The Money in the Bank ladder match was, both in storyline and in real life, created by Chris Jericho. It’s a simple take on the ladder match. But instead of a championship dangling from the rafters, wrestlers instead fight to grab a contract in a Halliburton-style briefcase. That briefcase can then be “cashed in” at any time for a world championship match.
That means “Money in the Bank” is a good name. Unless you screw it up, the briefcase basically guarantees you a championship. Of the wrestlers to cash in the briefcase, only Damien Sandow has lost his cash-in title match cleanly. (John Cena also lost a cash-in match when Big Show interfered.) The WWE has played up well the value of grabbing the case: 15 of 17 wrestlers have successfully cashed in.
This is cheap. But it’s also fun! For anywhere from an hour to a few months, there is a wrestler who could cause a world title change at basically any time, without any warning. It’s a cool gimmick, and WWE has done well to make it a once-a-year thing to preserve the uniqueness of the stipulation.
Coming into last night’s pay-per-view, there had been 17 Money in the Bank ladder matches. For the first time, WWE held one for the women’s division. And a man won it.
Okay, not really. But none of the five women in the match (Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Tamina, Natayla and Carmella) actually grabbed the briefcase at the top of the ladder. Lynch was about to finish climbing the ladder to be in position to pull down the briefcase. But James Ellsworth, a former indie wrestler who successfully turned his one match as a jobber against Braun Strowman into a WWE gig as a comedy heel, pushed the ladder over and knocked her out of the match.
Then Ellsworth, the valet for Camella, climbed the ladder himself. He unlatched the briefcase, held it in the air, then dropped it down to Carmella. The bell rang, and after a bit of referee bickering—where did three refs come from?—Ellsworth announced Carmella as the first-ever “Miss Money in the Bank.” Her music played.
The finish was silly, obviously. MITB finishes have been screwjobs before—Seth Rollins won after Kane interfered to prevent Dean Ambrose from a sure victory. But never before has anyone simply come into the match, grabbed the briefcase, and given it to the person they wanted to win. The match is no-disqualification, so logically Carmella really is the winner, even though it’s never been done before. (We can only hope this will not lead to wrestlers bringing knives or guns to the ring during no-DQ matches.)
Obviously, the finish is dumb. People are pissed. WWE hyped up the “women’s revolution” with a huge promo package just before the ladder match, and then a man was the one to win the MITB match for his woman.
But I kind of like it. A good heel bends the rules. Ellsworth has been helping Carmella win matches since she comforted him after he lost his title match to A.J. Styles last December. (Yes, the A.J. Styles/Dean Ambrose/James Ellsworth feud directly segued into Ellsworth becoming Carmella’s valet. A rare instance of everything fitting into place!) Naturally, now he’s helped her win MITB.
That he pulled the briefcase down himself is lame. But it sets up what could be a cool run of two undeserving heels with the briefcase. Carmella already teased cashing in during the WWE SmackDown women’s title match last night. It shouldn’t always go this way, but MITB is built for heels to win. Then they can cash in against an exhausted champion for a somewhat-underserved title run, and build to be taken down by a good guy.
The finish also suddenly makes the Carmela/Ellsworth pairing something worth watching. Who really cared about it before tonight? It was two wrestlers (well, a wrestler and her valet) spinning their wheels. Now, in the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank match, a man interfered and did all of the work for his wrestler to win. That should lead to nuclear-level heat! Suddenly the pairing means something. If the WWE were smart, they’d even play up that this pairing had a man do the woman’s work for her.
People didn’t like the finish when Kane interfered so Seth Rollins could win MITB, but it led to a memorable cash-in the main event of WrestleMania and an entertaining run as a heel champion. Carmella and Ellsworth can get heat by teasing a cash in for a few weeks (or months); then Carmella eventually gets an undeserving title run before Becky Lynch (or whoever) eventually knocks her off to win the title. Or maybe Lynch gets a shot at the briefcase due to a ruling on SmackDown Live, wins it, and then she cashes in. There’s a lot of different directions WWE can go.
So, sure, it was a stupid finish. But Carmella (and, somehow, Ellsworth) are set up to be the best heels in the women’s division. Can’t you see Becky Lynch beating up Ellsworth, having him get what’s coming to him, to a huge pop at some point? This could be pretty good, actually.