All 22 WWE Money in the Bank ladder matches ranked. Listen, I thought the title would work better than it does, just go with it, OK?
The Money in the Bank (from hereon in referred to as ‘MITB’, because I’ve got a lot of writing to do and I am a very, very lazy man) ladder match is the best idea that WWE have had since Steve Austin’s turn to the dark side at the end of Wrestlemania 17 in 2001 signalled the end of the Attitude Era and drew the curtain on the last period which wrestling seemed in any way relevant or widely notable. It’s arguably the only good idea they’ve had in that 18 year period. Save perhaps having The Miz replace Ted DiBiase jnr. as the lead actor in ‘The Marine’ franchise from ‘The Marine 3: Homefront’ onward. Yeah, WWE make movies now. And yeah, they’re all terrible.
The premise- 5-10 wrestlers battle to use ladders to reach a contract swinging over the top of the ring which allows them a shot at any title they choose at any time they want over the next 12 months- is simple but ingenious, and allows for great storytelling potential and the chance to quickly promote a wrestler into the main event picture. Of course, this potential is more often than not completely squandered, because WWE are generally incompetent and we’re not allowed to have nice things.
Ranking the matches is difficult, because save a handful of amazing bouts and a smaller, Jeremy Beadle sized handful of slightly poorer ones, they’re almost always a similar level of ‘alright, pretty good, I suppose’. However, I am perhaps the greatest blogger of my generation- the ‘Heart Blog Kid’ Blog Michaels, or ‘Stone Blog’ Steve Blogstin, if you will- so I knew I had the ability to do it. I had initially planned to write this list in the build up to the 2018 Money in the Bank pay per view, back when there had been exactly 20 matches, and it would have made so much more sense. Alas, now there are 22 and, to be completely honest, I can’t even promise to finish it in time for 2019’s event exactly two weeks from today. But it’s a cash cow that the WWE are unlikely to put down for a long time yet, so there’s always the chance of a top 24 in 2020. Or perhaps a top 26 in 2021. I mean, I’ve started it now and I’ve already realised it’s going to have to be two parts…
Let’s see how long this takes!!
22: Women’s MITB (2017)
WWE love naming periods of time in the company’s history as ‘eras’. This is due to the company honestly believing that lengths of time in one promotion’s presentation of fake fighting are momentous enough to be considered alongside other geological and anthropological time periods in official periodisation.
So you have the Mesozoic Era, when reptiles first began to develop. There’s the Paleolithic Era, distinguished by the earliest use of stone tools. You have the Greco-Roman or Classical Antiquity Era, where everyone, as far as I can tell, was either Greek or Roman and nobody wore trousers. Probably because of all that bum sex that was going on. As is my understanding. Then there was the Rock and Wrestling Era, when Cyndi Lauper helped Hulk Hogan slam Andre the Giant (probably, in retrospect, because he was foreign). Some people cared about wrestling. The New Generation Era, where everyone had lovely hair. Nobody cared about wrestling. The Attitude Era, where people swore more and you might see a boob or two every now and then. Predictably, people started caring again. The Ruthless Aggression Era, which increased the swearing and doubled the boobs in the hope more people would care, but had the opposite effect. Nobody cared. And the PG era, when the swearing and boobs were cut out. Still, nobody cared.
Most historians agree that we are now living through the ‘Troll Era’. WWE have been so dominant as the biggest wrestling company for so long that they’re able to proudly not give two fuckity-flops about what the fans want, and can make decisions and push wrestlers seemingly designed to irritate the fans as much as possible, safe in the knowledge that they’ve got nowhere else to go.
“Oh, you don’t like how we continually push Roman Reigns in your face despite your long held apathy towards him? I suppose you could just watch our biggest rivals WCW instead. Oh no! We bought them out and closed them down! You don’t like how our matches are becoming generic and predictable, and our show is increasingly marketed toward the children’s market despite all of our fans being sad middle aged losers? That’s fine, you’ve always got ECW to watch if you fancy wrestling to think slightly outside the box and aims more for the adult demographic. Oh, wait! We bought them out and shut them down as well! Then started it again as a WWE brand! Then shut it down again!! What’s that? You don’t like how we ran a show in Saudi Arabia (which women were banned from attending) weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a show in which we named the boss’s son the greatest wrestler in the world?? Then, sure, go and watch New Japan Pro Wrestling. Yeah right!! A Japanese company! Most of them have complicated names and speak funny! Suckers!!”
The Troll Era was encapsulated by the first female MITB contest. WWE have actually made great strides in female wrestling in the last 5 years. Women’s matches, that were not long ago contested by ‘Bra and Panties’ stipulations or featured two scantily clad models tussling in gravy*, are now treated as being equal to the men’s and often headline pay per views. The build up to the 2017 event focused on how ‘historic’ it would be to see women contest the MITB ladder match for the first time, and WWE were never afraid to trumpet how progressive and inspirational their ‘Women’s Revolution‘ was. No longer would you see gross sexism or female ‘wrestlers’ promoted entirely on the basis on how nice their bottom looked in shorts, like those horrible companies like WWE used to run. The Women’s Title even had it’s name changed from the (sigh) ‘Diva’s Championship‘. Women! They exist! WWE were so thankful for women being invented in about 2016.
(*these are not jokes. You can tell- if you think it’s funny then it’s absolutely not my attempt at a joke)
Then, a man won the first women’s MITB.
Technically, Carmella won, but only after her male valet James Elsworth actually climbed the ladder and unhooked the briefcase to throw down to her. It was a ridiculous decision, one that presents the Troll Era in all of its ingenuousness, and the reason that the 2017 women’s MITB is likely to always prop up such lists.
Even without the finish though, it’s a pretty poor match (relativity siren though: it’s still very watchable). Multi person ladder matches often require a heavy amount of suspension of disbelief: you’re forced to accept that wrestlers can be injured so badly that they’re forced to spend 5-10 minutes simply nursing themselves why they lay outside the ring and allow the handful of wrestlers in the ring to get their shit in. The first women’s MITB match is perhaps the worst offender of this, with long periods of 3/4/5 wrestlers incapacitated just so one or two in the ring can have a jolly doing normal wrestling. Laughably elongated attempts at climbing the ladder are also required to be overlooked in lesser matches and… yeah… we get a lot of those.
This could all be explained away by the fact that next to nobody in the match had ever competed in a ladder match before and so weren’t as adept at covering up the stipulation’s logical failings. Which would also account for…
21: Women’s MITB 2017 (do over)
Hmmm, it’s really starting to look like I have an agenda…
I suppose a modicum of respect is due to WWE for trying to rectify the horrendous job they’d made of the first women’s MITB match by re-staging it just a couple of days later. I mean, as much respect as you can give for attempting to clean up a horrible mess that was all their own doing. When I let a wild baboon loose in our office last Wednesday I can tell you right now their wasn’t much rejoicing when I eventually stove the fucker’s head in with an industrial hole punch. More respect is due for the five women involved for putting together another match that’s different enough from the first one they did just days earlier.
And while it is admirably distinct from their first effort, the abbreviated planning time might explain how this match, while notably superior, is still a forgettable experience. The faults of that first match are also present, and because the match is generally more adequate they only appear more evident. I mean, these wrestlers frequently have one-on-one matches lasting 15-20 minutes, and yet here can get so tired that they’re forced to lie out knackered for 5+ minutes, even when the ladder’s often standing unattended in the ring? Yes, I know, this is pretty much an issue for most multi-person matches, but in seems to be all the more obvious here.
Still, they gave it to Carmella again, so they must have big plans for her…
Carmella Cashed in: 287 days (the longest wait so far) later on Charlotte Flair on the April 10 2018 edition of Smackdown. Charlotte Flair had only just become the first person to beat Asuka, ending the longest undefeated streak of the modern era at that year’s Wrestlemania, so to have her lose all that momentum so soon was a perverse choice. Her first title defence was against Asuka, and in an attempt to further dampen Asuka’s mystique she won after distraction from- yes- James Elsworth. She would hold the title for 131 days, there was no obvious long term plan, she was mainly a comedy character going in and she remains mainly a comedy character today, her win is probably most notable these days for the damage it did to Asuka.
20: 2010 Raw MITB
The MITB match initially started as a neat idea to give wrestlers who weren’t involved in a storyline something meaningful to do at Wrestlemania, ensuring that they’d be on the card and part of the payday of WWE’s biggest and most lucrative show of the year. The match was frequently the highlight of the six Wrestlemanias it appeared on, and since WWE have never been known to not milk a cash cow until its udders are dry, stale and infected, they decided to base a whole PPV event around it.
2010 was its debut year and already people must have been questioning whether the increased exposure was a good idea. WWE decided that each of its ‘brands’ would have its own match, so the 2010 Raw MITB contest was the second of the night and the third MITB match there’d been in 2010. And it isn’t a bad match by any means, merely a horrendously forgettable one. The pace is glacial, the crowd are mostly exhausted and there are far too many people involved who are never going to win in a million years who just speak to the paucity of the roster (Evan Bourne? John Morisson?? That guy from The Marine 2??? Who are these people?!)
Also, there’s a guy in the front row dressed as a clown, which had me way more intrigued than anything actually happening in the match.
Miz cashed in: on the November 22nd episode of Raw to win the WWE title. He only held it for 161 days, but the timing meant that he did get to headline Wrestlemania in 2011.
19: 2015 MITB
Sheamus. Fucking Sheamus. Fucking Sheamus.
Sheamus is a very good wrestler and often extremely enjoyable to watch. He is also big and strong and muscled and the basic stock image of Vince McMahon’s dreams of what a wrestler looks like, so unfortunately he has become WWE’s go-to guy when they can’t think of any way out of a storyline corner. If Sheamus wins something, it’s a clear sign that WWE have no fucking clue where they’re going. Can’t decide who will win the Royal Rumble after far too many people are predicting Chris Jericho? Fuck it, give it to Sheamus. Just relaunched King of the Ring and pretty sure that nobody will give a shit who wins it unless you write proper storylines around it? Bollocks to that, just give it to Sheamus. Need to create more artificial barriers to place in front of Roman Reigns in the hope it’ll finally win the fans over? Just give the title to fucking Sheamus!!
MITB 2015 was right in the middle of the Roman Reigns super push, a push that still very much continues to this day. He had won that year’s Royal Rumble, a decision so disliked by the fans that they even booed The Rock! He had headlined that year’s Wrestlemania, which was so disliked it forced a last minute change to the plans (which we’ll get to, oh yes, we’ll get to that). He was everywhere, he was doing everything, he was an unbeatable superman that was only just beginning to get on people’s nerves. If only they knew- there was literal years of this to come.
At MITB you can see many of the traits that would lead fans to reject having him as the next face of the company. The constant grimacing is off putting, and the ridiculous macho posing and physical tics are laughable, like Roman is constantly playing the part of Hercules in a pre-school play. Over the next few years he would mostly exorcise these bad habits from his performance, and in maybe 2017/18 he would probably be in the right position to start his mega push. Unfortunately, fans had already seen him pushed down their throats for years by that point, most of which during a time he wasn’t ready for, and booed every mention of his name (until, erm, he got cancer. That’s earned him a little reprieve so far…).
At MITB 2015 the obvious choice to win the match would have been Reigns. WWE were apparently wary of just giving him every win available, so they decided it best to have someone else win. Fuck it, give it to Sheamus! But how could they show Roman Reigns lose to mere mortals? He couldn’t just lose the match, as that would suggest that the person who won was somehow better than the Big Dog! Bray Wyatt, who up until that point had no story with Reigns, or any semblance of reason to interfere in the match, stopped him winning so Sheamus had the opportunity to.
The terrible booking overshadows what is generally a very decent (if a little sloppy) match. A far better sleight of hand is played to make you momentarily forget that five out of the seven participants are just having a rest, with occasional use of the outrageous idea of having two separate things happen at once!
And that RKO on Neville from the ladder? Mercy…
Sheamus cashed in: on- who else?- Roman Reigns at that year’s Survivor Series. Sheamus was an absolutely worthless champion, existing only to try and get Roman Reigns some interest, and he lost it back to him on an episode of Raw 22 days later. See? Despite a perfectly serviceable match, everything else about 2015’s MITB suuuuuuuuuuuuucked.
18: Wrestlemania 26
Remember when I mentioned those fly-by-night, flavour-of-the-month, hyphenated-upon-hyphenated wrestlers like Evan Bourne and Ted DeBiase jr. who competed in the MITB ladder match despite having next to no chance of winning? Well, imagine if one of them actually won.
Jack Swagger was the ‘All American American’ and a wrestler that WWE had great faith in for approximately five minutes. Luckily enough for Mr Swagger, those five minutes happened to come about during Wrestlemania 26, so he was chosen to be that year’s (first) MITB winner. Swagger definitely had a lot of the stuff that WWE likes. He had a legitimate sporting background, his muscles had muscles sprouting out of them, and you can even see a lot of the gurning and overacting ‘tough guy’ nonsense that would later enamour Roman Reigns to Vince McMahon. Unfortunately for Swagger, though perhaps fortunately for everyone else, he received the ‘Lex Luger Push’ (go balls deep, realise it’s not working, scrap the whole thing and pretend it never happened) rather than the ‘John Cena Push’ (go balls deep, nobody likes it, ignore everyone and continue push for several years) that Roman Reigns is currently enjoying.
The last MITB match to be held at Wrestlemania is a lot of fun in places, but it’s not just the disputed choice of winner that makes it forgettable. Occasionally very messy, and some blown spots look particularly painful, and little to no overarching story to connect the spots. Yes, I know, most ladder matches are low on story but high on stunts, perhaps Mania 26’s show is underwhelming simply because the stunts aren’t impressive enough, despite Kofi Kingston’s antics.
Swagger cashed in: on the 30th March episode of Raw, after teasing a cash in on the 1st March episode, the day after Wrestlemania. He defended it twice, before losing it to Rey Mysterio on the 20th June. 83 days, and WWE would rather you forgot about it so that they could hold the MITB PPV and crown two different holders. Pointless.
17: 2012 Raw MITB
The Raw MITB in 2012 was… a funny one…
You had John Cena, Chris Jericho and Kane, legitimately three of the biggest stars of the modern era. Then you had The Miz, who might not have been regarded so at the time but will surely go down as one of the greats. Finally you have The Big Show, who… Well, The Big Show’s shit and nobody likes him, but he’s been shit there for years so he probably deserves some sort of respect.
As an aside, I don’t want to fat shame poor Mr Wight, as I know he’s always had an issue with fluctuating weight, but holy mother of God this was obviously him at his most rotund. The guy’s as big as most stadiums, only a lot less mobile.
Five former world champions with little to prove. Rather than using the stipulation to introduce and develop new stars, in 2012 WWE decided to use MITB to show precisely how big its testicles were.
And the five worked a very competent match. They were all experienced enough to tell a believable story and to ensure disbelief needed as little suspension as possible (even when the beached whale working the ‘Big Show’ gimmick takes 50 wheezing minutes to get his special big ladder from under the ring). They’re all also experienced enough not to pull off too many risks or to bust out anything that wasn’t strictly necessary- they have a house show in Waxahatchee on Tuesday and they want to be in bed before 11. The veterans ensure a perfectly enjoyable match, but one that wouldn’t be out of place as the Raw headliner.
Cena cashed in: on the July 23rd 1000th episode of Raw, against the Greatest Wrestler of his Generation (fight me) Chick Magnet Punk. He was only the 2nd man to announce his intentions before cashing in (we’ll get to the first soon, don’t wory, we will get there!!), but during the match the Big Show interfered- possibly by blocking out the sun by hanging out his underwear in the air or by causing an earthquake by rolling out of bed*- and the match ended on disqualification. This meant he became the first person to win MITB and then not win the title. WWE obviously quickly came round to the fact that there was really no point in the world’s biggest wrestler winning it in the first place.
(*he’s really fat. That’s what I’m getting at here. Do you see?)
16: 2018 Men’s MITB
Last year’s MITB was just so… nothing…
It highlights not one, not two, not four, not five, go back a bit, not two, gone too far, but three problems with the current WWE product. Yeah, that’s right, I’m just going to complain about WWE, a company that I pay inordinate (and unintelligible) amounts of money to. I’m going to tell you how shit WWE is, but I’m not going to stop watching it. I’m not going to switch over to NJPW or Ring of Honour or (God help me) TNA. The only other company I watch is NXT, and I will tell you at length how much better NXT is compared to WWE. NXT is owned by WWE, and the only reason I watch it is because it’s on the WWE Network. I’m going to keep paying money to have the Network and then spend my free time complaining about WWE online. I am exactly what WWE wants. This is The Troll Era remember, and WWE has based its entire business plan on pissing fans off as much as they can and then laughing as the idiots still fucking watch!!
Sorry, that was just a little aside. The problems with MITB 2018 don’t really have anything to do with The Troll Era. You’ll allow me my asides every now and then though, won’t you?
The first problem is with MITB itself. After so long being a brilliant shortcut for a wrestler’s promotion and a handy McGuffin to use in long term storylines, it now often seems like something that comes around once a year that the WWE staff have to work around, irritated at the bothersome crux to their long term goals of… erm… Lesnar v Roman Reigns at Mania again…?
Which leads us into the second problem: no apparent long term planning or wider stories at all. MITB 2018 is a good match, because of course it’s a good match. WWE currently have the greatest roster of in-ring talent they’ve ever had. MITB 2018 is made up of the kind of talent that was simply unheard of in American wrestling in the past. Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Bobby Roode, Ruse…
Wait, Bobby Roode was in this match?? Jesus Christ, this was less than a year ago. Nowadays he probably wouldn’t be trusted to headline an episode of Superstars.
All this talent, all this potential, all of these ‘great matches’ are pretty meaningless in the end though, as they’re all currently working under WWE’s apparent lack of direction. Not a single wrestler at MITB 2018 had any sort of future planned out for them. It’s not even as if the WWE are just blindly following the whims of their fans. By far the most popular wrestler in the match was Rusev, and his reward for getting so over with his ‘Rusev Day’ shtick was 12 months of next to nothing. Braun Strowman wins the match because… erm… Why not? He’s, like, really big, isn’t he?
Braun cashed in: … I’m… I’m not sure… I think he announced his intentions against Roman Reigns (remember him?). He had a no disqualification Hell in a Cell match. Which ended in disqualification when Brock Lesnar interfered. Then he was supposed to have a triple threat match versus Lesnar and Reigns in Saudi Arabia. Then Reigns got cancer so it was a one-on-one match for the title. Which Lesnar won in about ten seconds. I… I think that was it… I think…
And that’s the third problem: what are they doing with Braun Strowman? Braun looks like he eats mammoths for breakfast and has to buy a new bathroom every time he goes to the toilet. He looks like he ejaculates 300 million 45kg piranhas, and the last time he masturbated he destroyed four cities on the Pacific West Coast. He looks like he literally shits Chuck Norris, because the doctor prescribed him one Chuck Norris a day to try and tackle his incredible levels of testosterone. He’s got a good look, is what I’m saying.
WWE want you to know he’s big and undefeatable, so they keep having him easily win matches. But they don’t want him to win the title, for whatever reason. They have no idea what to do with him, so they’ll keep having him win things like the 2018 MITB, then quietly kill the storyline dead the next time they’re in Saudi Arabia and hope nobody notices. He’s their Brock Lesnar that doesn’t cost $342 million per appearance, so if they were smart they could establish Strowman as the bigger and stronger fighter and- essentially- save a hell of a lot of money. Yet whenever he’s faced Lesnar, Strowman has been embarrassingly outclassed*. What’s the long term plan here, WWE? Is there one?? Ah, fuck, WWE man…
(*by the way: wrestling is fake. Sorry if you didn’t know that, but it is. So they choose to have Strowman embarrassingly outclassed.)
15: 2012 Smackdown MITB
2012’s Raw MITB was contested by five former world champions and five of arguably the biggest wrestling stars of the 21st century*. The wrestlers that contested the Smackdown MITB ladder match are emblematic of how the WWE viewed the two brands, as it was filled with no former champion, no wrestler your gran’s likely to have heard of of, and many people who would soon leave the company and perhaps fade from view. Tyson Kidd, who I think’s married to someone. Santino Marella, who was a short Italian with a sock puppet snake he evidently believed was real (explaining wrestling, I just… can’t…). Cody Rhodes, who was a long way from starting the only potential rival to WWE in years. Sin Cara and Lord Tensai, who- oh ho ho!- we’ll get to. And Dolph Ziggler.
(*figuratively with four of them. Literally with The Big Show. Did I mention how fat he was? Well, he was fat. When he goes to Subway he asks for “All the toppings”, then methodically and joylessly empties all the trays into his open mouth. He’s been cast as the rolling boulder in the upcoming remake of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. He’s so fat it affects his self-esteem. He’s fat. Do you see?)
Dolph Ziggler. Lil’ Dolphie. The Ziggles. The Big Zigbowski. For the longest time he was the underrated and underappreciated wrestler that dickhead smart marks/smarks like me would complain about not being featured heavily enough. He was by far the best wrestler, we’d whinge at each other in 2011, he’s only not being given a chance because he’s small! We loved his character work. We loved his in-ring ability. We loved his ability to sell a move like he’d had his entire spinal column ripped out and inserted into his rectum every time The Great Khali gave him a poorly worked head chop. We loved how easy he was to throw around.
The years passed, and El Ziggaroonie never became the biggest star in the company that so many insufferable smarks deemed his destiny. He never redefined what a ‘small’ wrestler could be in the WWE, he never ushered in a new era of WWE that favoured workrate over muscle mass. Instead, far better wrestlers than Ziggeraut were plucked from the independent scene that truly redefined the carny artform in WWE. Daniel Bryan and CM Punk (settle down children, we’ll get to them soon!) were scrawnier, uglier and far less generic WWE wrestlers than Ziggycakes. They were also two of the greatest wrestlers in the world. It was these wrestlers that really altered the WWE formula, and they were followed later by similarly box-breaking stars like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Soon, Dolphafa was the ageing veteran whose very existence on the roster prompts howls of angry bemusement. Why is he even still there?! Seriously, what is the fucking point of Dolph Ziggler?!? Fuck off, Dolph, we fucking hate you!!!
Ziggy Stardolph’s** story is one of the perhaps exceptionally talented mid-carder. We spend years arguing with WWE for failing to recognise their brilliance. Then, at a certain point, we decide that actually we hate the wrestler for never fulfilling their potential. At some point, the Dolph Zigglers of the world stop being the ‘Exciting Young Dolph Ziggler’ and instead become ‘Stupid Old Tit Dolph Ziggler. Dolph Ziggler? Dolph Shittler More Like! Ammi Right, Lads?!’ who are simply taking up place on the roster and getting in the way of ‘The New Exciting Young Dolph Ziggler’ breaking through. It’ll happen to Cesaro. It’ll happen to Rusev. It’ll happen to you. Seriously, this shit is as deep as you fucking want it to be, yeah?
(**that was a fucking brilliant one)
But, hang on, yeah? What did we want to happen with Zigga-Zig-Ah? Did we want him to become champion? He was! Twice! Plus two US Title wins and six Intercontinental wins! Maybe WWE were actually trying to make him a star, but actually just… don’t know how…?*** In the 2012 Smackdown MITB are examples of what happens when the WWE attempts to make someone a star. Firstly, their’s Sin Cara. Sin Cara originally wrestled in Mexico as ‘Mistico‘, and wasn’t just ‘big’ in the country, but was more popular in Mexico than riding on bicycles wearing sombreros and being knocked out in World Cup semi finals. Yeah, that’s right, he was big enough to warrant both casual racism and a ridiculous football reference. He was big enough for Pro Wrestling Illustrated, who know almost as much about fake sports as me, to name him the Biggest Box Office Draw of the Decade (2000-2009). WWE had a ready made star on their hands, they couldn’t fuck it up.
(***again, deep as you fucking want it to be, mate)
They fucked it up. Well, everyone kinda fucked it up. The key thing though is that everything was fucked up. They gave Mistico a new name, still refusing to acknowledge the existence of any wrestling outside of WWE. They didn’t bother training Sin Cara in the WWE rings and style significantly different to what he was used to, leading to a legendary amount of botches and fuck ups. Sin Cara, for his part, refused to bother learning English to communicate with the people he was wrestling with, and gained a nasty reputation as a prima donna who would stop a match if his nails broke. WWE gave up on him, and simply got another wrestler to play him. There are notable Sin Cara botches at MITB 2012, but I’m not sure if it’s the original one. That’s the beauty of masked wrestlers!!
Talking of botches, you might find it hard to believe that the WWE once tried to make a star out of the fat guy who falls backwards into ladders.
Matt Bloom wrestled for WWE in the 90s and early 00s as ‘Prince Albert’. He was named after a cock ring and had a very hairy back. That’s basically the extent of his character. He was a next to nothing wrestler who at one point was doomed to be simply the answer to a question you can’t get in an ‘Attitude Era Pub Quiz’. However, after he slipped away from WWE, without anyone really noticing, he moved to Japan to wrestle in All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling as ‘Giant Bernard’ from 2005-2012, and he was a fucking hit! In Japan, he discovered his true wrestling ability and star power as a monster heel, and became one of the biggest stars in the country. The WWE realised that they had let a huge star slip through their fingers, and so brought him back to make him as big a star in the US.
Could he wrestle as Giant Bernard? Hmmm, not really, as that would be acknowledging the existence of wrestling outside the WWE. Return as Prince Albert? No, he was essentially a comedy character by the end, and they were never likely to get him over as a monster force while he was subjected to chants of “Shave your back!”. OK, let’s think about it… Hmmmm… He was big in Japan, so… Let’s make him Godzilla!! No, no, that’d make it a little too difficult to suspend disbelief…
Hey, I know! Let’s just make him Japanese!!
This. This. This is what happens when WWE try to make someone a star. For all we know, they’ve tried their honest to goodness hardest to make Ziggypants the next coming of Hulk Hogan. They’re just very bad at it. I’m not saying we should stop hating Dolpharoony (did I do that one?), I’m just saying that we should hate everything. WWE is shit, life is shit, and yet here we are. Again, deep as you want.
Talking of botches (as we were maybe 20 minutes ago), Smackdown MITB 2012 is probably the messiest and most blundered aberration of a MITB ladder match. Not a single move lands correctly, and the match is a constant stream of ‘Tensai Falling Over’. Even usually reliable wrestlers like Cody Rhodes are having an absolute nightmare, with Rhodes’s dropkick not making it withing six metres of Santino Marella (who, lest we forget, is a comedy Italian with a pet snake puppet) a particular low/highlight.
As a worked match, the Smackdown 2012 MITB is probably technically absolutely the worst example of the stipulation ever. OK, second worse: nothing’s ever going to top the first women’s match. However… it’s so much freaking fun! Wrestling isn’t just about workrate and immaculate presentation, it’s about fun! MITB 2012 careers off at a frenetic pace, wrestlers act like they’ve no idea what the fuck’s going on, every single spot is laughably bodged, and you’ll be grinning ear to ear throughout. It’s a real advert for the existence of the match type.
Dolph cashed in: on Alberto Del Rio on the April 8th 2013 episode of Raw, to one of the absolute greatest crowd reactions in modern WWE history. Sure, he only held it for 69 days (dude), but the actual quality of his reign is irrelevant. That moment- that moment- when he cashed in was an absolute hair raising spectacle, and many wrestlers with longer reigns, more titles, wrestlers who could have legitimately been considered the company’s biggest star, couldn’t boast a similar moment of glory. Oh, and to further show WWE’s ineptitude, Ziggynuts was supposed to be the bad guy.
Fucking hell, I’ve just written 1’600 words on Money in the Bank 2012. This list is never getting finished…
14: Wrestlemania 22
The second ever MITB match is a snapshot of an interesting time. WWE weren’t quite yet aware of how big an idea they had, they were still unsure whether the stipulation was only good for giving a few wrestlers something to do and take up a bit of time on the card. The match is only given 12 minutes, which is actually refreshing to watch after knowing how epic the company would later attempt to sell it as in 25 minute PPV headliners. While the WWE were unsure of the idea’s legs, the crowd were already very hot for it. Shrugging their shoulders, the WWE simply gave the briefcase to the guy that the crowd so obviously loved most. It was a simpler time.
Also, RVD has a wonderful arse:
Because it still had the status of giving the wrestlers WWE had no idea what to do with a reason to turn up to work, Mania 22’s MITB is like a ‘who’s who’ of the era’s most underused (less used…? Most least used…?) wrestlers. There’s Matt Hardy, who was still labouring under the misrepresentation as the ‘Marty Jannetty‘ of the Hardy Boys, a tag he wouldn’t shake off for years. Fit Finlay had been- and still is- one of the hardest working tough guys in wrestling for years. Shelton Benjamin? Shelton fucking Benjamin!? I’ll get to him, he deserves his own entry. Bobby Lashley is… erm… I mean… he was apparently quite good in TNA, but there’s no way of knowing that for sure, as literally nobody has ever watched TNA.
And Ric Flair’s in this freaking match!!
Then there’s Rob van Dam. So obviously a star and few people have ever been as beloved as he was at Mania 22. Sure, he chose something else over wrestling, but you can be damn sure that RVD is happy. Also, he could teach Cody Rhodes a thing or two about drop kicks.
RVD cashed in: by announcing his intention on the May 22nd 2006 episode of Raw to challenge John Cena, the smark’s most hated man, at the ‘One Night Stand’ PPV for the WWE’s relaunched ECW (‘member them?) brand. RVD worked in ECW for many years before coming to WWE, and the match was perfectly built up as the legitimate fan favourite RVD against the WWE’s corporate ‘yes man’ Cena. The atmosphere in the claustrophobic old Hammerstein Ballroom was electric, and RVD’s title win was a rare example of WWE getting everything perfectly right. I mean, jeez, there actually seems to have been a long term plan for this!! Until relatively recently, absolutely the best cash in ever.
I mean, yeah, he was caught speeding in his car with an admirable amount of drugs on his person and was forced to drop the title after 23 days, but for a moment it was so wonderful. Anyway, suspending RVD for taking drugs is like suspending a dog for licking its balls or a Mexican for riding a bicycle while wearing a sombrero. What did you expect??
13: MITB 2014
Seth Rollins! Seth Rollins! You’re hard! You’re hard! Dean Ambrose! Dean Ambrose! You’re hard as well! J&J Security? Like, I’m dead scared! Oh what a frightening world it can be!
I worry that there aren’t enough wrestling themes based around Half Man Half Biscuit lyrics.
Seth Rollins, specifically Seth Rollins’s 2014-16 heel character, was an extremely important wrestler for me. Being a wrestling fan is weird. I mean, you already knew that. Stating that liking a pretend sport where grown adults play fight with each other is a weird pastime is like stating that Paddington Bear is a bear. I fucking know he’s a bear, mate. It’s in his fucking name!
But in many ways liking wrestling is very much unlike Paddington Bear. Every few years as a wrestling fan you suddenly come to realise how fucking stupid wrestling is. The stuff that everyone else realises about wrestling, you start to realise. Fucking hell, you think to yourself, this is the dumbest thing in the fucking world.
Most wrestling fans haven’t been wrestling fans 24/7 their whole lives. We lose all interest for periods, and end up missing entire eras because we simply couldn’t give a shiny shite. I was a fan when I was in primary school, when wrestlers were little more than colourful characters to collect stickers of. I loved Adam Bomb because I liked his outfit. I hated Bret Hart because he wore pink. My favourite wrestler was The Undertaker, who I think was some sort of zombie mortician, because I was the coolest little edgelord at Broadbottom Primary.
Then I became aware of things being ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’, and how important it was to only like ‘cool’ things like Oasis and ‘This Life‘ and Terry Venables. Wrestling was super uncool, and liking it would be akin to showing people my signed Robson and Jerome poster. Very much like today. Then, suddenly, wrestling was cool! For the first and (absolutely) last time in my life it was cool to like wrestling! People liked wrestling! It was the Attitude Era, and suddenly wrestlers weren’t muscled freaks but electrifyingly charismatic people like The Rock and stone cold badasses like, erm, Stone Cold Steve Austin. My favourite wrestler was The Undertaker, who was now an embarrassing biker character with the gimmick of, as far as I can tell, being an absolute nob. It was never settled whether or not he was still undead.
I hung on long enough to be excited by the emergence of Brock Lesnar and to see his coronation at Wrestlemania 19, so I hung on for far longer after the Attitude Era than many people did, but then I dropped off. I went to university, took a lot of drugs, got married, drank a lot, and simply didn’t have the time for wrestling with all that nihilistic self-medicating. I missed the entire ‘Ruthless Aggression Era’, but to be honest nobody thinks that’s a bad thing. I went to China (I might have mentioned it) and caught up with WWE a bit during 2011 using bootlegged Raw DVDs, so got glimpses of CM Punk et al but not enough to truly pull me back in. My favourite wrestler was The Undertaker, who I think by this point is playing the gimmick of an old man who’s played a dumb zombie gimmick for 20 years and so is due a little respect.
In 2014/15, I was convinced to come rejoin the weirdest and least necessary cult on earth. Partly because I was housebound at the time, and what else do you expect me to do? Something productive?? Piss off!!
And partly because of Seth Rollins.
I loved everything about Seth Rollins. I loved his clothes. I loved his move set. I loved his Frog Splash. I loved his hair. I loved his entrance theme. I loved his grating whingey tosser voice (which, ridiculously, we’re now supposed to support). He was awesome. He was cool. He was exciting. Unforgivably, I started watching wrestling again. My favourite wrestler is The Undertaker, who is now living the gimmick as he’s a frail, near dead zombie who terrifies the audience that he’s going to die every time he has a match.
But- get this- wrestling was properly good for a while! Honest! And it wasn’t just Seth Rollins hair that I was attracted to! Yeah, it was, like, 75% his hair, but he was also involved in one of the greatest long term story arcs that WWE have ever done!
He was a part of The Shield with Dean Ambrose and… someone else… who were the coolest and most popular group the WWE had managed to come up with in at least a decade. Then, he betrayed The Shield and broke them up, aligning himself with the dastardly Authority. This instantly made him the most hated guy in the company.
He was entered into 2014’s MITB, because he’s with the Authority, motherfuckers, and they run this shit! He requests that his former Shield partner Dean Ambrose be in the match just so he can keep an eye on him! The match is brilliantly centred around the Rollins v Ambrose rivalry, and Ambrose is close to besting his former best friend until a member of The Authority interferes and Rollins picks up the pieces. Brilliant storytelling. And it’s not over yet!!
Oh yeah, the match:
It’s a very good match, made great by the interweaving story. However, it makes for a great comparison to Mania 22’s concise and almost throwaway match. Eight years later, this is big business! A whole PPV is centred around it, the match is an epic 23 minute stunt show. It’s now firmly accepted as a way for lower card wrestlers to make an impression, and so the people involved act like they don’t need to pay for their own medical insurance. It’s a bit messy at times, but perhaps no other MITB match uses the actual ladders as props and weapons as much as 2014.
This might be down to experience. Four of the wrestlers had contested in MITB before. Three of the wrestlers (RVD, Zigglypuff, Jack Swagger) had actually won the match before. Fat load of good it did their career. Yeah, move along boys, there’s a story going on.
Still, eight years on from his drug bust, at least RVD had learned his lesson.
He hides his weed way better now.
Seth Rollins cashed in: at the main event of freaking Wrestlemania! Not only that, but he managed to hold on to the title for 220 days before an injury forced him to relinquish it. If this wasn’t amazing enough- which, by the way, it definitely fucking is- it also tied an arc up beautifully. The match he interrupted was Roman Reigns v Brock Lesnar, and Reigns’s first chance of world title gold. Reigns was also the third member of The Shield, so Rollins destroyed another former best friend’s dream. God, wrestling is so fucking good sometimes, innit??
You might be labouring under the impression that every recent WWE storyline revolves around Roman Reigns in some way. You would be correct in that assumption.
12: 2011 Raw MITB
Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if I wrote an entry that lasted less than 20’000 words?
Luckily, here comes the 2011 Raw MITB match. A match on which there is almost nothing worth writing. It’s… not great… I’m not sure why I’ve ranked it so high. Perhaps I always get caught up in the excitement of the greatest PPV of the last 10-15 years, get swept up in one of the greatest crowds in WWE history and carried through with all the anticipation to convince myself that it’s a far better match than it is. The fact is though that it was definitely the other MITB match from 2011, and anyway both matches were very much the other thing happening that year. We’ll talk about that soon, oh yes, sonny-jim, we shall talk about that soon.
There are some fantastic spots, but little connecting the stunts together. The ending was also botched terribly, so the only excuse for coming away from this drab affair with any positive feelings is being swept up in Chick Magnet Fever. I dunno, maybe I’m just Money in the Banked out? It also falls victim to the ‘jobber entrants’ curse very prevalent at this time. Alex Riley?? Evan Bourne?? Again??? Who… are you…?
Del Rio cashed in on: sigh, CM Punk. Listen, the whole thing was an absolute shitshow, and you’ll have to wait until the Smackdown match to read the full story (or just, y’know, read that article I linked to). In short, Del Rio played a part in diffusing the hottest angle WWE had in ten years, but I don’t want to blame him too much, he was an integral part to the story and held it for 99 days, so…
11: Wrestlemania 25
Phew, looks like I’m not Money in the Banked out* at all, the last match was just a bit crap. Mania 25’s bout, however, is fantastic fun, and the fact that I have ranked as much as ten matches better than this bodes very well for me finishing this list sometime in late 2024. The spots are glorious, the action is fast and intense, the disbelief is mostly suspended and the uses of ladders are ingenious.
(*There’s no word in English for the feeling one gets after watching far too many Money in the Banks. As always, however, the Germans have it covered. They have a word which literally translates as ‘ladders exploding from my money holes after intense and nonsensical blogging’ which I believe explains my feeling rather well: ‘Davidschwimmerpushesthingsinhisholes’. Yes, ha-ha, very funny, I know it looks like it says ‘David Schwimmer pushes things in his holes’, but that’s just a coincidence, and you pointing it out is kinda racist.)
It’s not perfect though. Remember how I briefly mentioned Fit Finlay being a grossly misused performer? Well, he’s Irish, so around this time we’re introduced to his son, Hornswaggle. Hornswaggle is a little person. No, I don’t mean he’s a little person, I mean he’s a Little Person. No, no, no, not a person who is little, like Ronnie Corbet, a Little Person, like when a sketch requires Ronnie Corbet to be a Little Person. You know? No, a Little… OK, perhaps if I just explained that I’m pretty sure Hornswaggle was supposed to be a literal leprechaun, you know, like Irish people have? As sons?
OK, now you understand.
So a large amount of this match is given over to laughing at the little leprechaun, who has his own miniature ladder to play with, which is just adorable. But he has his dark side, just like your Mum told you all leprechauns/midgets/Irish do. Yeah, it’s pretty cringeworthy, but in WWE’s defence it was a totally different time. Ask your Granddad what 2009 was like and he’ll tell you some stories. People all listened to Susan Boyle and watched a weird film called ‘Avatar’ which nobody remembers now. It was a fucked up time, Hornswaggle’s the least of it.
Then, he performs a frog splash off the turnbuckle and I piss myself laughing. Am I a bad person?
Yeah, alright, fine, but if I wasn’t already a bad person, would laughing at that…? Never mind, let’s move on:
This was the GOHE (Greatest of his Era) CM Punk’s second consecutive MITB win, but now isn’t the time to eulogise about the GOHE (Greatest of hi… Hey, I just explained that!). Nor is it time to pay respects to Christian, who was the most popular wrestler in the match by a long shot and would have won if WWE were still working on such archaic principles such as ‘what the fans want’ or ‘what would make people happy’. Instead, I’m going to close the first half of this list, because I might not get another chance, by talking about Shelton Benjamin.
Of the six MITB ladder matches to be held at Wrestlemania, Shelton Benjamin competed in five of them. Which one did he miss? I dunno, what am I? ‘Mr Research’? In each five he competed in he provided the absolute highlight of the match. He became synonymous with insane risk taking all for the benefit of the viewing audience. Year after year he would take more and more extravagant and perilous risks just so WWE had a snapshot of something to put on a coffee mug and call it a ‘Wrestlemania Moment’.
But what good did it do Shelton Benjamin? Slim to bupkis. He would be relied upon every Wrestlemania to provide the ‘Kodak Moment’ every MITB match, and by extension usually the standout image of the biggest wrestling night of the year. For his six years of painful peril, he was awarded without a single MITB win, and never even offered a serious tilt at a major title.
Instead, he was given the gimmick of being escorted to the ring by his nagging overweight mother. Y’know, because he’s black. That’s a thing that happens with black people. She was simply called ‘Momma’. It was 2005.
He wasn’t even afforded the token gesture of being referred to as ‘Mr Money in the Bank’ in recognition of his repeated highlights. When the stipulation moved to its own PPV in 2010 he had already been released and the WWE didn’t want to mention the name of a potential independent star. By the time he returned seven years later the match had moved on and nobody really remembered how he lit up the early matches.
I mean, he’s rich and happy so absolutely doesn’t give a shit, but doesn’t it make you feel a little sad?
CM Punk cashed in: on Jeff Hardy at ‘Extreme Rules’, June 7th 2009, which involved a heel turn that invigorated the character. He may have lost it just 55 days later, but his amazing feud with Jeff Hardy was considered by many to be the best of the year, led to the formation of the Straight Edge Society, the first really brilliant CM Punk run, and led to an amazing Summerslam headline match.
Jesus fucking Christ!! Eight and a half thousand fucking words! I thought it’d take me a day to finish this, it’s taken me my entire Bank Holiday weekend to do half!!
Part two soon(ish), now I just need a lie down. I don’t know if I can even look at a ladder any more. I have to walk past a B&Q on the way to work tomorrow, that’s going to be tough. Only one thing to do…
Yep, drink half a bottle of Hammerite Metal Paint Smoother in the hope it kills enough brain cells to rid me of the memories.
Or, y’know, walk the other route. Either way. I’ll flip a coin.
Love you bye!!!