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Since its inception in 2005, the Money in the Bank has become a staple of the WWE. What once was an annual match featured at WrestleMania has now evolved into its own successful Pay-Per-View event. After Sunday’s PPV, there have been 21 winners of the Money in the Bank, which allows the wrestler to cash in a contract for a World Championship match at any time. Some winners have become main event players following the victory, while others didn’t find much success at all. This week, I’m going to look at the Top Five best Money in the Bank cash-ins. Considerations include not only the actual moment, but the result of the match, storyline progression, and how the winner’s career faired afterwards.
#5: CM Punk (2009): At WrestleMania’s 24 & 25, CM Punk became the first wrestler to win back-to-back Money in the Bank Ladder Matches. He successfully cashed in on Edge in 2008 to become the World Heavyweight Champion, and while the run wasn’t considered a failure, it was the second cash-in that would lead to defining Punk’s career. At Extreme Rules, Jeff Hardy had just defeated Edge in a grueling ladder match to become World Champion. It was then that Punk arrived on the scene, and defeated Hardy to become a two-time champion. This was perplexing to the fans as Punk, a babyface, had defeated another babyface with a heelish tactic. Throughout the summer, Hardy and Punk engaged in fantastic feud that led to the Straight Edge Superstar turning heel, taking his character to new heights. Shortly afterwards, the Straight Edge Society would be formed, giving Punk the ability to establish who he really was, which would lead to the infamous “pipe bomb” promo just two years later.
#4: Daniel Bryan (2011): Daniel Bryan’s start in the WWE wasn’t what many fans would call spectacular. After the mediocre first season of NXT, Bryan made his debut on WWE Raw, only to be unceremoniously released the same week. He would return a few months later at Summerslam, and find himself in the mid-card for the next year. Many fans believed that Bryan was deserving of more, and were pleasantly surprised when he won the Money in the Bank contract. Fans were even more surprised when he successfully cashed in on the Big Show in December of that year. Just like Punk in 2009, this championship reign contributed to changes in Daniel’s character that would take him to the next level, as it was during this time that the “Yes!” celebrations began. What started as an obnoxious heel characteristic would go on to become a phenomenon, transcending into additional forms of entertainment. While it would still take a few years for Bryan to completely transition to the main event, this was the first step in making him the performer that he is today.
3: Dolph Ziggler (2013): Dolph Ziggler’s career has been loaded with ups and downs. The former Spirit Squad member and caddy of Chavo Guerrero would rebrand himself the “Show Off” and win a number of Intercontinental and United States Championships. Fans were drawn to him and his wrestling style, and hoped that he would be moved up to the main event scene. After winning the briefcase in 2012, Ziggler bided his time, reminding others of his accomplishment, but remaining hesitant on cashing in. That all changed on April 8, 2013 when, in front of a hot Post-WrestleMania crowd, Dolph cashed in on an injured Alberto Del Rio to become World Heavyweight Champion. The response to his entrance music was one of the loudest in recent memory, and is arguably the greatest moment of his career. Unfortunately, Dolph would lose the championship a short time later due to a concussion, and was not able to climb back up to the top of the mountain. Still, the moment in itself is something that is talked about to this day, and proof of how exciting it can be when a wrestler cashes in at the right time.
#2: Seth Rollins (2015): No one expected The Shield to break up in 2014. The group was wildly successful, and were one of the top acts in the WWE at the time. What may have been a questionable decision led to Rollins aligning with Triple H, and winning the Money in the Bank contract the following month. His time with the briefcase gave him the chance to build up his solo career as a heel, and gain wins over foes like Dean Ambrose. Leading up to WrestleMania 31, a majority of the fans were not looking forward to the main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. Many expected Roman, who was not a popular babyface, to win the WWE Championship that they felt he didn’t deserve. As Lesnar and Reigns delivered a surprisingly good match, it was the sudden arrival of Seth Rollins that sent the crowd to their feet. For the first time in history, a wrestler not only cashed in the contract at WrestleMania, but also added themselves to an in-progress match. The Architect took the opportunity to pin Reigns, and to the shock of the crowd, became champion. The reign was a success, and Rollins has not looked back since.
#1: Edge (2006): In this writer’s opinion, the Money in the Bank does not exist today without Edge. At WrestleMania 21, there were six wrestlers that were put into the inaugural match. Having just turned heel the previous year, Edge snatched the briefcase and won the opportunity to cash in whenever he deemed appropriate. For the next nine months, he continued to evolve his character, and shined in his feuds against Matt Hardy and Ric Flair, eventually becoming the Rated R Superstar. Then, New Year’s Revolution happened. After John Cena emerged victorious from a brutal Elimination Chamber, Mr. McMahon arrived on the scene to inform him that his night was not over, and that he would be defending against Edge, who became WWE Champion for the first time. It was a historic moment, and the crowd’s response to the cash-in was nothing short of positive. Edge has stated in interviews that he recommended to management that as a heel, he should cash in at an unannounced time in order to benefit his character, and this was a great idea. With the exception of Rob Van Dam & John Cena, no other wrestler has announced his intended date to cash in the contract. The Ultimate Opportunist was the template by which future winners would follow, and his win also proved how important the Money in the Bank could become to one’s career.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: JEFF’S FAB FIVE (Debut Column): Top Five Worst Money in the Bank Cash-Ins from Sheamus to Sandow to Swagger and more
Jeff has been a fan of professional wrestling since he was knee high to a grasshopper (little kid), after coming across the Wrestling Challenge episode after WrestleMania 7, and has not looked back. His passion has led him to winning wrestling trivia contests in his city, and even won him his Senior Talent Show by dancing to Shawn Michaels theme song. When not annoying others with wrestling talk, he loves spending time with his family and friends, and focuses on his other passion: movies. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @the_Indel or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!