After months…and months…and months…of waiting, the WWE Network was finally launched in February, 2014 (in the US at least). While far from a perfect service – way too much content remains missing (Nitro, anybody?), and there are still streaming issues during live events – the network allows us to go back and re-live some of our favorite professional wrestling moments. Events that took place during my adolescent and teenage years and also matches that occurred well before I was born are showcased on WWE Network, making it a must-have for even a casual fan who doesn’t watch every WWE show that currently airs on television.
Before getting into the list, I wanted to point out that these are not my top-ten pro wrestling events/pay-per-views. They are, rather, ten shows that I highly recommend that diehard fans check out once they sign up for the WWE network.
Note: Spoilers not included.
10. WCW Greed (2001)
I was the oddity among my friends in that I preferred the NWA over the WWE in the 80s, and that trend continued into the 90s. I almost always watched WCW Nitro live and then, either later that night (if I could sneak downstairs after my parents had gone to sleep) or early the next morning, I would catch up on Monday Night Raw.
Then, as the 90s came to an end, WCW programming and the company as a whole fell off a cliff. Greed, a show that I literally had forgotten about, was the last PPV in WCW history before the company was purchased by Vince McMahon and the WWE.
The show, if I’m being completely honest about it, sucked, which was par for the course during the painful and public death of WCW. It is, however, fascinating to go back and remember just how bad things got before the plug was finally pulled. Greed is worth a watch if you ever find yourself bored, or if you just can’t sleep one night.
9. ECW Heatwave (1998)
Thanks to growing up along the shorelines of Lake Erie and thus having access to local Buffalo television stations, I was able to tape weekly ECW programming that would air in the middle of the night on Friday/Saturday nights. I fell in love with the promotion in the summer of ’97, and I was lucky enough to attend one of the company’s shows during its glory years.
Heatwave ’98 is my favorite ECW show and one of my favorite wrestling PPVs ever. Every match on the card is extremely fun to watch, making the event one that holds up a decade and a half after it occurred. It was the first old PPV I watched upon purchasing the network, and I don’t at all regret that decision.
8. WWE In Your House ’97: D-Generation X
Wrestling fans remember the fall of ’97 for the Survivor Series and the “Montreal Screwjob,” one of the most-shocking controversies in the history of American professional wrestling and one that led to the creation of the “Mr. McMahon” character. In Your House ’97 was the PPV that followed, and, while meant to be a transitional event, it’s still a fun watch.
This was the early days of the “Attitude Era,” when Shawn Michaels was the WWE Champion, and the Rock was feuding with Steve Austin over the Intercontinental Championship. The ending of the PPV offers a reminder of a great feud that was never given a proper chance to grow, which is a real shame considering events that occurred down the road.
7. WrestleMania X (1994)
I have no problem in admitting that I probably overrate this show. I watched it live, and I then rented the tape multiple times as a bright-eyed ten-year-old who just couldn’t get enough of the event. My recommendation would be to stop streaming before the final match starts, but outside of that, the show produced plenty of good wrestling.
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart is still one of my all-time favorite matches. The ladder match involving Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels is a classic. It was the mid-90s and before the Attitude Era, so there’s plenty of goofy stuff on the show, as well.
That’s all part of the charm of that WWE era.
6. Raw Replays: Episode 409 (March 26, 2001)
Just as with the first event on the list, this episode of Raw is more known for its place in history than for any matches that occurred during the show. It was on this day when WCW was acquired by WWE, and both Nitro and Raw opened with Mr. McMahon gloating about beating and then buying his competition. Then, during the final minutes of Nitro, a simulcast occurred, and WWE programming officially closed out WCW for good.
This signaled the end of the Monday Night Wars, and the end of what was, for many fans my age, the best of American professional wrestling. It was an exciting time because we didn’t know what was to come, and there were so many possibilities that were never realized. The Invasion Angle was as botched as it could have been, and some fans ditched the product for good because of it.
5. nWo Souled Out (1997)
To this day, the first ever Souled Out remains one of the most bizarre events I’ve ever watched. The idea was that the nWo and not WCW was running the PPV, and the result was, to put it nicely, unique. Right from the very start, when the members of the nWo arrived to the arena via garbage trucks (seriously), you knew that you were about to experience something different.
Some of the “highlights” include:
– A nWO theme song that you’re going to get sick of an hour into the show.
– A man being RUN OVER by a guy driving a motorcycle.
– A terrible “Miss nWo” contest.
– Wacky camera angles.
– Fans throwing garbage into the ring.
Check it out, if only to further understand how WCW fell so hard, so fast.
4. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
A real-life rivalry that played out on the screen, Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels changed the wrestling business in many ways. Truth be told, WCW may still be around to this day had Hart and Michaels been able to put their differences aside and co-exist in the WWE. That, of course, didn’t happen, and Hart left for WCW in ’97, the first in a series of incidents that ultimately ended with the WWE as the last company standing.
This documentary, roughly two hours in length, features Michaels and Hart sitting side-by-side and discussing their careers and their battles in the ring and behind the scenes. While diehard fans won’t learn anything that they didn’t know beforehand, I’d still recommend it to anybody who purchased WWE Network.
3. Royal Rumble (1992)
I’ve watched it “x” amount of times on YouTube, and I never get sick of it. The show begins with the classic Royal Rumble promo of Vince McMahon screaming (seriously, screaming) the names of the participants in the battle royal as their faces appear on screen. This goes on for over a minute, and it’s glorious.
Don’t bother with the non-Rumble portion of the show. Skip ahead to the 1:16:20 mark to see some awesome wrestler promos. From there follows what is my favorite battle royal, one that includes a tremendous performance from commentator Bobby Heenan. To be honest, I’m re-watching this Rumble as I type this sentence.
2. WrestleMania XIX (2003)
I had, until I went back and watched it, forgotten just how much I loved this show. Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio had the crowd hot right out of the gates. Team Angle vs. Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit and Rhyno was as entertaining as expected. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho stole the show, at least they did until Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon had their street fight. The Rock vs. Steve Austin told an intriguing story.
Oh yeah. Brock Lesnar nearly broke his neck.
I don’t recall ever re-watching this show from start to finish before the launch of the WWE Network. It may not be at the level of the ‘Mania that sits atop this list, but it’s right up there with the best ‘Manias to ever occur.
Pro tip: Save some time, and skip the concert segments.
1. WrestleMania X-Seven (2001)
Sure, the name of the show is nothing short of ridiculous looking back 13 years later, but the 17th edition of WrestleMania is viewed by many as one of the greatest pay-per-views in WWE history. This ‘Mania had it all; a historic TLC Match, a Kurt Angle-Chris Benoit battle, and The Rock facing Steve Austin for the WWE Championship.
The highlight of the PPV, for me, remains The Undertaker vs. Triple H. I thought that feud had been perfectly set up in the shows leading up to ‘Mania, and that match, rarely mentioned on WWE TV these days, was as good as any ‘Taker has had on pro wrestling’s biggest stage. In fact, stop reading this right now and go watch it if you’ve never before seen it.
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