Money-in-the-Bank is a phrase used to describe something that is guaranteed to succeed in life. Whether that be in a business venture or just something in your everyday life, Money-in-the-Bank is something that cannot and will not go wrong, it is a metaphorical hall pass to success. In WWE, there is no greater success or accolade than being a World Champion and, for the last decade, the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase has paid off for fourteen of its seventeen winners. For those unfamiliar with the Money-in-the-Bank concept, it is arguably one of WWE’s best original ideas as the annual Money-in-the-Bank Ladder Match pits a number of Superstars in a Ladder Match where the goal is to climb a ladder and retrieve the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase hanging high above the ring. Inside that briefcase is a contract that guarantees its holder a shot at a World Championship at any time they see fit for up to one year and, for the past ten years, the words “any time” have spelled doom for many a champion. Though the booking of “Mr. Money-in-the-Bank” and, in some cases, the subsequent title reign has been questionable, to say the least, in recent years, there’s no denying that the existence of the Money-in-the-Bank concept creates an heir of unpredictability and excitement in WWE as fans speculate and eagerly anticipate the inevitable cash-in and, more often than not, a Money-in-the-Bank cash in is always a welcome surprise for the fans in attendance as well as those watching at home.
The Ultimate Opportunist Sets The Pace
Arguably, no Superstar has earned the nickname “The Ultimate Opportunist” more than WWE Hall of Famer Edge, who racked up eleven World Title wins in his illustrious career and two of those title wins were thanks to the Money-in-the-Bank contract. Supposedly the brainchild of Chris Jericho, the first ever Money-in-the-Bank Ladder Match took place at WrestleMania 21 with Edge, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Kane, Christian, & Shelton Benjamin taking part in the inaugural melee for the briefcase. At the end of the match, it was the title-obsessed Edge who would become the first “Mr. Money-in-the-Bank” in history. At the time, all we knew was that the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase could be cashed in at any time for a guaranteed shot at the WWE Championship; it was a fresh concept with a ton of uncertainty surrounding it.
Then, on January 8, 2006 at WWE New Year’s Revolution, fans would witness what the Money-in-the-Bank contract is all about. After a bloody Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship where John Cena outlasted Kane, Carlito, Chris Masters, Shelton Benjamin, & Shawn Michaels to hang onto his WWE Championship, “The Champ” was not even on his feet when Vince McMahon would come out and proclaim that “this night is not over”, instructing the ring crew to raise the Elimination Chamber structure. The Chairman then explained that “this individual is cashing in his Money-in-the-Bank privilege that he earned at WrestleMania” before Edge would come out, briefcase in hand, with Lita by his side and, in one of the most iconic and surreal moments in WWE history, “The Rated R Superstar” would hand over his Money-in-the-Bank briefcase and the impromptu WWE Championship match would get underway with Edge chomping at the bit for his first World Title in WWE.
While the bloody champion would kick out after the first Spear from Edge, the second would do John Cena in as Edge would size up Cena and deliver a second Spear, securing the three-count and becoming the WWE Champion for the first time in his career. Edge would grasp the WWE Title with tears in his eyes as the Albany crowd erupted over the crowning of a new champion with Joey Styles putting it best by proclaiming “Edge has shocked the world”. Sure, Edge would lose the WWE Title back to John Cena a few weeks later at the Royal Rumble, but it was that moment on that night in Albany that Edge introduced the world to just how important it is to be in possession of the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase. That cold night in Albany would only be the start of Edge’s Rated-R era in WWE and Edge’s arrival as a main event Superstar all began thanks to Money-in-the-Bank.
Money-in-the-Bank Gets Taken to the Extreme
Often viewed as one of the best wrestlers in the world to never win a World Title in his career, that would all change for Rob Van Dam in 2006. After defeating Ric Flair, Finlay, Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, & Bobby Lashley in the Money-in-the-Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 22 to win the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase, the second “Mr. Money-in-the-Bank” in history would make history as, unlike his predecessor Edge, RVD would let WWE Champion John Cena know ahead of time that he would be cashing in his Money-in-the-Bank contract at ECW One Night Stand, giving the ECW Original the clear, home field advantage for his title match. Before The Zombie, Extreme Expose, and Vince McMahon as the ECW Champion, there was a lot of anticipation of the return of ECW as a third brand in WWE and that anticipation was evident at ECW One Night Stand 2006 (which, at the time, was WWE’s yearly tribute to the original ECW), especially after RVD made his intentions known to walk out as the new WWE Champion. In the infamous Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City where many a ECW star shed blood in their hardcore careers, WWE Champion John Cena would walk into a hostile environment the likes of which he had never seen before. With the rabid ECW fans solidly behind Rob Van Dam to the point of bringing signs such as “If Cena Wins, We Riot” and chanting derogatory things at “The Champ”, there was no doubt that the world was about to witness a momentous night.
In true ECW fashion, the WWE Championship match would be contested under Extreme Rules, meaning that anything goes and that would come to fruition in a hardcore championship match for the ages. What ensued was a match that initially resembled a pure wrestling match between champion and challenger, but would soon devolve into the extreme with RVD using his agility, not to mention the crowd’s overwhelming support, to combat John Cena on the outside. No stranger to taking things to the extreme (just see his “I Quit” Match against JBL at Judgment Day 2005), John Cena would hold his own in the championship match, taking some of RVD’s best shots and still staying in the fight while delivering some hardcore punishment of his own. At one point in the match, the ECW referee would show his bias towards Rob Van Dam and John Cena would respond by leveling the referee with a clothesline. Then, just when it looked like Cena had everything under control after delivering the F-U to RVD to the outside, it was Edge who would be the difference maker as “The Rated R Superstar” would emerge from under the ring, delivering a Spear to John Cena through the table. RVD would then hit Cena with the Five-Star Frog Splash and, with ECW mastermind Paul Heyman counting the pinfall, RVD was crowned the brand new WWE Champion, celebrating with the fans and his fellow ECW Originals alike, ushering in a new era in WWE.
On the premiere of ECW on Sci-Fi two nights later, the new WWE Champion was set to turn the WWE Championship into the new ECW World Heavyweight Championship, but Rob Van Dam would decide at the last minute that he wanted both championships, making “The Whole F’n Show” the first and only competitor in history to hold both the WWE Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at the same time. RVD would defend both titles separately against the Superstars of RAW and ECW, respectively, including a successful WWE Title defense against Edge at Vengeance. However, after Rob Van Dam and Sabu were arrested for drug possession on July 2, RVD would lose the WWE Championship to Edge in a Triple Threat Match on RAW that also featured John Cena. The next night on ECW on Sci-Fi, RVD lost the ECW World Heavyweight Championship to Big Show before both RVD and Sabu were suspended by WWE for 30 days.
The ‘Forgotten’ Money-in-the-Bank Winner
It’s no secret that Mr. Kennedy had a difficult time during his WWE tenure as injuries and suspensions cost Kennedy push-after-push, but Kennedy’s biggest bit of bad luck had to be after he won the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 23. Defeating Edge, Finlay, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, Randy Orton, & King Booker to win the briefcase on “The Grandest Stage of Them All”, Mr. Kennedy was set for, potentially, the biggest push of his career as the holder of the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase. Upon winning the guaranteed title opportunity, Mr. Kennedy would waste little time in setting his sights as high as possible, announcing the next night on RAW that he was going to cash in his Money-in-the-Bank contract at next year’s WrestleMania. Unfortunately for Mr. Kennedy, he would never get that opportunity as, a week later, Kennedy would put his Money-in-the-Bank briefcase on the line in a one-on-one match against Edge and Edge won the match, giving Mr. Kennedy the dubious distinction of being the only “Mr. Money-in-the-Bank” in history to lose his briefcase in a match. After this match, it was revealed that Mr. Kennedy had torn his right triceps muscle and would be out of action for five-to-seven months (though it was later revealed that the injury was not as serious as initially thought).
The decision to have Edge win the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase from Mr. Kennedy would make Edge the first Superstar to be a two-time Money-in-the-Bank winner and the first (and only to date) to win the briefcase in a one-on-one match. “The Ultimate Opportunist” would waste little time in cashing in his newly won opportunity as, just a few days later, Edge would cash in the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase on The Undertaker moments after The Undertaker retained the World Heavyweight Championship in a Steel Cage Match against Batista and was on the receiving end of a post-match assault by Mark Henry. Despite being a RAW Superstar, Edge would swoop in and defeat “The Phenom” to become the brand new World Heavyweight Champion.
CM Punk Makes Money-in-the-Bank History
Before he was the sixth longest reigning WWE Champion in history and his, not one, but two times walking out on WWE, CM Punk was a back-to-back winner of the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase. Punk’s first Money-in-the-Bank victory came at WrestleMania 24 when he defeated Carlito, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, & Chris Jericho in the annual Money-in-the-Bank Ladder Match, earning the then ECW Superstar his guaranteed shot at either the WWE Championship or the World Heavyweight Championship. A couple of months later, CM Punk was drafted to the RAW brand in the 2008 WWE Draft and “Mr. Money-in-the-Bank” would not wait long to make an impact as a RAW Superstar as, on his first official night as a RAW Superstar, CM Punk would capitalize on a vulnerable Edge, who had just been on the receiving end of a beat down from Batista, cashing in his Money-in-the-Bank opportunity, hitting the GTS and pinning Edge to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. Later that same night, CM Punk would make his first defense of the World Heavyweight Title, defeating JBL to retain the title. After only a little over two months as the World Heavyweight Champion, CM Punk would be the victim of one of the most questionable booking decisions in history. Prior to that year’s Unforgiven event, CM Punk was scheduled to defend the World Heavyweight Title in a Championship Scramble Match against Batista, JBL, Kane, and Rey Mysterio. However, that very same night, CM Punk was attacked in the backstage area by Legacy as Randy Orton punted CM Punk in the head, writing the World Heavyweight Champion out of his scheduled title defense. Punk was replaced in the Championship Scramble Match by Chris Jericho, who went on to win the match and become the new World Heavyweight Champion with Punk failing to regain the title from Jericho in a rematch the following week.
Throughout late 2008 and early 2009, CM Punk would not be a part of the World Heavyweight Title picture, but would have a reign as the World Tag Team Champions with Kofi Kingston and a reign as the Intercontinental Champion in early 2009. However, “The Straightedge Superstar” would find himself in a familiar situation at WrestleMania XXV as he was a part of the Money-in-the-Bank Ladder Match with Kane, Finlay, MVP, Christian, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, & Shelton Benjamin and this is when CM Punk would make Money-in-the-Bank history by winning the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase for the second year in a row, becoming the first and only Superstar to date to do so. Much like the year prior, CM Punk would switch brands in the WWE Draft and would find himself on SmackDown and, a month after winning the Money-in-the-Bank briefcase, CM Punk would cash it in at Extreme Rules, capitalizing on a weakened Jeff Hardy mere moments after Jeff had just won the World Heavyweight Championship in a Ladder Match against Edge (this would give Jeff Hardy the dubious distinction of having the third shortest reign as World Heavyweight Champion in history. Punk’s second reign as World Heavyweight Champion would arguably begin Punk’s true run as a main event star in WWE. Despite losing and regaining the World Heavyweight Title over the next couple of months (CM Punk’s three reigns as World Heavyweight Champion would total up to 160 days as champion while just his second reign as WWE Champion a few years later would crush that record at 434 days), CM Punk’s transformation during this time would establish him as a top level star in WWE.