Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So C.M. Punk is Back Already. Now What?

Well, that happened much quicker than I expected.

Monday on RAW, John Cena won the "WWE Championship" from Rey Mysterio, the same "Championship" Rey won just two hours earlier. After the match, C.M. Punk came out and had a stare down with John Cena to close RAW. Punk came out to "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour. It's a great song and fits perfectly for everything Punk stands for now. It was also his theme during his "Summer of Punk" run in Ring of Honor. Again, as I said in my last piece, it is a great hook to attract viewers again next week.

First let me say that while it is great to see Punk back on TV, I do think it happened a tad bit too soon. I thought about him being off long term til Wrestlemania time, but that might have killed all the heat on Punk's character. I would have held him off til SummerSlam at least. I would have extended the Tournament over the course of last week and this week, then have the Finals at SummerSlam. Or, since John Cena didn't have a shot in the Tournament, have the winner be crowned "Champion" then face Cena at SummerSlam. While it may not have been an interesting match-up to the adults, John Cena vs Rey Mysterio would have drawn some interest and would be a fresh match-up. They had a good match on RAW, right at the *** level, and could have been better if given another 5 minutes. As far as Punk, you could simply have Triple H invite him to SummerSlam and there you have the intrigue of Punk showing up. Punk comes out after Cena wins with the belt, then you have Cena vs Punk at Night of Champions Now I will admit I would be a bit biased their because Night of Champions is in Buffalo, and I would get to see Punk/Cena 2 live in person. But I also think it would fit the storyline better.

But nonetheless, C.M. Punk appears back now and it looks like we are getting Punk/Cena 2 at SummerSlam. It seems a bit rushed yes, but it is the biggest $$$ match the WWE has right now. Like I said Cena/Rey might draw well on PPV but I don't think it would draw as much as a Cena/Punk rematch would. Those two put on a classic at Money in the Bank and people are interested to see what the two can do again. There's obviously also more backstory and a better storyline in place. Rey/Cena would have been nothing more than good guy vs good guy. In THAT story, no one would turn heel. But we'll get back to that later.

So now the question becomes: Where does this go next? I don't think any of us expected this story to unfold this quickly. We thought the WWE would crown a new "Champion" and that this guy would walk around with the Title until Punk returns in a few months. But everything has been accelerated. Why? Again, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the WWE has panicked due to the low ratings these past two weeks, and want to get Punk done ASAP. I really don't think that's the case, but we have to think about it. Vince is a stickler for the ratings and he may want to change things up again. Who knows. I think what is more likely is that the WWE realizes what a hot commodity Punk is right now. Punk is the hottest character they have had in years. He's being cheered heavily by the adult males in the audience, and he's even winning over some of the other demographics like the woman and teen audience. He clearly got a much louder reaction than Cena on RAW. And it just wasn't the adult males cheering. If Punk was off of TV for too long, he would lose some momentum. Sure he could get it back quickly, but that reaction was pretty strong last night. I don't know if it would have been the same two, three, or six months from now.

C.M. Punk is exactly what the WWE has been missing for quite sometime: An anti-authority figure who is not afraid to speak his mind and believe that what he is doing is right. Sure the Nexus was anti-authority, but they weren't great all-around performers like Punk was. Punk speaks his mind brilliantly on the mic and backs up his talk with his great performances in the ring. Punk is what his shirt says he is, "The Best in the World." I would be hard pressed to find someone better right now. In the WWE, there is absolutely nobody. Punk connects with the adult fanbase who is been craving for an anti-authority figure for years. John Cena doesn't do it for them. They're sick of the same old crap from the WWE night in and night out. Finally, it seems like we may be going down that path. One can hope. You have to be cautiously optimistic with the WWE, as they have a reputation for dropping the ball in the past. That's why we have to examine every scenario here.

All signs point to a John Cena vs C.M. Punk match at SummerSlam. Or so we think. At this point, we don't even know why C.M. Punk is back. You would assume he is re-signed, but we don't know that officially. Punk/Cena 2 is the biggest $$$ match the WWE can do right now, and it fits perfectly with the 2nd biggest PPV of the year. Can these two repeat the same magic they had at MITB? Probably not. The Chicago crowd helped that match a bit, I don't think the Los Angeles crowd will be as hot. But there's no reason they can't put on another **** match. They're quite capable of that.

You would also have to assume that if Punk is re-signed, Triple H had something to do with it. But Punk can't immediately side with him. The best part about Punk's character is that he is anti-authority. You don't want him joining up with the "Doofus Son-in-Law." Maybe in the beginning they could be buddy-buddy, but there needs to be a growing tension between the two building up. A Punk/HHH match also has the potential to be  very good. If anything, have Triple H say the only reason he re-signed Punk was to get the WWE Title back, and when he does Punk is gone. Then when it seems like no one can do it, Triple H decides to return himself to try and take out Punk. It'd be a great clash with Triple H weilding all his power to try and get the Title off of Punk. It could probably build to a boiling point at Royal Rumble perhaps. Then, if you really want to make things interesting, have HHH lose. Then, he says he has to bring back a guy he lost to last year but knows can get the job done, and that is The Undertaker. Then you have Punk/Taker at Wrestlemania. I don't think that part will actually happen, but it is fun to think about.

Then there's that other guy in the room: John Cena. I will be the first person to give Cena some credit. He's busted his ass the last two months, put on two really good matches (with Punk & Rey Mysterio), cut some good promos, and his facial reactions and expressions have been spot on, especially this week. Some people will tell you that they would like to see Cena turn heel. I'd be all for a heel turn, but at this point, what is the point. He's getting booed by a strong portion of the audience. That portion of the audience would probably cheer a Cena heel turn. The only way, in my opinion, they could pull a Cena heel turn off effectively is if they went the Stone Cold route a la Wrestlemania 17. Cena needs to be WWE Champ so badly that he resorts to everything possible to become Champ. Then finally, he sells out and sides with HHH, who helps him win the WWE Title back. It makes Punk stronger as well because now he has even more of a gripe about losing the WWE Title. Cena can than say that he gets booed yet guys who leave and comeback like Punk and The Rock get cheered, but he busts his ass in the ring night in and night out for nothing. That's the only way a Cena heel turn works.

Anyone who is bashing this angle right now is just too damn impatient. Do I think Punk was brought back a bit too soon? Absolutely. But we have NO IDEA where this angle is going. The same people who are bashing this now would be the same people 2 months from now who would be saying "WWE SUCKS WHERE IS C.M. PUNK?" The question you have to ask yourself is this: Would you rather have C.M. Punk on TV or not? I think everyone would gladly welcome Punk back with open arms. You also have to think that Punk wouldn't agree to come back unless they have something big in store for him. For Punk to go to wanting time off to what looks like back on the road full time means it will all be worth his while in the end. It looks like Punk will have his Indy buddies, most notably Colt Cabana, back on the road with him which will help. Punk knows the business and knows what is good for him, and he wouldn't have agreed to comeback if things didn't look bright down the line.

C.M. Punk just did a podcast with ESPN writer Bill Simmons. Hitting a couple of bulletpoints, Punk said that he re-signed the day of the Money in the Bank PPV. I find that a bit hard to believe. I would love to take Punk at his word, but all of this playing out as it has doesn't make me think that. This kind of stuff should be played out long term, not in the span of one week. Punk said he wants to make wrestling big time and cool again. It will be a tough climb to do that. Can he? It's possible. Punk comes off as genuine and sincere and sounds like he believes what he is saying. He's not corporate or dumb-downed for the TV audience. He's as real as they come. While Punk isn't a corporate, media friendly type, he can still be an attraction and draw money. Stone Cold wasn't the biggest media guy, but he was one of the biggest draws in WWE history.

I threw out a lot of ideas here and a lot of random thoughts. There really was only one central focus of this piece, and that is C.M. Punk. Punk has a lot of expectations to live up to. He's the hottest and most talked about wrestler in years. He has such a high ceiling. We know how great he is in the ring and on the mic, but now he has to be even better. I'm sure Vince and Company have put a lot of pressure on Punk to succeed. He needs to become a major draw the likes of which WWE hasn't seen in years. He needs to be the anti-authority figure John Cena isn't. He needs to continue to be himself, speak his mind, and kick ass.

I don't know where this angle is going. It's all about the unpredictability. All I know is C.M. Punk has given the WWE  a kick in the ass that it has badly needed for a year now. The more I see of C.M. Punk, the better it will be. I have faith, now I hope I'm not let down. But one thing is for sure: With C.M. Punk leading the charge, it is bound to be one hell of a ride.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow me on Twitter @JCWonka

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Unpredictability Is Finally Back

It has been a long time since I said this, but this is a fun time to be a wrestling fan. This last month of WWE TV has been the best string of TV shows put together in a very long time. There are a lot of contributing factors to this. The majority of the greatness has come from C.M. Punk. Punk proved how valuable of an asset he can be to a wrestling company in the last month. He was under-utilized as a performer for the strong majority of his run, and now the possibilities are endless with Punk when he returns.

Then there is the "end" of the Vince McMahon character on television. Sure this has happened before. Remember when he was fired in 1999 after Undertaker lost the First Blood End of An Era Match to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Fully Loaded? Yeah, me neither. Triple H now transitions into the role of on-screen WWE Figure Head. It is again something new and not expected to happen. I don't think anyone ever expected to see Triple H on TV as an On-Screen Authority Figure.

Oh, and how about Daniel Bryan winning the Smackdown MITB Match? Did anyone really see that happening? Cody Rhodes, Sheamus, hell even Sin Cara were all put in much better positions to win that match compared to Bryan. Bryan is the classic underdog story. The hard-working guy who busts his butt in the ring every night no matter if he is wrestling in front of 70,000 or 700 people. He's a guy the fans can adopt to and respect because of his hard-working attitude.

So what am I getting at with all of this? I feel that, for the first time in years, I have my unpredictability in wrestling back. It's a great feeling to have, tuning in every week not knowing what to expect on TV. For the 3 RAWs leading into MITB, it was the feeling that you didn't know what the hell C.M. Punk was going to say with a live microphone. His worked shoot promo generated so much buzz. It had everyone talking.

Unpredictability is something that we love as wrestling fans. We get tired of night in and night out seeing John Cena go "Super Cena" on us and overcome the odds every week. The WWE can argue that it is appealing to their target demographic, but so what? You can appeal to your target demographic and still make Cena look vulnerable every once in a while. If your branding yourself as an entertainment show, you need to switch it up every once in a while, just like other TV shows do. The key with the unpredictability is to leave a hook for your viewers to tune in either the next night or the next PPV. WWE has done an effective job in doing that this week. After MITB, you wanted to tune in the next night to see what the hell was going to happen with C.M. Punk, John Cena, Vince McMahon, and the entire WWE Title situation. Now, after RAW this week, you want to tune in next week to see what Triple H has in store as the new man in charge. Any good TV entertainment show leaves you wanting more, and the WWE has done that this week.

The best part about this unpredictability is that I can't pin point one thing about where all of this is going next. This is essentially broken down into 2 major storylines: The rebel C.M. Punk & the WWE Championship, and the new on-screen leader of the WWE Triple H & departure of Vince McMahon. I don't even have a best guess scenario. One would have to assume that C.M. Punk will eventually come back, whether it is in a couple of weeks or somewhere down the line, to challenge the new WWE Champion. With Daniel Bryan already saying he will fight the World Champ with his MITB Briefcase at Wrestlemania, it might be tough to pull off the WWE Champ vs WWE Champ match at Wrestlemania. It would make the Royal Rumble useless. Maybe have Punk try to come back, and be forced to compete in the Rumble to earn his job back? But that would make Punk look weak. You want the WWE begging Punk to come back, not have Punk come crawling back. More unpredictability.

All of the same can be said for the Triple H/Vince McMahon stuff. It was a bombshell dropped on us this past Monday. Nobody saw it coming. I'm sure there wasn't a person out there that expected Triple H to come out, and in a suit nonetheless. Will Triple H just run the show permanently? Will he make a few changes and fade into the background? Will he be a fan favorite or slowly turn evil? Will Vince attempt to regain control of his company? There are so many questions left unanswered by all of this.

As I said in the very beginning, it's finally fun to be a wrestling fan again. At least for now, unpredictability is back. It almost feels like the Attitude Era again, not knowing what to expect every week. But just like every great story, follow-up is key. The WWE can't drop the ball on this. They did it last year with the Nexus angle. Vince and Co. can't allow that to happen again. People are expecting a big payoff in the end. Maybe HHH vs Punk at some point. Or Punk vs Taker at Wrestlemania. There are way too many possibilities to speak of.

Hey WWE, you finally have a good amount of people interested in wrestling again. Don't screw it up.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow me on Twitter: @JCWonka

Monday, July 18, 2011

WWE Money in the Bank Review

WOW. What an electric night. That was the best PPV the WWE has done in years. Everything about Money in the Bank was great. Top to bottom, this show was great. Even the stuff that you would normally consider bad was ok. Just an all around great show that words cannot do justice for. I recommend people go out of the way to watch this show. This will probably be the first PPV I buy on DVD that isn't Wrestlemania since One Night Stand 2006. I might as well get right into my review of the show. Top to bottom, solid all around.

Daniel Bryan Wins the Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder Match: ****
A big surprise right off the bat. Bryan had an argument to be called the #2 face on Smackdown, and winning here catapulted him into that position. The WWE needed to elevate someone into that position and they did that with Bryan winning here. It could have been Sin Cara, but they chose to go with Bryan instead. Obviously now, it is because Cara has been suspended for violating the WWE Wellness Policy. What a disappointing start for Sin Cara's career. Rey Mysterio rebounded from being suspended, hopefully Sin Cara can as well. He's just too talented to fail in my opinion.

Back to the actual match, this was the better of the two ladder matches. Not a lot of sloppy spots, but also a good amount of creative ones. Sheamus powerbomb of Sin Cara onto the ladder was a good spot. Justin Gabriel also stood out in the match. That 450 splash he did off of the ladder was much harder than it looked. The ladder was moving and as you could tell, Gabriel had to balance himself before doing the spin. Near the end I thought Barrett had the briefcase. Sheamus, even in losing, might have looked the best in the match. He cleaned house at one point. I still think there is potential in Sheamus as a main event draw. They are doing a good job on Smackdown building him back up as a huge force. They planted the seeds for a Barrett/Sheamus feud on Smackdown this past Friday. They could turn one of them face and make a program out of it. They would probably turn Sheamus, but I would rather turn Barrett. But this was just a fun match that got the crowd into it right off the bat. Great performances by all involved.

So where do they go from here with Daniel Bryan? Bryan is the Internet fans' darling. He's a great in ring worker. He busts his ass every week. I always hate bringing his name up, but he reminds me a lot of Chris Benoit the wrestler. Not the best on the mic, but a great in ring worker. As I said in my preview piece, Survivor Series is in NYC this year. Benoit won his first World Title there and the crowd popped huge, why not do it with Bryan too. I also think that Bryan may build towards a traditional program a la RVD than a normal MITB cash in. There's also the risk Bryan is the first to cash in and lose, I say there is a 30% chance of that happening.

They showed a clip earlier of Vince McMahon, Director of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis, and an "attorney" arriving backstage.

Kelly Kelly defeated Brie Bella to retain the Divas Championship: *
Basic Divas match. Nothing terrible, nothing outstanding. The best thing of everything was Nikki saying, "Look at her, she doesn't even eat. You can't beat that?" Kelly wins, probably moves on to someone else now with the Bellas out of sight.

Mark Henry defeated Big Show: **
The match was short. It wasn't a two star level match, but I bumped it up a 1/2 star for the whole post match beatdown and angle. Henry and Show did do a good job in the ring. They did their best. Henry worked over Show's still hurt knee during the match. He hit the World's Strongest Slam but Show kicked out. Henry hit a second one then two splashes for the win. Afterward, Henry put a chair on Show's ankle and jumped on it from the second rope. Show sold a broken ankle as Henry walked to the back.

Mark Henry's mega push continues. I think it says something that they gave Mark Henry a clean win over the Big Show when they didn't even do it for Alberto del Rio. Henry's monster push continues. Orton/Christian isn't done yet, so I'm not quite sure what happens with Henry. Maybe he goes back to Kane for a bit. Maybe a brief program with Ezekiel Jackson. I think Henry is next in line for Orton after the program with Christian. Fine for what it was, but made better by the entire build and post match angle.

Josh Matthews interviewed Vince McMahon backstage. He said he hasn't re-signed Punk. He told C.M. Punk fans that he did everything he could, but Punk refused to sign. Vince blamed John Cena for everything that happened, and said "May god have mercy on John Cena's soul," if Punk won the WWE title tonight.

Alberto del Rio won the RAW Money in the Bank Ladder Match: ***1/2
I don't have a problem with Del Rio winning. I just thought it was too obvious to happen. I didn't think Del Rio needed this to be elevated to the main event. But that is partially because I didn't have everything from tonight playing out as it did.

I thought this match was a bit underwhelming. The beginning with everyone bringing a ladder into the ring was a nice touch. There were a few more sloppy moments and dangerous spots in this one. Everyone attacked Del Rio with the ladder and threw them on him on the outside. Everyone then hit a bunch of flying spots onto the outside. R-Truth, then Kofi and Rey, then Bourne hit an amazing Shooting Star Press off the top of the ladder on the outside. Highlight spot of both ladder matches. I still would have rather had Ziggler in the match, but that was a cool spot.

In ring, Miz and Bourne battled on the ladder before Del Rio knocked both of them off. Miz fell from the ladder and sold a serious knee injury as he was helped to the back. Another decent spot where Rey Mysterio and Bourne hit double hurricaranas. All seven men remaining ended up on ladders in the ring before they all started falling one by one. Kofi Kingston was the last one left and tried to grab the briefcase, but Swagger pulled him off. Suddenly, Miz came limping back to the ring and appeared to be in line for getting the case again. Rey Mysterio stopped him and knocked him off. Rey was booed pretty heavily. Del Rio then got to the top of the ladder. Both men battled on the top of the ladder before Del Rio yanked Rey's mask off and shoved him to another ladder. Both men's ladders fell in a spot that didn't look planned. Del Rio grabbed the briefcase for the win.

As I said, still entertaining but a bit sloppy. The end was off, Truth missed a spot earlier with Swagger that had to be redone. It was curious to see what they did with Miz. He got a huge pop from the live crowd. Are they going to turn Miz face? It's been talked about for a while now. I was disappointed Alex Riley didn't standout more than he did. Unlike Smackdown where everyone had at least one standout moment, there were a few guys that didn't stand out here, notably Riley, Jack Swagger, and R-Truth. It will be interesting to see where they go with Del Rio here. I won't say anything more until I get to the end of the review.

Backstage, Del Rio told Josh Matthews he should have been in the WWE Championship match tonight, and he was going to prove to everyone how great he really is and fulfill his destiny of becoming WWE Champion.

Christian defeated Randy Orton via Disqualification to win the World Heavyweight Title: ***3/4
Another solid match between the two. This was a match again bumped up because of the whole angle and the post match as well. Christian threw a chair into the ring early to tease Orton with a DQ. Back and forth action throughout the entire match before Christian countered an RKO into an Unprettier. Orton kicked out at two and sold frustration. Orton recovered and hit a shoulder neckbreaker on Christian for only a two count. Orton thought about the punt but Christian moved. Orton hit a powerslam and elevated rope DDT. He went for an RKO but Christian bailed to the corner. Christian then spit in Orton's face with caused him to snap. Orton went nuts and eventually low blow kicked Christian causing a DQ, which meant Christian won the World Heavyweight Title. After the match, Orton snapped and threw Christian to the outside. He RKO'd Christian on the Spanish announce table, but it didn't break. He left but came back and did it again. Orton was really good here. His facial expressions were top notch. He really sold that he snapped and completely lost it. Orton can be good under the right circumstance and he was here.

I was surprised Daniel Bryan didn't come out and cash in. But they still need to build up Bryan a bit more in my opinion. Christian was carried to the back afterward. Like I said, another good match between these two and continues their program heading into SummerSlam. I'm assuming some type of gimmick is added to the match this time. Maybe, as some people have already suggested, Edge returns as special guest referee. He will already be in Los Angeles for SummerSlam. I was surprised as well to see how much the crowd was into Randy Orton. I thought for sure Chicago would be more into Christian than Orton. Hopefully Christian gets a proper one month reign with the Title, and not lose it again on Smackdown right away. Even though this program has been going now for 3 months, there is now a new wrinkle thrown into it with Christian now Champ, and Orton now in full blown psychotic snap mode. Solid "2nd main event" before the match everyone was waiting for.

C.M. Punk defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship: *****
I'll try, but words cannot do this one justice. This match was just on another level. Punk came out to a huge reaction from his hometown Chicago. Cena came out and just walked to the ring, now salute or run to the ring.

Basic wrestling work in the first half of the match. Slow rest holds, but they all played into the build of the match later. Cena hit his traditional offense. About 12 minutes into the match Cena sold a knee injury and backed away into the corner. Punk went to suplex Cena back into the ring, but Cena suplexed him to the outside onto the mat in a rough looking spot. Back in the ring, Cena and Punk went at each other with a back and forth that got "BOOS" for Cena and "YAHS" for Punk. Cena eventually gained control and went for the five knuckle shuffle, but Punk kneed Cena in the head when he went for the "You Can't See Me." Punk kneed Cena to the floor and then hit a dive to the outside. Back in the ring, Punk went for a dive and missed. Cena connected on the Five Knuckle Shuffle this time. Cena then went for the Attitude Adjustment, but Punk countered. Punk went for the GTS, but Cena countered. Cena took a pretty stiff knee to the jaw.

After some Punk kicks, Cena countered and locked in the STF. Punk was able to crawl towards the ropes and grab it before tapping out. Punk went to the top and went for a splash, but Cena countered into an AA attempt. Punk countered into a GTS attempt. Cena countered that into another STF. Punk crawled towards the rope again but Cena dragged him back mid-ring. Out of nowhere, Punk was able to escape and lock in his signature submission, the Anaconda Vice. Cena countered out of that into an AA, but only got a two count out of it. Punk countered Cena's top rope leg drop into a sitdown powerbomb. Punk went for the GTS but Cena got out of it. This time he hit the leg drop. Cena hit another AA but Punk kicked out again. Cena sold disbelief to the ref.

Cena went for a top rope AA, but Punk elbowed out of it. He hit a top rope huracanrana. Punk then hit the GTS on Cena, but Cena fell to the outside. Punk rolled Cena back into the ring. Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis walked down the entrance. Punk caught them out of the corner of his eye. Punk entered the ring, but the distraction allowed Cena to lock in the STF. Vince told Laurinaitis to go ring the bell, but Cena unlocked the hold and decked him. Cena then went to Vince and told him "Not like this," implying he didn't want the match to end in the screwjob format. Cena went back into the ring, but Punk hit the GTS and scored the three count for the win.

Vince sold disbelief and shock. As Punk celebrated in the ring, Vince walked to the announce table and told them to cut Punk's music. He asked for Del Rio to come out and cash in his contract. Del Rio ran out but Punk kneed him in the head. Punk then left the ring, blew a kiss to McMahon, and escaped through the crowd. The show ended with Punk walking in the arena concourse and McMahon fuming on the ring apron.

As I said in the beginning, just WOW. That match was on a whole nother level. Punk was excellent there playing to the crowd and of course proving once again that he is the best wrestler in the WWE today. As much as I don't like the guy as a character, Cena brought his A game tonight as well. He showed that he is more than capable of carrying his end of a big time match. The crowd was great as well. Everything put together just gave this match a big time feel that might not be topped for years to come. Everybody played their parts perfectly. Punk and Cena were great in the ring, Vince was great as the owner who didn't want to see his prized possession leave, and even John Laurinaitis was good as the company stooge. It is what you ask for in a wrestling match. Good action in the ring, compelling drama, and an excellent story told from start to finish. You can't ask for anything else.

Just like before the PPV, I have no idea where this story is going. This is the one finish I didn't see happening. Does Punk really leave with the WWE Title? If so, do we go that long without the WWE Title? Does Vince introduce a new Title belt? Is Dolph Ziggler the new top dog on the show with the United States Championship? Does Punk actually stick around for a bit? Does he show up in the crowd with the title? Or go to Ring Of Honor? Is Cena actually fired? That's a lot of questions there. This ending was the best possible hook to gain viewers for RAW tonight. The one thing the WWE can't do is have Punk show up tonight, then just lose the title back to Cena. It kills any momentum from the PPV and will lose more people in the long haul rather than gain more. But from start to finish in this whole program, for now, the WWE has done everything right and not screwed anything up. Kudos to them so far.

Easily the best PPV of the year so far. Everything was good to great, not counting the Divas match. I just can't describe enough how much I enjoyed this show. I'm giving it a solid 9. I'm taking off one point for an underwhelming RAW MITB match. Had that match been slightly better, this show would have been a ten But there was enough mis-cues in that match to drop the show a point. It doesn't take away from anything on the show overall, but I felt it affected the match quality just a bit. So obviously, this show is now #1 on the WWE PPV list for 2011.

1. Money in the Bank
2. Elimination Chamber

3. Extreme Rules
4. Wrestlemania 27
5. Royal Rumble
6. Capitol Punishment
7. Over the Limit

3 Stars of the Night
1. C.M. Punk: No doubt in my mind.
2. John Cena: He brought his A game tonight and showed he can work a big time match
3. Randy Orton: He brought his A game as well and sold some great expressions post match

Where Do We Go From Here?
I honestly have no idea, at least on the RAW side. There are just so many answers left unquestioned. My guess is that Punk stays gone for at least a few months, leading to a tournament to declare a new WWE Champion. They hold a 16 man tournament headed into SummerSlam. On Smackdown, Orton and Christian will continue their program with either Edge as Special Referee, or some type of gimmick or both. So for now, lets say SummerSlam looks like this:

Tournament Final for the WWE Championship: John Cena vs Alberto del Rio
World Heavyweight Championship; Tables, Ladders, & Chairs: Christian vs Randy Orton
United States Championship: Dolph Ziggler vs Alex Riley
Intercontinental Championship: Ezekiel Jackson vs Cody Rhodes
Sheamus vs Wade Barrett
Rey Mysterio vs Miz
Daniel Bryan vs Mark Henry
John Morrison vs R-Truth

I will close this review by saying if you were on the edge of watching this and didn't, go out of your way to order the replay. It was just a great display of wrestling ability from everyone involved on the show. It can hook you back in as a wrestling fan. It was just a great atmosphere. It's shows like these why we stay wrestling fans. Here's a goodbye kiss from C.M. Punk.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow me on Twitter: @JCWonka

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WWE Money in the Bank Preview

Hello everyone and welcome back. Wherever you are reading this, I hope you enjoyed my "Summer of Punk" piece I wrote a few weeks ago.

One of the most anticipated non-big 4 PPVs in recent memory, Money in the Bank, takes place this Sunday. I honestly cannot think of a time where there was so much hype surrounding a PPV that wasn't Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, or the Royal Rumble. The WWE has really stepped up their game in these last few weeks building up anticipation for this PPV. They've drawn people's interest back who have been slowly fading away from their stale, stagnant product. They've utilized all the pieces of the puzzle correctly. The selling point of Money in the Bank is the two ladder matches. The WWE, however, has made those matches seem almost secondary compared to the hype surrounding the WWE Championship Match. With two ladder matches that always deliver, the most hyped WWE Championship match in recent memory, and another Orton/Christian match, this might be one of the better wrestling PPVs, and overall PPVs, in recent memory. Hell, there's even decent back story to the Big Show/Mark Henry match.

So lets move on to the review. I'm expanding this review a bit. While I will still give you my picks on who will win, I'm also going to go in to what I would do if each individual won the Money in the Bank contract.

Divas Championship: Kelly Kelly (c) vs Brie Bella

And you guys thought I forgot about what might be the best match on the card? I hope this match gets 20+ minutes. This could be an instant classic, one we will be talking about for years to come. It will make you forget the classic Melina vs Alicia Fox match. If that Submission match was a preview for anything, who knows what these two will pull out on PPV.

What was that? Is that sarcasm you sense? Maybe just a little. In all honesty, they better only give this match 5 minutes tops, otherwise the Chicago crowd will shit all over it. Is there even a storyline here? Kelly does some screaming to try and get the crowd into it. The Bellas try to pull some twin magic but Eve stops them. Kelly hits that leg drop for the win.

WINNER: Kelly Kelly

Big Show vs Mark Henry

As I said in the beginning, there's actually a decent back story to this match. Mark Henry has been on an absolute tear over the last month, taking out everything in his path. Sure, it may be push #54560143 for him, but for some reason I personally am really digging this push so far. Maybe it's because I've yet to see him wrestle an actual match since his push began, but I really like it. It has been a long time since we've had an unstoppable, monster heel on our hands. No heel has looked as dominant in recent memory as Henry has. While he is not the best wrestler out there, if this keeps going he will be in line for a World Title shot sometime, maybe as early as SummerSlam.

I know the WWE has this idea about Big Show being some untouchable monster, but the time for that has to stop. If Henry got a clean win over Show, it would make him look like that much more of a monster. I kind of wish the WWE would make this some sort of gimmick match. Maybe a Tables Match or something. I basic wrestling match won't be pretty between these two. Henry needs to get the win here. Not by Disqualification or a Referee Stoppage, but by pinfall. With the way Christian/Orton is going, I could see that ending at Money in the Bank and Henry stepping up as the challenger to Orton at SummerSlam.

WINNER: Mark Henry

Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Justin Gabriel vs Sheamus vs Heath Slater vs Cody Rhodes vs Kane vs Sin Cara vs Daniel Bryan vs Wade Barrett

Quite an interesting mix-match of people here. Out of all 8 participants, only 2 have participated in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match before: Kane and Cody Rhodes. Sin Cara and Daniel Bryan weren't even in the WWE last year at this time. (technically Bryan was already there, but he got fired) Barrett, Slater, and Gabriel were just debuting on the main roster off of NXT Season 1 as members of the Nexus. Sheamus was in the WWE Championship match.

Looking at the list of participants, I would say there are only 3 viable candidates to win this match. But as I said, I'll go through each participant, list there chances of winning, and then describe how I would go about them cashing in the briefcase. Lets go from least likely to most likely. It's really tough to look at the Smackdown side down the line because there is a big lack of main event talent here. Trying to predict who will be World Champion and when down the line is tough. I'm probably going to throw out a bunch of different scenarios with a bunch of different Champions.

Heath Slater: If Heath Slater wins this match, I'll do naked cartwheels up and down the streets of Buffalo while shouting "BRETT HULL'S GOAL WAS LEGAL" and "MUSIC CITY MIRACLE WASN'T A FORWARD LATERAL." Nothing against Slater. He's an ok wrestler, but he's never getting past the mid-card in the WWE. I think out of all the Money in the Bank participants in every MITB in history, he is probably the least viable person to think could win ever. Sorry Heath. Percentage Chance of Winning: 1%

If Heath Slater did win, how would I book his cash in?
-This takes a lot of thinking. Heath Slater would need to be built up as a threat first. That means he'd have to hold onto that briefcase for a VERY long time. Heath carries the briefcase for as long as possible. How about the June PPV next year, before beating the World Champ after his match.

Kane: Kane was the surprise winner of last year's Smackdown Money in the Bank match. I never thought he would have had any chance to win. This year, however, is a different story. Last year Kane had a ready made program with the Undertaker waiting for him. It was the best thing they could do on Smackdown. It was their main event program in the fall. But now, Kane is back in the mid-card. He's also getting up there in age and has injuries that are bothering him recently. You got to wonder how much time Kane has left in the business. I think last year's title run was a "thank you" run for all of the work he put into the company. I don't like Kane's chances this year. Percentage Chance of Winning: 4%

If Kane did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Kane would probably do just what he did last year: cash in the contract quickly. Kane just looks weird carrying around a briefcase. But he doesn't cash it in right away this year. Kane waits til SummerSlam and cashes it in after Randy Orton successfully retains his World Championship.

Justin Gabriel: If this was the 2012 Money in the Bank Match, then we may be talking about Gabriel as a pick to win it. There's a lot of potential in Gabriel. He should be a solid mid-carder in the coming year if the WWE decides to book him right. He's a good in ring worker, and his 450 Splash is one of the best finishers in the WWE. I just think he needs more time to develop his overall game. He needs to get over on the mic, maybe with the help of a manager. And of course, he needs to break way from Heath Slater. No offense to them, but the WWE's Tag Team Division is almost non-existent. They're going nowhere. Percentage Chance of Winning: 5%

If Justin Gabriel did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Like I said, Gabriel still needs time to develop. He needs a year in the mid-card, and probably a run with the Intercontinental Title. Let him show off his move set to the WWE Universe. From everything I've seen of him in FCW, he has a good one. Lets say at Extreme Rules, Wade Barrett is the World Heavyweight Champion. After retaining the Title, Gabriel comes out and cashes in the contract against his former friend and becomes Champion.

Daniel Bryan: Bryan is arguably the best wrestler on Smackdown. Maybe #2 in the WWE behind C.M. Punk. He knows his way around the squared circle. The crowd loves him for his in ring work. Problem is, he's not over in any other way. He doesn't really have any personality. His gimmick is just the straight up hard worker who busts his ass in the ring. I've compared Bryan to this man before, and although I hate bringing up his name, he reminds me a lot of Chris Benoit the wrestler. He works his ass off in the ring. The smarks love him. He's someone who I can see getting over with the crowd a whole lot down the line, but right now, he's still stuck in the mid-card on Smackdown even though he may be the #2 face on the show. I think somewhere down the line he may have a reign as WWE or World Champion, but not right now. Percentage Chance of Winning: 8%

If Daniel Bryan did win, how would I book his cash in?
-I hate using the term "smark", but if Bryan were to win the World Title some time this year, it would have to be in front of a "smark" crowd like Chicago or New York City. Luckily for Bryan, Survivor Series just happens to be in NYC this year. Mark Henry has just successfully retained the World Heavyweight Title. People cannot believe he has held the Title for 3 months. Well, Daniel Bryan thinks that has been long enough. He comes out after Henry's match and cashes in his contract.

Sin Cara: It's been said a thousand times. Sin Cara is off to a rough start in the WWE. No matter who his opponent is, Cara always seems to screw something up in his match. Whether it's his fault, or his opponent's for not knowing his style is debatable. But Sin Cara is Triple H's first project, and he'll be damned if he is going to let Cara fail so quickly. Cara is still a good worker. He has an amazing move set. He just needs to know what to use and when in the WWE. He also has problems getting over some emotion because his mask covers his entire face. While a nice move set is great, it can only take you so far in the wrestling business. You need to have some personality. His move set got him over in Mexico, but Mexico and the WWE are two different places. But Cara was brought in to branch out to the Mexico crowd, so there's still a chance for him to main event somewhere down the line. Percentage Chance of Winning: 12%

If Sin Cara did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Sin Cara still needs a lot of time to polish up his game. There's plenty of time for that. Wrestlemania is in Miami next year. Sheamus just successfully retained the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania, but out comes Sin Cara with the briefcase. Sheamus gives his all but is exhausted. He's unable to keep up with Cara's fast-paced offense. Cara wins and walks out of Wrestlemania with the World Title.

Wade Barrett: One year ago, Wade Barrett was the leader of Nexus, which at the time looked like the most dominant group the WWE had seen in a very long time. He appeared destined for a main event run, and maybe even a run with the WWE Championship. But I don't know if anybody else's stock has plummeted as much in a year as Barrett's has. He went to Smackdown where he became the leader of Corre. The Corre broke up, and now Barrett is stuck with absolutely nothing. He lost the Intercontinental Championship at Capitol Punishment to Ezekiel Jackson, and now really has nothing going. Winning this match would give Barrett something to do until he cashed in the briefcase. It would give him time to be built back up as a threat for the World Title. He needs a lot of rebuilding in order for this to happen. But having the Smackdown briefcase would be a start. It'd be similar to Jack Swagger winning at Wrestlemania 26. Percentage Chance of Winning: 22%

If Wade Barrett did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Barrett is solid enough in the ring and good enough on the mic to win this match, and handle himself at the top of Smackdown. The problem is Smackdown is full of top heels and Barrett is lost in the shuffle. Could Barrett work as a face on the Blue Show? I think it is worth a shot. At Hell in a Cell, Barrett cashes in the briefcase after Sheamus retains the World Title, leading to a Battle of England vs Ireland on Smackdown in the Fall of 2011.

Sheamus: Sheamus is an interesting case. He's been sticking his head in the World Title picture recently with Randy Orton and Christian. He was punted in the head by Orton a few weeks ago, and interrupted the contract signing on Smackdown as well. The thing is, Sheamus really doesn't need the briefcase. Sure he had a rough stretch on RAW, but I think he has done a decent job for himself so far on Smackdown. I'd probably say he is the #2 heel on the show behind Christian, and possibly next in line to face Randy Orton for the World Title. Its either him or Mark Henry. While he doesn't need the briefcase, I could see Vince giving it to him just because. Percentage Chance of Winning: 28%

If Sheamus did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Nice and quick for Sheamus. Doesn't need to hold onto it long. If this is the end of the Orton/Christian program at MITB, then why not have Sheamus cash in after their match this Sunday. Orton finally gets rid of Christian and transitions right into the next program.

Cody Rhodes: I really think Cody is the favorite. He's done so well in 2011. He was great in his program with Rey Mysterio. I wish he would have won at Extreme Rules, but that's in the past. He's kind of been stuck with nothing in the last few months. He's started working a bit with Daniel Bryan and Sin Cara, which have been good matches. He's done so well with a gimmick that I thought for sure would not work. The paper bag thing may be a bit of a stretch now, but it is still ok. Cody's work has been great in the ring and out, and has future World Champion written all over him. Yeah he's small and not the big guy that Vince likes, but he would make it worth. I'm sure he will have a run with the Intercontinental Title and program with his new apprentice Ted DiBiase Jr. before he gets to the World Title picture, however. Percentage Chance of Winning: 30%.

If Cody Rhodes did win, how would I book his cash in?
-I really think Cody could be a viable threat as the World Champion headed into Wrestlemania. Call me crazy, but I think he could make it worth. Who else could work a good match on Smackdown as a top heel? Sheamus or Barrett maybe, but Cody might be able to have the best match of the three. Cody cashes in his briefcase after the Elimination Chamber match. Who's the World Champ then? Will say Orton.

So Who's Winning This Thing?
Like I said, I think there are only 3 options for this one: Wade Barrett, Sheamus, and Cody Rhodes. Any of the other 5 would be a real surprise. I'm still of the mind set that Sheamus does not need the briefcase, so I'm throwing him out. Cody Rhodes, while arguably the best rising star on Smackdown, also really doesn't need it. Sure it could be the last thing to push him up to the top, but I think he gets there sooner rather than later. That leaves us with Wade Barrett. Barrett gas absolutely nothing going for him now. The briefcase automatically makes him a threat to the main event level, and as I said, I think it could help transition him into a face turn down the road.

WINNER: Wade Barrett

World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs Christian

The fourth match between these two. All of them have been good. Their match at Capitol Punishment was a bit of a let down. It was still good, but not on par with their first two. As I've stated numerous times, I think they have gone in the wrong direction with this program. First let me say that it is great to see Christian get such an extended run in the main event. The problem is that he's been looking up at the lights in every one of these matches. I would have had Christian win the World Title at Capitol Punishment, then retain here before dropping it back to Orton in a Ladder Match at SummerSlam. Now? Having another match between these two would seem almost pointless, even if Christian does win here.

The problem with Smackdown is that there is really nothing worth building up to for SummerSlam. Sure they could transition to Randy Orton vs Sheamus, but that was done at last year's SummerSlam. That is why I think Christian should have won the Title last month. But I don't like sounding like a broken record. With the possibility that this may be the last match between these two, I would assume they will pull out all the stops. Orton and Christian have great chemistry in the ring. This time Christian has added a special stipulation to the match. If Orton is disqualified, or if there is "questionable" officiating, Christian wins the World Title. I would assume somehow, someway, this will play into the finish.

As I said, Smackdown has nothing else headed into SummerSlam. If anything, I may see a Triple Threat match at SummerSlam with Orton, Christian, and Sheamus. Maybe still make it a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Match. Either way, I still think Orton needs to lose the title here. Having both shows dominated by your two top faces is a bit too cut and dry. If anyone is to lose the Title, I would say it has to be Orton. Sheamus interferes on Christian's behalf after a ref bump, laying out Orton with that devastating kick. Christian picks up the win and the World Title, but now has to defend it in a Triple Threat Match at SummerSlam.

WINNER: Christian

RAW Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Alberto del Rio vs R-Truth vs Jack Swagger vs The Miz vs Evan Bourne vs Rey Mysterio vs Alex Riley vs Kofi Kingston

Before I get into this preview, can somebody explain to me why Dolph Ziggler is not in this match? He would easily be my pick to win this if he was. He's the United States Champion and he's not in it, yet the guy he just beat at the last PPV is in the match? That doesn't make any sense. I understand Evan Bourne can do some crazy shit off of a ladder, but I'd much rather have Dolph in this match than him. He'd be taken as more of a threat. It's just really weird. The same could be said for not having Ezekiel Jackson in the Smackdown Match even though he is the Intercontinental Champion. And just when I thought the secondary titles were starting to mean something.

There are a lot of interesting candidates here. A couple of already established main eventers that could use it to get the WWE Title back, and a couple of young guys who could use the briefcase to help elevate them to the next level. Again, I will go from least likely to most likely.

Evan Bourne: There was a time last summer where it looked like Evan Bourne might have been in line for a big push. He teamed with John Cena on an episode of RAW and ended up scoring the pinfall victory. Then at the Fatal Four Way PPV, Bourne picked up a pinfall victory over Chris Jericho in a very good match. Probably the best match of the night. But the WWE has this hot and cold approach with their mid-card. They were hot on Bourne for about a month, then cooled down on him. The only reason Bourne is in this match is because to do the Shooting Star Press off of the ladder, and maybe another crazy move or two. Percentage Chance of Winning: 2% (I had to make it higher than Heath Slater)

If Evan Bourne did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Bourne would need to go on a tear through the RAW mid-card before he becomes WWE Champion. Bourne, after winning the briefcase, goes on an incredible winning streak. He wins the United States title from Dolph Ziggler at SummerSlam. After finally losing the Title at Wrestlemania, Bourne cashes in his briefcase the next night on RAW.

Jack Swagger: Swagger won the Money in the Bank contract at Wrestlemania 26. Just like Kane last year, he was a very surprising winner. I didn't see him winning there. I don't see him winning this one either. Swagger was booked very poorly after he won the World Title. He had a bad program with Big Show, although it did give us that awesome Swagger Trophy segment that I saw live in Buffalo. He lost the World Title to Rey Mysterio and failed to regain it in the rematch. Swagger is lost in the heel shuffle on RAW, and the only way I could see Swagger winning is if it leads to a face turn down the line. He's very Kurt Angle-esque in the ring. He's not on the same level in ring, but he has the same feel to it. Percentage Chance of Winning: 4%

If Jack Swagger did win, how would I book his cash in?
-As I said, Swagger is lost in the heel shuffle on RAW. If he were to win the RAW MITB Briefcase, I would hope it leads to a slow face turn. Maybe have him be the last guy up on the ladder with Miz and knock him off for the win. Miz complains the next night and starts a program with Swagger, turning him face just like he did with Alex Riley. When the program is over, Miz moves on to win the WWE Title, but after winning at Survivor Series, Swagger cashes in his contract and one ups Miz again.

Kofi Kingston: Just like with Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston is the victim of hot and cold booking over the past few years. In late 2009, he had a star making moment at Madison Square Garden against Randy Orton. But Orton won the program, and once it was over, he was put back in the mid-card. He's held the United States and Intercontinental Championship multiple times. He's also wrestled Dolph Ziggler about 21849684 times. Kofi seems to be over with the crowd, but he can be sloppy in the ring at times. He also isn't the best on the mic. With so many young guys on the roster, I think Kofi's window of opportunity may have come and gone. Percentage Chance of Winning: 6%

If Kofi Kingston did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Right now Kofi is no higher than the #3 face on RAW, and he may be #4 behind Alex Riley. He could use a bit more build up to make him seem like a threat. Kofi holds the briefcase until the TLC PPV in December, where he cashes in the briefcase on Alberto del Rio after a Tables Match. Kofi holds the Title for at least a month before dropping it back to Del Rio.

R-Truth: One month ago, R-Truth was the hottest character in the WWE. His new gimmick was doing wonders for him. His Conspiracy Theory angle, while done before, was being done right. The WWE, however, completely killed his gimmick in the last few weeks. I didn't mind him losing to John Cena, I just don't like how it happened. I understand the "Little Jimmy" aspect of everything, but that was just taking it way too far. Now his character has gotten pushed too the side and seems to be pushed back to mid-card status. He's just waiting for John Morrison to return. Percentage Chance of Winning: 9%

If R-Truth did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Truth would probably be a semi quick cash in. John Morrison returns and the two have a match at SummerSlam in which Morrison wins. Truth, frustrated, cashes in the contract on the same night after John Cena had just successfully retained the Title.

Rey Mysterio: Most people might look at Rey Mysterio in this match as just a way to get him on the card. He's the veteran, go to guy that is over with the young crowd. He's good for a wacky spot off of the ladder. But I think people need to take Rey a bit more seriously as a threat to win this match. Looking at it from a backstage perspective, Rey Mysterio's contract is the next "big" contract up for renewal. It is rumored to expire in early 2012. Head of Talent Relations John Laurinitis is already in a tough spot. He failed to re-sign Chris Jericho and apparently has failed to re-sign C.M. Punk. There is a lot of pressure on him to re-sign Rey. Rey's knees are in bad shape and he probably would like some time off as well. They might need to make him a big offer to keep him around. Giving Rey the MITB win and a run with the WWE Championship might help entice him. Rey can still go in the ring, and despite him losing the male audience's support, he still is a great entertainer. Do I think Rey wins? No. But people need to consider him more than just the veteran presence in this match. Percentage Chance of Winning: 15%

If Rey Mysterio did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Lets say C.M. Punk does win the WWE Championship. That means John Cena is fired. Punk comes out the next night on RAW to gloat one more time before he leaves. But out comes Rey Mysterio with his briefcase. Rey cashes in the contract and wins the WWE Title. If this PPV was any place but Chicago, I would have done this at the PPV. But Rey would get booed out of the building if that happened. This allows John Cena to come back, and possibly plant the seeds for a John Cena vs Rey Mysterio match at SummerSlam. Sure it wouldn't be the program we all want, but it would be something new, and could lead to a heel turn for one of them.

The Miz: C.M. Punk has done it before, so why can't Miz? Winning the MITB two years in a row is not out of the question here. Miz has lost a bit of steam since leaving the WWE Championship picture. Sure he has helped elevate Alex Riley a bit, but he himself has lost a bit of heat. It will be interesting to see what happens with Miz in the near future. There was a rumor that the WWE was going to build around him this year, but that has obviously taken a back seat. Some, including me, thought Miz would have been a face by now. But that hasn't happened either. Miz needs something for people to take him seriously again. Regaining the briefcase would help in that regard. Percentage Chance of Winning: 18%

If The Miz did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Miz did a great job of teasing his cash in last year. He often times walked around waving the MITB Briefcase in front of the WWE Champion. Miz doesn't need to cash in right away. Let him walk around with the briefcase for a couple of months. Finish off his feud with Alex Riley at SummerSlam. Then at Night of Champions, Miz cashes in after John Cena retains the WWE Title in a Championship Scramble match.

Alex Riley: Alex Riley this high on the list? Yes. I think there a number of reasons Riley could win this match. He's come from out of nowhere in the last month and a half and is a rising star in the WWE. He's kind of losing some heat like the Miz, but it could be brought back by winning the briefcase. Riley still needs time to polish up his in ring skills before he would cash in the briefcase. A run with the United States Championship would help as well. He's already beaten Miz twice and I could see the program with him extending to SummerSlam. Riley needs to hope he is not a part of the WWE's hot and cold booking approach with the mid-card. The WWE needs to ride Riley's momentum a bit longer and follow through on it. If the WWE shows faith in him, then the fans will buy into him. Plus, Riley knows how to handle a briefcase. That gives him as good a chance as anyone. Percentage Chance of Winning: 20%

If Alex Riley did win, how would I book his cash in?
-Riley would need a convincing win over the Miz to finish their program. Have him beat Miz at SummerSlam with the MITB Briefcase on the line. Riley moves on to a program with Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship. At Over the Limit, Riley cashes in his contract just after Miz regains the WWE Championship for the first time in over a year. Riley needs time to work on his overall presence, and having the briefcase gives him the confidence to do so.

Alberto del Rio: Considered by most to be the odds-on-favorite, ADR has been waiting in the wings for his opportunity for a very long time now. He was suppose to win at Wrestlemania but didn't. He was suppose to win at Extreme Rules but didn't. There was apparently even talk of him winning the World Title at the Royal Rumble as well, but that didn't happen either. And since he's been on RAW, he's done almost nothing. There's no doubt that Del Rio's time will come. I think he is next in line for a WWE Championship program. Miz and R-Truth have come and gone, and I'm still convinced Punk is leaving after Sunday. There is nobody else on RAW worthy of the main event slot at SummerSlam. That's why I really don't think Del Rio needs the MITB briefcase. It should be used to elevate someone, not to use on someone who is already in the main event. But ADR still has to be looked at as the odds on favorite. He came out looking strong on RAW. Most of the time that means he won't win Sunday, but it could be different with Del Rio. Percentage Chance of Winning: 26%

If Alberto del Rio did win, how would I book his cash in?
-The only way a RAW MITB cash in would work on C.M. Punk in Chicago is if a heel does it. Cue ADR. Vince brings him out after Punk has won the WWE Championship. ADR cashes in, allowing Cena to stick around and face Del Rio at SummerSlam.

So Who's Winning This Thing?
-This is kind of wide open. I really wish Dolph Ziggler was in this match, because he would be my pick to win. I have Alberto del Rio doing something else besides winning Money in the Bank on this PPV, so I'm ruling him out here. In my mind that leaves 3 people: Rey Mysterio, Alex Riley, and Miz. I'm throwing Rey out. Although I said to consider him a threat, he again doesn't need the briefcase. Miz, however, does need it to get some of his heat back. But I'm not picking him here. I see a lot of potential in Alex Riley, and believe that in time, he could be a decent main eventer in the WWE. Getting the RAW MITB Contract would be a great start. Miz and Riley are the last two on the ladder. Riley knocks Miz off and grabs the briefcase. At SummerSlam, the two fight over the MITB contract in a Steel Cage Match.

WINNER: Alex Riley

WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs C.M. Punk

I'm really trying to remember the last time I was so excited for a WWE Championship match. The first thing that pops into my head is John Cena/Shawn Michaels from Wrestlemania 23. That's mostly because I honestly thought HBK was walking out with the WWE Title. But even then I was excited for different reasons. I was excited for Mania 23 because I thought my favorite ever was going to be WWE Champion again. I'm excited now because I have absolutely NO IDEA what is going to happen. When was the last time I didn't know what was going to happen and was actually interested in the match? I really can't tell you.

This has been the best 3 weeks of WWE TV in a row in quite some time. Everyone has played their parts perfectly. Of course Punk has been amazing. Vince McMahon has been the best he's been in a while. You also have to give him credit for letting Punk say all the things he's said in recent weeks. Punk's basically called Vince out on every bad business decision he's made in the last few years. Vince wouldn't let somebody do that unless he had a lot of faith in him. John Cena has also performed admirably. He got a little corny this past Monday on RAW with that whole door mat nonsense, but he recovered nicely in the end. Punk calling out Cena on becoming a "Dynasty" just like the New York Yankees was a great line.

If C.M. Punk has proven one thing this past week, its that he can be a main event draw if given the opportunity. Punk is the best worker in the ring, and the best on the mic out. He doesn't have a marketable look, but there's no doubt he is the best in the WWE right now. There's no one on RAW or Smackdown that can fill his void. It's a shame that it took Punk leaving to show how much of a draw he can be.

On to the actual match. It should be great. The crowd will be electric. Cena will get booed louder than he ever has before. The match itself should also be great. These two put on a couple of good matches this year so far on RAW. Now on the main event of one of the biggest PPVs in recent memory, they should bring their A game. Punk works a good match no matter what and Cena will surely step it up in this situation.

Now the talking point of the entire match: the outcome. I'm sure there are only a handful of people that know what will happen. The same people also are the only ones who know if C.M. Punk has re-signed. I'm still of the believe that Punk is taking some time off. I really think he is burned out from being on the road so long. I also believe he's disappointed it took him this long to get a main event push. I do, however, also believe that Punk has agreed to come back at some point down the line. Vince wouldn't do this type of angle without some sort of agreement like that in place. The only finish I would absolutely hate would be Cena winning clean. That would basically kill any type of build from the last 3 weeks, and lose a lot more viewers that tuned back just for this angle. The WWE would be really stupid to do this finish.

Any other finish I would at least let digest and think about before I reacted. I doubt Punk leaves with the WWE Championship. If that did happen, I would think Punk returns to fight the then WWE Champion at Wrestlemania. There's always the possibility that the RAW MITB Winner cashes in his briefcase. But with my prediction, Alex Riley is not walking out WWE Champion. He's not ready for that and the Chicago crowd would shit all over him. There's the possibility that Punk stays and wins. He then either forms a corporate partnership with Vince. Maybe Cena wins by aligning with Vince McMahon, turning heel in the process. And when Punk returns, he's an anti-authority face. Wishful thinking I know, because Cena is not turning anytime soon.

Here's how I see it playing out: Punk and Cena go at it for about 20 minutes. Punk just escaped the STF by reaching the ropes. Cena gets Punk up into the Attitude Adjustment. Punk lands on his feet, however, and hits his second GTS of the match to pick up the win. Punk celebrates in the ring and Cena sits dejected on the outside. Out comes Vince McMahon. He says that this is not happening. He says Punk still has another match tonight. He gets to face the man who should have been in the WWE Championship Match tonight, the man who is the true #1 Contender: Alberto del Rio. Del Rio comes out and him and Punk have a short match. Del Rio counters the GTS into his cross armbar. Despite Punk's best attempt, he can't get to the ropes and taps out, allowing Alberto del Rio to win the WWE Championship. Del Rio gets booed out of the building. After the match Punk gets a standing ovation from the crowd. Cena comes in to shake Punk's hand. Punk does, but as Cena attempts to leave, Punk pulls him back and hits another GTS on Cena. Punk walks up the ramp and raises his fist in the air as the show signs off.

To me, this ending accomplishes a bunch of different things. It makes it seemed like Punk was robbed out of the WWE Championship. When he comes back, it sets him up as an anti-authority figure who is hell bent on getting revenge on Vince McMahon. It gets the WWE Title off of John Cena while not actually firing him because Punk did not leave with the Title. It also sets up the long anticipated Alberto del Rio/John Cena program for SummerSlam. If Vince is back on TV even semi-regularly, he could make Del Rio is corporate Champion who dominates the main event scene.

So when does Punk return? As I've said, there's no way the WWE would do this angle with Punk and not have him come back at some point. It may be a long time, but I would hold Punk off of TV until the Royal Rumble. Have him be a surprise entrant. Punk wins the match, and decides to face Alberto del Rio at Wrestlemania. That gives you Cena/Rock and Del Rio/Punk as your two starting points for Wrestlemania 28. Those are two solid matches to start with.

Winner of the Match: C.M. Punk
Who Leaves the PPV WWE Champion: Alberto del Rio

I can't say enough how excited I am for this PPV. I will be watching it at a Buffalo Wild Wings. First time watching it there. I hear the atmosphere at these places should be great. I will have a Review up on my blog Monday morning. I will try to do live updates on Twitter. You can follow me there @JCWonka.

Until next time,
Justin C