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One of the most important contests of the year in WWE is the Money in the Bank ladder match, wherein the winner receives an almost guaranteed free pass to a championship reign within the next 12 months.
On Sunday, for the first time, the pay-per-view will be limited to the SmackDown brand, which is a shame considering how many people on Raw would benefit from having a shot via the gimmick.
However, to compensate for that, there will be another first-time occurrence, as a second briefcase and ladder match will be on the card in which the women’s division will be represented.
Like any Money in the Bank scenario, there are multiple options for each match along with a near-incalculable number of ways the eventual cash-ins will pan out over the course of the next year.
Still, despite not knowing exactly what WWE has planned for the future, a few ideas stand out as being potentially amazing or awful.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best and the worst possible outcomes for this year’s two Money in the Bank ladder matches.
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First things first: Whether it’s the men’s or the women’s match, the absolute worst-case scenario is for a cash-in to happen too quickly and for that person to lose their title shot.
This is magnified so much more when it comes to the women’s match, though, as this is the first time the division is taking part in this gimmick.
Efforts like this help legitimize the female wrestling talent as being equal with the males, and any time they are set up to fail and look like they can’t get the job done in comparison, they take two steps back.
No matter who takes the briefcase, she absolutely cannot fail to win her cash-in, especially if it’s too soon.
This will just come off as impatience to get this Money in the Bank title shot out of the way so WWE can return to the status quo and the loser who can’t capitalize on beating a champion when she’s down will look terribly incapable.
This is an opportunity to do something different with the SmackDown Women’s Championship, and to do that would be an absolute waste.
As far as the winner goes, the worst option is Charlotte Flair, which sounds ridiculous, but there are two reasons why.
Not only would her win and her eventual title triumph be predictable, since she is always the apple of the creative team’s eyes, but it would also be retreading familiar ground.
Charlotte has held a title on numerous occasions and done the same thing every time she’s been champion.
For her to just repeat this, with the only difference being she won the belt by cashing in a briefcase instead of getting a normal title match, wouldn’t feel like it was something different by any means.
As a runner-up as far as bad options goes, the same can be said about Becky Lynch if WWE chose to have her cash in her title shot at a later date to maintain her babyface status.
The fun in this gimmick is not knowing when someone will win a title, and booking a match for another night kills all that excitement.
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Looking on the brighter side of things, as evidenced by the cheerier picture above, there are some great opportunities given the group for the women’s ladder match.
One such case is to go with Carmella, who should be the one everyone is watching out for.
Ladder matches are great for giving someone a victory when they may not necessarily have been booked to win the fight if it were a normal match.
It gives the losers the ability to save face because they didn’t lose by being beaten in a humiliating way, but rather they just couldn’t climb a ladder quick enough.
Carmella has the least experience out of the five competitors, and she has the most left to learn, but she’s the most boisterous character of the bunch and could do wonders being able to lord this over the division.
Knowing she has a future title shot would ramp up the level of obnoxiousness she exudes, and she even has a valet in James Ellsworth to carry around the briefcase for her.
As a backup option, Tamina would be an interesting choice because she’s never been given the chance to have a run with the title despite being in the company for seven years.
This would help legitimize her career and bring a level of credibility to her that is missing while also providing a fun feud for those who know about Naomi and Tamina’s familial connection through The Usos.
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With 17 previous editions, we’ve seen it all in regard to the standard Money in the Bank match.
Rob Van Dam cashed his briefcase in well in advance of his title tilt, CM Punk turned heel on Jeff Hardy, Edge stole Mr. Kennedy’s title shot and dethroned The Undertaker and, two times, it was cashed in the same night it was won.
What goes down as the worst cash-in to date, though, was Damien Sandow’s, when he was unsuccessful in defeating John Cen. And just as with the women’s match, the worst choice for WWE to make is to build this up to become nothing.
Outside of that, there are a few other mistakes that can be made, depending on what the plans are for the future of the WWE Championship.
Giving it to AJ Styles, Sami Zayn or Shinsuke Nakamura just to have him ask for a title match at SummerSlam is defeating the purpose of the spontaneous title change.
It’s also a mistake to give the briefcase to Kevin Owens since he’s the United States champion, and that’s enough responsibility.
Winning Money in the Bank would give him two accolades to juggle, and one of them would inevitably fall under the radar. Alternatively, everyone would be waiting for him to drop the midcard title so he could move up to the main event again.
By far the worst option, though, is to put it on Nakamura and hit the fast-forward button on his WWE career.
The King of Strong Style is still relatively new on the main roster, even to people who followed him in NXT, as he only joined the company a little over a year ago.
People who are only familiar with him on SmackDown have only seen him wrestle a handful of times and cut maybe two promos. So for him to go straight to being a world champion will come off as another person being shoved down everyone’s throats.
Nakamura can take a slower path, winning the United States Championship and wrestling in the upper midcard for the rest of the year before building up to an important match at WrestleMania, which then sets him up to be a world title contender by this time in 2018.
Rushing to the finish line rarely works in WWE, and the benefits of having the WWE Championship on Nakamura in the next 12 months don’t outweigh the risk of potentially damaging his character and depriving fans of the slow burn.
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Thankfully, as with the women’s ladder match, the men competing for this year’s briefcase are an incredibly solid bunch.
As long as the path to the title is done well, any of these men holding the WWE Championship in the next year can be a good thing.
Something that stands out as a good twist for later in the year is if Randy Orton wins the title back from Jinder Mahal and there’s a plan to turn AJ Styles heel down the line, then The Phenomenal One could cash in on The Viper around Survivor Series.
That would not only set up a solid feud, but it would also give Styles a ton of momentum as a refreshed heel to go up against a babyface like Shinsuke Nakamura, if WWE is intent on pushing the latter to that level at that point.
Even if a Styles heel turn was not in the cards, his cashing-in as a babyface to dethrone a heel would still be met with applause, as it’s doubtful fans would be disappointed to see him hold the WWE Championship.
Alternatively, this could be a good opportunity to justify Dolph Ziggler’s claims he’s better than people give him credit for, as he seems to be low on the list of possible winners.
If nobody had faith he could win it for a second time and he proves them wrong, he has something to gloat about for months, and he could also be the one to take the belt from someone like Orton or whomever defeats champion Jinder Mahal.
A feud between Orton and Ziggler could be fun for a decent stretch toward the fall months, and The Showoff could then drop it to Styles or whichever babyface WWE wants to headline WrestleMania.
What do you think are the best- and the worst-case scenarios for this year’s Money in the Bank matches? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.