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Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - Who was the BEST WWE Money in the Bank Briefcase Winner?
By Mr. Tito
Jun 17, 2017 - 2:14:16 AM

Follow Mr. Tito on Twitter.com: @titowrestling

In celebration of Money in the Bank week here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com, I wanted to write a themed column. Looking around the internet, everybody is attempting to rank the top Money in the Bank Winners and the worsts... Lots of lists.

But I don't want to do a list... Been there, done that.

However, I'd like to discuss the BEST Money in the Bank winner, easily by a mile. The one guy who cashed in the briefcase WEEKS in advance and also named the time & place where he'd challenge for the WWE Title. Because this briefcase holder announced it in advance and selected a "home field advantage" so unique, it made his match-up and victory feel extra special because it had added anticipation. Contrast that with the many, many wrestlers who cashed in after the World Champion was vulnerable wrestling a match earlier in the night. This Money in the Bank winner beat the WWE Champion in a legitimate one-on-one match up where the champion knew in advance who he was fighting.

I'm talking about Rob Van Dam the BEST EVER Money in the Bank winner.

During 2006 and at Wrestlemania 22, the man once proclaiming himself as "Mr. Monday Night", won that event's Money in the Bank match-up. Before the 2010s, the match was a feature of the Wrestlemania events and Rob Van Dam was able to win the 2nd ever Ladder Match with a #1 contendership contract hanging in a briefcase. At the time, Rob Van Dam was consistently stuck in that upper midcard tier of the WWE roster. During much of the 2000s, Van Dam had the likes of Steve Austin, Rock, Triple H, Kurt Angle, and then all of the new developmental wrestlers that arrived (Lesnar, Orton, Cena, Batista, Benjamin, etc.). Plus, many WCW veterans joined the WWE roster. The roster was very crowded but by 2006, it had thinned out some. Van Dam's patience had paid but he was also very lucky that nostalgia was for his old promotion was kicking into high gear.

Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) shut its doors during early 2001 and it was a promotion in which Van Dam was one of the marquee stars. During the mid to late 1990s, it rose as the legitimate #3 promotion behind WWF and WCW based on the way it incorporated adult themes in storylines, violence, and began featuring unique styles of wrestling that WWF and WCW refulsed to incorporate. What ECW didn't have, however, was the funding and Cable television backing of WWF and WCW. By the late 1990s, both WCW (especially) and WWF raided ECW's talent roster and Heyman banked his entire promotion on Pay Per View revenues and the TNN Cable deal. With a weaker roster and the TNN deal going sour, ECW found itself mounting debt and paying wrestlers became difficult to do. ECW was closed by early 2001 and WWE bought its video library while hiring Paul Heyman for announcing and creative purposes. Wrestlers like Rob Van Dam would eventually join the WWE roster and attempt to climb that ladder for the "brass ring". The WWE roster between 2001-2002 was THICK and even as the brands split during 2002, it was hard to breathe between 2002-2004 on either roster.

During the mid 2000s, the nostalgia kick of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) began. Usually, it takes about 5 years after something ends for its fans to begin longing for what was once there. During the early 2000s, many Indy promotions tried to become the "new ECW" but to no avail. Then, the ECW wrestlers themselves began holding reunion shows. That caught the WWE's interest. During June 2005, WWE held a Pay Per View called ECW: One Night Stand and it was very successful (325,000 buys!). It was an event that featured older ECW talents returning who weren't WWE employees ever along with multiple WWE talents who used to work for ECW working the show. It was great... It really felt as though time stopped and we were transported back to the late 1990s when ECW's roster WASN'T raided by the big promotions. What a show! The success of One Night Stand and continued reunion shows by former ECW wrestlers themselves kept drumming up interest. Based on the financial success of the RAW/Smackdown brand split (particularly keeping competition OUT), Vince McMahon began to think about a 3rd brand...

1 year later, WWE decided to put on ECW: One NIght Stand 2006 and to then follow that up with the official 3rd brand of the WWE debuting soon thereafter on the Science Fiction network (or Sci-Fi Network, now SyFy). Furthermore, Paul Heyman was to become the Creative Lead on this new ECW television show and it would prominently feature many former great ECW superstars (Sabu, Sandman joining WWE for example) joining the WWE roster. It's like time never stopped but this time, Corporate WWE money could keep it afloat. But first, the WWE had to figure out how to make a big splash on One Night Stand 2006 to officially launch the ECW brand and to also decide how to create a new ECW Champion to headline that brand.

Enter Rob Van Dam, the patient one.

Van Dam won the "Money in the Bank" Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 22 and it was an emotional victory. Opportunities kept avoiding Van Dam and it seemed like he'd be a WWE midcarder forever. For a few months, he carried the briefcase and the wrestling world wondered when he'd cash it it. Would he be like Edge who during the previous year who cashed in the briefcase after the WWE Champion just wrestled a match? Or would he do something different? Well, there was that ECW: One Night Stand 2006 event that was just announced...

And that's what Rob Van Dam did. He announced, ahead of time, that he would be cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase weeks in advance and Van Dam named his time & place. Rob announced that the match would take place on June 11th, 2006 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York in front of rabid ECW fans at the ECW themed Pay Per View. The ballroom was packed to the rims with ECW fans who didn't like the Corporate WWE product and they really didn't like John Cena. By 2006, Cena was full entrenched as the #1 babyface and had become more of a vanilla babyface. He went from an 8 Mile like rapper to a Superhero like character that was like a modern take on Hulk Hogan. In fact, during 2005-2006, Cena was dominating the WWE roster and hardcore ECW fans at One Night Stand wanted to badly see Cena lose the WWE title to an ECW loyal wrestler.

What was GREAT about Van Dam's cash-in is that it gave WWE a very rare "home field advantage". WWE announces locations for their wrestler's bios but they never embrace them. Sure, you know that John Cena is from the Boston area and CM Punk is a Chicago guy, but when the WWE entrance way and ring are installed, every arena looks the same. However, the Hammerstein Ballroom has its own unique look and can only pack in 2,500 fans or so. Additionally, it was New York fans who are quite bold even at WWE events. At the One Night Stand 2006 event, fans held up signs like "If John Cena Wins, We Riot" while chanting many derogatory things at WWE talent. In particular, they were not fans of the infamous Ohio Valley Wrestling "Class of 2002" as I am as they absolutely hammered Randy Orton and John Cena. In the case of John Cena, he EMBRACED the hatred and ramped up his WWE trademark stuff. For example, Cena took off his shirt and tried to throw it into the crowd. Well, the ECW fans threw the shirt back into the ring! Lots of "You Can't Wrestle" and filthy chants like "You Suck D***" throughout the night at WWE specific talent.

It's like a sports team going on the road... The Road Team always has some hostility towards them by the hometown crowd. You've got to "root, root, root for the home time" because if they don't win "it's a shame". WWE's attempt to make every arena look exactly the same has removed any possibilities of a "home court advantage" for their wrestlers. In modern times, the time when CM Punk wrestled for the WWE Title at Money in the Bank 2011 in Chicago was the closest that the WWE let the "home field" even play a part in a match. Even then, that was in a big arena. In the Hammerstein Ballroom, wrestling fans were very close to the ring and just about anyone in that arena could hurl a beer bottle at the wrestlers in the ring. It's that compact with its 2,500 capacity for wrestling events.

The match itself... One of the best spectacles that I've ever seen as a wrestling fan.

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WWE Title Match: John Cena (c) vs. Rob Van Dam from ECW: One Night Stand 2006
The challenger, Rob Van Dam, comes out first and the fans in New York, of course, adore him. RVD comes out to his "One of a Kind" theme song although for one night only, WWE could have ponied up for the "Walk" song by Pantera. You know, if RVD truly represented ECW. After a brief pause to build the anticipation, John Cena comes out to HEAVY boos. Better yet, Cena proudly holds up that Spinner WWE Title as he heads to the ring. That's right, the spinner title... Remember that? Ring announcer introductions as RVD gets cheers and then followed by the "ECW" chant. Up next is John Cena getting announced. Cena takes off his shirt and throws it into the crowd to which the ECW fans chant "throw it back". They repeatedly throw it back in what was a surreal moment. See, this is what I'm talking about... HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE for Rob Van Dam as this crowd is acting hostile towards Cena. It's beautiful. It's like a rivalry town for College athletics. Then, the fans throw a roll of toilet paper at him and then "FU Cena" chants get very loud. What an atmosphere!

Bell rings and away we go. Lock up and Cena overpowers Van Dam to the corner. Crowd boos as Cena punches and then tosses him to the other corner. Quick suplex into a pin and the fans appreciate that by chanting "YOU CAN'T WRESTLE". Lock up again and Cena puts Van Dam into a headlock. Irish whip from that and Cena hits a shoulderblock. Van Dam gets up and attempts a kick but Cena catches... Van Dam swings around and kicks Cena with his other leg, the usual move from Van Dam. Fans love it. Cena takes a brief breather on the outside and then returns to the ring for a slugfest of punches with Van Dam. "Yeah" for when Van Dam punches, "Boo" when Cena punches. Van Dam wins that but then the Irish Whip afterward is reversed into a bodyslam by Cena. Cena then tosses Van Dam on the outside and the ECW fans chant "SAME OLD S***". Cena responds by climbing the top rope and clubbing Van Dam's back on the outside. John Cena is now dragging Van Dam around the ring and slams Van Dam's head off the side of the ring and the table. Tries the stairs but Van Dam fights that off and actually hits a Moonsault off of those stairs. Wow... That was impressive considering the short distance to jump. Van Dam has a chair but Cena fights him off, Irish whips Van Dam into a Camera man. Van Dam kicks Cena on the railing but Cnea overpowers him and pushes him into the crowd. Then, Cena holds up a "F*** You Cena" fan sign over RVD's face and punches him.

RVD heads to the ring and Cena chases but RVD catches Cena as he climbs the railing. RVD then hits his corkscrew legdrop onto Cena who is stuck on the railing. Good stuff, RVD, as the crowd now chants "F*** him up, Van Dam, F*** him up!". Legdrop by RVD on the side of the ring to Cena. RVD with Chair in the ring and delivers a skateboard dropkick to Cena's face (that's how Joey Styles called it!). 2 count only. Standing corkscrew legdrop and then RVD places the chair on Cena for a Rolling Thunder! Which as I argue, would hurt RVD as much as his opponent. Luckily, RVD sells it and struggles to cover Cena. Bodyslam by RVD and places a chair on Cena. Split leg moonsault fails, as Cena elevates his knees with the chair. Then, Cena destroys RVD on that chair with a devastating DDT. OUCH, that looked deadly. One thing I've always said, RVD knows how to sell a DDT like it killed him! Fans chant "YOU CAN'T WRESTLE", which should be considered trolling at this point. Cena is absorbing lots of RVD's offense and that has to be respected. Though Cena is dominant in outcomes and often can "Hulk up", he does have a skill to make his opponents look good IN THE RING. That DDT should have pinned him, but 2 count only. Cena then puts the steel chair into the corner and catapults RVD into that chair. DAMN, RVD's skull hit that chair so hard!

"Cena sucks c***" is the next chant and then Cena hits his spinning back suplex. John then signals his Five Knuckle Shuffle and the fans chant "Same Old S***" again followed by an "A**hole" chant. Isn't the latter chant Vince McMahon's? Cena tries the Attitude Adjustment (hey, we're in 2006... Was it still called the FU Drop?) but RVD counters it. However, RVD is worn out and can't capitalize. Cena Irish whips RVD into the corner but RVD kicks him... RVD tries a Moonsault and Cena crabs him and hits him for what looks like a half powerbomb. RVD recovers and does weird stuff on the ropes with Cena. Not sure what they were trying but he fans hold Cena accountable with "Cena f***ed up". Ha! RVD kicks Cena off the ring instead. Van Dam goes for a table and places it in the ring but then sets it up in the corner. Cena, however, enters the ring and locks in the STFU (Styles called it that) but RVD's split leg power lifting came in handy as he powered his legs towards the ropes to break the lock.

Cena was upset at the ECW referee for breaking that submission hold. What does Cene do? He slugs ECW Senior Referee John Finnegan! How heel of you, John. Superplex by Cena, which RVD sold like he was folded up like a chair and Cena brings on the steel steps. Battering ram shot to RVD's head, ouch. Then, Smackdown exclusive and former "dirty" WCW referee Nick Patrick appears in the ring. You know, the NWO referee... 2 count only and then Cena tosses RVD out of the ring. However, a man in a trench coat with a motorcycle helmet appears and spears John Cena into the table. He then attacks Nick Patrick, the referee. He takes off the helmet and it's Edge! ECW fans chant "Thank you Edge" in appreciation! RVD sees the opportunity and jumps off the top rope with the Froggy Splash! Nick Patrick, however, won't wake up and Paul Heyman runs to the ring to count 1, 2, and 3. I guess because we're under "ECW Rules", Paul Heyman was allowed to run down to make the count. "One of a Kind" theme music BLASTS in the arena so it's hard to hear how loud the reaction was but the fans appear happy. RVD celebrates with the crowd and then heads to the balcony to hug his wife. [ **** ] Van Dam makes his way back to the ring where the "ECW Roster" celebrates his title victory with beers in hand.

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Good vibrations, sadly, would not last. Weeks after the One Night Stand 2006 event, Rob Van Dam and Sabu would get pulled over by the State Patrol in Ohio. Both were arrested for possession and it made headlines in the news media. Suddenly, WWE had a problem with its WWE and ECW Champion being in legal trouble. WWE would then quickly cause Van Dam to lose his WWE Title and ECW Title shortly thereafter and then suspend Van Dam per the new Wellness Policy for 30 days. Van Dam was never the same in the WWE since that arrest and was out of the WWE by 2007.

Sadly, ECW would suffer a far worse fate. Obviously, it didn't have its ECW original as the ECW Champion. Early numbers of the ECW show on Sci-Fi weren't appealing to WWE executives and changes were quickly in order. ECW on Sci-Fi wasn't exactly helped by the fact that it was taped before Smackdown and then letting Sci-Fi executives having a creative say in the show (the Zombie, good lord!). Heyman quickly lost creative power over the ECW brand and by late 2006, he was GONE from the WWE (and ECW) for good until he'd resurface in 2012 to manage Brock Lesnar again. The ECW third WWE brand would exist until early 2010 when WWE dropped the ECW brand to replace it with a new television show called "NXT". And now, you know the rest of the story...

HOWEVER, one should ignore the aftermath of ECW One Night Stand 2006... The MOMENT when Rob Van Dam wrestled in front of an ECW crowd against WWE's finest, John Cena cannot be denied. Better yet, Van Dam actually WON! It helped give one last bigtime sendoff to the ECW brand that kind of died silently during early 2001. While the WWE-run ECW brand could have been booked better, the ECW: One Night Stand 2006 show was damn impressive. It was the ECW brand in a bigger spotlight that it should have had during the late 1990s but couldn't have because everybody stole from them. If ECW could have kept that roster together and had a legitimate Cable TV deal earlier rather than later, history could be different.

For "One Night Stand", Rob Van Dam proved why he was the greatest Money in the Bank winner and cash-in of all time. Van Dam having "home field" advantage AND beating WWE's biggest star (at the time) for the WWE Title was something special.

SO JUST CHILL... 'TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.

© Mr. Tito and LordsofPain.net/WrestlingHeadlines.com - 1998-2017

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