As many of you did this past Monday Night on Raw, I watched with utter befuddlement as Austin Theory cashed-in his Money in the Bank Briefcase for the United States Championship.
Making an already inexplicable decision even more unconscionable? The fact Seth Rollins had issued an open challenge that had technically not been answered by anyone. Bobby Lashley may have come down to the ring and brutalized Rollins, but the bell never rang.
To sum up, Austin Theory chose to cash in his almost guaranteed World Championship victory on a secondary title, during an open challenge... and then he lost. Ouch.
Sure, Lashley had a lot to do with that outcome, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. The contract is gone and it’s not coming back. Well, I mean I guess it always could. It’s WWE, they can do whatever they want. And maybe the best course of action would be to give Theory the briefcase back and pretend like Monday never happened.
The obvious out would be that Theory technically didn’t follow the language of the contract. The Money in the Bank briefcase has always been for an opportunity at a World Championship. The only time I’ve ever seen it used to capture a secondary title was during storyline mode of a WWE2K video game.
Is the contract now open to any championship? Or is the United States Title now considered the red brand’s World Championship?
Wrestling fans lit the internet on fire this week claiming that Theory’s decision completely devalued the MITB briefcase. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me, but I’d actually argue it helped elevate the United States Championship more than anything.
Between Theory’s cash-in attempt and Finn Balor’s line about costing Rollins gold to finally get even for the barricade buckle bomb of 2016, Monday was a great night in the on-going restoration project of the two mid-card championships that were mostly lost during Vince McMahon’s later-days as Head of Creative.
The facts remain however, Monday Night Raw currently does not have a World Champion. So why did Theory waste his golden opportunity?
I need a reason. You need a reason. Hopefully we get an explanation this coming Monday on Raw, because the best answer I have for you is that Austin Theory (the character) is an idiot. A world of talent, without the smarts to match. Which would be more in line with his meathead persona we saw when he was a member of The Way in NXT, not Vince McMahon’s protégé that was being groomed as the next WWE Universal Champion.
Ok, so maybe in the heat of the moment, he made a really dumb decision. Maybe the referee wouldn’t clear Rollins for the open challenge after the attack by Bobby Lashley, and thus Theory made the only play he could at the time. Hey, I’ve seen NFL players during a game get so heated they took several closed fist swings at a guy wearing a helmet. People make dumb decisions all the time, so there’s a certain human element to this booking decision.
Let’s assume stupidity is off the table, for second. Maybe Theory was just tired of getting his clock cleaned any time he went close to Roman Reigns and felt his best strategy was to go ahead and be the top guy on Monday Night Raw.
All I ask is that things make sense, and right now, this just doesn’t add up in the land of kayfabe. Here in the real world, we all kind of know what’s up, right?
Triple H did not put the MITB briefcase in Austin Theory’s hands, Vince McMahon did. This was a move that likely did not line up with Triple H’s vision for the future and the decision was made to have Theory drop the case. But why now? Why this way? Why not just have him lose to Roman Reigns, or Bron Breakker for that matter, and be done with it?
There are so many questions and it could be some time before we get any answers. When it comes to Austin Theory, his standing creatively just took a major blow. Make no mistake about it though, he can, and likely will recover. It may take some time, but his talent is undeniable.
The future of the MITB briefcase is a bigger mystery. The reason I’d argue Theory’s cash-in did more to help the United States Championship than hinder the contract — we’ve kind of become accustomed to lack luster cash-ins in recent years, haven’t we?
Still though, there are some who viewed Monday’s decision as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Claiming the concept is dead and buried and that it’s time to leave it in the past.
Ok. I’ll ask the question. Is it time to retire the Money in the Bank Briefcase?
My Verdict: No, but the execution has to be better moving forward.
The concept of the briefcase itself, forgive the obvious pun, is still money. It’s the perfect tool for WWE to utilize to either elevate a Superstar to a status they’ve not reached before or to heat up a top level talent that has fallen out of the limelight.
A.J. Styles would have been, and should have been, a prime candidate for this year’s ladder match. He’s a former WWE Champion who hasn’t had a televised one-on-one shot at the title since 2019, but somehow he didn’t even qualify for the match.
Yes, I’m well aware this is the second time in two weeks that I’ve brought up Styles as a potential World Championship contender. I’m basically trying to manifest a program between him and Roman Reigns at this point. Insert obligatory Dave Bautista, give me what I what, meme.
Let’s be honest though. Looking back at the competitors in the 2022 Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder match, it’s obvious who should have won - Sami Zayn.
You can sit back and say I’m using the benefit of hindsight, but the story was right there. Back before Sami even brought it up as an idea on television, I said he should win MITB with the idea to squash the case as a way to protect the Tribal Chief. The proof is on my podcast page and I even wrote about it in the weeks that followed.
Granted, I did get a few things wrong there. I did not predict Roman Reigns would be this accepting of Sami Zayn as an honorary (and potentially full-fledged) member of the family. And no one could have predicted that Sami would be as over as he is right now. WWE has something truly special brewing with this Bloodline/Sami Zayn story arc and I’m almost entirely convinced that the Honorary Uce should be the one that eventually dethrones Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship.
Sami Zayn may hold both those belts high without needing to capture the contract, and what a glorious day that will be for so many in the WWE Universe. But the idea of Sami using the briefcase on Roman Reigns, the same man who he won the ladder match to protect, would have been such a sight to behold. Especially if the build up was done over the course of several months and finally culminated in one of the biggest World Title wins (and audience pops) in years.
That’s just the kind of moment the MITB contract has been lacking in recent years and exactly what Triple H needs to rediscover in the years moving forward.
Ask yourself this question - when was the last great, truly great, Money in the Bank cash-in?
I’ll always have a soft spot for Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose) finally winning the big one at Money in the Bank 2016. All three members of the Shield held the WWE Championship within minutes of each other that night. Really special stuff all around. But if I’m being honest, the answer is two years earlier when Seth Rollins pulled off the Heist of the Century at WrestleMania 31, arguably the greatest Money in the Bank cash-in of all time.
In the years that followed, we’ve seen the likes of Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman, and now Austin Theory fail to cash-in successfully. The Miz stole the briefcase from Otis thanks to an assist from Otis’ former tag partner Tucker, which turned out to be one of the worst heel turns in recent memory. The Miz then failed to cash-in, got the briefcase back via storyline magic, and then successfully used it to beat Drew McIntyre... only drop the belt eight days later to Bobby Lashley.
And please, don’t get me started on the way Brock Lesnar won the briefcase.
Now, Big E winning MITB and eventually the WWE Championship is something many of us will cherish forever. Again, if we’re being honest though, the cash-in itself and his subsequent run with the WWE Championship could have been booked much better.
Losing to Roman Reigns clean as a sheet at Survivor Series was certainly a choice, as was the knee jerk reaction to Roman’s COVID diagnosis ahead of WWE Day 1. Instead of Brock Lesnar fighting Roman that night, he was inserted into Big E’s Championship defense instead and ended up cutting another New Day member’s World Title reign down.
Here’s hoping Big E gets healthy first and foremost. And if he’s able to compete again one day, he deserves another shot at being a World Champion.
On the women’s side of things, they have unfortunately fallen into a pattern of repetition and can’t seem to find their way out. Carmella may hold the record for the longest time any wrestler has ever held the Money in the Bank contract at 287 days, but the last five winners have had the briefcase for less than three days combined.
It’s become all too predictable. Maybe not the winners themselves, but certainly the events that follow. Alexa Bliss, Bayley, and Liv Morgan all successfully cashed-in their contracts within hours of winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Nikki A.S.H at least waited until the next night on Raw. Meanwhile, every single cash-in has either been on, or involved to some degree, Charlotte Flair or Ronda Rousey.
The only exception of course coming in 2020 when Becky Lynch relinquished her Championship after becoming pregnant with her daughter, thus crowning Ms. Money in the Bank Asuka as the new Raw Women’s Champion.
WWE Creative even went as far as to repeat the same story with Liv Morgan as they did with Nikki A.S.H the year prior. They both won the Championship, great! Now they have to prove that they deserve to be Champion. That they really have what it takes. And then both Liv and Nikki ultimately dropped the belt right back to the women they cashed-in on.
I’m rarely going to be the guy that calls for something to be abolished simply because it’s not working. I will call for better booking. Make it work. Put real effort in. This is where I have faith that Triple H will succeed.
From everything I’ve seen on screen and heard from the man himself off of it, WWE’s new Chief Content Officer has a plan. He has his sights set on the future. I trust when it comes to the Money in the Bank briefcase moving forward, he’ll have a plan. He’ll treat it much better than he did this week.
This past Monday, he treated that contract as an obstacle in the way of his creative vision, not unlike how Vince McMahon treated this year’s Royal Rumble. That cannot happen moving forward. The second you stop treating your biggest creative elements as if they don’t matter, is the exact moment they no longer do.