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WWE

Zelina Vega and Andrade

The weeks after WrestleMania are almost always a time of creative drought for WWE.

Having blown off most of its storylines at its biggest show of the year, the promotion tends to cruise until it starts building toward SummerSlam, its second biggest.

This year, however, WWE can't afford to cruise. Raw ratings are already alarmingly low, and with Smackdown set to move to Fox in the fall, the promotion's return to network television could be ruined before it even begins. It could already be a matter of when, not if, Fox banishes the struggling show to one of its subsidiary channels.

So Vince McMahon has "shaken things up," as he's so fond of growling, with another superstar shuffle between the Raw, Smackdown and NXT rosters. He's even introduced a new "wild card" rule that allows a few superstars from Raw to appear on Smackdown each week, and vice versa. It's a transparent ploy to liven up each show with manufactured surprise. And, more often than not, those wild cards will surely be given to the names TV executives want to see on both shows, like Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair. I don't see the B-Team pulling double-duty.

But there's a problem with the superstar shakeup and the wild card rule, and it's not just the fact that they make WWE's brand split pointless. It's that they don't really address the promotion's creative drought. Seeing wrestlers on the show they're not supposed to be on is a novelty, and once it fades — and it'll fade quickly — WWE will be back to square one. 

No, WWE needs to be creative the way it's traditionally been creative: storylines. And that's why next Sunday's Money in the Bank couldn't be happening at a more fortuitous time.

(Except for the fact the show will run against the series finale of HBO's "Game of Thrones," but that's neither here nor there.)

The Money in the Bank briefcase has long been one of WWE's most reliable storytelling tools. A wrestler having a briefcase that gives them an instant title shot, whenever they choose to use it, is rife with dramatic possibility. So when it comes to predicting which superstars will win this year's Money in the Bank matches, it's probably wisest to weigh which ones will maximize that possibility.

On the men's side, Drew McIntyre and Andrade stand out. I'd give the edge to Andrade because the brutish McIntyre really doesn't need the briefcase to complete his ascension to the main event. But Andrade, with both the briefcase and mouthpiece Zelina Vega in tow, would be a dynamic foil to Kofi Kingston, Reigns or whoever carries the WWE Championship into the Fox debut.

The women's side is even easier to pick. Natalya and Dana Brooke have no chance. Naomi, Bayley and Ember Moon have a slight one, but the briefcase is always much more fun in the hands of a heel. And Alexa Bliss and Carmella won the match the last two years. That leaves the scheming sexpot Mandy Rose the head-and-shoulders favorite. And as we've seen with Charlotte and now Lacey Evans, Becky Lynch has a lot of fun ripping blondes to shreds on the microphone. But I could see one way that doesn't happen: A returning Sasha Banks replacing someone (probably Brooke) and playing spoiler. Banks' backstage issues aside, her channeling her real-life resentment at her place in the company into a program with Lynch could be terrific television, and certainly terrific wrestling.

Whoever claims the Money in the Bank briefcases this year, don't expect anyone to cash them in that night, as wrestlers have done often in recent years. WWE can't squander the opportunity.


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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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