After nearly eight years, it might be time to recognize the Money in the Bank paradigm as an abject failure. That is, unless Damien Sandow just saved it in the most unusual way. Since Edge first cashed in Money in the Bank, the briefcase has been used as a specter that hung over the respective championship. Granted, the company routinely failed to actually capitalize on such momentum, often engaging in a “briefcase slump” to seemingly push other wrestlers by letting them beat a champion, who did not actually carry a title. It’s a practice that’s been an unmitigated disaster, leaving audiences never believing in the viability of the briefcase holder, who invariably defeats a prone champion.
In fact, since its inception, the Money in the Bank match has really only helped elevate three wrestlers: Edge, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. What about Alberto Del Rio? He’s stuck in the same spot Punk found himself after his first, inconsequential cash-in. In fact, Punk’s second briefcase was only relevant because of his exceptional heel turn in 2009 and Daniel Bryan was the beneficiary of a quality title run and incredible crowd response after suffering the briefcase hangover. Swagger? Irrelevant. Miz? He was a prop and third wheel at the genesis of the Cena-Rock marathon. So, in reality, Money in the Bank has never really escaped Edge’s shadow; but since he was the first winner and set the standard, that shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
What about the big name players who won the event, you ask? Guys like Kane, Cena and RVD? Again, what did the briefcase do to really elevate any of them? Kane was a monster who bullied smaller opponents before he beat Mysterio at the Money in the Bank PPV in 2010. RVD’s cash-in was the first one to set up a genuine championship match at One Night Stand, but that was contested under extreme rules, more of a love letter to ECW than a substantiated cash-in and featured the first real backlash against John Cena. Keep in mind that was 2006, meaning if Cena hate were a person, it’d be in elementary school. Adorable irony. Cena, coincidentally, was perceived as able to handle the pressure of losing the cash-in, but even that was a dusty ending that ruined what could have been another exceptional wrinkle in the Punk-Cena rivalry, which might be the best feud of this generation.
But, now, Damien Sandow has broken tradition. A midcard guy suffered the briefcase slump, cashed in on a prone champion…and lost. There’s a new precedent set. The briefcase isn’t a free ride into the history books. Now, the ladder match is just one step. The small step. The hard part is beating the champion. And gasp and awe, once the title is harder to win, the more prestigious it becomes. Then maybe, just maybe, the briefcase won’t be a burden, but a tool. If Sandow chases Cena, eventually defeating him after suffering a failed cash-in, a vow to fracture the Cenation, striving through a triple threat involving Del Rio, and eventually getting his opportunity in a singles match, WWE might just have a new main event star. I know; dogs and cats living to together, mass hysteria. Not to worry, though. It isn’t like he will be the barely seen host of a talk show segment three years after winning Money in the Bank if things go south because John-boy needs the rub.
Granted, if you think the list of winners is a minefield, think about the midcarders who were lost in ladder match purgatory year after year instead of developing a real feud. Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Mr. Kennedy, Christian, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, and Wade Barrett were all featured in multiple Money in the Bank matches providing no real focus for their characters along the way. At one time or another, every single one was considered a guy who earned clamoring support from hardcore fans aching for diversity in the main event. The rare exception to the rule was Cody Rhodes finding a multi-finisher outburst in the most recent iteration that has begun a long overdue push to the upper part of the card.
The formula, simply, has not worked. But, if the briefcase holder isn’t guaranteed a title reign, then it could actually be much more meaningful for those who are successful. The match itself is a spectacle, but the briefcase IS THE PUSH. It isn’t rocket surgery…buzzwords, please…just what’s best for business.
If I’m wrong, let me know about it in the comments section, but if I’m right…we may be saving the lives of (let’s pompously say) hundreds of frustrated wrestling fans.