It's Money in the Bank time once again. Has there been a more consistent WWE pay per view in the last few years? Whether it was CM Punk's breakout party in 2011, Kane cashing in on Rey Mysterio in the same evening or Punk and Bryan's master class last year, it has been an event to look forward to for the last three years. This year is no different, with a card full of intrigue outside of the ladder matches. It is the ladder matches that we are all looking forward to though, that give the event its name and status.
Since its first outing eight years ago, the Money in the Bank ladder match has been seen at the vehicle for those who are smashing their faces against the glass ceiling. The briefcase is the sledge that is supposed to help them crack through. Every year when the competitors are named, there will be one or two who everyone claims is ready to break into the main event. Last year it was Dolph Ziggler, this year it really could be anyone in the blue briefcase bout. But has carrying the briefcase really elevated the man with it in his hands? Has it been the propeller to move anyone from almost top level to top level without doubt? I would argue not. Let's go through the past winners and see what carrying around the case did (or did not do) for them.
The inaugural winner of the Money in the Bank match was Edge. At WrestleMania XXI, the concept was introduced and went down an absolute storm. The field was strong, the match contained a lot of innovation and any of the winners would have been deserving. In the end, Edge won and went on to cash in a whole 280 days later. He had been knocking on the door for an extremely long time, and even had some title shots whilst carrying the case. When he finally cashed in, it looked like it was his time. A WrestleMania main event beckoned. That's not how it transpired however, and 21 days later the belt was back around the waist of John Cena. Back to the waiting list for you, Mr Copeland. Edge would eventually be cemented as a main event guy, but it's difficult to argue that it was winning the briefcase that allowed this to happen.
Rob Van Dam won the second edition, and to this day he is the only man to have cashed in the briefcase in a legitimate match as opposed to a smash and grab. Once again, he had been there or thereabouts for a long time, and his title reign would only last 22 days. It's impossible to predict what might have happened if he hadn't gotten himself suspended, and its entirely possible that he would have been in the One Night Stand main event with or without cashing in the briefcase to get there. Mr Kennedy (now Mr Anderson in TNA) was the third winner, and he didn't even get to cash in. He lost his chance to our first winner, Edge, who would successfully cash in against The Undertaker. This run would only last 70 days until injury sidelined him.
The next two ladder extravaganzas were won consecutively by CM Punk, becoming the first and so far only man to win the match itself twice. His subsequent title reigns would begin the trend of poor and insecure booking for the new champion. Punk's reigns would last 69 and 42 days respectively, and neither championship run covered the man in glory. Indeed, the first of these reigns would end without him even losing a match, instead being written out of the title via the boot of Randy Orton. The briefcase did allow Punk to reach the pinnacle of the industry, but he would spend a lot of time back in the upper reaches of the midcard afterwards. Indeed, it wasn't until his fourth wall breaking promo in the summer of 2011 did he solidify himself as a main event man.
Jack Swagger won the last Money in the Bank match to be held at WrestleMania (so far), a match that was the weakest so far. It contained ten combatants, meaning it became way too much of a clusterchump to enjoy. Swagger would come out on top, taking an absolute age to remove the case. He would cash in a mere five days later, and go on to have one of the most poorly booked championship reigns in all of the times. It was a reign that would last 82 days, and Swagger has floundered ever since. The briefcase and subsequent run could also be considered to have damaged Jack Swagger.
From the very same year, Money in the Bank would go from being a showcase match at WrestleMania to a pay per view in its own right. Both Raw and Smackdown would have their own brand specific matches, with a red and a blue briefcase up for grabs. The Miz and Kane would win their respective matches at the first event, and go on to have the longest reigns in Money in the Bank winner history, at 160 and 154 days respectively. This looks good, but its often forgotten that Miz's reign involved mostly defending the belt against Jerry Lawler, and Kane frequently beat a recently vegetative Undertaker. Kane has been a top tier/just under top tier player for the majority of his career, and the briefcase was merely a vehicle to give him another world championship run.
The Miz was different, though. From being the Marty Jannetty of his tag team with John Morrison, he had managed to become one of the most improved characters on the entire roster. The momentum was with him, he won many titles and this was to be his big moment. It proved so, when he cashed in on Randy Orton later that year. A WrestleMania main event followed, and a new main event heel was born. Finally, the briefcase had created a star. Or had it? After losing the title to Cena, Miz fell quick and fell far, even getting the losing streak treatment. He disappeared, re-appeared, floundered a bit more and is now immensely stale as a face. The bump that the briefcase gave him was merely short term.
In 2011, Alberto Del Rio and Daniel Bryan won their ladder matches. Del Rio has been designated as a star by WWE since his debut, and was a Royal Rumble winner prior to this. It's clear that Money in the Bank was another attempt to finally convince the fans of his legitimacy, but today he is still short of superstar status. His first run after cashing in would last a mere 5 weeks. Bryan had a much longer reign, coming in at 105 days, but his run was highlighted by him ducking out of matches against Mark Henry and Big Show before losing in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania. It could be argued that the 18 second loss did more for him in the long run than his briefcase win and subsequent championship run.
Which brings us to last year. We can disregard John Cena winning the Raw briefcase, as of course he was already a top level guy. The winner of the blue box however, Dolph Ziggler, was once again the type of performer who seemed tailor made for the situation. He had built up a lot of momentum, flirted with the top titles but never quite made that final step. As a cocky, arrogant heel, this was perfect. He eventually cashed in on Alberto Del Rio (I love the past call backs of some of these cash ins) after holding the case for 267 days (second longest after Edge's first hold), but his title run was unfortunately cut short by injury (caused of course by previous winner, Jack Swagger). Similar to RVD's run, we can never know what the original plan was. Maybe the briefcase cash in was going to be the beginning of long term success for the Show Off. We'll never know.
I would argue that winning the briefcase has only ever helped individuals in the short term, which is indicative of the wrestling business as a whole. Of the 11 successful cash ins, only three have then had championship runs lasting more than three months. Indeed, more than 50% have lasted 70 days or less. With the exception of Rob Van Dam, all of the successful cash ins have been hit and run jobs, which despite creating initial excitement and tense stories, doesn't lend itself to a new strong champion. The insecure booking that usually follows makes this clear. Sometimes it seems that it has just enabled more people to be former world champions.
Money in the Bank is in a strange position. It has the strange juxtaposition of being incredibly exciting but in need of freshening up. I believe that the format can be freshened up in two ways, both of which are possible from the line ups on this coming Sunday. It's been said before, but it would be interesting to see somebody win the title without cashing in, and then have a championship run with the briefcase as well. The second option is for someone to do what Daniel Bryan said he originally would do, and that is wait until the WrestleMania main event to cash in. Maybe this can be run two on that particular story for the Bearded Dragon. Either way, the format needs a shot in the arm, before it becomes predictable in its very unpredictability.
That's it for this week folks. What do you think? Do you think winning the briefcase has truly benefited people in the long term? How would you freshen up the concept? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below or find me all over the internet via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@pingvinorkestra). It should be a fun event either way. Thanks for reading.