Money In The Bank. A concept that breathed life into WWE during the Ruthless Aggression era. If you’re reading this article, I assume you know what MITB is all about, but on the off-chance that you took a wrong turn looking for cat videos on YouTube, here we go. A number of wrestlers compete in a wild ladder match. The Money In The Bank briefcase hangs above the ring, and the wrestler that climbs the ladder and retrieves the briefcase receives a title shot- any time, any place of their choosing- over the next 12 months.
The concept evolved over time until it reached its current incarnation. Originally a featured bout at WrestleMania, it eventually spawned its own PPV of the same name. The match itself was tweaked from being a inter-brand battle featuring wrestlers from both the Raw and Smackdown rosters, to each brand getting their own match. Also, in 2017, the Women’s Revolution continued as the female Superstars of WWE also got their own match. And ladder matches aside, the Money In The Bank PPV has also featured some excellent wrestling matches as well.
That brings us to where we are today. I’m going to look at 10 Of The Best matches from the Money In The Bank PPV. Originally, this series was going to be solely for individual wrestlers, like I did for Brodie Lee/Luke Harper, but it seemed right to change it up this time around. This coming weekend is the 2021 instalment of the MITB PPV, and crucially, it signifies the end of the soul-crushing Pandemic Era. Goodbye, Thunderdome, you won’t be missed.
So this list will feature a mix of the signature ladder matches, as well as the other great matches that have occurred on a Money In The Bank show. A quick note/reminder of how this series works before we get going- it’s not a definitive top 10, the list is not in order, and it may not include all your favourites. It’s simply a list of ten matches that I feel are worth highlighting and going out of your way to see.
One thing this list will NOT include is the WrestleMania matches that gave birth to Money In The Bank. So here, for some quick honourable mentions- I still consider the original MITB ladder match, at WrestleMania 21, to be perhaps the best of the bunch. Innovative spots, wasn’t as bloated as some later MITB matches, and Edge was at his bastard heel best in winning and establishing the gimmick as a staple of WWE programming for the next 16 years. Very close to it is the WrestleMania 23 match, with an insane level of star power- the competitors were Edge, Randy Orton, The Hardyz, CM Punk, King Booker (Booker T), Finlay & Mr Kennedy. Kennedy was unfortunately a dud as Mr. Money In The Bank due to injury, but that doesn’t take away from how crazy and action-packed the match itself was.
Let’s do this!
10. MITB Ladder Match- Kane vs. Big Show vs. Christian vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Matt Hardy- Money In The Bank 2010
The first match on the first MITB PPV was the titular ladder match, and it likely stole the show. I’ll admit I’m partial to firsts- I already mentioned the first ever MITB at WrestleMania 21, I also think the first Elimination Chamber is the best. Part of that might be the novelty of it being fresh and exciting and never-seen-before, but in watching this particular match back to prepare for this article, it more than holds up. It’s also interesting watching this with 2021 eyes and realising that half the field now plies their trade in AEW, but that’s neither here nor there, just a little observation.
With 8 competitors in this one, it’s right at the upper limit of what I am okay with before a match gets bloated, and even then, it depends on how the match is laid out. Everyone got their moments to shine and interact without feeling overly busy. A young Drew McIntyre, in his “Chosen One” days, was out for a considerable chunk of the match due to an insane spot where Kofi does a Boom Drop off the ladder through both big Drew and the announce table. And speaking of big, Kane & Big Show- your resident monsters and not typical ladder match wrestlers- were integrated into the chaos nicely. Highly recommended.
9. WWE Universal Championship- Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles- Money In The Bank 2019
The MITB PPV isn’t always just about ladder matches and jaw-dropping stunts. Sometimes, it’s simply just taking two of the best wrestlers in the company, giving them 20 minutes to work, and letting magic happen. That was the case at the 2019 edition of Money In The Bank. Seth Rollins was not far removed from slaying the Beast, Brock Lesnar, to capture the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35, and needed credible challengers coming off that monumental victory. Enter The Phenomenal One.
Rollins and Styles are known as two of the greatest bell-to-bell in this generation, and it was shown in spades here. Some heart stopping sequences as they went from pure technique to brawling to high-flying and everything in between. We saw an inverted version of Seth’s superplex/Falcon Arrow combo. We saw the Stomp countered flawlessly into the Styles Clash. And finally, the defending champ would hit the Stomp after avoiding the Phenomenal Forearm in an inventive fashion. A masterpiece.
8. WWE Championship- No DQ- CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (Special Ref: AJ Lee)- Money In The Bank 2012
Spoiler alert- you’re going to see Punk & Bryan later in the list. Not only are they two of the greats, but Money In The Bank has meant a great deal to their careers over the years. In this particular instance, we have two incredible workers feuding, infused with some WWE sports-entertainment silliness. And funnily enough, it added a different, welcome flavour to proceedings that you wouldn’t find in their ROH battles.
In 2012, one of the best characters and stories in WWE was the rise of AJ Lee. First competing on the all-women’s season three of NXT, AJ quickly won the hearts of fans with her quirky personality and alternative look. She was soon given a prominent role on the Raw brand, involved in several romantic storylines before eventually being named Raw General Manager. Her presence in this match added an extra layer of drama and intrigue, as she had designs on both men. And all that aside, Punk and Bryan kicked the crap out of each other in a no holds barred showdown.
7. World Heavyweight Championship- Randy Orton vs. Christian- Money In The Bank 2011
And now for something completely different… while anything was allowed in the previous entry on this list, and Money In The Bank matches themselves are typically full of mayhem, this match was the total opposite. The stipulation was that the historically hot-headed Orton was having trouble maintaining his temper, so the rule was that if Orton got disqualified, he would lose his championship.
Christian, after winning the world title earlier in the year in a touching moment- effectively taking over from his best friend, Edge, who was forced to retire- reverted back to a persona he had worked with so well over the years for this feud and match. Captain Charisma was back at his smarmy opportunistic heel best in this one, using great psychology. He antagonised Orton to the point where the Viper snapped, causing a DQ and the World Heavyweight Championship to change hands.
6. MITB Ladder Match- Randy Orton vs. Christian vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Rob Van Dam- Money In The Bank 2013
I’m a huge RVD fan- so that selling point alone is almost enough for it to make my list. This was the proper return to WWE for the Whole F’N Show after 6 long years away, and he was fresh and doing extreme things in this one. But also, look at that field! 4 wrestlers that have already featured in separate matches on my list, plus Sheamus, who is one of the most underrated talents in WWE to this day in my opinion.
Boosted by a hot Philly crowd, and labelled rightly as an “all-star” match, everyone gets moments to look great. Most notably, RVD gets all his shit in to loud EC-Dub chants in the Home Of The Extreme, and Punk & Bryan stand out en route to huge matches for them both the following month at Summerslam. Some thrilling spots and a shock twist ending result in this being one of the best MITB ladder matches in the history of the PPV.
5. Raw Women’s Championship- Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax- Money In The Bank 2018
Wait, did I hit my head? Nia Jax in a “best of” article? I know, I’m shocked too. But for whatever reason, during Ronda Rousey’s whirlwind year in the WWE, she and Jax had some amazing chemistry in David vs. Goliath battles. Nia had equity as the dominant monster, and Ronda had equity from throwing around Triple H at WrestleMania and also her past in the UFC (if we ignore her last two fights).
The resulting match was a nail-biter. This showed that not only was Rousey taking to pro wrestling as far as executing the moves, but she showed a grasp on psychology as she looked for ways to believably take down her bigger opponent, and her timing and selling added to the sense that she was really struggling with the challenge in the new environment of a wrestling ring. Then some classic Money In The Bank shenanigans put a lovely bow on what was an unexpected thrill ride.
4. WWE Championship- Ladder Match- Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose- Money In The Bank 2015
I was torn as I came to the last spots on this list. Quick reminder that this list isn’t necessarily in a particular order, but I knew I needed to represent the rise of the Shield somewhere here, as they had an important role for a few years at the MITB PPV. Should I go with the 2014 ladder match which saw a newly solo Seth Rollins capture the briefcase? Should I go for the 2016 event where all three members of The Shield held the WWE Championship on the same night? Ultimately, I took the middle path- Seth Rollins, the top dog in WWE following WrestleMania 31’s “heist of the century”, took on his old stablemate and now fierce rival, the Lunatic Fringe, Dean Ambrose.
This was at a pivotal point for Rollins and Ambrose, at the top level in WWE, but still with a little chip on their shoulder and something to prove here. They weren’t yet an institution as WWE main eventers, not like the Cenas and Ortons of the world. So with that, they set about having a brutal and violent ladder match, with a different tone to the multi-man carnage that occurs during matches for the MITB briefcase. This was more about using the ladder to hurt each other, rather than coming up with intricate and spectacular spots to wow the crowd. After a grueling war for over half an hour, it was a game of inches as Rollins held onto the title belt with the tips of his fingers, remaining the WWE Champion.
3. Smackdown MITB Ladder Match- Daniel Bryan vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Heath Slater vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Kane vs. Sin Cara vs. Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett- Money In The Bank 2011
What made this match interesting- besides the action- was the amount of unknown commodities. Besides Kane, everyone involved here was relatively young or new to the company. Bryan, Slater, Gabriel & Barrett were all NXT rookies a year prior to this. Sin Cara wasn’t signed to WWE for long before this. Cody had been around for a bit, but only as a member of a tag team or stable. And while Sheamus burst onto the scene quickly around a year before this, in 2011 he was so highly thought of that he was put on the Mania pre-show- in those dark days before the Network where the match might never see the light of day beyond the paying fans filing into the stadium. All that to say, the wrestlers in this one had a lot to prove.
The match was chaotic and filled with jaw dropping moments. Bryan- as was the style at the time- threw himself around the place with reckless abandon and Sheamus & Barrett had a grand old time kicking the crap out of people. Most importantly, the win went to D-Bry- ultimately launching the YES movement as his cash-in led to a character change where he became more than just the guy who was good at the wrestles.
2. John Cena vs. AJ Styles- Money In The Bank 2016
AJ Styles quickly proved himself in WWE in 2016. After a decorated career which saw him wrestle everywhere from Nashville to Japan, he made his debut in that year’s Royal Rumble match and never looked back. Styles showed what he could do in excellent feuds with Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns. The next stop? John Cena.
Cena, at this point a “grizzled vet” of sorts in WWE, gave Styles his props, but the arrival of The Club- Gallows and Anderson- appeared set to taint this dream match. Ultimately, the one-on-one match between Cena & Styles was set for MITB- with no Club at ringside. The match saw Cena make AJ look like a million bucks, appearing bamboozled at The Phenomenal One’s flashy techniques. Cena would eventually change things up to get on track with AJ, but Styles would constantly fight back by avoiding the patented Five Moves Of Doom.
Ultimately, a ref bump saw The Club get involved to do their favourite thing- BEAT UP JOHN CENA!- handing Styles the victory. Shenanigans aside, this classic Money In The Bank PPV bout helped establish AJ Styles as a legitimate top tier player in WWE.
- 1. WWE Championship- CM Punk vs. John Cena- Money In The Bank 2011
The WWE Network recently included this match in a playlist of underrated MITB gems. Which perplexed me, because I thought this match was universally highly regarded. Meltzer gave it 5 stars, and it didn’t even happen in the Tokyo Dome! Rather, it happened in CM Punk’s hometown of Chicago.
I went into a bit of detail on this match in my article on Punk’s Pipebomb. The Voice Of The Voiceless was apparently leaving WWE, and vowed to take Cena’s WWE Championship with him. Those ultra-high stakes, combined with Punk being regarded as a god in the Windy City, made for a red-hot atmosphere at MITB 2011. The crowd was invested in every move, cheering every Punk strike, jeering every Cena attack, and the two men played with it masterfully.
Finally, a Montreal Screwjob callback and a failed MITB cash-in later, CM Punk toppled the franchise player of WWE, and blew Vince McMahon a kiss as he left the arena through the adoring crowd. About as good as it gets for pro wrestling, and even though I said this list wasn’t in order, this was the clear #1 match in the history of the Money In The Bank PPV.
I hope you enjoyed this look at the Money In The Bank PPVs over the years, and also hope we all enjoy this year’s MITB show, as WWE returns to the road! Exciting times.
Until next time, take care.