WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) tomorrow night (Sun., July 14, 2013) live from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with its Money in the Bank event starting at 7:30 p.m. ET with the free live streaming pre-show featuring The Shield vs. The Usos leading right on into the PPV main course at 8 p.m. ET.
And it's a loaded line-up.
John Cena and Mark Henry will be rumbling in the main event in a WWE championship match that looks like it could live up to the admittedly low expectations set for it. The rest of the line-up is solid as a brick, too.
That includes the two Money in the Bank ladder matches (WWE title featuring CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Rob Van Dam, Sheamus, Christian, Randy Orton and World title featuring Dean Ambrose, Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, Fandango, Wade Barrett), AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn in a Diva's title match, Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler in a world heavyweight championship encounter, Curtis Axel defending his Intercontinental strap against The Miz, and Chris Jericho battling Ryback.
Luckily for you Cagesiders, our staff of learned wrestling blow hards is here to help figure out just how the event is going to play out with predictions for each match on the card.
Let's get to it.
WWE MONEY IN THE BANK PREDICTIONS
John Cena vs. Mark Henry
The General: There is nothing to indicate Henry isn't anything more than a big old monster Cena will overcome to continue pushing his status as the top wrestler in the promotion. They went old school with this one, as this feud has looked an awful lot like every Hulk Hogan feud in the 1980s. Big monster launches surprise attack, gets the better of Hogan at every turn, the match goes down and Hogan finds a way to overcome before spending 25 minutes celebrating in the ring with Real American on a loop. Expect that but with less shameless celebration. Pick: John Cena
Hulk Holland: I would really like Henry to win this, not only to capitalize on his amazing phony-bologna retirement, but also to tie a ribbon around his unfinished business with Daniel Bryan, who in all likelihood, will be leaving Philadelphia with a briefcase. The prevailing wisdom, however, is that Bryan is destined to work a program opposite Cena, culminating at SummerSlam, so I'm taking the safe pick. Pick: Cena
Keith Harris: Mark Henry hit such a home run with his retirement tease to lull John Cena into a false sense of security before turning on him that I could see some on the WWE creative team pushing for him to get a run with the WWE title. However, since then, the build up has been fairly rudimentary and though this is the biggest match of Henry's career, he comes across as just another monster for Cena to slay. So expect the successful Superman Cena comeback after taking a particularly mammoth beating. John Cena
Sean Rueter: Henry might win and hold it for the night, but I doubt it. I think Mizark is another monster for Cena to slay on his road to immortality or however they're trying to sell this year. I just hope he's up to carrying the big man to a decent match. Pick: John Cena
Eric B. Stephen: After the whole retirement swerve, and keeping in mind the fact that the WWE title is the only one Henry needs to cross off his career bucket list, it's really hard to pick against him here. But I'm still going to. I have Cena overcoming to win here. Cena always overcomes...I feel like there is a meme about that... "Cena always wins."
Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
The General: I firmly believe WWE doesn't have clue one on how to treat Ziggler. The timing of his concussion couldn't have been worse, like he's doomed to tweener purgatory and he'll never get over that invisible hurdle he's been trying to clear for years now. The stink of the Spirit Squad stint has been washed off but he's still somehow stuck, unable to work effectively as a babyface or a heel. There are steps that need to be taken to solidify him in either direction but winning the world title back at this point just isn't in the cards. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Hulk Holland: It's tempting to go with Ziggler, especially if he's going to be pushed as a face and separated from AJ Lee and Big E. Langston. Unfortunately, he just had the belt not too long ago and it was a tepid run, at best. I don't think WWE is opposed to positioning him for another shot, but I don't think it will come until he's gained some traction as a genuine face. Having Del Rio remain champ, giving "The Showoff" someone to chase, is a means to that end. Pick: Del Rio
Keith Harris: I'm sure Ziggler will get the big gold belt back eventually, but it seems far too soon for him to get revenge on Del Rio just one month after they did the double turn title switch angle. That doesn't mean he can't pick up a cheap disqualification or count-out victory though, where Del Rio unfairly retains the title. I think that's the course WWE will take here. Dolph Ziggler
Sean Rueter: The only question here for me is if or how much Ziggler gets protected in the loss. Neither guy is setting the world on fire, but one is wrestling in main events and the other barely gets on TV. I could see any result ranging from Del Rio getting himself disqualified or counted out all the way to a clean loss for Dolph. My instincts and some rumors point me in between the two, as AJ will somehow "accidentally" distract her soon-to-be ex and cause him to lose. Pick: Alberto Del Rio
Eric B. Stephen: I have no doubt that Dolph Ziggler is going to be motivated for this match after the beat down he took last month when losing the title to Del Rio. Not having his little buddy Ricardo in his corner could also impact Del Rio's chances of a win, but I think he manages to pull this one out. Del Rio wins.
WWE title Money in the Bank ladder match
The General: Daniel Bryan is the obvious pick here, or at least he was before the Raw go home show saw him grab the briefcase to close the night. Then Randy Orton did the same on SmackDown and that left considerable doubt over his ability to win. The funny thing here is that Bryan got most of the early money at the sportsbooks but that changed in a big way and who suddenly shot up as a favorite? Orton. The X-factor is Rob Van Dam and whether or not WWE wants to bring him in really strong and give him a main event run to kick off his latest run with the promotion. After all, it's not like Bryan needs to win to work that program with John Cena that has been rumored for so long. Christian and Sheamus aren't winning and CM Punk has business to take care of with Brock Lesnar. Really, it's between Bryan and Van Dam and I'm going to say WWE sticks with its first choice here. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Hulk Holland: After all the talk we've heard about Daniel Bryan's push, I can't imagine a scenario in which he doesn't go home without the briefcase. But will we be talking about his big win on Sunday night -- or the insane match he won it in? Looking at this line up, I'm leaning towards the ladder latter. Pick: Bryan
Keith Harris: I think it's pretty clear here that Sheamus and Christian are just in the match to make up the numbers. Rob Van Dam will I'm sure get plenty of opportunities to shine in his WWE return, but won't win the briefcase given the short term nature of his contract. Given the storyline that CM Punk wants to headline WrestleMania 30 in a WWE title match, there's a slim chance he could win here and use the briefcase to do exactly that, but more likely is for Brock Lesnar to interfere and cost him that opportunity. Which leaves us with Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. Three weeks ago it seemed like Bryan was a lock to be victorious in this bout when he tapped out Orton in the main event of Raw, but one wonders whether Vince McMahon has gotten cold feet on that idea, due to the poor rating that the show built around the trollish midget drew. I hope I'm wrong, but I think Vince will choose Orton to get the nod here. Randy Orton
Sean Rueter: I got the germ of this idea from Kanenite and fleshed it out by debating it in the Raw open thread last Monday night - and now I can't talk myself out of it. The theory goes that Punk will be taken out in a way that furthers his story with Heyman and feud with Brock Lesnar. Creative is either still on the fence about Bryan's alignment or wants more time to turn him heel for a later program with Cena. Much to my consternation, Christian ain't winning and I don't think there's money in out-of-nowhere feuds between Cena and Orton or Sheamus (both would need a turn and/or some build-up). So here's a guy returning, in a town where he's beloved, with the history of facing Cena by announcing his cash-in in advance. He's also someone they don't have long-term plans for who could take a title loss without it impacting his current or future marketability. And losing a cash-in to Cena not only means John isn't the only guy to have failed at cashing in, but also gets his win back from One Night Stand '06. The Champ's "big comeback year" continues. Pick: Rob Van Dam
Eric B. Stephen: This match could end up being a man short due to Kane's injury, but I don't think he would have factored into the decision much anyway, despite having been a former MITB winner. This is unquestionably an accomplished group, but despite some rumors to the contrary, I still have to go with the hottest act in WWE right now, Daniel Bryan.
World title Money in the Bank ladder match
The General: This one is difficult. Jack Swagger and Wade Barrett scare me, mostly because they seem the most likely to win while doubling as the least desirable. Swagger was primed for a world title run that never materialized after his DUI, but that's since been settled. Barrett was rumored to win this match last year -- and the year before it, actually -- but something has always gotten in the way, like injuries and bad timing. But the young guns in the match are far more intriguing. Fandango, Antonio Cesaro, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, and Dean Ambrose. As a fan, I'm just fine with any of the five winning, though Rhodes is the least likely/worthy and his Rhodes Scholar buddy Sandow has been booked like shit over the past couple months. Fandango is Vince McMahon's pet project but he was out for a stretch with a concussion and just now got back to action. He's not hot now but winning the briefcase would get him there quick and it's not like the cash-in would be immediate. Ambrose looks unlikely what with his U.S. title commitments and work with The Shield precluding him from any storyline direction they could come up with for the briefcase. Cesaro is the dark horse because of his new involvement with Zeb Colter, which could mean WWE has plans for him. I just don't know, really. This is a total shot in the dark. Pick: Fandango
Hulk Holland: This is a little harder to pick than its successor, primarily because you can make a case for all of them winning, just as you can argue for all of them losing. This field is wide open but for my money, I think the briefcase goes to Dean Ambrose, who is kind of like Daniel Bryan-in-training. It's also a great way to resurrect the heel dominance of The Shield. Pick: Ambrose
Keith Harris: The winner here will likely be determined by who is Vince McMahon's flavour of the week, as all his creative team will be lobbying for their favourite up and comer to win, and it all depends on who gets his ear at the right moment. Dean Ambrose has to be the favourite, given he's the most well rounded and ready act of the bunch for such a push, so I'm going with him, but this is a crap shoot. Dean Ambrose
Sean Rueter: This one is a total crap shoot. The only guys I'm not interested in seeing win are Swagger and Barrett. While I don't think there's much risk of the latter, the stubbornness of the push for the former scares me a bit. I think I'm most interested in seeing The Shield get some direction via Ambrose holding a whole lot of cards, though. The threat of him with a guaranteed shot with his boys behind him would be fun to have looming over the WHC scene for a while, and/or teasing a break-up due to his getting a big head and forgetting the mission. Barring a swerve for swerve's sake, that's where I'm guessing this one goes. Pick: Dean Ambrose
Eric B. Stephen: This one is a bit harder to predict. I could see a scenario where every guy in this match could possibly be the one taking home the briefcase at the end of the night. Dean Ambrose is an interesting option, and I'm not sure whether his lack of tv time this past week helps or hurts his case. Rumors have suggested Cody Rhodes, who is in a similar spot to Dolph Ziggler when he won this briefcase last year. Still, I'm going to go with a guy I picked way back in January as an early MITB favorite, Zeb Coulter guy and REAL Swiss-American, Antonio Cesaro.
Curtis Axel vs. The Miz
The General: I can't imagine WWE is ready to go away from pushing Axel just yet and The Miz isn't exactly burning up the mid-card right now, so there's no real reason to do a title switch. Miz hasn't really been pushed as the babyface chasing the belt before finally winning it, so this looks like another successful title defense for Axel to help establish his credibility. Pick: Curtis Axel
Hulk Holland: Curtis Axel is about as charismatic as that robot maid on The Jetsons. His delivery isn't that far off, either. The good news is, he's facing the universally-reviled Miz, which means we have a match that leaves fans with no one to root for. Heel vs. banana peel. Axel still has Heyman, so there's that. I know, it's not much, but that pretty much describes this match anyway. Pick: Axel
Keith Harris: Though WWE has clearly cooled on Axel, already giving up on his undefeated gimmick, having him lose here to someone who has been treading water for well over a year would be dumb. That doesn't mean it won't happen, just hard to fathom. Curtis Axel
Sean Rueter: If a belt changes hands at Money in the Bank, I guess it'll be this one. The commitment to Axel has seemed half-assed from the jump, but I still think it serves the larger Heyman stories to have him look successful by having a champion in his stable. Miz has settled into his commentary/talk show host role and doesn't need a belt, even this mostly meaningless one. Pick: Curtis Axel
Eric B. Stephen: Axel stole a win from Miz last month, taking the IC title in the process. I'm sure Miz will want some revenge, and with Axel suffering his first loss on Monday night (thanks to some interference by the Miz,) the time might be right. However, with Paul Heyman in his corner and Axel not wanting to continue his losing slide, I bet he finds a way to win this one. Axel wins.
AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn
The General: There's no reason to expect anything other than an AJ victory, although she hasn't exactly elevated the Diva's division like there was original hope for. Pick: AJ Lee
Hulk Holland: Following the tried-and-true good guy vs. bad guy program, Kaitlyn should get her revenge here after enduring several weeks of humiliation at the hair of AJ Lee. Besides, losing at MITB gives Lee the opportunity to do her crazy shtick and get restrained by Big E. Langston. It's formula, but it works. Pick: Kaitlyn
Keith Harris: Given the current storyline between the two, I think Kaitlyn costs herself the match when she snaps. AJ Lee
Sean Rueter: Huh, I think all the champs might retain on this show. I definitely don't think any female other than Ms. Lee should be holding the butterfly belt. It doesn't even really do her any good, but at least it's going to be on TV if she's holding it. It'll look good as she escorts Big E Langston to the ring in his feud with Dolph, too. (Can you tell that they've made me not care about what was the best women's feud they've had in five years?) Pick: AJ Lee
Eric B. Stephen: In the most massive understatement you will hear today, Kaitlyn is decidedly not happy with AJ, and I think she'll come into this match ready to do some damage. And that may very well be her downfall, as we've seen several times over the past month. Kaitlyn's rage gets the better of her and leaves her open for AJ to steal another victory. AJ wins.
Chris Jericho vs. Ryback
The General: For the storyline, it seems odd to plan for a Ryback win here, but Fozzy is going on tour soon and Jericho will once again be bidding the WWE Universe adieu. That means we can expect him to put "Big Hungry" over here, possibly in a big way. I still don't understand why Ryback is being booked the way he is, but he's become a far more compelling character because of it, so I'm on the wait-and-see bandwagon with this one. Pick: Ryback
Hulk Holland: Earlier this year, prior to his bout against Fandango at WrestleMania 29, I heard Chris Jericho talk about his new role of doing the job for young and up-and-coming stars. I don't think this event is any exception. Y2J will come out and make them both look good, but Ryback needs the win and Jericho, the beloved veteran, does not. Pick: Ryback
Keith Harris: This match was clearly booked to give Ryback his first win on pay-per-view since last year's Money In The Bank show, as Chris Jericho is leaving shortly to tour with his band Fozzy. Better late than never I suppose. Ryback
Sean Rueter: Another no-brainer, I think. The booking of Big Hungry has gotten so wacked that it's actually looped back around on itself and become compelling, and there's no way anyone thinks that another PPV loss would be okay if they have any plans for the guy in the future. Plus, Fozzy hits Europe in a couple of weeks... Pick: Ryback
Eric B. Stephen: I'm sure we are all well aware of "Cryback's" pay per view losing streak, and Jericho certainly wants to keep that streak going before he rejoins Fozzy for their summer/autumn tour. Despite that, I think "Big Hungry" is overdue for a victory, and it may come at the hands of the overconfident Jericho. Ryback wins.
The Shield vs. The Usos
The General: This is only on the pre-show thanks to possible time constraints with how long the ladder matches are expected to go, though the more worthy pre-show match is Axel vs. Miz. I don't expect The Shield to do the job, as it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense right now, but The Usos are getting that push as a legitimate tag team that could be in the plans for the future. If they're going to stick around, they need big victories to establish themselves. Unless The Shield is breaking up soon, they're going over. Pick: The Shield
Hulk Holland: Well, since I'm picking Ambrose to win the briefcase, I'm not sure it would look good to have his partners in crime coughing up the belts so quickly. That will probably come later when the U.S. champ unloads his strap to get ready for his heavyweight title run. And it would be a shame to crown new champs on the prelims show, even if it is The Usos. Pick: Rollins & Reigns
Keith Harris: Given that this match has been consigned to the social media pre-game appetiser, it shows how seriously WWE is taking the renewed push of The Usos. So yeah, The Shield convincingly win and The Usos quickly go back to headlining Superstars again until they get given another shot next year. The Shield
Sean Rueter: Good for The Usos and everything, but I can't come up with one compelling reason why they would make a change here. Reigns and Rollins are really taking it to another level as a two-man team, and should hold the copper belts for a long while. Pick: The Shield
Eric B. Stephen: The Usos have been on a tear of late, and will be a bigger challenge than most people, possibly including the Shield, expect. However, Rollins and Reigns are one of the better working true "teams" (rather than just a pairing of singles wrestlers) and, despite having been together for longer, I don't think the Usos are on that level yet. I'm seeing a Reigns spear and a Shield win.
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?