MITB 2018 Spotlight: Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

I love the Money In The Bank concept. It adds a storytelling element like nothing WWE had before it. It was originally designed to be that final push for superstars to get over the line to main event level. It was a way of elevating people. It was a way of putting guys who had been at the top of the mid-card for years the opportunity to finally break through. And of course, once the gimmick got established, it could be used in other ways.

It was a featured part of Wrestlemania for years, and eventually it evolved to the point of getting it’s own PPV, and having two contracts. Last year WWE took that a step further by having the first ever women’s Money In The Bank ladder match, and then just over a week later, the second. Now we’re here, just over 24 hours away from Money In The Bank with the strongest line up on paper yet.

It has evolved yet again this year, with the number of competitors rising from six to eight, and also with the match becoming dual-branded. Since I started writing about wrestling, I’ve gone through the MITB competitors every year. So let’s get to the 2018 edition, starting with the women’s line up.

 

Sasha Banks

sasha-banks-banner

Sasha Banks has racked up an impressive list of firsts in her time under the WWE umbrella. She was in the first iron woman match, the first women’s hell in a cell match, the first women’s matches to main event both a WWE PPV and NXT TakeOver, and she was the first ever entrant into the women’s Royal Rumble. But being on the Raw brand, she missed out on being in the first women’s Money In The Bank match last year. With the arrivals of Ronda Rousey and Ember Moon on Monday nights, and the face turn and championship reign of Nia Jax, Sasha has been pushed way down the pecking order.

Something is missing from The Boss. A heel turn may help that. But getting back in the title picture may also do the trick. And the MITB contract is an immediate opportunity to put her back in that conversation. With Banks’ track record, she is always going to be in with a chance in these situations, because she has instant credibility whenever you want to throw her into a top position. Banks is likely to be the workhorse of the match, all over the shop and involved in spots with everybody. But I think her role will be to be the nearly-woman that never quite gets there.

Chances of winning: Possible

 

Naomi

Naomi

Look, Naomi is good, but I was surprised that she got the escape spot at the Royal Rumble, and I was surprised that she won the battle royal at Wrestlemania. It’s not that I don’t think she deserves the spots, it’s just that this year there’s been so little follow up that those moments have seemed… forgettable. She seems to be very clearly the fourth face on Tuesday nights, and without the backing of the NXT fans that Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Asuka have, unless something radical happens that’s not going to change.

Because of that, I don’t feel like she’s a threat to win. I could be wrong, because as I said before, she has been put in spots to stand out before. She even won the title at Wrestlemania last year. But as far as this field goes, I have Naomi right near the back of it.

Chances of winning: Unlikely

 

Lana

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Granted I lost track of Raw and SmackDown for a while there, but why? Just… why? Like… why?

Chances of winning: (Surely?) None

 

Natalya

Natalya-1

A year ago Natalya was exactly who this match would have been created for. She was a long tenured superstar who was always seen as being good, but for whatever reason never got her opportunity. But then she finally got her run as SmackDown Women’s Champion last year that was arguably well overdue.

Since moving to Raw in the Wrestlemania aftermath, she became a de facto face by virtue of her history training with Ronda Rousey. And that has meant she has been one of the more prominent characters on the show. More than that, with Rousey being in a title match tomorrow night it has given Natalya a really obvious storyline with the contract. It makes Natalya a red hot pick to scale the ladder, with the only thing stopping her is that it’s not really a necessary prop to go into that story. But it is the best way to protect all parties.

Chances of winning: the favourite.

 

Becky Lynch

Becky Lynch

If last year I might have said that Natalya was the kind of superstar MITB was designed for, Becky Lynch comes the closest this year. It’s already been two years since Lynch was Women’s Champion, back when she was riding the crest of the SmackDown post-draft wave. Her line on this week’s SmackDown about being sick of saying “I was”, and being ready to say “I am” again summed it up perfectly. She has never lost that much popularity, but first Alexa Bliss, then Charlotte, and now Asuka has taken over her mantle.

For me, Lynch is probably the person who could benefit most from a win here. She is the one with the biggest up-side who is most likely to get lost in the shuffle. She would be a reliable champion, able to work with pretty much anyone. At the very worst Lynch is a solid option, but potentially she can be much more than that.

Chances of winning: Possible

 

Alexa Bliss

Alexa Bliss

Bliss is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle on Raw. Having been champion for so long across both brands, I get that she needs to take a step out of the title picture for a while. But she needs to be kept relevant, and at the moment looks like she could become a victim of WWE’s perennial lack of ability to create secondary and tertiary storylines for anything other than it’s main event scene. On a show as long and with as much filler as Raw, that’s really unforgivable.

But at the same time, Bliss has an advantage over everybody else in this match. Her character fits the archetypal cash-in more than anybody else, and that will keep her in with a shout regardless of who else is in the mix. Having a contract in her possession would also keep her in the spotlight without having her directly chase the title. And really, with her gimmick, she should be in no rush at all to get involved when the title scene currently involved Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey.

 

Charlotte

Charlotte

I can echo some of my other sentiments here with Charlotte. She is proven as the leader of the division, she’s a safe bet, her resume means you can throw her in the mix at any time with credibility. But because she was champion as recently as two months ago, there is also a sense that Charlotte doesn’t need this win as much as the others do.

There are some story points that I quite like with a Charlotte win though. I would find a poetry in Charlotte trying to cash in against Carmella, who won the title so recently by cashing in on Charlotte. And obviously there would be the threat of another loss to Charlotte hanging over Asuka should she become champion tomorrow night. That paranoia could lead to some development for the Empress of Tomorrow. All that being said, while there would be some cool off-shoots to a Charlotte win, I’m not really expecting to see it.

Chances of winning: Unlikely

 

Ember Moon

Ember Moon

Ember Moon is the person that I think has the most to gain from this match. She is the most recent addition to the main roster out of these eight women, and while the Eclipse will always be spectacular, it feels like the right stage for Moon to have a show stealing performance. An Eclipse off a ladder anyone?

Because she’s so new, to an extent it seems to early to be talking about Moon as a title contender. That’s why MITB is perfect for her. It would be a sign of faith from WWE that she is a big deal, that she is going to be a star, but an acknowledgement that right now is not her time. 2019 should be Ember Moon’s year in terms of main roster gold,  and carrying the contract around for the forseeable future should safeguard that.

Chances of winning: Dark horse

TV Talking Points – 9th-11th April

So much has happened in WWE over the last week, I couldn’t contain it all in one article. I had to split up the Wrestlemania part of the week from the weekly shows, which this article covers. The post-Mania Raw is always one of the highlights of the year, they’re attempting to make SmackDown the same way and NXT is always solid whether it’s Wrestlemania season or not. So what happened? There were loads of highlights, let’s get to it!

Raw

One Ember sparks the fire

It hasn’t always worked out this way, but if an NXT Champion loses their title right before Wrestlemania, they’re an obvious candidate to be called up. Ember Moon lost the NXT Women’s Championship Saturday night, and debuted on Raw Monday night. I’m really excited to see what Moon can do on the main roster, and her being there should allow for a big name or two to move to SmackDown, because the Raw women’s division is now stacked. With the Eclipse and her presentation, Moon can stand out and be a key player.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 9th-11th April

Wrestlemania Talking Points – 6th-8th April

So I wasn’t going to do this, but after the weekend of content WWE put out, and the sheer number of noteworthy things to come out of Raw, I knew that one Talking Points article covering the whole week would be stupidly long. So welcome to Wrestlemania Talking Points, where I do the same thing I usually do for Raw, SmackDown and NXT and apply it to Wrestlemania weekend. That’s the Hall of Fame on Friday, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans and, of course, Wrestlemania 34. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s do it!

Hall of Fame

D-Von can be entertaining

Full disclosure, I still haven’t watched the entre HoF ceremony, because there were a few people I just didn’t have any interest in. But, the Dudley Boyz speech was phenomenal. They managed to toe that line of humour and seriousness perfectly, while putting over other people all the way. The moment with the original TLC teams reuniting on stage was awesome, and of course they put someone through a table.

 

Mark Henry calls for Owen Hart’s induction

I completely understand Martha Hart’s hesitancy to allowed Owen to be associated with WWE. This is just one of those cases where the Hall of Fame will never feel complete without him. He was tag team champions with Mark Henry, so Henry used his speech as an opportunity to publicly ask Martha to let Owen in. It was touching to see how much it clearly meant to Henry, it was a truly emotional moment. It wouldn’t be the last of those over the last few days either.

 

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans

North American Championship Ladder Match

It’s not like anything was massively shocking here, it was just a great match. Everyone got a chance to do their thing and shine, and it really did turn out to be carnage at it’s finest. From Ricochet flying everywhere, to Lars Sullivan manhandling everyone, to Velveteen Dream jumping off the top of  ladder. And when all was said and done, there was only one, Undisputed winner.

 

Queen of Spades… and NXT

It’s been a long time since we had a heel NXT Women’s Champion, but here we are once again. Looking through the list of women to have held that title, it’s an impressive list with a fantastic pedigree that Shayna Baszler has to live up to. She has the character nailed down already, but I’m yet to be convinced by her in the ring. She has some really good talents to work with though, and NXT always does a good job of protecting their talent. I’ll give her time. I know this video is totally unrelated to the match, but I also loved this as Ember’s entrance and there don’t seem to be clips on WWE’s YouTube, so…

 

A Dusty finish again…

We finally saw the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy awarded, and the tag titles were also on the line. Authors of Pain. Undisputed Era. Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne. One thing I really like about NXT is that they save their biggest angles for TakeOvers – Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut, DIY’s implosion, Adam Cole’s debut. And here we got a new moment to add to that list: Roderick Strong turns heel and joins Undisputed Era. And he dd so by attacking his partner, costing them the trophy and the titles. It’s going to be a good fit for Strong going forward, and they’ll likely dominate Wednesday nights together for the rest of 2018.

 

Gargano vs Ciampa

What. A. Match. From the minute Tommaso Ciampa walked down to the ring this felt like it was going to be special, and it was. The storytelling was off the charts, the emotion, the allusions. It can be tough for a match that’s been building for as long as this one has to live up to the hype, but Gargano and Ciampa met expectations and more. For Gargano, back to back classics at TakeOvers cements his spot as one of the elite workers in the company. Really, it says all you need to know that this match was the main event with the card on show.

 

Wrestlemania 34

Grand Slam Rollins

I thought the first four hours of Wrestlemania (including the pre-show) were phenomenal. So it was really tough to decide where to start with these highlights, and I’ve let WWE’s YouTube channel dictate this to an extent. I didn’t think they had the best moments up from the preshow, so even though I thought some moments there were great, I’m going straight to the main card, and Seth Rollins winning the Interconintental Championship to become a Grand Slam Champion. It was a really good match, as expected going in, again with a lot of references to previous encounters. It’s cool that all three members of The Shield are now Grand Slam champs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Seth does with the title.

 

The streak… is over.

Even with the main event, this was still probably the most surprising result on the card. I really believed in the booking idea that Asuka would win the title, remain unstoppable and build up to a face off with Ronda Rousey next year at Wrestlemania. As it turned out, Charlotte is still the SmackDown Women’s Champion. It’s going to be  very interesting to see where both of these talents go next.

 

Rousey steals the show

At the time of writing, this clip has nearly six million views on YouTube. To put that into perspective, The Undertaker has 2.5 million, and Daniel Bryan has less than a million. That’s the mainstream drawing power that Ronda Rousey has to WWE, the only question was whether she would be any good. And hell yeah she was. This was the best match on the show, and Ronda came across like a bona fide star. She really could be a difference maker for WWE in so many ways if this was anything to go by, because it was a fantastic match by any standards – never mind that it was her debut and Stephanie McMahon was in it.

 

Deadman walking

I really wasn’t convinced about Undertaker wrestling agin, and after Wrestlemania I’m really still not convinced. I’ve seen a lot of talk online that he was looking a lot better than last year, but I didn’t think he was moving that well. But, the saving grace was how they brought him back. The teases were well done, and the way the hat and jacket reappeared I really thought was genius.

 

He’s baaack

Daniel Bryan is back baby! There were issues with this match, nobody can deny that, but above all else it is just plain great to see Daniel Bryan doing his thing again, with no apparent negative consequences. I wrote about this match on Sunday, and I said it wouldn’t feel right if Bryan lost on his return. Well, he didn’t. That was the right call, and it is so exciting to think of all the potential dream matches that lie ahead of him. Welcome back Bryan!

 

See what I mean? Can you imagine if I’d put all that into an article as well as all that happened last night on Raw, and tonight’s SmackDown, and tomorrow’s NXT? I wouldn’t have gotten the article finished this week. Stay tuned for more posts this week, I have a few more planned, and now we can officially say that 2018’s Wrestlemania weekend is in the history books!

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Asuka vs Charlotte

It’s officially Wrestlemania week! This year we have an absolutely stacked card. There could be five legitimate main events for varying reasons. So with that in mind, just like last year it’s not going to be enough to cover the show with a single Spotlight. Once again, I’m going to attempt seven Spotlights in seven days. And this time, I start with the SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Asuka vs Charlotte Flair.

Asuka vs Charlotte could be one of the best matches on the show. From an in ring stand point, I only have it behind AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura in my expectations. Asuka’s push has been unrivalled in WWE, and Charlotte has clearly been the queen of the company in recent years. It should be one of the featured matches on this year’s extravaganza. But for some reason, the hype just isn’t there. It feels like just another match. Continue reading Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Asuka vs Charlotte

TV Talking Points – 11th-14th March

The last PPV before Wrestlemania was last Sunday night, and now we are officially on a one way street to the biggest show of the year! So how did WWE bring it’s focus round to Wrestlemania this week? Read on for all the highlights of the last week’s TV.

Fastlane

6-pack challenge completed

AJ Styles went into Fastlane facing insurmountable odds – or so WWE tried to tell us. The obvious Wrestlemania WWE Championship match has been AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for months now, and Styles’ successful defence of his title set it up as expected. But the match was a fun one, full of action with some big spots. It was the most impressive Baron Corbin has looked in a long time, it furthered the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn/Shane McMahon story (more on that later) and of course, AJ Styles retained to confirm the Mania dream match.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 11th-14th March

2017 Spotlight: June – September

Wrestling is an incredibly dynamic industry where everything can change in a matter of days – if not hours – and 2017 has really typified that in WWE. From wholesale roster changes, to walk outs and injuries, you can never predict what’s going to happen next, not that I won’t keep trying. As the year draws to a close, what better opportunity than to look back and reflect on the memorable moments WWE gave us in 2017?

This is the third part of my 2017 recap, find the links to the previous two parts below:

January – March

April – May

June

Extreme Rules – Fatal-5-Way

The thing about multi-matches is they can be so chaotic that there isn’t a cohesive story to the match. But at the same time, put enough talent in there, and it can be all action and constant entertainment. The latter scenario certainly applied to the Extreme Rules main event between Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe in a match to decide Brock Lesnar’s next challenger. With five of the top guys on the brand in one match there were always going to be fireworks, and use of chairs, stairs, a broken barricade and a broken announce table delivered in that regard. In the end, it was Samoa Joe who came away with the win, as he turned his attention to the Beast Incarnate.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: June – September

2017 Spotlight: January-March

Wrestling is an incredibly dynamic industry where everything can change in a matter of days – if not hours – and 2017 has really typified that in WWE. From wholesale roster changes, to walk outs and injuries, you can never predict what’s going to happen next, not that I won’t keep trying. As the year draws to a close, what better opportunity than to look back and reflect on the memorable moments WWE gave us in 2017?

January

9th January – Chris Jericho defeats Roman Reigns for the United States Championship

What’s that? A year ago Roman Reigns was holding a mid-card championship that was essentially filling time until something bigger was in store for him come Wrestlemania season? Sounds familiar somehow. What might be more difficult to remember is that the best friend pairing of Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho was in full flow as one of the regular highlights of Raw. While this match in itself wasn’t entirely memorable in amongst seemingly hundreds of matches between Reigns, Jericho and Owens, Y2J’s championship win made him a WWE Grand Slam champion, so if only for the history books it’s definitely worth noting.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: January-March

Clash of Champions 2017 Spotlight: Lumberjack Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

I’m back! Paige reference aside, it’s been a little while but with SmackDown presenting Clash of Champions tonight, it’s time for another Spotlight! And actually quoting Paige is fairly appropriate, because with all the turnover of personnel in the Women’s division since Survivor Series, I’m focusing on the SmackDown Women’s Championship Lumberjack match between Charlotte Flair and Natalya.

First things first – it’s a Lumberjack match. At the very least that means there is a depth in numbers that is unprecedented in either show’s roster since the brand split. For me that s both a good thing and a bad thing. It establishes more women on the main roster, which opens up possibilities. Bear in mind that tonight we have eight women on a SmackDown PPV, and Becky Lynch is away filming a movie. Suddenly we have a really strong women’s roster.

Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch is set to return soon after filming a movie

Continue reading Clash of Champions 2017 Spotlight: Lumberjack Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

WWE Battleground 2017 Spotlight: Women’s Fatal-5-Way

Without even noticing, I’ve already passed the one year mark of PPV Spotlights. I started doing them last summer, and I just happened to be going through some of my articles and noticed what match I’d written about for last year’s Battleground – Natalya vs Becky Lynch. I thought it might be apt to revisit that article somewhat for the 2017 edition of my Battleground Spotlight. So here we are with Battleground 2017 tonight, and instead of writing about two women, I’m writing about five.

SmackDown in particular have made a habit of this. In every PPV this year that has featured a women’s match from the blue brand, there at least five female superstars from Tuesday nights on the show – often in multi-women matches. At the Royal Rumble there was a 6-women tag on the pre-show, at Elimination Chamber there were three separate singles matches, at Wrestlemania there was a championship 6-pack challenge, at Backlash there was another 6-women tag match and Money in the Bank was fairly self-explanatory. Continue reading WWE Battleground 2017 Spotlight: Women’s Fatal-5-Way

Six Superstars Who Need Shaken Up

And here we are at the end of Wrestlemania season! We’ve had six straight nights of content from WWE alone with the Hall of Fame, TakeOver: Orlando, Wrestlemania 33, Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It almost feels strange not having more wrestling to look forward to tonight. BUT, we can look back at all the awesome stuff that’s happened in the last week, and look ahead by asking the question “where do we go from here?”

We saw Kurt Angle return to the company, first as a Hall of Famer then as the Raw General Manager. We saw what looks like a full on heel turn from Asuka. We saw Matt and Jeff Hardy return to the WWE and become the Raw Tag Team Champions. We saw the career of The Undertaker likely come to a close. We saw The Revival debut on the main roster on Monday night, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger get the call up on Tuesday night. And crucially, we also saw Vince McMahon announce that next week we would shake up the rosters.

And that’s what I want to focus on here. Who is most likely to switch brands, or maybe rather who needs to switch brands the most? Here I lay out six picks, three from each show, who could really benefit from a shake up of their surroundings.

 

Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn

Continue reading Six Superstars Who Need Shaken Up