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On June 18, WWE presents its annual fan-favorite pay-per-view, Money in the Bank, a SmackDown Live-exclusive extravaganza. The show’s namesake, a high-risk, high-reward ladder match is one of the most eagerly anticipated contests of the year thanks to the stakes that fuel the Superstars involved: a contract for a guaranteed WWE Championship match at any time over the next 12 months.
This year, a talented crop of competitors will battle for that contract in what has the potential to be the best Money in the Bank match yet.
AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura make up the field. Their intertwining issues have been a significant element of SmackDown Live in recent weeks and led to some outstanding television matches in the process. The chemistry is there, the talent is obvious and the potential for a classic match is abundant.
But only one man can emerge victoriously.
Who among the former champions and bright young stars is most likely to leave the annual spectacular with a shiny new briefcase in-hand, one step closer to the holy grail they seek?
Let’s take a look.
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The Phenomenal One is the face of SmackDown Live and a threat to win every match he competes in but unfortunately for him, he does not appear to be in WWE’s plans to headline the blue brand in the title picture anytime soon. As a result, the likelihood that he leaves Money in the Bank victorious is not high.
It should be no great surprise.
He still has unfinished business with Kevin Owens after the way their Backlash match ended. He has also been used to put others over more frequently, including Mahal and Ziggler. After a lengthy run as champion wrapped up in January, and a high-profile rivalry with Shane McMahon culminated in the best match of the WrestleMania 33 card, Styles has been relegated to a comfy position in the midcard.
That may not be reflective of his talents, nor is it conducive to a run with Money in the Bank, but it appears to be where The Face That Runs The Place will remain for the time being.
Likelihood of Victory: Low
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It would appear Sami Zayn is the least likely of the six Superstars to leave Money in the Bank victorious but recent wins over Baron Corbin and the writing team’s continued use of sympathy to create this popular underdog suggests he may not be as big a longshot as he appears on the surface.
Styles, Owens and Ziggler may be established former world champions but Zayn is the type of Superstar Money in the Bank was made for. He is a promising young star looking for the right opportunity to breakthrough the proverbial glass ceiling and achieve success.
In the past Ziggler, Jack Swagger, The Miz, Alberto Del Rio and Seth Rollins all found themselves in similar situations and all turned the Money in the Bank ladder match into the launching point for their first major championship runs.
Zayn can do that, too.
He is one of the best workers in the company, has the ability to elicit sympathy and at the same time, evoke raw emotion with the intensity with which he approaches every match. Giving him the briefcase and letting him run with it is not the worst idea imaginable. Plus, imagine how beloved he would be in a quest to dethrone the hated Jinder Mahal.
While his odds of leaving with his arm raised in victory are not as good as some of his opponents, they are not nearly as low as some may have you believe.
Likelihood of Victory: Moderate
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The New Face of America moniker makes Kevin Owens an ideal candidate to run with the United States Championship for the foreseeable future.
That makes a victory on June 18 unlikely.
That he is fresh off a Universal Championship run that was marred by poor booking, including WWE Creative’s complete lack of understanding of Owens’ character, is further evidence of the unlikelihood that Owens wins the briefcase.
It is probably for the best. His new nickname works and he has rediscovered a sarcastic edge that was sorely missing from his headlining run with the red brand. There is no more playing around with a best friend, no Kevin and Chris Show. He is dangerous, arrogant and confident in his abilities.
That makes for a far more compelling Owens and if it means depriving him of another main event run to keep that character around for awhile, so be it.
Likelihood of Victory: Low
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The Artist, or Rock Star, or King of Strong Style (what are we calling him?) is the hottest star on SmackDown Live thanks to a wealth of hype surrounding his arrival. The entire Backlash pay-per-view was built around him and his debut match against Dolph Ziggler.
While there are very real questions about the way he has been utilized by the SmackDown writing team to this point, he is undeniably the first Superstar one looks at as a potential winner of Money in the Bank.
The concept of the briefcase allows Nakamura to continue to grown and evolve on the main roster while waiting for the opportune time for him to cash in the briefcase at the height of his popularity.
A win in the match would continue his monumental roll and earn him another signature win in what is almost assuredly a run at the WWE Championship.
The former NXT star is primed to become the marquee name of a SmackDown Live brand possessing enough quality talent around him to convincingly get him there.
His journey to greatness under the WWE umbrella could, should and very likely will begin on June 18.
Likelihood of Victory: High
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Dolph Ziggler is a veteran of ladder matches.
Money in the Bank, multi-man title bouts or classic singles bouts, he has seen every possible incarnation of the match and thrived in every one of them. His timing and bumping skills often land him in the center of attention, as seen in 2015 at WrestleMania 31.
Despite increased exposure and an enhanced role on SmackDown Live, the only purpose he serves in the match is to take the big bumps, provide the drama and ultimately watch as another Superstars retrieves the briefcase.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Though he is an extraordinary performer who likely has earned more than he has received over the course of his WWE career, he is a supporting actor to competitors like Styles, Nakamura and Corbin, all of whom figure to be highlighted more than The Showoff.
Likelihood of Victory: Low to Nonexistent
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The Lone Wolf of WWE has been steadily building his star since WrestleMania 32, where he won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Since then, every rivalry and program has prepared him for a substantial run atop one of the company’s two brands.
From the feud with Ziggler to the street fight with Dean Ambrose right after this year’s Showcase of the Immortals, he has been built to achieve greatness under the WWE banner.
If the company opts to hold off on Nakamura’s ascension to the top of SmackDown Live, expect Corbin to scale the rungs of the ladder and retrieve the briefcase on June 18, cementing his status as wrestling’s next big thing.
A bruiser poised to punish his opposition with the weapons at his disposal, he will have to first earn the respect of the fans in the annual match, then embark on his road to glory.
If recent booking trends are any indication, that journey could occur sooner than later.
Likelihood of Victory: High