Since the summer of 2009, WWE has ushered in a new era of pay-per-views centered around specific gimmick matches.
Initially, we bore witness to some very lackluster shows, and so fans were rightly cynical in their early predictions for WWE's future with such events.
However, since those first few flops, WWE has treated us to exponentially improving shows.
Most recently, WWE made the incredibly insightful decision of making one of the year's most anticipated matches, Money in the Bank, the focus of their July pay-per-view.
Now we are at the cusp of that hotly talked about show and, with interest raging in their two Money in the Bank matches and the card's other contests, many guesses have been put forth towards the likely victors.
Now, I'll take the stand to place my wagers on who I think will walk out of Money in the Bank victorious.
1. Unified Tag Team Championship: The Hart Dynasty (c) vs. The Usos
Since their debut, The Usos have been making a "splash" on Monday nights. Harhar, get it? Yeah, you should. Because its their finisher. See, I can be funny.
However, the strides they've taken thus far would be best described as baby steps.
With the immense star power on RAW, it's no surprise that they've had a hard time getting a decent amount of camera time, thus we've seen little of their full potential...we assume.
Even so, this is the first time two talented, legitimate tag teams have really locked horns in a while. Hopefully, this will be our best taste of The Usos so far.
The Pick: The Hart Dynasty
Justification: WWE often employs the strategy of "look weak on television, go over on pay-per-view." Lo and behold, this past Monday night, The Usos managed to capture a non-title win against their Canadian adversaries.
Aside from that not-so-concrete reasoning, it also just seems sort of early in their feud for a title exchange.
You know how WWE functions; they like to have challengers lose a time or two and miraculously regain No. 1 contendership until finally winning the title. Note the abundance of "last chance" world title matches.
If WWE keeps building this rivalry right, we could see something special out of them. This feud going on to Summerslam, which is where I could more realistically see The Usos capturing the gold, could do wonders for the show's mid-card.
2. Divas Championship: Alicia Fox (c) vs. Eve Torres
Alicia Fox has gone a long way since her days as a wedding planner with few inhibitions. Among RAW's female cast of swimsuit models, Alica Fox is one of the few decent performers.
Though she's definitely no Gail Kim or Natalya Neidhart, she's an improvement over her horrid predecessors.
Eve Torres, on the other hand, is all style and no substance. From her appaling cross between a dropkick and a back heel kick to her sloppy flipping senton finisher, she exudes the very essence of a WWE diva: pretty, but she can't wrestle.
And on a personal note, though she's certainly beautiful, it pains me to see Eve Torres as Colorado's only mainstream representative in professional wrestling. My home is so misrepresented, which I greatly resent. I can actually do a dropkick.
The Pick: Alicia Fox
Justification: It's too early in Alicia's reign to end it now. If WWE has any sense, they'd keep the strap on her. Then again, it is the women's division, so I shouldn't be surprised for them to show blatant disregard for logic when handling it.
Don't be surprised if this is the worst match of the night.
Women's Championship: Layla (c) vs. Kelly Kelly
Layla actually is a pretty solid worker, while Kelly Kelly at least has a few impressive spots in her repetoire. She's the closest thing to a spot monkey WWE's contemporary women's division has had.
On the Lay-Cool team, I've actually thoroughly enjoyed it. It's taken the traditional heel diva gimmick and exaggerated it to great exents, which will hopefully mean other women (or creative team members) will try to be more inventive when devising their characters.
I've been suspecting that they might turn the Women's Championship into a tag title for the division, but that would be a bad move since neither brand has enough decent women to warrant such a transformation.
Plus, it would seem better to do that with the Divas Championship, since that belt has had far less history.
The Pick: Layla
Justification: Kelly Kelly is just a transitional challenger until Melina or Beth Phoenix returns. Wait, was Melina even on Smackdown? Oh well, even if she wasn't, she's been gone long enough that creative can just move her as they please.
Expect interference by Michelle McTaker for the finish.
Smackdown Money in the Bank: The Big Show vs. Matt Hardy vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Kane vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Christian vs. Drew McIntyre
This match has a 100 percent possibility of a new world champion being made. The Big Show is just CM Punk's replacement, while Kane will sadly never get another world title run in the rest of his career.
Wrestlemania 26's Money in the Bank successfully put into everyone's minds that the most obvious winner doesn't always get the briefcase.
For once, commentary has accurately described the possibility of each outcome (with the exception of their thoughts on the giants) even if the justifications were kayfabe. In honor of this, for both of these matches I'll state the case for each individual contestant:
The Big Show: Like I said, he's just Punk's replacement. If things don't go well for Jack Swagger in Smackdown's main event, I'd expect these two to maybe have a grudge feud.
Matt Hardy: Onscreen, Matt Hardy made one of the boldest claims of all the Money in the Bank participants; if he wins, he'll cash the briefcase in that very night. However, it could have just been a cheap way of garnering buyers.
Matt Hardy is argubaly the most over face in that match, so maybe Vince hopes people will pay to see that historic moment.
Overall, I can't imagine Vince would be thrilled at the idea of putting a world title on a recently injury-prone, overweight Matt Hardy.
Dolph Ziggler: Creative failed to pull the trigger on Dolph Ziggler last summer when he feuded with Rey Mysterio and then John Morrison for the Intercontinental Championship. Rumor has it, he wasn't that well favored.
If that remains true, I don't expect him to win, especially due to how little relevance he's had on WWE programming for the past several months. Of all the participants, a Ziggler victory would bear the most resemblance to Swagger's win at Wrestlemania 26.
Kofi Kingston: On RAW, Kofi got a taste of the main event when he feuded with Randy Orton. However, one fateful triple threat match cost him what chances he had at a world title. At the draft, Kofi was relegated to Smackdown to rebuild his reputation.
As no title holder has yet won Money in the Bank, I feel inclined to believe just from that, that Kofi has no chance of winning Sunday night.
However, Kofi looks like one of the most credible mid-carders after his feud with Orton, so he'd be one of the least difficult to push.
Kane: Yeah, not happening.
Cody Rhodes: They've been pushing Rhodes lately, but it's probably too soon to elevate him to the main event. He has potential, but I see him settling into the Intercontinental Championship division first.
Christian: As arguably the best ring technician and talker of the match, Christian has a lot of favor going for him...from the fans, that is. Vince's alleged loathing for Christian is infamous. That alone might keep him from the briefcase.
Drew McIntyre: Most people believed he'd win at Wrestlemania, but it didn't happen. Apparently, he fell out of favor soon before the show. If he's regained creative's affection, he seems likely to win the match. Regardless, with solid ring skills and great ability on the mic, he'd be a worthy candidate.
The Pick: Drew McIntyre
Justification: I want to believe McIntyre hasn't regained creative's favor, but I'm choosing to be pessimistic to avoid disappointment.
I like his work, though I dislike him being put ahead of more deserving veterans when he'd be just fine working the mid-card for a few years.
RAW Money in the Bank: Mark Henry vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Evan Bourne vs. John Morrison vs. Ted DiBiase Jr. vs. The Miz
Like the other match, here's the case for each wrestler:
"Kool-Aid Man" Mark Henry: Same as Kane.
Edge: He doesn't need the briefcase to gain No. 1 contendership, but WWE might not be ready to push any of the younger guys, so we could see Edge win. They've been building him well for the show, so it doesn't seem unlikely.
Randy Orton: Similar to Edge, but without being built up for the show. You could argue the development of his character in general would count as building him for any sort of opportunity.
Chris Jericho: Of the three main eventers, Jericho seems the least likely to pull off the win. He's been pushed the least lately, though I suppose he might have an outside chance.
Evan Bourne: In recent weeks, Bourne has attacked Edge, teamed with John Cena, faced Jericho twice on television and once on pay-per-view, interrupted a Cutting Edge segment, teamed with Randy Orton, and tried to gain revenge on Orton after he RKOed him the previous week, only to take one of the nicest spots WWE has had in months.
Of the mid-carders, Evan Bourne has been featured the most prominently lately. This could have been done to prepare him for the Money in the Bank push, though his lacking mic skills might play against him when creative makes their decision.
John Morrison: Throughout 2009, Morrison gained a lot of credibility as he put on countless quality television matches on Smackdown and Superstars, eventually gaining the Intercontinental Championship in an incredible match against Rey Mysterio.
Around that time, Morrison would have been my favorite for this match. However, he's been buried on RAW and last year's push has practically gone to waste.
Ted DiBiase Jr.: WWE seems to be invested in him. They gave him a small repackaging and a valet to match, but he's really pretty bland both in the ring and on the mic. I don't think WWE would be very impressed with him, but you can't be sure.
The Miz: As one of the best characters in the WWE today, The Miz has been occasionally mixing it up with the main event, such as his brief appearance with Randy Orton.
Creative seems to be very high on him and he certainly is over enough with the fans to make this push worthwhile.
The Pick: The Miz
Justification: While I'd love Bourne or Morrison, Miz seems like the most credible mid-carder.
Like I said, they might just use the briefcase to give No. 1 contendership to a main eventer due to their reluctance to push an undeveloped talent as they perceive. If not, Miz seems like the most likely candidate for RAW's Money in the Bank.
World Heavyweight Championship: Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Jack Swagger
Since losing his first world championship at Fatal 4-Way, Jack Swagger, for the first time since winning Money in the Bank, is being booked intelligently.
Instead of losing on television, he's been tormenting Rey Mysterio over the past few weeks, also creating the opportunity for sympathy face heat for Rey Mysterio.
Two weeks ago on Smackdown, a backstage doctor explained Rey Mysterio's ankle was seriously damaged from Jack Swagger's Ankle Lock, thus we'll see that play into the match in a big way.
Both have been doing tremendously well in their respective roles of this feud. Swagger's gained more heat than he ever has before, while Mysterio has continually sold the ankle injury perfectly.
The Pick: Jack Swagger
Justification: As most of you remember, Rey Mysterio wasn't even meant to be at Fatal 4-Way; he was supposed to be on vacation with his family.
However, Undertaker's injury left a spot open, which he agreed to fill in return for his second World Heavyweight Championship.
It seems likely to me that Rey Mysterio might still desire some time off. The creation of this onscreen ankle injury could have been done for the purpose of giving Rey Mysterio a way to lose at Money in the Bank without getting buried, simultaneously injuring his character enough so that they could have a kayfabe reason to take him off television.
Additionally, a world title feud between Jack Swagger and The Undertaker was heavily rumored. Putting the title on Rey Mysterio might have just been to fill time until Undertaker could return.
The only flaw in this is that Undertaker will first have to square away his issues with whoever put him in a "vegetative state," so if we don't see Rey drop the title here, perhaps we will at Summerslam.
WWE Championship: Sheamus (c) vs. John Cena
At WWE Fatal 4-Way, Sheamus capitalized on Nexus interference to become the 100th WWE Champion. Now, he'll have to defend his championship against the Orange-Crap-Wearing Wonder, John Cena, in a steel cage match.
What a load of hooey. It irritates me to hear how the cage is to, "keep Nexus out of the match." Bull. A cage has never actually prevented run-ins. I hate how WWE insults our intelligence with such preposterous claims. That was intentionally snobby.
I can't say whether we should look forward to this. Their tables match was weak and I was hardly enthralled by their television matches. Maybe with the cage thrown in, we'll see an improvement in quality, but I'm not convinced.
The Pick: John Cena
Justification: I believe Wade Barrett will be the deciding factor in booking this match. Even if most people don't remember it, he still has a championship opportunity.
The summer seems to be the primary time for pushing the mid-card, so I don't think WWE will keep Wade's title shot looming over our heads for too much longer.
I expect John Cena to win here so that Wade could make the challenge for Summerslam. That would really be the best decision, since this has been one of the few examples of long-term booking we've seen on RAW since the Road to Wrestlemania.
Wade has built good heat in his part with Nexus and he's forged a rivalry between he and Cena as the leader of the group.
As the culmination of their rivalry, it would make the best sense to have them face off at Summerslam for the WWE Championship, even if it's at the expense of Sheamus.
Final Thougths: I believe the highlights for this show will outweigh the negatives. It's disappointing to see two divas matches booked for one pay-per-view, but both of the Money in the Bank matches should be exciting, and I expect Smackdown's side of the main event could easily hit the three-star level with a possibility of a four, while RAW's should be at least decent.
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Also, if you're interested in seeing Jim Ross call his last match, read Chris O Connall's article on a petition he created: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/406124-an-open-letter-to-wwe-regarding-jr-calling-his-farewell-match