Illustration: Krystal Ramirez

T-Mobile Banking on Big Entertainment With WWE

Oh, Las Vegas, don’t you dare be sour … come to the T-Mobile Arena and feel the power.

For the first time in eight years, the WWE is bringing one of its sports entertainment spectaculars to town when its Money in the Bank pay-per-view headlines the new arena June 19.

WWE has pioneered the presentation of that all-American entertainment from the 1980s “rock and wrestling” days to the current era, defined by a family-friendly presentation and content streamed exclusively on the WWE Network, the first-ever 24/7 direct-to-consumer network that has changed the way fans engage wrestling.

In today’s WWE, the grappling—and storylines—unfold over seven hours of television a week, with the action cresting to a peak at monthly pay-per-views, three-hour specials in which grudges are ended, bad guys (sometimes) get their comeuppance, and superstars combine showmanship with athleticism in a way that has to be experienced live to be truly appreciated.

Money in the Bank will see several superstars collide. In the eponymous ladder match, six WWE superstars will battle each other while trying to scale a ladder to grab the Money in the Bank briefcase, which contains a contract they can cash in at any time over the following year to challenge the reigning champ. The popular Dean Ambrose, underground underdog Sami Zayn, no-nonsense prizefighter Kevin Owens, “pride of Mexico” Alberto Del Rio, Swiss superman Cesaro and self-proclaimed greatest of all time Chris Jericho each has a motivation for grabbing the brass ring.

A recent addition to the card, though, may be the most engaging, as tag team champions the New Day take on three challenging teams in a Fatal 4-Way match.

The main event is similarly compelling. Seth Rollins, who can truthfully claim he never lost his WWE World Heavyweight Championship (he was forced to surrender the belt after suffering an in-ring injury and was never pinned or submitted) seeks to reclaim it from Roman Reigns, the current top dog. Rollins, who won the championship following a Money in the Bank cash-in during the main event of WrestleMania 31, is proof that winning the briefcase can be a ticket to the big time.

In other matches, 2015 Celebrity Dad of the Year Titus O’Neil will attempt to wrest the United States Championship from the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev, and the accomplished A.J. Styles will take on longtime fan favorite John Cena.

A recent addition to the card, though, may be the most engaging, as tag team champions the New Day take on three challenging teams in a Fatal 4-Way match. The New Day are a trio of incredibly popular performers who have won over crowds with their sometimes fourth wall-breaking pre-match antics. High-flying Kofi Kingston is the veteran of the group; Xavier Woods, who outside the ring is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational psychology, rallies the crowd by playing the trombone before and sometimes during matches. The anchor of the team, Big E, is a charismatic powerhouse who has also appeared on E! reality show Total Divas.    

Most teams shy away from matches like the Fatal 4-Way, since the champions do not have to be pinned or submitted to lose their belts, but Big E is looking forward to it, partially because it will bring the fans something new.

“We’re always looking for a test and challenge,” the record-breaking powerlifter says, “and the Fatal 4-Way features three teams that weren’t even on the main roster as of last May.” The Club, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, are an impact-making import from Japan. The WWE’s NXT developmental territory produced the other two teams. Enzo Amore is one of the most gifted talkers to grace a WWE ring in years; his partner, Big Cass, is 7 feet tall—and, as Amore reminds viewers, you can’t teach that. The Vaudevillains, Aiden English and Simon Gotch, seek to bring the manliness of a bygone era back to the WWE.

Each of the matches balances the sports and entertainment aspects of the WWE, but the tag team championship promises to showcase, in a nutshell, much of what makes the WWE so engaging—high-powered athleticism combined with larger-than-life characters who can tell a story in the ring. The New Day is emblematic of this approach: Each of the trio is capable of genuinely impressive physical feats, but it might be their microphone work—including video game and pop culture references ranging from Dragon Ball Z to Game of Thrones—that keeps viewers watching.

And staging Money in the Bank in Las Vegas might make it that much bigger a spectacle—for both the fans and the superstars.

“Obviously there’s a little … not added pressure, but added excitement, I think,” says Big E, referencing the city’s reputation as a home for epic MMA and boxing matches. So a night of matches to remember at the T-Mobile Arena this Sunday might not be a gamble … it might be money in the bank.

For more, read our Q&A with Big E on VegasSeven.com/MoneyInTheBank.

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