They're so money: 10 Money in the Bank MVPs
There’s an old saying in sports circles among championship teams that the regular season is merely a warm-up, and the playoffs are when the year really starts. The same could be said of WWE’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match, a contest where the stakes are so high and the competition so intense that good competitors can become great (Edge) and dark horses can rise above their previously perceived limitations to climb their way to glory (Daniel Bryan).
It’s a match that brings out the best in its participants. Some of the Superstars most remembered aren’t necessarily the winners, but men who ultimately failed to capture the coveted contract that guarantees a World Title opportunity, provided they cash it in within a year of winning said contract. In that vein — from a pool of Legends and journeymen, from two-time winners to one-shot wonders — here are WWE.com’s 10 MVPs of the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, presented by Gold Bond Ultimate.
Rob Van Dam
Like Edge, Rob Van Dam knew how to use the Money in the Bank contract to his advantage. Unlike The Rated-R Superstar, however, RVD gave the champion advance notice. After winning the brutal bout at WrestleMania 22, Van Dam told WWE Champion John Cena that he’d cash in on his home court, at the 2006 ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view.
The Wild West atmosphere of that show played to all of Van Dam’s strengths. He could jump from anywhere, use any weapon he could get his hands on, and had the crowd in his back pocket. Though Cena fought valiantly, it seemed as if he never stood a chance on the extreme battleground. And thanks to interference of Edge, RVD defeated Cena for the WWE Title.
An accomplished amateur wrestler at the University of Minnesota, Benjamin was the last person you’d expect to be a daredevil. But it turned out that dangling a contract opportunity in front of Benjamin was the incentive he needed to learn how to fly. Throughout his five appearances in the mad match, Benjamin used his agility and athleticism to his advantage, darting up ladders with lightning-quick speed. No matter how his opponents managed to stack up the ladders, he found a way to the top. At The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, he showed what kind of damage he could do, taking a daring leap onto his foes. Benjamin may never have captured the contract, but he was almost always the one the WWE Universe was left talking about anyway.
The formula for this relatively recent addition is pretty simple: make history, become an MVP. Seth Rollins, indeed, made history, and changed it, too, by pouncing unannounced on the Brock Lesnar–Roman Reigns WWE World Heavyweight Title Match that closed out WrestleMania 31. What was shaping up to be Reigns’ moment in the sun was quickly doused when The Architect redeemed his Money in the Bank contract and turned the contest into a Triple Threat Match on the spot. He pinned Reigns to complete the first — and as of right now, only — Money in the Bank cash-in throughout the 32-year history of The Show of Shows’ main event.
He vowed to show the world, and at WWE Money in the Bank 2012, Dolph Ziggler did just that, climbing past Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Tensai, Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara and Christian to seize a World Heavyweight Championship contract. If nothing else, The Showoff’s tenure as a Money in the Bank contract holder was certainly the most entertaining. He attempted a cadre of cash-ins on various World Champions but always failed due to the timely interference of some opponent or another who cut him off at the pass. Despite his shoddy cash-in record, The Showoff came through when it mattered most, successfully defending the contract in two separate bouts with it up for grabs, and finally cashing in for real on Alberto Del Rio before a rapturous WWE Universe the night after WrestleMania 29.
By now, Daniel Bryan’s shadow has grown so large over the WWE Universe that it’s easy to forget how it all started. In 2011, Bryan was already a former U.S. Champion but his then-subdued personality led his opponents to dismiss him as an also-ran. With doubters raining insults all around him — Cody Rhodes condescendingly and ironically labeled him as a “common man” — Bryan did what he does best and stepped up at the greatest possible moment. He defeated Rhodes, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel and Kane to capture a World Heavyweight Championship Match contract.
It was only after cashing in that contract on Big Show in 48 seconds at WWE TLC 2011 that Bryan’s legend began to grow, and he became the rocket-powered wrestling machine we know today. And yes, his World Title story ended in ignominious fashion, but at this point, its ending is as forgotten as its beginning. He is who he is, and Money in the Bank was what brought him to the main event in the first place.
Among CM Punk’s many, many philosophies was the oft-repeated refrain that “luck is for losers.” And while it may have been a happy turn of fate that he ended up in consecutive Money in the Bank Ladder Matches at two straight WrestleManias, it sure as hell was no fluke that he won them both. At WrestleMania XXIV, Punk evaded the high-flying ladder attacks of John Morrison, daredevil dives by Shelton Benjamin and the veteran know-how of Chris Jericho to win the bout. Punk successfully cashed in to win the World Heavyweight Title that June.
The following year, Punk was money at The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, once again scaling above the competition to claim the coveted contract. And just like the year prior, Punk was champion again by summer after cashing in on Jeff Hardy at Extreme Rules 2009. It turns out that he never needed luck to win the World Title, just the right opportunity.
Strange as it sounds given his storied career, it wasn’t until 2013 that Randy Orton won a Money in the Bank Ladder Match. But even before he captured the contract, Orton was responsible for one of the mad match’s most enduring moments at WrestleMania 23. In that match, he went berserk and unleashed a slew of RKOs on Matt Hardy, Finlay, CM Punk and Mr. Kennedy, clearing the ring and giving himself the clearest opportunity at capturing the contract. That made for a hell of a highlight reel, but Orton’s eventual victory in ’13 was even more impactful: By ambushing Daniel Bryan, The Apex Predator officially threw in with Triple H and began the three-year reign of The Authority.
The chaos that comes around every summer at Money in the Bank is all thanks to one Superstar: Chris Jericho. It was the stylish Superstar who pitched the idea for the original Money in the Bank Ladder Match to then–Raw GM Eric Bischoff, who sanctioned the first-ever one at WrestleMania 21.
That isn’t to say Jericho’s contribution stopped there. The Ayatollah of Rock ’n’ Rolla has taken part in four of the annual bouts. Though he has not come out on top, the wily veteran has made sure that whomever emerged victorious earned it. Jericho bashed his opponents with ladders and used the steel objects to get extra torque on his Walls of Jericho submission hold, showing that not only does he deliver a great elevator pitch, but he’s also perfectly capable of reaching new heights all the same.
With his ruthless history and overall aura of demonic mystery, Kane doesn’t seem much like the type of Superstar who’d carry around a briefcase for months on end, waiting for the opportunity at a World Title Match to strike. Apparently, The Devil’s Favorite Demon thought that very same thing when he defeated Big Show, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre at WWE Money in the Bank 2010, only to cash in his World Heavyweight Championship contract on Rey Mysterio that same night.
Not only has The Big Red Monster’s record for quickest cash-in stood ever since, but he also earns a spot on this list for successfully defending the title against The Undertaker, who emerged as the most formidable challenger to his brother’s first World Title in 10 years. Considering that it ultimately took a Fatal 4-Way stipulation to relieve Kane of the championship speaks volumes about the ferocity with which he defended it.
The Money in the Bank Ladder Match helped make Edge a WWE Hall of Famer. The victor of the inaugural bout, Edge set the tone for what the contract inside that briefcase could do for a Superstar’s career.
The Rated-R Superstar, practically a master of Ladder Matches, emerged victorious from the wreckage of the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 21. He patiently waited for the right moment to take his opportunity at glory, while the champions nervously looked over their shoulders.
Nearly nine months later, he found the perfect opening. John Cena was left beaten and covered in crimson after a brutal Elimination Chamber Match at New Year’s Revolution 2006. Edge stalked to the ring with a purpose and relinquished his contract. One Spear later and Edge’s ascent to the WWE Hall of Fame was on the fast track.