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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: High Expectations for Money in the Bank Ladder Match
By The Doc
Jun 17, 2014 - 9:26:08 PM


The Snowman is a genius





QUESTION OF THE DAY: How are you feeling about Money in the Bank this year, as of last night’s RAW?

Expectations.

They're one of the qualities of wrestling fandom that shape conversations about matches, superstars, and promotions. At their lowest point, they wipe the slate clean and allow for glorious surprises. At their highest, they have the ability to both completely ruin a sports entertainment experience or create an unforgettable moment that we’ll carry with us to the grave. Every event has a context; expectations wind up being a recurring theme in shaping context.

In a couple of weeks, we will be treated to the latest chapter of Money in the Bank Ladder match history. And, I'll be honest, my expectations are through the roof. This year’s MITB, for the first time featuring the WWE Championship as its prize, should be the most dramatic version we have seen in a very long time. I was dog tired of the old format. Sure, it would put some exciting talents in a match where creativity reigned supreme and an often unpredictable winner would emerge. The problem that I had is that the whole concept of winning a title shot to be cashed in at any moment ran its course years ago. The booking of the victories made the victors look cheap and never did them any favors thereafter. The MITB contract became little more than a guarantee that a superstar with potential would, almost as a punishment for becoming World or WWE Champion, be made to look like an incompetent buffoon who did not belong in his new peer group. As much as I dislike being negative, I had flat out grown to hate Money in the Bank. I was thrilled that it got the hell off of my favorite night on the sports/entertainment calendar and was safely tucked away during an insignificant time of the wrestling year. My lousy attitude toward the concept had, unfortunately, had an adverse impact on my expectations for each of the last four-five years of MITB Ladder matches. You may have noticed in my reviews that, though I would often allow the innovation of the competitors to drive my star ratings for the installments, I rarely included them in year-end reviews – rarely celebrated them after the fact.

It’s amazing what a tweak of the format can do to help my interest and expectations. The vacant WWE title being up for grabs changes my tune. Will this be the most spectacular, aesthetically eye-popping MITB we’ve ever seen? I doubt it. The requisite high flyers are not involved. On the other hand, what we do have is a brass ring being dangled, with 70% of the competitors being viable candidates to grab it. Unpredictability in pro wrestling is, in my opinion, the single most overrated thing that fans demand, at least in the sense that enthusiasts want crash TV-like plot twists, but it can be a great intangible for adding drama to a wrestling match. We talk about expectations…well, having the expectation that one guy is almost certain to win is not a good thing. Better to have many a seed of doubt sewn into a story by the time it leads to its PPV conclusion. Someone is going to win the WWE title a week from Sunday and, as of right now, I could not tell you who that someone will be. Five of the seven stars in the match could walk away champion. As my colleague, Triple R, mentioned in his column today, we know that Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus aren’t going to win, but it’s quite possible that any of the others could. I’m also not convinced that the WWE wouldn’t pull a complete swerve, allowing the outside shot of someone not even advertised for the match – Triple H, Brock Lesnar, or Batista - to win the title. The elements of the unknown, ladies and gentlemen, are likely to make this year’s MITB Ladder match as compelling as any previous edition of the gimmick.

The transitional nature of the situation leading to the WWE Championship stakes has me feeling as though Randy Orton and John Cena should be the favorites. Orton would be the safe pick and, as of this writing 12 days prior to the event, he is my choice. His victory would follow the thought-process that Daniel Bryan will return next month and reclaim his title before entering into whatever Summerslam feud was pegged for him that likely contributed to WWE being so hesitant to strip him in the first place. Orton would not be a popular choice, but that would be the point. Have him win, and then have Bryan come back and tie up the loose end from having never defeated Orton for the title. Cena might also make sense in that regard. He never got a rematch against Bryan last year. A Summerslam rematch could make sense. A 15th title reign for Cena, though? I can hear the collective groans across the internet and I echo them. For the first time since the Raw main-event featuring Cena vs. R-Truth in June 2011 (yes, the night of the Pipe Bomb), I turned off the TV last night because I had so little interest in what Cena was going to do. That’s how bored I am of his character. I usually maintain an unusually cheery demeanor when the “stale Cena” conversation starts, but I’ve very closely followed, now, Cena’s entire 10 year run as a top flight star. This week marks the decade anniversary of “Chad Matthews, Version 1 aka CMV1 aka Dr. CMV1 aka The Doc” as a featured LOP personality. It was right around that time that Cena “The Hero” rounded into “The Golden Boy.” All that has changed in ten years has been the dropping of “Thuganomics.” Otherwise, he’s pretty much the same guy. If he’s not interacting with someone fresh like Bray Wyatt, I could not care less about Cena. He is my least favorite choice to win the title, even if it meant a rekindling that would lead to WWE’s #1 star (Cena) vs. WWE’s #2 star (Bryan).

More intriguing are the options to put the WWE Championship on one of the three budding main-eventers. Cesaro has not had a lot of momentum since winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania, but he has maintained a consistent, Sheamus-like presence in the upper mid-card, winning a lot of matches to beef up his credibility. The pairing with Paul Heyman has justly come under fire, as it has taken awhile for the dynamic to find its groove, but we saw last night why it was a good idea for them to join forces. Cesaro, for all his unique abilities when the bell rings, does not have the charisma to verbally sell people on why they should watch him compete. Heyman, in a short backstage promo, did that for him. I’ve been saying for weeks that all the Heyman-Swiss Superman combo needed to start gelling was a purpose. Now, they’ve got one. Would a short-term title run for Cesaro be a bad thing? Not in my view. A one-two month reign, lugging both of those prestigious titles around, would create a lasting impression for fans that the King of Swing is for real. Add to that mix a classic PPV match with Bryan and I really don’t see how the potential negatives outweigh the obvious positives. Winning the title would say to me that Cesaro is someone for us all to take very seriously both for now and in the future. Personally, I think that the time is right to strike while the iron is hot with him. WWE has not historically rewarded “helluva hand” types without much charisma. There may only be a short window to best utilize Cesaro in a main-event role. Why not now, while he’s got Heyman as his manager?

Then, of course, there is the man who is fast emerging as the odds on favorite, according to many: Bray Wyatt. I’m definitely following the buzzards. In the quiet race that I’ve set up in my mind to see who emerges as my favorite of this generation, Wyatt has recently taken the lead by a nose. You probably gathered from my assertions in last week’s column that I’m a big fan of his. I thoroughly enjoyed his part of the Cena feud, which after ending begged the question, “Where does he go from here?” The only way he could ascend higher than clashing with “The Man” would be to win the WWE Championship. That seems like a distinct possibility. Only Triple H and The Authority have gotten more airtime these last six months. Riding with a high profile, Wyatt could fit one of two thought-processes for WWE’s summer storylines. First, he could become the transitional champion that many assume the previous three stars discussed would be. In essence, he would renew his feud with Bryan from the winter and Bryan would avenge his Royal Rumble loss. Though I do believe that a transitional title run would be harmful to Bray in the long run due to his infinitely higher ceiling as compared to Cesaro, I also believe that he has the verbal prowess to recover, stay relevant, and work his way back to a more consistent place at the top of the card. Wyatt has the potential to be a main-event player for a decade, though. Whether he becomes the next Kane (not a bad basement association) or the next Mick Foley will be determined by how well his character is booked. I’ve liked the booking for him with the exception of the WrestleMania loss. With the same match, a different result, and a star’s push from now until retirement, Wyatt would have been set for life, forever and always viewed by the audience as a threat to anyone. He performed so well in defeat that he still might be set, but I’d like to see WWE pay a little bit more attention to protecting him (like they are with The Shield members). So, as much as he could be a great temporary choice for WWE champ, I’d favor putting the title on him more if they changed their mindset away from the currently logical thought process of immediately giving the title back to Daniel Bryan for the Summerslam push. In other words, Bray is a better choice if WWE is ready to move in a new direction – one fully committed to Wyatt as the man to spearhead the next several months of TV as champion.

If WWE does decide to put Bryan on the backburner and come back to him as champion at a later date, then maybe the time has come to strap the proverbial rocket to the back of Roman Reigns. He showed, perhaps, the greatest example of his personality in various backstage skits last night. They were not groundbreaking, but they were very solid. He reminds me now of Batista more than anyone else. Big Dave did the little things really well until he got better at carrying himself in lengthier segments. The large majority of people are going to say that it is too soon to push Reigns to the title; that he’s not ready. Well, neither Batista nor John Cena was firing on all cylinders when they got pushed to the moon and both of them have had amazing careers. I think that the largest obstacle blocking Reigns from getting to the top now isn’t his perceived lack of experience or skill, but the movement that still clamors to see Daniel Bryan get his justified run at the top. I like Roman’s chances of succeeding as a legitimate babyface if he wins the belt after Bryan has come back, won the title, and had a nice little run with it. In my mind’s eye, I see Reigns winning the title before Mania and holding it for a long time, with Lesnar being his “Granddaddy” challenger. I would not put it past WWE to give him the ball now, but it would (A) be better for him to win it in a setting other than a Ladder match and (B) be ideal if he had another few months of getting comfortable in his own skin. The possibility of it happening as soon as 12 days from now, though, is undoubtedly intriguing.

With three new and engaging personalities combining with established veterans known for stepping up in big situations, in addition to the WWE title being at stake in place of a tired routine, this is shaping up to be a classic match. Oh, and not once did we mention Dean Ambrose potentially going one-on-one with Seth Rollins, so expectations are extremely high on this side of the street. Maybe I’m setting myself up to be disappointed, but come June 29th, I’m going to be expecting an emotionally gripping scrap that becomes not just a 2014 Match of the Year candidate, but also a contender for the greatest Money in the Bank Ladder match of all-time.



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Wednesday at 5PM EST

Brought you by The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, this week's edition of "The Doc Says..." honors the recently released 11 WWE Superstars by reflecting back to those wrestlers from the last 15 years that were also released long before they had the opportunity to maximize their potential. The Doc names the top 10 stars that should have risen higher up the WWE ladder to greater successes. Also, does John Cena really not put anyone over or is the definition of putting someone over just different for him? And isn't it too early to make any definitive statement about the Seth Rollins angle? Who is the favorite to become WWE Champion at Money in the Bank? The Doc also gives a reading from "The Book of Sports Entertainment" on The Fabulous Freebirds.

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