The 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view is remembered for being one of the greatest events ever produced by World Wrestling Entertainment. In one night, the company tipped its cap to the passionate Internet wrestling fans as Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio and CM Punk all left Chicago with major wins that put them in position to be major factors in the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship pictures during the second half of the year.
One match that has gone underappreciated and overshadowed in the wake of the excellent show is the World Heavyweight Championship match between Randy Orton and Christian.
The SmackDown stars had been engaged in an excellent program leading into the event, and their match was one of the more anticipated on the show thanks, in large part, to the quality of the work that preceded it.
Christian, the sneaky heel hellbent on winning a championship he felt he never should have lost in the first place, had his lawyers work up a stipulation which stated that if Orton got himself disqualified or there was poor refereeing, The Viper would lose the world title.
It was against that backdrop that the competitors entered the Allstate Arena in Chicago for their latest battle.
At Extreme Rules on May 1, 2011, Christian defeated Alberto Del Rio in a ladder match to capture the World Heavyweight Championship. It was the first major singles title of his WWE career and the moment that many believed would catapult him to the top of the card. As he celebrated the victory with longtime friend and tag team partner Edge, it very much felt like the dawning of a new era for SmackDown and World Wrestling Entertainment as a whole.
Two days later, during a taping of Friday Night SmackDown, Christian defended his newly won title against "The Viper" Randy Orton. It was undoubtedly a short turnaround for the new champion, who had been through such a physical and punishing match just 48 hours earlier, but he still took the match.
He would regret it.
Christian springboarded off the rope, and as he did so, was caught in an RKO from Orton. Three seconds later, WWE had its second world heavyweight champion in as many days. A dejected Christian made his way to the locker room, unsure if he had just had the championship slip out of his hands for the last time.
At Over the Limit just weeks later, Orton again defeated Christian. With pressure mounting and frustration beginning to set in, Captain Charisma took a turn toward the dark side, allowing his heel side to reemerge. He whined and complained about the officiating at Over the Limit and demanded a rematch at Capitol Punishment in June.
After Christian was illegally pinned during the latest pay-per-view bout, he again found a loophole that allowed him to receive another title opportunity. Of course, said loophole came at the expense of Mark Henry and Kane, two men no one would want angry at them, but he got what he wanted.
With the disqualification and refereeing stipulations on his side, Christian arrived to Money in the Bank confident and calculating. He knew he could, and would, wrest the strap away from Orton, and he knew he would do it by being the smarter competitor.
Orton and Christian mastered the art of counter-wrestling and sequencing, and this was another excellent example.
Every bit as good as the SmackDown and Over the Limit matches for most of the way, it was well on its way to being classic, had the finish been better than what it was.
With that said, the finish was exactly what it needed to be. Had Christian lost another match to Orton, the feud would have been over, and Captain Charisma's main event push would have been dead in the water.
He needed to win, and he needed to do it in the fashion that he did. It had been established that Orton was his superior, and the only way Christian could win was to utilize a loophole or a screwy finish to his advantage. That is exactly what he did.
There is this misconception that every character in WWE-land has to be this great heel that is built up with strong wins and is super serious all of the time. That simply is not the case. Christian was the sneaky weasel heel who used every underhanded tactic in his arsenal to win. It was true to the character that he had built over the years, and the company did not change him simply because he was suddenly a main event attraction on SmackDown.
While many would have loved for Christian to have had a strong heel run, he is not that guy.
He never was.
The win was booked to perfection and something the creative team does not get enough credit for.
Historical Significance and Fallout
The title match at Money in the Bank was the latest chapter in a story that concluded a month later at SummerSlam.
With Christian manipulating the rules to his advantage, the final and deciding match in the rivalry was deemed no holds barred. There would be no rules for Christian to hide behind.
That match featured hard-hitting, cringe-worthy spots that saw Orton regain the title and put his issues with Christian behind him for good.
Christian would move on to a feud with Sheamus, while Orton would swiftly drop the world heavyweight title to a surging Mark Henry just one month later.
Historically speaking, the wars between Orton and Christian helped make their feud the last great one of the split-brand days and one of the most underrated in company history.