New Year’s Revolution 2006 turned out to be an important night in recent WWE history. Shortly after John Cena successfully defended the WWE Championship inside the Elimination Chamber, Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank title shot. Two spears later, Edge nabbed his first world championship, setting the tone for future cash-ins.
Since then, the majority of briefcase holders have capitalised on a weakened champion at their most vulnerable. Only two have given advanced notice (Rob Van Dam and John Cena) and only two cash-ins didn’t result in a new champ (John Cena and Damien Sandow). Opportunistic title captures are still the bread and butter of Money in the Bank, but these “shocks” have become less shocking with each passing year. The crowd reactions are still overwhelmingly positive, but the briefcase doesn’t need to be this one-dimensional.
So what are the other options? Which storyline possibilities haven’t been explored yet? Here are five possible options.
1. The Boyhood Dream
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Winning the Royal Rumble isn’t the only way to guarantee a Wrestlemania championship match. With a bit of patience, the briefcase can also serve this purpose. Yes, I know Seth Rollins cashed in at Mania 31, but I’m talking about something a little more noble.
An announced in advance cash-in on the grandest stage remains an unused, but excellent babyface option. Daniel Bryan teased it in 2011 only to cash in early, but actually going through with it would still be a strong option. On the one hand, it could be used to simply put a popular and talented wrestler like AJ Styles in a high profile Mania match, but I feel it would be even better for a true underdog to take this path.
Imagine Sami Zayn using the briefcase to get his one chance at Wrestlemania glory. Some of the best Rumble to Wrestlemania builds have followed this simple premise, but the briefcase option does increase one important variable: doubt. The traditionally weak booking of briefcase holders could make the eventual Mania showdown much less of a sure-thing. Fulfilling the “boyhood dream” may be one of the simplest options, but it has the potential to be very special.
2. On a Silver Platter
Ok, let’s get this one out of the way. It’s not my favourite option, but it’s still worth considering. The basic idea is this: After a controversial championship match or an injury to the champion, the championship becomes vacant. Mr. Money in the Bank chooses to cash-in while the title is in abeyance and is simply handed the championship.
Winning a world championship without winning a match is always going to irk many fans, but at least in this case the new champ would have won a grueling multi-man ladder match to even be in this position. This isn’t quite Eric Bischoff awarding Triple H the world championship in 2002, but it could still backfire. If successful, it could draw nuclear heat: The challenge is putting that heat on the wrestler, not the company. I must admit however that it would be an incredibly weak way to win an inaugural world championship so I think this option should only be used for an established star to add another belt to their tally.
I’m a little surprised this option is still on the table, to be honest. When Seth Rollins suffered a badly-time knee injury in 2015, Roman Reigns won a tournament for the vacant title only for Sheamus to successfully cash in immediately after the match. Why give Roman a 5-minute reign (his first!) just to transition the title onto Sheamus minutes later? Sheamus could have simply cashed in after the injury and demanded the title. Sheamus was not a strong champion at this point anyway and he could have still dropped the championship to Reigns later. Reigns’ first reign is the definition of forgettable and although it may have really bothered some fans, Sheamus undeservedly claiming the title was possibly the best option in the long run.
3. Running out of time
One year. If you hold the career-changing briefcase, that’s your window. It’s a long time – way too long for the likes off Kane and Dean Ambrose who couldn’t even wait one night for their opportunities. On the other end of the spectrum Edge still holds the longest MITB run with his initial 280 day run. Even Edge still had about three months to spare so he wasn’t exactly cutting it fine.
A briefcase holder running out of time could be a unique and intriguing storyline option. There’s a number of ways this could be achieved. Firstly, the champion could be built to be so vicious or dangerous that the briefcase holder is too afraid to risk a failed ambush (a la Steve Blackman as the Hardcore champion). Alternatively, Mr. Money in the Bank might lack confidence after some big losses or an injury and so he wants to be totally sure he can cash in successfully. Either way, the cash-in eventually comes at an inopportune moment when the champ is totally prepared.
I can certainly understand why WWE hasn’t been too patient with the Money in the Bank briefcase. It would greatly reduce the element of surprise, but it’s a different take on the whole concept which hasn’t been explored. Money in the Bank doesn’t seem to lend itself to the slow-burn philosophy, but this is one way the briefcase could serve a different purpose.
4. Bounty hunters
If there’s one thing Harley Race has taught me, it’s that if you see a potential threat to your position, you put a bounty on their head. Human Resources were none too pleased when I attempted this particular stunt, but Mr. (or Ms.) Money in the Bank could probably get away with it. For those not aware, then NWA Champion Harley Race offered a $25,000 bounty to take out Ric Flair before Starrcade 1983 in a classic angle. In the modern era the reward would most likely have to be a title shot, but that may be worth it for the champ in order to avoid an ambush cash-in.
While the Money in the Bank is in play, the champ constantly has a target on his back. The briefcase has been around for awhile now so any smart champion should be trying to shift some of the pressure elsewhere. Putting a target on the briefcase holder’s back opens up many new possible feuds and partnerships as dastardly heels attempt ambushes while honourable babyfaces try to even the odds. It also builds the challenger up as a credible threat. After all, who would put a bounty on someone who they aren’t really worried about?
If the bounty idea feels a bit much, a similar result could be achieved through the use of hired goons. A paranoid champion building an army around him to protect him from a cash-in is also something that would build the challenger up before the eventual cash-in.
5. You’re fired!
At Money in the Bank 2011, the biggest talking point wasn’t either of the eponymous ladder matches, even though Daniel Bryan quite shockingly won the Smackdown version. Everyone was talking about CM Punk beating John Cena for the WWE Championship in one of the finest matches in recent memory. The quality of the contest wasn’t the most exciting part though as CM Punk’s contract expired only a few hours later and he had fulfilled his promise to leave with the title. It was a fantastic time to be a fan and many of us were busy fantasy booking Punk travelling to other promotions with his WWE championship before returning several months later and setting up a huge showdown. Of course, Punk instead returned to TV two weeks later, but the less said about that the better.
The Money in the Bank briefcase itself could be used to set up a similar situation. After winning the briefcase, the holder could get fired (or perhaps suspended) for getting on the wrong side of an authority figure or for excessively violent bullying (I’m looking at you, Corbin). After going missing for several weeks or months, the fired wrestler cashes in out of nowhere and captures the championship. From there, the new champ might use the title to get his job back or simply walk away taking the championship with him. A few months down the line after some well-timed appearances with the championship at some indy shows or sports events, the “real” champion returns to battle the champion who’s been crowned in his absence. A unification bout to determine the legitimate champion would be a great main event for any network special.
I’m not saying this would be as great as the Summer of Punk could have been, but it could still be pretty awesome if done right. Also, unlike some of the other unexplored options I’ve listed here, this retains the element of surprise quite nicely.