We're less than a week from the launch of WWE Network. and anticipation is building for wrestling fans past and present across the country. As part of the initial launch, WWE is promising access to every pay-per-view event from the history of WWE, WCW, and ECW. A later release confirmed that statement, and WWE produced a list of the mammoth catalog of PPVs that would be available at launch.
With a monstrous selection of content, what should you watch first? WWE released a gallery of photos from the 15 best PPVs ever, There are a lot of good selections there, but there is also a good bit of recency bias and an emphasis on historical significance rather that sheer entertainment value. Several of the shows listed are great, but you've probably seen the best matches several times on various DVD releases. Here's what we think you should immediately stream once WWE Network launches on February 24th in chronological order – and hopefully, you've never seen many of these shows before.
WWF Royal Rumble 1994
So many early WWF cards were one match shows. This Royal Rumble only featured five matches, including the nearly hour-long Royal Rumble match, and they were all entertaining on different levels. The Quebecers took on Bret and Owen Hart in a match that set up a pair of epic matches between the Hart brothers in 1994, and also added drama to the Royal Rumble match that evening. Razor Ramon's Intercontinental Title defense against IRS featured some fantastic old-school heeling by the challenger. The Undertaker-Yokozuna clash resulted in one of the most ridiculous finishes in pro wrestling history. Finally, the Royal Rumble main event had some rare drama, created a star in Diesel, and formed the basis of the dual winner formula that has been dragged out of mothballs numerous times since.
WCW Great American Bash 1996
Bash at the Beach a month later was an excellent show, but the Great American Bash was a pretty great show in its own right. After a bit of a slow start to the show, a random luchador by the name of Rey Mysterio Jr. made his debut against Dean Malenko and lit the Baltimore Arena on fire, as the duo put on an insane contest that set the bar high for the rest of the show. While no other match was able to top that one, Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit tried, putting together a falls count anywhere match that went into the bathroom and set Dusty Rhodes off on one of the greatest commentary rants in wrestling history. The rest of the show featured an appearance from then-NFL star Kevin Greene, a solid match between Sting and Steven Regal, and a world title defense by The Giant, but those two matches in the middle of the card set this one apart from the usual chaos of WCW.
WWF Summerslam 1998
I love this show. Most of the attention in 1998 goes to WrestleMania XIV, Over the Edge, or King of the Ring, but Summerslam topped them all. The show started with four matches that were varying degrees of entertaining while also being good wrestling matches, and the next two were entertaining spectacles, though the quality can be debated. There is no debate about the quality of the final two matches of the show – a ladder match between The Rock and Triple H and a wild WWF Title match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker blew the doors off of Madison Square Garden.
ECW Living Dangerously 1999
I love this show a little too much, as it was the second ECW PPV I ever watched live. There was something for everyone on this show. If you're into fast cruiserweight action, Tajiri and Super Crazy have you covered. If you like comedy, Steve Corino took on Balls Mahoney in a match that kept pushing the limits on how much Corino could piss off the rabid ECW fans. If you're a fan of great pure wrestling with some hardcore mixed in, Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn had the first match in their legendary series on the show. If you're into sheer violence, New Jack beat the hell out of Mustafa and the Dudley Boyz fought Spike Dudley, Nova, and (later on) Sid Vicious tooth and nail. Then, there's the main event between Taz and Sabu, which is a violent, fantastic wrestling match.
WCW Spring Stampede 1999
This is one of the shows that stands out in the doldrums of WCW's final years. The first match on the show was one of the best of the year 1999, as Blitzkrieg and Juventud Guerrera put on a great show. Hak and Bam Bam Bigelow had a hardcore match that could best be described as fun, leading into a couple of mediocre undercard matches. Then, the cruiserweights took center stage again with another great match between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Billy Kidman. The featured matches then started to roll out, starting with an awesome and violent tag team match between the duos of Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko and Raven & Saturn, continuing on with a hard-hitting contest between Scott Steiner and Booker T, and finishing with an illogical, yet entertaining, four-way match between Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Diamond Dallas Page, and Sting. This PPV was one of the view highlights during the final two-plus years of WCW's existence
ECW Hardcore Heaven 2000
Quite possibly my favorite ECW show ever, despite the prior year's edition getting a lot more hype. Hardcore Heaven kicks off with a match between Masato Tanaka and Balls Mahoney that will make you wince and think about CTE nonstop, and that flows into one of ECW's trademark three-way dances, this time featuring Little Guido, Simon Diamond, and Mikey Whipwreck. After some midcard filler, New Jack destroyed Angel in a typical New Jack match, and Tajiri brutalized Steve Corino in one of the bloodiest matches I've ever seen. If you like numerous broken tables and crude promos, both of those happened during Rhino's match with The Sandman. The Jerry Lynn-Rob Van Dam match was a typical contest between the two. The main even of Justin Credible vs. Lance Storm ended up being one of the most disappointing matches on a card that was jammed with action and violence.
WWF WrestleMania X-Seven
As much as I'd like to buck the trend and not include this show, I really can't. This show is almost unanimously considered the greatest WWF/WWE PPV of all-time, and for good reason. This show has a technical battle between Chris Jericho and William Regal, and another between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. One of those silly "Shane McMahon does stupid things for no reason" matches takes place between Shane and his father, Vince. The second, and best, TLC match took place between the Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian, and the Hardy Boyz. The first of the Undertaker's true WrestleMania epics went down between him and Triple H. Finally, the main event between Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock set the bar ridiculously high for any future WrestleMania main events. Even the most ardent WWE hater would have problems disliking this show.
ECW December to Dismember 2006
I tried to keep this list free of "car crash" shows, but this is one that you need to see – if only because no one saw it when it aired live. This PPV drew just 90,000 buys (55,000 domestically), the lowest ever for a WWE show. It was a six-match show, and only two weren't largely considered disasters – the first and last matches of the evening. The main event was an Elimination Chamber match that has been panned as the worst match of its type in WWE history. This event was such a debacle that it led to Paul Heyman leaving WWE's creative team, so at the very least, there's some historical significance to the show.
WWE Money in the Bank 2011
While the current landscape of WWE is one that many fans are down on, this PPV set-up a real nice two years for the company. In the main event, CM Punk beat John Cena for the WWE title and thrust his star into the stratosphere. In the first match of the night, Daniel Bryan won the Money in the Bank briefcase to start the YES movement. In the midcard, Alberto Del Rio won the second Money in the Bank match of the evening to move himself solidly in the top tier of WWE stars. The clutter was kept to a minimum on this six match card, and it delivered in spades.
WWE Extreme Rules 2012
Extreme Rules may have been the last great WWE PPV for the foreseeable future. This show was universally-lauded based on the strength of its three featured matches. The two out of three falls match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan added some legitimacy to Sheamus' title reign, and also helped fan the flames of rage towards Bryan's quick loss at WrestleMania just weeks prior. The CM Punk-Chris Jericho Chicago Street Fight for the WWE Title was an entertaining battle that continued Punk's solid reign on top of WWE. Finally, there was the main event between John Cena and Brock Lesnar, an absolute war that showed that Cena can take a beating instead of just having his typical paint by numbers match that fans have been growing tired of for years.
So, what's the first thing you're going to watch on WWE Network? Let us know in the comments!