RAW Deal: The post-Money in the Bank landscape
CHICAGO—Money in the Bank was a show in which very few earth-moving things truly happened, despite all the great wrestling.
In a way, WWE merely spun its wheels while advancing a few inches on the ground. Yes, new Money in the Bank holders (and the new championship reigns that come with them) are nice to have. In having Alexa Bliss win and cash her title in, the company creatively backed themselves out of the Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax corner they boxed themselves into, but in letting Braun Strowman be Mr. Money in the Bank they wasted an opportunity that could have gone to someone who needed the quick, powerful impact of a cash-in. Strowman could pulverize Brock Lesnar for the championship if he really wanted.
But there are a lot of other things that have adjusted, mostly on the episodes of RAW and SmackDown Live that followed Money in the Bank. Let’s take a look at them now:
The cards are being set in motion for the SummerSlam main event
We’re almost near SummerSlam season, so that means it’s time again for Brock Lesnar to come out of his cave soon. The rumor is that this is finally the time Roman Reigns will be winning the title from Lesnar, to achieve his destiny as the Chosen One all those years ago. Before he can get there, though, he has to fulfill the illusion of earning that spot.
So we’re back with another Extreme Rules in which the main event is a multi-man match to determine who gets to fight Lesnar at SummerSlam. Reigns is already in it, Bobby Lashley is already in it, and we’re guessing a few more big names from RAW will be joining in as well, but we all know they’re all for Reigns to feed on. I just want them to get it over with so that Lesnar could finally be divested of that title.
Shinsuke Nakamura moves to the US Championship, Rusev gets a shot at AJ Styles
The singles scenes over on SmackDown Live look to be more dynamic post-Money in the Bank. After 4 grueling attempts, Shinsuke Nakamura could not get the job done against an all-powerful AJ Styles. (They probably had him win because he’s on the cover of this year’s WWE 2K19 video game.)
So on this week’s episode of SmackDown Live, they’re shifting gears and switching it up. Shinsuke Nakamura is set to feud with United States Champion Jeff Hardy, who he faced on a previous episode of SmackDown in a (then) one-off match to warm up for Money in the Bank.
This is actually not a bad move for Nakamura if he wins the United States Championship by Extreme Rules. Astute NJPW fans will remember that he established his legacy not with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship—New Japan’s top title—but with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Of course, he did that after a run with the Heavyweight Championship, unlike now that he wasn’t able to get it; but if he does win it from Hardy at Extreme Rules, I can foresee a dominant title reign that helps elevate the midcard belt.
Meanwhile, the WWE Championship is moving on from the Styles/Nakamura mire it was locked in over the past three months. It’s a bit sad that they’ve gone through all that just to not give Nakamura the win (especially after coming out of the Royal Rumble really hot) but the immediate future looks a lot promising. After a gauntlet match on this week’s SmackDown Live between the Money in the Bank participants from SmackDown (plus Daniel Bryan and Big E), Rusev is now officially your #1 contender to the title.
It’s one of those stories that you know isn’t really going to end up in a WWE Championship win for Rusev—although that would be great—but would make a really fun title chase. Rusev’s been one of the best-improved NXT graduates since his debut four years ago, and one of the most popular heels on the roster (enough to position him as a good guy against the Miz in the gauntlet) so it’s really great to see him get this opportunity. I hope he manages to break through to the main event after this run and be a championship contender by the end of the year, or before WrestleMania.
NXT establishes presence in the UK
In some news that has some pretty huge implications around the world, NXT head Triple H and NXT UK division general manager Johnny Saint announced the launch of the NXT UK branch. The division that’s been planned since the first United Kingdom Championship tournament in January last year’s finally coming to fruition, and it’s looking really promising.
Aside from the UK Championship division headed by current titleholder Pete Dunne, Triple H and Saint have announced a UK women’s and tag team championships as well, meaning this is a full brand. That means the British wrestlers employed by the WWE will no longer have to awkwardly share time with NXT and 205 Live.
The bigger deal about this is that it means WWE will likely be looking to partner with different wrestling companies in other regions. There’s a presence of pro wrestling in Central and South America, continental Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (both South, East, and Southeast). If NXT UK pans out well, we could be seeing something like an NXT Asia or NXT Middle East in the future. If you’re a wrestling fan outside of the US, this is some great news for the business.
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