It is a bout that so brings out the best in its participants that some of the Superstars best remembered are men who ultimately failed to capture the coveted contracts that guarantee a World Title opportunity, provided they are cashed in within a year of winning said contracts. So while Alberto Del Rio’s triumph at WWE Money in the Bank 2011 will certainly stand the test of time, Ric Flair’s gutsy effort at WrestleMania 23 and the coming-out performance of Tyson Kidd at WWE Money in the Bank 2012 are certainly nothing to scoff at either.
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
10.) Dolph Ziggler
He swore 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, as 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.
The repeated attempts to redeem the contract left The Showoff’s briefcase all but flattened over the nine months he held it; by the time Ziggler finally did turn that bad boy in (more on that later), it was practically in 2D. Despite his shoddy cash-in record, The Showoff came through when it mattered most, successfully defending the contract in two separate bouts that put it up for grabs, and finally cashing in for real on Alberto Del Rio before a rapturous WWE Universe the night after WrestleMania 29.
9.) Kofi Kingston
These days, Kofi Kingston’s gravity-defying feats are mostly reserved for the Royal Rumble Match, where The Dreadlocked Dynamo has annually found some absurd way to stave off elimination. But Kofi’s no slouch when it comes to the Money in the Bank Ladder Match either, especially in one stupefying moment at WrestleMania XXVI when he used a broken ladder to fashion a pair of stilts in what has to be the most innovative attempt to grab the contract in Money in the Bank history.
Even after Drew McIntyre knocked one of Kofi’s metal gams out from under him, The Boom Squad General nearly ascended to glory on the remaining half of the ladder before The Chosen One sent him tumbling into the ropes. Should we ever see Kofi in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match again, it’s a safe bet that The Wildcat will find yet another way to drop the collective jaw of the WWE Universe.
8.) Daniel Bryan
By now, Daniel Bryan’s shadow has grown so large over the WWE Universe that with all the “Yes!” chants, it’s easy to forget how it all started. In 2011, Bryan was already a former U.S. Champion but his then-subdued personality (yes, Daniel Bryan was once low-key — his “Flight of the Valkyries” theme song didn’t even have the guitars yet) had left him saddled with an underdog mentality that belied his killer instinct in the ring. 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, defeating 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 — both in and out of his own mind — 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.
7.) Chris Jericho
The chaos that comes around every summer at Money in the Bank is all thanks to one Superstar: Chris Jericho. It was Y2J who pitched the idea for the original Money in the Bank Ladder Match to then-Raw GM Eric Bischoff. Impressed, Bischoff set up the match for WrestleMania 21, and the rest is history.
Jericho himself has taken part in four of the annual bouts. Though he has not come out on top, the wily veteran has made sure that whoever emerged victorious earned it. Y2J bashed his opponents with ladders and used the steel objects to get extra torque on his Walls of Jericho submission hold.
Though the WWE Universe has benefitted greatly from Y2J’s idea, Jericho himself has fallen victim to the power that comes with holding the contract. Jack Swagger cashed in just days after winning the briefcase at WrestleMania XXVI and defeated Jericho to capture the World Heavyweight Title in 2010.
6.) Shelton Benjamin
Just because Shelton Benjamin never won a Money in the Bank Ladder Match doesn’t mean he didn’t make an impact. Taking part in five of the high-risk, high-reward bouts, The Gold Standard always made sure the WWE Universe was talking about him after the bell.
An accomplished amateur wrestler at the University of Minnesota, Benjamin was the last person you’d expect to be a daredevil. However, a guaranteed opportunity to challenge for the WWE or World Heavyweight Title will motivate even the most grounded Superstar to put everything on the line.
The Gold Standard 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, Benjamin found a way to make his way to the top. At The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, he showed what kind of damage he could do from the top of one, taking a daring leap onto his foes. Though he may not have retrieved the briefcase, Shelton Benjamin will be included in every Money in the Bank highlight reel in history.
5.) 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 be cashing in on his home court, at the 2006 ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view.
The wild west atmosphere 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.
Thanks to the interference of Edge, RVD defeated Cena for the WWE Title. Van Dam’s victory made it clear that whoever held the guaranteed title match contract held quite a bit of power in WWE.
4.) Randy Orton
Strange as it sounds given his storied career, it wasn’t until 2013 that Randy Orton won a Money in the Bank Ladder Match. However, it wasn’t just any ordinary Money in the Bank Ladder Match that The Viper won that year. Rather, WWE’s Apex Predator stood tall in an All-Star Money in the Bank Ladder Match that contained such luminaries as Daniel Bryan, Christian and Sheamus.
But even before he captured the briefcase, Orton was responsible for one of the mad match’s most enduring moments at WrestleMania 23 when he went berserk and unleashed a slew of RKOs on Matt Hardy, Finlay and Mr. Kennedy, clearing the ring and giving himself the clearest opportunity at capturing the briefcase. Orton capped off his rampage with a final RKO to CM Punk, who made the mistake of attempting to seize the contract at the same time as The Viper, and found himself RKO’d off the side as a result.
3.) CM Punk
CM Punk wrestled with a purpose, namely to prove he was The Best in the World. The Money in the Bank Ladder Match gave The Straight Edge Superstar the boost he needed to reach the upper echelon of WWE and truly show what he was made of.
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. Punk cashed in on Jeff Hardy at Extreme Rules 2009, showing that he didn’t need luck to win the World Title, just the right opportunity.
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. (Seriously, think about that image for a bit. Doesn’t seem right, does it?) 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.
The Big Red Monster’s record for quickest cash-in has stood in the four years since he accomplished the feat, but he also earns a spot on this list for successfully defending the title against none other than The Undertaker, who emerged as the most formidable challenger to his brother’s first World Title in 10 years. That it ultimately took a Fatal 4-Way stipulation to relieve Kane of the championship speaks volumes about the ferocity with which it was defended.
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 2005. Edge stalked to the ring with a purpose and relinquished his briefcase. One Spear later and Edge’s ascent to the WWE Hall of Fame was on the fast track.