As WWE seeks to put the troubled Backlash event in the past and move on to hopefully greener pastures, there's nothing greener than Money in the Bank—especially with the horrendously ugly new briefcase that looks as though it was dipped in the slime from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
The company has been making some questionable decisions recently, which are rather difficult to defend, such as lazily booking rematches for the past two pay-per-views, keeping the focus on Roman Reigns despite crowds' reactions to him and refusing to change any of that dynamic, ending Asuka's undefeated streak and dropping entire divisions and making them look bad in this new co-branded event style.
Clearly, the writing team is in a slump. Either the writers have goals they are trying to execute and the fans just aren't enjoying the product or there is a collective wave of writer's block.
In any fashion, the Money in the Bank contracts are some of the best tools to ensure at least the potential of some quality storytelling over the course of the next year, but only if done correctly.
Over the course of the 19 previous winners, we've seen everything from surprise victories and enthralling feuds to the complete mismanagement of talent whose careers were ruined while holding on to this briefcase.
For every instance of Edge setting the tone for what's expected of Mr. Money in the Bank, Dolph Ziggler's immense pop when he cashed in on Alberto Del Rio, the shockingly fast turnarounds with Dean Ambrose and Kane and even the WrestleMania moment with Seth Rollins, there are people who were booked horribly like Damien Sandow.
Last year, for the first time, a women's Money in the Bank was brought into the mix, but both that and the men's weren't as successful as they could have been.
Carmella's victory was criticized heavily because of James Ellsworth's help, giving off a vibe that the first woman to win the briefcase needed a man's assistance, which prompted a redo. That wasn't the best start for The Princess of Staten Island and the female representation of this concept.
At least Carmella was able to successfully cash in her briefcase on Charlotte Flair to become the champion, whereas Baron Corbin wasn't as lucky, continuing his trend of getting a push, only to have it blow up in his face and having to start all over again.
This year, WWE has opted to open the playing field up to both rosters, allowing Raw and SmackDown Live's men and women to compete in their respective ladder matches for shots at obtaining the relevant briefcases.
As always, who WWE picks to hold these contracts can play major roles in the upcoming main event scenes, making it imperative the winners aren't people the company will likely waste this opportunity on.
Half of the men's competitors and only two out of the eight women have been confirmed, with future matches set to determine the remaining participants.
WWE has not announced who will be in the running to earn some of those last spots, but even without knowing that information, we can still look at the possible options on Raw and SmackDown and give our projections of who would be the best possible choices to pick from.
Maintaining a Balance
One factor to weigh in is WWE has yet to specify the rules for this year's match.
In the past, there have been instances when people have been forced to stay on their brand and only challenge that show's champion, but there have also been times when people have jumped to the opposite brand and cashed in their title shot there.
Unless specified, we should assume WWE will purposely keep this ambiguous so as to allow some flexibility in case injuries hinder either Raw or SmackDown and this tool could be used to fix some of the problems.
That would be the smartest choice rather than pigeonhole the winners to have to stick to their brands and kill off any chances of pulling off that kind of a surprise loophole.
However, if WWE's writers decide to be more rigid and not give themselves an out for the future, there should be a balance forced upon these two briefcases where each brand wins one of them rather than both being on the same show.
That allows for both rosters to have someone lingering in the darkness, waiting to strike, instead of doubling up on the same crutch for one show and feeling redundant.
This is important to keep in mind when choosing potential winners, as this is a delicate puzzle to properly put together.
The Next Ms. Money in the Bank
With Carmella holding the SmackDown Women's Championship, the blue brand has a rather weak champion.
She's great in terms of character, but her credibility is not rock-solid, so any reasonable babyface could defeat her at any time.
Charlotte Flair could win her title back easily, Naomi or Becky Lynch could get another run or Asuka could bounce back from her losses and become dominant again with relative ease.
Oddly, any of those women wouldn't require someone cashing in to defeat them, either. Flair's already experienced that, Asuka is no longer untouchable and both Naomi and Becky Lynch could fall victim to a heel, and it wouldn't seem too strange.
On the other hand, Nia Jax holding the Raw Women's Championship is a different situation, as she dwarfs her competition.
No babyface or heel on Monday Night Raw is a legitimate threat to Jax if logic is applied, save for Ronda Rousey. Yet as both are babyfaces, that doesn't seem like a route WWE will go down.
Instead, it seems as though a heel should take the title from Jax in order to drop it to Rousey later down the line.
Heels work best with the Money in the Bank, as they can steal a championship from an injured titleholder and look like true villains in the process.
With that being said, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James have already had their feud with Jax, so they don't seem as likely to win it just to do the same thing again in a few months.
Ruby Riott isn't a big-enough star to take the title, hold it for a bit and then have a program with Rousey, so she and her fellow Riott Squad members are out of the running too.
That means the most realistic options are to take one of Bayley, Sasha Banks or Natalya and have her turn heel when she can cash in on Jax.
All three have a built-in potential feud with Rousey, as both Bayley and Banks are members of WWE's Four Horsewomen and Natalya is paired up with Rowdy as her friend.
Given those three scenarios, any one of them could win and pull off the same basic linear path of taking advantage of an injured Jax, becoming a heel and then losing to Rousey. There's no wrong decision among those three, even though none of them have qualified for a spot in this match yet.
The Next Mr. Money in the Bank
If Raw receives the women's Money in the Bank, SmackDown should get the men's—not just for the balance but because of the Universal Championship situation.
With the way Brock Lesnar has been booked as a god among mortals, there is no justification in having him hold the title for over a year just to have him lose it via a cheap cash-in once again.
Somebody needs to definitively beat him, even if it is Roman Reigns and the audience passionately rejects it.
The investment in putting Lesnar over against everybody in the company—having him end The Undertaker's streak, beat Goldberg, carry the Universal Championship so long and beat every big man like Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman—means there needs to be something positive yielded.
WWE can't just protect Lesnar, let him go away to the UFC and hope to pick back up where the parties left off in a few months without upsetting the audience even more—and not in the good way.
Likewise, if Reigns is the guy WWE is adamant about having dethrone Lesnar, he shouldn't be dropping the title to a cheap cash-in down the line, either, meaning Raw is pretty much off limits for any potential stories to tell with the Money in the Bank briefcase.
On SmackDown Live, however, WWE allows more experimentation. It's clearly the B-show and will always remain second-best, so if something doesn't work, it's not the end of the world.
Two of SmackDown's four competitors have been determined in The Miz and Rusev, whereas Jeff Hardy and Daniel Bryan are seemingly out of the running. But WWE could always do a last-chance match of sorts for people to get back in.
As popular as the Rusev Day gimmick is, it's unrealistic to expect a solid push for The Bulgarian Brute that results in him becoming WWE champion, but The Miz is a different story.
It's arguable who the top babyface on SmackDown is between Bryan and AJ Styles, but there's no question it's a race between those two, meaning whenever Styles drops the WWE Championship, the next hero in line will be Bryan.
The Phenomenal One could lose the title to Shinsuke Nakamura—even though recent attempts have said otherwise—or to Samoa Joe if WWE has the sense to give him a real push as a main event player instead of someone who just boasts and then comes up short.
After that happens, Bryan should be the next Superstar to hold the WWE Championship by defeating either Nakamura or Joe and giving the audience a feelgood moment they have been waiting years for.
That is where The Miz should come in to undercut that moment and cash in his briefcase on Bryan, stealing the WWE Championship from under his nose and adding even more fuel to the fire with their feud.
This would create nuclear heat, as the two have had bad blood for years. The crowd would rejoice as the leader of the Yes Movement finally ascended the throne once more before regicide came in full swing from The A-Lister.
The Miz has been one of the most popular, talented and best performers in recent years, and WWE can rely on him to consistently do his job. He should be rewarded with another title reign at the top of the food chain.
This would also create an amazing pursuit for the gold that could lead into a WrestleMania match between the two, particularly if WWE wishes to offset previous bad karma by giving the Royal Rumble victory to Bryan—a move that would be a culmination of snubs in 2014 and 2015 and at the recent Greatest Royal Rumble.
The storytelling practically writes itself and checks off all the boxes. It gives fans a heel they can boo whom they enjoy watching, a babyface they can cheer whom they actually endorse, many months of potential to write around and an easy story to tell that isn't too taxing on the writers.
It will be interesting to see who the remaining competitors in these two matches are and which Superstars WWE decides to go with on June 17 at the Allstate Arena. But until then, we should cross our fingers for The Miz and either Bayley, Sasha Banks or Natalya to climb those ladders and win.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.