Money in the Bank: The PPV Years

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One of the most hotly anticipated shows is almost upon us. Let’s look back at the highs and lows of the PPV favorite: Money in the Bank.

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After five years of wowing the WrestleMania audience and making stars into main-eventers, WWE decided to spin off the MITB concept to its own PPV. Of all the “gimmick PPVs” that have cropped up in the past decade, this is probably the best. It’s the only match where the match itself is its own reason for existing. With the Hell in a Cell PPV, you have to scramble to make a feud worthy of what used to be the end-all, be-all of blowoff matches. With Elimination Chamber, you have to scramble to find six guys with a legit claim on the world title. Money in the Bank however is not the end of the story; it’s the beginning. It works like the Royal Rumble does, as the launching pad to a superstar’s next step in his career’s journey.

At least, that’s the idea.

Since spinning off onto it’s own show, the number of winners has ballooned considerably, and as such the hit/miss ratio has taken a bit of a beating. It still has a good track record, but not like it had when it was a Mania-attraction.

Let’s have a look at the past winners of the PPV era and see which ones worked and which ones didn’t…

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2010: KANE WINS THE SMACKDOWN BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON REY MYSTERIO THE SAME NIGHT

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Did it work?

Not really. The same-night cash-in made for a shocking twist (one that hadn’t been tried before) but the real fault in the whole affair was the one they built it around. This was 2010 and Kane was not meant to carry a brand (he’s not meant to be a central focus in 2015 either, but here we are). His reign was basically an excuse to revisit the feud with Undertaker, in what would be the Dead Man’s final year of full time work. The feud culminated in the Brothers of Destruction facing each other for the first time inside Hell in a Cell. But the match, and all their matches after the first one at WrestleMania 14, was subpar.

Why Not?

Because all of Kane’s matches were subpar, his promo work was limiting, his character had lost its edge (he was never as scary without the mask) and nothing really compelling ever happened. He went over Undertaker multiple times in a row, but he never felt like anything more than a transitional champion (that’s the problem with giving a mid card vet a long title run; it ends up feeling like a gold watch “thanks for everything” thing and not an actual reign). After all his victories over Undertaker he ended up losing the title to Edge in a four-way match, ending the reign and making the first Smackdown MITB a bust.

2010: THE MIZ WINS THE RAW BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON RANDY ORTON AT THE NOVEMBER 22nd RAW

Did it work?

Yeah, depending on how you look at it. There are some people who will never say Miz’s run as MITB holder or champion was a success, but that’s only because Miz was a joke of a character. He was a fine enough mid carder but not main event material. Then he won the briefcase and he still looked like a fine enough mid carder and not main event material. Then he won the title and he still never convinced a sizable portion of the fanbase that he was not just another midcarder. His character work improved considerably during this time, but his ring work was less than stellar. He also didn’t look the part, and not in the “Kevin Owens: everyman” or “Bray Wyatt: large man, cult leader” sort of way: He had the body type of a Randy Orton, but not the actual physique. His feuds were uninspiring, with matches against Randy Orton and, of all people, Jerry Lawler. But at the same time…it worked.

Why?

It worked in a different sort of way: He became a star despite the fans protestations, as though that was the point. Just look at the video:

Look how far he came. A nobody loser reality star fan climbed the ladder to win the WWE Championship. Now you can hate who it was that was allowed such a journey, but you can’t deny the man worked hard to live the dream. I think the biggest knock on this whole period was, not Miz, but Cole and his horrid commentary. Looking at just Miz and his run it’s clear the MITB win launched him (albeit temporarily) to the top of the mountain.

2011: DANIEL BRYAN WINS THE SMACKDOWN BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON BIG SHOW AT TLC 2011

Did it work?

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Why?

To start with, it was Daniel Bryan, who, in early 2011, was a nobody in WWE. He was coming off a gimmick where he was a dork that was secretly a ladies man. It was horrendous, don’t look it up. He won the MITB briefcase on the now-famed 2011 edition of the show, that was filmed in front of the raucous Chicago crowd, on the same night that CM Punk would cement himself as THE superstar of the moment. His character remained pretty stagnant while holding the briefcase, as he promised he would announce his cash-in ahead of time, like a gentleman. Instead, like a punk, he surprised Big Show after a brutal chairs match with Mark Henry. After winning the title like a cheat, he began celebrating as though he had won the lottery. It’s natural to be excited about your first WWE world title win but with every successive cheap victory his celebrations would continue. His cries of “YES!” drew the ire and the boos of the WWE universe, turning the former dork into an insufferable jerk. It was great. Bryan never really stopped climbing (slowly) up the ladder until WrestleMania 30, but it was his MITB win that really told everyone to pay attention to him while he climbed. We did. And we’re glad we did.

2011: ALBERTO DEL RIO WINS THE RAW BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON CM PUNK AT SUMMERSLAM

Did it work?

Not really. I don’t know what it was, but Del Rio never clicked with the WWE audience. He was great in Mexico, and is doing great work with Lucha Underground, but in WWE it just never materialized. He was given honor after honor (Royal Rumble, Mania title match, PPV main events, the WWE title, the World Heavyweight title, a dastardly villain role and a heroic babyface run) but he was never more over on his last day than he was on his first day, or on any day in between. His MITB win was the second attempt to make something of him, after he won the Rumble and feuded with Edge and Christian over the World Heavyweight Championship. When Smackdown stopped working for him he jumped to Raw, was booked as a big deal, and after winning the MITB briefcase, he took the title off of the hottest act in the company, CM Punk. But his title run never really worked out for him.

Why Not?

Probably because, at the most critical moments of his push, he was sharing airtime with CM Punk, and the John Cena vs Rock feud. There was just no way to get his foot in the door. As much as he played the part of a “big deal” wrestler, he never really convinced anyone he was a big deal. The MITB briefcase alone was not enough to make you anymore; the gimmick was too well established by this point. In 2011 MITB was no longer a rocket, propelling you to the top, it was a hammer that let you break the door down: You still had to walk through and then do something after the fact. Del Rio never did (both as a result of his own inability to connect, the audience’s attention being diverted to more interesting things, and creatives failure to make him interesting).

2012: DOLPH ZIGGLER WINS THE SMACKDOWN BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON ALBERTO DEL RIO ON THE RAW-AFTER-WRESTLEMANIA 29

Did it work?

Yes (but the aftermath…).  This one felt a lot like the 2011 Bryan win, in that it was an internet favorite who looked unlikely to ever win a world title. But in 2012, after ten briefcase wins and ten successful cash-ins (giving Kennedy’s success to Edge), fans were torn as to whether they should be excited that the odds were in Ziggler’s favor, or worried that he would be the one to end the perfect record. Fans were excited since he went on to have some high profile feuds with Chris Jericho and Randy Orton, but fans were also worried when he lost his matches with both. They got excited again when he and his team won at Survivor Series, and then everything looked good when he and John Cena main evented TLC in a ladder match for his briefcase. Ziggler won what was, to that point, the biggest match of his career and looked set for superstardom. On the night after WrestleMania 29, he made his move and proved the company was right to give him the briefcase months earlier.

Why?

Listen to this crowd:

In my opinion, that’s still the best surprise cash-in of them all. It wasn’t a 1 minute nothing-match, like Edge and Bryan and others (including Del Rio) had. It was teased that it would be, then suddenly Ziggler was in the armbreaker looking like he might tap and everyone started to lose their brains. Then he wiggled out, hit his finisher and won all our hearts.

Then Jack Swagger concussed the title away from him, never to be seen again. Having said that, I can’t really let the aftermath hurt the greatness of the buildup. Ziggler won the briefcase, moved up the ladder, defeated the top superstar in the company and then cashed in to a deafening ovation. Were it not for sloppy wrestling on the part of his opponent, he would have been a made man.

2012: JOHN CENA WINS THE RAW BRIEFCASE, FAILS TO BEAT CM PUNK AT RAW1000

Did it work?

Yes, with conditions. Cena’s MITB win was purely driven by plot. With others, the win is the catalyst for a new storyline, but in this case it was another chapter in Cena’s quest to regain the title and face the Rock in a rematch. Also, WWE was running this whole “2012 is the worst year of Cena’s life” redemption storyline, which was just absurd on so many levels. But he would go on challenge CM Punk for the title on the biggest Raw show in history (and I was there!) and become the first person to cash-in and fail to win the title. That’s not a bad thing, either.

Why?

Cena failing to win on his cash-in worked on multiple levels. It worked as a way to get the monkey off the back of the MITB briefcase. Up until Cena’s Raw1000 match with CM Punk, cash-in attempts had gone 10 for 10 (Ziggler had not yet cashed in). Fans were afraid that whatever up and coming superstar that failed to win would be permanently scarred as “the guy who failed.” Having Cena take that loss was perfect because he was a big enough star to absorb the shame of it (not to mention Big Show turned heel—because of course he did—and cost Cena the match). Another reason why it was good that Cena lost was because his MITB storyline was different from all others. As said, his was only a part of an ongoing story. His MITB win actually lessened the briefcase, making it a mere prop to Cena’s already established quest. Having him lose keeps the pureness of the cash-in intact, allowing it to remain a big deal whenever someone wins it and starts their journey to the top. On the other hand…

2013: DAMIEN SANDOW WINS THE SMACKDOWN BRIEFCASE, FAILS TO BEAT JOHN CENA AT THE OCTOBER 28th RAW

wwe-damien-sandow-mitb-briefcase

Did it work?

Well no, no it didn’t. It didn’t work at all.

Why Not?

Because Cena lost on his cash-in attempt, so OF COURSE someone would try to cash in on him and fail spectacularly. Poor Damien Sandow. It really wasn’t his fault; he was just a victim of bad timing and unfortunate circumstances. When he won the title it was probably expected that he’d get a nice little run with the #2 belt, just as a test run to see how he’d do. But soon after Vince decided to unify the two belts and that left the blue briefcase dangling like a loose plot thread. So, hastily (the WWE way) Sandow was sent out there to challenge Cena, wrestle a pretty good and competitive match, and then lose, tidying up all the loose ends en route to Cena vs Orton part 1,382.  And that was the end of the blue briefcase.

2013: RANDY ORTON WINS THE RAW BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON DANIEL BRYAN AT SUMMERSLAM

Did it work?

Yes. It started us on the path that restructured the WWE into what we have today: The Authority, the Daniel Bryan victory at WrestleMania 30, the Shield break up, the reign of Brock Lesnar and the return of Sting all call back to this event. Too many huge moments in the past two years occurred for this not to have been considered a success. It wasn’t perfect at times, but it absolutely worked.

Why?

Because it made Orton’s heel turn mean something (in an era when heel/face turns mean little), which made Orton mean something (which he hadn’t for the past five years) which made Daniel Bryan’s chase to win back the title mean something (before it was prematurely ended, and then blessedly resurrected), which made the newly-christened Authority—and their quest to keep the title off of Bryan on Randy Orton (the story changed midstream, but that’s for another day)—mean something. Orton’s WWE title win (and later, unified WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign) was pretty unspectacular. He feuded with Bryan (yes!), then Big Show (no!), then Cena (no again!), then Bryan again (yes again!), but in this case, it was the fact that he and Triple H conspired to make it happen— robbing fans of the celebration at SummerSlam and of seeing Daniel Bryan’s victory parade—that made it mean so much more than it would if he had been given a title shot and cheated to win. Money in the Bank is the only avenue available where a heel can really surprise his opponent into a title match and a title loss, all at the same time. It’s the only avenue available where you can have a pure screwjob. All other title matches involve a mutual agreement between challenger and champion, so even if you get screwed, you knew going in that it was possible. When you get jumped from behind and wake up having lost your title, that’s an entirely different proposition.

2014: SETH ROLLINS WINS THE RAW BRIEFCASE, SUCCESSFULLY CASHES IN ON BROCK LESNAR AT WRESTLEMANIA 31

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Did it work?

Absolutely. Seth Rollins went from being the guy in February trying to keep the Shield from breaking up, to being the guy in June breaking up the Shield on his terms in a way that maximizes his potential. He pulled a Paul McCartney! He went from being the “boring one” of the Shield (with Ambrose as the crazy one, and Reigns as the quiet one) to being one of the best characters on Raw every week. You can hate that he’s booked like a loser, but you can’t deny that his character has improved ten-fold since splitting with the Shield. And that new character really was solidified when he won Money in the Bank.

Why?

He carried the briefcase better than anyone else. Edge never really used the briefcase, Miz held it up as a way to remind people he was actually supposed to be important, but Rollins held it up, with that stupid smug grin, and bragged about it like it was visual proof of his greatness (despite all the help he needed to win it, keep it, and cash it in). It became synonymous with his cocky, “face of the future” persona. His occasional attempts to cash it in were met with boos, not excited cheers from the mases. The briefcase became an essential part of his gimmick, so much so that it looked odd seeing him without it on the night after WrestleMania. Not to mention that he used it to cash-in on the most strongly-booked monster heel in WWE history, and had enough talent as a heel to turn the other guy babyface. He’s still the champion, though he very well could lose the title at Money in the Bank this year. If it happened, it would be a fitting end to a great story that really began a year earlier with the split of the Shield and with the clutching of a single gold briefcase.

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At first glance, this year’s Money in the Bank match lineup looks underwhelming. You’ve got the guy there because he sells death like a pro (Ziggler), the guys there to do something acrobatic and crazy (Kofi, Neville), the big names with nothing to do (Orton, Sheamus) and the guys with the storyline (Kane, Roman Reigns).

Looking at the list there is only one obvious name who should win: Roman Reigns. He could win it as a babyface and be the one playing mind games with the paranoid Rollins. On the other hand, he could always turn heel and be helped by Kane the way Rollins was a year earlier. That would open up some story possibilities too. However it happens, if he does win we might very well be looking back on that night as the beginning of his ascent to the top, the way last year was the beginning of Seth Rollins’ climb to the top of the mountain.

On the other hand if Kane wins,

lol let’s just pack it up.

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