WWE birthed a new form of battle when six warriors collided in the first-ever Money in the Bank Ladder match.
On April 3, 2005, fans watched as a six-man clash played out, a contest brimming with star power and promising great violence. Many consider this to be the best of its kind, believing the Money in the Bank's first outing has yet to be topped.
It was a series of car wrecks, an acrobatic display and a collection of brief in-ring stories.
WrestleMania 21's lineup already featured Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle and Batista vs. Triple H. A match never seen before became a part of the show, and the Money in the Bank concept has changed WWE forever.
How many rising stars, such as Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan, would not have been afforded the opportunity that winning the Money in the Bank Ladder match gave them? WWE's collection of classic matches would be smaller without it as well. It has been a steady source of thrills ever since Edge beat out five opponents to become the first Mr. Money in the Bank.
A briefcase waited above the ring for whoever could fight through the fray and retrieve it. Inside of it was a contract that assured the winner a championship match, which could happen at any time in the year following this match.
Six Superstars entered the Staples Center in Los Angeles with this future title shot on the line—Edge, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Kane and Christian.
Not only did six Superstars all get a stage on which to perform at WrestleMania, but the combination of talent made for great intrigue. It pitted the Intercontinental champion against men who had won the world title, elite athletes against an intimidating giant, old partners and old foes against each other.
It's something fans have since become used to, but this mishmash of wrestlers was a novelty at this point.
Jericho proposed the concept on Raw, selling it as a way for more wrestlers to make their mark on the event. That's exactly what ended up happening.
Kane played the part of the bout's demolisher. Benjamin served as its acrobat, creating a string of stunning moments. The match also showcased Benoit's gutsiness and Jericho's agility, and it was key to Edge becoming known as "The Ultimate Opportunist."
It began, as many later Money in the Bank Ladder matches would, with a brawl.
All six men battled on the outside of the ring. Benoit and Benjamin teamed up on Kane. Jericho knocked Christian in the mouth with a ladder.
Electricity charged through the arena as the wrestlers slammed their feet onto the gas pedal.
Enemies collided, men soared, and animosity bubbled over. The jaw-dropping displays then began. Jericho dove out of the ring onto Edge. Christian, Benjamin and then Kane all followed him, leaping onto a growing pile of bodies.
Kane soon took over the match for a stretch.
He held a ladder in his grasp and swung it at any foe within reach. Steel clanged against flesh as his opponents fell.
Momentum in this match was only momentary, though. One could only manage to be king of the hill for a few breaths before someone knocked you off. Jericho did that to Kane by dropkicking the ladder into Kane's sternum.
Jericho's run saw him drop a ladder on Edge's chest. Benoit's temporary reign came courtesy of him clamping on the crossface multiple times. It was then Benjamin's turn to have the camera point his way.
When it did, Benjamin flourished.
He spun in the air, kicking a ladder into a foe's face. He nailed a running splash onto Edge whose spine smacked against the ladder behind him. A T-bone suplex from a high run and Benjamin Spidermaning his way up a ladder to clothesline Jericho are among the moments that most left the crowd in awe.
In between displays of human flight, there was a glut of violence. Powerslams and dropkicks are plenty exciting, but watching two men sandwich another between two ladders has a special power to captivate.
Kane made good use of his surroundings, crushing Benoit's arm in between a ladder.
Benoit sold that injury for the rest of the match, a narrative element that would play a role in who emerged as the victor. Every offensive flurry he delivered caused him more pain. One could see that most clearly when he dove off a ladder, hitting Kane with his diving headbutt.
After that impact, Benoit rolled over clutching his injured arm—shaking, mouth agape, blood curling around his eyes.
At that point, Kane had cleared the ring. He had left Benjamin dangling in the ropes like bait on a hook. He sent Christian crashing over the ropes and onto his bodyguard, Tomko. Thanks to Kane, Jericho was also lying on his back outside.
Benoit looked to have the match won after he toppled the monster. A series of headbutts sent Kane downward from a ladder.
"The Rabid Wolverine" then reached for the prize. All he had to do was unhook the briefcase. That's when Edge came sneaking in, cracking Benoit's hurt arm with a chair.
As Benoit rolled on the mat in pain, Edge ascended to the ladder and to the win.
The victory catapulted Edge. He would become the first person to cash in a Money in the Bank contract, stealing the gold from around John Cena's waist at New Year's Revolution 2006. This match and this moment helped bill Edge as a snake in the reeds, striking unwarned prey.
The greatness of the match inspired WWE to continue the tradition at the next WrestleMania.
Eventually, it built a pay-per-view around the bout. There have since been 13 more Money in the Bank Ladder matches, many of which have been spectacular. It's hard, though, to top the original.
It featured a Hall of Famer in Edge, as well as Jericho and Kane, who are sure to join him before long, and five men who would end up being world champion. Powered by the newness the concept brought and the inherent violence of their surroundings, these wrestlers crafted a drama that is easy to treasure.
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