10th Sep2019

Ten Best: WWE Pay-Per-Views of all time

by Chris Cummings

Welcome back folks. So, being a fan of wrestling means you see the same conversations and discussions going on between fans, discussions that never really change. In all the time I’ve been watching pro-wrestling, for twenty-seven years, the question “what’s the best PPV ever” has come up. It’s all about opinion, really. It’s all about choice. What one wrestling fan likes, another wrestling fan might hate, and visa versa. I, however, like to make things difficult for myself, and as seen as we now have the WWE Network (wonder how much it costs…) at our disposal, a wonderful and deep service, I can easily revisit a whole bunch of shows and compile a list of what I, personally, think are the ten best WWE (or WWF) Pay-per-views ever. I won’t talk about ECW or WCW here, or New Japan Pro Wrestling, or AEW or any other promotion. I’m going to just be focusing on Vince McMahon’s megazord of a company, World Wrestling (Federation) Entertainment, and the hundreds of big PPV events they’ve put on since 1985 when WrestleMania 1 aired on Pay-Per-View in some areas, and in November of that year, The Wrestling Classic aired.

Spoiler alert… WrestleMania 1 won’t be on this list. If this was a list of the most important and influential shows in WWE history then it would obviously make the cut, but this is about the BEST PPV’s. I also won’t be looking at NXT here, I shall be doing a separate list altogether for the NXT TakeOver shows. I’ll look at the overall feel and look of the PPVs, the crowd responses, the roster that appeared, the in-ring matches (of course), the storylines that were going on at the time, and anything else that makes a great show a great show. So, let’s get on with it.

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10) WrestleMania 19

Seattle, Washington, 2003, WWE is heading into a new era as The Attitude of before is fading away and stars from OVW, such as Brock Lesnar and John Cena are making their way to the main events. This was a show that had some blinding matches on it, and having revisited it for this column, I realised just how bloody entertaining it is. The main event itself saw Brock Lesnar winning his first WWE Championship against Kurt Angle in a fun match with one scary botch from Brock. The Rock and Steve Austin went almost 20 minutes in what would turn out to be “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s final match in wrestling. It was a bloody good one to go out on. Hulk Hogan had a silly but fun scrap with Mr. McMahon that saw the return of Roddy Piper to WWE. A great Triple Threat Tag Team match between Los Guerreros, Team Angle and Rhyno & Benoit and a bunch of other fun mid-card encounters make this a really nicely booked event. It’s the fantastic one-on-one match between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels that steals the show, though. The two put on a display or charisma and athleticism for over twenty minutes and it’s an absolute joy. Great PPV.

9) Money in the Bank 2011

Now, 2011 wasn’t the best year in WWE in my view. There was a time, between the mid-00s and mid-2010s where things were a bit iffy for me as a fan. Money in the Bank of this year, however, showed that WWE still had some awesome wrestlers that, given the chance, could put on one hell of a PPV card. The main event is remembered fondly, and rightfully so. Following the infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo, CM Punk went on to this event to face John Cena for the WWE Title. It resulted in a 30+ minute clash that the live-crowd went absolutely ballistic for. Aside from the awesome main event, however, were two great Money in the Bank Ladder Matches, one from the RAW side of things, and another from SmackDown. The RAW match saw Alberto Del Rio capture the briefcase against Alex Riley, Rey Mysterio, R-Truth, The Miz, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger and Kofi Kingston. The SmackDown one, which was the better of the two in my view, saw Daniel Bryan grab the case in match against Cody Rhodes (whatever happened to him…), Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Kane, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. Two fun matches there, for sure. We also had a solid World Title match between Christian and Randy Orton. It’s a damn good show, and worth revisiting, for sure.

8) Judgement Day 2000

This was another one of those shows that didn’t slow down and didn’t, really, have a bad match on it. The weakest of the bunch was perhaps The Dudley’s encounter with The New Age Outlaws, but it wasn’t THAT bad. The rest of the card was a blast though. Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko vs. Perry Saturn was a fun, albeit too short, match between three awesome wrestlers. The hardcore match between Big Show and Shane McMahon was all about spectacle and the crowd ate it up. Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho, two guys with a wonderful chemistry, had an excellent 14 minute submission battle. There was also a really fun opener between Too Cool & Rikishi and the team of Edge, Christian and Kurt Angle. It’s the main event though, the one-hour Iron Man Match for the WWF Title between longtime rivals Triple H and The Rock that steals this pretty damn fine show. With an awesome return of The Undertaker as The American Bad-Ass, this match is a great time, and showed that you can have a match of this length, even in an era like this, and the fans, if there’s enough to grasp onto, will be on board for the full hour. Excellent booking and some top-class action make this one of those unmissable PPVs in WWE’s history.

7) WrestleMania XXX

Live from New Orleans, Louisiana, in front of a rabid 75,000+ fans, WrestleMania 30, the thirstiest annual grand-daddy in all of sports-entertainment, saw one of the most uplifting and exciting closing moments in the last decade or more when Daniel Bryan became WWE Champion and raised the belt above his head to a chorus of “Yes” chants from the crowd. What a night. What a match. What an ending. This show was built around the phenomenon that was Daniel Bryan and the “Yes Movement” and resulted in Bryan against Triple H in a great opener, and Bryan taking on Randy Orton and Batista for the WWE Title in the main event. These two matches has drama, excitement and some damn fine wrestling too. Lovely stuff. The remainder of the show was no slouch either, with an array of bit moments going down. Brock Lesnar against The Undertaker saw one of the most shocking results in wrestling history. Cesaro won the Andre the Giant battle royale to a vibrant ovation. The Shield took on The New Age Outlaws and Kane in a match booked to build The Shield even further. I mean, we had John Cena shamefully beating Bray Wyatt, in a result that should have been reversed, but aside from the couple of poor moments, there were some great ones, and as far as recent big shows in WWE go, this is at the top of the heap. Yes, yes, yes.

6) WrestleMania 8

This was my first WWF experience. I was nine years old, the year was 1992 and a friend lent me a copy of this event that he’s recorded off Sky Sports. I was immediately hooked and became a fan instantly. There’s a lot of nostalgia for me, then, with WrestleMania 8, a show that seems to generally go ignored in the scheme of things and is rarely mentioned as one of the best shows. I think it is, though. There are two matches specifically, here, that are two of my all-time favourite matches ever. The Intercontinental Title match between two babyfaces, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the Champion, and Bret “Hitman” Hart, the challenger, is a drama-filled technical brawl with blood, bulldog headlocks and ring bells. So good. The other match of note is the exceptional clash for the WWF Title between the Champ, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and the challenger, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Savage’s selling of his knee in this match is masterful, and the two put on a fantastic face-heel match that is full of drama and excitement from bell to bell. Just brilliant. The rest of the card is a mix, but there’s some matches that are a lot of fun. Jake Roberts’ final match in the WWF for a while against The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels against “El Matador” Tito Santana and the silly comedic eight-man tag match pitting Jim Duggan, Big Boss Man, Sgt. Slaughter & Virgil against The Mountie, The Nasty Boys and Repo Man, all provide some early-90s WWF sports-entertainment. I just really love this show, and while the final match that see’s Hogan take on Sid Justice is a mess, I get a real kick out of it still. Underrated, for sure.

5) Royal Rumble 2000

I must have watched this event twenty times since it aired in 2000. It’s a hell of a show, featuring a stellar card. The Rumble match, packed with talent, was sadly only really built around The Rock and Big Show. There just weren’t many guys here you could imagine winning. Still, the match itself is super-entertaining, even though the ending was botched. The undercard, though, is bad-ass. The classic street-fight between Cactus Jack and Triple H is brutal, bloody and a ton of fun. Tazz’s debut against Kurt Angle is a short but fun one that got a great pop from the New York fans. The Hardy Boyz against The Dudleys in a Tables Match was a fun spot-filled affair too. It’s just a very good, very entertaining PPV and while there are low-points (Mae Young flashing during the dire bikini contest, for instance), this is an overall brilliant show.

4) WrestleMania 3

All the way back in 1987 WrestleMania 3 became one of the biggest, grandest shows that WWE has ever put on. With a (kayfabe) crowd of 93,173 (actually thought to be around 78,000, which is still very impressive) this was a huge event and a success for the WWF. It is, really, a two-match show on the surface, when you look at the card on paper or listen to the hype packages that have been produced since. Hulk Hogan, the irresistible force, meeting Andre the Giant, the immovable object, is a classic. One of the most iconic matches in wrestling history, if not THE most iconic. Then you have one of the best WWE matches of all time, as “Macho Man” Randy Savage defended his Intercontinental Title against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Beautiful match, and it still holds up today. These two matches are the shows golden points, but there’s even more treasure to be found beneath. The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis’s match against The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana is an enjoyable 9-minute scrap. Roddy Piper and Adrian Adonis had a memorable comedy-bout and Jake Roberts and The Honky Tonk Man had a fun one-on-one match too. It’s a fun show with a few duds, but really… with the most iconic main event in WrestleMania’s history, and one of the best matches of all time, it has to be one you watch at least once. It’s bloody great.

3) In Your House: Canadian Stampede

When I think about WWE shows, or wrestling shows in general, that are literally great from opening bell to closing bell, this one always comes to mind. Canadian Stampede, taking place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, featured only four matches, and all four matches are excellent, especially the dramatic, exciting and riveting main event. The opening match saw Hunter Hearts Helmsley take on Mankind in a really fun match. These two had amazing chemistry and I never saw them have a bad match together, and 1997 was the beginning of a feud that would be off and on for years to follow. The Great Sasuke took on Taka Michinoku in an absolutely blinding junior-heavyweight clash in the second match. This took place as way for WWF and Vince McMahon to scout Sasuke and then sign him as the face of their upcoming Light-Heavyweight Division, but instead, due to his performance here, Taka Michinoku became the signee and the first ever Light-heavyweight Champ. The division didn’t last and was booked poorly, but it began here, and what a start it was. The third encounter saw a hard-hitting brawl between The Undertaker and Vader. The two big-men butted heads for fifteen minutes in what I think was Vader’s best match during his WWF tenure. Finally, with the hometown advantage and the Calgary crowd on their side, The Hart Foundation returned home. Bret “Hitman” Hart, Owen Hart, Jim “The Anvil Neidhart”, The British Bulldog and Brian Pillman went to war against the American team of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Legion of Doom, Ken Shamrock and Goldust. In the US, the team led by “Stone Cold’ were the good guys and The Hart Foundation were the dastardly heels, but in Canada that wasn’t the case. The Foundation were the returning heroes, and Austin and Co were the assholes who needed to be taught a lesson. This was a classic main event and an incredible match. What a way to end a show that was, from start to finish, absolutely fantastic.

2) Royal Rumble 1992

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Royal Rumble. It’s a beloved show each year because fans love seeing thirty (or today, due to the great addition of a women’s Rumble, sixty) superstars tearing it up in order to claim a shot at the WWE Title in the main event at WrestleMania. This was a little different though, because for the first time ever, the WWF Title (due to being vacant) was on the line in the Rumble match, meaning that the winner would become the new Champion. What a stacked line-up it was too, here in 1992. The Rumble match itself had the likes of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Undertaker, Ric Flair, British Bulldog, Sgt. Slaughter and one of the best of all time… Repo Man, among many others, all hitting heads for a chance at the belt. In the end, as we all know, Ric Flair came out on top and, with a tear in his eye, won his first WWF Championship. Woo! The Rumble match was a blast and the best Rumble they’ve had. It simply hasn’t been bettered, in my view, and this happened 27 years ago. Wow. The undercard was a mixed bag, sure… but a fun Intercontinental Title match between Roddy Piper and The Mountie and a nice opening tag encounter between Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart and The Orient Express made it worth watching. This show, though, is so bloody good because of that Royal Rumble clash. Perfectly booked and packed with some of the greatest of all time, it’s a real sight to behold.

1) WrestleMania X7

Well, here it is folks, my pick for the best WWE Pay-Per-View ever. WrestleMania X7. XVII. Seventeen. The 2001 show from Texas was a huge show and I remember watching it live and being blown away by how it looked, how loud the crowd was and how exciting and entertaining it was from beginning to end. In the mix here we saw The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin headlining for the WWF Title, we had the TLC match for the Tag Titles as The Dudleys, The Hardys and Edge & Christian squared off in a classic, we saw Triple H taking on The Undertaker, Kurt Angle took on Chris Benoit and there was an awesome story-based brawl between father and son as Mr McMahon took on his son Shane. These were the highlights of a fantastic show, but even the undercard had plenty to offer. “Latino Heat” Eddie Guerrero had a fun match against Test, there was a wacky Gimmick Battle Royale featuring names from the past like Sgt Slaughter, The Iron Sheik, Michael “P.S” Hayes and erm… The Goon. We even had a very nice opening match between Chris Jericho and William Regal. This was just a bloody lovely wrestling show, and it’s one I never get bored of going back and watching after so many years. Perhaps the most exciting time to be a wrestling fan was between 1997 and 2001, and this show had everything, from brawls to title changes to heel turns to silly fun moments to heart-pounding spots. Un-be-lievable!
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So there we have it, the best (in my opinion, folks) WWE PPVs of all time. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Which is your favourite WWE PPV of all time? Let us know!

Thanks for reading!

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