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Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Money in the Bank is this weekend (as is another NXT TakeOver), so let’s get right to it. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, June 11th 2018.

Raw (Verizon Arena, North Little Rock AR)

Announced: Braun Strowman vs Finn Balor vs Bobby Roode vs Kevin Owens. Sasha Banks vs Ember Moon vs Natalya vs Alexa Bliss. Roman Reigns vs Jinder Mahal. A face-to-face confrontation between Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey.

What to expect: Can’t wait for Money in the Bank? Don’t worry – Raw tonight will give us a pretty comprehensive prologue, going by those announced matches/segments. Reverse engineering the men’s four-way for a second, if Braun Strowman isn’t claiming the briefcase this Sunday then he’s surely odds-on to win tonight and look dominant. Expect the women’s four-way to play into last week’s storyline injuries for Natalya and Alexa Bliss (although the likelihood of Bliss faking it is, of course, high). The confrontation between Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey seems destined to end with one laying the other out, while you lucky, lucky people get to see Roman Reigns vs Jinder Mahal twice in a week – although one would imagine there’ll be no clean finish tonight.

Elsewhere, The B-Team of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas are the number one contenders to Raw Tag Team Champions Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Before, during and after last week’s battle royal, all commentary and interviews were conspicuous about not saying the match would happen at Money in the Bank, so we may find out more about that this week. Prior to their match this Sunday, Seth Rollins probably owes Elias after the latter’s sneak attack two weeks ago and chair-assisted win in last week’s tag match. Sami Zayn needs to look strong against Bobby Lashley so Lashley can then go over this Sunday and that particular nightmare can end. Oh, and Baron Corbin is now the ‘Constable’ of Monday Night Raw, so expect him to be a thorn in the side of Kurt Angle again.

Spotlight: Baron Corbin hasn’t had that much going on of late, which makes his new ‘Constable of Raw’ gimmick (think law enforcement rather than English landscape painter from the turn of the 19th century – which was the first thing that came into my head when I watched last Monday and now I can’t shake it) an immediate improvement. Corbin, seen as a future main-eventer by WWE if we take rumors at face value, as an officious enforcer suits his character well – the ‘lone wolf’ who considers himself above others and has the arrogance to tell everybody their place. Being a jerk on a power trip can work for him. It’s certainly better than having him spin his wheels against No Way Jose.

Apart from being a good thing to do to keep Corbin on-screen and developing his aura while creative have nothing else for him, it’s also something that enables checks and balances against General Manager Kurt Angle without having to retread the same ground with Stephanie McMahon. And actually, the balance of power here is better. Corbin is not all-mighty as to be a law unto himself, but he’ll have enough clout to deny natural justice for others (last week’s six-woman tag being a good example) and he has the threat of ‘I’ll tell your boss’ to dangle in front of Angle. Angle himself, however, can still book Corbin in matches and effectively order him around. Kurt vs Stephanie never came across as being a fair fight, especially with Triple H around and even despite Ronda Rousey.

So I’m happy to see more. Very happy. I could’ve done without the skit with the tacos last week and really hope the angle doesn’t just exist to give Curt Hawkins that elusive win against Corbin within a few weeks, as his post-match interview on WWE.com seemed to suggest was his hope. There’s an irony with Money in the Bank coming up this weekend, as up until now Baron Corbin’s aim has been drifting since his ill-fated cash-in after winning last year’s briefcase. This looks like it could be a good soft reboot for the character, injecting him into conflict with talent at all levels and making him look like a bigger player without always having to rely on match results. It has the potential to be a good space in which Corbin can grow.

SmackDown Live (FedExForum, Memphis TN)

Announced: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs Sin Cara, plus a ‘Money in the Bank Summit’ which General Manager Paige will moderate between Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Naomi and Lana.

What to expect: It would’ve been a squeeze to get Andrade Almas and Sin Cara onto the Money in the Bank card at this short notice, so doing this match as a featured spot on SmackDown isn’t the worst thing; it’ll help the main roster audience get further acquainted with Almas as he’s integrated. The ‘Summit’ between the show’s four women competing for the Money in the Bank briefcase will be a promo segment which, I guess, may be at risk of descending into conflict. Also more likely than not to degenerate into a brawl is any interaction between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, the latter now having firmly set up camp in the head of the former. You’d think something should happen on the go-home show, given that’s the only major championship on the line on Sunday.

The New Day may reveal here which member of their team will compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match; there’s a chance that could be saved for a backstage skit during the pay-per-view itself but a reveal here is distinctly possible, especially if it’s the start of a singles push for Big E. Carmella has done an admirable job of driving her story with Asuka while avoiding getting her head kicked in. We’ll see if that lasts one final week. Daniel Bryan’s strong promo on Big Cass only went out online last week, so airing it on this week’s show would be a quick plus, while Erick Rowan vs Luke Gallows is a possible matchup after their tag partners wrestled each other last Tuesday.

Spotlight: I try to avoid making “I’ll bet you the shirt off my back” pay-per-view predictions in these previews for two reasons. Firstly, gimmick infringement; that kind of thing is the prime territory of the TJRWrestling pay-per-view previews (and you can join John and the gang for one of them at the end of this week). Secondly, because my predictions seem to get less reliable the more certain I am of them. So take it with a pinch of salt when I say I’m convinced AJ Styles will be retaining his WWE Championship on Sunday. If Shinsuke Nakamura was due a run as WWE Champion, surely it would’ve happened by now.

Has the program between Styles and Nakamura been a disappointment? Based on how hyped we were before WrestleMania, probably. I feel there’s been a lack of commitment in the booking of the matches. WrestleMania’s match was sweet enough but short, clearly indicating a bigger payoff to follow, but in the two big rematches (Greatest Royal Rumble, Backlash) we got only the first two-thirds of a competitive match before a cop-out ending that progressed neither man’s cause. At least new heel Nakamura could’ve low-blowed his way to a cheap title win, leading Styles to chase into this Sunday. Instead, what we’ve had feels like a holding pattern until Styles/Nakamura can be checked off as ‘done’ and Styles can move on to whoever’s challenging him next.

This is why I feel Nakamura’s chance of holding the WWE Championship has, for now at least, come and gone. It’s a shame it hasn’t come about by way of trading conclusive-if-not-clean victories (Nakamura’s non-title win on SmackDown last month to set up this weekend’s stipulation was the best it got after WrestleMania), but it’s becoming clear this has been a story largely designed to reinvent Nakamura’s character on WWE television. This ‘new’ cocky, swaggering attitude belies a dangerous guy who can get in the head of anyone, even the WWE Champion, whom he’ll go blow for blow with again on Sunday. ‘Nakamura is a threat’. That’s what the last two months have established. However I doubt we’ll now see it go any further than that.

Also This Week

Interesting to see Lio Rush is on his way up from NXT to 205 Live (Tuesday) as the cruiserweight roster continues to grow; this week’s episode leads with Drew Gulak, Jack Gallagher & Brian Kendrick facing the Lucha House Party team of Kalisto, Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado. NXT (Wednesday) is the lesser yellow-brand show of the week, but it does at least promise us Kassius Ohno vs EC3.

Saturday night is NXT TakeOver: Chicago (it’s the second such event in Chicago after one last year but unlike Brooklyn, WWE doesn’t seem to be numbering these). The announced card is as follows:

  • NXT Championship: Aleister Black (c) vs Lars Sullivan
  • Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa (Street Fight)
  • NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs Nikki Cross
  • Ricochet vs Velveteen Dream
  • NXT Tag Team Championships: The Undisputed ERA (c) vs Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch

It seems a given that Gargano and Ciampa will be closing this show, as they did in New Orleans. As much as Aleister Black isn’t putting any feet wrong as NXT Champion, his match with Lars Sullivan doesn’t have that much of a marquee value; Sullivan is pretty impressive and improving, but this feels like a transitional feud and the brand has set itself very high standards. Another all-out war between the former #DIY partners seems the only way to end the night.

Personally I’m really looking forward to the match between Ricochet and Velveteen Dream. Dream’s character work is great yet generous, seemingly not as suffocating as some of the company’s other strong characters (Stephanie McMahon, The Miz, Alexa Bliss to name three), humanizing and making relatable the newer arrival with the incredible skillset while not taking any shine off him. The Women’s Championship match here also promises an interesting mix of character dynamics. On the whole, another strong TakeOver looks likely, with Gargano and Ciampa surely aiming for another match of the year contender.

Money in the Bank (Allstate Arena, Chicago IL)

Announced: As always, the card is subject to change and additions during the week are likely. Official matches on WWE.com at time of writing are:

  • WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura (Last Man Standing Match)
  • Braun Strowman vs Finn Balor vs Kevin Owens vs Bobby Roode vs The Miz vs Rusev vs Samoa Joe vs one member of The New Day (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
  • Ember Moon vs Alexa Bliss vs Natalya vs Sasha Banks vs Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch vs Naomi vs Lana (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
  • Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax (c) vs Ronda Rousey
  • SmackDown Women’s Championship: Carmella (c) vs Asuka
  • Roman Reigns vs Jinder Mahal
  • SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
  • Bobby Lashley vs Sami Zayn
  • Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs Elias
  • Daniel Bryan vs Big Cass

What to expect: When Reigns vs Mahal was announced, I started to plan this opening paragraph. It was going to be a comic skit about how the match would main event (like Reigns and Samoa Joe did at Backlash), they’d reprise the iconic Rock/Hogan moment from WrestleMania X8 then go for half an hour. The punchline was that the Chicago crowd would love it and nobody would even think of chanting CM Punk’s name. However, after the past week of court trials, UFC matches and Twitter lashings, I wonder exactly how uncomfortable a night it might now be for ringside doctors, color commentators and certain matchups from the local crowd. I hope not too bad.

However Reigns and Mahal isn’t the only bout of concern. The Raw Women’s Championship match brings with it a few risks of exposure for the company’s newest hot ticket, Ronda Rousey, who remains firmly in the formative stages of her pro wrestling career. Even if the match is carefully planned out, kept a sensible length, doesn’t demand too much and is executed engagingly, what’s the outcome? Asking Rousey to lead the division within two months of her debut or handing her a high-profile loss? Does Stephanie McMahon show up to interfere?

Some of the other matches also feel like they have ballast attached in weird, differing ways. The story behind Bobby Lashley vs Sami Zayn has been terrible. Daniel Bryan vs Big Cass has had a little more intensity behind it, but about 90% of the good stuff has come from Bryan and I struggle to see the point of it unless Cass is getting his win back. Carmella vs Asuka doesn’t feel like it should be a contest. Thankfully there are a couple of big ladder matches packed with fantastic talent which, to be honest, can usually be depended upon to make you forget about a problematic undercard. Expect the show to revolve around those and be much better for it, while the WWE and Intercontinental Championship matches will provide ample quality support.

As noted earlier, John and the guys will be here at the end of the week with the full preview as always. Money in the Bank rarely fails to deliver, so all those concerns aside I’m crossing my fingers for a decent show.

Three Burning Questions

Some of this week’s most pressing but least publicized talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!

  1. Who’s your pick to win the men’s Money in the Bank match?
  2. Who’s your pick to win the women’s Money in the Bank match?
  3. Which out of TakeOver or Money in the Bank will be the better show this weekend?

Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.

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