Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
Money in the Bank is WWE's annual pay-per-view celebrating the match of the same name; on paper, it's hardly different than a ladder match. This time around, the prize is a little less direct: rather than a championship belt dangling 20 feet in the air, it's a contract that guarantees a title shot of the recipient's choosing. Anytime, anywhere...and with no exceptions thus far, it's led to a guaranteed victory. Aside from that, there's usually up to 8 people involved (instead of 2 to 4), which also adds to the action, suspense, and potential for bodily harm. WWE has yet to put on a bad "Money in the Bank" match, so it's no surprise that this second installment of the dedicated pay-per-view earned high marks from fans and critics alike. Hell, most of them gave it higher marks than this year's Wrestlemania---and after viewing the event, I'd definitely have to agree.
Highlighting this much-anticipated event was John Cena vs. CM Punk, whose feud had built to a fever pitch (thanks in no small part to Punk's blistering Raw interview a few weeks prior) after beginning with the unfortunate spillage of a refreshing diet soda. Money in the Bank 2011 was held at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois on July 17, and it's easily the best pay-view-view that WWE has produced in recent memory. Despite only 6 matches on the card, many of them get plenty of time to unfold...and more often than not, the payoff is definitely worth the wait. Let's take a look at the evening's card, shall we?
Complete Match Listing
(6 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Sin Cara vs. Wade Barrett
vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater [Smackdown MITB Match]
Brie Bella vs. Kelly Kelly [Divas Championship Match]
Mark Henry vs. The Big Show
R-Truth vs. The Miz vs. Evan Bourne vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio
vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Alex Riley vs. Jack Swagger [Raw MITB Match]
Christian vs. Randy Orton [World Heavyweight Championship Match with special DQ stipulation]
John Cena vs. CM Punk [WWE Championship Match]
CM Punk and John Cena's 40-minute brawl almost deserves its own paragraph, but it'll just have to settle for "top of the highlights". This five-star match pushes all the right buttons: hometown favorite CM Punk's "contract expiration" storyline provides the perfect backdrop to this heated contest, which features an assortment of near-falls, close calls and fantastic wrestling from both participants. The red-hot crowd takes this main event to another level...but for the most part, they were on fire for most of the evening. Fierce crowd participation also peppers both exciting Money in the Bank matches, which also introduce a formidable amount of dangerous maneuvers, clever reversals and at least one surprising victor. Christian and Randy Orton's cleverly-booked title match is another highlight, even though it runs a little short: thanks to a stipulation that gives Christian a strong advantage, we get a more intense and personal brawl than we might have gotten otherwise. Even Mark Henry's slugfest with The Big Show plays out well, thanks to a recent character turn for "The World's Strongest Man" and a surprisingly decisive finish.
Of course, that leaves only the Divas match as our lone "snack break" segment, but it's not that bad and only runs about 5 minutes anyway. When more than 80% of a pay-per-view's matches can be considered genuine highlights, that's definitely a good sign. The bottom line is that Money in the Bank 2011 delivers the goods, especially since many of the matches get time to develop and the crowd brings the "main event" experience to a level WWE hasn't been to in awhile. Here's hoping the momentum continues.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are free from edits. Unfortunately, only one minor bonus feature has been included. This is bad news for those who already spent $50 on the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Money in the Bank 2011 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, a long-standing problem that fans should be accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but fans should definitely know what to expect by now. Oddly enough, this event isn't getting a Blu-Ray release...so for better or worse, this is as good as it gets, folks.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through clearly, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. Optional subtitles and Closed Captions are not provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 168-minute event has been divided into less than a dozen chapters (one per match and significant "filler" event), while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. Several WWE-related trailers and promos play before the main menu can be accessed; some aren't even skippable. This one-disc release is housed in an eco-friendly black keepcase---thankfully, without holes in it---and includes no inserts of any kind.
Only one short extra has been included here, a brief Interview with Daniel Bryan after the first Money in the Bank match. Like the event itself, it's presented in 16x9 format and does not include captions or subtitles. Unfortunately, the pre-show dark match is not part of the package, which is unfortunately the norm for WWE these days. I'll complain about this as long as I need to.
WWE knocked it out of the park with Money in the Bank 2011, featuring several terrific matches and gripping storylines; in all honesty, it's a "perfect storm" of a PPV that reminds one of WWF's Attitude Era. Casual fans---even those who didn't catch this one the first time around---have undoubtedly heard how good this event was, so picking it up on DVD is practically a no-brainer. Even with only an average technical presentation (no Blu-Ray option, either) and no real bonus features, Money in the Bank 2011 belongs on the shelf of every WWE fan...especially if you haven't watched in awhile. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.