Quick Takes: Bobby Lashley vs. Goldberg, Next Ms. MITB, AEW's Darby Allin, More
Heading into a hot, wrestling-filled weekend, WWE and AEW both had newsworthy weeks that still have fans buzzing.
Fans being back in the buildings for AEW Dynamite these past two weeks as well as SmackDown on Friday has made all the difference. The shows feel infinitely livelier, and one can only hope that the Money in the Bank pay-per-view will continue that trend.
Before the event even happens, rumors are already running rampant as to who Bobby Lashley's WWE Championship challenger could be at SummerSlam next month—and a majority of the WWE Universe isn't thrilled.
Fightful Select (h/t WrestlingInc.com's Marc Middleton) is reporting that Goldberg vs. Lashley is considered a strong possibility for the SummerSlam card. Although the two-time Universal champion is a notable name, bringing him back to contend for the title again makes little to no sense.
What would make sense, however, is WWE giving Liv Morgan the biggest win of her career on Sunday night and having her win the women's Money in the Bank Ladder match. She's the best candidate of all the women involved and has real momentum behind her, but whether the company will capitalize on that is the question.
This week's installment of Quick Takes will look further into all of these topics as well as AEW quietly building its next big babyface in Darby Allin, SmackDown being a logical landing spot for Finn Balor, and more.
Will It Be Liv Morgan's Time to Shine at Money in the Bank?
Within a matter of a month, WWE has made Liv Morgan a heavy favorite to win the women's Money in the Bank Ladder match this year.
She was positioned as a tag team player for the better part of her first four years on the main roster due to The Riott Squad, but with Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan now gone, it's her time to shine. She's broken out as a singles star since Riott's release and has more momentum than anyone heading into Money in the Bank on Sunday night.
To Morgan's credit, her in-ring work has improved and she's successfully connected with the crowd, as seen on SmackDown this week. She'd be a perfect candidate to become the next Ms. Money in the Bank, though there is something to be said for her staying in chase mode a little longer.
Her ongoing storyline with Sonya Deville has been a recurring highlight on SmackDown in recent weeks. It's clear Deville is trying to prevent her from getting opportunities, so Deville costing her the briefcase at the pay-per-view (and possibly winning it herself) would an effective way to further their feud and establish Morgan as more of an underdog.
While it isn't imperative that Morgan win the contract this year, it sure would be a feel-good story and would present several intriguing possibilities for when she could cash in as well as who she could cash in on. At this rate, she could be holding the SmackDown Women's Championship by WrestleMania 38.
Fans Being Back Have Already Improved the Overall Quality of WWE, AEW Shows
After almost a year-and-a-half, fans are back in the audience at WWE and AEW shows and it couldn't be a greater feeling.
What was once the norm is now considered special, and although this honeymoon period won't last more than a few weeks or maybe months, fans should enjoy it while it lasts.
Although AEW has had small crowds for their Dynamite shows at Daily's Place in Jacksonville since September, nothing can compare to the packed buildings they're running now. It's even more noticeable considering the company has taped all of their shows inside the empty ThunderDome for the last year.
Wednesday's Fyter Fest edition of Dynamite was one of the hottest shows AEW has run to date. It was an excellent episode from top to bottom with the hot crowd making it way more fun than it would have been otherwise.
SmackDown was a similar success on Friday night. Between Mr. McMahon's brief appearance, the six-man tag team match and Finn Balor's surprise return, the first 30 minutes or so were white-hot. WWE still has some work to do creatively, but the electric atmosphere among the fans should enhance everyone's enjoyment of the product.
If fans can stay safe and smart, then the rest of the summer should be booming for both WWE and AEW and we're already off to a strong start.
AEW Is Quietly Building Its Next Big Babyface with Darby Allin
Although all eyes are on Adam Page at the moment in his quest to become AEW World champion, fans should paying an equal amount of attention to Darby Allin—another breakout babyface on the rise.
AEW's slow and steady progression of Allin's push over the last two years has been so subtle yet so perfect. He gradually got over in losses to Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho before racking up several high-profile wins and becoming AEW TNT champion.
Despite his reign coming to an end at the hands of Miro a few months ago, he's continued to climb the ranks in AEW. He's greatly benefited from his alliance with Sting and, just this past week, won the main event of Dynamite in a Coffin match against Ethan Page.
The company wouldn't have given the two of them such an important slot on the show if they didn't have high hopes for Allin. He won't and arguably shouldn't be AEW World champion any time soon with Page's current character arc taking precedence, but there are plenty of people he can put in programs with and be positioned as more of a main event player on the show.
The crowd reactions to Allin alone recently have indicated he's a future world champ and that he has what it takes to be that next homegrown star for AEW. His latest Dynamite main event was simply another step in that direction.
SmackDown Is a Logical Landing Spot for Finn Balor
Finn Balor has been away from WWE's main roster for almost exactly two years and received a rockstar reaction upon his return to SmackDown on Friday night.
The Prince's latest stint in NXT was the best thing that could have happened to him. He became NXT champion for a second time, produced excellent matches with everyone he stepped in the ring with and, most importantly, developed an aggressive edge that should carry over to SmackDown.
He spent all of a few months on SmackDown in 2019 before leaving for NXT. While in NXT, he became a bigger star and showed what the main roster was missing with him, so now he needs to bring that same success and attitude back to the main stage of the company.
His return to the main roster was inevitable, but it was always a question of where he would wind up. Both brands need top-tier babyfaces, but he has a much better chance of flourishing on Fridays than he would on Mondays given the current landscape of SmackDown.
There are any number of feuds he can have right off the bat, but him chasing either the Intercontinental Championship or the Universal Championship—two titles he has history with—would make the most sense. WWE must ensure they get it right with Balor this time by having him continue the great body of work he built in NXT.
Goldberg Returning to Target the WWE Title (Again) Makes No Sense
Goldberg apparently being on his way back to WWE for his reportedly-contracted second match of the year isn't the issue as much as what the storyline reason will be for his return.
The former WCW World Heavyweight champion was last seen at the Royal Rumble in January losing to then-WWE champion Drew McIntyre. Although he never received his rematch for the Universal Championship when he lost it in 2020, him going after McIntyre instead of Roman Reigns was an odd choice, but they made the most of it and Goldberg putting over McIntyre was what needed to happen.
Goldberg's last two WWE returns have involved him chasing a championship. The idea of him challenging Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam is illogical considering he already challenged for that same title earlier this year and lost decisively.
In other words, nothing is gained from Lashley vs. Goldberg being booked for the August extravaganza.
Yes, it's a fresh match and, yes, Goldberg offers some of the star power that WWE wants for the show. But the problem is that Brock Lesnar vs. Lashley is the match a majority of the fans wanted, and because Lesnar likely isn't working the event according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingNews.co's Andrew Ravens), the company is settling for Lashley vs. Goldberg as their second choice.
Lashley doesn't get any more over from beating the man who lost to a man (McIntyre) that Lashley has beaten multiple times this year. Goldberg capturing the championship would be an even worse outcome.
If WWE goes ahead with this outing, they should be prepared to face the backlash from fans that is sure to stem from it.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.