WWE's Money in the Bank Ladder match is built on danger and multiplicity.
Since the first edition of the match at WrestleMania 22, flesh has banged against steel in one of the company's most exciting offerings. It's a bout that both follows a clear pattern and provides the unexpected.
Money in the Bank Ladder matches deliver breathtaking moments, bursts of momentum and a mix of talent, the package making for nearly guaranteed excellence.
Even the least-loved versions of the match are well worth rewatching. Since it moved to its own pay-per-view, the lowest score it has garnered from Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via ProFightDB.com, is a 3.75 out of five stars.
|Year||Winner||Other Wrestlers||Star Rating|
|2010||The Miz||Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Edge, John Morrison, Ted DiBiase, Mark Henry, Evan Bourne||4|
|2010||Kane||Christian, Matt Hardy, Big Show, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre||4|
|2011||Daniel Bryan||Kane, Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Sin Cara, Sheamus||4|
|2011||Alberto Del Rio||The Miz, Jack Swagger, R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, Rey Mysterio, Alex Riley||3.75|
|2012||Dolph Ziggler||Tyson Kidd, Damien Sandow, Christian, Cody Rhodes, Sin Cara, Tensai, Santino Marella||4|
|2012||John Cena||Kane, Chris Jericho, Big Show, The Miz||3.75|
|2013||Damien Sandow||Dean Ambrose, Jack Swagger, Cesaro, Wade Barrett, Fandango, Cody Rhodes||3.75|
|2013||Randy Orton||Christian, Sheamus, CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, Daniel Bryan||4.5|
Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via ProFightDB.com)
One of the secrets to churning out such a steady supply of exciting clashes is how diverse the talent pool is for each of them.
A Motley Collection of Stars
At WrestleMania 22, the Money in the Bank Ladder match featured a future Hall of Famer, several former Tag Team champions and an up-and-coming athlete who teemed with promise.
This was Bobby Lashely's first WrestleMania. Had he battled Matt Hardy alone, it could definitely have been entertaining, but fans were seeing that match along with Finlay vs. Rob Van Dam, Shelton Benjamin vs. Ric Flair and all the other combinations of foes the Ladder match offered.
Established vets like Flair tangle with emerging stars like Lashley on a regular basis with these kinds of matches.
It's a bout that has been the launching point for many.
One of Daniel Bryan's first big moments came with his Money in the Bank win in 2011. The same was true for Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow in the next two years. Back in 2008 and 2009, CM Punk forced folks to pay attention to him with two consecutive wins.
Two straight wins in traditional matches, WrestleMania or not, wouldn't have boosted his resume like grabbing the briefcase twice did.
Fans don't know who among the field is going to be the next star on the cusp of marquee status who will be pushed to the next level. That's a big part of the fun when WWE doesn't go the "all-star" route that it has recently.
In 2012, fans didn't know if it was going to be Ziggler, Sandow, Cody Rhodes or Tyson Kidd who would take a major step forward.
Other than dark horses all looking to edge each other out, Money in the Bank Ladder matches offer variety that few matches can equal. An acrobat, a bruiser, a giant and a grappler can all compete in a single bout.
Surprisingly, each of them gets a reasonably even share of the stage.
A Multi-Man Machine
With as many wrestlers that compete in a Money in the Bank Ladder match at one time, it's amazing that there isn't more chaos, confusion and general stumbling around.
Instead, these contests are played out smoothly and showcase several of the entrants.
A Money in the Bank Ladder match often begins with a brawl, each foe slugging whoever is within striking range. Soon, the ring clears. By way of diving out of the ring or someone tossing one out, wrestlers make their exit and then lie in pain outside the ring.
The match then morphs into a series of short one-on-one bouts.
Just as a wrestler dispatches one foe, another arises. When someone emerges the victor from that mini-battle, a momentary Triple Threat or Fatal 4-Way match breaks out.
There is generally a flow to the match that sees men come in and out so that there is only one violent dance to keep one's eyes on at a time. That leads to many Superstars being showcased in a single match.
Bryan won the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder match in 2011, but there were chances for others to flourish.
At one point, Sin Cara went on a tear. He knocked Heath Slater out of the ring, sent Justin Gabriel skidding below the ropes and flipped Bryan over high into the air before going outside to snatch a ladder.
His brief reign as the bout's king wouldn't last long, though. Within moments, Sheamus powerbombed him through the ring.
The spotlight had shifted. Sheamus was now the star.
The beauty of the Money in the Bank Ladder match is that the spotlight is in continual motion. One man's flurry is ended just as another man's begins.
Last year, it was Rhodes who most benefited from this rotating center of focus, looking like a warrior as he knocked his foes around. The Real Americans worked together to also grab the audience's attention, and Dean Ambrose flipped onto a ladder to do the same.
It's the unique nature of this bout's surroundings that allow for moments like that, for a wrestler to carve a memory into a fan's brain in a crowded mess of competitors.
Wrestlers have to both love and loathe the Money in the Bank Ladder match.
On one hand, it allows one to create a striking image by leaping from a ladder, crashing into its rungs or using it as a handheld weapon. It's a powerful way to get noticed, to further endear one's self to fans.
An RKO from several feet up or a leg drop from ladder to announce table can excite the crowd like few things can.
The negative of that medium, though, is the pain that comes with it. An hour-long slugfest isn't as damaging as a Money in the Bank Ladder match.
The price of all those amazing moments is bruises, lacerations and wrenched body parts. Last year alone, Sheamus suffered a torn labrum, and both Van Dam and Punk needed stitches to close wounds in their heads.
Cm Punk getting stitches following the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. pic.twitter.com/NEcWYQ9d9o— WrestlingHeadsRadio (@wrestlingheads) July 15, 2013
This very real danger is part of the appeal.
Fans know full well that the violence in the WWE ring is as controlled as possible. It's exciting to see someone hit a superkick, but one knows that the attacker isn't delivering it at full strength and that he/she often slaps their own thigh to add a sound effect to the move.
A crash onto ladder, though, can't be pulled back.
The daredevil-like moves that pop up several times in a Money in the Bank Ladder match are among the most violent things WWE can offer. Combine the appeal of that violence with the athletic skill it takes to rotate off a high rung and the toughness it takes to get up after falling onto a propped-up ladder, and it's easy to see why the match is so popular.
They are peppered with flashes of amazing.
The makeup of a Money in the Bank Ladder match isn't complicated—a melange of talented Superstars who whittle down the chaos to individual matchups and feats of daring. It's a formula that has been working extremely well since 2005, one that WWE returns to annually.
On June 29, it will be Alberto Del Rio and company's turn to continue the tradition, the amalgam of thrills that is the hallmark of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view.