The Money in the Bank pay-per-view has quickly become an event on WWE's events calendar that fans greatly look forward to. What started as a match at WrestleManiabecame a match that could be counted on to consistently provide excitement, if not steal the show on the grandest stage of them all, so much so that it became its own event in 2010.
Much like the Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank is a speciality match with something important at stake and happens only once a year.
Unlike the Royal Rumble, the winners of the Money in the Bank ladder match aren't typically elevated in status by the win in the long term.
When you look at the past winners of Money in the Bank and analyze their careers before, during and after holding “the briefcase,” one thing becomes clear – the victory is definitely a short-term gain, with no long-term promise.
The Royal Rumble match has the reputation of creating (or recreating) stars. Examples of superstars who have won the Royal Rumble and a direct link to their main-event ascension (since 1993 when the stipulation was added that the winner would face the WWE/World Heavyweight champion at WrestleMania):
1993 – Yokozuna
1995, 1996 – Shawn Michaels
1997, 1998 – Steve Austin
2006 – Rey Mysterio
2011 – Alberto Del Rio
2012 - Sheamus
With each example, winning the Royal Rumble can be directly linked to their perceived elevation (or re-elevation) to main-event status. While Yokozuna and Rey Mysterio wouldn't always find themselves in the title picture well after their Rumble victories, they both could be perceived as championship contenders had the opportunity presented itself. The perception had not left, despite the opportunities that weren't being afforded to them at that period of time.
This is not typically the case with Money in the Bank winners. Let's take a look at some past winners.
** Jack Swagger is the biggest example. Six months prior to winning the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 26, Swagger had one U.S. Triple Threat title match at Hell in a Cell 2009 and competed in the 2010 Royal Rumble. The Smackdown after WrestleMania, Swagger cashed in and was World Heavyweight champion. During his title reign, Swagger defeated the likes of Randy Orton, Edge and Chris Jericho before losing to Rey Mysterio at that year's Fatal Fourway pay-per-view. Following the loss Swagger had stints with the U.S. championship, and most recently on Raw lost to world champ Sheamus in seconds. When you think of Jack Swagger today, you may even forget that he is a former MITB winner and World Heavyweight champion. Those memories are so far gone that he is simply a superstar caught in a holding pattern.
** The Miz was a rising mid-card-level performer when he won the briefcase in 2010. He defeated Randy Orton to win the WWE title, was involved in the main event against John Cena at WrestleMania 27, loses the title to Cena in a rematch, then begins a steady decline, culminating in his being involved in a multi-man tag at WrestleMania 28. Though he is currently filming “The Marine 3” and has proven himself to be a workhorse (particularly in the media) and is reliable, the fact is that him winning Money in the Bank didn't preserve his main-event elevation in the long term; it simply gave him a short-term spotlight that eventually began to fade.
** How about CM Punk? He is a two-time briefcase winner. Before his first win at WrestleMania 24, he was ECW champion. He held the contract for tjree months before cashing in, holding the World Heavyweight title for four months, enjoying two PPV main events before forfeiting the title at Unforgiven 2008 and hovering just below the title picture until WrestleMania 25, where he won again, cashed in after a month, and held the title for a month. In the case of CM Punk, I would argue that yes, there is a little bit of credit to the Money in the Bank match for Punk's elevation at this time, but I do feel that both of his MITB victories came as a surprise, giving the match an overall more unpredictable feel. His greatest success came from his “pipe bomb” speech on Raw, ironically leading to a main event at Money In the Bank 2011, not involving a Money in the Bank ladder match. In similar cases, Alberto Del Rio's moment was more the 2011 Rumble win than winning at MITB. Daniel Bryan's success is most attributed to losing in 18 seconds at WrestleMania (an anomaly in itself)
** Kane won in 2010 but by then, the “Big Red Machine” had been seen in WWE for 13 years, so him winning gave more clout to the match than the briefcase did to Kane. He is as common place as office furniture in WWE, and no match will change that.
** Mr. Kennedy might have become the best MITB briefcase holder of all time in 2007, however injury and further troubles leading to his parting ways with WWE never saw him achieve full potential in that role. Rob Van Dam falls into a similar category as Mr. Kennedy. His first WWE championship win came from cashing in the contract against John Cena at One Night Stand 2006. He held the title for only a month, losing to Edge on Raw (as well as his ECW title in the same time frame). Drug troubles caused him to sit on the sidelines and lose a lot of momentum, and further personal and family issues led to his to parting ways with WWE in 2007.
** Certainly, not every briefcase holder has only left short-term gain. The contract fit Edge's “ultimate opportunist” character perfectly, and as the first Money in the Bank briefcase holder, the intrigue was even higher. The fact that it also led to his first WWE title after several months of him chasing the title adds to the elevation. You can directly claim MITB as a major moment that led to Edge being consistently in the title picture.
However, Edge is an outlier. The majority of the time, winning a Money in the Bank match leads a short-term spurt in your career, followed by a decline or a major moment that preserves a superstar's main-event status perception. The factors might vary, but the outcome remains consistent.
So how does this school of thought affect the matches this Sunday? In the case of the WWE title MITB, all are former WWE champions so it will be simple a rejuvenation for whoever wins. On the World Heavyweight side of things, it's for this reason that I favor a Dolph Ziggler or Cody Rhodes – someone who we think is already ready for the main event but would benefit from 2-3 months of holding the briefcase. The true test will come, however, when that winner, after having cashed in and won the title (assuming that happens), then loses the title. Where will your perception of their career level be then?