While it may not have an offseason (it should, by the way), the WWE calendar has a very clear end, WrestleMania. What started as an annual event for a singular company has turned into a week-long celebration of the year that was in not just the WWE Universe, but the greater wrestling universe as a whole. However, pinpointing the beginning of the calendar isn’t so black and white or, if you’d prefer, red and blue.
Of course, there’s the much ballyhooed “Raw After ‘Mania,” which features noteable NXT call-ups and the occasional return from injury. Vince McMahon may make an appearance to bask in the heat of the restless crowd, most of who probably bought tickets to the event just to see him and let him know that they are over the Roman Reigns experiment, which he then interprets as Roman being “over,” with them….but I digress…
Could it be the first big, co-branded event following “The Showcase of the Immortals”, Backlash? Of course not! You know how on some months of the calendar, you’ll see greyed out boxes as placeholder dates previewing the following month? If we keep following the calendar metaphor, those dates represent Backlash, just there to let you know the current month has ended and that we’re on to the next one. Backlash is there for former champs to exercise their rematch clauses for the sake of getting every last dollar out of a fued.
For me, and I believe for WWE Creative, the new year starts at the annual Money in the Bank event, highlighted by its namesake match, where eight wrestlers compete in a ladder match for a contract that grants the holder an “anytime, anyplace” title match. We’ve seen all sorts of cash ins: Rob Van Dam challenging John Cena ahead of One Night Stand in 2006, Carmella cashing in to take advantage of a beaten and broken Charlotte Flair in 2018 at the Smackdown Live! after WrestleMania, and Seth Rollins committing the Heist of the Century. It’s where WWE puts plans in motion for the next top guy and girl that will be thrust onto our TV screen, whether or not he or she is ready for it (See: Corbin, Baron).
The best thing about Money in the Bank is that it’s equally, if not more, enjoyable for casual fans than it is for the smarks. There are no rules or intricacies to explain when it comes to ladder matches, and the symbolism of the climb provides all the heart-pounding drama needed to make a match memorable, mix in the butthole-tightening high spots and you have a recipe for a potential all-time match that will leave sceptics breathless.
With 2018’s installment of this event now in the rearview mirror, the road ahead to SummerSlam is starting to take shape. We haven’t seen the end of the Nia Jax-Alexa Bliss-Ronda Rousey triangle, and don’t be surprised if that Triple Threat turns into a Fatal 4-Way. Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar will have yet another hossfest. Carmella is going to be the heel champion that the women on the blue brand need. Maybe we’ll see our first NXT Hell in a Cell match between Johnny Wrestling and the Psycho Killer? Adam Cole (BAY BAY!) will continue proving that he’s a no-doubt-about-it star. This all comes with a caveat, though, which I’m now dubbing as Meltzer’ Law, plans can always change. ACLs will tear, drug tests will be failed, and wandering glances will be misinterpreted as heat.
For those of us self-loathing sociopaths with a higher level of curiosity of the product and business, this is where the fun really begins or, depending on your disposition, potentially ends. We ask ourselves and countless internet trolls questions like these:
- “Why wouldn’t anyone from Smackdown win either match? THEY HAVE A $2 BILLION TV DEAL STARTING IN 2019!”
- “Why do they keep burying Finn Balor?” (They aren’t, by the way)
- “Has anyone seen Kevin Owens? Did he just keep falling to the center of the earth?”
- “Does Braun Strowman really need the contract? How will he cash in? Oh god, is he about to get the Roman Reigns treatment?”
- “What’s next for AJ Styles?”
- “Why do I have to work tomorrow? It’s Rusev Day.”
But, Sunday night only left me with one question:
When the show is as good as it was last night, and the year looking as promising as it does, why do we care who’s getting pushed?