This week on The Right Side of the Pond (TRSOTP), the gang is back together when yours truly teams up with my usual cohorts Mazza and Maverick to trawl through the annals of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view’s history, presenting a truncated analysis of the event’s recent past from its first iteration in 2010 right through to this year’s pending sequel.
Unlike so many concepts in WWE today, be they superstars, matches or shows, Money in the Bank is a pay-per-view that hasn’t been consciously over-promoted by WWE, hasn’t been deliberately presented as something it hasn’t been nor ever will be. Money in the Bank is a show that hasn’t benefitted from a disproportionate degree of admiration from the company, but is instead a show that has, through simply the coincidences of history, become something it was perhaps never consciously intended to be. That kind of natural growth, that organic development, is very rare come-by, especially in today’s self-aware WWE climate.
There was talk earlier this year of Money in the Bank being treated like one of the Big Four events, and so far there is no reason to suspect otherwise; it is even coming with its very own Takeover attached to it, so far a trademark exclusive to the Big Four. It is a status that it has thoroughly earned, because of that aforementioned natural growth, its relative consistency in delivering big matches that meet, if not exceed expectations and because of its unsuspectingly important spot in the modern history of the promotion’s evolution.
It a history that suits the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. King of the Ring was the last pay-per-view to be given the same status as its Big Four elder siblings, and it was a show the purpose and concept of which have both been inherited – with some adjustment, let it be said – by Money in the Bank. There were as many failed experimental pushes coming out of King of the Ring victories as there has been coming out of individuals carrying the vaunted briefcase, for example. More than that, despite Money in the Bank still being younger today than King of the Ring was at the time it got replaced on WWE’s pay-per-view calendar in 2003, the former has offered up more all-time classic matches than the latter ever did. If anything, then, Money in the Bank is more worthy of Big Four status than King of the Ring ever was.
It’s also worth noting that when Money in the Bank has offered up classic matches, they have been classics of all-time. I asked yesterday on social media what the top five bouts in Money in the Bank history were – and I extend that question to those of you now reading these words – and that the same matches were suggested by a number of different people seemingly proved my theory: they were, indeed, all-time classics. Among them, the John Cena vs. CM Punk WWE Championship Match from 2011 and the Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match from 2016 proved most prominent.
The former of those two matches is the perfect microcosm of this entire discussion. In something of an inversion of the famous Stone Cold Steve Austin “Austin 3:16” situation that saw the Rattlesnake cut an iconic promo on the heels of a victory that defined both his career and the company’s immediate future, Punk’s now equally iconic “Pipebomb” promo came before his own and, it must be said, far more prominent history-shaping win – once again, what King of the Ring did so did Money in the Bank, only to even greater extent.
What’s more, the 2011 edition is an iteration of the pay-per-view that proves it to be the first among “Little Eight” equals. While understandably most discussion around the event (that in November 2013 was voted as the second greatest WWE pay-per-view ever by the company themselves) focuses on the Punk situation, often what gets lost in the shuffle is Daniel Bryan’s capturing of the sought-for contract – a win that would catalyse a series of events that would, at its endgame, result in a little show called WrestleMania XXX.
It is on tonight’s show that Maverick terms the 2011 version of Money in the Bank “a violent birth” for the Reality Era as a result of this pairing, and he couldn’t be more on the nose. More than this, though, Money in the Bank has come to define the Reality Era, in the way I think no other single event has ever defined any other single Era. This became undeniably clear in the course of our discussion on this evening’s TRSOTP.
Not only did Money in the Bank give birth to the Reality Era, it also came to present its myriad stages. Looking back through the successive cards on paper reveals a fluctuating sense of roster positioning and talent prioritisation, albeit with two exceptions: Punk and Bryan formerly and The Shield latterly.
Read back through Money in the Bank cards now and what you find is a basic road map through the two stages of the Reality Era’s growth. It demonstrates clearly how Punk and Bryan opened the door to change in the formative years of the Era. They both attained career-changing wins that came to carry significant historical weight on the same night in 2011, before sharing a WWE Championship Match the following year and then going on to be involved in the all-important set-up to the game changing 2013 edition of Summerslam – that year, Punk and Bryan shared a main event once again, Heyman betrayed Punk to set up the latter’s match with Brock Lesnar and, of course, Orton won the briefcase to complete the final piece in preparation for the red hot period about to erupt.
It then becomes clear that it was The Shield who broke down the door Punk and Bryan collectively opened, with 2013 being the only version of the event to feature both the Hounds of Justice and the Reality Era’s foremost poster-boys – as Punk and Bryan busied themselves in setting up Summerslam, The Shield tore the house down by defending the Tag Team Championships on the pre-show against the Usos and, in the guise of Dean Ambrose, entered what was ostensibly the mid-card Money in the Bank Ladders Match as well.
Trace the lineage further and what you find is a parallel ascent for The Shield in a manner similar to that of Punk and Bryan – in 2014, Seth Rollins and Ambrose anchored the match for the briefcase while Roman Reigns competed for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship; in 2015, Rollins vs. Ambrose main evented for the title while Reigns pursued the briefcase; and in 2016, Rollins beat Reigns for the title before losing to an Ambrose fresh off of a briefcase-capturing victory, ensuring that the Reality Era came full circle with all three members of its greatest beneficiaries – The Shield – being WWE World Heavyweight Champion on the same night: a Money in the Bank night.
This clear two-part story of the talent at the heart of change in WWE over the last half decade comes into focus when you start to study the central aspects of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view lineage, and only solidifies why it should now be considered one of the company’s biggest events of the year. It certainly boasts more history than Survivor Series does within the same timeframe, if not Summerslam as well.
It has even gone on to represent what has happened since the Reality Era came to an end. Take a glance at last year’s card on paper and at how this year’s is shaping up and what you find is the stark image of a promotion struggling to get its priorities straight, especially in comparison with earlier versions of the same event. Thankfully, though, 2018 looks to be taking baby-steps back towards a more focussed and deliberately designed product and we can only hope, come Money in the Bank 2019, that is solidified as being very much the case.
I have barely scratched the surface of why Money in the Bank is the definitive Reality Era pay-per-view, of its history and of its deserved bump in status, but you can hear more on all of this from Maverick, Mazza and I in just a couple of hours on the next instalment of The Right Side of the Pond, airing only on Lords of Pain Radio to kick your weekend off right! The Right Side of the Pond airs only on LOP Radio every Friday night, 9pm BST / 5pm EST, or can be listened to on demand at any time via BlogTalkRadio or on iTunes, so be sure to check it out!
Until then, if you have any thoughts on the history of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, its greatest matches or even on how this year’s event is shaping up, let them be known in the comments below, over on social media or even by signing up to our own LOPForums, where TRSOTP and every other LOP Radio show has its very own discussion thread for you to throw some responses our way without the limitations of Twitter or Facebook; just click here to sign up!