Last week I highly recommended purchasing TNA’s “Destination X” pay-per-view. Those who took my advice witnessed TNA’s best pay-per-view in years. You’re welcome.
I’ll have more on Destination X later in this column. But I couldn’t wait that long to say “I told you so.”
Before we look back at Destination X, let’s turn our attention to the Sunday’s “Money in the Bank” pay-per-view. For the second week in a row, the Greek god of wrestling is going to strongly recommend a pay-per-view.
Money in the Bank was 2011’s best pay-per-view. With C.M. Punk defeating John Cena for the WWE title in an electric atmosphere in Chicago, not to mention a terrific World Heavyweight Championship match between Randy Orton and Christian and two Money in the Bank matches, Money in the Bank 2011 was arguably one of the best non-WrestleMania pay-per-views in WWE history. Some would say it was among WWE’s best pay-per-views, including WrestleMania.
Although nothing will likely approach the unique Punk-Cena atmosphere, Money in the Bank has the chance to be tremendous again this year. Let’s leave the Money in the Bank matches aside for a moment while we look at the rest of card.
Punk defends the WWE championship against Daniel Bryan. You almost can’t go wrong with these two masters in the ring. Some purists don’t like AJ, the special guest referee, being involved in the match. I consider myself a bit of a purist, but I recognize the need for fresh angles. As good as Bryan and Punk are, you can’t simply throw them out there on pay-per view month after month without an angle.
I’m enjoying the AJ angle. She’s done a good job establishing her unstable persona. One week she kisses both Bryan and Punk. The next week she slaps them both across the face. You don’t know what she’s going to do as special guest referee, which adds to the unpredictability of this match.
There is also a World Heavyweight Championship match between Sheamus and challenger Alberto Del Rio. Expect a solid match from these two. Del Rio is intelligent, rich and handsome, so he has a lot in common with yours truly. More importantly, Del Rio is very good in the ring. With a WWE Championship match and two Money in the Bank matches on the card, WWE could get away with an inconclusive ending, having Del Rio win by countout or disqualification to set up a rematch at Summer Slam.
The pre-show features a tag team championship match, with Kofi Kingston and R-Truth defending the titles against Hunico and Camacho. Expect a Kingston and Truth victory, possibly with an after-match attack by the Prime Time Players. Hopefully, WWE won’t add more than one match to this pay-per-view, which would allow the wrestlers plenty of time to tell their stories.
I evaluate Money in the Bank matches based on two factors: potential for action and how many participants have a realistic shot at winning. For example, Shelton Benjamin had little chance of winning the match and capturing the championship contract, but he was a frequent Money in the Bank participant because his athleticism enabled him to create memorable maneuvers using the ladders.
The Money in the Bank match for the WWE Championship only has four participants: John Cena, Big Show, Chris Jericho and Kane. Only Jericho seems suited to produce the high-flying action often seen in Money in the Bank matches (although I’m sure there will be at least one big spot with Kane or possibly Big Show jumping/falling off the ladder). This match will probably emphasize the brutality of Money in the Bank matches, with all four wrestlers absorbing significant punishment from the ladders.
This match will be successful because of the intrigue surrounding who might win. Kane, a past Money in the Bank winner, has a slim chance to win. A Big Show win could be interesting. He could carry that championship contract around, threatening the champion (Punk?) that he can cash it in whenever he wants.
The two most likely winners are Jericho and Cena. Jericho would be terrific with the briefcase containing the contract, adding heat to his feud with Punk that was overshadowed heading into WrestleMania by the extraordinary hype for the Rock-Cena and Undertaker-Triple H matches.
Cena is an even more intriguing choice. There would be a different dynamic with Cena having the briefcase. There would be the temptation for Cena to cash in the contract when the champion is at a disadvantage. I can envision him running into the ring with his briefcase after Punk (still the champion) has been beaten down, only to decide not to cash in the contract. Cena will eventually opt for a face-to-face meeting announced in advance rather than a run-in situation to take advantage of an injured champion.
The Smackdown-centered Money in the Bank match for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship has eight competitors: Christian, Santino Marella, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Tensai and Tyson Kidd.
This match should feature more of the amazing, high-flying ladder spots we are accustomed to seeing in Money in the Bank. Kidd, Sin Cara and Ziggler are particularly agile, and Christian is a grizzled veteran with regard to ladder matches. Rhodes’ athleticism also should add to the quality of this match.
The second criteria involves how many participants have a realistic chance to win. Kidd can elevate his profile in Money in the Bank, but he has no shot to win. The same is true for Sin Cara (unless there was a Mexico tour scheduled soon and Del Rio defeats Sheamus). Winning Money in the Bank would immediately elevate Sandow, whose interview skills are his greatest strength right now, but his chances to win are also slim.
Tensai could be an interesting choice to win, especially with WWE running shows in Japan, where the former Giant Bernard was a big star, in August. A bully with a championship contract is a good combination.
The fans will be pulling for Christian and Marella to win – and those wins will be teased – but it doesn’t make sense for either the Intercontinental or U.S. champion to win Money in the Bank. That leaves Ziggler and Rhodes as the most likely winners. Both deserve an opportunity to carry around that championship contract and be the de facto No. 1 contender.
Money in the Bank should feature excellent wrestling and plenty of action. It could range from good to great. Another reason for my recommendation is that multiple outcomes make sense in every match, giving the pay-per-view an air of unpredictability and suspense. You know Achilles Heel wouldn’t steer you wrong.
X-RATED: TNA hit a home run with Destination X last Sunday. As I said earlier, it was probably TNA’s best pay-per-view in several years.
All three of the top matches delivered. The Bound for Glory Series match between Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe was very good, with a surprising ending (Joe won when Angle passed out from a submission hold). A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels had an incredible Last Man Standing match. The icing on the cake was Austin Aries winning TNA’s World Championship from Bobby Roode.
Aries’ victory was a surprise. Rather than coming off as a surprise for shock value, as TNA has done in the past, this surprise was perfectly executed. The pre-match buildup made the title change feel important and exciting.
The X-Division tournament that filled out the card featured good action. Not all of them were great, but there weren’t any slow moments. Bravo to TNA for an excellent show!
KING-SIZED PROBLEM: There was one complication regarding the X-Division tournament. One of the participants was Kenny King, who just happened to have won the Ring of Honor tag team championship last month as one half of the All Night Express.
King reportedly had a handshake deal with Ring of Honor, but had not signed a new contract. Legally, King may have been within his rights. But burning bridges like that is not a smart way to do business. King’s actions also leave partner Rhett Titus in a bit of a bind, with his championship run over almost before it started.
Ring of Honor will begin an eight-team tournament to crown new tag team champions at its television tapings in Baltimore on Aug. 3. Announced teams so far are Jay and Mark Briscoe, BLK Out (Ruckus and Jeez), and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), who are CHIKARA’s tag team champs. I expect Titus to find a partner and be included in this tournament.
THE A-LIST: In last week’s Heel Turns, I noted that WWE used my top two selections on my Top 10 list of most patriotic wrestlers, Jim Duggan and Sgt. Slaughter, for a 6-man tag team match at The Great American Bash. Then Monday on RAW my No. 6 selection, Bob Backlund, comes out and puts Heath Slater in the cross-face chicken wing.
Who is WWE going to pluck next from my list? I doubt Hulk Hogan or Kurt Angle will appear. Barry Windham is happy to be alive (BTW, happy birthday, Barry!), but he’s not physically ready for an in-ring appearance. The same is true of Lex Luger. If Brad Reinghans, Corporal Kirchner or The Patriot appears on RAW next week, I’ll know WWE is poaching off my list.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY NEAR PHILADELPHIA: Tammy Sytch, the former “Sunny” in WWE, will make an appearance Saturday (7:30 p.m.) when Combat Zone Wrestling returns to the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. The main event is a one-hour Ultraviolent Ironman match between CZW World Junior Heavyweight champion Drake Younger and challenger Sami Callahan.
Other matches include Masada defending the CZW World Heavyweight Championship against A.R. Fox, and Azrieal and Bandido Jr. putting the CZW tag team titles on the line against the Nation of Intoxication’s Danny Havoc and Lucky 13 . There will also be a 7-person ladder match. In other matches, Ruckus takes on Alex Colon, and CZW Wired TV champion Dave Crist teams with CZW owner D.J. Hyde to battle Jake Crist and Greg Excellent.
REY OF SUNSHINE: Congratulations to Sara Del Rey, who was signed by WWE this past week. Del Rey has been the anchor of CHIKARA’s women’s division, and she also has made a name for herself wrestling men. She is scheduled to face Grand Champion Eddie Kingston when CHIKARA returns to action on July 28 in South Portland, Maine.
SMACKDOWN IN PHILLY: Tickets go on sale Saturday (10 a.m.) for Smackdown’s return to Wells Fargo Center on Sept. 18. The advertised main event is a triple threat match between Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship.