The Best PPV Cards In WWE History

Maybe you call them pay per views or maybe you call them "Premium Live Events." Maybe you still order them through your cable company, or maybe you stream them through the WWE Network or Peacock. No matter what, when it comes to wrestling, chances are a large number of your favorite moments happened on them. For fans, there is nothing that can really compare to seeing a special event that has been built up for weeks or even months. WWE has been putting on PPVs since the 1980s and as a result, has amassed a library of these shows numbering in the hundreds.

We're going to list off the best of WWE's biggest nights below, but with so many to choose from we have a couple of qualifiers. First, no NXT-branded specials, so no Takeovers. Second, we are also choosing to omit WWE's ECW One Night Stand branded PPVs. We're keeping this pure with a list of PPVs that have been branded either "WWF" or "WWE" and trust us, even just narrowing the list down to that leaves us with a treasure trove of shows to sift through.

WrestleMania III

There are going to be a lot of WrestleMania's on this list and there should be. After all, it is WWE's longest-running PPV franchise as well as their biggest show each year. And when it comes to Manias, none felt bigger than WrestleMania III. Whether you believe WWE's announced attendance of 93,173, or the smaller, reporter-disputed number range that can go as low as 78,000, the crowd at Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome was undeniably massive and looked the part.

What drew the crowd? Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, quite possibly the biggest WWF match of that era and in some ways, the peak of '80s Hulkamania. From a top to bottom, in-ring standpoint, WWE has put on plenty of cards better than Mania III, but they may never put on another event that feels like as big of a spectacle. If you need one great match, though, Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat had you covered — one of the very best matches WWF put on in that decade. Fans at the time also thought they were seeing Roddy Piper's final match, but of course, that promise wasn't kept.

Royal Rumble 1992

In terms of the greatest one-person performances in WWE PPV history, the 1992 Royal Rumble doesn't have just one, it has two. In the ring, Ric Flair lasting a full hour in the show's namesake match, winning not just the Rumble but the World Title in a unique twist for that year, was unbelievably compelling. A chance for Flair to showcase his selling and stamina to the WWF audience, Flair staggered, flopped, and groveled all night long, but always survived.

Outside the ring, announcer Bobby Heenan, also one of Flair's managers, matched him minute for minute with some of the greatest announcing ever. Constantly ping-ponging between hope and despair depending on how Ric was doing, Heenan's work on color may have been even better than the match itself. There was a good match between the New Foundation and the Orient Express, and Roddy Piper won the Intercontinental belt, but this show is legendary for Ric and Bobby.

WrestleMania X

WrestleMania X is largely a two-match show, but when those two matches are arguably two of the greatest bouts WWE ever put on, two can be enough. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Title was not the first Ladder Match in wrestling history, or even WWE history, but it's the one that sparked the gimmick's popularity, and was the one many fans saw first, blowing their minds. As a result, it's probably one of the most influential matches of the '90s.

If that wasn't enough, you had one of the greatest openers in wrestling history, with Bret and Owen Hart's months-long sibling rivalry exploding. It was a classic technical match with a shocking upset finish that saw the devious Owen defeat the heroic Bret completely cleanly. Due to a disputed finish at the 1994 Royal Rumble, Bret Hart would also get a world title shot on this night in the main event and make good on it, taking the belt from Yokozuna in a Mania IX rematch. One of the great PPV stories ever, the show ended with Bret triumphant and a jealous Owen seething, still in his big brother's shadow despite defeating him hours earlier.

In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede

No WWE PPV better fits the phrase "All Killer, No Filler" than Canadian Stampede. Produced during the era when WWE would run shorter two-hour cards under the In Your House banner, Stampede was only four matches long. Every match was good to great, with the opener of Mankind vs. HHH seeing a post-match brawl that extended to the Calgary Saddledome's penalty box. Great Sasuke vs. Taka Michinoku gave fans a taste of state of the art cruiserweight wrestling and Vader vs. Undertaker was a quality world title match.

But it is the main event that is the highlight of this show by far, a ten-man tag featuring Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and the Legion of Doom taking on Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, and Brian Pillman. The show took place during the height of the Hart Foundation vs. America feud, but it also took place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the heart of Hart country. As a result, the match had a special, electric atmosphere, with the normally hated heel Foundation being worshipped by the hometown fans and vice versa for Austin's team. A truly unique gem in WWE's library.

Royal Rumble 2000

Taking place in WWE's most famous building, Madison Square Garden, the 2000 Royal Rumble offered up some beautiful violence. Taz made his WWE debut, choking out Kurt Angle in a great way to kick off the show. The Hardys and Dudleys then went to war in a brutal tables match. On this night, though, nothing was going to top HHH vs. Cactus Jack for the World Title, a match that saw the use of everything from thumbtacks to a barbed wire covered two-by-four. An incredible hardcore match, it's one of the key moments that elevated HHH to a new level.

The show was not perfect. Not every match was a huge hit and in particular there was a bikini contest featuring Mae Young that fans may wish to forget for a variety of reasons. But by the end of the night, with the Rock punching his ticket to WrestleMania by winning the Rumble, you'd be hard-pressed to find many fans that wouldn't say they hadn't just seen one of the greatest Rumble PPVs in WWE history. The first half of 2000 is considered a creative high point of WWE, and this PPV kicked it off.

Backlash 2000

An example of a Backlash being better than the WrestleMania it followed, the 2000 edition is one of the great WWE PPVs of its era. The Rock defeated HHH for the World Title in the main event, a match that many felt should've headlined Mania rather than the four-way we ended up seeing instead. Not just notable for the title change, the match also saw Steve Austin make his first appearance in the promotion in roughly half a year, still recovering from neck surgery.

What makes this card isn't just the main event, but the quality wrestling sprinkled throughout it. Chris Benoit took on Chris Jericho in an Intercontinental Title match that many felt topped the IC three-way at Mania. There was a nice short sprint between Eddie Guerrero and Essa Rios. The best in-ring action on the whole show though was Dean Malenko vs. Scotty 2 Hotty, a surprising show-stealer for the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. Finishing with a great top rope DDT, it's a match that overachieved based on its card position.

No Way Out 2001

The last PPV before that year's WrestleMania, No Way Out 2001 set up the biggest show of the year by being, in itself, one of the great cards of its day. The Rock become World Champion for the sixth time, beating Kurt Angle in a great main event. Chris Jericho came out on top in a worker's paradise Intercontinental Title four-way that also featured Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and X-Pac. Even Stephanie McMahon vs. Trish Stratus was better than you might have feared it looked on paper.

The calling card on this show was in the middle, with Steve Austin and HHH wrestling a two out of three falls match where every fall had a different stipulation. Austin won the first fall, wrestled via standard rules, but HHH scored the ultimate win when he won the second fall, an anything-goes street fight, and the third, a steel cage match. Nearly 40 minutes of top-level wrestling, it left fans hungering for a fourth fall, but instead within months the two men would become allies, forming the Two-Man Power Trip.

WrestleMania X-Seven

In many ways, this PPV signaled an end to an era. WCW had closed a few days before and ECW would officially shutter a few days later. The late '90s wrestling boom was ending, but if it had to go, it went out with a bang with this WrestleMania. Headlined by WWE's two biggest stars of their generation, Steve Austin and The Rock, in their second of three Mania matches, the show ended with the shocking heel turn of Austin, aligning with Vince McMahon. With Stone Cold joining with his long-time nemesis, the Attitude Era had come full circle.

The card is remembered as great not just due to that match, though, as from top to bottom it was special. You had the major semi-main event of HHH vs. The Undertaker, but you also had an excellent TLC tag match, a technical clinic between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, and the ridiculous nostalgia of the Gimmick Battle Royal. With a wild hardcore title three-way and the soap opera drama of Shane McMahon fighting his father Vince, this Mania had about as much variety as any PPV in WWE history.

SummerSlam 2002

Often called the greatest SummerSlam of all time, SummerSlam 2002 showed off the incredible roster depth WWE had acquired as a result of the folding of both WCW and ECW. When Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio is your opener, you have yourself one heck of a night. Ric Flair took on Chris Jericho, RVD, and Chris Benoit had a barnburner, Edge and Eddie Guerrero had an excellent match. On top you had two big draws, the first being Shawn Michaels in his comeback match, his first since WrestleMania XIV, taking on former stablemate HHH.

That would be enough to be a great PPV, but none of those matches were the main event. No, that was an honor reserved for The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar. The Rock's last match for half a year, the Brahma Bull went out putting over the hot rising star Lesnar for the WWE Undisputed Championship. His first World Title win, it was the match that cemented Brock as a top of the card star for the rest of his career. A PPV filled with quality wrestling on the undercard, and two historic moments for Michaels and Lesnar on top, this was how the biggest event of the summer should be done.

WrestleMania XIX

WrestleMania XIX was headlined by three huge matches, each that basically showcased a different era in WWE history. First, you had a tribute to the '80s with Hulk Hogan taking on Vince McMahon in a street fight that even featured a Roddy Piper run-in just to put the cherry on top of the nostalgia sundae. Then you saw the third WrestleMania faceoff between the two biggest stars of the '90s, Steve Austin and the Rock, with "The Great One" finally picking up a win over "Stone Cold." Finally, you finished the night with the modern era, as Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship.

Seeing as how it was WrestleMania, that isn't even all you got. Shawn Michaels took on Chris Jericho in an excellent dream match, Matt Hardy took on Rey Mysterio, and Team Angle of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin defeated Chris Benoit and Rhyno and Los Guerreros of Chavo and Eddie Guerrero. Was it all perfect? No. HHH vs. Booker T was a flawed ending to their feud and Undertaker defeating Big Show and A-Train in a handicap match didn't exactly set the world on fire. In the end, though, these small lulls could not hold back WrestleMania XIX from being one of the best shows WWE ever produced.

Money in the Bank 2011

Some great PPVs end with a cliffhanger ending. Other great PPVs end with a happy ending. With Money in the Bank 2011, you got both, simultaneously. Weeks after CM Punk's famous "Pipebomb" promo, airing some real frustrations, with his contract rumored to be coming due, people wondered how his World Title main event with John Cena would play out. What we got was Punk's ultimate triumph, a win over Cena to become champ in a classic match — but we also got an ending that left us desperate for "Raw," with Punk fleeing through the crowd with the title and waving goodbye to a panicked Vince McMahon.

If that wasn't enough, the PPV gave us not one but two very enjoyable Money in the Bank ladder matches, with Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio winning for "SmackDown" and "Raw," respectively. We also witnessed Christian defeat Randy Orton in one of many very good matches the two had against each other, with Christian dethroning Orton for a World Title due to an odd stip where the belt could change hands on a DQ. Still, this night belonged to CM Punk.

Extreme Rules 2012

Extreme Rules 2012 heralded the return of Brock Lesnar to WWE after an eight-year absence. The wait was worth it when he took on John Cena in this PPV's main event, an Extreme Rules match that was one of the better WWE tussles of the era — and one that showed everybody that Brock had not lost a step. You can argue that Lesnar should've won in his first show back but you can't argue that you didn't leave the show pumped for future Brock matches.

This show had two other tent poles propping it up to be a highlight of the era, and they came in the form of the two World Title matches. For the WWE Championship, CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight, not the first great moment for Punk in his hometown and far from the last. The match for the World Heavyweight Championship was even better, seeing Sheamus defeat Daniel Bryan in a two out of three falls match that would've been the highlight of many PPVs that didn't have a Brock/Cena level match on top.

WrestleMania XXX

There are a lot of parallels between Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX and Bret Hart at WrestleMania X. Like Bret at Mania X, Bryan bookended the PPV, defeating HHH in a great opener and ending the night triumphant in the main event, in this case defeating Randy Orton and Batista for the World Heavyweight Title. Both PPVs were feel-good experiences, what felt like changing of the guards as much-loved fan favorites were given the glory of the top spot after years of fighting against naysayers. Many Bryan fans thought they'd never see the day he'd be pushed to the very top and here he was, winning the main event of the biggest card of the year.

There is one other match that makes this card unforgettable, and of course that's Undertaker's fabled WrestleMania unbeaten streak finally coming to an end against Brock Lesnar. Purely as a match it may not have been as good as some hoped, but in terms of creating a moment, Brock's win was one of the biggest surprises in WWE history. The win boosted Brock's momentum, which had lagged due to some spotty booking, and left fans leaving the show wondering how much time Taker had left. Great WrestleManias often have a mixture of beginnings and endings and with the dual stories of Bryan and Undertaker, you had one incredible example of each.

Evolution

To fully appreciate Evolution, you have to know WWE's history with women's wrestling. From getting short-changed on time and positioning, to being used as nothing as titillation in demeaning gimmick matches, to the pushing of barely trained models, WWE had all too often given women the short end of the stick. With Evolution, a PPV with nothing but women's matches, WWE's renewed effort to take women's wrestling more seriously had its greatest victory lap. Almost every match was at least good, showcasing a level of depth in the division that had been unheard of in previous decades.

There were great moments throughout the card. The opener of Trish Stratus and Lita taking on Mickie James and Alicia Fox was a nice hat-tip the to previous generation. Toni Storm beating Io Shirai to win the 2018 Mae Young Classic was a quality match, as was Shayna Baszler defeating Kairi Sane to win the NXT Women's Championship. In the main event, Ronda Rousey defeated Nikki Bella in a match that surpassed a lot of people's expectations. But the clear match of the night had to be Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing match. Going almost half an hour, there was no better way on this night to show how far WWE's treatment of women's wrestling had come since the days of Bra and Panties matches.

Comments