With WWE Money in the Bank less than two weeks away, a dream match and the main event billed as “WrestleMania worthy” fill out the top of the card. The namesake match, the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, is the other main focus. Originally a featured attraction of WrestleMania, the match serves, for the most part, as a platform for mid carders to break out, while also guaranteeing at least one good match on the show.
However, all Money in the Bank Matches are not created equally, especially in this day and age when most fans have been numbed to a lot of the ladder match spots. While the worst ladder matches are still better than average (last years match, WrestleMania 25, 26, the match Alberto Del Rio won, to name a few), the top five Money in the Bank ladder matches are:
5: Ric Flair vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Matt Hardy vs. Finlay vs. Bobby Lashley, WrestleMania 22.
Unlike the previous year's WrestleMania, the second Money in the Bank ladder match featured talent from RAW and SmackDown. From the outset of this match, “RVD” chants rained through the Allstate Arena. This match was not as crisp as the first installment, as the field was weaker in regard to work rate and believable winners.
Benjamin continued to stand out in a good way in these matches (more on that later), doing the big somersault to the outside and toward the end by springboarding onto the ladder to the delight of the Windy City fans preventing Van Dam from winning at the time. Flair had a great night as well. After Hardy took out the two-time Hall of Famer with a super-plex off the ladder, the 16 time World champ returned to a great reaction, chopping everyone in sight before Finlay whacked him with his trademark shillelagh.
Mr. Monday night stood out as well, hitting a Rolling Thunder on the ladder and a splash from the top of one. Unlike the first bout where one could make an argument for the other participants, clearly the right guy went over.
A great ladder match, but not as good as the original. The wrestlers relied more on spots than the ones in the number one match did, but still spread them out well enough to avoid overkill.
4: Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Finlay vs. Matt Hardy vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. King Booker vs. CM Punk, WrestleMania 23.
WWE expanded the Money in the Bank pool to eight grapplers. ECW brand wrestlers (or wrestler) took part for the first time as well. The increase did not affect the match, as everyone received an opportunity to shine.
The elder Hardy came across as calculating, attempting to destroy “The Rated R Superstar’s” face like they did to Joey Mercury at Armageddon 2006, and convincing the “The Charismatic Enigma” to leap off a 20-foot ladder onto the 13 time Heavyweight Champion, eliminating him from contention. Hardy later threatened to hit a Twist of Fate on Booker’s wife Sharmell to keep the five-time WCW champion from winning.
Orton’s RKO on Punk, Booker’s Book End on "The Legend Killer" and Kennedy’s Green Bay Plunge on Hornswoggle of the top of ladders served as highlights in the most spot heavy Money in the Bank match at the time. Kennedy’s win after knocking Punk off the ladder (a finish revisited a year later) served as the last real highlight moment for him in the company.
3: Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Christian vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Sheamus, Money in the Bank 2013.
WWE returned to the six-man format for their “All Stars” ladder match. The 2014 match featured all babyfaces for the first time ever (the crowd did boo the stale Sheamus). Van Dam competed for the first time since 2009, in this match. The other combatants greeted him with a beat down, taking him out early. Not long after Punk and Bryan exchanged blows, harkening back to their series of classics the year prior. “Mr. Monday Night” grabbed the attention of the crowd with his signature spots. Sheamus later attempted to Razors Edge Bryan through a bridged ladder, much as he did to Sin Cara in 2011.
The ladder spots were not particularly innovative, but the spots they did kept the crowd engaged. Among the moments, an Orton exploder suplex on Punk onto the ladder,Van Dam moving to another ladder after Christian fell off and delivering a Five Star Frog Splash to “Captain Charisma” off said ladder, a tremendous RKO by Orton catching Van Dam off the ladder and, honestly anything Bryan and Punk did. This and the next two matches showed ladder matches don’t need to have a bunch of spots to be good, but a compelling story and/or wrestlers they want to see win or lose.
The Curtis Axel interference on Bryan (who most thought was winning the match) drew boos from the crowd. The Paul Heyman turn on Punk afterward worked well in setting up the SummerSlam match with Brock Lesnar. Orton winning felt flat at the time (anyone outside of Punk, Bryan, or Van Dam would have), but it made sense in the end, as it led to his heel turn and feud with Bryan. Color commentator JBL said this match was one of the best Money in the Bank Matches of all time, and he was right.
2: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Jack Swagger, Money in the Bank 2014.
WWE focused on advancing the Ambrose/Rollins feud in this match. Ambrose attacked his former Shield stablemate at the opening bell and continued to do so for the duration of the match. Kingston, who essentially took Benjamin’s place as the promotion’s resident “highlight” guy lived up to that status, as he sprung off the ropes diving onto Swagger, Van Dam, and Ziggler.
After hitting a DDT on "The Real American", trainers sent Ambrose to the back with a shoulder injury. “The Lunatic Fringe” returned not long after to a great pop preventing “The Architect” from winning the match and delivering chair shot after chairs shot to Rollins. Afterward, Kane ran (or briskly jogged) to the ring preventing Ambrose from grabbing the title shot.
A tremendous match that told a great story, even if fans couldn’t realistically buy into the other participants winning. As groan-inducing as it was, Kane’s interference worked as well, as he was Rollins’ “Plan B” and it fit the latter's smarmy character.
1: Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Christian vs. Kane, WrestleMania 21.
The first Money in the Bank match remains the crown jewel in this writer’s opinion. Since five of the six competitors were among the best workers in the company at that point (while the other was a good worker for a big man) it should not have been a surprise. Unlike future ladder matches, this match was not heavy on ladder spots, which made them even more impactful.
This match served as Benjamin’s coming out party, displaying his amazing athleticism on several occasions, including his clothesline after running up the ladder spot. Unfortunately, the company used Benjamin as the “highlight reel” guy in future bouts instead of pushing him. Benjamin hit most of his highlight moves on Jericho, playing well into their feud (they fought for the Intercontinental Title the following month).
The match relied on good psychology. Early in the match, Kane slammed Benoit’s arm in between the ladder, which the “Rabid Wolverine” sold for the remainder of the match. The injury played into the finish, as Edge drilled the same arm with a steel chair in route to winning the match. While not a perfect match (Tomko’s involvement made sure of that), the action was well paced, it did not run too long and the right person went over.