Next month's Money in the Bank pay-per-view's signature namesake matches are shaping up to be a tale of two very different cities.
On Monday's Raw, the first four participants in the Money in the Bank ladder match for a WWE Championship contract were announced: John Cena, Big Show, Kane and Chris Jericho. The stipulation was placed on the match that only former WWE Champions could be entered into the contest.
Friday night's Smackdown featured five qualifying matches, with more promised for next week's live show. Contrary to the Raw match, where all the competitors will be former champions, it seems very few of the competitors in the blue brand's Money in the Bank match are individuals who have spent much -- if any -- time near the world title picture.
The first five men to earn their way into the match -- also a comparison to the Raw version, where participants were simply named rather than winning qualifying matches -- were Damien Sandow, Tyson Kidd, United States Champion Santino Marella, Christian and Tensai.
Take into account the fact that more competitors will possibly be added, including a clear front runner like Dolph Ziggler, and it may seem premature to analyze the match. But as it stands, only Christian has spent any time near the top of the card.
Sandow and Tensai have been interesting new additions to the roster, Marella is a joke and Kidd remains one of the most underrated performers in WWE, so this combination makes for some interesting possibilities.
Perhaps it's conditioning on WWE's part, but most fans expect Money in the Bank ladder matches to be filled with cruiserweights who are going to bump like mad, but both of these bouts thus far seem to break away from that mold.
Money in the Bank is still a few weeks away, but the early build to the show is looking promising. It seems some traditional norms will be challenged, and the WWE is set to deliver.
Last year's installment made history because of the classic CM Punk vs. John Cena match for the WWE Championship, so it will be hard for this year to follow up as strongly, but it seems we're at least poised to see an entertaining show.
Sheamus, Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio put on a heck of a show in the main event, producing a pretty lengthy and fun triple threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Sheamus pinned Ziggler to retain his title, which seems to indicate Ziggler may be moving out of the title picture. Del Rio will claim a rematch as he wasn't pinned and will likely receive it at Money in the Bank. Sheamus' reign hasn't had any major feuds or real substance, but he continues to put on entertaining matches. Sometimes that's all it takes.
** Daniel Bryan requested AJ be banned from ringside for his WWE Championship match against Punk at Money in the Bank. Not only did he not get his wish, AJ was actually named the guest referee for that match. This could be the long-deserved and well-built payoff to the AJ-Punk-Bryan angle. AJ has played her role to perfection in recent months, so it will be interesting to see how she plays it off in this context. Many will complain about it distracting from the action in a Punk-Bryan match, but it's really the best of both worlds for wrestling fans, as they will get a mix of work rate and entertainment.
** For a match featuring Marella and David Otunga, the Money in the Bank qualifying match pitting Marella and Intercontinental Champion Christian against David Otunga and Cody Rhodes was both well worked and fun to watch. They got a decent amount of time and filled it with some quality wrestling from all four men. After the match, Rhodes threw a fit that he didn't lose. I expect to see him earn his way into the ladder match next week.
** It was nice to see a Money in the Bank qualifying match like Sandow vs. Zack Ryder that actually had some backstory to it. These two have had a few interactions in recent weeks, and it ended with Sandow rightfully scoring the victory. It's far too soon for Sandow to actually win, but it's great to see him getting a spot in the match. As for Ryder, he was allowed a good deal of offense in this match and didn't look overly weak in defeat.
** Kidd, complete with jobber in-ring entrance, pulled the possible upset over Jack Swagger to qualify for Money in the Bank. Kidd fits the mold of the typical competitor in these ladder matches, and I wouldn't bank on him winning. But he stands to benefit from the opportunity and could have a career-boosting match. Look for Kidd to be the token spot monkey in this PPV contest. Swagger? He seems to be falling further and further down the ranks. Soon he'll be on the same level as Heath Slater.
The match between Tensai and Justin Gabriel was a nice styles-clash contest. Gabriel looked good in his bursts of offense, and Tensai looked dominant yet entertaining. I still think there's hope for Tensai, but he has to be used properly. Hopefully he has a few fun spots in the ladder match and helps re-establish himself.
** The opening contest of the show saw Divas Champion Layla defeat AJ because of a distraction by Bryan. The action in the match was good, and I would like to see a full-length contest between the two, preferably with the title on the line. After the match, AJ continued to assault Layla, signifying that we may be lucky enough to see this continue.
** The good news: Antonio Cesaro will be wrestling on next week's live Smackdown. The bad news: Teddy Long is the guest general manager next week. The worse news: Cesaro will face The Great Khali in a mixed-tag match also featuring Aksana and Layla. I hate Teddy Long -- with a passion.
** Ryback wrestled.
Layla d. AJ
Damien Sandow d. Zack Ryder
Tyson Kidd d. Jack Swagger
Santino Marella and Christian d. Cody Rhodes and David Otunga
Ryback d. Dan Barone and Brendan Burke
Tensai d. Justin Gabriel
Sheamus d. Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio
Friday night's show was really good. There was a lot of good wrestling, and nothing really stood out as being out of place or awful. Even Marella and Otunga had good showings in their tag team match. This is what a Smackdown episode should be. Next week's live show will be an interesting one to watch, for sure.