Last Sunday, WWE presented its second annual Money in the Bank pay-per-view, being criticized as one of the greatest and enjoyable pay-per-views in a long while. Although the show was headlined by the anticipated WWE Championship main event between the departing CM Punk and John Cena, the event was also successful in delivering two strong Money in the Bank Ladder Matches.
While watching the event live, I began to question as to who the competitors of this year's Money in the Bank Ladder Matches should be compared to. Meaning, of the six years this type of contest has been been an annual staple, which WWE Superstar that has ever competed apart of it has truly set the bar higher than anyone else?
Since its inception at WrestleMania 21 in 2005, the Money in the Bank Ladder Match has proven to be a launching pad for a variety of Superstars, bringing every wrestler to ever capture the briefcase to an inevitable World Championship. Not only is the the suspense factor high throughout the contest, but given the right participants, it can also prove to be an exciting rush of adrenaline due to the rapid pace of innovative spots and action.
Usually, every match stipulation is known to have its rightful pioneer, similar to how Triple H is known for his solid performances inside the Elimination Chamber or how legends such as Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho have been remembered as ladder experts. With the variety of Superstars that have competed in the 10 respective Money in the Bank Ladder matches over the years, who should be given the prestigious title of being considered the ultimate Mr. Money in the Bank?
If you haven't noticed, I've started a trend of having all the cover picture of all my latest articles be CM Punk, with this piece being no exception. Being the huge CM Punk fan I am, I do not bias towards him, or anyone for that matter, to win this competition.
As you may know, CM Punk has become one of the hottest topics in the world of professional wrestling as of late due to his most recent departure as WWE Champion. Ironically enough, he captured the prestigious title from John Cena this past Sunday at a pay-per-view entitled Money in the Bank, a match he has competed in three years straight on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Making his WrestleMania debut in 2007, Punk came up short in winning the Ladder Match following a vicious (and famous) RKO off the top of the steel structure at the hands of the sadistic Randy Orton. The following year, however, Punk outlasted the odds by defeating some of the best in Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison and Chris Jericho to win the opportunistic title shot, which he cashed in only a mere three months later to capture his first World Championship.
In a strange turn of events, the Straightedge Superstar repeated history at WrestleMania 25 as well, going on to win his second World Championship against Jeff Hardy two years ago, kicking off one of the smartest heel turns in WWE history. Punk would go on to compete in another Ladder match against Hardy months later at SummerSlam, arguably one of the best matches in his career.
Overall, the Money in the Bank concept is what kicked off the Punk we witness to this day, giving him the first of four World Championships in his WWE tenure. Without it, he may have never grasped the brass ring and become a solidified main event player in the business.
Before there was CM Punk, there was only one Ultimate Opportunist to revolutionize the Money in the Bank Ladder Match with his stellar performances and unforgettable cash-ins. This Superstar that I'm describing is no one other than the future WWE Hall of Fame inductee Edge.
At the time the Money in the Bank concept was innovated, Edge had been enjoying life in mid-card, reigning as a multi-time WWE World Tag Team and Intercontinental Champion. The biggest win in his career came at WrestleMania 21, outlasting five other hungry competitors to claim his future championship match.
During his months in the meanwhile of holding the briefcase, Edge engaged in a heated rivalry with Matt Hardy following his affair with Lita in the summer 2005, one of the most well-known realistic feuds in recent history. After nearly 10 months of waiting, the Ultimate Opportunist claimed his golden prize against John Cena at 2006's New Years Revolution, his first-ever WWE Championship in his lengthy career.
Although it was a short reign that only lasted three weeks, Edge had now proven himself to the entire WWE Universe that he was worthy and ready to main event. It was only a year late that he competed in WrestleMania 23's Money in the Bank match, and although he proved unsuccessful, he was able to steal the briefcase from the eventual winner Mr. Kennedy in an act of trickery, cashing in five days later to win the World Heavyweight Championship from the legendary Undertaker.
To date, Edge holds the record for keeping possession of the briefcase for the longest time period and ultimately providing some of the best Ladder Match showings more than any other Superstar in history. Had it not been for the innovative concept, we may have never seen him rise to one of the most hated heels in pro wrestling that we have grown to love today.
Much like Edge, Kane was also present in the inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 21 as well. In fact, Kane was on the verge of grasping the briefcase before being speared to his downfall at the hands of the Rated-R Superstar.
This seemed to be a recurring pattern throughout the years, as he was one of my top favorites to win the bout at WrestleMania 25 before falling to CM Punk at the top of the ladder, and the same the following year at WrestleMania 26 to Jack Swagger. As time passed, my hopes of him emerging victorious, as well as his his chances, grew thinner and thinner before shocking us all at last year's Money in the Bank by doing the impossible and capturing the World Championship from Rey Mysterio later in the night.
The shocking victory proved to be the rejuvenation that Kane needed last summer, holding the belt for the remainder of 2010. During his reign, he was also able to conquer over his brother, the Undertaker, on three consecutive pay-per-views.
Unlike most giants, Kane's size allows him to pull off some interesting spots each time he performs in the contest, with his chokeslams on top of ladders being prime examples (see Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus). He may be no Evan Bourne, but the Big Red Monster is certainly much more suitable in the match rather than Mark Henry or Big Show.
Although he may no longer be a favorite to win the briefcase, he adds an experience factor to the dangerous bout every time he performs. Kane is one of the few lasting veterans in WWE today that can put on an intriguing performance.
Being the only Superstar on this list to never hold the Money in the Bank briefcase, Shelton Benjamin is at a bit of a disadvantage. However, it's his skill that gets him the nomination in the running to crown Mr. Money in the Bank, competing in a record-tying five Money in the Bank Ladder Matches.
First competing alongside other nominees Edge and Kane at the very first MITB held at WrestleMania 21, it was certain Benjamin was bound for greatness. A former Intercontinental and United States Champion, Benjamin worked his way up from there over the years while competing in the same type of match at following Manias, including 22, 23, 25 and his final being in 2010 at WrestleMania 26.
After coming up short on numerous occasions, Benjamin just found himself in the match annually for the action and not the outcome, with his high risk leaps off the ladders while crashing to the floor being a moment that has not since been forgotten. It has been said that Benjamin had never been given his chance to truly shine due to his lack of mic skills, which leaves me a bit uncertain regarding Kofi Kingston's future.
Nonetheless, the Gold Standard was certainly a main reason the Money in the Bank Ladder Match was worth watching each year with his careless tactics and only the sky being the limit for the young athlete. It's a true shame WWE had to go and release him from the roster last spring, but hopefully, he can find himself back in the company in the near future in order to fulfill his full potential.
Although they're not considered strong candidates, here are the runner-ups that are also eligible for voting:
Chris Jericho: Being the innovator of the Money in the Bank Match, Jericho should at least be given a mention. His proudest moment came at WrestleMania 24, delivering the Walls of Jericho to John Morrison though a ladder.
Christian: Also having competed in the inaugural MITB, Christian has always been a fan favorite to win the contest. Competing on four occasions and being a Ladder veteran, Captain Charisma always promises a strong performance.
Kofi Kingston: Being the youngest Superstar of the bunch, no other rising star has made more of an impact in Money in the Bank than Kofi Kingston. First competing at WrestleMania 25, Kingston had one of the highlights of the year by Boom Dropping Drew McIntyre through the commentating table at last year's July event.
Matt Hardy: Hardy's experience with Ladders give him the ultimate showcasing of awesome spots when it comes to Money in the Bank, even if it means passing up an opportunity of possibly becoming World Champion.
Rob Van Dam: Winning the MITB at WrestleMania 22, RVD is the only Superstar to date to announce when he was cashing in, and successfully capture the title. Please, spare me the Daniel Bryan spoilers!
After reading each nominee and my reasoning for each one, it's your time to vote! Take into consideration each Superstar's skill in competing in the Money in the Bank match over the years, as well as how successful he was in holding and/or cashing in the briefcase if emerged victorious from his respective year.
In order to vote, simply just drop a comment below on who you believe deserves the prestigious title of being known as Mr. Money in the Bank with an optional explanation for your reasoning. If there's someone you'd like to see nominated but wasn't mentioned, just make sure to write "other" next to your desired Superstar.
I'll include the results in a future article or include them in one of my upcoming pieces next week. Thanks for reading and voting, Bleachers! GSM out.