Monday, 16 March 2015

Straight To The Top: The Money In The Bank Ladder Match Anthology

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 390 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: November 4 2013

Debuting in 2005, the Money In The Bank Ladder match has been one of WWE's most anticipated stipulations over the last decade. Originally appearing once a year at WrestleMania, and later earning its own PPV where two bouts were held each time, the MITB mattered because a) a guaranteed World Title shot was at stake; b) the matches themselves would be good, great or incredible; and c) the cash-in moments would usually be unpredictable and/or very dramatic, and largely resulted in new titleholders being crowned.

This DVD shows every MITB match from its debut to the 2013 entries, and is hosted by Raw MITB 2010 victor The Miz. The Blu-ray includes all the cash-ins up to Dolph Ziggler's post-WM XXIX World Title triumph, which means a few 'proper' full-length bouts (the highlight being Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena at ECW One Night Stand 2006), although the best 'unexpected' cash-ins are Edge at New Year's Revolution 2006 and a 2007 SmackDown, and CM Punk at a 2008 Raw.

The compilation is in two parts: the WrestleMania years and the MITB PPV years. The bouts from WM 21-26 are all here, and all are either very good or brilliant. The first four are the best, although all have their moments. Whether it's Shelton Benjamin's daredevil antics in all but one of the WM bouts, Jeff Hardy's truly insane legdrop onto Edge, the equally bonkers stunt involving Hornswoggle and Mr. Kennedy (KENNEDY!), the unexpected and/or long-awaited wins for Rob Van Dam and CM Punk (the latter of which was welcome at WM 24, but not at WM 25 where fans desperately wanted Christian to win; ironic given how much fans would later idolise Punk and constantly wish for his WWE return) or the big bumps and acrobatics involving Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne, every single match delivers a number of eye-catching or jaw-dropping moments. Even Ric Flair, Finlay and Mark Henry have a hand in stunning visuals.

It's clear when watching, though, that by 2009 the stipulation had peaked. It's unclear why: maybe it's because WWE went PG in 2008 and so the bouts had some restrictions from then on. Perhaps it's because the casting was more sensible in the early years. Possibly it's down to there being fewer rising stars who fans desperately wanted to see win a MITB match. Or it could just be that the first few matches felt fresh and different, an element which was bound to decrease as the years rolled on. Either way, the 2009 and 2010 Mania bouts deliver plenty of action, but they lack something of the earlier incarnations. Nevertheless, all are essential viewing; this run of matches alone is one of the best ever on a wrestling DVD.

The stipulation then enters the PPV era: the first Money In The Bank event was in July 2010, from which point a MITB bout for a WWE and World Title shot was held on each show for four years (the remaining time span of this compilation). The eight matches from the MITB PPV are all good or really good (I'd say one of the SmackDown bouts was the best in this section, and the 2012 'red' bout is the least inspiring) and still have their moments, from a crazy Air Bourne off a ladder to Dolph Ziggler's psychotic bumps to Rob Van Dam's 2013 return. On the whole, this portion of the release is also very much watchable, but again they lack that certain something which made the first couple of MITB bouts at WrestleMania feel really special.

Watching this drives home the thought that the MITB match really should return to being a one-match attraction at WrestleMania, especially with their being only one World Champ in WWE again. Its allure has been diluted by the PPV (although not as much as Elimination Chamber or Hell In A Cell), and such a move would guarantee a great match at every WrestleMania again. It also gives under-utilised or up-and-coming talent a great spotlight. Imagine, for instance, if this year the MITB bout was an 8-man clash at Mania between Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Bad News Barrett, Kofi Kingston and someone from NXT, such as Adrian Neville. That would be a potential showstealer at WM. Obviously this isn't going to happen, and some wrestlers like Wyatt will be satisfied with their WM role this year; but it's an example of what could happen if MITB moved back to Mania.

I was also thinking about the dream MITB match after reliving these bouts; my choice for entrants in such a bout would be Edge (first winner), Jeff Hardy (crazy one), Chris Jericho (inventor of the stipulation), Shelton Benjamin (mad stuntman), Kofi Kingston (ditto), CM Punk (only two-time winner), Matt Hardy (to hold things together) and Christian (in case he finally wins). Of course, this won't happen either, but it was just fantasy booking in my mind. (Oh, and Edge would win - he is the Ultimate Opportunist, after all.)

Summing this up, then, whilst it is a bit sad to see the once-vibrant format lose part of its appeal over time, match quality is always high on this DVD and there are a ton of mad stunts. It is not one of the absolute best wrestling DVDs ever, but the Money In The Bank Anthology is definitely on the rung just below. It is a great compilation that all WWE fans will love.

Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding

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