango was rubbing it in his ex-dance partner's face.
When Summer Rae returned, she immediately targeted Layla. Whether she was dressing as one of Adam Rose's Rosebuds or interrupting an ongoing match, Summer did whatever was necessary to get her hands on the woman who stole her man.
Summer poured milk over Layla's head during a backstage segment on Raw, a reference to the catty nature of the Divas. The 2006 Diva Search winner responded by humiliating her rival with both milk and kitty litter.
All the while, Fandango's win-loss record continued to suffer as he was more concerned with splitting his current and ex-girlfriends up than picking up wins.
Sunday night, he can put the entire ordeal behind him when he referees a match between the emotion-fueled Divas.
Prediction: Summer Rae
WWE management clearly sees more potential and star power in Summer Rae, who is already a cast member on Total Divas and is about to star in her first major motion picture. At the same time, she simply is not an effective babyface. Her character does not lend itself to being cheered, and trying to force it will only make things worse.
Expect to see Fandango choose the leggy blonde over (as the underrated Matt Striker used to put it) "the little English muffin" Sunday night and help her to victory.
Where that leaves Layla going forward is anyone's guess. A very good in-ring competitor when given the opportunity to have matches lasting longer than two minutes, she could provide Paige with a strong challenge if WWE Creative chose to go in that direction.
Otherwise, she could easily become lost in the shuffle.
Big E vs. Rusev
At Payback on June 1, Big E presented "The Bulgarian Brute" Rusev with the toughest challenge of his young career. Every bit as strong and powerful as the newcomer, E had him reeling early but eventually had no choice to tap out to the Accolade.
The following night, Rusev was honored with the gold star from the Russian Federation. Lana appeared incredibly proud of her man while the dominant star stood completely still atop a pedestal, the Russian nation anthem playing for all to hear.
The excessive celebration of Russa got under the skin of Big E, who renewed his rivalry with Rusev shortly thereafter. Carrying the American flag and celebrating the greatest country on earth via promos that made him sound like a preacher, Big E showed personality for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.
On the June 23 episode of Raw, E fell victim to a sneak attack by Rusev, who locked him in the Accolade once again. Four days later on SmackDown, he proved to be smarter than his Money in the Bank opponent, catching him in another attempt at a sneak attack and sending him through the ropes and to the arena floor.
What was once a war over national pride has become a very personal one.
It is still way to early to sacrifice Rusev's winning streak for someone as cold as Big E is right now. Sure, if anyone can knock off the Bulgarian Brute, it is the powerful former Intercontinental champion. Still, Rusev is finally over and is finding himself in the ring.
His offense is more explosive, and he is being allowed the opportunity to speak more frequently. Lana has developed into a tremendous second and generates a great deal of heat herself. Together, they could rise to a prominent position at the top of the card by next spring.
It is clear WWE is replicating the Umaga push with Rusev. A similar performer in size, athleticism and ability, Rusev will continue to improve but only if he works with top stars like the Samoan Bulldozer did. After dispatching of Big E Sunday night, perhaps it is time to move him onto former World Heavyweight champions such as Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus.
Goldust and Stardust vs. RybAxel
At last month's Payback, Cody Rhodes was pinned by Ryback, costing he and Goldust a major tag team victory on pay-per-view. After the match, a dejected Rhodes told his brother that he deserved a better partner and seemingly quit, splitting up a team that just months earlier had been WWE Tag Team champions.
In the weeks that followed, Rhodes would attempt to find a new partner for his brother. Stars such as R-Truth, Kofi Kingston and Sin Cara failed to help Goldust get back to his winning ways. Then, on the June 16 episode of Raw, Rhodes himself debuted as the mysterious newcomer Stardust.
Together, he and Goldust knocked off Ryback and Axel. None too pleased that they were defeated by the Rhodes brothers, Ryback threw down a challenge for a rematch at Money in the Bank. The challenge was accepted on the June 27 episode of SmackDown.
Prediction: Goldust and Stardust
There is no chance Goldust and Stardust lose this match outside of a nonsensical turn by the latter.
Sunday's match is the kind of showcase for the babyfaces typically reserved for Raw, but with so many other stars involved in the two ladder matches, it gets some pay-per-view airtime.
Ryback and Axel have really developed into an outstanding heel tag team but lack the personality and marketability that their opponents have in spades. With the likelihood that Luke Harper and Erick Rowan capture the tag team titles being fairly high, expect Goldust and Stardust to win and give the champions fresh new challengers.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family
The Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have proven to be far more difficult to put away than WWE Tag Team champions Jimmy and Jey Uso could have imagined. Despite having the speed, agility and elusiveness to offset the power advantage of their opponents, they have found themselves overwhelmed by the No. 1 contenders' determination to capture their first championship gold.
The Usos have been MVPs for WWE in 2014. Their ability to pair energetic sequences and crowd-pleasing high spots make their matches must-see affairs.
Harper and Rowan, on the other hand, are constantly improving. Old school brawlers charged with mauling the competition in any way possible, they will look to beat the tag titles off of their opponents come Sunday night.
The feud has raged on since the Usos began serving as backup for John Cena during his feud with Bray Wyatt. Sunday night, they are backup no more. They take center stage against two men determined to walk away with the first real recognition of their abilities that they have ever enjoyed.
The potential for rematches could very well affect the outcome of the bout.
Prediction: Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
The Usos have had a great reign to this point but are out of fresh competition. Beyond The Wyatt Family awaits only RybAxel and the Rhodes brothers, both of whom the current champions have already beaten. That is not to say Harper and Rowan's potential opponents are any better, but putting the belts on them would exude a sense of freshness.
As the faces of tag team wrestling in WWE and one of the most over teams the company has had in the last five years, the Usos will be fine. They will rebound nicely and have several more reigns left in them. Unfortunately, for them to evolve and grow, they have to drop the titles and go back into chase mode.
It will be beneficial for both teams in the long run.
Divas Championship Match: Paige vs. Naomi
WWE Divas champion Paige has been the face of women's wrestling in the company since debuting and upsetting AJ Lee for the title the night after WrestleMania 30. Since then, she has dispatched of the likes of Alicia Fox, Aksana and Tamina but has been kept away from the cast of Total Divas.
That changed after the Payback pay-per-view when she was confronted by Cameron of The Funkadactyls. Correctly stating that she had done nothing to earn a title shot, she earned the ire of Paige by slapping the Brit.
The former WWE Tough Enough competitor underwent a rapid character change, becoming more egotistical and self-centered than ever. She talked trash about her own tag partner Naomi, going as far as to state that the former NXT competitor did not deserve a shot at the Divas Championship.
Naomi, like a good friend, has done nothing to instigate any further dissension among The Funkadactyls. She has simply picked up wins to earn herself a title opportunity Sunday night.
If the latest episode of SmackDown is any indication, Cameron could play a major role in the outcome of title match. She nearly ignited a brawl between champion and challenger and looked downright bored by the ensuing staredown between them.
It is far too early to take the Divas Championship off of Paige.
Her stint on the roster to this point has not been as smooth as one would have hoped. WWE Creative has done her no favors by booking her as an afterthought compared to her challengers, and the fact that the attitude that made her the "Anti-Diva" standout among the rest of the cookie-cutter Divas has been stripped away has not helped.
But she is the best wrestler on the Divas roster by far and deserves to continue her title reign.
Naomi should make for an interesting opponent because Paige wrestles a very aggressive, hard-hitting style, while the Funkadactyl favors a flashy, high-flying and athletic moveset.
The backdrop for the continued evolution of the Cameron character, Paige should retain the title and set up a program against the yapping, annoying Diva.
Money in the Bank Contract Match
The most interesting match on Sunday's card is the Money in the Bank Contract match featuring Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Intercontinental champion Bad News Barrett, Rob Van Dam, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger.
Ambrose and Rollins are the current favorites thanks to the exposure they have been given on Raw and SmackDown of late. Their feud has been one of the most heated since the night after Payback, when Rollins shocked the wrestling world and betrayed his Shield teammates. Considering their prospects for the future, either man would be an excellent choice to carry the briefcase.
Current Intercontinental champion Bad News Barrett could use the briefcase to catapult him to a main event scene that he has not been a regular part of since his rookie year of 2010. An injury to his shoulder suffered at this week's SmackDown tapings, reported on by WWE.com, may result in his departure from the match. If that is the case, Barrett would miss his best chance yet to return to the top of the card.
Rob Van Dam and Kofi Kingston are veterans of the Ladder match and should provide the WWE Universe with a few memorable, breathtaking spots. Kingston, in particular, can be counted on to use his creativity to try something that has never been done before.
Jack Swagger, for all of his talent, made a truly stupid mistake in the middle of his latest main event push in 2013 and has all but guaranteed that he will never sniff the top of the card again.
That brings us to Dolph Ziggler.
Despite an uneven win-loss record, Ziggler remains one of the most over stars on the roster thanks to his stellar in-ring performances. He works hard regardless of his spot on the card, meaning fans can trust him to deliver a show-stealing performance every night.
He has not had a particularly great year, but he stays relevant, appearing on Raw and SmackDown more times than not. It is quite the interesting way to book him. He's not really a marquee guy, but he is not a run-of-the-mill midcarder either. How that translates to Sunday's match should be interesting to watch unfold.
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have been shoved down fans' throats to the point that it is understandable to see how they would be favorites to win the match. At the same time, the intense feud between them sets up a scenario where they become so focused on causing each other pain and suffering that they end up cancelling each other out.
Prior to the injury suffered on SmackDown, Barrett would have been a great pick. He's still young, is having the best matches of his career and is as over as he has ever been. But his availability is in question, waving a giant red flag.
Ziggler endured a major valley in his career last fall and winter and has come out of it as over as he has ever been. He is consistently great in the ring and is a homegrown talent the company can be proud of. A media-savvy performer who does a ton of promotion for the company, he is still championship material.
Like CM Punk, he has earned a redo and a second chance at championship glory.
Just keep him away from Swagger.
Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
On the June 9 episode of Monday Night Raw, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon gleefully stripped Daniel Bryan of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It was a disappointing end to one of the best feel-good stories the company had produced in the last decade.
Unfortunately, the machine that is WWE slows for no man. It keeps turning, and Sunday night at Money in the Bank, the company will crown a new king of the mountain in eight-man Ladder match.
Roman Reigns enters the match on the biggest roll. He conquered the otherwise unconquerable "Bulgarian Brute" Rusev in a Battle Royal to earn his way into the match and has been the talk of the wrestling world since, thanks to powerful performances against Intercontinental champion Bad News Barrett, the Demon Kane and in two handicap tag bouts.
John Cena is always a favorite to win the title. As the face of the company and its biggest star for nearly a decade, he comes and goes from the title picture when he is needed.
Bray Wyatt presents the most interesting storyline possibilities. The cult-like leader of The Wyatt Family, Bray has already discussed the power that would come with holding a title as prestigious as the WWE world heavyweight title. Making that a reality could be the emphasis for a conflict with The Authority and a babyface turn for the Eater of Worlds.
The rest of the field are decided underdogs. Randy Orton, thanks to his relationship with The Authority and the potential for an assist from Kane, has the best chance of the leftovers to leave with the gold, but Cesaro, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio exist solely to ensure a great match.
Prediction: John Cena
When all else fails, go with old reliable. The show takes place in Cena's hometown, and with Bryan's injury sending long-term booking down the drain, Cena can help steady the ship until WWE Creative figures out exactly what it wants to do with the likes of Reigns, Wyatt, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
Even if that is not the most popular outcome of the ones available.