Remember When: Rising stars raised the bar

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June 28, 2012

The term “instant classic” is thrown around so casually that it has almost been stripped of its meaning. Yet, every once in a while, a match comes along that is so thrilling and heart-stopping that it deserves such lofty and instantaneous praise. The 2011 SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match is one such bout. (WATCH THE FULL MATCH)

It was the contest that put Sin Cara on a stretcher and Daniel Bryan in the main event picture. Now, a year removed from that spectacle, WWE.com caught up with four of the competitors involved – Bryan, Justin Gabriel, Cody Rhodes and Heath Slater – to get their recollections on what took that match, and its eight participants, to the next level.

Among the most obvious reasons the match is so fondly remembered was its diverse lineup. Not only did SmackDown's eight participants represent a nice blend of styles and weight classes – in addition to the aforementioned high-flyers and mat tacticians, powerhouses Kane and Sheamus were involved, as was bare-knuckle brawler Wade Barrett – they also spoke to the true international flavor of the WWE locker room. From the Cape Town Werewolf Gabriel and Irishman Sheamus to luchadore Sin Cara and Brit Barrett, many corners of the globe had hometown favorites for whom to root.

We proved that SmackDown is second to nobody.

Then, there are the subtler qualities that made WWE's 2011 SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match special. For example, an astounding six of the eight competitors had never wrestled in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match prior to last year. (Only Rhodes and Kane had prior experience.) The infusion of new energy, combined with the prevailing sense that Money in the Bank was a proving ground for young talent, helped raise the stakes.

“We had a lot of young and hungry guys, and that contributed so much,” Rhodes told WWE.com. “It’s no secret that SmackDown is occasionally referred to as the secondary show. That was the night where, win or lose, we had the better Money in the Bank Match, and we proved that SmackDown is second to nobody.”

Whether the competitors sought out to change the perception that youth equals undeserving, or if it was brand pride that inspired them, the result was the same: The pace was breathtaking, the falls frightening and the stake – an opportunity to be in the World Heavyweight Title hunt – was enticing.

Members of the WWE Universe who witnessed the carnage, whether in person in Chicago or live on pay-per-view, remember the alarming manner in which the Superstars threw caution to the wind all too well. Midway into the match, Sheamus powerbombed a helpless Sin Cara off the ring and onto a ladder that was bridged between the apron and the announce desk. The rung-bending impact left WWE officials no choice but to deem the masked Superstar unable to continue the match.

In another exhilarating display, Gabriel perched perilously atop a ladder that was propped on the top turnbuckle. With an extraordinarily slim margin of error (ladders were strewn both in the ring and around it), frequent flyer Gabriel leapt into his trademark 450 Splash and found his target: Kane.

“It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Gabriel admitted. “That ladder was moving on the top rope, and it gave me an extra bounce. I got higher than ever before, and I’m not sure even the cameras did it justice. It was insane.”

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Daniel Bryan Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Cody Rhodes Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Justin Gabriel Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Heath Slater Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles

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