The first ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match took place at WrestleMania 21. Six wrestlers tried out a new concept and delivered a classic match that wrestling fans are still talking about to this day.

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Who: Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kane @ WrestleMania 21

When:  April 3, 2005

Where: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California

The Build

The match came from the mind of Chris Jericho, who talked about it at length with writer Brian Gewirtz on his podcast a few months ago. Jericho came up with the concept, Gewirtz tweaked it a bit and what we got was the match at WrestleMania 21.

There wasn’t much of a storyline going into the match. It was acknowledged that Jericho was the one that came up with the match, so that’s how they set it up. This was WWE telling us they’re going to put six guys in a ladder match, there will be some cool moves and you should enjoy it. Simple enough.

What we knew about the match is that there would be a briefcase hanging above the ring. Ladders would surround the ring and the winner of the match was the first man to climb a briefcase to get a ladder. The prize for the winner is the briefcase that allows the winner to cash in the briefcase on the WWE or World Champion any time and anywhere over the next year. It was a unique idea that drew a lot of excitement.

What I Thought Back Then

I liked the choice of wrestlers of the match. Three of them (Jericho, Benoit & Kane) were former World Champions trying to get to the top again while the other three guys were rising stars hoping to get to that next level. Plus, they had a really athletic guy like Shelton Benjamin to do some cool spots and Kane was there as the big man in the match.

Any time you try out a new match for the first time there’s a concern that it might fail. However, in this case everybody involved was very talented, so I feel like I was justified in expect an awesome match.

I’m not sure who I thought was going to win. Edge made the most sense as a guy that was on the brink that was at the main event level that could benefit from a win. Christian and Benjamin seemed like they were there to just do some cool spots. Kane, Jericho and Benoit all had a shot at winning since they were former main event talent.

My favorite match on this show was the dream match between Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels, but this was second for me in terms of anticipation.

Here’s my full review of the match plus the analysis, which was written in 2012.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian (w/Tyson Tomko) vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Edge vs. Kane

There are ladders in the entry way. When Kane comes out, they are all on fire. All the guys attack Kane when he comes out. Benjamin and Benoit suplex Kane on the floor. Christian hit a springboard plancha on the guys on the floor. Then Benjamin does a no hands plancha over the top. Now Kane goes up and hits everybody with something off the top that I guess we can call a cross body attack. Tomko’s out there with Christian, so he gets knocked down too. Kane’s the only one standing. He sets up a ladder and drills Edge with it and then Christian. Jericho dropkicks the ladder into Kane’s face. He then drills Benjamin with it in the head and then he hits Edge in the ribs with it. Benoit comes in with a German Suplex, taking out the ladder also. Benoit climbs up, Kane goes to Chokeslam him and Benoit counters with a Crossface. Slick counter. Edge gets up, but he is met with a Crossface too. Kane spears him with the ladder while he’s got Edge in the Crossface. Kane puts the arm of Benoit in the ladder and rams it several times. Vicious yet smart. Edge spears Kane. Christian brings in a ladder. They sandwich Kane with a ladder. Benjamin in the ring with a springboard clothesline. Benjamin goes to kick Edge, but he blocks it and Benjamin dragon whips Christian into the ladder. Edge whips Benjamin spine first into a vertical ladder. Spear attempt countered into a flapjack into the propped up ladder. Benjamin gives Edge a Stinger Splash onto the ladder. He climbs but can’t reach, so Jericho gets up and fights him. Christian sets one up. Benoit with one arm climbs. Edge sets up another one. Everybody climbing except Kane. They chop the shit out of eachother. Benoit and Christian go down and then Jericho falls on the back of his head. Edge and Benjamin up top. T-Bone suplex by Benjamin off the top of the ladder! Damn. That has to hurt.

Everybody is out as the match resets. Jericho goes to climb, but Christian stops him. Jericho kicks Christian’s back of the head into the ladder. He does the slow climb and can’t reach it. Benjamin climbs a ladder that was set up diagonally and clotheslines Jericho off the top. Wow, Benjamin’s athleticism is awesome. What an epic spot that was. Kane comes in, goes to Chokeslam Benjamin to the floor, but Benjamin’s foot is caught in the ropes. Damn, that can’t be good. Tomko decks Kane. He sets up a ladder and helps Christian climb. Kane takes Tomko out to the floor. Christian’s at the top, Kane shoves him off and he lands on Tomko. Kane climbs, he’s at the top, Jericho gets there quick and he pulls Kane off with Jericho going over the top to the floor while Kane got stuck on the top rope and went back in the ring. Benoit, selling that left arm still, comes in. He doesn’t even use the left arm. He sets up the ladder by the ropes. The crowd goes nuts because they know it’s headbutt time. He climbs, crowd is standing, throat slash and HEADBUTT! Damn. They show a wide shot of it and it’s just amazing. Benoit climbs, Kane goes up with him. Benoit headbutts him off the ladder. Benoit’s all alone up top. He can only use arm. Edge gets up with a chair and drills Benoit on the arm. Edge climbs up and wins it at 15:17.

Winner: Edge

Edge celebrated by hugging the black briefcase as if it was the greatest gift he had ever received.

Analysis: ****1/2 This was awesome. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands from the moment the match started right until the end. The bumps were sick. The spots, especially Benjamin’s, were innovative. Benoit’s selling was awesome throughout the match. This was outstanding. Simply fantastic. Props to all men involved and the booking was perfect. Edge won, but it came off as cheap and opportunistic, so it works. Five of the six guys would hold the WWE or World Title in their career. The only one that didn’t was Shelton Benjamin, who you could argue was the star of the match. Edge would hold onto the briefcase until New Year’s Revolution 2006 when he cashed in famously against John Cena to win the WWE Title. There have been several MITB matches over the years, but I would argue that this is the best of them all.

You can read my full recap of WrestleMania 21 right here.

What They Said

Here’s how Jericho explained the concept in his 2012 Autobiography (his third book) called Undisputed with Jericho writing about how he had the original idea with Rob Van Dam in the match as well:

“The concept of the match was that the winner would get his dream of anything he wanted fulfilled, which in turn would lead to RVD winning and bringing back ECW. Brian (Gewirtz) told me that Vince thought the Hollywood Dream match was a stupid prize for the winner and wanted something else to be at stake. We kibitzed for a few minutes until I suggested, ‘Why don’t we make the match for a contract that guarantees a title shot the next night on Raw?’ Brian took it one step further and proposed that the contract would be valid for one whole year and could be used at any time. Vince approved with his sole modification being that the contract had to be in a briefcase, and the Money in the Bank match was born.”

It shows how WWE is smart to listen to ideas from a creative wrestler like Jericho and tweak it to make it work.

What I Think Now

There are ladder matches sometimes where people miss spots or the timing is just off. In this case, they seemed to execute everything perfectly. There was a small error when Kane hit Benjamin with a Chokeslam and Benjamin’s foot was trapped between the ropes, but other than that it was great. When guys were climbing the ladder to get the briefcase, the guy to take them down was usually right there. It made sense that Benoit was slow on the climb at the end because of the selling he had done earlier in the match.

I also think the timing of it was just right at around 15 minutes. Another five minutes may have hurt the match. That’s such an important factor when it comes to determining if a match is a classic or just very good.

Despite not winning the match, Benjamin impressed a lot of people with his athleticism. Some of the things he did in the match were moves we had never done before, which is pretty amazing considering some of the talented fliers that had ladder matches in WWE. The spot where he ran up the ladder to hit Jericho with a clothesline at the top of the ladder is one of the coolest spots ever. I’ll never forget it.

Benoit’s selling was fantastic. It was one of the best things about him.  His selling was so good that I remember thinking it may have been legit. It wasn’t real, but he sold it so well that it was easy to buy into it.

Kane was on the floor for quite a bit of the match. The other guys worked together to slow him down, but when he got back in there he was booked in a dominant way. It’s not like Kane was much of a flier, so he couldn’t do much in terms of bumps. It was about him using his power.

The ending was perfect for the way Edge was as a character. He didn’t win because he outwrestled the other guys. He won because he took a chair to the arm of Benoit. Nobody else used a chair in the match. It was Edge outsmarting everybody by using the chair when he knew it would help him. 

What Happened Next

They all went their separate ways with more of a spotlight on Edge, who broke out as a major star within the next year. That summer he had an affair with Lita, who was Matt Hardy’s girlfriend, which led to Matt being fired and brought back shortly after leading to one of the most personal feuds in WWE history. Lita became Edge’s on air “manager” of sorts, he cashed in the briefcase on John Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 and won his first WWE Title. Without Money in the Bank, Edge likely would have still become a World Champion at some point. It just helped him get there with a cool angle that drew a huge reaction from the crowd.

As for Money in the Bank, it was such a hit that WWE turned it into its own PPV event starting in 2010. Most years, it is one of WWE’s best PPV events because the MITB match often times hits the four-star level (out of five), which means it’s a great match on a consistent basis.

Final Thoughts

It was such an awesome match. I’ve seen it a lot of times because I’m a fan of the concept and I’ve written various lists about the MITB matches. I don’t think any of the other MITB matches were better than this one. They set the bar really high and nobody has been able to beat it. Will they do it some day? Possibly, but as of this writing it’s still the best Money in the Bank match ever in my opinion. 

Rankings So Far

  1. Money in the Bank Ladder Match (won by Edge) @ WrestleMania 21
  2. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WrestleMania 19
  3. The Undertaker vs. CM Punk @ WrestleMania 29
  4. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista @ WrestleMania 30
  5. Edge vs. Mick Foley @ WrestleMania 22
  6. The Undertaker vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 27
  7. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WrestleMania 8
  8. The Undertaker vs. Edge @ WrestleMania 24
  9. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 23
  10. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H @ WrestleMania 30
  11. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @ WrestleMania 17
  12. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WrestleMania 19
  13. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) @ WrestleMania 31
  14. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WrestleMania 20
  15. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 18
  16. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair @ WrestleMania 24
  17. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch @ WrestleMania 32
  18. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WrestleMania 8
  19. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania 6

WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches archives are here.

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John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

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