Many fans skipped out on the New Year's Revolution pay per view, saving their dollars for the Royal Rumble three weeks later. Thus, YouTube became fertile grounds for hunting down the footage of Vince McMahon announcing Edge's cash-in attempt (complete with the Albany crowd going bonkers, and the dramatic scene of Edge boldly thrusting the briefcase into Vince's hands, in a nice touch).
Due to copyright claims, the repeatedly-uploaded video would be deleted more times than a scheming Wile E. Coyote at Matt Hardy's house, but the point was made: the Money In The Bank cash-in was an insanely cool moment. Said repeated-uploading was for a reason: something auspicious happened, and people badly wanted to see it.
It was such an insanely cool moment that WWE has maintained cash-ins as a story trope since then. What started out as a once-a-year WrestleMania gimmick match spawned its own spin-off pay per view in 2010, which initially boasted *two* prize briefcases, before reverting back to one in 2014, then going back to the double rewards in 2017, with each gender having its own specific case up for grabs.
Over the last 13 years, 19 briefcases have been won, thus there have been 19 matches in which a championship was at stake due to a cash-in. Of those 19, 17 of them have been facilitated by the case-holder taking advantage of a wounded, exhausted or otherwise-compromised champion - only Rob Van Dam in 2006 and John Cena in 2012 cashed in through "honourable" means.
Since Edge's win over a pulverized Cena in January 2006, nine other men have won their first WWE-branded World Heavyweight belts through this means: Van Dam, CM Punk, Jack Swagger, The Miz, Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler (if you don't count his pointless 10-minute "reign" in February 2011), Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose.
How many of those moments even come close to matching the, "Holy f**k, I just saw history!" feeling that Edge's obliteration of Cena caused?
We'll exclude Van Dam, since his was, as noted, not a surprise cash-in. Punk's was ultimately forgettable, since it opened up an episode of an "any old" Raw. Swagger's was forgettable because 1) it took place on SmackDown when its B-show designation had never been clearer, and 2) with all due respect, it's, well, Jack Swagger.
Bryan's win drew a massive pop because the people loved him, but the victory didn't feel as momentous as him defying the odds at WrestleMania 30 did - he pinned an unconscious man without hitting a single move. Del Rio's win just annoyed people because it basically blew out the candles on the "Summer of Punk".
That leaves four "first-time champion" cash-ins that do better at standing the test of time: Miz (a well-executed bit of villainy that turned heads), Ziggler (the crowd hysteria made the win unforgettable), Rollins (one of the best WrestleMania endings ever, and the ideal place for a truly star-making cash-in), and Ambrose (not as iconic as the other three, but a tremendous payoff to two years of Rollins/Ambrose acrimony).
Do any of them compare to Edge's landmark victory over a battered Cena? Rollins' mid-match entry certainly does, but the other three don't quite get there, in my eyes. All are certainly cool moments, but there's a difference between an A- and an A+. Edge and Rollins' cash-ins get the coveted A+ grade, while the rest, to varying degrees, have to settle for the curve being wrecked.
This all leads me to ask the question: have Money in the Bank cash-ins become passe, in their current form?
I make sure to use the phrase "in their current form" because I would not drop the MITB concept. The idea of the case-holder lurking around like a stealthy assassin, waiting for the right moment to take advantage of a situation, still has the potential to create an indelible memory, much as Edge, Rollins, and others have.
But in this era of the Money in the Bank concept, it seems as though there's been a lack of truly special 'first-time' World title victories, especially for babyfaces. In the past, you had Hulk Hogan dropping the leg on The Iron Sheik, Randy Savage surviving the WrestleMania IV tournament, Ultimate Warrior splashing Hogan, Bret Hart making Ric Flair scream uncle, Shawn Michaels realizing "the boyhood dream", Steve Austin getting his hand raised by Mike Tyson, Mankind's victory lap in Worcester, and Eddie Guerrero hugging his mother and brother. Each image stands the test of time, immortalized in granite.
Since the implementation of briefcases, what babyface "first time" World title wins have been special? You can forget Punk and Bryan, because pinning a borderline-comatose man isn't the same as a valiant Savage dramatically dropping the elbow onto Ted DiBiase's throat.
Really, as far as babyface championship wins go, it's Rey Mysterio and Van Dam in 2006 (both good), Jeff Hardy in 2008 (on a forgettable December B-show), *maybe* Christian in 2011 (if you forget the NWA Championship), and that's it. Doesn't exactly carry the gravitas of the earlier list, in fairness.
Does the Money In The Bank gimmick compromise the specialness of a first-time champion? Punk and Bryan could argue that point, sure. If Punk's first WWE Championship win came at the 2011 Money In The Bank, and Bryan's at WrestleMania XXX (instead of being their fourth Championship wins each), perhaps the moments are just a tinge more legendary than they already are. As it is, their cash-ins on addled foes seem a bit wasteful in hindsight.
Edge set a very high bar 12-and-a-half years ago when he stood tall over Cena's mangled body, tearfully holding the WWE Championship aloft. The two-minute express victory was unique at the time, but would spawn many pale imitators, forgettable attempts at co-opting the remarkable feeling, since then (sans Rollins, above the rest).
It's not exactly clear how one would make Money in the Bank cash-ins feel as special as they did when Edge and Rollins each struck gold for the first time. But the creative gimmick is definitely owed the best and most meticulous effort.