One of the most important things in the wrestling business is to be consistent with making new stars for the future. We’ve seen this play a major part in the downfall of companies like WCW, TNA, and even WWE had a period of being extremely guilty about it. WWE, however, has usually had one plan that they could rely on to start launching someone from relative obscurity to superstardom; to varying levels of success of course. From 1993 to 2002 (and various years it returned) we had the King of the Ring. A single-elimination tournament consisting of a prime selection of current stars just chomping at the bit for that one big opportunity. From 2005 to the present we have the Money in the Bank. A high-action multi-man ladder match where the prize is a contract for a world title match at any point in a calendar year after the victory.
Here on New vs. Old we debate: Which way was better to elevate a star? The New way with Money in the Bank; or the Old way with the King of the Ring. For this debate I will study each winner and give them a pass or a fail with how the victory affected them.
Money in the Bank was a concept invented by… who else? Chris Jericho. It’s a ladder match featuring anywhere from 5 to 10 superstars all fighting to be the first to climb a ladder and retrieve a briefcase suspended 20 feet above the ring. Inside that briefcase is a contract that entitles the bearer to a WWE, World Heavyweight, or ECW Title match anytime and anywhere the victor desires within one year. This of course can be used at some very opportune moment; almost guaranteeing victory for that superstar.
2005 – Wrestlemania 21
The first MITB match was during the heart of the brand split days and featured exclusively Raw stars: Chris Jericho, Christian, Edge, Chris Benoit, Kane, and Shelton Benjamin. One thing that this first match proved was that even though a star may not come out as the winner, they can still steal the show and be the one everyone talks about. That person for this match was Shelton Benjamin. Already well known for his athleticism, this match was the perfect stage for him to display insane acts of balance, speed, reflexes, endurance, and bravery. All of those, however, were not enough to gain possession of the briefcase which went to Edge. Edge had already made a big name for himself during his tag days with Christian but always seemed to have trouble solidifying himself into the main event level. Even after 5 Intercontinental Titles, a United States Title, and even a King of the Ring victory on his resume. After sitting on it for almost a year, Edge finally cashed in at New Years Revolution 2006 after WWE Champion John Cena had just barely managed to win his Elimination Chamber matchup. Edge was successful and began the trend of what the Money in the Bank briefcase was capable of doing.
2006 – Wrestlemania 22
This had a lot to follow up on. The first MITB match and cash-in really set high expectations for both. While I feel this match did not hold up to the first one, it is still wildly entertaining. Shelton Benjamin once again steals the show, and the sympathy for Ric Flair added a touch of emotion to the match. Rob Van Dam would become Mr. Money in the Bank that year and would go on to do the complete opposite of Edge. He fore-warned the WWE Champion John Cena of when and where the cash-in would be: One Night Stand 2006. This lead to a match in front of one of the most intense crowds the title was ever defended in front of, featuring the now famous and often duplicated sign of “If Cena Wins, We Riot.” Rob Van Dam would also be successful with his cash-in and had it not been for personal issues he may have had a much more memorable title reign. Fact is though, RVD became a mega star on the night of his cash-in. Another successful job from the Money in the Bank.
2007 – Wrestlemania 23
This is where things started to get kinda funky for the MITB. This was one of the weaker matches resembling nothing more than the ladder match standard. The victor was Mr. Kennedy, who at the time was a hot rising star. He promised to sit on the contract for a full year and cash it in at the following years Wrestlemania(something we still never saw somebody do and I fear never will at this point). However, once again personal problems came into play and Kennedy would become the only holder to lose possession of his briefcase, doing so to Edge. Edge would cash it in on World Heavyweight Champion The Undertaker after a brutal steel cage match with Batista followed up by a beatdown from Mark Henry. Another successful cash-in, however no new star was made and it felt more like the status quo at this point.
2008 – Wrestlemania 24
The excitement for the match picked up this year with the return of Shelton Benjamin, and the inclusion of John Morrison, MVP, and even Carlito. The victor this year was CM Punk, who would cash his briefcase in on someone vary familiar with it: World Heavyweight Champion Edge. This marked the first world title victory for CM Punk, however he would have a very forgettable reign and would lose the title without even defending it when removed from a championship scramble match after being attacked by Randy Orton backstage. This one goes down as a fail for me.
2009 – Wrestlemania 25
This was almost like a re-do from last year. Exciting match which ended with CM Punk becoming the first and only star to win the MITB ladder match twice. His cash in on World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy is one of my personal favourites. Jeff Hardy was a guy that majority of the audience loved to death and were clamoring to see win a world title. While I couldn’t see a dang thing that interested people to him. So when Jeff Hardy beat one of my top stars Edge in a ladder match to receive his first world title, I was none too pleased. However, that quickly turned to elation when CM Punk’s music hit and he cashed in his contract for his second world title reign. Punk & Hardy would continue to have one of the more memorable feuds of that time period over the next year.
2010 – Wrestlemania 26
This was the largest MITB match ever, featuring 10 superstars! Many of them being highly athletic including Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, and of course Shelton Benjamin. The winner would be Jack Swagger, who would cash in his contract after waiting only 2 days on World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho. This is widely considered one of the biggest bombs not just for the MITB but even the World Heavyweight Title. Jack Swagger seemed like less of a star and more like a joke when all was said and done. The only truly memorable thing through the whole ordeal was Big Show wrecking a bunch of Swagger’s trophies. Maybe they had a match? I dunno, I don’t remember. This would be the final MITB contest to be held at Wrestlemania, which I feel severely misses it. But… another topic for another article.
2010 – MITB Smackdown
I can’t say I remember much about the match. Kane came out the victor, and would become the first and only MITB winner to cash his contract in on the same night. After Rey Mysterio Jr. defended his World Heavyweight Title against Jack Swagger, Kane cashed in and won. While Kane was not by any means a rising star at this point, I still see this being a win for the MITB since it allowed a veteran who’s only previous reign was 24-hours to get a lengthy run that he deserved. Kane’s legacy was definitely strengthened.
2010 – MITB Raw
Another match that I don’t hold any memories about. I think the MITB matches begin to blur together at this point. The winner was The Miz who would go on the cash it in on WWE Champion Randy Orton after his title defense against Wade Barrett. This cash in will always go down as one of my favourites not so much because of The Miz, but because of the immediate reaction shot of a young lady in the audience who has been dubbed as “Angry Miz Girl.” Miz would hold that title all the way until the main event of Wrestlemania 27 where he successfully defended it against John Cena. While The Miz has dropped a peg or two… or three since then. The MITB and WWE Title wins were a major boon to his character at the time and put him well on the path to becoming one of the companies biggest stars. I still say it was a win for the MITB, but with a failed follow up.
2011 – MITB Smackdown
Daniel Bryan would be the victor for this match and would be the second winner to announce that he will be cashing it in at the next years Wrestlemania. Plans changed, however, when he cashed it in on a vulnerable World Heavyweight Champion The Big Show at TLC. But, before cashing it in Bryan went on the biggest losing streak of his career. His reign also would end at Wrestlemania 28 when he lost to Sheamus in 18 seconds. Overall, I’m not sure if the MITB and WHC really helped Bryan at all. This was still a pivotal moment in his career though, as this was when the “Yes!” chant was born. I think Daniel Bryan made Daniel Bryan a star a lot more than the MITB did. So I’m chalking this one as a loss.
2011 – MITB Raw
One of my favourite MITB matches. My favourite part being when The Miz, who was heel at the time, got one of the loudest cheers when returning to the match after tweaking his leg during a fall. The winner would be Alberto Del Rio who would cash it in on WWE Champion CM Punk after his match with John Cena. The narrative at this time was fantastic. CM Punk had left the company while holding the WWE title, so a new champion was crowned in a one night tournament in Rey Mysterio, who unfortunately was forced to defend it on the same night and lost it to John Cena. After Punk returned, we had two WWE champions. This resulted in Punk & Cena having a unification match at SummerSlam. After the finish with Punk being victorious, the timing was perfect for an unexpected cash-in. Story wise, this is one of my favourite cash ins. But otherwise, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of it. Del Rio is a talent but this was supposed to be CM Punk’s time and that resulted in a lot of backlash towards Del Rio that I still don’t think he’s gotten over. Del Rio would lose it back to CM Punk at Survivor Series and ultimately the title run was relatively meaningless besides cutting Punk’s historic title reign shorter than it could’ve been. Another loss for MITB.
2012 – MITB WHC
Another mostly forgettable match which ended with Dolph Ziggler having possession of the briefcase. Ziggler had an overwhelming amount of fan support to the point where a whole meme took the internet by storm involving his cash-in. After holding onto the briefcase for the second longest time of 267 days he finally cashed it in on the Raw after Wrestlemania 29 to one of the most tremendous ovations in Raw history. Unfortunately, Dolph Ziggler would soon suffer a concussion that resulted in him being inactive for over a month; and he would go on to lose his first title defense against Alberto Del Rio. We may never know what could have been, but we do know that all the potential for Dolph Ziggler was exposed during his cash-in. I’m calling it a win.
2013 – MITB WWE Title
Slow ladder match filled with older veterans. John Cena wins, however would become the first person to unsuccessfully cash in his briefcase when his match against CM Punk on Raw 1000 was interrupted by The Big Show. Absolutely pointless.
Since we’re yet to see how the cash-ins of Damien Sandow & Randy Orton will play out, I will not use them as part of this comparison. So let’s recap: Out of 12 Money in the Bank victories and cash-ins 6 of them successfully elevated the star and 6 of them did not. 50% is not bad but not as good as it should be. Let’s study King of the Ring now.
The King of the Ring is a single-elimination style tournament, often contested in a single night, where the victor earns the right to call themselves King. Many times, this was implemented into the winners gimmick. A little known fact is the King of the Ring originally began in 1985 as non-televised event. It was held annually in Foxburough, MA the first 2 years and Providence, RI the remaining years leading up to 1993. At that point, the tournament took on a new life in the form of a Pay Per View. For this debate I will only study the winners of the televised tournaments.
1993 – Bret Hart
Hart had already not only became a big name in the tag scene as part of The Hart Foundation, but even as a singles star being a former WWF Champion. In fact, this was Bret’s second King of the Ring victory as he had won the tournament during one of the non-televised tournaments in 1991. Bret needed no help becoming a bigger star, and the crown more served as means to fuel the feud between him and Jerry “The King” Lawler when Lawler attacked Hart during his coronation. I’d hate to start negative, but this a fail.
1994 – Owen Hart
Keeping it in the family, the second king was Bret’s brother Owen. Being the younger sibling, Owen always had to fight to jump outside Bret’s shadow. This was the year that happened. After Owen defeated Bret at Wrestlemania X, and then a high-competative steel cage match at SummerSlam, Owen solidified himself as his own man by winning the 1994 King of the Ring and dubbed himself the “King of Harts.”
1995 – Mabel
Woof. Just woof. They had a golden opportunity to make an instant star out of Savio Vega, who made his WWF debut that evening and wrestled 4 matches leading up to the finals. However, the final victor was Mabel who would go on to have one title match with Diesel and then fall into obscurity, eventually undergoing a number of personality changes without ever becoming a high profile star. This is a lot of people’s nominee for the worst King of all time, and I tend to agree.
1996 – Steve Austin
This was the first year that the entire tournament was not held on a single night, which I believe knocked the prestige of the victory down a tad. However, that didn’t stop this years King from making the most of it. After a brutal one-sided match with an aging Jake Robert in the finals, Steve Austin would gain his first major accolade to one of the most important careers in history. But more important than the match or even the crown, was the speech during his coronation which gave birth to the now famous “Austin 3:16.” While Austin’s career would stay stalled for a number of months, it wouldn’t be long before he became one of the most recognizable names in wrestling. This goes down as a big win.
1997 – Triple H
Wrestling folklore would have us believe that Hunter Hearst Helmsley was originally pegged to be the King in 1996, however as punishment for the MSG curtain call incident Austin was chosen instead. This was perhaps the biggest blessing in disguise, however you can only delay the career of a star like HHH. The following year Hunter would gain his crown and go on to become a multi-time Intercontinental champion, and would become a founding member and eventually leader of Degeneration-X soon after. The rest of his career should speak for itself. This is once again a big win for the KOTR.
1998 – Ken Shamrock
For all intents and purposes, Ken Shamrock should have been a huge star. The first big cross-over star between MMA and pro-wrestling. Highly skilled fighter. Putting the crown on him seemed like the last step needed to give him a boost into superstardom. Unfortunately, however, it never really panned out. This one was always a mystery to me. I guess fans just weren’t ready for “real” fighter like Ken Shamrock yet. I feel if that aged Ken Shamrock debuted in WWE today, he’d be a massive star. Unfortunately though, this king was a bit of a dud.
1999 – Billy Gunn
This one is another mystery. Billy Gunn was always a man to have all the tools necessary to be a big star, including the support of the powers that be. After winning the tournament he would go on to a main event feud with The Rock for the WWF title but after his loss would quickly fall back down the ranks and return to being a life-long tag specialist. While Gunn’s career is certainly nothing to be ashamed about, he failed to really capitalize on what being King could have done for him. So much so, that a few years later Edge would make a quip saying “Don’t worry, I won’t Billy Gunn my KOTR victory.” Another fail.
2000 – Kurt Angle
After becoming one of the quickest rising stars in company history and having a fascinating run as the “Euro-continental” Champion, the olympic gold medalist gained his next career accolade by becoming the 2000 King of the Ring. Soon after he would enter main event feuds with HHH and The Rock, the latter of whom he would win his first WWF Championship from. This is arguably the most successful victory of the crown, at least in terms of the 1 year following.
2001 – Edge
This one holds a special place to me because I was lucky enough to be in attendance at King of the Ring 2001. I wanted nothing more than to see Kurt Angle become the first ever two-time King of the Ring(which wouldn’t have technically been true but… ah screw it). Kurt was a machine that evening, after not just the semi-finals match but a historic street fight with Shane McMahon. Unfortunately, he would go on to lose to Edge in the finals. And for me, that always tainted it. Biased? Sure. But, even if I try to look at it objectively, Edge would continue to bounce between tagging and floundering in the lower mid-card for many more years to come. In a lot of ways, he did “Billy Gunn it.” I can’t call this a win for the KOTR.
2002 – Brock Lesnar
This would sadly mark the final year that the King of the Ring tournament would have it’s own pay per view, and the last we’d see it for four years. What a way to go out with a bang though. This year, the winner of the tournament would become the #1 contender for the WWF Championship at SummerSlam. The winner would be the man who was dubbed “The Next Big Thing,” Brock Lesnar. And that term was appropriate. One month after acquiring the crown, Lesnar would defeat The Rock at SummerSlam and solidified him as a dominant monster for the rest of the career to this day. Total win.
2006 – Booker T
The tournament was brought back as a Smackdown exclusive and was won that year by Booker T. Booker would go on to completely renovate his character and the rule of King Booker began. I always like seeing reinventions of a character like this later in someones career. I would relate this a lot to Kane’s MITB, as someone who didn’t necessarily need this to become a star, but it was used as a means to take someone already established to a new direction. Win for this one.
2008 – William Regal
This tournament itself soured a lot of people. One of the first round matches was Regal vs. Hornswoggle. CM Punk tapped out for the first time in the finals. Regal himself was in the midst of some of the best work of his career as the GM of Raw and hot off a feud with HHH. Becoming King seemed like the final piece of the puzzle to launch William Regal into finally being a big player. However, again we have a story of personal issues coming into play when Regal is hit with a wellness policy violation resulting in him losing his role as GM and never regaining that momentum. Unfortunately, this one’s a fail, though due to outside circumstances so I hate to count it against the KOTR.
2010 – Sheamus
The last time we saw the tournament was on a Raw in 2010. The finals of this tournament was one of the best finals matchups between Sheamus and John Morrison, resulting in Sheamus getting the victory. With all that excitement, however, the main event that evening was what stole the show which was WWE Champion The Miz vs. Jerry Lawler in a TLC match for the title(Lawler’s first ever WWE title match). After not only being overshadowed on his victory night, Sheamus’ reign as king was rather forgetful other than his often mocked king attire he began to don which included a stag-horn crown. At this point, Sheamus was already a former WWE champion and this really did nothing for him. This is a loss.
The King of the Ring has since been defunct with no immediate signs of returning. To recap: Out of 13 kings 6 were successful and 7 were failures.
Both the MITB and KOTR have had a roughly 50% success rate in elevating the winner, so this actually makes it even tougher to call. While a nostalgic part of me loves and holds the King of the Ring dear, Money in the Bank is fresher and seems to have no sign of going away anytime soon. So I’m reaching my decision based on this: The King of the Ring had only 1 sole winner every year; and that person not only just won a tournament, but also a title. And not a title belt, but a name title. Being a former King of the Ring is an accolade used on peoples resumes even today. Meanwhile, Money in the Bank has become really saturated ever since having 2 winners every year. There also just doesn’t seem to be any prestige to being able to call yourself a former Mr. Money in the Bank. So I’m voting the old way, The King of the Ring tournament, as the better way to elevate stars.
Winner: Old – The King of the Ring
What do you think? Which way is better in your opinion? Who are some your favourite and not-so-favourite winners of both? Comment below.