By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The 2016 Money in the Bank pay-per-view, which WWE is touting as the greatest installment of all-time, will feature a handful of dream matches including Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and John Cena vs. AJ Styles. Also on the card is the Money in the Bank Ladder match, which has been a summer staple since the inception of the event in 2010.
In the decade-plus the matchup has been in existence for, every installment has delivered, but this year's has shaped up to be especially strong. Six Superstars qualified for the high stakes bout late last month and have been at war with each other ever since. But the best part about the match? For the first time in seemingly forever, each combatant has more-or-less an equal chance of winning.
Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Alberto Del Rio are among WWE's elite crop of competitors that have come close to clinching world championship glory time and time again over the years. And now, they have a golden opportunity to retrieve a briefcase that presents them with a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at any time and any place of their choosing for up to a year.
While I only typically do these type of articles for the Royal Rumble match (see: Miscellaneous), this is the most excited I've been for the Money in the Bank match in years, so I thought it would be only appropriate to do something similar (i.e. a condensed version) for the annually anticipated Ladder match. Who will walk out of Las Vegas as the new Mr. Money in the Bank?
The Most Logical: Dean Ambrose
As noted, any one of these men could realistically capture the contract this year, and although some are more deserving than others, no one makes more sense to win than Dean Ambrose. This will mark his third Money in the Bank Ladder match, and it could very well be third time's the charm for the former Intercontinental Champion.
Not only has he fallen short of winning the briefcase before in his career, he has yet to reach the mountaintop and become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In fact, he is the only member of The Shield to have never won "the big one," and his other two stablemates will be competing for the prestigious prize in the main event of Money in the Bank. Thus, questions have been raised regarding whether we see Ambrose reign supreme here only to cash in later on in the evening. Either way, there are a multitude of stories that can be told with Ambrose in possession of the opportunistic briefcase, not to mention he is long overdue for a world title run.
The Favorite: Kevin Owens
Since his arrival on the main roster in May 2015, Kevin Owens has had one of the best rookie years in WWE history. From quickly capturing the NXT Championship to becoming a two-time Intercontinental Champion to beating John Cena in his first match as a WWE Superstar, Owens has already solidified himself as a star on the rise.
As nice as it would be to see him reenter the Intercontinental Championship picture in the near future, he belongs in the upper-echelon of the card. He's essentially an uncrowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion, so it's strange he has yet to contend for the top title in his time on Raw and SmackDown. He could benefit from the Brand Split more than anyone, and with the briefcase in tow, a successful cash-in for the NXT alum is virtually guaranteed. Sure, no one is a better bad guy than Owens, but the crowd in Las Vegas would unquestionably explode with excitement if he emerged victorious at Money in the Bank.
The Dark Horse: Cesaro
I have seen plenty of predictions this past week that Dean Ambrose or Kevin Owens will be taking the Money in the Bank briefcase on Sunday, but not enough focus has been on Cesaro, hence why he's my dark horse to win it. He's equally as deserving as Ambrose and Owens, it isn't too soon for him as it is for Sami Zayn, he hasn't been world champion yet like Alberto Del Rio, and unlike Chris Jericho, he isn't leaving soon. Basically, he's a prime candidate to become the next Mr. Money in the Bank.
Cesaro has been toiling around in the midcard for the better part of the last four years, and every time he appeared to be on the cusp of super stardom in WWE, he was always knocked back down the card. Despite failing to recently win the Intercontinental Championship, he has been riding a wave of momentum since his return from injury and has never before been this over. Whether it be by way of the Money in the Bank briefcase or not, Cesaro is bound to be a money player before long.
The Underdog: Sami Zayn
Similar to Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn has quickly made an impact in the short time he has been a part of the WWE roster. And he only officially debuted in March! He's been involved in a ruthless rivalry with Kevin Owens the entire time, and although he's been unsuccessful in overcoming Owens and winning the Intercontinental Championship, he has evolved into one of the main roster's few true babyfaces.
Zayn is perfect in the underdog role, and as fun as it would be to see him as Mr. Money in the Bank, it might be too soon. But hey, stranger things have happened, and he certainly wouldn't be an undeserving candidate. Zayn could and should be a world champion in WWE at some point, and he tends to flourish when fans underrate him. In other words, keep an eye out for a surprise Zayn win at Money in the Bank.
The Long Shot: Alberto Del Rio
Most fans rolled their eyes at the inclusion of Alberto Del Rio in this year's Money in the Bank Ladder match, especially after everyone who qualified for the bout the night after Extreme Rules could win it and a majority of viewers would be satisfied, but let's face: he is an excellent athlete and as a former world champion and Mr. Money in the Bank, he adds credibility to the contest.
I realize he hasn't done much of note in his latest run with the company other than having two forgettable runs with the United States Championship, but WWE has decently built him up as something of a threat as of late. He is the least likely to win, of course, but I could see a scenario (unfortunately) where he could. Reportedly, WWE promised Del Rio a major push when he came back last fall, which he has yet to receive. Could the Money in the Bank briefcase be his one-way ticket to reentering the main event scene? I would hope not. I mean, look how well that worked out for Sheamus last year.
The Guilty Pleasure: Chris Jericho
I have heard many people say, "Oh, there's no way Chris Jericho wins Money in the Bank this year" and I immediately asked, "Well, why not?" Obviously, he'll likely be leaving sooner rather than later, but he (along with the commentators) has pointed out multiple times in the last month that despite inventing the concept, he has yet to win the briefcase. And now is as good of a time as any.
This arguably has been Jericho's best run with the company since 2009 and he has been absolutely killing it in the heel role. If he were to win it, he would probably have to cash in the contact sometime this summer against Roman Reigns before he departs once again to tour with his band Fozzy. That could be an entertaining feud, but moreover, it would be awesome to (hopefully) see Jericho as world champion one more time in his career. He's earned it.
The Shocker: A Surprise Entrant
Initially, seven spots were declared vacant for this year's Money in the Bank Ladder match. However, only six were filled. I'm not sure if anyone in particular was scheduled to compete in the contest but couldn't for whatever reason, or if officials overestimated how many people they wanted in the match.
That seventh silhouette has since been erased, but it isn't impossible for someone to join the fray before the bell rings on Sunday night. The Miz did just that in 2012. There are a few Superstars it could be as well. Randy Orton may not be back for another month or so, but he'd be an excellent addition to the match, as would Neville. Bray Wyatt seems to be the name on everyone's mind. Imagine if he entered the matchup and went on to win it? That would be huge for the man who has yet to hold a championship in WWE. Regardless of who that last minute entry would be, don't count anyone else out until the match is officially underway.
SEE ALSO: "Bank On It: Top 5 WWE Money in the Bank Contenders"