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When Money in the Bank was first introduced, it was a sensational gimmick. The winner of the match would not only get a title shot; but they could pick whenever they wanted to have their title match. Over the early years; WWE helped build the gimmick by having all of the winners cash in successfully; unlike the Royal Rumble this was not just a title shot; the winner of the Money in the Bank match was practically guaranteed a world title victory.
Another key component of building the gimmick was who WWE selected to win each match. Edge was the perfect person to hold the briefcase; a popular mid-card wrestler with the potential to be a big star; Edge won the match and bided his time until he had the perfect opportunity to cash in, and he won the WWE Championship from John Cena after Cena had been destroyed in an Elimination Chamber match. From then on; Edge was a made man in WWE; and was a main event star until the end of his career.
In the future; guys like Rob Van Dam and CM Punk would follow similar paths. Van Dam would shoot himself in the foot by getting arrested shortly after cashing in and winning the world title; but Punk would use the match to catapult his way into the main event for the rest of his career, just like Edge had. This set up a great dynamic for the Money in the Bank match; not only was the winner likely to be a world champion, they were likely to finally break through and become a main event star.
Over the years though; that implication has been watered down. The Money in the Bank match winner is no longer always going to be a popular mid-card wrestler who is finally getting called up the main event; instead it has often been less-inspiring choices. Jack Swagger, Damian Sandow, Baron Corbin are a far cry from Edge, Rob Van Dam, and CM Punk. Throw in other mid-card winners like Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio, and the Money in the Bank briefcase is no longer a guarantee of superstardom.
Additionally; WWE has also given the briefcase to established main event wrestlers, like John Cena and Randy Orton. I don't fault WWE for doing this; you can't create a new main event star every year, but it makes the briefcase and ensuing cash-in a little less interesting since the end result (a Cena/Orton world title reign) has already taken place on numerous occasions.
Another issue has been the overall devaluing of the world title and who gets to hold it. Once someone like Jinder Mahal holds the WWE Championship, the idea of the title being a symbol of elite status begins to wane. Mahal had a significant world title reign, but unlike Edge or CM Punk, he isn't going to be a career main event star. Other former champions of recent years (The Miz, Del Rio, Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose) have had title reigns and then fallen back down the card. Being a world champion in WWE just doesn't seem to have the same cache as it did in previous generations.
So looking at the Money in the Bank match this Sunday; is there someone on the roster who could win the match and then the world title; and have a career like Edge? Is there someone who hasn't won the world title but once they do, they'll be a main event figure for the rest of their career? Let's look at the competitors in the match:
Finn Balor: Has held the world title before, although didn't get a real reign with the championship. He's popular and given the right push could have a great career as a main event star; although WWE has indicated they don't seem him at quite that level. Still, he'd be one of the more interesting candidates to win the match.
New Day Member: The TBA member of the New Day has the same issue; WWE hasn't seen any of them as potential world champions and it is unlikely that if they were to somehow miraculously to win the match and the title, it would be unlikely WWE would treat them as a serious champion.
Kevin Owens: A former champion; he hasn't quite slipped all the way down to the mid-card after dropping the title, but isn't a true main event star the way the top guys in WWE are. With his personality he would be entertaining holding the briefcase.
The Miz: Like Owens, a former champion that would be entertaining with the briefcase. Unlike Owens The Miz is a defined mid-card wrestler and has been for years after working the main event of WrestleMania 27. It would have to be assumed that any future world title reign would be treated the same.
Bobby Roode: Similar to Ziggler when he cashed in and won; the crowd would probably pop big for a surprise cash in but WWE likely wouldn't push him seriously as a consistent main event star; and would probably be a transitional champion at best.
Rusev: A very interesting candidate because he is over and the fans would cheer a lot for him if he were to win. WWE seems set on him remaining a heel, but a babyface Rusev cashing in and winning the title has a lot of potential.
Samoa Joe: Another good candidate who certainly has the talent level to be a major star in WWE; he'd be a good choice to win.
Braun Strowman: Strowman is the most protected star on the main roster and has never won the title. In theory, he would be a good candidate to win Money in the Bank since he seems primed for his first world title, but I think with the Strowman character, it would be kind of a waste putting the briefcase on him. The briefcase works best when it is owned by a sneaky heel who takes advantage of a downed champion. Strowman is a monster and if he were to win his first world title, it should be by him pulverizing his opponent in a fair fight, not backing into the championship.
There will also be a Women's Money in the Bank match; but that match and the possible fallout from it is not as interesting. That is mainly because the women's championship has been passed around to almost every woman on the roster, so holding the title doesn't mean a whole lot. Out of the eight women in the match Sunday, six of them are former champions. Only Lana and Ember Moon haven't won a women's title; it just doesn't really matter all that much who the women's champion is in WWE.
Wrapping things up; I think Rusev and Samoa Joe are the two best choices to win the match and enjoy a lengthy run as a main event star in WWE once they capture the title. I think regardless the match will be exciting and full of crazy spots; but over the years I think WWE has hurt the allure of the Money in the Bank match and it no longer feels as important as it did a few years ago.
A storyline nearly two years in the making reached a thrilling conclusion last Saturday, when Kenny Omega finally captured the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, ending the over 700 day reign of Kazuchika Okada. The victory came at the end of one of the best wrestling matches ever to take place; a wondrous achievement of athleticism, drama and storytelling.
Even if you are not a fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling; it cannot be denied that Omega and Okada put on a display for the ages. Pick an element that makes a great wrestling match; whether it be athletic moves, dangerous high spots, realistic selling, clever near-falls, storytelling and perhaps most importantly, the sense that there were real stakes on who wins and who loses. Okada and Omega over-delivered in all of those elements. Anything that makes someone a fan of the art of professional wrestling, took place at Dominion.
Like all truly great wrestling matches; this was not just a collision between two extremely talented professional wrestlers; those types of matches take place all the time and almost never produce a match the quality of Okada vs Omega; but it was a match that was the climax of a lengthy storyline. What Okada and Omega succeeded at was not to merely have a great match, but to produce a story that captivated fans for over an hour and led to fans actually crying in the audience after the match was finished. There have been countless great matches over the years; but almost none of them have felt so dramatic and so important to the audience.
Omega winning the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship is not a typical title win; I would say that is more like the symbolic beginning of something bigger than just a title reign. Omega's victory is akin to Bruno Sammartino beating Buddy Rogers; Hulk Hogan beating the Iron Sheik, or John Cena beating JBL. It isn't just a popular wrestler winning the world title; it's the potential start of something big; something that could lead to Omega not just being a world champion, but an icon in the industry.
The reason Omega's title win feels like that is because of NJPW's aggressive approach to the North American market. While Okada was an amazing world champion by any calculation, Omega's title win feels more exciting because the potential of having a western wrestler as the world champion opens up new doors for NJPW. Omega is much more popular in the US than Okada, and having a Canadian world champion may be more comfortable for more xenophobic fans that have been weaned on WWE's programming for decades.
Before Dominion even began; the audience in Osaka was addressed by Harold Meij who was recently named the new President of NJPW. Meij, a Dutch businessman who spent time living in Japan as a child and working for American companies in the US as an adult, was clearly hired in part due to his knowledge of the American market. At Dominion, he addressed the live crowd in Japanese, but also repeated his speech in English, something that would have never been done in the past. Hiring Meij as the President of NJPW was an obvious sign that NJPW was looking to increase the baby steps they have taken into the American market in recent years.
Omega finds himself positioned as the talisman to lead NJPW's push into new markets. If you were to design the perfect performer to bridge the gap between NJPW and the western markets, it would be Kenny Omega. Not only is he a very talented performer; one of the very best in-ring performers in the world as well as a strong promo; but he is a perfect fusion of the two cultures. Omega is Canadian born, but has spent the last several years living in Japan, and is one of the few foreign wrestlers to become fluent in Japanese. Unlike a lot of foreign workers who come to Japan, Omega isn't just there for the pay and exposure; he has adopted the country as his home and really embraced the culture.
When Omega was wrestling Okada, it was notable that the Japanese fans were really behind Omega, as opposed to cheering for the Japanese champion. There have been dozens of foreign wrestlers who have become major stars in Japan, but very few have ever been cheered over a very popular Japanese babyface champion. Fewer still have possessed the ability to then cut a promo in Japanese to the audience after they win. Omega isn't just a foreign wrestler who is popular in the US; he is a foreign wrestler who is just as popular in Japan as he is in the US. That makes him the perfect wrestler to push as a star in western markets, without domestic fans feeling like they are being neglected by their home company.
The face of NJPW's western expansion will defend his title for the first time, fittingly on US soil when he faces Cody Rhodes at NJPW's show in San Francisco. It seems impossible that Omega will be able to top his performance with Okada; although it seemed impossible he could top his first match with Okada…and yet he did. With Omega, nothing can be ruled out and over the next several years, it is likely that he will become the most important active perform in professional wrestling. The question will then be to see how many fans around the world will be willing to follow him.
Ratings for NJPW's Dominion
Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada: *****
Chris Jericho vs Tetsuya Naito: ****1/4
Will Ospreay vs Hiromu Takahashi: ****1/2
Rey Mysterio, Jushin Thunder Liger and Hiroshi Tanhashi vs Cody, Marty Scurll and Adam Page: ***1/4
Roppongi 3K vs El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru: ***
The Young Bucks vs EVIL and SANADA: ****
Michael Elgin vs Hirooki Goto vs TAICHI: ***1/4
Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano: **1/4