More often than not, the main event match is the culmination or continuation of weeks of build-up, trash talk, and physical attacks. All those factors lead to the big match that most of the fans are invested in at the time and it’s ultimately up to the bookers and the wrestlers to deliver in that spot. For 2016, the WWE has had a lot of ups and downs as far as their main events go.
Depending on the show, fans can give a variety of opinions of the main events the WWE has booked throughout the year. For NXT fans, they might agree that their Takeover Specials have delivered each and every time. For the fans who come back for the Big Four, they might say they were largely disappointed. For SmackDown supporters, they might say that A.J. Styles is carrying the brand right now and for Raw supporters, they might say the Kevin Owens Show is only great cause of Chris Jericho. A lot of fans have varying opinions of shows, but when looking at the opinion of the majority it becomes clear what main events fans loved and the ones they’ll never look at again.
So with Raw, SmackDown, and NXT in mind and 2017 on the horizon, this article will look at the main events of all WWE PPVs and Network Specials and rank them from worst to best.
PSA: This article will only be looking at matches that closed the show. Therefore, matches like AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena from No Mercy and Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens from Hell in a Cell will not be included. They may have been announced as co-main events, but in most people’s opinion, the main event match is the last match on the card and this article will be abiding by that logic.
20 No Mercy - Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Most people were expecting the WWE Championship to main event the PPV, but in light of the Presidential election, the company opened the PPV with the World Title match instead. Fans then thought Dolph Ziggler versus The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship would main event, but that match took place in the mid-card.
19 Survivor Series - Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg
12 years after his infamous WrestleMania match with Brock Lesnar, the WWE brought back Goldberg into the fold for the launch of WWE 2K17 and booked him to fight Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Goldberg looked great, Brock was still undefeated, and their segments made both men look like monsters on a massive collision course. Aside from a few rumors and mistakes, this rematch seemed like it had the potential to surpass its predecessor.
18 WrestleMania 32 - Roman Reigns vs. Triple H
When Roman Reigns lost the WWE Championship to Triple H at the Royal Rumble, many fans saw the main event of WrestleMania coming miles away. The buildup was worse than the hype between Brock Lesnar and Reigns last year, as Reigns wasn’t even there for most of it. The WWE tried to make it interesting with a few bloody brawls and a pull apart segment, but the fans never supported Reigns because of their view of his push.
The actual match was any average match you’d expect to see on Raw or SmackDown and not worthy of The Grandest Stage of Them All. The biggest moment in the match saw Reigns accidentally spear Stephanie McMahon, but everything else drew chants of boring, Roman Sucks, and NXT. The match ended with Reigns winning and more than half the crowd showering him with boos after cheering Triple H all night.
17 Roadblock: End of the Line – Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
After defeating Rusev to retain his United States Championship, Roman Reigns made his intentions known to get back into the Universal Championship picture via an after-match interview. The buildup to the match was paused due to the Survivor Series PPV, but resumed the week after the show when Reigns beat Kevin Owens in a non-title match to become the number one contender. The buildup focused more on the relationship between Owens and Chris Jericho than anything else, so this feud lacked in the animosity department.
16 NXT Takeover: The End - Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe
Following Finn Bálor’s victory at NXT Takeover: Dallas, the two men continued feuding over the NXT Championship. Bálor would go on to hold the belt for a record 292 days before losing to Samoa Joe at a live NXT event. This gave a new outlook on their feud as Joe was the champion standing tall and Bálor was obsessed with reclaiming a title he felt was rightfully his.
15 SummerSlam - Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
A match between Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton was a dream match that fans had wanted to see for years as both men had come quite far since their encounter in 2002. The two men seemed like they would put on a great bout together, but the match itself was disappointing.
14 Battleground - Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns
When Dean Ambrose walked away from Money in the Bank as the WWE Champion, many fans were hoping that they would get a Shield Triple Threat match at some point; preferably SummerSlam for some. Fans got the match sooner than they anticipated as Shane McMahon booked the match for Battleground. The build-up suffered immensely due to Roman Reigns suspension and when the draft took place in the final weeks, the match became more about which brand the title went to, rather than the history and competitiveness of all three men.
13 Hell in a Cell - Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks
After Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte Flair in the main event of Raw for the second time, the WWE made history with their feud by booking them in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match in the main event. The buildup suffered because it focused less on the rivalry between the combatants and more on the history they were making.
Before the match started, Banks and Flair brawled, as the match would later spill onto the outside and feature Flair putting Banks through the announcers table. What followed was the overused wrestler looks hurt angle, doctors escort them, but the wrestler wants to keep fighting trope and the match began several minutes later.
12 Fastlane - Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns
To determine a new number one contender for the WWE Championship, Stephanie McMahon booked a match between Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, and the former champion, Roman Reigns. In the weeks leading into the match, the buildup centered around the relationship between Ambrose and Reigns; an angle that was already used months before at Survivor Series.
11 Night of Champions - Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens
When Triple H betrayed Seth Rollins and basically gift wrapped the Universal Championship for Kevin Owens, the feud between Triple H’s former boy and his current one would begin. Rollins was irate following Triple H’s betrayal to the point where he berated Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley while attacking Kevin Owens. McMahon was going to suspend him for this, but Foley decided to let him get his anger out by facing Owens for the title at Clash of Champions.
10 Payback - A.J. Styles vs. Roman Reigns
After Reigns defeated Triple H for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, a new number one contender was named in A.J. Styles. This was a follow-up to their interactions at the Royal Rumble and it established Styles as a wrestler on a World Championship level in the eyes of those unfamiliar with The Phenomenal One.
9 The Royal Rumble
To kick of the year, Vince McMahon revealed that the WWE Championship would be defended in the Royal Rumble match. Roman Reigns was the number one entrant and the current champion, while Rusev was number two, but the third entrant was the biggest surprise of all as A.J. Styles debuted on the main roster to a massive pop. Other notable entrants were Sami Zayn, Brock Lesnar, and the number 30 entrant, Triple H.
8 NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II - Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Samoa Joe
When Samoa Joe beat Finn Bálor and ended their feud with the NXT Championship around his waist, Shinsuke Nakamura was on the rise and was headed towards a feud with The Samoan Submission Machine. This title match irritated Joe, as it reminded him of when he defeated a lot of opponents and asked for a title shot, but was denied by General Manager William Regal. Joe than threatened to harm Nakamura, but the two wouldn’t touch until their main event match.
7 Backlash - A.J. Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
Once A.J. Styles defeated John Cena, everyone knew that the next logical step would be to pursue the WWE Championship. The buildup was a mix of comedy and seriousness with Styles demanding a trophy for winning against Cena in the form of the WWE Championship and Dean Ambrose making light of Styles calling him “the face that comes in second place.”
6 NXT Takeover: Dallas - Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe
The feud between Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor began in 2015 following the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament where Joe asked for a title shot against Bálor. When denied his opportunity, Joe attacked Bálor to make him angry enough to give him a title shot. The two men had a war at NXT Takeover: London which saw Bálor just barely come away with the victory. After fighting his way back into contention, Joe was eventually named the number one contender and the rematch was set for NXT Takeover: Dallas.
5 Money in the Bank - Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns
When Seth Rollins made his return at Extreme Rules 2016, the stage was set for him and Roman Reigns to have a fight for the WWE Championship. Fans desperately wanted Reigns as a heel and Rollins as a face, but the company kept the characters as they were. The match itself was confusing from a character standpoint because Reigns acted like a heel and Rollins acted somewhat like a face, but their characters didn’t reflect that.
4 Roadblock - Dean Ambrose vs. Triple H
Just before WrestleMania, the WWE decided to air this live event on the WWE Network. The story between these two men was that Dean Ambrose was on a mission to hijack WrestleMania and Triple H was up for the challenge. The two men cut some decent promos and had some nice brawls in the limited time they had to build for the show.
3 NXT Takeover: Toronto - Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Following Shinsuke Nakamura winning the title from Samoa Joe, Joe appeared to be humbled, saying Nakamura was a deserving champion and asking for a rematch. Nakamura would accept Joe’s offer only to be ambushed and brutally attacked to the point where Nakamura needed an ambulance. Joe then began decimating the NXT roster prompting Regal to give him the title or its champion, Nakamura. Joe would then be attacked by a returning Nakamura who brawled with Joe up and down the NXT arena. This escalated the feud from a feud about respect to two men out for blood.
2 TLC - Dean Ambrose vs. A.J. Styles
After A.J. Styles cheated to win the WWE Championship from Dean Ambrose, Ambrose made it his mission to get back at Styles. The weeks leading up to the TLC PPV had a lot of psychological games that came in the form of matches with James Ellsworth, screwjobs, and back and forth attacks. The two men had good singles matches before, but their TLC match was especially good.
1 Extreme Rules - A.J. Styles vs. Roman Reigns
After Roman Reigns defeated A.J. Styles at Payback, Shane and Stephanie McMahon booked the two combatants in a rematch at Extreme Rules. The storyline didn’t really change from Payback but it was turned up a notch with the inclusion of weapons and the back and forth physicality from both men. The buildup was good, but the match was easily one of the best matches the WWE had to offer for 2016.
The back and forth between the champion and challenger plus the innovation with weapons and other hard hitting spots made this match great. For every innovative, athletic maneuver Styles used, Reigns countered with huge feats of strength. The interference by the other Club members and The Usos was perfectly balanced and added to the story being told. The match ended when Reigns countered a Phenomenal Forearm with a Spear for the win. The match was fantastic, but the return of Seth Rollins made the show that much more interesting with the immediate presentation of Reigns' next threat.
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