Despite being one of the newest major innovations of the WWE, Money in the Bank has been fully embraced by the WWE audience as one of the most anticipated events of the year since its inception in 2005.
Part of the reason it's so exciting is because it delivers twice; first, in a concept that began in 2010, there's an annual pay-per-view with two multi-superstar ladder matches in which the winner earns a contract for a championship match at any point throughout the 365 days that follow. The other half of that equation is the cash-in. The anticipation of when, where and how the superstar carrying the Money in the Bank briefcase will cash in on that opportunity injects excitement and an added layer of unpredictability to whichever show it is on.
Like the Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank has created an opportunity for rising superstars to advance their careers to an entirely different level of stardom. Twelve years ago Monday, WWE fans around the world got their first taste of just how exciting that can be.
Edge, a superstar who was seemingly on the brink of a main-event-level push for years, won the first Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles. After adding another groundbreaking ladder match moment to all of his previous innovations alongside long-time tag-team partner Christian, Edge was able to build his reputation as a main eventer simply by carrying the briefcase around. He held on to that contract for nearly 10 months (280 days, to be exact), building the anticipation as to when he would cash in his contract and on whom.
History unfolded before our eyes as WWE presented its New Year's Revolution pay-per-view in 2006. The event's main event featured the fourth Elimination Chamber match, which saw John Cena retain his WWE championship against five other superstars. He had to deal with a sixth before the night was out.
Following the match, in what appeared to be the closing moments of the show, Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon appeared on stage with a message for the audience and for a bloody, worn out Cena, who could barely lift himself to his feet in the ring.
"Nobody goes anywhere. This night is not over," McMahon said. "There's one more match to happen here tonight. This individual is cashing in his Money in the Bank privilege that he earned at WrestleMania. The WWE championship match will take place right here, right now. John Cena defends against Edge!"
Edge's music hit, he handed his briefcase with contract to McMahon, and he made his way to the ring to make history. Despite Cena's kicking out of Edge's patented spear, further enhancing his own never-say-die reputation, Edge hit a second spear and put the champ away. With that, the first Money in the Bank contract was successfully cashed in, Edge won his first WWE championship, and a star was born.
From that moment, Edge went on to have 11 total reigns as the WWE or World Heavyweight Champion, and he landed himself into the WWE's Hall of Fame in 2012 after his wrestling career was abruptly cut short due to cervical spinal stenosis.
Following that initial cash-in, 17 more Money in the Bank cash-in attempts have been made, including another successful one by Edge. In all, 15 of 18 Money in the Bank cash-in attempts have been successful, and with the first women's Money in the Bank contract holder, Carmella, still in possession of the briefcase she won last summer, the potential for a cash-in lingers every time SmackDown women's champion Charlotte Flair appears on TV. The match eventually became big enough to justify its own standalone pay-per-view outside of WrestleMania.
But for all the stars and moments that Money in the Bank has created, it could've been a one-and-done experiment, had it not played out so memorably the first time around.