The popular opinion these days is that Daniel Bryan will win the Money in the Bank “All-Stars” match and go on to challenge and defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship.
The ending to this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw, however, essentially confirmed that will not happen.
It’s classic WWE booking for the man who gets the upper hand on the last Raw episode before a pay-per-view to end up losing at the actual PPV. If that holds true, which it usually does, it won’t be Bryan who wins the MITB All-Star match.
So, who will it be? Randy Orton.
It’s been nearly three years since Orton last held the WWE Championship, but recent happenings on WWE TV suggest he’s the man who will walk away from one of the most star-studded MITB ladder matches ever with the briefcase in hand.
Throughout the history of Money in the Bank, we’ve seen two very different but equally huge factors play into Money in the Bank victories and eventual cash-ins.
One is that the eventual MITB winner goes on a bit of a losing streak before he wins the briefcase, which is supposed to add an element of surprise to the victory. The other is that the MITB victory can serve as a great catalyst for a heel turn, like it did with CM Punk back in 2009.
When you consider Orton’s current stance in the WWE, both factors definitely apply to him.
Orton hasn’t consistently lost in recent months, but over the course of the last few weeks, he’s main evented Raw in major matches twice. The result of both of those bouts was the same: He lost.
It was only three weeks ago that Orton faced Bryan in a No Disqualification match on Raw—a match that ended with Orton tapping out cleanly to the No Lock. Fast forward to this week, and Orton lost Raw’s main event again cleanly when he was pinned by Punk after a GTS.
Heading into Money in the Bank, Orton is in a bit of a slump. In many major sports, that’s a sign that a team or athlete probably won’t win the “big one.” But not in pro wrestling.
When it comes to the WWE, that’s a way of “throwing off the fans” to make them think a Superstar won’t win a big upcoming match. In reality, however, that’s exactly what the Superstar will do.
That theory can certainly be applied to Orton right now too.
He just lost two major matches to two guys he’ll be facing at Money in the Bank, but that’s nothing for him or his fans to fret about. In fact, it makes him the favorite—except for maybe Bryan—heading into Money in the Bank.
The “losing streak” angle also ties in with another twist we’ve seen result from Money in the Bank matches: a cash-in that leads to a heel turn.
Punk did this in epic fashion in 2009 when he cashed in on Jeff Hardy, gradually turned heel and became arguably the WWE’s best villain. Bryan did it in late 2011/early 2012 when he cashed in on Big Show, became overly egotistical about it and slowly turned heel, which led him to a world title match at WrestleMania 28.
Orton could very well follow suit.
The chatter about a potential Orton heel turn has gone on for what seems like forever now. It’s actually been talked about for so long that it feels like it will never happen.
But if and when it does, a Money in the Bank cash-in could serve as the perfect means for that Orton heel turn to happen.
It worked out incredibly well for Punk. Ditto for Bryan. The same will happen with Orton.
It’s such a simple story when a great babyface either turns heel by cashing in or cashes in and then turns heel. It’s an easy story that could turn even the most over babyface into a top heel, as long as the opponent and timing are right.
Just imagine, for example, an enraged Orton winning the briefcase, beating the life out of Cena after Cena’s already had a match and then cashing in on a beaten Cena to become WWE champion. That’s a great way to turn fans against Orton and send him back to his heel roots.
On the flip side, the creative team could just as easily have Orton go the Punk route (cash in on a face and then slowly turn heel) or the Bryan route (have him get so cocky about his win that the fans start to hate him).
Obviously, though, the only way to make either of those scenarios happen is for Orton to win the Money in the Bank briefcase first.
Will he do it? It sure looks like it.
Bryan standing tall at the end of this week’s Raw probably eliminates him. Punk will be busy with Brock Lesnar in the near future. Sheamus seems to have taken a step back. Rob Van Dam isn’t going to win it, because he’s a part-timer. Kane has virtually no shot at it. Christian has the worst odds of the group.
That leaves Orton as the most logical Money in the Bank winner.
It’s been three years since he’s known what it feels like to be WWE champion. But at Money in the Bank, that will change when “The Viper” wins the briefcase for the very first time.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!