This week, Jonathan Maldonado, Robert DeFelice and Jordan Chaffiotte will share their thoughts on the developing storylines in the second week of Money in the Bank season.
Question 1: Several qualifying matches have taken place for the men's and the women's Money in the Bank ladder matches in the past two weeks. Who presents the best opportunity to win in each division?
MALDONADO: The Miz should be the first superstar since CM Punk in 2009 to win the MITB briefcase for a second time. There's just no better, more entertaining option than the A-lister and to be honest, SmackDown's main event heel scene needs a boost. Sure Samoa Joe and Shinsuke are around but neither commands the attention or boasts the mic skills of The Miz. No one will come close to the slimy shenanigans Miz would pull as Mr. MITB. On top of all that, the MITB briefcase needs to be on SmackDown anyway. How can anyone ever be excited for the possibility of a cash-in for a title that's never around?
For the women, the briefcase heads to Raw with Alexa Bliss. MITB is a heel's prize and I can't think of a better heel for it. Sure she's already held the title multiple times and lost it to Nia Jax, but I'm not convinced putting it on Ember Moon or any other Raw star is the right move. And I say Raw because I think the title picture is fine on SmackDown without the MITB. There's a lot going on with Carmella and Charlotte, The IIconics causing trouble, Asuka waiting in the wings and Becky Lynch lingering. Raw will need an extra factor to balance the massive attention Ronda Rousey will command as she challenges for the title at MITB.
DEFELICE: Of the men's qualifiers, I feel that this match belongs to The Miz on the SmackDown side, or Bobby Roode on the Monday Night Raw side. I think these two are best qualified as The Miz needs to rise to the top of the blue brand and be the major heel for his ultimate nemesis, Daniel Bryan, to defeat. Bobby Roode is somebody I would have given a Money in the Bank briefcase to at any point over the last five years. I know he wasn't in the company back then, but his skills and abilities in TNA Wrestling as their top heel shows that he is somebody who should have risen to the top of WWE quite a long time ago. Also, if Roode wins this briefcase I think he needs to turn heel upon cashing in.
For the ladies, my guess is Ember Moon. With my assumption that the men's cash in will be done by a heel, I think a female protagonist should win here. I'm going with Ember because she has the most to gain, although I would not be surprised to see Charlotte Flair win this match and cash in (immediately) on whoever wins the Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey match. This is not ideal in my mind, but I know they have this desire for Charlotte Flair to be the most decorated female in wrestling history. Side note: the fact that you have this match and Bayley and Sasha Banks are not featured in it, is a travesty.
CHAFFIOTTE: I don't know about most likely to win, but I'll tell you who has the best story in front of them should they win the briefcase. For the men, it seems to me that we are well past Finn Balor's due. His work recently has been really quite good, and I feel like I have a better lens into his character since he started working with Seth. Their chemistry is so strong that it doesn't take much for them to put on a stunningly good match, which is why he should be the one to take the Intercontinental Championship off Rollins. What does that have to do with Money in the Bank, you ask? He should do it while Mr. MITB. The last few years have been so lackluster, Corbin's failed cash in, Dean's blink and you'll miss it, and Sheamus being Sheamus. We need a memorable MITB reign, and Finn winning in June and then going on to hold both the briefcase and the IC title for a period of time would be just right. He's in a good position for it too, as tweener Finn is the most interesting. I like it when he's smiling because he's gonna beat you. Once he drops the IC title, he doesn't have to go for a full on opportunistic cash-in, but simply a post-match one. Still fresh and with a clear advantage, but it's not a total jerk move. And if he cashes in on current Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, man that'd be something.
The story I want most on the women's side is not a lock yet. I'd like to see Billie Kay make it into the match and win the briefcase with help from her best friend (girlfriend) Peyton Royce. The two of them can both carry the briefcase in LayCool fashion, and I would even be willing to go as far as having Paige let them officially Freebird it. That would allow for the Peyton to be the one to cash in and take advantage of her in-ring abilities. Or they could just pull Twin Magic because this is already so ridiculous, let's just lean into it. The IIconics are easily the most entertaining thing on SmackDown right now and their matches are very solid. Giving them a shared run with the title would bring their stock up and also mean that they're on my television screen more, which makes me happy.
Question 2: Nia Jax challenged Ronda Rousey to a match for the Raw Women's Championship in a unique setting and fashion. What do you make of this situation?
MALDONADO: What just happened? A champ throwing down an open challenge to their title is one thing, but Nia issued a challenge to Ronda as if she were the one holding the title. This felt forced, unnatural and just weird. Charlotte’s "do it, do it" chant didn't really help, nor did the three walking away together laughing it up. They seemed too friendly about it, and I'm going to have trouble believing any heat in the remaining weeks leading up to the match.
I get having something big happen at an upfront for NBC was important for WWE, but this fell flat. Maybe they can cook something up in the coming weeks, but I'm more interested in closing the Ronda/Authority story than seeing her in a title match way before she should be in one.
DEFELICE: The Nia/Ronda announcement was so lackluster. Is a match that could have easily been built up in a traditional manner with Jax eventually turning heel and becoming the bully that she was trying to fight, and then Ronda knocking the crap out of her. This was done in such a rushed manner with WWE wanting to spotlight their women in a very public way, and the truth is the Greatest Royal Rumble issue really killed the whole Women's Revolution thing for me. I feel like they can never be the top dogs because at any point they can be left off a card somewhere due to political reasons.
It's a shame because the women are on par with, if not better than most of the full-time male roster. If you then factor in the awkwardness of Ronda Rousey saying that she doesn't want a title shot, because she wants to earn it the proper way only for Charlotte Flair, who has nothing to do with the situation, encourage her to do it and then kind of hugging both girls afterwards just made the whole thing seem so strange. I was not a fan.
CHAFFIOTTE: When I'm not here on Smark Out Moment, I work in advertising, so I understand how big of a deal upfronts are. I don't even touch TV but it's all I've been hearing about. WWE is a different animal compared to NBC's other shows like This is Us or Brooklyn Nine Nine, and this move seemed to me to be them searching for a way to get some buzz when there isn't the same type of traditional upfront presentation for them. They might not be able to give advertisers concrete direction of the show, but they can demonstrate their entertainment value by doing a work segment on the red carpet. That, I think is genius.
The execution was where we had a problem. Part of this arose from the fact that there were three faces together in the segment, and they're really pushing that Ronda is beloved backstage. Maybe that's true maybe it's not, but I would've loved to see Charlotte egging her on more for her own amusement than as looking out for a friend. It also would've helped if you could see the fear behind Ronda's eyes at the thought of facing Nia instead of her being just Humble Ronda Rousey. "Oh you wanna challenge me to a fight? Oh, yeah, cool cool cool, no doubt, no doubt, no doubt." That makes it obvious Ronda knows she's in over her head. Nia's not the best actress on the roster, so less lines for her would've been better. Simply throwing down the gauntlet and smirking as she sauntered off, fully prepared to kick her butt at Money in the Bank would've been plenty. She's got enough heat from that be a star promo, let's just move it along.
Question 3: Roman Reigns is now in a feud with Jinder Mahal. Do you see Mahal’s stock rising with this program?
MALDONADO: Mahal has grown on me a bit. His persistent presence and consistency in character has led me to buy into what he's doing. Sure, he's no one's choice champ and leaves something to be desired in the ring, but he is improving. I'm a fan of him getting a program with Reigns and I think Reigns is right in saying this will make Jinder way more relevant than he's ever been, despite being a former WWE Champion.
Mahal will continue to be a heel through this, which means he's going to get his moments over Reigns. The result will be lots of cheering for Mahal because anyone beating up Reigns gets cheered, unless you're Brock Lesnar. This feud with Reigns won't get Mahal over like it did Braun Strowman, but I think it's a high enough profile feud to get Mahal more airtime and some love from the fans. This will do way more for Mahal than it will for Reigns, who will remain mired in this polarized place forever more.
DEFELICE: I don't know if anyone's stock is rising, but I know that my interest in the modern product is dropping, and it's largely due to the main event scene on Monday Night Raw and this issue with Roman Reigns. I'm sick of them plugging how Roman Reigns is so polarizing, and so controversial, and it's so zany that he gets these reactions. I see the audience as much of a part of the show as the wrestlers are. When they're shitting all over something it makes it a lot harder for me to watch and be invested in. If the people aren't into him, then turn him and give them a storyline that they can enjoy.
Don't put him in a position to play underdog when it's so clear that he is a heavily favored superstar and I just don't understand why they're trying to force this angle when you can have something so much more interesting if you just stop trying to force a certain mentality and then plug how the fans are so crazy and are so in tune with their freedom of speech that they just go whatever way they want. Stop letting the audience hijack the shows and maybe give them something to actually be interested in and this long time fan wouldn't feel so eager to turn off the damn TV so quickly on Mondays.
CHAFFIOTTE: Ehhhh, I mean I don't think it’s going to lower Jinder Mahal's stock. I'm glad he's getting TV time and will forever feel like he is owed for the sheer amount of racism around his booking. But is this interesting? Not really. Maybe it's because this whole Roman vs. Authority thing feels so false or because it still feels like we're just biding time until we get yet another Brock vs. Roman match.
I'm ready to wipe the slate clean when it comes to Roman and I just don't think using Jinder as a placeholder is the way to do it. My best case scenario is to have Roman chasing Seth for the Universal Championship once Brock is out of the picture. Jinder is just hanging out until then.
Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!