Over the years in WWE history, the ladder match has remained one of the more exciting, simple-in-concept gimmick matches for the title scene. Evolving the late 90s/early00s from its standard origin to the hardcore-centric Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match that became the stuff of WWE lore by the likes of Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and The Dudley Boyz, in 2005, at "WrestleMania 21," the ladder match would see its next evolution and a means to elevate a rising star to the main event scene with the "Money in the Bank" concept. Gather eight wrestlers, add a ladder (or two or three), and a briefcase containing a guaranteed title shot, anytime, anywhere for either the WWE Title or the World Heavyweight Championship and you had an instant lingering storyline. "Straight to the Top: The Money in the Bank Ladder Match Anthology" captures the first eight years of every "Money in the Bank" match form its "WrestleMania" origins to its somewhat lessened importance and conversion into its own pay-per-view event, up to the two most recent offerings from July of this year.
Hosted by The Miz, "Straight to the Top's" first disc assembles nearly every "WrestleMania" only "Money in the Bank" matches ("WrestleMania 26'" event kicks off the second disc), although the very first match leaves a sour taste in the mouth due to the haphazard editing to try and get around the inclusion of Chris Benoit in the match (going as far as to edit all commentary that mentions him or in-ring actions). From Edge being the first ever winner and RVD's following year win culminating in a legendary showdown with John Cena at "ECW: One Night Stand 2006," "Money in the Bank" was a star maker at the time and the "WrestleMania" years are perhaps the most consistent in terms of overall quality and excitement in the match. Fans knew what the match meant for the coming year and even at the most dismal "WrestleMania," "Money in the Bank," like an Undertaker match was guaranteed to be pleasing on a visceral level.
With the second disc in the set, we get the cheapening of the event, by the formation of the annual pay-per-view event of the same name and the spitting of the match into one for Smackdown stars and one for Raw stars. At this time in the history of what felt like an all new title, the ultimate payoff for a "Money in the Bank" winner seemed all too familiar and while the matches did contain some thrills, the whole event just didn't have the career making feel of the "WrestleMania" years. Disc three largely has the same feel, although the 2012 WWE Title match has a more revolutionary tone, cutting the competition down five main eventers, while the 2013 installments manage to recapture the feeling of magic by bringing in various storylines in a addition to the standard title chase objective. All that put out there, "Straight to the Top" is a solid, comprehensive (to date) offering of a now household name in gimmick matches and one of the rare compilations that even if all the matches don't feel all that spectacular, you're guaranteed to get your fair share of "ooh" and "ahh" moments between the bells.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen features three pre-HD 1.33:1 matches that definitely retain the look of that era of production. As the years progress, while colors remain vibrant and natural through all the HD-era matches, issues with compression artifacts become less of an issue the closer we get to the present day and detail takes a gradual upswing.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio doesn't offer much in terms of dynamic range for the first three pre-HD era matches, as are all firmly rooted in the stereo days of pro-wrestling programming. The rest of the matches are well balanced in their overall mixes and very crisp and clean sounding.
None. The Blu-Ray release features all current "cash-in" matches to date and is one of the few times I wish such an exclusive could have been added as an extra disc to the standard release.
"Straight to the Top" is worthy of purchase for the "WrestleMania" years of the matches alone, while the remaining offerings are great for the completionist or someone wanting a quick fix of at worst, merely competent modern WWE matches. With plenty of highlight reel moments contained over three discs, only the most jaded of fans will pass this by. Highly Recommended.