Fuck… I’m not going to finish this before tonight, am I…? Yeah, it’s gonna have to be a three parter. Sorry… 22-11 is here
10: 2018 Women’s MITB
I was all set to start this entry off by explaining the massive caveat in the room. I was planning to sit you all down, make you all a nice soothing drink, lightly tickle you all round the back of the ear and in a cool, calming voice explain that no, this almost definitely isn’t really the tenth best MITB ladder match of all time. As I sensually stroked your inner thighs to calm your righteous sense of injustice I would explain how aware I was of rating the first two female MITB matches as scientifically the weakest two in the stipulation’s history, and how I must have been subconsciously desperate to rank their third go around high in order to address this imbalance. I’d kiss your cheek as I explained how dreaded context meant it was important to slightly overrate a match that would probably be deemed little better than par for the course were it contested by people each holding a presumed pair of testicles and a thick, veiny and lipsmackingly tempting schlong swinging between their legs*. As your boorish fury at men being discriminated against once again built up, I would try and save matters by explaining that the ridiculously high placing was more in appreciation of how a perfectly serviceable ladder match was managed to be put together by wrestlers with next to no experience in the stipulation, at only the third try. As you angrily and loudly threw furniture around the room and fired off multiple Reddit posts asking whether it was even legal to talk about men any more, I would tearfully explain how I didn’t want all three female MITB matches to float around the bottom of this list, and by far the best of these three was ranked so high as mainly a symbolic recognition of great strides made. However, it’d be too late. By that point, I’d have already been officially and forever deemed a shameless ‘White Knight‘, and political correctness will have decisively gone mad.
(*apart from [WRESTLER], ammi right, lads?! I’ll let you make your own joke their, as I am unarguably better than that, whereas you are patently not)
But. But, but, but. But. But the 2018 Women’s MITB match is really, really, really freaking good. It’s fast paced, there are next to no mistakes or botches, and those that do exist are expertly covered up by the participants. Acts that are nonsensical in the format are properly explained in the narrative, such as the way Lana locking in a submission move in a non-submission bout works due to her character being impulsive and a little hotheaded (plus, as we all no doubt know, Russians are stereotypically bad at ladder matches. Especially Russians who have recently decided to drop the accent), and is held up as a reason for her inexperience costing her a possible victory. Wrestlers are given proper reasons for sitting out certain moments, and they’re only out for short amounts of time. And unlike in the two previous women’s bouts, most of the wrestlers don’t just sit out vast periods just so two can compete a standard match- the pace is fast and the combatants involved are changing so constantly that it’s difficult to notice if someone hasn’t done anything for long periods. Apart from Alexa Bliss, of course, who seems not to feature at all in the opening 20 minutes But even that fits her character of a conniving a cowardly and opportunistic mean girl.
Ah, Alexa. A worthy winner that I’m even prepared to forgive for setting off my Kindle Fire relentlessly whenever she’s on TV. She got the biggest reaction from the crowd and, let’s face it, she has by far and away the best facial expressions in WWE today, and that deserves to be rewarded.
Alexa cashed in: roughly 59 minutes later, in the Nia Jax vs Ronda Roussey title match before it had finished, pinning Jax and making sure Roussey remained unpinned until next year’s Wreestlemania (and even then, still kinda unpinned…). This might be the quickest ever cash in. I just… need to check… another one further down…
9: 2017 Men’s MITB
Hindsight is, as they say, a wonderful thing. It’s also telling that they originally used to say that hindsight was terrible, but it actually grew far better in retrospect and now, looking back and seeing how things later progressed, they’ve decided it’s actually pretty great. To further prove that point, that might seem like an awfully laboured and contrived attempt at a joke right now, but I guaran-damn-tee that at the end of this post you will look back on it and think that, yeah, in hindsight it was actually pretty freaking awesome. Trust me.
It’s hard not to look at past events while ignoring hindsight. To do so would be like suggesting that you tried to view history while pretending you had no idea what happened in the time since. Would you be able to give an honest appraisal of the musical merits of Gary Glitter? Was Hitler actually a pretty decent artist? We may laugh now at Josef Stalin winning the 1949 Ms. Russia pageant, but that may just be hindsight fucking with us: Russia at the time was home to some absolute munters, and Stalin was feasibly the only entrant that year that anyone was likely to want to fuck. It’s funny to think how many people were actually appalled at the UK’s decision to leave the EU back in 2016, but now with the benefit of hindsight and three full years of dedicated planning we can all appreciate what a good choice it was.
So we come to the 2017 MITB, which if we’re being honest hindsight has probably taken a big curly dump on. Each of the six contestants was unbelievably hot, new and exciting at the time (apart from that perennial disappointment Ziggler) and none had won the MITB briefcase before (apart from that perennial disappointment Ziggler), but save perhaps the winner and AJ Styles they are all in far worse positions two years later. Even the winner, Big Baldy Bastard Baron Corbin, while he may inhabit a far more prominent position on the card, is seemingly never off television and is obviously being primed as one of the company’s biggest antagonists, he has also in a far worse position in a much stranger sense. Back in those heady days of 2017, when life was nothing but Kendell Jenner Pepsi commercials and Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse snafus, the only real debate around BBBB Corbin was whether the increased prominence that comes with a MITB win was justified. Now he has all the prominence he could ever imagine, the bigger debate is whether or not we’re supposed to all hate him as much as we do and it serves the wider narrative, or whether we just all hate him and want him to fuck off. I believe this was mainly down to the unforgivable sin of BBBB Corbin shaving off a pompadour that was suffering from an alarmingly decreasing, but us not being treated to a ‘hair v hair’ match.
It’s also easy for hindsight to take horrible and unsolicited ‘Weinsteinesque’ advantages with MITB 2017 when it comes to AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. In those heady days of 2017, where all we were listening to was Ed Sheeren and we couldn’t get enough of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Styles and Nakamura were both relatively new faces. They were both shining examples of the latest thing that WWE were getting a kick out of- bringing the biggest and greatest stars of independent and smaller, cooler wrestling organisations to
make sure they would stop making money for smaller companies and potentially making them legitimate competition freshen up and improve the WWE’s product. Just over a year before MITB 2017, Styles and Nakamura had both competed in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and had fought each other at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in one of the most breathtaking and critically acclaimed wrestling matches of recent times. The prospect of this being repeated at WWE was both unreal and thrilling. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how a crushingly disappointing feud that essentially (and actually) broke down into numerous punches to AJ Styles’s testicles was once actually the most exciting thing imaginable. In hindsight, of course, it’s easy to see that the WWE would never be able to recreate a match as brutal and as ferocious as the Wrestle Kingdom classic under a WWE banner, with the ludicrously increased workload and tightly restricted content. It’s even harder to believe that people were even that interested in Nakamura, who would soon descend into the typical and dated wrestling character of a foreign ne’er-do-well, then further into the typical wrestling character of someone who just isn’t there because nobody gives a shit. In hindsight, of course, it’s obvious that WWE were never likely to fully get behind a Japanese wrestler who spoke barely any English and couldn’t be further removed from the WWE archetype if he had a tattoo across his forehead stating “racist foreign stereotypes are never ideal and, while I’m here, incest isn’t funny and really shouldn’t be a go-to angle“.
But hindsight be damned! This was a brilliant match with a brilliant story!
Firstly, you have to understand quite how popular Shinsuke Nakamura was at the time. It was still an absolute and delicious novelty to see a wrestler as idiosyncratic and singular as him being given such a prominent role by WWE. He had already taken many people’s breath away who had watched him frequently kill it on NXT- WWE’s developmental brand, where he was treated as the semi-rare special attraction that his undeniable specialness absolutely warranted- and the prospect of him similarly lighting up the main roster was thrilling. Nakamura already came as 95% a finished product- he had an amazing look, legitimately unique way of carrying himself and was capable of working extraordinarily exciting bouts- all WWE had to do was nail the presentation.
The first call was his theme tune, which- o-ho-fucking-ho!- did they absolutely nail!? Shinsuke’s theme is an absolute killer, one of the greatest in modern WWE, and a wordless epic that fans nevertheless love singing along to and…
What the fuck, Corbin?!?! You absolute cunt! How dare you cut short Nakamura’s entrance and deprive the crowd of the night’s biggest moment?! How fucking dare you?! You big, bald fucking twat! I hate you so much!
It was genius booking. MITB 2017 was Nakamura’s destiny, and straight away BBBB Corbin marked himself out as the ultimate party pooper. He didn’t care who the fans wanted, he didn’t care which wrestlers were the coolest, he didn’t care about the crowd singing their favourite fucking song. He was there to win, by any means necessary. If he wasn’t already hated, if you’d never seen any wrestling before, you’d already know how big a fucking dickhead this Big Baldy Bastard was. And you would want Nakamura to get his revenge by winning.
MITB 2017 marks itself out as an anomaly by how slowly and methodically it tells it’s story. It’s almost definitely the slowest paced MITB match, and literally the longest. Its 29:45 run time allows it to patiently tell the story of the match, big spots and painful manoeuvres mean something, and of course certain wrestlers are knocked out for extended periods- he just took a freaking power bomb through a ladder, you don’t think that hurts?? There’s a massive comparison to be made with Mania 22’s 12 minute dash to cram in as many high spots as possible: this is what MITB matches need to be these days, when they’re meant to be one of the highlights of the year.
Nakamura returns though, he overcomes the injuries that absolute prick BBBB Corbin inflicted on him. He returns to the ring on fire, handing out Kinshasas like a man possessed. And these Kinshasas of course laid out the rest of the field- it’s his fucking finishing move! You can’t get up after that shit! After taking everyone else out of commission, he sets up the ladder to retrieve the briefcase.
But then, on the other side of the ladder, he notices a familiar face.
AJ Styles, his old nemesis, who he’d (keyfebe) not set eyes on since that epic night in the Tokyo Dome. The match was immaculately booked so Shinsuke never even got a chance to be in the same ring as Styles before that moment. The commentators, of course, can’t reference a ‘rival’ wrestling company, only referencing how Nakamura sees ‘an old friend’. But the crowd know. We watching at home know. WWE knows. the commentators know that we know. And we know that WWE knows that the commentators know that we know. Fuck this dumb MITB contract, Styles and Nakamura silently say, let’s just go at it, you and me. They carefully set the ladder aside and face each other. The atmosphere, understandably, is fucking electric.
Two years later, this moment, this promise, probably remains the highlight of Shinsuke Nakamura’s WWE career.
They tussle for a while, but of course BBBB Corbin eventually breaks it up and commits the ultimate pooping of the party by actually winning the thing. In 2017, we were left with potentially the most hated guy in the company, and a feud that could potentially be the most electric ever fought under the WWE’s banner. The reason this is so high, despite the bodged follow up, is because I still remember how brilliant that feeling was.
Corbin cashed in: on an August 15th episode of Smackdown, on champion Jinder Mahal. Yeah, Jinder Mahal was champion, that’s a whole other issue that I really don’t have time to discuss here. As soon as the bell rang, BBBB Corbin decided to ignore Mahal and shout at John Cena on the outside. Mahal just sneakily pinned him and he lost his MITB title shot. Him losing it in such embarrassing fashion was apparently WWE’s response to a guy who was professionally a bit of a dick also being a bit of a dick backstage. Horrid, and early signs that any momentum from MITB 2017 would eventually be horribly squandered. He’ll win it again this year though, trust me.
So, what do you think about that joke I told at the start now, huh?? What do you mean? You can’t remember it?? Well, I’m going to say that proves my point as well. Should I have made a Baron Corbin/Jeremy Corbyn joke instead? Wrote a lot on this entry, didn’t I? Don’t worry, I can’t think of a fucking single thing to say about the next one.
8: 2013 Raw MITB
OK, firstly, Randy Orton wins the 2013 Raw MITB. He was already a nine time champion by that point, so him winning wasn’t an attempt to raise the status of a lowly, balding midcarder like BBBB Corbin. No, Randal Keith Orton was already one of the biggest stars in the company. He was (and still is) exactly what WWE look for in a wrestler. He’s chiselled like a Greek sculpture of homoerotic wrestling fanfic. He’s devilishly handsome in a sort of Heathcliff/Jeremy Kyle way. My brother Mizdow, who would generally consider himself toward the heterosexual side of the Kinsey Scale, fancies the pants off Randal Keith Orton more than he ever has any woman. Randal Keith has that ability. He’s just so freaking sexy that he unites the entire sexual spectrum in wanting to jump his bones. He’s a meme, for God’s sake. He’s exactlty the type of guy WWE wants to head their company. He needed the MITB briefcase because he needed the title, for reasons we’ll come to.
It’s important that you know how adored Randy is by WWE, but MITB 2013 isn’t about him. It’s about two other wrestlers who were doing more than anyone else in recent times to change the entire company. Firstly, let’s finally talk about my bae, my everything, the reason I exist- CM Punk.
We’ll get to MITB 2011 soon (spoiler alert), but to put it briefly in its buildup Punk single handedly became the decade’s hottest wrestler for about 5 minutes. He was allowed to speak his mind off script on an episode of Raw, and responded by cutting the infamous and beloved ‘Pipebomb’ promo. In it, he complained that WWE was just full of second rate wrestlers just kissing Vince McMahon’s arse, that the company would probably be better after Vince McMahon’s dead, and decried the fact that his superior wrestling ability was being ignored. He said he hated the idea that he wouldn’t be headlining the upcoming Wrestlemania, and instead it’d be a part-timer like ‘Dwayne’ (“Oh my God! He used The Rock’s real name! He’s breaking the fourth wall! He is so edgy!!”). He was the best wrestler in the world, the company was ignoring him, and he was allowed to just say that! Vicious, jagged reality was infusing the usually tightly controlled WWE product and we freaking loved it! The response was huge and wide ranging, giving the WWE a bit of mainstream media attention that they otherwise would crawl naked over broken glass to attract. If they wanted to, they could have made Punk their biggest star since Steve Austin.
They didn’t want to though. WWE hate it when wrestlers become big on their own ideas, and they especially hate it when a wrestler does so on the basis of how much he thinks WWE stinks. They cooled the fire down as quickly as they could, and when everyone else had lost interest they gave him the title and let him hold it for a record 434 days. In 2013, months before MITB, that reign was ended. To the freaking Rock, who was on his way to headlining another Wrestlemania. By MITB 2013, he must have had it up to fucking here with this freaking company, and was obviously eyeing an exit he’d eventually escape through months later. At MITB 2017 you can look at Punk’s demeanour
and tell that this guy
really can’t be arsed
with this shit.
Of course, this is all probably bullshit. ‘Theory of Mind‘ is a long debunked psychological idea that you can read people’s feelings and emotions from the looks on their face. It’s absolute nonsense. What we can do is look at people’s faces from the past and, with the benefit of that dreaded hindsight again, decide that we can tell that something in the future, that we already know is going to happen, is going to happen. Yes, I concede, we all have that power. We can all look at a photo of a Hiroshima newspaper seller on the morning of the 6th August 1945 and we can just see it in their eyes that they’re about to be bombed, can’t we?
I mean, look at that picture of a young Myra Hindley, before she dyed her hair then sexually abuse and kill five children in the Manchester area in the 1960s. In hindsight, you can see it in her eyes, can’t you? You can see that ruthlessness, that complete disregard for life. You can tell that she’s unhappy with her lot, and is yearning for a like minded soul like Ian Brady to help her make her horrific mark on the world.
All of that might be true, you can decide that you see whatever you like in a person’s usually dispassionate resting facial features. It’s completely fictional though, and all Theory of Mind tests have found that human beings almost completely lack the ability to, essentially, read people’s minds. You almost have the ability for those closest to you, that’s why I can tell my brother loves it when I greet him by sticking a finger up his bum and forcing him to smell it, even though people less close to him might read his tears and cries of distress completely incorrectly.
Oh, and that photo is of Barbara Streisand by the way, so all those things you thought were probably libellous and almost definitely cruel.
So, yeah, the Theory of Mind nonsense that I cooked up obviously fits the narrative of Punk being mentally checked out of the company, but the pesky facts kind of contradict it. Punk had an extraordinary match, playing to the crowd and hyping the big spots, truly looking like his ‘Best in the World’ moniker was well deserved and certainly not acting like a man simply going through the motions. The theory that he had ‘checked out’ after losing to The Rock also fails to explain why, despite not getting the headline spot he craved, he still put on the Wrestlemania 29’s best match against The Undertaker. He was still yet to face Brock Lesnar at that year’s Summerslam, which is correctly regarded as one of his greatest matches.
The thing is: CM Punk was a peerless builder of character and gimmick, and it’s very possible that he was just acting pissed off. His character had recently lost his title and was forced to slum it in a match he’d already won twice before. Theory of Mind can tell us absolutely nothing about what Punk was actually thinking, but his character was definitely pissed off, and he was such an amazing wrestler he could get that across with subtle facial gestures. He was that good.
Anyway, I get the impression that CM Punk is pissed off all the time anyway.
However, sad as it seemed, by MITB 2013 CM Punk already symbolised the past. He’d had his Pipebomb, he’d had his record title reign. Even if we didn’t know at the time that he’d soon be leaving, it was clear that his time in the spotlight was coming to an end. WWE were pushing to replace him with Randy Orton, but the crowd at MITB 2013 had clearly chosen his successor. Daniel Bryan was the overwhelming fan favourite (even considering the nostalgic love for RVD), and the crowd were even treated to an electric face off between Punk and Bryan, like WWE were subtly letting people know who the heir apparent was.
Of course not. Did I not tell you how sexy Randal Keith was? Daniel Bryan was a pretty ugly confessed fucking Vegan with a body less like a Greek wet dream and more like… well… me.
The commentators couldn’t shut up about how freaking small he was, and how dumb his goat face beard was, and how he probably did ridiculous SJW things like wanting women to have the vote and not shooting asylum seekers and washing his hands after going to the toilet. This guy’s a fucking joke, the WWE kept insisting, and is not champion material! This wasn’t an ‘angle’ or a ‘storyline’ that WWE were pushing. They wanted to dampen Bryan’s fire like they’d dampened Punk’s. the fans wouldn’t listen, and the story would conclude at next year’s Wrestlemania…
The actual match though? Fucking brilliant. The second longest MITB ever, and a great counter to 2017’s slow and deliberate crawl: this is a fucking carnival!!
The pace is unrelenting, there’s always something going on, the participants are brilliant workers (even fucking Sheamus doesn’t disgrace himself) and storylines are evolved.
Also, an RKO off a ladder. Note to WWE: really, this is all we ever want.
Randal cased in:- oh, ho-ho-hoaaaah!- on Daniel Bryan himself at that year’s Summerslam, in one of the most legendary and most historically important cash ins yet. D-Bry was headlining that year’s Summerslam in a title match against John Cena. It was one of the matches of the year (up against Lesnar v Punk, also from that year’s Summerslam. Remember when wrestling was good?), D-Bry pinned the WWE Golden Boy without any shenanigans or interference. Clean as a whistle. D-Bry was the new WWE Champion, and the match seemed to confirm that he was ready to be the next guy.
Then, Randal Keith cashed in his briefcase. Triple H- who was the guest referee and, as Vince McMahon’s son-in-law, intentionally or not, representing the general feeling of the WWE management- duffed D-Bry up something rotten, and Randal Keith became the ten time champion.
WWE would later say that this was done intentionally to build up sympathetic support for D-Bry. This is, of course, absolute bullshit. They knew that Cena would have to take an extended break for surgery soon, and were planning to unify the two main titles before Wrestlemania. They wanted Daniel Bryan to be the face of the new unified championship?? Hell no! Did you not hear how much of a sexy piece of meat Randal Keith is? No, the plan was to have Randy take the title into next year’s Wrestlemania to face a returning Batista. D-Bry was absolutely not in the plans. Yet…
7: 2010 Smackdown MITB
“Fuck it, give it to Kane”
Yeah, nobody likes Kane, but you’ll have to trust me that the Smackdown MITB 2010 is an incredible match. All the complaints that people might have about the match type- a lack of story, a glorified stunt show, nonsensical tropes- are all unavoidably present, and it would be the match to hold up as an example of the general stupidity of the concept.
But mah gahd is it ever entertaining. It was the opening match of the first ever MITB PPV, and so all the stops are obviously pulled to ensure people supported the concept. Ladders are flying, wrestlers are risking their life, the action is non-stop… The 2010 Smackdown match is the greatest ever example of the MITB match just being presented as popcorn, candy floss, carny fun.
And what about Kane? What about Kane? He might seem like a unimaginative and dull choice, chiefly because him winning was a pretty unimaginative and dull choice, but in the match he’s booked like a merciless monster that he always should have been. Watch the match and you’ll be shocked at how entertaining it is, especially considering how uninspiring the competitors are, and unbelievably you’ll be happy for Kane to win.
Listen, I’ve written more than 4000 words already, you’re going to have to get some short ones, Ok?
Kane cashed in: about 49 minutes later, on poor little Rey Myusterio. Which might be a record I’ve just got to (ahem) check another (cough) cash in (mm-hmmm) that’s coming up later.
The crowd were all for it, because they all wanted Kane to have another reign aside from his infamously pointless- so much so that people still debate whether it was accidental- one day reign in 1998. And… yeah… it was fine, I suppose. Led to a 154 day reign and emphasised how exciting and unpredictable a MITB cash in can be. But… yeah… it’s fucking Kane…
6: 2011 Smackdown MITB
Aaaaaah, MITB 2011. Money in the fucking Bank 2011. CM Punk. Chicago. Perfection.
Just so you know: I absolutely hate WWE. I think their model for creating exciting wrestling is embarrassingly dated. I think they’ve forgotten how to (or simply refuse to) create real stars. I hate how they ignore fan preferences and instead constantly push the guy that they’ve deemed the best wrestler down our throats until we cannot help but hate them. I think- despite having access to almost all of the previous US wrestling companies that they put out of business- they are at once far too enthralled with their past and still refuse to learn from it. I think they’re striving for complete brand identity, which has led to much of the product feeling homogenised and dull. I think the insane schedules demanded of WWE wrestlers leads to matches that are far too safe and tedious. I hate how both Raw and Smackdown (but definitely Raw. But definitely Smackdown) have been turned into joyless slogs that are impossible to enjoy. I hate how Raw is three hours long. I hate how PPVs now frequently pass the five hour mark, meaning the crowd is often too exhausted to fully appreciate the main event, massively harming the atmosphere of big events. I hate how, despite the controversy of doing a show in Saudi Arabia, the WWE are still going to do more shows there. Most of all, I hate the fact that I’ll watch these fucking shows. I hate the fact that I give WWE £9.99 a month to watch all their shows (literally, all their shows ever). I pay WWE money to watch the new PPVs, like Money in the Bank 2019 tonight, which I’ll watch and then loudly complain about how shit it was. Then I’ll watch the older shows, which I’d probably dismiss as shit at the time, and complain about WWE not being as good these days. Then I’ll spend money on a CM Punk or Becky Lynch t-shirt, or a Daniel Bryan toy. I’ll continue throwing money at them whilst always saying how terrible they are, but being unable to leave. Is this what Scientology’s like?
But… every now and then… WWE conjures something truly special. Always by accident- because as I’ve previously explained WWE is a completely incompetent company and can only mistakenly bumble into greatness- but occasionally an angle, or a match, or an idea comes through that reminds you why you’re still signed up to this perverted cult. Sometimes, WWE does things that could only be done as wrestling, and proves that, actually, wrestling is fucking great and there’s no other form of entertainment that can elicit such passions. Money in the Bank 2011 was one of those beautiful accidents.
CM Punk (CM Punk! CM Punk!) revealed that his contract would expire in July, just after MITB. This was both an actual fact and spun into a wrestling storyline. This was the first hint of that delicious reality slowly invading the dumb fake world of WWE. Tired of his complaining about his lack of spotlight and his lack of respect, WWE let him speak the actual truth for three minutes on the legendary Pipebomb promo. Punk explained how much he hated the WWE, for basically the same reasons that I’ve just outlined. The same reasons that everyone hates the WWE. Fans immediately grasped onto that, as nobody hates WWE more than WWE fans.
So, in storyline, Punk’s contract was going to expire just after MITB. And, in actual reality, Punk’s contract was going to expire just after MITB. And, in storyline, Punk fucking hated WWE. In storyline, we all also hated WWE. In delightful, naughty reality, us and Punk really did fucking hate WWE! So, to capitalise on the sudden interest and intrigue on Punk, he was booked into a title match with John Cena to headline MITB.
Oh, and just by wonderful accident, that year’s MITB happened to be held in Chicago, the hometown of the ‘Second City Saint’ and where Punk was guaranteed a hero’s reception. It’s on such serendipity that perfection is born.
I might talk about the perfection of the Cena v Punk match another time, as I want to keep this entry down to below 15’000 words. TLDR: it’s possibly my favourite match ever, enhanced by possibly the greatest and most rabid crowd WWE has ever seen. I frequently just put it on to cheer me up when I’m feeling down. And, if you’re a frequent reader of this blog (hi Mum!*) you’ll know that I feel down rather a lot. And Punk won!! His contract expired and he was able to leave the company with the title! He disappeared through the adoring Chicago crowd and we never saw him again.
(*I don’t think Mum has ever read this blog, it’s why I’m confident to frequently call her a fat, Irish cunt)
It wasn’t forever though. It wasn’t even a decent length of time. Unbeknown to us, Punk had actually signed a new contract. WWE and Punk still contend that it was signed on the morning of the show, even though that’s pretty comprehensively been proved as bullshit and it was more likely months before. WWE would never let a wrestler out of contract to get this hot. There was a wonderful week or so when Punk was showing up with the belt at rival wrestling companies, or at comic cons, or in his freaking fridge. It was exciting, it was different, it got a lot of attention. But… WWE didn’t feel like they had a decent Summerslam headliner, so brought Punk back to fight Cena just two weeks after he’d ‘left forever’. It was rushed, but if WWE wanted to they still had a ready made superstar to attach a rocket to if they played it right. If they wanted to.
They didn’t want it. They had CM Punk beat Cena but then lose his title to an Alberto Del Rio MITB cash in. That was the start of the slow demilitarisation of the Punk excitement. Even though he’d used his hatred of the company to become a potentially huge star, he’d still explicitly and loudly hated the company, so he had to be punished. For reasons to complicated and nonsensical to explain, the Christened ‘Summer of Punk’ somehow concluded with a match between Triple H (the boss’s son-in-law, don’t forget) and Kevin Nash (sigh… just an old tall guy…).
But MITB 2011 was magical. Widely regarded as- at worse- the second best PPV of the 2010s, but more intelligent people accept it as the best. The crowd was incredible, and the occasion obviously inspired every wrestler on the card, and the opening match immediately set the tone. It’s incredible. It’s fast paced. It’s epic. The spots are insanely good and we get an amazing amount of wrestlers being put through ‘steel ladders’.
And it’s a classic match despite such an uninspiring line-up (is that becoming a theme?). Heath Slater? Wade Barret?? Sin Cara??? Kane???? Again????? Some wrestler whose name I don’t even know??????
But these nondescript and forgettable wrestlers are somehow inspired by the Chicago crowd to have the match of their lives. Sin Cara even looks like he might live up to the hype, perhaps because Sheamus put him through a ladder and took him out of the match before he had any more chance to mess up. But these guys couldn’t win, surely? Fucking Sheamus can’t win it! Kane? Kane?! He won it last year, and you were pushing your luck even then!
It had to be Daniel Bryan. This was so obviously set up to be his moment, all the stars were perfectly aligning. How exactly would WWE fuck up this open goal? Bollocks, we’re going to get Sheamus aren’t we? Please not Sheamus please not Sheamus please no…
Despite the commentators constantly putting him down and, as always, concentrating on how ‘un-WWE- he was*, the little guy with the body of a young civil servant actually won the briefcase. WWE just gave the fans what they wanted. D-Bry would ride off Punk’s coat tails, becoming, for a short time, the biggest wrestler in the company, and actually managed to force himself into the main event of Wrestlemania 30 through sheer fan support. Fittingly, it was CM Punk walking out of the company before the event that left a hole in the card and forced WWE to try something a little different. By accident again, WWE staged Mania 30, unanimously considered the other greatest show of the 2010s. It can all be traced back to MITB 2011, and the wonderful accidents supported by CM Punk.
(*”I guess even nerds are allowed!” “Wasn’t he the star of Revenge of the Nerds?!” Yes, Michael, that’s a very timely reference)
D-Bry cashed in: on a prone and exhausted Mark Henry at TLC on December 18th. He’d hold his first world title for 105 days until Wrestlemania 29, before Sheamus (Sheamus! Fucking Sheamus!!) defeated him in 18 seconds. Then, the fans started to got really mad…
OK, I couldn’t finish before MITB 2019, but part three will be coming soon, with the definitive best 5 MITB matches ever