Tuesday 17 July 2012

Money Maker?

Since WWE introduced the Money in the Bank concept at WrestleMania 21 in 2005 only eight men have won their first WWE or World Heavyweight championship without taking the briefcase route (for those interested I have listed them at the bottom). That is not a good thing.
In theory the MITB briefcase is best used as a means of elevating fresh talent. Former world champions winning and cashing in can work and help to advance storylines and characters (as was the case with the second cash-ins of both Edge and CM Punk) but it feels like a natural way of introducing new names to the world title mix and freshening up the top of the card with fresh and unexpected scenarios.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing though. It seems that WWE has become overly reliant on the briefcase method of creating new main event stars. As I said above, there's nothing wrong with the approach, but the more men that gain their first would title in that fashion the less impactful the process becomes.

The trouble began when WWE decided to move the gimmick to its own summer pay-per-view slot and book two of the matches (one for competitors of each brand in 2010 and 2011 and one linked to each world belt in 2012). Two Money in the Bank briefcases is one too many. Less is more, especially when the process is the sole route WWE is providing for its prospective headliners.
CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, two of the promotion's biggest stars, both captured their first world title (coincidentally it was the World Heavyweight championship for each man) via Money in the Bank wins. During their first reign each man was presented as having fluked their way to the top of the card, both by commentators and fellow wrestlers. That's not a good way to get your new champion over.
Conversely the lumbering ox that is Mark Henry was given a solid six months of build-up before he defeated Randy Orton clean in the middle of the ring to start his first reign as a world champion. That WWE handled former ‘Sexual Chocolate’s’ push up the card so well created hope that they would give similar treatment to other members of the roster. Sadly that’s not happened but at least we know they are still capable of such treatment, when the mood takes them.
Among the other seven men who have claimed world title without a briefcase since the introduction of Money in the Bank only The Great Khali was booked in a truly impressive fashion. Yes, Khali. The man who cannot even walk convincingly.

Sheamus won the WWE title on a fluke at TLC on December 13 2009 when John Cena fell through a table, in a finish that some originally thought had been unplanned. Rey Mysterio was presented as a whinger during his original run as World champ. Dolph Ziggler, current holder of a magic briefcase, was awarded the WHC by on-screen girlfriend and GM-for-the-night Vickie Guerrero at the beginning of the February 15th 2011 SmackDown and lost it that same night to 'The Rated R Superstar.' That reign did 'The Heel' far more harm than good and it wasn't until his US title win in the summer that he truly recovered.

What will Dolph Ziggler's celebration look like when he wins a world title?
Of the other men who have captured their first world title during this time Christian and Booker T were veterans who the company knew could be trusted with their second tier world belt. ‘Captain Charisma’s’ first time round with the World belt lasted only two days. Admittedly that was partly done for storyline purposes but the fact remains that it didn’t really help the Candian. Booker T was treated well during his first reign as a WWE world champion though his eligibility for this list is dubious due to the fact that he first appeared on WWE screens as the reigning WCW champion.
Only Jeff Hardy has been given a genuine chance to succeed in the role of top dog since 2005 and he was a huge star long before he won the WWE title.
The conclusion that has to be drawn is that WWE have forgotten how to create new headline talent without taking the Money in the Bank route. Portraying all rising stars as opportunistic chancers who can't earn and win world title matches on merit is part of the reason for the current lack of roster depth.

That men are advancing to the top bracket through a metaphorical back door fans are seeing them as inferior to champions who have come before them. It didn’t harm Edge as he was the first and had been on a path to the top for over a year before he won his first WWE title. It didn’t Rob Van Dam either as he announced his cash-in weeks in advance. But it has harmed the general perception of WWE headliners and gradually conditioned viewers to believe that nobody can advance to the top of the card in any meaningful way without a briefcase.

The news that John Cena will be cashing in his guaranteed title shot on next week's 1,000th episode of RAW could be just what is needed to change that. Sooner or later someone is going to have to cash in and lose. Making that man Cena wouldn't harm his credibility and would restore some uncertainty to future cash-ins: if the company's top star can lose a Money in the Bank challenge, which we’ve been told is a guarantee of becoming the next champ remember, then anyone can.

John Cena is on top, both metaphorically and literally
The person who would benefit most from Cena losing would be Dolph Ziggler. Showing that people can cash in the case and lose would help cast some doubt on his cash-in, whenever it may be.
The frustrating thing about Ziggler having won Money in the Bank is that he was ready to capture a world title in his own right (yeah he held the belt for an hour or so in February last year, but that’s not really something you can count as a proper reign). He challenged Sheamus for the big gold belt at No Way Out and not only did some people think he'd win but 'The Heel' actually heard some cheers and chants in his favour. He would have been accepted as a world champ had he won the belt the old fashioned way.
The guy had made it to the top by himself. That’s what fans want to see: guys making an effort to improve and put on the best matches they can every week, then being rewarded for it.

There’s still a place for Money in the Bank but it’s not the one it currently has. A return to just one ladder clash taking place each year would help having a briefcase seem more special, and the occasional former world champion winning would help to create chances for rising stars to get to the top the old fashioned way: on merit.
Men who have captured world titles without MITB contracts since the concept was introduced:

Rey Mysterio won the WHC at WrestleMania 22 on 2nd April 2006
King Booker won the WHC at The Great American Bash on 23rd July 2006
The Great Khali won the WHC at the SmackDown taping on 17th July 2007
Jeff Hardy won the WWE championship at Armageddon on 14th December 2008
Sheamus won the WWE championship at TLC on 13th December 2009
Dolph Ziggler won the WHC at the SmackDown taping on 15th February 2011
Christian won the WHC at Extreme Rules on 1st May 2011
Mark Henry won the WHC at Night of Champion on 18th September 2011

1 comment:

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