March 31, 2015 will mark thirty years since the passage of the inaugural WrestleMania. Granted, it wasn't technically a pay-per-view, and WWE wouldn't hold their first true home-viewing PPV until Wrestling Classic on November 7, 1985, but whatever: WrestleMania I is listed under pay-per-views on the Network, so ha.
To commemorate thirty years since the birth of WWE PPV, I've decided to rank the thirty greatest PPVs in the history of the company. Hence the title
30. No Mercy 2008
A forgotten gem, this PPV features the greatest one-on-one ladder match since the Michaels/Ramon heyday, with Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho blowing off their feud in absolute hate-filled fashion. It's five stars in my book. Prior to that ladder match, there's an exciting face-vs-face match pitting Triple H and Jeff Hardy, plus the best Big Show-Undertaker match you will ever see.
29. ECW One Night Stand 2005
While I feel the 2006 sequel had a better in-ring product overall, a host of truncated ECW reduxes on the original show made for some nostalgic fun. The Mike Awesome-Masato Tanaka all-out-war, match of the night as it may be, is fairly cringeworthy in hindsight knowing how Awesome ended up, so it's not for the squeamish. All eras of ECW are encompassed, and represented well.
28. Extreme Rules 2012
More than just your average secondary PPV, thanks to the inclusion of Brock Lesnar. Lesnar's bloodbath with John Cena wins not just for the awing brutality, but for staining the 'PG ONLY' warning sign with enough crimson to obscure the words. Sheamus and Daniel Bryan also made up for their WrestleMania joke with an excellent two-out-of-three falls clasic.
27. WrestleMania 23
I'd point to this event, and it's nearly equal-sequel in Backlash, as the end of the most recent age of goodness for WWE. Michaels and Cena reached near perfection in the World Title match, with Cena more than holding up his end during the tense battle. Money in the Bank delivered big in the opener, but the big surprise was an epic beginning to Batista and Undertaker's well-received feud.
26. Royal Rumble 1992
Not necessarily the best Rumble in terms of overall quality (Bushwhackers vs. Beverlys hurts it a tad), the event boasts the greatest Rumble match of all time, with Ric Flair virtually going coast to coast among one of WWE's deepest rosters of stars. Often forgotten is Roddy Piper's frenetic IC Title win over The Mountie, and a great opener pitting The New Foundation and The Orient Express.
25. SummerSlam 2011
The CM Punk-John Cena sequel to their Money in the Bank all-timer was a few notches below, but still a worthy main event. People forget the show's greatness because of Nash's run-in and Alberto's cash-in, but those shouldn't taint the main event quality. It also features Randy Orton's best-ever singles match, against Christian, as well as a forgotten Bryan/Wade Barrett hard-hitter.
24. Vengeance 2003
The first blue-brand exclusive PPV blew Raw's Bad Blood out of the water effortlessly. By the end of the opener, the US Title tournament final pitting Benoit vs. Guerrero, Vengeance had won the head-to-head. The other title bouts, one featuring Lesnar, Angle, and Show for the WWE Title and the other seeing Haas and Benjamin defend Tag Team gold against Mysterio and Kidman, ice its legacy.
23. Royal Rumble 2001
If the shitty Royal Rumbles of recent years set off a bad omen heading into WrestleMania season, then imagine what a great one like this can do. The Rumble match was story-laden and dramatic, with a blood-soaked Austin overcoming a then-unstoppable Kane to win. The three men's title matches all rated above great, peaking with Jericho and Benoit's show-stealing ladder match for the IC Title.
22. WrestleMania XIV
Not a great WrestleMania necessarily for having three match-of-the-year candidates or anything of the sort, but rather for the way it ushered in the era of what WWE was supposed to be. The final six matches, to some degree, all screamed "ATTITUDE", whether it was Austin's first title win, Sable kicking ass, Taker/Kane's first encounter, or unbridled mayhem involving dumpsters.
21. Backlash 2000
Ever since the Radicalz had jumped to WWE that January, the workrate side of an already flourishing company had spiked to record levels. Austin's show-stopping one-night return to help Rock overcome Triple H and the Corporation to become WWE Champion was the perfect ending. Along the way, Benoit and Jericho put forth and Intercontinental classic, on a show with few dull spots.
20. Backlash 2004
The follow-up to a paradigm-shifting WrestleMania took place in Chris Benoit's native Edmonton. The visuals of Benoit's family at ringside may be unsettling to some viewers. If you can look past that, he, Michaels, and Triple H damn near equal their WrestleMania triple threat. The real star was Orton, who came of age in his no-rules brawl with Mick Foley, and shot to stardom thereafter.
19. One Night Only
Everyone brought their working boots overseas for this UK-only pay-per-view, infamous for the ending where Michaels and DX screw over Davey Boy Smith in front of his dying sister. Bret Hart and Undertaker have their best match ever with each other for the WWE Title, Dude Love and HHH put on a fine opener, and Owen Hart and Vader have themselves a lost gem of a match.
18. Royal Rumble 2000
If you can get past Mae Young's exhibition of jovial sagging, then a hot Madison Square Garden crowd soundtracks a night of wild efforts. Tazz debuts to a mighty roar, choking out Angle. The Hardyz and Dudleyz' table match is a template for future spotfests. HHH bleeds like a stuck pig in his street fight with Cactus. On top of it all, the Rumble match, won by Rock, is pretty good too.
17. Vengeance 2005
The second-half of this PPV is WrestleMania quality, and had the main event actually occurred at WrestleMania, it'd be further this ladder. Triple H and Batista's Hell in a Cell match was as brutal as could possibly be, with Batista winning his third straight PPV match over a usually 50/50 Hunter. The Michaels/Angle sequel and the World Title triple threat all rank as excellent too.
16. Judgment Day 2000
Nobody felt that Rock and Triple H could put on a compelling Iron Man match, but thanks some Attitude-Era creativity and brutality, it succeeds in spades. Even Undertaker's return at the end doesn't detract from the match. Jericho and Benoit almost steal the show with a submission match, while the undercard was highly energized, especially a triple threat with the other Radicalz.
15. WrestleMania XIX
Only knocks on this show: tepid crowd, and the HHH/Booker underwhelmer. It's filled with history, such as Michaels' first 'Mania bout in five years, winning match of the night honors. It has Lesnar almost dying via a botched shooting star press in the capper to his battle with Angle. Most notable was Austin's swansong, even if fans didn't realize it then, going down in defeat to The Rock.
14. SummerSlam 1992
The stadium atmosphere and a wild Wembley crowd (British fans blow a snot rocket into American fans' eyes) framed a special occasion for the company, marked by two main events of face-vs-face composition. Hart and Bulldog's Intercontinental finale lived up to expectations and then some, while Warrior and Savage's WWE title bout was tremendous, marred only by the non-finish.
13. WrestleMania XXX
Is it a tad premature putting last year's WrestleMania this high? I'm confident, and I have faith that Bryan's bookends against the Evolution members will never lose value over time. Cena and Wyatt helped bolster the show with a cat-and-mouse psychological battle, while the moment that Lesnar ended Undertaker's Streak is an indelible one, making this event a historical marker.
12. WrestleMania XXI
This show has its detractors, namely for the perceived non-action in the World Title matches that elevated Cena and Batista. I'll grant you Cena/JBL as poor, but Batista/HHH was damn good once Batista graphically took over. Plus, any show that gives you Michaels/Angle perfection and the greatest Money in the Bank of all time can never be shunted down the ranks too far.
11. No Way Out 2001
In the endless stock of 2001 matches that are worthy of being called Match of the Year, Austin and HHH's 'Three Stages of Hell' bloodbath narrowly takes the prize. Rock and Angle came close to rivaling it with their World Title closer. Add in a four way for the IC Title with Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, and X-Pac, and a startlingly great match with Trish and Stephanie, and it's a winner.
10. SummerSlam 2000
In a period where SummerSlam could do almost no wrong, this ranks as one of the better ones, largely due to the TLC Six topping their WrestleMania 2000 battle twice over. Benoit and Jericho's two-out-of-three falls match felt short, but it's another great chapter in their storied history. The main event three way with Rock, HHH, and Angle ended the show on a scorching note.
9. Canadian Stampede
Remember when WWE used to get the most out of a two-hour show? The ten-man tag with the Hart Foundation taking on Austin, Goldust, Shamrock, and the LOD is worth it on crowd reactions alone, and everyone put forth an inspired effort. The rest of the card is HHH vs. Mankind, Undertaker vs. Vader, and Taka Michinoku vs. Great Sasuke. There is nothing bad on the show.
8. SummerSlam 2013
While 2013 mostly ranged anywhere from decent to shitty, the summer was its peak season, and it itself peaked with a SummerSlam that boasted two monstrous efforts. In one battle, Lesnar had arguably his greatest match ever against Punk, reminiscent of Sting and Vader's battles. Cena and Bryan rivaled it with a hard-hitting WWE Title match that preceded an Orton cash-in.
7. Survivor Series 1987
Much like Stampede, it's a show where nothing is the least bit bad. In order, a team captained by Savage depletes Honky's team, leaving the IC Champion alone. The women are given copious time (no, really) to dazzle, particularly the Jumping Bomb Angels. A 20-man tag follows, earning best match honors, while Hogan and Andre's teams of heavyweights collide in an exciting closer.
6. WrestleMania X
An oasis on a desert of declining WWE quality, you know by now the two five-star matches that populate this card: Bret and Owen's flawless opener, and Razor and Shawn's game-changing ladder match. Forgotten in the shadows are Bret's title win at the end, Savage's final WWE PPV match in a win over Crush, and a decent Tag Title match with Quebercers against Men on a Mission.
5. SummerSlam 2002
Virtually everything on this show delivered, particularly the final two matches. In one, Michaels makes his return after four years and performs as great as he ever has, winning over the crowd in the street fight against Triple H. Immediately after, Lesnar topples Rock to become WWE Champion in another great match. The undercard itself is littered with abbreviated wrestling epics, too.
4. WrestleMania XX
Yes, the ending is tainted for many, but for the moment on March 14, 2004, it was truly special seeing Benoit hoist the gold following the triple threat victory. It's a five-hour show, and some parts do drag, but what's great more than makes up for it. Guerrero and Angle's WWE Title bout is a healthy second place, while Evolution vs. Rock and Foley was a hilarious and exciting third.
3. Money in the Bank 2011
The main event is the best match of this millennium, with Punk fulfilling his prophecy to win the WWE Title from Cena and then walk out on the decaying company. If the follow-up had held up, we'd remember it better, surely. Both ladder matches delivered against high expectations, and Christian's cheap World Title win over Orton was a fun story moment, especially the aftermath.
2. WrestleMania III
Some believe the show doesn't hold up. Those are people without a heart or eyes, because this show is absolutely rewatchable today. Savage and Steamboat is overrated? Pardon my Scottish, but fuck you. Hulk and Andre may plod, but it's a fun plod, and the intensity is there if you drop your cynicism for two seconds. Also noteworthy are Piper's 'retirement' bout and the mid-show six man tag.
1. WrestleMania X7
Hard to argue against as the best WrestleMania ever, as well as the peak of WWE PPV's altogether. Five matches surpass or flirt with with the four-star barrier, with two (Rock/Austin, TLC) pinning perfection. Angle and Benoit brought scientific greatness to the fold, while Undertaker/HHH and Vince/Shane balanced that with overbooked mayhem. It's WWE at its absolute best.