The WWE has no illusions about what the Money in the Bank match is all about. Neither should fans. You're paying to see highly paid and enormously talented professional wrestlers throw themselves into, and off of, ladders of various heights.
It's almost always compelling television. That doesn't mean it's good. A car crash can be compelling too—and in a way, that's exactly what this is. Only, instead of a Nissan and a Toyota colliding, it's Sheamus and Daniel Bryan crashing full speed into a ladder.
Money in the Bank, for all its faults, isn't without import. It traditionally sets the table for the months to come. The men who win the briefcases will be featured on television, at least until they end the suspense and finally cash in. Stars are born with a win and established superstars are given new life.
It's almost always an exciting pay-per-view, and this edition was no exception. As always, I've graded each match from last to first. Disagree with my analysis? Let me know in the comments.
Randy Orton won the match after hitting Rob Van Dam with an RKO off the ladder.
"The man dubbed Mr. Monday Night is on a roll."—Michael Cole on a returning Rob Van Dam.
"The Bingo Hall is being replicated here."—JBL on the famous ECW Arena.
"All shapes and sizes."—Cole as Christian hits almost everyone with an inexplicably small ladder.
"This is about retrieving the briefcase, not breaking somebody in half."—King as Sheamus seemed to forget that.
"This isn't going to end well."—King as all six men stand on two ladders.
"We want tables. We want tables."—ECW fans in the crowd.
"Christian could win this thing right here."—JBL. He didn't sound convinced.
"Rob Van Dam."—Crowd as RVD leaps off the tippy top of the ladder onto Christian.
"The world's toughest idiot may win another Money in the Bank ladder match."—JBL as Daniel Bryan cleans house.
"What are you messing with him for?"—Paul Heyman to an unconscious Curtis Axel who interfered with the match for unknown reasons.
"I'm not sure what we're seeing here."—Cole. We were seeing Heyman turn on Punk.
- Big pop for a returning Rob Van Dam who looks exactly like he did 10 years ago. Has he been in TNA or a time machine?
- All the crazy high flying and one of the spots that resonated the most was a right hand by Sheamus on Christian right through the rungs of the ladder. Low and awesome.
- Punk took a bow after riding the ladder down to the mat with poor Sheamus underneath. Nice little touch.
- Daniel Bryan did all of his regular high-intensity offense, but did it into a ladder. That man is legitimately crazy.
- Not sure why Curtis Axel came down or why exactly Heyman turned on Punk just as he was about to win the match. Seems like he would have been better off siding with Punk. I guess we'll hear all bout it on Raw.
Analysis and Grade
A-. Well, the cars crashed.
If that's what you paid for, that's what you got. These are six of the WWE's top talents, so of course the match delivered. Sheamus, in particular, was great in this match. He took and delivered the big spots, and there is something about the over-the-top brutality that makes even his basic offensive look, well, just plain mean.
Orton didn't deliver much besides to spectacular finish. Is the WWE ready to get behind him again? Talent has never been the issue for The Viper. Maybe he's finally ready to take his place at the top of the promotion?
John Cena makes Mark Henry tap to the STF.
"Forget his lips, read his shirt."—King on Cena's "The Champ is Here" t-shirt. Product placement!
"You mine."—Mark Henry to Cena.
"Perhaps the most polarizing figure in WWE history."—Michael Cole on Cena. That's interesting. Is it Cena? Or do HBK and Vinny Mac better fit that bill?
"That is just monkey butt ugly and effective."—JBL on Henry throwing his bulk around.
"Too much!"—Cole as Cena fails to get Henry up for a bodyslam.
"What do you do when you go to the well and the well is dry?"—JBL on Cena's struggles.
- They list Henry at 412 pounds. I'd like to see what actually happens when he steps on a scale.
- Henry was super sweaty from the get-go. Want to bet whether or not that sweat smelled suspiciously like expired Twinkies?
- Henry dropped Cena ribs-first on the ring steps after holding him in the air for a long, long time. That one looked like it hurt.
- Henry put one hand on the top of Cena's head and one under his chin. Then he squeezed. That's a pretty cool Iron Claw variant.
Analysis and Grade
B+. The match was built around Henry. More specifically, it was built around Henry's bulk. Could Cena use his regular array of power moves? For much of the match he struggled. But once he got Henry on his broad shoulders? All the mystery was removed from the match. At that point it became a matter of when, not if.
Dolph Ziggler was disqualified when A.J. Lee interfered.
"He would have gone to the Olympic Games if it wasn't in Australia and Mexico could have afforded it."—JBL on Alberto Del Rio. Can you imagine? Del Rio was a legitimate wrestler, once competing with Randy Couture at the Pan Am Games.
"That last one looked like a young Kevin Von Erich."—JBL. What, did Ziggler take his shoes off?
"She's going to ruin a heck of a championship match."—JBL on A.J. Lee.
"I've got this. Get out of here."—Ziggler to A.J. She didn't look happy with that.
"I love you A.J."—Random fan. Or was that me at home? Both?
- Ziggler bumps like a maniac. That's worth noting. Always.
- Ten consecutive elbow drops? Can you suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy that spot? I'm up in the air.
- Pretty nifty spot where Del Rio went for a dropkick near the ropes, Ziggler ducked, and Alberto went crashing to the floor.
- Ziggler pulls Del Rio off the top rope face-first to the mat. Incredible high spot.
- Del Rio wasn't about to let Ziggler get the last word when it came to hot high spots. He hit a reverse superplex to put his own stamp on the match.
Analysis and Grade
A. I love heel Del Rio, and Ziggler was made to be a face-in-peril. So the dynamics of this match appealed to me. This was a legitimately exciting match, and it looks like Ziggler is coming into his own as a performer.
Ryback rolled up Chris Jericho after he missed a Lionsault to win clean.
"I'd rather listen to Michael Cole on commentary for six hours in a row than be in the ring with Ryback."—King. He must really, really be scared of Ryback. Cause...man.
"It's called riding time."—JBL, perhaps confusing this with NCAA action. I'm pretty sure they don't track riding time in WWE.
"Ryback just invented a new move."—JBL.
"It's called Jericho tossing."—King. Solid comic timing there.
- Crowd whoos as Jericho hits a series of chops. For a second it was Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat all over again. Philadelphia is a city that appreciates history.
- Ryback stands upright with his back to Jericho forever before getting creamed with a forearm off the top rope. It was the kind of terrible spot that takes you out of the match for a time.
- The two made up for the faux pas with a great finish. Ryback moved out of the way as Jericho looked for the Lionsault. But Jericho managed to land on his feet. Score one for Jericho? Not so fast. Ryback, quick to take advantage, rolled him up for a great win.
Analysis and Grade
B. Enjoyed this one more than I expected to. They weren't perfect, but the two have pretty good chemistry in the ring. Twenty years ago, Ryback would have been an amazing opponent for Shawn Michaels to bump off of. Jericho isn't a bad replacement.
Lee makes Kaitlyn submit to the Black Widow.
"We call her crazy. She is crazy. But she's crazy like a fox."—JBL on AJ Lee.
"Morals are subjective."—JBL on AJ Lee's conniving ways.
"It's nothing Carnegie didn't do. Nothing Gates didn't do."—JBL. Yes, he just compared AJ to Bill Gates.
"That slap is an insult, but that clothesline will take you down."—The King, explaining the difference between words and deeds.
- Was that AJ Lee working the arm like she was the cutest possible Dory Funk JR? Indeed.
- Best spot of the match saw AJ get tossed off the top rope but land right in the waiting arms of "Big E" Langston. Whew.
Analysis and Grade
B-. This was a throwback to the 1970s. Yes, I'm serious.
Lee not only worked the arm throughout, but the work paid off at the end. Kaitlyn reinjured it going for a spear, and Lee finished her off with the Black Widow. That's just solid storytelling.
Curtis Axel pins Miz clean after his new finisher.
"Heyman has instilled a sense of confidence in this young man that was, without a doubt, lacking until Heyman came along."—Jerry Lawler on Axel.
"Paul Heyman's on his way to the back for a much-needed shower."—Michael Cole after Miz pretended Heyman hit him.
"We want Heyman."—Philly crowd on Heyman.
"There are two version, the truth and your version, Michael."—JBL as he argued with Cole about how over Heyman is in Philadelphia.
"He did it without Paul Heyman."—Cole on Axel's big win.
- Miz cupped his ear to raucous boos. Despite being the titular babyface, he knew he'd be booed by the heel-loving Philadelphia crowd.
- Axel reversed the figure-four. A staple of Ric Flair matches for ages, it can add a new near spot to help fill out Miz matches going forward.
Analysis and Grade
C. It's hard to follow a ladder match, even with a very good standard wrestling bout. This wasn't a very good bout. It was average. After the cartoon carnage of Money in the Bank, average doesn't cut it.
Damien Sandow pushes Cody Rhodes off the ladder to win the Money in the Bank briefcase.
"I find it very fitting to be in our nation's birthplace, walking the same streets as Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington...but I can assure you if they were here tonight they'd be absolutely disgusted at what they see."—Zeb Colter.
"Instead of sewing on the stars and stripes, maybe she should have sewn on a taco or a burrito. Shame on you, America. Shame on you, Philadelphia."—Colter on Betsy Ross. Mmm, tacos.
"After tonight, this town won't be famous for that fictional ignoramus Rocky Balboa. But it's name will be synonymous with two people—Damien Sandow and..."—Sandow, interrupted by Wade Barrett's music. They are teasing a Sandow and Rhodes split pretty heavy.
"Seven WWE superstars won their first WWE championship cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase."—Michael Cole, dropping science.
"This is a life changing event. You have to wrestle like you're in somebody else's body."—JBL.
"Talk about innovation!"—Michael Cole as Dean Ambrose does a decades-old Terry Funk spot.
"I'd have pushed Ron Simmons off a ladder to win a championship."—JBL on Sandow turning on Rhodes.
- Cesaro and Swagger act as a team. Cesaro side suplexed Damien Sandow onto a ladder, and Swagger followed up by dumping Cody Rhodes.
- It's hard to find new spots in these things, but Wade Barrett managed to do just that. He caught Dean Ambrose under the ladder and delivered a series of excellent Muay Thai-style knees.
- Fandango didn't quite seem in his element but had a couple of standout sequences. His personal highlight was a sunset flip powerbomb on Barrett that sent the Brit to the mat with a sickening thud.
- Cesaro stood on Swagger's shoulders to try to reach the briefcase. He couldn't, but it was a good thought.
- Cody Rhodes, son of a son of a plumber, seemed to be on his way to victory. He pulled Ambrose headfirst into the ladder by the flak vest. Finally, the extra protection came back to bite a member of The Shield in the butt.
Analysis and Grade
B+. It's hard to give a match like this a bad grade. These guys are destroying their bodies for a temporary pop. Giving them solid marks is the least I can do.
But like a three-way dance, this match has its built-in flaws. They go back and forth on offense, trading highspots, until someone goes crashing into the whole crew and someone else climbs the ladder. This happens over and over again until the crowd is completely desensitized to any normal dose of cartoonish violence.
It's not my favorite.
Roman Reigns pins Uso with a spear.
"You've had a lot of great individuals go up against The Shield. The Usos are the first great team."—JBL. I guess we've already written Bryan and Kane out of the storyline?
"The Shield are one of the best teams I've ever seen."—JBL
"It's a two on two match and somehow they still end up with numbers on their side."—JBL on The Shield.
"This is awesome."—Philly fans as business starts to pick up.
- Roman Reigns destroying one of the Usos with a clothesline on the apron. He flipped to the floor and made Reigns look like the complete monster he is.
- Jimmy Uso flew through the air like the world's biggest luchador, smashing both members of The Shield in a great spot.
- Every wrestler was involved in one contrived spot, combining a powerbomb and two different superplexes. It was a prelude to what we would see over and over again in the ladder matches.
Analysis and Grade
B. Very solid opener to get the show started with a bang. The Usos picked up their game and never once looked out of place.
At least their work didn't. Their gimmick and ring gear, of course, are hopelessly anachronistic, a product of the 1980s and destined to keep them mired on the midcard in a best-case scenario.