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[Retro Review] WWE Money in the Bank 2011

July 17, 2011
Rosemont, IL
Approx 14,800 in attendance
Announce Team:
Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & Booker T

Champions
WWE Champion: John Cena
World Heavyweight Champion: Randy Orton
WWE Intercontinental Champion: Ezekiel Jackson
WWE United States Champion: Dolph Ziggler
WWE Tag Team Champions: The New Nexus
WWE Diva’s Champion: Kelly Kelly

New contributor here at NCB, I’ll mostly be covering WWE related articles, a lot of which will be old school reviews. Money in the Bank is right around the corner, and so I figured that it’s only fitting to review one of the most acclaimed and talked about pay-per-views in the five year history of the event. In fact I’d go as far as saying that this is one of the WWE’s most successful “B” pay-per-views of all time, up there with the likes of Vengeance ’03 and No Way Out ‘01. They stacked the card with two huge ladder matches, Christian and Randy Orton were to continue their streak of excellent matches and of course, there was main event that kicked off the Summer of Punk.

Smack Down Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Cody Rhodes vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Heath Slater vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Sin Cara vs. Wade Barrett

The Smack Down roster kicked things off with a Money in the Bank Ladder match that offered a contract for a shot at the Smack Down World Heavyweight Championship (held by Randy Orton) any place, any time for one year.

A big messy brawl started the match, and it devolved into a game of tug-o-war with a ladder at ringside. Gabriel and Slater fought over the ladder whilst using it as a weapon on Kane and Daniel Bryan. Gabriel eventually set the ladder up in the ring and tried to hop it over to the briefcase like an oversized pogo stick, but Bryan knocked him off with a missile dropkick. Typical of big ladder matches, the match soon found everyone hitting big dives to the outside. Bryan went out with a suicide dive, Gabriel performed a somersault plancha, Slater nailed a corkscrew plancha and Sin Cara hit a springboard crossbody on Sheamus.

Sin Cara managed to build up some steam, even hitting a perfectly executed Spanish Fly on Daniel Bryan from the top rope. The Mexican wrestler then battled Wade Barrett at ringside, who had set up a ladder to bridge across from the apron to the Spanish announce table. Sheamus then got himself involved and brawled with Sin Cara before delivering a huge powerbomb from the apron and through the ladder at ringside! Referees and EMTs ran out to tend to Sin Cara immediately, and he was quickly stretchered away. This was all actually just an injury angle to write Sin Cara off TV due to the fact that he failed a drug test and was suspended for thirty-days per the wellness policy.

The former Corre members – Barrett, Slater and Gabriel – seemed to develop an expected yet brief reunion. Barrett seemed to talk the other two in to guarding the ladder while he climbed up for the briefcase, but of course they weren’t having any of it and it became every man for himself again. Cody Rhodes came in to clean up, taking out Gabriel and then nailing both Slater and Barrett with a Cross Rhodes each. Sheamus and Kane then fell on the same page for the moment, teaming up to give Rhodes the Doomsday Device!

Sheamus filled the role of “guy who sets ladders up around the ring for no apparent reason, just for other wrestlers to use for spots.” Kane hit everyone with Chokeslams and Sheamus hit everyone with Brogue Kicks. Sheamus tried climbing the ladder, but Kane Chokeslammed him into another ladder that was bridging across the ropes – nasty bump. The few guys left standing worked together to take Kane out with their various finishing moves. When he was down, Justin Gabriel climbed up top and balanced on a ladder that was pointlessly bridging across the top rope. He hit a picture perfect 450 Splash, despite having very little room to work with.

Bryan eventually found himself seated on the top of the ladder underneath the briefcase. He traded blows with Rhodes and hooked him in a guillotine choke while Barrett tried to sneak up the ladder and take the back door to victory. Bryan disposed of Rhodes then turned his attention to Barrett. The two NXT alumni traded shots until Barrett hoisted Bryan up for the Wasteland, to which Bryan threw out a flurry of elbows to the jaw to counter out of. Eventually Barrett let go and Bryan booted him down to the mat. The crowd went nuts when they realised Bryan was up the ladder by himself with seemingly no other competition there for him. He pulled down the briefcase at 24:27 for a huge pop and a loud “Daniel Bryan” chant.

Source: WWE.com

The smarky Chicago crowd was white hot for pre-Yes era Daniel Bryan all throughout the match, so they responded in a big way when he won. This was a great opener, not just because it was a good match, but also because of the unpredictability of it at the time. Events like Money in the Bank, Royal Rumble, King of the Ring etc. are at their most entertaining and enjoyable when the outcome is unpredictable. Excluding perhaps Slater and Gabriel, virtually everyone appeared to be a possibility to win this match, so this was an exciting moment when it happened. Bryan won, but it could have just as easily been Sheamus or Kane or even Wade Barrett that took the briefcase down. As for the match, it was a good match and a great opener. Not the best Money in the Bank match as there were a few slow moments here and there that dragged the match slightly, but still, good performances by all.

Match Rating: ****

WWE Diva’s Championship
Kelly Kelly © with Eve Torres vs. Brie Bella with Nikki Bella

Back in the days when The Bellas still dressed the same and it was hard to tell them apart.

Brie tried to insult Kelly with the “L” (loser) sign on her forehead, and apparently Kelly was horribly offended by this incredibly dated insult. She took down Brie with a Lou Thesz Press before nearly badly botching a flying head scissors. Brie tried to retreat into the arms of Nikki at ringside, but Kelly followed up with a flying double clothesline off the apron. She then put Brie in a figure four neck lock over the top rope, but Brie broke out of the hold and shoved Kelly down. Kelly took an admittedly rough looking bump on her front out on the floor.

Brie then dominated the remainder of the “match” with chokes and rest holds. She applied a seated abdominal stretch, but Kelly broke free with a jawbreaker. She followed up with one of the weakest looking clotheslines I’ve ever seen, then accentuated it with a botched bulldog/facebuster variant. She tried to finish with the Fameasser, but Brie tried to counter with a backslide. Kelly blocked it and shoved Brie into the ropes before landing the Fameasser for the anticlimactic win at 4:54.

Kelly Kelly was just an awful wrestler and it really shows you where the women’s roster was at when they had her holding the title. Not that the main roster divas are miles better today, but at least we have Charlotte and Sasha Banks to look forward to. Brie was pretty bad here too and neither girl really sold any moves. I’ll at least give Kelly points for trying at the start of the match with a decent clothesline to the floor, and her bump off the apron looked rough

Match Rating: ½*

Big Show vs. Mark Henry

On the way to ring, a fan tried to mouth off to Henry, so he turned around and motioned to hit him and the fan just about jumped a mile. It was great and I wish more heels would do this sort of thing. So few wrestlers are actually legitimately intimidating to watch. The only recent exceptions are perhaps Brock Lesnar and maybe Bray Wyatt.

Big Show dominated the early goings with a big diving shoulder block and a stiff clothesline on the floor. He tried to Chokeslam Henry through the Spanish announce table, but Henry countered before dropkicking the ring stairs into Show’s leg in just a silly and contrived spot. It didn’t look remotely believable. Nevertheless, Show retreated to the ring and sold the leg as though it was legit hurt. Henry, of course, followed up with a chop block and focused the leg. He locked in a half Boston Crab and Show sold well until getting to the ropes.

Big Show mounted something of a comeback and hit an impressive flying shoulder block from the second rope that shook the ring. He called for the Chokeslam, but Henry went low with a kick to the bad leg before following up with the World’s Strongest Slam for a near fall. Henry finished him with a second World’s Strongest Slam and a pair of splashes for the win at 6:00. After the match, Henry brought a chair into the ring and gave Big Show the Brian Pillman treatment, crushing his leg with the chair. Big Show sold it like his leg was legit broken and referees and EMTs had to bring a golf cart out to take Big Show away.

I can’t say it was a good match, but it was too short and to the point to be a bad match. It was exactly what it needed to be and it achieved what it was supposed to – and that was getting Mark Henry over as a believable monster heel again. And at six minutes, the fans were never going to completely turn against it or lose interest. Although they didn’t give Big Show any sympathy for the injury angle, they just chanted for “CM Punk” the whole time. Still, this was what it was.

Match Rating: **

Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis were shown backstage. Josh Matthews briefly interviewed Vince about CM Punk. He admitted that he failed to sign CM Punk to the most lucrative contract he had ever offered.

This was a good, short and effective promo that got over the stance of the CM Punk situation and continued to build intrigue around the main event.

Raw Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Alberto Del Rio vs. Alex Riley vs. Evan Bourne vs. Jack Swagger vs. Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio vs. R-Truth

Alberto Del Rio arrived in a Lamborghini that probably cost about thirty times what my car is worth. But I bet his car doesn’t have the neat Superman seat covers that mine has. Each participant brought a small half-sized ladder into the ring, and everyone surrounded Del Rio. Once the bell rung, Del Rio was sandwiched by half a dozen ladders or so before being knocked out of the ring and having several ladders dumped on top of him.

Like the Smack Down ladder match, we also got a big series of dives to the outside as Riley, R-Truth, Kofi and Mysterio all hit some big dives onto the floor. Evan Bourne one-upped everyone when he climbed high up a ladder and crashed into all of his opponents with a Shooting Star Press to get a much deserved “holy shit!” chant.

Evan Bourne and The Miz ended up at the top of a ladder, slugging it out and wrestling for the briefcase. Alberto Del Rio snuck in and shoved the ladder over to topple both men. The Miz hit the mat and grabbed his knee and called the ref over for help. He did an awesome job of selling the knee to the point that the entire audience bought it hook, line and sinker. He had to be helped to the back by the refs and trainers and the announcers speculated that he had hyper-extended his knee on the landing. The crowd kind of died down a bit following the spot. I’m not sure if it was for genuine concern for Miz or if the injury spot just slowed the momentum of the match in general.

Mysterio, Bourne, Del Rio and Truth all tried to climb the ladder at the same time. Del Rio and Truth dropped down and the two high flyers came off and hit them with near-perfectly timed hurricanranas. Kofi tried to capitalize by going for the briefcase, but Swagger put him in the Ankle Lock on the ladder before going up for the briefcase against Riley. But Truth came in and knocked the ladder over, hanging both guys up on the ropes.

Kofi did some nifty things with a ladder. At one point, Del Rio charged at him while he was underneath the ladder, but Kofi pulled himself up and leap frogged, sending Del Rio out to the floor. Mysterio then hit a 619 through the ladder for another cool spot.

Eventually, each wrestler started bringing ladders in the ring and setting them up all over the place. They all climbed to the top of the ladders and tried reaching the briefcase while having a massive brawl at the top. One by one, each guy was taken out and dropped. Eventually it was down to Kofi and Swagger, but the ladder they were on toppled over and they both landed hard in a bad way. This led to The Miz making his triumphant return by limping down the aisle and hopping his way up a ladder, only for Mysterio to stop him and crack his bad leg into the ladder before taking him out with a sunset flip powerbomb. The audience completely turned against Mysterio here, booing him vehemently as he made his way up the ladder to victory. They cheered on Del Rio who climbed up as well and brawled with Mysterio. He ripped Mysterio’s mask off and tossed him over to another ladder. Self-conscious about his face being on TV, Mysterio covered up and hugged the ladder until he lost balance and all the ladders tipped over in a domino effect and Del Rio hit the mat. He quickly recovered and climbed up the ladder to retrieve the briefcase at 15:54.

The Chicago crowd were very smarky in the way that they loved the heels and didn’t care for the babyfaces so much. So guys like Del Rio and Miz were cheered while Rey Mysterio was boo’d. There were some neat spots in this match and it had more of a “car wreck” quality to it that the Smack Down match didn’t have. Saying that, it also didn’t flow quite as well and I get the feeling that it may have had a few minutes shaved off of it. Another factor in this match was the complete and utter predictability in that virtually no one was booked to look strong in this match aside from Del Rio. WWE had been pushing him hard and he seemed the obvious pick to win the match, so it definitely lacked the unpredictability and surprise of the first match. Still, all in all, it was a solid ladder match.

Match Rating: ***½

Alberto Del Rio cut a promo backstage, saying that he didn’t even know why he had to go through the ladder match in the first place since he was already the number one contender. Josh Matthews stupidly asked “do you think it was your destiny to win Money in the Bank?” to which Del Rio simply said that it was just a formality, and that the WWE Championship was his true destiny.

World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Orton © vs. Christian

This was about part III or IV in the Randy Orton and Christian saga. It was at the point where Christian was now a fully fledged heel and Orton was in babyface mode. Following a dodgy finish at the last pay-per-view, Christian managed to work in the stipulation here that he could win the title on a disqualification or by “poor officiating from the referee”. So we’re definitely getting a clean win here for sure.

The first thing Christian did in the match was grab a steel chair and egg on Orton to hit him with it. Orton thought about it, but threw the chair out of the ring. Christian shoved him and Orton slugged him down. Orton pounded on Christian for a while and hit a high back body drop as the crowd chanted clearly “let’s go Christian”, but Michael Cole tried to play it off as “let’s go Randy” chants.

Christian tried a plancha, but Orton simply moved out of the way and let Christian crash and burn. Christian managed to come back with a flying back elbow from the second rope before working over Orton with a heelish offense, including chokes and slaps to the face. Christian tried for the Killswitch, Orton tried to suplex his way out of it, but Christian landed on his feet. Orton followed up with a Mick Foley-esque clothesline to the floor.

Orton tried for an RKO back in the ring, but Christian blocked and Orton got a jackknife pin for a near fall. Christian tried for a flying whatever from the second rope, but was caught with a stiff dropkick in midair. Orton attempted a superplex but Christian knocked him back down and landed the flying headbutt for a near fall. The RKO was blocked and the Killswitch was blocked, so Orton tried a few clotheslines before going for the RKO again, only this time Christian countered with a success Killswitch to still only get a two count.

Source: WWE.com

The crowd went off and Christian channelled his inner-Edge to set up for a Spear. Orton leap frogged over it and hit a gutwrench into an overhead neckbreaker – which King incorrectly called an RKO – for a near fall. The champ decided to finish with the Punt Kick, but Christian got up early for a clothesline attempt. Orton saw it coming and hit his usual combo of moves (powerslam; hanging DDT etc) before calling for the RKO. Except Christian went and cowered in the corner instead of wandering into the move like a goon. Christian proceeded to spit right in Orton’s mouth. It was actually pretty disgusting to see. This sent Orton into a rage. He beat Christian into the canvas then followed up with a blatant low blow in front of the referee – which the crowd popped for. The ref rung the bell for the DQ at 12:20 and handed the World Heavyweight title to Christian.

Orton proceeded to deliver a brutal post-match beat down. He nailed Christian with two straight RKOs over the Spanish announce table – neither of which were able to break the table. Still, the point was made, and Orton left while Christian was carried to the back.

Yet another solid match from Christian and Orton. It wasn’t the best in their series, largely because Christian was in chickenshit heel mode and not trying to just put on a great match like they were the last few encounters. The problem though for me, was the booking. Over nearly six months worth of feuding, two things became clear by the end of Christian and Orton’s program. 1: Christian and Orton have excellent chemistry and can’t turn in a bad match, 2: Christian is a jobber and Randy Orton is a superstar. This match sent that message home. When you put the same two guys together for so many rematches, and the challenger can ONLY get a win by disqualification, then it makes him seem like an absolute chump. This point was made clear by the fact that Orton won the title back a few weeks later at SummerSlam. It was bizarre booking because they never needed to take the belt off of Christian so soon after winning it, and they didn’t need him to be beaten so decisively so often. It made him seem like the biggest fluke champion and it was just pure luck and red tape that kept him in a main event feud with Orton for so long. If we ignore WWE’s poor booking of Christian’s character and the fact that this feud probably dragged for a month or two longer than it should have, then we can just appreciate the good matches they put on.

Match Rating: ***¾

WWE Championship
John Cena © vs. CM Punk

Some quick background here. CM Punk’s contract was to end at midnight, a few hours after his championship match. He cut the infamous Pipe Bomb promo on John Cena, which broke the internet and launched CM Punk into the main event. He was given the WWE Championship match at Money in the Bank, and there was the added stipulation that if Cena lost, he would be fired. So really, the WWE did a fantastic job of making the stakes as high as they possibly could be.

Just about every single person in the audience was chanting “CM Punk” at the top of their lungs, and I’d say at least 80% of the signs in the crowd were CM Punk signs. And hey, you can even spot Colt Cabana in the front row! CM Punk’s theme song hit and the arena basically exploded in applause. John Cena was showered with boos on his way to the ring. It was much like One Night Stand ’06 when Cena faced Rob Van Dam in front of a rabid ECW crowd. The Chicago fans hated Cena and loved Punk.

They chain wrestled to start, and Cena got an early chin lock. Punk slipped out and nearly took Cena’s head off with a roundhouse kick. They continued the chain wrestling, trading headlocks. At one stage Punk blocked Cena and Cole stupidly called it the Anaconda Vise. Punk managed to build some steam with a hip toss and a dropkick. Cena tried for the early AA, but Punk countered and tried for an early GTS, but Cena slipped out. Cena managed to hit a fisherman suplex before trying the AA again, but Punk countered with a DDT this time.

The spilled out to the floor for a moment, and Punk hit a big diving knee drop over the apron. Punk charged at Cena in the ring, but went shoulder to post. Cena tried for the STF but Punk blocked and went into a chin lock. Cena tried to fight out before sending Punk into the corner. Punk bounced off the ropes with a big springboard cross body, but he didn’t quite get enough air and ended up coming down over Cena’s knees. Cena and Punk both looked hurt from it and they took a moment to shake it off.

Cena went out to the apron and suplexed Punk out to the floor, before bringing him back into the ring and hitting another fisherman suplex. Cena hit a big powerslam for a near fall. Both men started trading punches and kicks. The crowd cheered every shot from Punk and boo’d every shot from Cena. Punk hit a hip toss but then both men clotheslined each other down. Cena came back with the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM but Punk slipped out of the back suplex with a roll up. He tried the high knee in the corner but Cena dodged and landed the suplex before calling for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Punk countered with a straight kick to the head. He nailed Cena out of the ring and followed up with a big suicide dive!

Back in the ring, Punk missed a springboard elbow and ate the Five Knuckle Shuffle to the face. Cena almost hit the AA but Punk (sort of) landed on his feet. He looked for the GTS but Cena countered with a gutwrench suplex. Cena – again – tried for the AA, and Punk countered yet again. This time he hit a bulldog and followed up with a springboard clothesline for a near fall. Cena came back and locked the STF in and the crowd went nuts as Punk crawled his way to the ropes for the break. Punk kicked Cena down and went up top for a cross body – but Cena rolled through for the AA, which Punk countered for the GTS, which Cena countered for the STF right in the middle of the ring. Punk managed to reverse the hold into the Anaconda Vise! Cena powered his way back to his feet before finally hitting the AA for a near fall.

Cena went up for the diving top rope leg drop, but Punk countered with a sit out powerbomb. Punk again tried for the GTS, but Cena escaped to the apron and stungunned Punk over the top rope. He went up top again and this time landed the leg drop for two. Cena hit Punk with a second successful AA for yet another near fall. Cena stood up to argue with the referee and seemed to almost lose his call. He decided to finish Punk off with a “Super” AA from the second rope, but Punk elbowed himself free and landed a perfect frankensteiner! He followed up with the high knee and the GTS – but Cena fell out of the ring and you could hear everyone in the arena deflate.

Source: WWE.com

 

Punk left the ring to bring Cena back in, and as he did so, Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis appeared at the top of the aisle. Vince and Punk stared each other down for a good while, but Punk eventually returned to the ring, only for Cena to trip him up into the STF again! The crowd freaked out and Vince tried to pull a Montreal and called for the bell. Johnny Ace ran down the aisle to go and ring the bell, but Cena let go of the hold and knocked him out at ringside. Cena mouthed off to Vince while Punk recovered in the ring. Cena returned to finish the job, but Punk lifted him up and hit the GTS for the three count at 33:40.

The crowd went insane and Punk celebrated with the title. Vince flipped his wig and snatched Jerry Lawler’s headset to order Alberto Del Rio to come out and cash in his Money in the Bank contract. Alberto came running out moments later, briefcase in hand, but he ran straight into a roundhouse kick from Punk. Punk then left the ring, blowing a kiss to the boss before leaving through the rabid crowd.

In modern day wrestling – particularly with WWE’s formulaic style – it takes a lot of factors to engage an audience for over half an hour. You need two good wrestlers with solid chemistry, and you need a great storyline to keep the fans interested. And the WWE really checked all the boxes with this match. The crowd couldn’t have been any more invested in CM Punk and there were so many different theories about how the finish would be booked. Some thought Cena would win clean, some thought we’d get a worked screwjob, some thought it’d be some kind of dusty finish etc. And I think Punk actually leaving with the championship was actually pretty low on the list of expected outcomes. After all, this storyline mimicked real life as Punk’s contract legitimately was finished that evening. Obviously he likely re-signed some time before Money in the Bank happened – and it’s good that he did. This match and storyline made him a main event superstar, rather than just an underrated B+ guy. How they handled the rest of “The Summer of Punk” is up for debate. Personally I think taking the belt back off him at SummerSlam, having him job to Triple H and inexplicably bringing Kevin Nash into the fray were all pretty bad ideas. But nevertheless, this was perfect.

Match Rating: *****

Overview: The Money in the Bank pay-per-view has yet to deliver a dud show. Of course, some have been better than others, but you can generally always count on an entertaining three hours. When it comes to this show, I think it should be essential viewing for any WWE fan. You had one of the hottest angles in wrestling for the last ten years culminating in an excellent match. You had two very good ladder matches, with the feel good Daniel Bryan victory. You had another solid Orton and Christian match. To top it off, you had an incredible audience as well. No one’s going to really remember Big Show vs. Henry, or the Diva’s title match, but they were just filler in an overall good quality event.

Show Rating: ****

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