AEW is still in its relative infancy and trying to find itself. Some ideas are sticking well, while others aren’t quite landing and could use adjustments. The Casino Ladder Match concept is one that I feel is prime for some tweaks that could take it from being good to great.
Let’s bury the lead here. You read the title. In my mind, AEW is missing out on replicating WWE’s Money in the Bank ladder match—one of the best overall gimmicks in professional wrestling today.
Last year, instead of the Casino Battle Royale (which is returning at Double or Nothing this year, mind you), it was replaced with the Casino Ladder Match. Effectively, this was just a regular ladder match with a poker chip instead of a championship title that everyone was vying for.
Unfortunately, it retained the same outcome as the CBR in that the winner received a title shot for an arbitrary show to come. In the past, winners of these battle royals have had their matches on regular episodes of Dynamite, special editions like Beach Break and Winter is Coming, or on actual pay-per-views.
In my mind, what makes the Royal Rumble special is that you know the winner gets their match specifically at WrestleMania. Likewise, what makes the Money in the Bank ladder match so much more fun is that it can be cashed in at any time for the next year.
Brian Cage grabbed the chip and I thought to myself “Surely he’s not waiting until All Out, right?” Down the line at Fight for the Fallen, Cage got his title shot, lost, and everyone moved on. By the time that next pay-per-view hit, MJF was the No. 1 contender for All Out and Cage had been long in the past.
The Advantages of Money in the Bank
Which is more intriguing on paper, a mystery or when something is solved almost immediately? I think the answer is obvious.
Knowing when someone’s title opportunity will take place means it is no longer a special idea. It’s just the same as any other No. 1 contender’s match. The only difference is that they grab a poker chip instead of just winning the right for the title shot by pinfall or submission.
Those types of setups happen so many times throughout the year that it doesn’t stand out once you reach that announcement. On the contrary, if you don’t announce it and keep dragging it out, but it’s known to not be a MITB-style randomize thing, then AEW is just stalling. It’s a lose-lose, basically. Actually, to be more truthful, it’s a lose-missed opportunity, because of how quickly the buzz about the new No. 1 contender gets flattened out. It’s not specifically “bad” that we know when they’ll fight for the title; it’s just not as good as it could be.
With MITB, though, the unknown is built into the idea. It’s arguably the most fun part about it. At any point on any show, even if it’s not the brand the person belongs to, a cash-in can happen that can completely change the landscape.
Many times over the years, this has been used to bail WWE out of a bad situation, too. A champion gets injured, they don’t want them to straight-up lose the belt and take a hit to their credibility, so they have a MITB cash-in to take care of that and a built-in story for when that person returns.
Storylines have revolved around someone else wanting to win the briefcase. It almost becomes another championship in its own right. And when someone fails to win, they also create more intrigue than if someone loses a simple normal No. 1 contender’s setup.
I ask again. What is more memorable, even if it’s infamously remembered: King Corbin and Damien Sandow coming up short in their title shots, or Lance Archer failing his match that he had won at All Out? At least for me, I couldn’t even remember Archer had won that opportunity to begin with!
It works with the “cash-in” concept, too. You can cash in the Money in the Bank or you cash in your poker chips and your winnings at the casino. The terminology doesn’t even need to change! It’s not as though this is when you see another company use a trophy and they try to claim they’re “cashing” that in.
The Case Against a Change
One of the only arguments I could see for not doing this is that “it’s just like WWE, then.” It’s true that AEW should be looking for ways to differentiate itself from WWE, rather than copy them.
By no means am I advocating that AEW just becomes a xerox of WWE. Otherwise, what’s the point? Being an alternative means you need to have differences worth watching your product over the competition.
But that doesn’t mean AEW shouldn’t adopt WWE’s ideas that work while learning from their mistakes and trying to improve on them. After all, WWE does have a solid foundation to work from. The Casino Battle Royale is proof that they are trying to copy the Royal Rumble with just a few tweaks. I don’t think it’s better, but at least they took a good idea and tried to improve on it, rather than purposely ruining it like when TNA would do something like the reverse battle royals.
Technically, another argument against my own idea would be that if AEW outright wants to get these people out of the way and have their title shots as soon as possible, then there’s no need to have it last up to a year and to keep it an unknown. But again, then how is it more special than a one-on-one No. 1 contender’s match or the finals of an eliminator tournament or something else? Just because it’s a single ladder match? Well, should there be a Casino Tables Match, then, with the same setup, but you have to win by putting someone through a table that looks like a roulette wheel?
The last argument I could imagine why people wouldn’t want this to change is that MITB hasn’t exactly been good the past few years. It’s not as though Otis had a great run with that when he did nothing, dropped it to The Miz months later, didn’t even feud with Tucker over it, and then The Miz won the title and dropped it two weeks later.
Counterpoint, though: that’s just WWE Creative’s fault. That’s not a flawed concept. It’s a bad writing team and/or a bad managerial oversight where they don’t let the writers do their jobs and push the MITB out of the mix, then wonder why nothing’s happened to it.