Tuesday, 6 October 2015

DVD Review: WWE Straight to the Top: The Money in the Bank Ladder Match Anthology

It's the match that guarantees it's winner a title shot at a time of their choosing. But which one was the best? That's what I'm hoping to find out with my latest DVD review as we go back in time a little and take a look at WWE's tribute to one of it's greatest gimmick matches, Straight to the Top: The Money in the Bank Ladder Match Anthology.

And as is the custom with these multi-disc reviews let's start right at the beginning with.....

Disc One
April 3rd, 2005
The collection begins at Wrestlemania 21 and the very first Money in the Bank match with Raw stars Chris Jericho, Christian, Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamin, Edge, Kane and Chris Benoit.

The first thing I noticed about this match was the way they handled the Benoit situation. Although he was mentioned in the publicity material, and although he plays a prominent part in this match, especially towards the end, his ring introduction was cut completely, there's no close-ups of him, and all mention of him has been edited out of the commentary. It's understandable really, because they couldn't leave out the very first MITB match, and they couldn't name or praise the performance of a murderer.

The match itself is a pretty decent affair with plenty of crash and burn moments and a couple of highlight reel sequences from Benjamin, including that brilliant spot when he ran up a ladder perched against the main ladder and took Jericho down with a clothesline from the top. The diving headbutt from the top of a ladder onto Kane by he who must not be mentioned came a close second in that regard.

But after stopping he who must not be mentioned with a chair it was Edge who emerged victorious, grabbing the case to become the first Mr. Money in the Bank.

April 2nd, 2006
It's on to Wrestlemania 22 and the first match to feature both Raw and Smackdown stars, with Matt Hardy, Intercontinental Champion Shelton Benjamin, Finlay, Rob Van Dam, Bobby Lashley and Ric Flair.

If anything this one was contested at a much faster pace, and there were a lot more crazy bumps as well. I remember kind of marking out back then when Finlay and Flair tore shreds off each other, and I did so again, and as our esteemed announcers kept reminding us, the Nature Boy was 57 years old when he took two massive bumps from the top of the ladder.

Amidst all of the crashing and burning moments Benjamin earned the man of the match award again, one of which saw him springboard from the top rope onto the ladder as Hardy and RVD went at it. Benjamin eventually turned his attention to Hardy, but both of them were sent crashing over the top rope when RVD pushed their ladder down before grabbing the briefcase to win the match.

April 1st, 2007
Wrestlemania 23 saw the first eight man match, and the first with an ECW contingent, with Jeff Hardy, King Booker, Finlay, C.M. Punk, Mr. Kennedy, Matt Hardy, Randy Orton and Edge.

For me the increase in the number of wrestlers made this even better than the first two matches. It was also the first time there was a true OMG moment. More on that later.

The fast pace from the previous year carried over to this match. All eight men went at it full tilt from start to finish. There was a brief Hardy Boys reunion, Edge spearing everyone in sight, Orton following suit with the RKO, and a couple of cameo appearances from Queen Sharmell and Hornswoggle.

The previously mentioned OMG, or perhaps that should be OMFG, came from none other than Jeff Hardy, As his brother urged him on Jeff climbed to the top of a massive ladder while Matt put Edge on a ladder that was perched between the ring and the barricade. Jeff then flew down and crashed into Edge, snapping the ladder in half. Within seconds the medics were on the scene and carting Edge away on a stretcher.

The final moments saw Kennedy and Punk going at it. Punk had knocked Kennedy off the ladder, but when he was about to reach for the briefcase Kennedy sent him flying with another ladder so he could climb to the top and claim the case.

March 30th, 2008
On to the Wrestlemania 24 match, with Tag Team Champion John Morrison, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, C.M. Punk, Mr. Kennedy, United States Champion MVP and Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho.

They certainly created some Wrestlemania moments this time around. When Morrison came off the top rope with a moonsault, ladder in hand, and took out four men at ringside it was a statement of intent about how the match was going to progress.

The almost frantic pace was kept up throughout as all seven men sought to take the case, and once again it was Benjamin who showed his athleticism when he intervened in Kennedy's attempt to take Carlito down with a superplex off the ladder by taking both men down with a powerbomb. However, a few moments later he was on the receiving end when Kennedy and Carlito toppled the ladder over and Benjamin crashed into the ladder propped up between the ring and the barricade. There was also a cameo appearance from Matt Hardy, who returned after a five month injury absence to stop his rival MVP from grabbing the case with a twist of fate from the top of the ladder.

The final few moments saw Punk and Jericho jockeying for position atop the ladder, but when Punk swept his man's legs out from under him and hooked his foot under one the rungs it gave Punk the chance to grab the case and win the match.

April 5th, 2009
The fifth MITB match opened Wrestlemania 25 and featured C.M. Punk, Mark Henry, United States Champion MVP, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, Christian and Kane.

If you were looking for a match with countless highlight reel moments then this is the match for you. There were just so many of them from start to finish. The almost obligatory everyone flies through the ropes sequence, Kingston impressing the hell out of everyone at his first Wrestlemania, and, of course, the Shelton Benjamin moments, who really topped his past performances by climbing onto the top of the really tall ladder and taking everyone out at ringside with a somersault dive. Even Mark Henry had his moments, although thankfully Finlay stopped his attempt to dive off the top rope with a well-placed ladder shot.

The end brought back memories of the previous year's match. This time around it was Punk and Christian fighting out atop the ladders when Christian went for his man's legs. Punk was hanging upside down when Kane climbed to the top and chokeslammed Christian down to the mat. But when he tried to do the same to Punk a series of kicks to the head sent the Big Red Machine crashing, which gave Punk the chance to grab the case and secure his second consecutive MITB win.

Disc Two
March 28th, 2010
It's the biggest MITB ever at Wrestlemania 26, with Kofi Kingston, MVP, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Intercontinental Champion Drew McIntyre, Kane and Christian.

With the increased number of combatants you would have thought that it would have also increased the action quota, but for me it had the opposite effect. Don't get me wrong, it was a good match, but there were just too many bodies in this one. As the old saying goes, less is more.

It also meant that while there were countless big bumps off the top of the ladder the match was lacking the one thing it normally guaranteed, and that was that one, big, OMG moment. Not even Benjamin or Kingston could provide this time around.

The last two men standing in this one were Christian and Swagger, and although Christian put up a good fight Swagger swung the case into his face, knocking him off the ladder so the all-American American could grab the case and claim the title shot.

July 18th, 2010
Less than four months later Money in the Bank was given it's own pay-per-view, with both Raw and Smackdown MITB matches. The Smackdown match featured Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Christian, Cody Rhodes, Matt Hardy, Drew McIntyre, Kane and the Big Show.

Giving this match it's own show proved to be a wise move. It meant that the amount of time these matches were given almost doubled. It allowed for better pacing and storytelling, and for certain situations to develop.

One of the main storylines centred on the Big Show and whether he could actually climb the normal ladder. The answer to that question was a resounding no, which meant that he had to have a special structurally-reinforced ladder built, and when it came time to introduce it into the match Show only just managed to get the thing into the ring.

There was also the return of the OMG moment. This came when Kane planned to chokeslam McIntyre through the Spanish table, and even though that particular attempt failed Kingston took the opportunity to climb up a ladder and put him through the wood with a giant leg drop.

Towards the end it looked as if ladder match veterans Christian and Hardy were going to be the last two, but after those two crashed and burned it was down to McIntyre and Kane, and after the Big Red Machine dispatched the Scotsman with a chokeslam off the top of the ladder he reached up and grabbed the case, earning a shot at the World title.

The Raw match featured Randy Orton, United States Champion The Miz, Mark Henry, Ted Dibiase, John Morrison, Chris Jericho, Evan Bourne and Edge.

For me this was just a little bit better than it's Smackdown counterpart. Although there were no big OMG spots there were plenty of crashing and burning moments. Bourne put in an excellent performance, while Morrison played the Shelton Benjamin role extremely well. There was also the moment that could have been in a Biblical epic when Henry stood between two ladders and pushed them over as four superstars tried to get the briefcase.

Then, of course, there was the rather unique structure they made in the ring, with one ladder positioned upside down and another ladder propped up against it to keep it in place, while another ladder was positioned on the top rope and pushed through the main ladder's steps. This gave us the spot where seven of the eight wrestlers were atop the main ladder fighting it out over the briefcase.

In the end it looked as if Orton was going to grab the case, but a timely intervention from the Miz sent Orton crashing from the ladder so the awesome one could climb up and claim the briefcase as his own.

July 17th, 2011
One year on at the second Money in the Bank show opened with the Smackdown match, with Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, Heath Slater, Daniel Bryan and Kane.

With six of the eight competitors making their MITB debuts it meant that we were guaranteed to see some new things here, and all of the newbies had their moments. Early on Cara impressed greatly with his luchadore style until Sheamus powerbombed him from the ring apron and through a ladder. There was also a brief reunion between Barrett, Gabriel, and Slater with the former Nexus guys looking impressive until their inevitable implosion, and I have to admit that seeing Slater in this form kind of surprised me, given his current low status in the grand scheme of things.

So with all the new blood in the match it was more or less guaranteed that there would be a new first-time winner, and this came in the form of Bryan, who saw off the challenge of both Rhodes and Barrett before climbing to the top of the ladder to claim the case.

Disc Three
July 17th, 2011
The final disc of the collection begins with the Raw Money in the Bank match from 2011, with Alberto Del Rio, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Evan Bourne, R-Truth, Alex Riley, the Miz and Rey Mysterio.

This was another one with a unique beginning. Each superstar grabbed a ladder and took it into the ring as they made their entrance, so when the match began there was a mass of duelling ladders until everyone turned on Del Rio and dumped him from the ring.

From there we saw many of the staples of the ladder match, with everyone flying over the top ropes before Bourne provided the OMG moment when he climbed to the top of the biggest ladder and took everyone out at ringside with a shooting star press. The Miz was also taken out of action at one point after he jarred his knee after falling from a ladder.

At one point in the match the seven remaining combatants were vying for the case on top of various ladders that had been placed in the middle of the ring. None of them were able to grab that elusive prize though as they all crashed and burned, and with the bodies laying around the ring a hobbling Miz returned to the ring and almost took it all until Mysterio stopped him by smashing his injured knee into the ladder.

A few moments later it was down to the final two as old rivals Mysterio and Del Rio fought out it. Del Rio used a rather underhanded tactic when he ripped Mysterio's mask off, and after the ladders toppled over Del Rio quickly recovered so he could climb to the top and claim the magic briefcase.

July 15th, 2012
Once again the Smackdown match opened the Money in the Bank show, and this time around it was Dolph Ziggler, United States Champion Santino Marella, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara, Tensai and Intercontinental Champion Christian fighting it out for a World title shot.

There certainly was plenty of fast-paced action in this one. Tensai looked an absolute monster at times, and on the opposite end of the scale Cara impressed with some of his high-flying antics, although there were also times when both of these guys looked a bit sloppy.

As for the rest of them it was pretty much as you were as far as performances go. Ladder match veteran Christian looked in top form once more, while Kidd pulled off some amazing moves, and later on Cara revisited old ground when Tensai powerbombed him on a ladder perched between the ring and the announcer's table.

At the end it looked like Christian was finally going to win one until Ziggler came out of nowhere and sent him flying before grabbing the case and sealing the win.

The Raw match  had a different stipulation, with only former WWE Champions allowed in the match. This meant that only five combatants, Kane, Chris Jericho, the Miz, the Big Show and John Cena were eligible.

This proverbial all-star match certainly gave us some interesting moments. Show was taken out early on after Cena put him through the Spanish guy's table with an attitude adjuster before they all buried him under a pile of ladders, although it wasn't the last we saw from the big guy.

This proved to be the only real OMG moment of the match. The performances were quite solid as the protagonists went about their business, but things didn't really get going until Show emerged from his hibernation beneath the ladders and came back into the match. Show was literally tearing ladders apart as he took out his frustrations, and there were times where he looked like an unstoppable monster.

Show's return to life also saw a return of his special adapted ladder, although I really couldn't believe it when the announcers acted like they'd never seen it before. I guess their memories didn't stretch back as far as 2010.

Anyway, the introduction of this giant ladder once again led to some interesting scenes, such as when Jericho tried to choke Cena out. Needless to say that everyone's favourite wrestler survived this particular scare to make it to the last two, because as Cena reached for the case Show rose from the ashes once again, and the only way Cena could stop the big guy was by clobbering him in the head with the case. But as he did this the case broke free from the hook, meaning that Cena had won just by using the case as a weapon.

July 14th, 2013
The final two matches of the collection were given a unique concept. For this year's show the powers-that-be decided to have one all-heel and one all-babyface MITB match. The all-heel Smackdown match kicked off the show and featured Fandango, United States Champion Dean Ambrose, Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes, Damian Sandow and Wade Barrett.

This one was also unique because for the first time ever there were two tag teams in the match in the form of the Real Americans and the Rhodes Scholars, and even though they worked as units at times the old adage that this match was every man for himself proved to be true in the end.

The match itself was a rather dramatic affair. There were no big OMG moments but great performances from all concerned. There was also a couple of cameo appearances. At one point Ambrose's Shield buddies Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns tried to lend a hand when they stopped Rhodes and his moustache from grabbing the case before they turned their attentions to the other combatants. This brought their enemies the Usos into the fray, and as a mass brawl developed at ringside Ambrose tried to capitalize on this opportunity by going for the case unchallenged, until Rhodes came back in and pushed the ladder over, sending Ambrose crashing down onto all of the brawlers.

For a few moments it looked like it was going to be Rhodes' night. He'd looked like a world beater earlier on when he took out most of the others with his cross-Rhodes finisher, but just when it looked like he was about to grab the belt his own tag partner Sandow appeared out of nowhere and sent him flying, stabbing his friend in the back so he could grab the case and claim the title shot.

The all-babyface Raw match featured Rob Van Dam, Christian, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Sheamus and C.M. Punk.

Dubbed the all-star match because all of the combatants were either former WWE or former World champions this may well be the most dramatic match on this entire collection. It may also be the best one here as well.

All six men put in great performances, and all of them were given their chance to shine and made to look like world beaters. RVD put in a performance that was miles ahead of anything he'd done in his TNA stint. He looked in top form throughout. In that respect the likes of Bryan and Christian weren't far behind him, especially Bryan, who looked absolutely brutal during his few moments on top, including when he knocked Sheamus off the top rope and sent him crashing through a ladder perched between the ring and the Spanish guys' table.

Bryan soon found himself on the receiving end of an unexpected attack from Paul Heyman guy Curtis Axel. Axel was about to turn his attention to other matters when Punk took him out with a go-to-sleep at ringside. This brought the aforementioned Mr. Heyman to the ring, and after giving Axel an earful he turned his attention to his best friend, urging him on as he slowly placed a ladder in position and climbed to the top.

Then it happened. As Punk was about to reach the top Heyman got into the ring and slammed another ladder into his back. Punk didn't know what hit him as Heyman repeated the move, and the force of these blows proved too much for Punk as he crashed off the ladder. His work done, Heyman took his jacket off and returned to the locker room.

This left the way open for sentimental favourite RVD to grab the case, but when Orton stopped him and pulled him off the ladder, taking him out with an RKO as he came down, it left the Viper as the last man standing as he climbed to the top and grabbed the case to win the match.

In conclusion - six and a half hours and a few thousand words later we've reached the end of another WWE DVD collection. So after all of that, how did this one rate?

Well, this one was pretty enjoyable. It was great to see how the Money in the Bank match evolved since it's debut way back in 2005, and how it's become a pivotal part of WWE storylines since then. It certainly was one of my Wrestlemania highlights at first, and even though I was a little sceptical when the match was moved from the grand-daddy of them all and given it's own pay-per-view those doubts quickly evaporated, because the show has given us plenty of highlight reel moments over the years, not just in the ladder matches but when the contracts are cashed in as well.

So with all of that being said there's just one more thing to do, and that's to give this collection the big thumbs up.

With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. WWE Straight to the Top: The Money in the Bank Ladder Match Anthology is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.