Winning WWE’s Money in the Bank briefcase is usually a golden ticket to championship gold.
Since WWE introduced the MITB ladder match at WrestleMania 21, 20 different wrestlers have held the title of Mr. or Ms. Money in the Bank. Twenty-one if you count James Ellsworth, which no one does or should. Ever.
When WWE introduced the concept in 2005, we didn’t quite know what to make of it. WWE was still trying to find its way through the post-Attitude Era haze, and fans and the company alike didn’t seem sure of where things were going.
And then there was the first cash-in. It gave an air of unpredictability to what had become a pretty stale product (the more things change …).
Here’s our list of the most exciting cash-ins of all time.
Edge, New Year’s Revolution 2006
You never forget your first.
Edge won the inaugural MITB match at WrestleMania 21, and for the longest time, nothing came of it. But there’s something about the rules of the title contract that seem to have been forgotten in recent years.
The contract is good for 365 days. The briefcase holder has a year to bide their time and wait for the right opportunity. And at the New Year’s Revolution pay-per-view in January of 2006, the Rated-R Superstar made his move. In a nice storytelling twist, WWE made sure to paint the picture of Edge having a pretty bad night and weaved some foreshadowing in at the same time.
Edge failed to defeat Ric Flair for the Intercontinental Championship earlier in the show. But he failed to win it because he was disqualified — for hitting Flair with the briefcase.
See, WWE used to know how to write stuff. Fun fact: At the time, the company had only 73 writers on staff.
In the main event, John Cena survived a grueling Elimination Chamber match against Carlito, Kane, Chris Masters, Kurt Angle, and Shawn Michaels, to retain the WWE Championship.
Then Edge’s music hit, and the arena went berserk. Edge nailed Cena with two spears, winning his first WWE title in the first Money in the Bank cash-in.
Randy Orton, SummerSlam 2013
This was heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. Like, it still hurts.
It takes awhile for this story to get to Randy Orton, so hang in there.
In the summer of 2013, WWE Champion John Cena (yes, again) was allowed to hand-pick his challenger for SummerSlam 2013. And because Cena is the most good and pure soul who ever lived, he chose the most deserving person on the roster: Daniel Bryan.
And Vince McMahon was livid. He began crowing about how Bryan wasn’t suited to be the face of the company. Bryan was too small, his hair was too shaggy, and for the love of all that is holy, that beard.
Vince did everything he could to undermine Bryan’s status as number-one contender, but Bryan had someone in his corner.
Triple H stepped up for Bryan and named himself the referee for SummerSlam to ensure that McMahon didn’t cost Bryan the match. And after a month of being told he wasn’t good enough, Daniel Bryan hit the biggest running knee of his career and became WWE Champion.
The crowd went nuts, confetti rained down from the rafters, and it was the biggest feel-good moment of the year. Until it wasn’t.
Randy Orton walked out with the Money in the Bank briefcase and teased an immediate cash-in, but he seemingly thought better of it. Orton started to head toward the back, with Bryan still goading him to bring it on. And in the blink of an eye, Triple H spun the new champ around and nailed him with the Pedigree.
Orton rushed back in, cashed in his contract, and quickly dispatched with Bryan to win the title. It was an emotional roller coaster, and easily the best-told story in WWE that year. Of course, it was the story that just wouldn’t end, as Orton and the Authority would be a story that stretched into 2015. But with this one particular story, in this one particular match, WWE got it right.
Dolph Ziggler, Monday Night Raw – April 8, 2013
The Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania is an event that wrestling fans look forward to all year long. In some ways, it’s more exciting than Mania itself.
Fans are tuning in to see the fall-out from the night before, to get a glimpse about where the road after the biggest show leads, and for a few surprises. And arguably the biggest surprise of all came the night after WrestleMania 29.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio had just survived a match against Jack Swagger and suffered a knee injury. He barely pulled himself up by the ropes when the arena speakers announced that Ziggler was on his way.
Ziggler marched to the ring with the Money in the Bank briefcase, flanked by Big E and AJ Lee, and the story was all over Del Rio’s face: “It’s over.”
The bell rang, and Del Rio managed to hang in there for awhile. But the battle with Swagger took too much out of him. Ziggler hit him with the Zig-Zag and claimed the World Heavyweight Championship. The crowd absolutely erupted, and no one ever heard from Ziggler again. Not really, but you’d have to squint pretty hard to see him in a meaningful program after that night.
Ziggler is kind of a forgotten man in WWE these days. The company doesn’t talk about him much, and he hasn’t been on TV since the Carter Administration. But if nothing else, he has a legacy for being one of the reasons the Raw after Mania is can’t-miss TV.
Seth Rollins, WrestleMania 31
It’s hard to give credit to Michael Cole, so to make up for it, I’m jabbing a spoon into my eye.
But Michael Cole delivered the most iconic call of his career to close out WrestleMania 31 when he announced that Seth Rollins had pulled off “the heist of the century!”
Late 2014 through 2015 was an … interesting time for WWE. The company went all out the Roman Reigns experiment, and it backfired miserably.
Crowds and viewers turned on Reigns viciously. They booed him out of the building when he won the 2015 Royal Rumble match, and they absolutely refused to get behind him in the lead-up to his WWE Championship match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31.
But as is the case in most Money in the Bank cash-ins, we were focused on the trash fire in the main event. And we forgot that Seth Rollins was wandering around with a guaranteed championship match in his briefcase.
Reigns and Lesnar were both laying in a bloody heap. Or at least what qualifies as a bloody heap in the PG Era. As we mentioned, the crowd didn’t care. It was a complete snooze fest until Seth Rollins’s music hit, and millions of people around the world, in unison, went, “Oh yeah! He’s got the briefcase!”
Rollins rushed the ring, cashed in, and officially made the main event a triple threat match for the title. He dispatched Lesnar with a curb stomp, but Reigns was poised to take Rollins out with a spear. Reigns missed and hit Lesnar instead. This allowed Rollins to hit Reigns with the curb stomp and claim his first WWE Championship.
The match is a testament about how a single, giant moment can save a lackluster show. Rollins didn’t do well as champion, but his moment will live on as both the biggest Money in the Bank cash-in and one of the biggest WrestleMania moments ever.
All images courtesy of WWE.