Friday, March 25, 2016

WWE Network Must See Pay Per Views

For those wrestling fans out there, the WWE Network is an amazing bargain. Even if you aren't in to the current product, you can watch any WWE, WCW, or ECW pay per view whenever you want. Getting access to this library alone is worth the $9.99/month.

If you are like me, you pretty much never bought pay per views in the past and just watched Raw and Nitro. Why shell out $40 for a probably mediocre event with maybe 1 good match. But now you have access to all them, and even though most pay per views weren't great, many of them were. So... where do you start on catching up on all of these great pay per views? It's a bit overwhelming, probably 400+ pay per views total.

Over the past 2 years I've been watching some various pay per views that I've heard were really good (mostly from other sites' rankings), or had watched previously myself and knew were great. I have a lot more that I haven't watched yet that I want to, particularly WCW pay per views which I haven't watched any of yet. But for WWE and ECW pay per views at least I wanted to publish what I think are the 14 best.

I consider a great pay per view, one worthy of being listed here, as having more than one really good match. There are a lot with historic matches where the rest of the card sucked, those do not make this list, I will list some of those at the end. A great pay per view is one where you can watch at least most of the matches on the card and be entertained.

I'm listing these in chronological order. It's kind of hard to compare these all against each other since they are from different eras, and I think it works best if you watch them from earliest to most recent.

1987 - Wrestlemania III

Going back and watching the early era pay per views, most are just terrible and don't even have a single good match. But Wrestlemania III is a little different. One word to describe it is historic. Without the huge main event of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant which was probably the biggest storyline in the history of wrestling up to that point (and possibly still is), and the solid undercard, it's possible that wrestling wouldn't have stuck around as such a big form of pop culture. Not to mention, the massive crowd of 93,000 at the Pontiac Silverdome shows the popularity of WWF at the time.

Most of the undercard matches were still bad, but, two stand out. The Hart Foundation vs. the British Bulldogs was a good tag match with an interesting story.  Many regard the Intercontinental title match of Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat to be the best match of all time. I wouldn't say it's #1 but I'd definitely put it in my top 10. This was one of the first matches that was entirely scripted move for move (or so I've read), and the execution was flawless. I only wish it was a little longer (14 minutes).

The main event of Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant was pretty terrible ring action, but Hulk did his best to make this one entertaining. The sheer historical value of this, and seeing the big slam from Hulk does make this a must see for any wrestling fan.

1994 - Wrestlemania X

This was during a pretty low point for the WWE, in between the Hulk Hogan era and the attitude era. The roster was filled with some terrible gimmicks, By pretty much every measure, WWE was stuck in a rut. But this environment set the stage for some new stars to elevate themselves to the next level, and 4 wrestlers did exactly that at this pay per view which is why it's a must see.

The show opened up with my favorite match of all time - Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. No title, no gimmicks or stipulations. Just two brothers tearing the ring up with the best in ring action in any match in history, in my opinion. The story line here was interesting with Owen being the jealous younger sibling, and this led to great in ring story telling. And what an amazing ending to the match.

The other great match that this event is probably most remembered for is the first (televised) ladder match, Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon for the intercontinental title. Everything in this match was so far ahead of it's time. The level of innovation is hard to comprehend now when anything and everything that can be done in a ladder match has been tried. This match is must see.

The rest of this pay per view is pretty bad. Doink the Clown with Dink was here, Men On A Mission, the American Hero Lex Lugar, and some other terrible gimmicks. It did end with Bret wrestling his second match of the night, versus Yokozuna for the title. He made the match about as good as possible considering he was wrestling Yokozuna. But Bret vs. Owen and Shawn vs. Razor make this a must see.

1999 - ECW Living Dangerously

You may be thinking "you went from 1994 to 1999? What about Hell In A Cell? Stone Cold vs. Bret?" There were some great matches on pay per views in that time, but all of the rest of the PPV matches were bad. I'll list those great single matches at the bottom of this post, everything here is great PPVs with more than one good match. During the attitude era, you weren't missing much by only watching Raw.

Now, if you really want to see something completely different than the current PG, 20 minute long recaps and overly scripted promos, this pay per view is what you want. There were F-bomb's from the wrestlers (mostly bleeped out but some randomly not), porn stars picking fights with wrestlers, wrestlers fighting in and diving in to the crowd, lots of different styles of wrestling, and more. This is one of the best ECW PPVs, and you should definitely check it out.  ECW had so much talent at times and was so innovative, you need to see at least one of their pay per views as a must see.

For the matches, there was a good if overly choreographed Tajiri vs. Super Crazy opener, a really great over 30 minute RVD vs. Jerry Lynn match, and a violent Tazz vs. Sabu main event which epitomized ECW and is a must see. 3 great matches there. Plus an entertaining Dudley segment with Spike Dudley getting thrown in to the crow and then crowd surfed. You can see some of the problems of ECW here (lower production quality, no color commentator, annoying managers, lack of storylines, botched moves, etc.), but overall it's great.

2001 - Wrestlemania X-Seven

If you are only going to pick one pay per view to watch, this should be it. It's widely regarded as the best of all time and I agree.  This is at the height of the WWE. They had just bought WCW, had already signed most of the talent worth taking (Chris Jericho, Eddie Guererro, etc.), but hadn't yet become diluted with too much talent.  This Wrestlemania had the great story lines that the attitude era was known for, with the great in ring action and amazing matches the ruthless aggression area is known for.

There were 4 really great matches on this show, all must see. Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle will never disappoint, great in ring wrestling as expected. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudleys vs. The Hardys had their legendary tables ladders and chairs match here, possibly the best TLC match ever, with so many great spots and constant action. The Undertaker (during his American badass character phase which was my favorite of his) vs. Triple H fought all through the crowd in a very entertaining match.

The main event of Stone Cold vs. The Rock did not disappoint. Out of their 3 Wrestlemania matches this was the best. It was almost a half hour and really earned the main event at the best pay per view ever. Solid back and forth action, great wrestling and story telling. The ending to this is criticized now, but this has more to do with how they followed up with it after Wrestlemania - at the time the ending was executed very well and provided shock value.

In addition to these four great matches, nearly all of the other matches were at least good. Even the gimmick battle royal with old wrestlers provided some humor and nostalgia, and they wisely kept it short. I can't think of another pay per view that has a combination of a great all around card with more than one truly legendary match.

2001 - Summerslam

Even though this was only 4 months removed from Wrestlemania X-Seven, the landscape at Summerslam was completely different. They were in the middle of an Alliance (WCW and ECW) vs WWE angle that every match had some connection to. This show is a reminder of the quickly changing storylines, frequent heel/face turns (Stone Cold, Booker T, DDP, and the Dudleys are all heels here), and excessive number of titles, of the post WCW acquisition time, but there is so much talent they make it work. 

Edge vs. Lance Storm for the IC title is a great fast paced match to start the show with.  Dudleys and Test vs. APA and Spike Dudley is entertaining, of course there is a table getting smashed. RVD vs. Jeff Hardy in a ladder match for the hardcore title is great as you would expect, they pulled off some amazing spots.

The best match of the night is Kurt Angle vs. Stone Cold for the WWF title, the show is worth it for this match alone.  In a role reversal, Kurt Angle is the face and Stone Cold is the heel, and Stone Cold especially embraces the heel role here.  It's a brutal match showing two of the best wrestlers ever at their best, despite the screwy ending. The final match of the Rock vs. Booker T for the WCW title didn't quite live up the Stone Cold vs. Kurt Angle match, but was pretty entertaining, and had a great finish unlike the previous match.

2002 - Wrestlemania X8

Following up on last year's Wrestlemania, Wrestlemania X8 didn't have quite as many great matches but is still one of the top pay per views of all time. 

It's mainly remembered for The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan.  Hulk is way past his prime, but, with the in ring chemistry of those two legends you know this is going to be a must see match. Hulk Hogan was making his WWE return here after WCW was bought out, and the fans had been really missing Hulkamania. Despite building up Hogan as a heel in the weeks prior (including having him try to kill the Rock by running in to his car at full speed with a tractor trailer!), the crowd was split. Well, until the match started and Hogan overpowered the Rock in a collar and elbow tieup, and started the trademark Hulkster flexing. The roof blew off of the Skydome! I think that's one of the greatest single moments in wrestling history. The Rock did about as much as he could in this match to make it entertaining despite Hogan's age and shape, and it was still a decent match in the end. 

That wasn't the only good match on the card though. The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair was really good, much better than I was expecting at the time. And the main event of Chris Jericho vs. Triple H for the undisputed title is a really good match, what you would expect from the two of them.

There were a few bad/mediocre matches here, including Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall which was a big disappointment. But overall a great show.

2002 - Summerslam

Much like 2001, in 2002, both Summerslam and Wrestlemania make the list. This was the peak time of WWE, where there was so much talent in their prime like Kurt Angle, The Rock, Triple H, and more.  

The talent level shows here because just about every match was good. The show started off with an awesome, extremely fast paced Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle match, which is a pretty big contrast to the current product with the 30 minute matches.  Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho next was really good too, Ric Flair did great here despite his age. Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero up next was decent. 

The final two matches made this show though. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels in Shawn's return to the ring after 5 years off was a brutal, almost 30 minute, back and forth match, and Shawn Michaels looked better than ever, no ring rust at all!  This match started Shawn Michaels' second span in WWE where had had several of the best matches in WWE history.

The main event was The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar for the title, and did not disappoint. Unlike Brock's current matches this was pretty fast paced.  The match had some pretty cool spots, and was a lot of fun to watch.

2003 - Wrestlemania XIX

Continuing the run of great big pay per views between 2001 and 2003, Wrestlemania XIX was loaded with talent that put on some great matches.  Most of the matches here are worth your time, no need to skip through to find one or two worth watching. 

Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho is a classic, you can't ever go wrong when those two wrestle.  No title, no gimmick, just two legendary wrestlers. Triple H vs. Booker T for the world title is decent.  In their third time wrestling at Wrestlemania, The Rock vs. Stone Cold put on a good match, not quite up to the level that they hit at Wrestlemania X-Seven, but still entertaining. And little did we know at the time but this was Stone Cold's last match. 

The main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE title was a great match - lots of great wrestling as expected with the great amateur background of these two. This match is probably remembered most for the botched moonsault by Brock Lesnar where he landed on his head, yet somehow got back up and was able to give Angle an F5. No one knows how that's humanly possible, but this is Brock Lesnar. 

There were a few bad matches, like Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon which was pretty awful and way too long, but didn't bring down the rest of the show.

2005 - Wrestlemania 21

Wrestlemania XX from 2004 doesn't quite make the cut because the undercard was really bad, despite two great main event matches. Wrestlemania 21 is the complete opposite of this - a great undercard with two stinkers for the main events. The undercard here was so great though that it makes the list.

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero and Undertaker vs. Randy Orton are good, entertaining matches with very good stories behind them.  Two undercard matches are historic though and absolute must see's.  Second match of the night is the very first, and in my opinion still the best, money in the bank ladder match.  It's loaded with great talent like Edge, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and more.  This match is full of great entertaining spots, and was so good it became a yearly tradition.

The truly historic match here is Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle. This is one of my top 5 matches of all time - solid back and forth exciting action from two of the top performers of all time.

It's probably best to just turn it off after that match. Next up is Big Show vs. Akebono in a sumo match, no one needed to see that. The first main event was just bad, John Cena vs. JBL. This unfortunately ushered in the John Cena era, which makes this match even worse. The second main event is Triple H vs. Batista.  It's, mediocre, I guess, better than the previous match but pretty unremarkable.

2008 - No Mercy

I had stopped watching wrestling actively in 2006 at some point, and for the next several years I really didn't miss much. For the most part the story lines weren't that interesting, and the matches took a step down from the ruthless aggression era.

But, in the middle of this, WWE put on a remarkable pay per view in 2008. No Mercy had two must see main event matches. 

First is Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy for the WWE title. Out of the two main events this is my favorite - great in ring action, and of course with Jeff Hardy some great high flying spots.  

The second main event was another must see match, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho in a ladder match for the world title. You'd have some pretty high expectations with these two, and they lived up to it. 

The rest of the card was very unremarkable so do yourself a favor and skip to the Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy match.

2011 - Money In The Bank

The build up to the main event in this pay per view, CM Punk vs. John Cena for the WWE title, created a new era in the WWE. For years before this CM Punk was building himself up, putting on great matches, doing some innovative story lines, but couldn't quite break in to that must see main event wrestler. That changed for this PPV.  I think the storyline here is the best of this century - CM Punk's contract was legitimately up after this pay per view, and in the weeks leading up to this was threatening to win the title from Cena and leave the company with it. The realness of this felt almost like Bret Hart leaving the WWE back in 1997.  The story was so good it got me back in to wrestling - I hadn't been a regular watcher for the 5 years before this.

Now for the match itself. The event was in Chicago, Punk's home town, and the crowd was amazing for the match, so in to Punk, and so against Cena (although there were a good number of screaming kids cheering for Cena). It was a really good, physical match, with great story telling. Even without the huge backing story line this would have been a great match.

This wasn't the only good match though. The opening Smackdown money in the bank ladder match was pretty good with fresh faces, and the Randy Orton vs. Christian world title match was a fun match.

Punk taking the spotlight at this pay per view really did bring in a new era, with a lot of new fresh faces like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and others in great matches and more interesting story lines.

2012 - Wrestlemania XXVIII

Some of the previous years Wrestlemanias had some of the best matches ever with the Undertaker, but those were the only good matches on the card. This year is different, there are three definite matches you should watch, and was the first Wrestlemania in 7 years to make my list.

Triple H vs. Undertaker put on a classic Hell In A Cell match, with Shawn Michaels as the referee. I do think the Triple H/Undertaker match from WM 27 was a little better than this one, but, this still a great match. You know with the two of them in Hell In A Cell at Wrestlemania it's going to be good. At the time it sure seemed like this would be the last match for both of them, but as of me writing this they're both in main events at Wrestlemania 32.

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho for the WWE title was great - CM Punk at his best. The match started off a little slow but got better and better as the match went on, and had lots of innovative offense.

Now the real main event of The Rock vs. John Cena was certainly entertaining. It wasn't a great match in the ring, but the story telling was good, and the build up was unlike anything ever done. This match was made the day after last year's Wrestlemania so they had a whole year to build it up! The crowd was SO in to this match. There is nothing like seeing John Cena get humiliated, both by the hostile crowd reaction and the outcome of the match. Not to mention, this was (and will always be, thanks to WWE Network) the highest PPV buy rate of any WWE PPV. So you have to watch it.

2013 - Summerslam

This is probably my favorite PPV from the 2011 - 2015 era (do we have a name for this time period yet?). This was loaded with several main event caliber matches, with only a couple of short matches not worth watching.

First up for the good matches is Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian for the world heavyweight title. It was surprisingly a well executed, fast paced, fun to watch match, with Christian pulling off some impressive moves.

CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar in a no DQ match was my favorite of the night, these two put on a great show, almost a half hour long. Lots of back and forth and CM Punk as usual shows lots of innovative moves.  This is a definite must see match.

The main event of Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena, with Triple H as referee, was awesome too, another nearly half hour match with great back and forth action.  There was some great storyline drama at the end too, that fortunately happened after a clean finish to the match.

2014 - Wrestlemania XXX

As of this writing (March 2016), this is the last must see pay per view. In the dawn of the WWE network, this was the first pay per view for the network and it proved to be worthy of that honor.  Much like CM Punk at Money In The Bank 2011, this saw Daniel Bryan ascend to the top star in wrestling, and with Brock Lesnar Vs. The Undertaker, provided one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history.

The show kicked off with a pointless but nostalgia-driven fun segment with Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, and The Rock. After that, the first match was the match of the night and my favorite for the show was Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H.  The stipulation was if Daniel Bryan won the match he would get to wrestle for the title later in the show vs. Batista and Randy Orton. This was a definite classic - nearly 30 minutes of great in ring action.

Next up, the first Andre the Giant battle royal was a lot of fun, and a crazy ending with Cesaro showing his super human strength.

Now on to the shocking moment. Brock Lesnar vs. the Undertaker wasn't that good of a match, and was too long. I don't like to say who won matches in this post in case you didn't know, but I'm pretty sure you know already that Lesnar won this and beat the Undertaker's 21 year streak of winning at Wrestlemania.  This was a total shock.  For a wrestling fan like me that's been watching for almost 30 years, there isn't much that they can do that will surprise me, but Lesnar winning definitely did surprise me. I probably looked like most people in the crowd with my mouth wide open and rage building up inside.

The final match, Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton, was a lot of fun with lots of out of the ring action. I wasn't expecting this match to be much but it was a good match.  With Daniel Bryan in two great matches, this can be called Yes-lemania.

That's it, those are the 14 must see pay per views!

Great matches in otherwise bad pay per views

Now, like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of pay per views with great, even historic, matches, that I didn't include above because the rest of the show was awful. For those there is no point watching the pay per view, just skip to the match.

So here are the must see matches:

1989 - Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat Wrestlewar

You've got to dig back to the pre WCW days of the NWA to find one of the greatest matches of all time, Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat for the NWA title. Out of their three big matches this is my favorite. Definite top 5 match of all time for me, maybe even #2 or #3. Tremendous action here, this was two of the greatest wrestlers at their prime.  And, a Ric Flair face turn!

1990 - Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior Wrestlemania VI

This has pretty bad wrestling (what could you expect from those two). Despite that this match still makes my list because of the amazing in ring story telling between those two. I still don't know how they could have possibly made a 3 minute test of strength exciting but it was! I originally put Wrestlemania VI in to my above list of best PPVs overall, I think because this is the first pay per view I watched as a kid. But after watching the whole thing again, I realize other than the Hogan Warrior match, this PPV sucked. 14 matches that were almost all bad.

1992 - Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog at Summerslam

Bret Hart vs. the British Bulldog for the Intercontinental Title in Wembley Stadium in London. Unbelievable match, brother vs. brother in law, and it actually got the final spot on the card, over the terrible Macho Man vs. Ultimate Warrior match. Classic Bret Hart here - great in ring story telling, great unique in ring action. Since he was wrestling the home country boy, Bret got some heel heat and played up the heel role for much of the match which made the match even more entertaining.

1996 - Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania XII

Shawn Michaels wrestled Bret Hart for the title in a legendary 60 minute iron man match. It started off slow but built up to be a really great match. It's pretty amazing that they could really keep my attention for over 60 minutes.  This is a definite must see for true wrestling fans.  

1997 - Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13

Bret Hart keeps making the list... during the mid 90's he had some amazing matches, unfortunately for him the WWE was at a pretty low time and didn't have much else going on worth watching. But, at Wrestlemania 13 the WWE was in the early stages of the attitude era and lots of new stars like Stone Cold gave Bret Hart some good company. Their match at Wrestlemania 13 is all time classic, up there in my top 5 of all time. Decent in ring action, some of the best brawling and in crowd action ever, and the best build up and story telling of all time in my opinion (I may be a little biased since Stone Cold and Bret Hart are my favorite wrestlers of all time). A double turn has never been executed as well as this, and I don't think ever will. They had been building this up for months before hand, but you didn't even realize it until towards the end of this match.

1997 - Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker at In Your House Badd Blood

The first, and in many peoples' opinions, the best Hell In A Cell match ever, with Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker. This had the right amount of brutality, creative spots, and story telling that a Hell In A Cell match should have. Much like his ladder match at Wrestlemania X, the level of innovation here is amazing considering that hell in a cell had never been done before.

1998 - Undertaker vs. Mick Foley at King Of The Ring

If you have WWE Network you've probably already gone back and watched this for the famous Undertaker vs. Mankind Hell In A Cell match. Not exactly the most technically proficient wrestling match ever, Mankind gets absolutely demolished in this match numerous times, getting thrown off the top of the cage, falling through the top of the cage, and famously ending up with a tooth in his nose. It's mind boggling how Mankind can take this abuse and get back up. Definitely worth the watch!

2010 - Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVI

Both of the Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker matches at WM 25 and 26 would make this list because they were both amazing matches, so you should definitely watch both.  The match at WM25 is widely regarded as the best Wrestlemania match ever, and one of the best matches ever. I am not sure I'd go that far but they're still great. If I had to pick which of the two was better, however, I'd go with 26. This match was nearly flawless, with tons of exciting near finishes. And it got the final match on the card slot that it definitely deserved!  Add to that Shawn Michaels career being on the line, and this is one of the greatest matches of all time. 

2011 - Triple H vs. The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVII

A year after the classic match vs. Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker delivered another classic vs. Triple H in a no holds barred match.  This was the best of the three Triple H vs. Undertaker matches in my opinion. Much like last year's match, this one had lots of awesome near finishes and was nearly flawlessly executed. 

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