The current talking heads of the WWE are real big on pitching how many of the WWE's current pay-per-views are only available through the WWE Network's streaming service. On top of this, Stamford is keen on running Network-exclusive programs like NXT, 205 Live, and a veritable army of reality-based and animation shows that all take place outside of the ring. Simply put, if you didn't know much about the WWE Network, you'd swear that its sole purpose was to put contemporary distribution fully in the hands of Vince McMahon.
While that is true, the WWE's emphasis on advertising the Network's modern content overlooks one of the best things about the Network--its extensive video library. Besides containing WWE/WWF/WWWF content that stretches all the way back to the 1970s, the WWE Network includes all of the ECW pay-per-views, all of the WCW pay-per-views, and numerous television programs and events from companies as diverse as USWA, GCW, AWA, NWA, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. You could spend weeks on the Network and never once leave the 1980s.
Thanks to this impressive collection, Network subscribers have the opportunity to revisit pay-per-views and events that have sadly been forgotten or overlooked. The following shows are all available on the Network and should be watched by diehards and the mildly interested alike.
15 This Tuesday in Texas (1991)
Unlike most events then and now, This Tuesday in Texas aired on a Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, the buyrate was low (1.0) and most fans didn't tune in. Looking over the card provides another reason why this pay-per-view remains little remembered. The best matches, including Ric Flair versus Roddy Piper, were dark matches, while the matches that did air, such as Bret Hart versus Skinner, were not the cream of the crop.
However, despite a rather lackluster card, This Tuesday in Texas should be viewed for two reasons: 1) it contains a very engaging main event featuring The Undertaker (then the world champion) against Hulk Hogan, and 2) this was one of the earliest indications that Hulkamania was on the wane. Although that year's Survivor Series included plenty of evidence that the fans had grown sick of seeing Hogan as champion, This Tuesday in Texas provided further proof that The Undertaker was in and Hogan was out. For this reason, this middling pay-per-view is a cultural artifact.
14 Insurrextion (2000)
Debate it all you want, but the much-vaunted Attitude Era peaked in 2000. That was the year when the writing was at its best and when the various storylines made the most sense. Furthermore, instead of focusing solely on the great McMahon-Austin feud, the WWE in 2000 pushed a bevy of hot, young stars, from Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero to Kurt Angle and Edge.
Insurrextion, which was one of the WWE's U.K.-only pay-per-views, is a great time capsule of the Attitude Era. From the Big Show's forgotten run as a goofball impersonator to the under appreciated European Championship scene, this show has a lot to love. Key matches include Jericho versus Guerrero for the European title, The British Bulldog versus Crash Holly for the Hardcore Championship, and the main event match featuring The Rock versus Shane McMahon and Triple H.
13 Rock Bottom: In Your House (1998)
The In Your House pay-per-views don't get enough respect. While these shows often lacked the sense of grandeur that the WWE's major pay-per-views (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, etc.) typically engendered, they more than made up for this deficiency by placing a greater emphasis on in-ring storytelling and lean production values. Rather than bloated presentations that run on for far too long (this is still the case with the RAW-exclusive pay-per-views), In Your House events tended to last two hours or less and seemed adverse to wasting time.
If 2000 is the apex of the Attitude Era, then 1998 is its first great year. While the Attitude Era truly started in late 1996 ("Pillman's Got a Gun"), and while 1997 was one of the WWE's better years after a period of noticeable decline, 1998 was the year when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin captured the WWE Championship and The Rock became a megastar. At Rock Bottom, Mankind wrestled a heel Rock, while Austin battled The Undertaker. Other highlights include Steve Blackman versus Owen Hart and The Brood versus The J.O.B. Squad.
12 Capital Combat (1990)
Although 1989 was one the greatest years that WCW ever had in terms of the quality of its wrestling and feuds, 1990 proved to be a slight disappointment. The Black Scorpion angle started off with a lot of promise, then descended into an illogical mess that did little to help the already hot Sting versus Ric Flair storyline. Also in 1990, WCW began making forays into the type of silliness that would almost doom the company following the arrival of Hulk Hogan in 1994.
At Capital Combat in 1990, WCW put on an excellent show featuring The Steiner Brothers, Kevin Sullivan, Cactus Jack, The Road Warriors, and Mean Mark (later known as The Undertaker). Furthermore, this PPV has stellar matches including The Fabulous Freebirds versus The Rock 'n' Roll Express, Doom (Butch Reed and Ron Simmons) versus the Steiners, and a Steel Cage match involving Lex Luger and Ric Flair.
However, despite this great card, Capital Combat saw the return of RoboCop. In order to increase ticket sales for RoboCop 2, the WCW brass thought it would be a good idea to have RoboCop save Sting from The Four Horsemen. It's ridiculous, but boy does Jim Ross sell it with gusto.
11 Bunkhouse Stampede (1988)
At Bunkhouse Stampede, WCW went out of its comfort zone and held a pay-per-view in WWE territory. Although the crowd at Nassau Coliseaum may have numbered somewhere around 6,000 (wrestling numbers are always suspect), the show was still fun and the audience seemed into it.
This event's main attraction was the brainchild of the sagacious Dusty Rhodes. A noted fan of Western films, especially the movies of John Wayne, Rhodes invented the Bunkhouse Stampede match--a Cage match where all the participants dressed like Western roughnecks and battled it out with weapons. During the inaugural event, Rhodes won by besting Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, The Warlord, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, Ivan Koloff, and Road Warrior Animal. Other quality matches include Nikita Koloff versus Bobby Eaton for the NWA World Television Championship and Road Warrior Hawk versus Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
10 Hardcore Heaven (1995)
While not technically a pay-per-view, ECW's Hardcore Heaven is the perfect introduction to the company's unique and influential style. Speaking personally, I like to watch Hardcore Heaven with an eye towards both the WWE and WCW. Specifically, while ECW was running with innovative characters like Raven and The Sandman, while also producing storylines that touched upon contemporary culture, WWE was full of outlandish gimmicks and WCW was wallowing in its Dungeon of Doom nadir. ECW was without a doubt the best company in 1995.
At Hardcore Heaven, the classic Raven-Tommy Dreamer feud took center stage, while excellent matches, including The Sandman versus Cactus Jack and The Public Enemy versus The Gangstas, also appeared on the card. Also, for fans of arcane knowledge, Hardcore Heaven features the earliest incarnation of The Dudley Boyz (then called The Dudley Brothers) without either Bubba Ray or D-Von.
9 The Big Event (1986)
Before WrestleMania III, The Big Event set the WWE's first outdoor attendance record. According to Stamford's own statisticians (who are questionable), more than 64,000 fans attended the show at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium. Through the late evening and into the night, these fans got to see Harley Race versus Pedro Morales, Billy Jack Haynes versus Hercules Hernandez, Junkyard Dog versus Adrian Adonis, and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat versus Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Despite the rain, most stuck around to the see the much-hyped main event between Hulk Hogan and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff. Although arguably Hogan's most forgotten feud, Orndorff had a lot of heat following his betrayal of Hogan during a tag match. There's a reason why Pro Wrestling Illustrated called it the feud of the year. Hogan and Orndorff (plus Bobby Heenan) put on quite the show at The Big Event.
8 Beach Blast (1992)
Even though pro wrestling was in decline during the early 1990s, WCW's Beach Blast pay-per-view did good numbers. This somewhat cheesy attempt to create an alternative to WWE's SummerSlam pay-per-view worked out rather well. After all, when it was rechristened as Bash at the Beach, it gave the wrestling world its greatest heel turn and possibly its greatest storyline in 1996.
In 1992, some 5,000 fans in Mobile, Alabama got to see an instant classic between Sting and Cactus Jack. Foley himself has called this Falls Count Anywhere contest one of his favorite matches of all time. Besides Sting versus Foley, Beach Blast contains an awesome 30-minute Iron Man match between Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude and a great tag team contest between The Steiner Brothers and Terry Gordy & Steve "Dr. Death" Williams. The appearance of Scotty Flamingo, Scott Levy's pre-Raven gimmick, is an added bonus.
7 WrestleRock 86 (1986)
The AWA's WrestleRock pay-per-view is probably best known for its cringeworthy WrestleRock Rumble video package. Be forewarned: don't click on that hyperlink unless you're a masochist. With that out of the way, let's appreciated just how stacked the WrestleRock 86 card is. Here is but a sampling of some of the names: Barry Windham, Bruiser Brody, Mike Rotunda, Harley Race, Rick Martel, Wahoo McDaniel, The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty), Stan Hansen, Nick Bockwinkel, and The Road Warriors.
Before the WWE exploded as the premiere wrestling company in North America (thanks in large part to Vince McMahon's ruthless acquisition of the top babyfaces and heels from other promotions), Verne Gagne's AWA, with its headquarters in Minneapolis, was the WWE's largest and strongest competitor. After all, Hulkamania began in the AWA. WrestleRock 86 is perfectly showcases the AWA at the peak of its powers.
6 In Your House: A Cold Day in Hell (1997)
A Cold Day in Hell crystallizes the WWE's transition into the Attitude Era. While more mature content was slowly weaving its way into the storytelling, there remained holdouts of the earlier, cartoon-y kitsch of the mid-90s. Examples of this include Hunter Hearst Helmsley (not yet Triple H), the pimp stereotype Flash Funk, and the tag team of Owen Hart and The British Bulldog. However, this In Your House pay-per-view also includes The Nation of Domination, The Road Warriors, Vader, and Ken Shamrock. Even more importantly, this event was headlined by two of the greatest wrestlers of all time--"Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Undertaker.
The title match between the champion 'Taker and the challenger Austin was not only used to further the triangular feud involving both men and Bret Hart, but it also highlighted the peak of The Undertaker's popularity and the rising popularity of the nominally heel Austin. Simply put, this is fantastic stuff for those fans who want to relive the roots of the Attitude Era.
5 Massacre on 34th Street (2000)
ECW was still drawing large houses in 2000, but the writing was clearly on the wall. Because of a horrible deal with TNN, and because most of their top talent (Taz, Mike Awesome, etc.) had already joined an earlier exodus to both the WWE and WCW, Paul Heyman's renegade promotion had to rely on wrestlers who had noticeably failed in other companies. Despite this, Massacre on 34th Street, which aired on December 3, 2000, shows just how well ECW made it all work even given these limitations.
The crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City was always one of the more vocal ECW crowds, and this pay-per-view was no exception. The rowdiness was present from the opening match to the Three-Way Dance main event between ECW Champion Steve Corino, Justin Credible, and Jerry Lynn.
Other matches worth watching again include TV champion Rhino versus Spike Dudley, Nova (later known as Simon Dean in the WWE) versus Julio Dinero, and The Unholy Alliance (Tajiri and Mikey Whipwreck) versus Super Crazy and Kid Kash.
4 SuperClash III (1988)
By the late 1980s, it was clear that no other American promotion could rival the power and financial resources of the WWE. Despite this, WCW, AWA, and other promotions still managed to churn out excellent matches and great storylines. Indeed, a case could be made that during the heyday of the WWE's Golden Era, their competitors outdid them in terms of in-ring quality. The AWA's SuperClash III in Chicago provides one such example of stellar in-ring competition.
This overlooked pay-per-view features such gems as Eric Embry versus Jeff Jarrett for WCWA Light Heavyweight Championship, The Rock 'n' Roll Express versus The Stud Stable (Robert Fuller and Jimmy Golden), and Sgt. Slaughter versus Colonel DeBeers in a Boot Camp match. The best contest of all is Jerry "The King" Lawler versus Kerry Von Erich in a match to unify the WCWA World Heavyweight Championship and the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
3 New Year's Revolution (2005)
The first installment of the WWE's New Year's Revolution remains the only WWE pay-per-view ever held in Puerto Rico. Considering Puerto Rico's reputation for being a very violent, blood-and-guts-style territory, New Year's Revolution is sufficiently violent. In particular, the main event was especially pleasing to the San Juan crowd. At the end of the night, Triple H walked out the Elimination Chamber as the new World Heavyweight Champion after defeating Edge, Chris Benoit, Batista, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho.
While the rest of the card isn't great, there are a few bright spots. These include Eugene and William Regal versus Christian and Tyson Tomko for the World Tag Team Championship and Trish Stratus versus Lita for the WWE Women's Championship.
2 In Your House 11: Buried Alive (1996)
For my money, this is the best In Your House pay-per-view that the WWE ever put on. This event not only features Jim Ross' short-lived stint as a bitter, anti-WWE announcer, but it also includes some hidden gems, including Sycho Sid versus Vader, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog versus The Smoking Guns, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin versus Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
However, the main reason to watch this pay-per-view is the first ever Buried Alive match featuring The Undertaker and Mankind. This feud is best known for the insane bump Foley took during the second ever Hell in a Cell match in 1998, but the true brilliance of this feud all took place in 1996. From their Boiler Room Brawl to the Buried Alive match, Mankind and Taker proved that seemingly silly and "spooky" gimmicks could work if the performers were dedicated to producing violent confrontations. Here's a fun factoid for you: this pay-per-view would be the last time that The Undertaker would ever wear his iconic black-and-purple ensemble.
1 Clash of the Champions XX: 20th Anniversary (1992)
Although this event only includes five matches in total, Clash of theChampions XX, which aired live on TBS, is the pinnacle of WCW excellence. There isn't a bad match anywhere on this card, and although too much time is spent on glorifying the legacy of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, Clash of the Champions XX should be required viewing for any serious wrestling fan.
From the opening match, which pits Ricky Steamboat against WCW World Television Champion "Stunning" Steve Austin, to the main event featuring Rick Rude, Jake Roberts, Vader, and Super Invader against Nikita Koloff, The Steiner Brothers, and Sting, Clash of the Champions XX is early '90s wrestling at its finest. Other standout contests include WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ron Simmons versus Cactus Jack and Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton versus Dick Slater and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Simply amazing.
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