With this year’s event just around the corner, Matthew Roberts cranks up the TWM Time Machine and goes back to 2011 for Money in the Bank.
There are people who to this day will try and convince you that CM Punk was handed an open mic, a World Title match and a storyline where he threatened to walk away from the WWE with that belt without ever having inked a contract extension. Even after the fact, and his return to WWE all of two weeks later, Punk (and his wrestling associates) tried to spin the tale that he walked into Money in the Bank 2011 having not made a decision. Utter nonsense of course, but the fact that the storyline (at least in it’s early days) caught fire and is still being referenced today shows you just what a great piece of work (and I use that phrase advisedly) it was.
And it does mean that whilst MITB 2011 was only the second PPV to share the name of it’s famed gimmick match it was neither of those matches that was the most anticipated on the show and it is only right that this retro review starts off with the Punk/John Cena main event.
Punk’s “pipe-bomb” had aired just a couple of weeks prior; even those of us who saw through the subterfuge at the time would acknowledge that the promo was one of the greatest in WWE history. It came out of nowhere, to an extent, was superbly delivered and brought that air of “reality” to our TV screens that simply couldn’t be faked. It got mainstream media interested in the WWE for the first time since Rock and Austin had disappeared from full-time view, it grabbed the attention of fans and by pitting Punk against the “coporate” face of WWE in John Cena gave us one of the most hotly anticipated title matches in recent history. Even better, the two delivered on the night.
Cena was, for once, (mostly) serious and both men brought their working shoes. There was actually some GREAT wrestling in this one to go with the white-hot atmosphere. The expected extra curricular activities with Vince McMahon and John Laurinitas were kept relatively short but absolutely added to the occasion. And the pop when Punk got the pinfall to win the title was amongst the loudest you will ever hear. Quite simply, this delivered. I could, and actually will, argue that this was the peak of the Punk storyline (which was ruined when the night after Vince merely “vacated” the title and carried on as normal despite the fact that pre-match it had been intimated that the WWE was in crisis if it’s champion walked out and then killed off completely when Punk came back all of two weeks later anyway) and it was all downhill from here. But that cannot take away from the match here. This was WWE at it’s absolute finest.
Even more happily, it was far from the only highlight of the show.
The Smackdown MITB match that opened the show was one of the best of the genre; with a line up of Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Cody Rhodes, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Kane and Heath Slater there was no real clear favourite and whilst this sometimes can hurt a match this was so good that it merely added to the drama and allowed fans to get lost in the “who will win this” moments. Even now, eight years on when he is a bona fide main event star, it’s still great to see the then plucky underdog Daniel Bryan take the win here.
The Raw MITB match can’t live up to that one; the cast for this one was Kofi Kingston, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Evan Bourne, Alex Riley, The Miz, R-Truth and Rey Mysterio and in all honesty it seemed set up for the Del Rio win that did eventually come. Still, whilst it had it’s mis-timed and sloppy moments and was hurt by even more “no-selling” than usual, it was still chock full of the usual crazy and insane spots and you could certainly appreciate the effort from all concerned.
The undercard was more hit and miss. The World Heavyweight Title match between Randy Orton and Christian was very good and even the DQ finish made sense given the stipulation of Orton being able to lose his title by DQ as Christian goaded him into it. This was one of 2011’s better feuds in the WWE. Some would say the same about Mark Henry and The Big Show and admittedly the match was not as bad as I feared it might be. You also cannot deny that the push they gave Henry as an “unstoppable monster” around this time certainly went all out. The fact remains though that no matter how much of a nice guy Henry seems to be, I’ve never rated him above mediocre and sticking around for the better part of two decades and only have that one really memorable moment (the “fake retirement promo with Cena) doesn’t make you an all-time legend in my book. Still, I’d rather watch that match that sit through the Diva’s Title match between Kelly Kelly and Brie Bella ever again. It’s “ok” and we’ve seen far worse carried out in the name of the Diva’s Division but it’s simply non-descript.
With two good MITB stunt-fest’s, a great World Heavyweight Title match and one of the best WWE Title matches of the decade, Money in the Bank 2011 gets the thumbs up as a must-see show. Just don’t get too upset/depressed about where the Punk storyline went from here…
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