But I still wanted to get in on the prediction game for Money in the Bank, even if I wouldn't eligible for any punishments upon losing to Ross (wait, why would that stop me?). There are a few distinct pros to writing out a pay per view predictions column, anyhow:
1) It's topical
2) I'm out of ideas otherwise.
Writer's block happens unfortunately, and to combat it, I usually resort to doing something mentally stimulating in order to try and grease the creative skids a bit. In this case, I chose to watch The Big Lebowski for the 73,486th time over the last 20 years. Go to an art museum? The nearest art museum doesn't exist in a deluxe DVD set on my office shelf, silly.
Besides, there are some obvious parallels between Lebowski and Sunday's Money in the Bank event: cherished briefcases, stories that don't quite make sense, overt nihilism (though I can't imagine Peter Stormare and Flea batting around beach balls during Reigns-Mahal). All that's missing is somebody lugging around the grave remains of the Lashley-Zayn storyline in a coffee can.
So just for the sheer hell of it, I'm gonna give a pick for each match, and somehow tie it in to the insanely quotable Big Lebowski feature film. Sound good? Well, I'm gonna write it out anyway.
Away we go.
10. Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
"You figured 'Oh, here's a loser', you know? A deadbeat, someone the square community won't give a s**t about."
"Well, aren't you?"
Aside from some decent-sounding off-road racing video game background music as his entrance tune, and demented facial expressions that make him look like a cross between Don Knotts and Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb, there isn't a whole lot else that Cass has brought to the table, and fans are quick to point that out. Remember three months ago, the sheer jubilation that Bryan was making a miraculous return to the WWE ring? It's not like Bryan had anything artistically-satisfying with Cass at Backlash, but hey, Cass is tall, and hope springs eternal for the sky-adjacent. Still would take Bryan here, though
9. The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Luke Gallows/Karl Anderson
"So he says "My wife's a pain in the ass. She's always busting my friggin' agates, my daughter's married to a real loser bastard, and I got a rash so bad on my ass, I can't even sit down. But you know me. I can't complain."
So you have two guys who dress like stock characters in Castlevania carrying around mallets, while their opponents are more known for absurd personas they play on a parody of a territorial wrestling promotion than they are for their characters on a weekly international TV broadcast. And the match was set-up by an arbitrary top-contender's bout than anything more tangible. But hey, it's a title match on a pay per view (pre-show, I understand), so eh, it's a payoff.
8. Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn
"The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners."
The Stranger properly sums up Lashley, who, if the Devil himself emerged from Hell in order to personally wage war on humanity, would still find a way to sheepishly smile through the forthcoming endtimes. If Lashley knew for a fact that Hell would be an improvement over *any* of the segments featuring he and Zayn over the last month, that smile would be justified.
7. Carmella vs. Asuka
"What in God's holy name are you blathering about?"
Every time the announcers are forced to try and pass off the second "legitimate" women's MITB match from last year as Carmella's pay per view win, I develop an aggressive eye tick that almost forcibly cracks my orbital bone (and Ross' Twitter mentions fill up quicker than a shot-glass left outdoors during monsoon season). In any event, I get the sense that Carmella's long-delayed cash-in, and subsequent rough performance at Backlash, may be necessitating a switch. At least that would be one thing that'd make Chicago happy.
6. Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey
"Has the whole world gone crazy?! Am I the only one around here who gives a s**t about the rules?! Mark it zero!"
That sitdown promo from Monday in which Nia went on about the rules and maneuvers that are legal in WWE but not MMA came off a bit absurd, but it's still miles better than the, "Hey, let's be all opponent-y and stuff! / For real! OMG, that'll be lit!" way in which the match came together. With Ronda going into the UFC Hall of Fame next month, it would behoove WWE to have her carrying the gold in front of the media during International Fight Week, so the switch here makes perfect sense. Plus, Nia might be better chasing Rousey as an out-and-out monster heel, since the last gasps of the "doing it for the bullied kids" shtick died a death at Backlash (I'll bet you forgot that promo. You're welcome).
5. Seth Rollins vs. Elias
"Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax - YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I'M LIVIN' IN THE F***IN' PAST!"
It's been great seeing the Intercontinental belt feel so coveted and important once more, with Rollins throwing back to the workhorse champions of yore. The olden days of the IC title match being the best match of a given card are back, and I love it. Of course, if Lesnar were on the show every week, WWE might not feel so compelled to elevate the belt beyond midcard prop, but that's why I'm taking Rollins to retain. Elias doesn't need the belt to keep his enjoyably-obnoxious routine afloat, and Rollins works currently as top champ of the brand. Elias' run with gold will come, in due time.
4. Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal
"Really, Dude, you surprise me. They're not gonna kill s**t, they're not gonna do s**t. What can they do? They're a bunch of f***in' amateurs, and meanwhile, look at the bottom line: Who's sittin' on a million f***in' dollars? Am I wrong?"
If ol' sadistic WWE actually has the gall to put this match on last, you would almost have to admire the sheer lack of effs on their part. With "Beat the Traffic" still fresh in everyone's mind, something tells me that Reigns/Mahal is likely destined for middle-third of the show, but I've certainly been wrong before. But from WWE's perspective, with the massive TV deals they're inking, what's their incentive to give in to the beach balls and the unsavoury chants? The faces that Samoa Joe made at the fans during Chinlockfest '18 mirror those who are swimming in in a sea of cash. The only way Mahal wins is if WWE's ready to move Reigns on to somebody else, but since Lesnar's reportedly not coming back this summer, they could (gulp) prolong this feud through at least Extreme Rules. But I'll still take Roman. Because Roman.
3. Women's MITB
"Yeah, the beauty of this is its simplicity. If it gets complex, everything can go wrong."
This choice of Walter Sobchak quote applies to the Sasha/Bayley feud that has been playing out since the discovery of aluminium, with the actual turn itself moving more slowly than Danny DeVito trying to push a car. What started out as a very simple "One of them will turn, and then they'll be truly feuding with the other one," story has dragged on beyond all sanity. That said, while many are pointing at Natalya to overcome her schizophrenic knee injuries to secure the briefcase (and turn on "friend" Ronda Rousey when she gets the belt), I'm gonna take Sasha, just because you could always have Bayley turn by sabotaging the cash-in, or something of that sort. A monumental screw-over could salvage the endless story. Not that I'm holding my breath.
2. Men's MITB
"Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you."
With the extra-superhuman way that Strowman's been booked these last few weeks, you just know it's going to be a different guy winning. And it almost has to be a SmackDown guy, unless you're up for filming footage of Owens trying to cash in on Lesnar during one of his hunting trips. The Miz makes the most sense, because he's overdue for another run at the top, and it would obviously be glorious to see Bryan in turn shut him down to get the belt back. Plus Miz winning in Chicago would make it so that Punk wouldn't be the only multiple-time men's briefcase winner, so WWE has that going for it.
1. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
"F**k sympathy! I don't need your f**kin' sympathy, man, I need my f***ing johnson!"
"What do you need that for, Dude?"
So, how will they book a screwy finish here? Double dick-kick knockout once more? Every single referee in the building gets bumped, leaving nobody to count? nWo run-in? Curfew draw? Fire drill? WWE dragged out the Emmalina debut as a running gag, but here they virtually have to deliver something concrete. While I'm not sure where Nakamura goes after a loss, I'd think that Styles would have to win, since he'd be the one that Miz would topple on the cash-in. You could have Miz take advantage of a weary Nakamura on Sunday night, and really, either option would be heat-inducing. But my gut still says Styles.