|Image Source: Wrestling
Written By: Mark Armstrong
Produced By: WWE
Date: July 14 2013
Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Having been the recipient of its own PPV event for four years now, and with the match having originally debuted back in 2005, it’s safe to say that the Money In The Bank Ladder match, as an entertainment spectacle, has probably passed its peak. Whereas the early bouts (held annually at WrestleMania) were about showcasing the young talent who could potentially become future main eventers, in an environment which suited their athletic styles, since 2010 the MITB PPV has seen twice as many matches of this nature, thus partly diluting each one, whilst also casting either headliners who need not require MITB to get ahead or performers whose size or style do not make them suitable participants to what is, at its essence, a stunt match.
Fortunately, though, there are enough worthy performers whose styles do suit the environment and their creativity has been of a high enough standard that the Money In The Bank Ladder match remains one of the must-see matches of the year, perhaps only behind the Royal Rumble match and the featured bouts at WrestleMania. This year, there were once again two MITB bouts, each with a very different casting, but with both promising plenty of thrills and spills. And the match does still provide a boost to the winner when the briefcase ends up in the right hands, meaning that there is still genuine intrigue to the results of these matches; and, again, the casts on this particular night offered up some intriguing possibilities if they were to win. So, plenty to look forward to then, even if the stipulation has lost some of the appeal that it once had. Add to that the return of Rob Van Dam to WWE in one of those bouts, two World Title bouts and some potentially exciting mid-card bouts, and you have the makings of what could be a pretty memorable PPV extravaganza.
On the pre-show, we had a WWE Tag Team Title match between Shield titleholders Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns and The Usos. Whereas pre-show bouts generally have a stigma attached to them (namely, that those involved aren’t considered important enough to appear on the main PPV card), this was a notable exception; as a matter of fact, this fast-paced, action-packed doubles battle was as good as any non-Ladder match that we would witness all night. Credit to all involved, who made a special effort to kick off MITB (well, the night as a whole) with a bang. Hopefully, those in charge noticed these strong performances by all four. Reigns won it by pinning Jimmy Uso after a Spear.
Money In The Bank itself opened with the first MITB Ladder match. I forgot to mention before that the end of the brand extension in 2011, which has resulted in there being two World Titles at a time when it is unnecessary, has also hindered the stipulation because it has been made clear (as did the placement of this particular MITB clash) that the World Heavyweight Title, once considered the equal of the WWE Title, is by no means on level pegging these days, so the same applies for the respective MITB bouts. In any event, the blue briefcase was hanging over the ring for what was unusually an all-heels MITB clash, with none of them really receiving a true push en route to the show. Whilst this felt like poor planning by WWE, it did make for an unpredictable match, since nobody knew who would win out of Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Wade Barrett, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro (the latter two of whom have recently formed the Real Americans tag team under the management of Zeb Colter, even though Cesaro is Swiss) and Fandango (who was already in the ring when the PPV began, and of course had the rabid Philadelphia crowd Fandangoing).
Although the heel alignment of each participant meant that the fans had to essentially choose for themselves who they wanted to win (which you think would have suited a smarky crowd like Philadelphia), it didn’t make the match any less enjoyable; indeed, this was a worthy MITB bout with plenty of eye-catching stunts. Of note, we saw Fandango hit a huge legdrop over a ladder, Swagger and Cesaro using a ladder as a bridge only for Ambrose to try and use this as a platform to win, and a big sunset flip off another ladder by the ballroom dancer. There was also interference by Rollins and Reigns to try and help Ambrose win, which was repelled by the also-interfering Usos. But Cody Rhodes was the standout performer with a dominant performance that seemed to turn him babyface; certainly, the fans reacted positively to his spots, particularly a Muscle Buster (which is the signature move of indie icon Samoa Joe). It seemed like it was Cody’s match to win, but his Team Rhodes Scholars partner Damien Sandow (who comparatively did little during the match) shoved Cody off the ladder, allowing him to unhook the briefcase and win the match. Sandow winning MITB was a surprise, as he will need plenty of favourable booking to make him a genuine World Title contender. Of greater note, though, was that this seemed to signify Sandow killing off the Scholars team, which should see Cody become a babyface. This was definitely a good start to MITB, and set a standard for the other MITB bout participants to try and surpass later on.
Before The Miz challenged Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Title, we had an in-ring segment where the recently-fired Vickie Guerrero, who for some reason was still here at MITB on the pre-show panel, tried to give herself a farewell address only for the fans to reject it, as well as new Raw GM Brad Maddox, who played a video of Vickie’s most embarrassing moments in WWE. This went on too long and would have been more suited to Raw than a PPV event. It was only ended when Miz came out, meaning that for perhaps the first time ever, fans were genuinely happy to see The Awesome One (I kid).
Miz vs. Axel, or Axel vs. Miz if you prefer, was alright. Miz is still a babyface, but it’s still a little hard to truly get behind him due to his arrogant, narcissistic ways. Axel continues to receive a moderate push by WWE, despite unnecessarily losing a non-title match to Chris Jericho recently. The two matched up fairly well and delivered a solid but unspectacular match. Axel will be happy with his performance (as will Miz, to be fair), but he still needs to show something else if he is to live up to the potential that WWE and Paul Heyman have tagged him with. Speaking of Heyman, Miz had him ejected by using Eddie Guerrero-style tactics (pretending that Heyman interfered when he hadn’t), which usually would be an effective spot, but in ECW country, it was the equivalent of a red rag to a bull. It didn’t really affect the outcome, though, as Axel beat Miz cleanly to retain the gold. Thanks to Miz removing the ECW owner from play, this resulted in Axel being cheered for his win.
We then had a rematch from Payback, and a welcome one in this case, as AJ Lee defended the Divas Championship against Kaitlyn. These two blew everyone away at the last PPV event by delivering the best women’s match seen in WWE for many years, possibly ever (seriously). And they delivered again here with another fine, logical and well-executed match which put most of the other females on the roster to shame. It was slightly less enjoyable than their Payback match, but I think that was because nobody was expecting the Payback bout to be as good as it was, whereas for this rematch at Money In The Bank, people realised that it would be good (and it was). In terms of execution, it may have been superior to the Payback match, but it lacked the element of surprise as far as its quality, thus resulting in this rematch having a lesser impact.
As stated, though, this was still very enjoyable, and had we not seen them meet at Payback, people would be saying that this was the best WWE women’s match for many years, if not ever. The story of the match was that AJ continuously worked on the arm of Kaitlyn, not only weakening it for her Black Widow submission, but also to reduce Kaitlyn’s chances of winning if she were to hit her own finishing move, the Spear (too many people use that nowadays, by the way). And her plan paid off handsomely: following some good exchanges and a strong comeback by the challenger, Kaitlyn did hit the Spear, but her arm did prevent her capitalising, and AJ did take advantage by slapping on the Black Widow, which resulted in a submission victory. Kaitlyn fortunately didn’t burst into tears afterwards to ensure that hardcore fans booed her, as she did at Payback. Unusually, I hope that this female feud continues, because their matches have been exceptional by the standards of the women’s division.
Next up, Chris Jericho battled Ryback. This felt like a filler feud for both established stars, and that’s what it proved to be; bear in mind that part of the reason for this happening was that Jericho had been chastising the Big Guy with chants of “Cry-Back!” Even by the often-childish standards of Y2J’s sense of humour, this was a tough one to buy. It still meant a fresh match between a popular veteran and one of WWE’s newest stars, though, so it was still a welcome addition to the PPV.
Ryback dominated much of the match, although his periods of control were probably a little too slow and drawn-out. This heel turn of Ryback’s still doesn’t make sense to me, and after losing his feud to John Cena at Payback, even matches like this won’t make up for main event scenarios, which Ryback could be waiting a long time to attain again. Jericho made a good comeback and brought the occasionally-disinterested crowd back into the match, and after some nice exchanges and close calls (a Codebreaker by Y2J almost saw Ryback counted out; credit to the heel on this occasion that he didn’t walk away satisfied at losing in this fashion and ran back into the ring before the 10-count), Ryback won in slightly anticlimactic fashion when a missed Lionsault allowed the Big Guy to roll Jericho up for the pin. Ryback remains the recipient of a decent push, then, but as stated his main event adventures could be limited going forward. Match quality was okay, but I expected slightly more.
This was followed by the World Heavyweight Championship bout, another rematch from Payback as Alberto Del Rio defended against Dolph Ziggler. If you recall, ADR and Ziggler appeared to switch sides in a double-turn at Payback, en route to Del Rio regaining the World Title. Since that show, it has been essentially made official: Del Rio is now 100% a heel again, and Ziggler is almost certainly a babyface now (which should please the hardcore fans who have been backing him for so long). Del Rio was disadvantaged on this night to a minor extent by the absence of his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez; on television, we were told that he wasn’t around because of injuries suffered at the hands of Ziggler (in reality, Rodriguez is serving a 30-day suspension for a Wellness Policy violation).
In contrast to their Payback match, which told a story that at times overshadowed the moves on display, this rematch was all about the action, and that action was of a high standard, all before a red-hot crowd. Indeed, the Philadelphia audience were enthralled by the back-and-forth wrestling, the big bumps, the high spots, the near-falls; everything, basically. This was the big-bumping, smart-wrestling Ziggler at his best, and Del Rio put in a very effective heel performance as well. The finisher attempts and reversals and submission escapes (when ADR tried to trap Dolph in the Cross-Armbreaker) were of a high standard, and the match seemed to lean towards a big finish. So, it was a bit disappointing when it ended with a disqualification, after AJ Lee (Dolph’s damsel in distress, or whatever she is) ran in and unnecessarily hit Del Rio with her Divas Title. Fans booed loudly, a) because it denied Dolph a World Title win, and b) because the finish could have been a lot better, especially for such a good match. Certainly, it looks like a Dolph-AJ split is happening to cement Ziggler as a babyface, which presumably will mean a split from Big E Langston too. The only thing is, where does this leave Dolph in regards to trying to regain his World Title from Alberto? Did his title chase end here?
John Cena defended the WWE Title against Mark Henry in the penultimate bout. Such a match prospect may not seem appealing, but on this occasion there were some positives to the meeting. It was a fresh match for PPV (they have never met on PPV, believe it or not). It was Henry’s first WWE Title opportunity on PPV (he has previously been World Champion, but he hasn’t had a WWE Title bout on a supershow). Similar to Royal Rumble, this being the title match meant that some strong and suitable talent could be featured in the MITB bouts. And it followed Henry’s greatest ever WWE moment when he pretended to announce his retirement on Raw the night after Payback, only to swerve-turn on Cena to a huge pop. What made this so awesome was Henry’s very convincing performance; in the back of my mind watching that angle, I was thinking that there could be a swerve, but he was so good at conveying his faux retirement speech that you could never be completely sure. If anything, a real bowing-out seemed more likely; so when he did turn around and drop Cena, it was a “Holy s–t!” moment. Credit to the often-criticised Henry: his performance on that night was truly outstanding; his career highlight from a performance standpoint, bar none.
This match, whilst fought at the expected slow pace and with the anticipated focus on power moves and attempted power moves by Cena, was better than expected, meaning that it ultimately served a purpose. Henry even kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment once Cena had finally hit the AA, which led many to wonder if this would be Henry’s time. But when Cena also withstood a World’s Strongest Slam, the outcome became obvious, and indeed Cena won the match and retained the WWE Championship when he countered another Slam attempt by Henry into an STF for the submission victory. Overall, this rivalry ended up being a success, which you could argue is doubly impressive considering who was involved.
The main event would be the All-Stars Money In The Bank Ladder match for the WWE Title/red briefcase (great way to make the other MITB participants feel important). This pitted CM Punk against Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Christian, Sheamus and the returning Rob Van Dam (who received a massive pop upon his return in the old ECW home base; Bryan and Punk also got great pops). Kane was meant to compete, but an attack by the debuting Wyatt Family on Raw took him out of contention, and WWE strangely declined to replace him (that angle, incidentally, was marred at smarky fans chanting “Husky Harris” at Bray Wyatt). By the way, this was an all-babyface MITB match, which followed what began as an all-heel MITB match earlier in the evening.
This was a long and mostly impressive collection of stunt spots. Humorously, everyone targeted the posing RVD to begin the bout, to the expected boos. Sheamus then took control to more boos after he had been taken out by the remaining four participants, before Van Dam re-entered the ring and unleashed his greatest hits on his opponents. Sheamus set up a ladder bridge between the ring and an announcer’s table at ringside, only to taste a hard knee by the flying Bryan (the flying goat?). The Celtic Warrior got revenge later with his ten punches to the chest to Bryan on the ladder, with the crowd chanting “No!” to each one in an amusing moment. Punk stopped Sheamus from there and used him and a ladder as something resembling a surfboard, before Orton caught Punk with a hard T-Bone Suplex onto a ladder. A back-and-forth exchange between RVD and Christian (who had a belter of a Ladder match on Raw back in 2003) led to RVD hitting Captain Charisma with a Five-Star Frog Splash off a ladder to a massive pop (incidentally, this move ended their aforementioned Ladder bout from a decade earlier).
The great action continued as Bryan took control and basically levelled everybody with kicks, running clotheslines and dives through the ropes; Bryan exerted an amount of control which would have once been unimaginable in a WWE ring, much to the approval of this audience. This included knocking Sheamus off a ladder out to ringside and onto and through the aforementioned ladder bridge (the landing looked nasty as hell). Unexpectedly, Curtis Axel ran in to cut off Bryan’s ascendancy with a neckbreaker variation, but CM Punk knocked Axel away (despite both being friends with Paul Heyman, Punk has called Axel out as a nuisance), saying he wanted to win this match himself. An angry Heyman came out and agreed, willing Punk to climb. However, Heyman then turned on Punk by slamming a ladder into his head several times; the last of these opened up a massive cut on Punk’s skull. Heyman had officially turned his back on Punk, in response to Punk telling Heyman after Payback not to manage him anymore, but that they could remain friends (more on that later). This opened the door for another man to win, and after Orton dragged RVD off a ladder into a huge RKO, it was Orton who climbed the ladder and won the match and the WWE Title MITB briefcase.
This was a very entertaining end to an exciting PPV, and it was proof that even after all these years and the reduced appeal of the stipulation, the talent alone can make MITB a must-see attraction every year; both MITB matches were great for slightly different reasons. Add to that a really good ADR vs. Ziggler match, strong showings in the Tag Team Title and Divas Title bouts, and respectable matches pitting Ryback against Jericho and Cena against Henry, and you end up with a pretty damn good PPV event. It didn’t quite surpass the classic MITB 2011 event, but it wasn’t that far off, which has to be a good thing.
The show also set up an intriguing storyline, as Punk and Heyman are now officially at war. Since Brock Lesnar attacked Punk the night after Payback, with Heyman initially denying that it was done as revenge for Punk essentially dumping Heyman, it is clear that we will get Punk vs. Lesnar at SummerSlam, which could be fantastic if booked correctly. Cena’s next opponent for the WWE Title was determined by Cena himself on Raw the night after MITB, with the approval of Brad Maddox, and Cena chose Daniel Bryan; again, this could be a very good match, although a Bryan title win seems unlikely. It’s unclear who will face Del Rio for the World Title next; it might be Ziggler, although he has an issue with AJ and probably Big E to fix, which could delay his next World Title opportunity (assuming he gets one).
To sum it up, then, Money In The Bank 2013 was a thrilling PPV event (even the pre-show match was really good), and it continues the trend of strong PPV showings for WWE in 2013, which will hopefully be carried on by what promises to be an eventful SummerSlam.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent