by: Mitch Nickelson
I have a confession to make. I quit watching wrestling in 2005 and did not start watching again until Royal Rumble 2013. After watching pro-wrestling throughout my entire childhood and into my college years, I was pretty burned out on the product. After returning to the wonderful world of people pretending to beat each other up, I realized that there’s been a lot of good stuff that I’ve missed out on. Namely, the Money in the Bank matches.
While I did watch the original MITB match in 2005 and have caught the two from 2013, I’ve missed every single one in between. That’s quite a lot of ladder matches. Thirteen to be exact. So what is a pro-wrestling columnist to do? I’m going to go back and watch every single one. I’ll highlight some of the big moments as I go along and throw in my thoughts on it all.
Care to make this journey with me? This is an ambitious task that I’m going to break up into three parts. So without further rambling, let’s start back at the beginning.
1. Wrestlemania 21
Los Angeles. CA
April 3, 2005
Chris Benoit, Edge, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Kane, and Christian
This gimmick got off to a hot start. This was a great match with several high spots. It did a very good job of letting each competitor get a chance to shine at some point. While I wasn’t so impressed with the Shelton Benjamin spot where he ran up the leaning ladder for the clothesline during this viewing, I remember at the time it was a defining moment in Benjamin’s singles career. It was such an innovative moment that really helped him stand out.
I forget who he did this to, but there was a point a when Benjamin did a running splash into an opponent who was leaning against a ladder in the corner. J.R. rightly called the move a “Stinger Splash.” That was a moment that made my day.
Edge got a ton of boos as he starting climbing the ladder for the win. He was cheered as well when he won, but I really don’t remember the booking of the match. I assume he was a heel at this time.
280 days after this match, Edge would cash in his title shot against WWE Champion John Cena after Cena successfully completed a title defense inside the brutal Elimination Chamber. Smart move, because Edge won. Good choice of picking your spot.
2. Wrestlemania 22
April 2, 2006
Rob Van Dam, Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Ric Flair, Finlay, and Bobby Lashley
Looking up the match times on Wikipedia, this is the shortest MITB match ever. While match time is only officially 12:14, they sure do pack a lot of action in such a short amount of time. Shelton Benjamin was staking his claim that this was his match, delivering many of the more memorable spots in the match. He ran up the ladder again this year, but this time he did it in a diving board fashion as he performed a diving senton over the ropes and out of the ring. I also liked the sunset flip over the top of the ladder onto Bobby Lashley. Needing help from Hardy and Finlay to finish the move onto Lashley made for a nice effect.
What I like about this gimmick, and in particular this match, is how so many people that really have no right to be in a ladder match can come in and it works. I would have never imagined Ric Flair in a ladder match, but he does a great job in this. He takes a huge bump via suplex by Matt Hardy off of the top of the ladder and has to exit the match due to his injuries. But what a reaction he got when he came back to the arena to finish the match! His presence alone added to this match, but he went above and beyond and took some big spills as well. Finlay was a kind of a waste, but whatever.
The finish was really fun. RVD could have climbed the ladder after he Frog Splashed Finlay and that would have been a good ending. But just to make it more exciting, Benjamin randomly lands on the other side of RVD’s ladder to try to make a stop. Seriously, was he just hanging out on a helicopter nearby or something? Matt Hardy set up a ladder as well to join in on the fun. RVD pushed them both over when they were battling on the ladder adjacent to him and secured the briefcase to a huge ovation.
RVD would hold on to his contract for 70 days. He would announce that he would cash in his title shot at ECW One Night Stand against WWE Champion John Cena. While it might seem unwise to telegraph this opportunity like he did, RVD won the title due to interference by Edge.
3. Wrestlemania 23
April 7, 2007
Edge, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, Mr. Kennedy, King Booker, Finlay, Matt Hardy, and Randy Orton
The first two MITBs were the second match on the card. This one went first. The brand extension was in full effect and that meant that we got a bloated announce team for this match. I really like JBL, but the other five announcers were too cluttered for me.
I always wondered why nobody would run up the ladder really fast at the beginning of these matches. It’s chaos, they might go unnoticed. The opening sequence for this match had a series just like that. Everyone tried to sprint up the ladder for the quick win. Nobody was successful, obviously.
The big bump of the match came with Jeff Hardy leg-dropping Edge through a ladder. Hardy was on a big ladder inside the ring and Edge was laying on a ladder that was laying under the bottom rope out to the barricade. Edge took the brunt of the big fall. He was put on a stretcher and carted backstage. I kind of hoped he’d come back a few minutes later like Flair did in the MITB last year. He didn’t. Wuss.
I was surprised how much people cheered for Hornswoggle. I didn’t mind it now and thought it was a little funny, but I probably would have been annoyed at his involvement if I’d been watching live. He got a big pop from the crowd when he punched Kennedy on the top of the ladder.
Kennedy would win the match, but after holding the contract for 36 days he would put it on the line in a match with Edge and lose. I think there was a legit injury that happened to cause this contract transfer. Edge would cash in against the Undertaker and win the World Heavyweight Championship immediately after the Undertaker finished a steel cage match with Batista and Mark Henry. Edge sure knows how to pick his spots.
4. Wrestlemania 24
March 30, 2008
Mr. Kennedy, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, John Morrison, Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, and Montel Vontavious Porter
This ladder match feels like it’s getting crazier and more death-defying every year. The seven guys in this year’s battle do everything they can to make the claim that this is the best MITB so far in the series.
I haven’t seen much of anything of the career of MVP. Even though I think his ring gear is a little goofy, he was good in this match. He was the guy holding the fort in the middle of the ring while everyone went for the ladders. They would have to go through him first. Matt Hardy got a thunderous ovation when he emerged later into the match to rob MVP of the win. I didn’t know much of the back-story with them, but they got a great reaction in that moment.
Shelton Benjamin always makes a good showing and this year he pulled off some spots that were flat-out insane. The sunset flip onto Mr. Kennedy, who was already superplexing John Morrison off of the ladder, was one of the highlights of the night. Benjamin also put his life on the line when he made that big fall from the top of the ladder in the middle of the ring through the ladder on the outside. The guy really went out of his way to make this gimmick of a match spectacular.
John Morrison also took some big dives. He did a backflip from the top rope to the outside while holding a ladder. That spot looked like he didn’t quite get the distance he had hoped for, but it was still insane. Chris Jericho put him into a brutal looking Walls of Jericho on the top of the ladder as well. That move always looks painful.
Jericho and CM Punk were in the final sequence, battling at the top of the later. They brawled and slammed each other with the briefcase. Punk tripped up Jericho, who was dangling off of his side of the ladder. He was helpless as Punk secured the briefcase for the victory.
Winner: CM Punk.
This was the second year in a row that they had two announcers from each brand during this match. It’s just too much. Just pick a team and let them announce the whole match by themselves.
CM Punk held the contract for 92 days before cashing it it. He successfully defeated Edge with the GTS on an episode of Monday Night Raw. Apparently Batista had just beat up Edge, so that was a wise move by the Straight Edge Superstar.
Part 1 Final Thoughts
These were four fantastic ladder matches. It’s no wonder that this gimmick match has become such a huge part of the current landscape of WWE. I don’t know if Chris Jericho gets residuals for this idea or not, but this is a big money draw of a match that could be a staple for years to come just like the Royal Rumble.
I’ll mention a few things that particularly stood out so far. Obviously, Shelton Benjamin has branded himself with this match. So many great spots by that guy. Ric Flair also was a standout. Taking that superplex in the second MITB match was so impressive by the aging legend. Finlay seemed like the most off entrant into these matches, but the moment when Hornswoggle came out with him got a surprisingly big reaction that was amusing. Mr. Kennedy and MVP seemed like two characters that had a ton of potential. I missed their WWE runs and it feels like a shame that they never got a real chance in the top tier.
The gimmick is great and with the world title shot contract, it gives a real reason for all of the competitors to want to be in this match. Fighters risk their lives for the greatest prize in this business and I’m stoked to watch the next few matches in this series.