The spectacle that is Money in the Bank is unlike anything else in the world of WWE. In two matches, we're likely to see pair of future champions-in-waiting, as 15 of the 17 previous Money in the Bank cash-ins have led to the intended title change in the challenger's favor.
Sunday's pay-per-view will be history-making for the women's division with their Money in the Bank ladder match. And between the men's MITB ladder match, the WWE championship match, the SmackDown women's title match and the SmackDown tag team title match, it's sure to be a thrilling night.
Speaking of tag teams, the magnitude of Sunday's pay-per-view and its potential fallout for the weeks and months to come on SmackDown felt like it was simply too much for one person to handle on their own. That's why I reached out to the most qualified partner I could think of -- four-time Raw women's champion (and women's Money in the Bank competitor) Charlotte Flair -- to help preview the entire Money in the Bank card.
Before we dig into what could easily be described as SmackDown's biggest stand-alone event since the brand split, it only makes sense to address the match that Flair herself is in.
Money in the Bank ladder match: Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Tamina Snuka
It's another huge moment for women's wrestling in the WWE, and as Natalya rightly pointed out earlier in the week, it's hard to put your finger on who's most likely to walk away with the briefcase.
There are strong arguments to be made for the recent former champions Flair and Becky Lynch, to be sure, as matches, and longer rivalries with either women promise to be intensely physical and entertaining. You could also point to it as an opportunity to define the top heel on the brand, whether it be Natalya, Carmella or Tamina Snuka.
In the course of researching for this event, it's interesting to note that Natalya has just one title reign during her near decade-long run with the WWE. Carmella has flashed signs of promise in the ring, but since her intense rivalry with Nikki Bella wrapped up, her character has carried her rather than her in-ring work. Will James Ellsworth play a factor?
And while we haven't seen a lot to define Tamina Snuka since her return, SmackDown's intention to take on underutilized talents and make them top attractions (most notably Jinder Mahal) makes it impossible to rule her out, either.
Charlotte on her mindset heading into the match:
"I think I always have crazy ideas going through my head. [But] I think I'm more nervous about the ladder match at Money in the Bank than I was Hell in a Cell, just because the ladders are not sturdy [elements]. So while I might have some crazy ideas, whether they actually [happen], I'm not sure."Charlotte Flair
I think if everyone stays true to what got them to this moment, I think it's going to be a great match. I feel as if there's just much as buzz around the first ever woman's ladder match, Money in the Bank, as there was Hell in a Cell. I'm really excited.
I think the element of "Who's the first ever Ms. Money in the Bank," and when they walk out that first SmackDown, if they wait to cash it in till that SmackDown, I think that's exciting as well. It's almost like the match continues on.
On finding her place on SmackDown: I think that's trying to figure out, "Am I a good guy, or am I bad guy? Am I still the dirtiest player in the game, or have I come to my senses and Becky Lynch has rubbed off on me?"
The girls that I'm working with are absolutely amazing. It's not whether I prefer Raw or SmackDown; it's more, "What's my role? Who's Charlotte?" I think I'm still trying to figure out.
First it was Mahal, who came to SmackDown with little fanfare and shocked the world with his run to the top, ultimately becoming WWE champion. Then Tyler Breeze's and Fandango's careers were resurrected as top contenders to the tag titles (and the most entertaining weekly segment in quite some time, to boot).
But Lana's sudden surge into the women's title picture may be the most ambitious of all. She's had a grand total of one main roster match (a multi-woman contest as part of the WrestleMania 32 kickoff) and only just returned to TV in the past few weeks. She's quietly been down and working NXT Live events since December, though, so while the polish on her in-ring style might still need some work, it's not impossible to think this could be something more than a spectacle.
While it seems the specter of Rusev is out of the picture for now, who's to say that he won't return in the short-term after recently getting medically cleared to come back? There's also a high likelihood of potential shenanigans, and the women's MITB briefcase in play, so this match is just as up in the air as any other on the card.
Charlotte on Lana's opportunity: I believe pressure creates diamonds. Lana's either going to sink or swim. I think it's an awesome opportunity, a unique way to debut her wrestling skills. I think there's excitement around it. It's not your typical, "Hey, I'm here on Raw or SmackDown. I'm having my first match ever." No, she has wrestled at WrestleMania on a preshow. I can't say that it's her first match, and she's had NXT matches, but I think having this opportunity is huge.
Anybody would want this opportunity. I want another title match. So, I think it's exciting. I couldn't be more excited for her. You either rise to the occasion or you don't. I think she's done a great job of transitioning from [being] with Rusev to maybe being a part of our division.
SmackDown tag team championships: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
Just a few weeks into their SmackDown residency, New Day has already brought a serious, undeniable energy to the tag-team division and the show as a whole. Few acts can bring in an entire New Orleans brass band and seamlessly integrate them into their entrance and shtick, but the New Day certainly has that kind of charisma.
New Day get its shot at The Usos and the SmackDown tag team titles, and Sunday's match should tell us a lot about the direction that the division will head on the way to SummerSlam. The Usos have certainly flourished since their turn to the serious, but the competition for top billing has never been tighter. Between the returning Hype Bros, Breezango and American Alpha, if they ever return from their increasingly confusing hiatus, the future looks bright no matter who leads the way.
Charlotte on adding The New Day to the SmackDown roster: All three of them are probably the most genuine, hard-working guys I know. So, just having New Day on the SmackDown side, having their presence, having their leadership, they've been top guys. They were one of the biggest attractions at WrestleMania. Having them on SmackDown, not only do they bring the fan support, but that also creates opportunities for other tag teams.
Money in the Bank ladder match: AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
When you look at the best Money in the Bank matches, and there have been 17 of them now, they typically have a nice variety of styles and competitors who are willing to go to incredible lengths in big matches. You have that in spades, across the board, and with the uncertainty of this match and the future of the WWE championship, it has the potential to be one of the best we've ever seen.
So who wins? In reality, it would likely help elevate Baron Corbin or Sami Zayn the most. It could take Shinsuke Nakamura to another level at a time when some fans are still trying to make a determination on how they feel about him, or turn the spotlight back to AJ Styles and unofficially make it his show again. Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler each seem unlikely, but the visual of Owens with the briefcase and the U.S. title (a la The Miz back in the day) could be pretty cool.
Charlotte on her expectations for the men's MITB match: This is Shinsuke [Nakamura]'s first WWE ladder match, and I'm sure Shinsuke's going to bring it. I'm excited to see what he does. I think that the men will be different than the women in general -- our story is different than theirs. I know they're always putting their bodies on the line. Obviously, there's always going to be competition of who wants to have the best match, but I think the women need to focus more on what got them there, and the guys can focus on their story.
WWE championship: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
Say what you want about playing upon nationalism and stereotypes, but Mahal has stepped up so far in his unlikely reign as WWE champion. His entrance gets sharper every week, the chemistry with the Singh brothers is growing more cohesive and he's really finding his rhythm on the microphone.
It seems unlikely for Orton to grab the title back this quickly, but the element of having a bunch of wrestling legends including his father "Cowboy" Bob Orton in the front row for this match certainly does something for the dynamic. As for the ultimate outcome of the evening, we saw a same-night Money in the Bank cash-in by Dean Ambrose last year, making another instance unlikely -- but never say never, right?
Charlotte on Jinder Mahal's meteoric rise: Knowing Jinder Mahal on a backstage level, I couldn't be more excited for his rise to this occasion, becoming this supervillain. He looks like a star. He works hard behind the scenes. Obviously, Randy Orton will go down as one of the greatest in history. So, I think, for Jinder, it's got to be exciting to know that there's so much anticipation around the match. There's also the element of other legends being there, front row, and he's at the center of it all with Randy. Randy's been in this position multiple times. This is another walk in the park for him, probably. I'm just excited for Jinder, as a whole.