The pay-per-view business has been one of the big revenue-generating ideas for the WWE over the past couple of decades.
It all started with just one: WrestleMania. The first one was done through movie theaters, and after that, was shown on PPV as well.
Then, Survivor Series was added in 1987. After the success of the first three WrestleMania events, the company doubled their pay-per-view events by throwing in five-on-five elimination matches.
The following year, 1988, saw the debut of the rest of the Big 4: the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam. Since then, these four have been mainstays, while other shows have been added or removed around them.
In 2011, there were a total of 13 pay-per-view events produced by the WWE. While it is definitely too much, the money made from them makes it difficult to scale back. Rumors of shows appearing on the WWE Network have surfaced, but that is at least a year away.
Now, I embark on the near-impossible task of power ranking the 25 best pay-per-view shows in the past 25 years. When it is all said and done, I would love to hear your opinions about how you would rank and what shows you would include.
Inevitably, I will forget some that others think deserves the honor of being on the list, so make sure to share your choices in the comment section!
Let's get started.
Here are a few of the events that I seriously considered, but in the end, they are barely on the outside looking in:
WrestleMania X-8: Rock vs. Hogan was an amazing atmosphere, but the rest of the card wasn't enough to back it up, and the main event was a disappointment
WrestleMania XXV: Almost the same deal. HBK and Taker may very well have the greatest match in history, and while other matches on the card were OK, it was clearly a one-match show. WM 12 and 13 fall into this same category.
WrestleMania I: It started it all, but it also sucked wrestling-wise.
SummerSlam 1994: Owen vs. Bret was one of the best cage matches ever, but why wasn't it the main event? The show was ruined by a terrible Undertaker-fake Taker storyline.
In Your House- Badd Blood: The first ever Hell in a Cell match and the debut of Kane, but the rest of the card was lame at best.
King of the Ring 1998: Once again, memorable for Mankind and the Hell in a Cell, but that's about it.
And that is just to name a few.
After a disappointing Royal Rumble that saw two title matches later on the card then Rey Mysterio's emotional win, No Way Out was a pleasant surprise.
A cruiserweight open started the match, with Greg Helms defending his title once again while holding it for upwards of a year. The show followed with okay matches from JBL vs. Lashley and Matt Hardy and Tatanka vs. Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro.
Then, the show got pretty damn good.
Chris Benoit beat Booker T in a great match for the U.S. Championship, and it is another contest from Benoit that will never be recognized again. Orton and Mysterio battled for Rey's WrestleMania spot, and Randy got the win with a roll-up to gain that opportunity. They would split the spotlight in a triple threat match.
Then came the goods: Angle vs. Undertaker.
By all means, this should have been the WrestleMania match. It was an excellent technical bout that people may not have expected from the two at that point in their careers. The match was almost a half hour, and when it was all said and done, Angle got the pin while being caught in the triangle choke.
Unfortunately for Taker, he would move on to face Mark Henry in a casket match. Not the best one of his streak.
WrestleMania III makes it onto this list due to its historical significance. While the attendance is most likely inflated, the event drew 93,000 people. Hulk vs. Andre was a huge battle that people were paying plenty of money to see.
But when we get down to it, the match itself was terrible.
The saving grace of this show is the excellent Intercontinental Championship match between Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage. Having planned out each move far in advance, the chemistry between the two was off the charts, and each near fall was suspenseful.
But, like most of the early WrestleManias, there were lots of filler matches to get to the ones you wanted to see. And while Hulk bodyslamming the Giant was a huge deal, everything else about the match was downright bad.
So, for historical purposes, this gets a mention on this list. But this is as high as it will go on the rankings.
The opening two matches and final two contests made this PPV one of the better ones in history.
Things got started with a tag team title defense by Edge and Christian, defeating Road Dogg and X-Pac. Afterwards, the oft-forgotten about light-heavyweight title was defended by Dean Malenko, beating Scotty 2 Hotty in a rare, excellent PPV match.
After a couple more tag team matches and a title defense of the European Championship by Eddie Guerrero, the show picked up again.
Not suprisingly, Jericho and Benoit locked up for the Intercontinental title, and although the bout ended in a disqualification, it was a great showing by two great wrestlers.
The main event was the Rock vs. Triple H, with Shane McMahon as the ref. Also looming was the possibility of Stone Cold appearing for the first time in months and whether or not the Rock could trust him.
In the end, the Rock took care of Shane, Austin returned and took out everyone but the Great One, allowing him to win the championship. The crowd was insanely hot throughout, and that made the match and the show as a whole that much better.
While the first half of this show was not memorable, the three main events of the night were some of the best you will see anywhere.
In this era of brand-specific pay-per-views, it was rare to see both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships defended on a "B-level" show. This was one of those rare nights. Add in the Shawn Michaels-Kurt Angle rematch from WrestleMania 21 and a Hell in a Cell, and you have got a pretty sweet card.
HBK and Angle delivered like they always do, and the triple threat between Cena, Jericho, and Christian was one of the better ones we have seen.
The main event was Hell in a Cell, and it was the third time Batista and Triple H would battle. For all the times that people say the Game hogs the spotlight and the wins, he gave Batista three straight wins on PPV's.
This Hell in a Cell contest was their best by far, and the brutality included a new weapon: a barbed-wire steel chair. Once this rivalry was done, Batista was without a doubt a superstar.
So this was the night Triple H pedigreed Cactus Jack onto a thousand thumbtacks.
Are you kidding me?
Only Mick Foley would be sick enough to OK a spot like that. It was the last one in an amazing WWE Championship match that transformed Triple H into the Game. He has Foley to thank for that change.
The opening saw the debut of Tazz to a raucous crowd in Madison Square Garden. The crowd also bore witness to tables galore, as the Dudleys and the Hardy Boyz went through almost 10 tables in 10 minutes.
The Royal Rumble match featured the Rock and the Big Show as the big favorites. They both went over the top rope at the same time, but the Rock hung on and won the match, even though it was later proven that Rock hit the ground first.
Jerry "the King" Lawler added hysterical commentary, especially at times like this.
Here is a case of a card having so much potential and falling a bit short.
Nonetheless, it was still a great PPV. Except for the divas contest and the horrendous Hart vs. McMahon debacle, the rest of the matches were good, even if they did fall short of expectations.
The Money in the Bank match was crowded, and Punk vs. Mysterio should have gotten more time, considering it was the best six-minute match you will ever see.
The tag-team match was a whole lot of nothing, while Triple H and Randy Orton turned in good performances.
The three main events, however, were able to deliver and turn this into one of the better WrestleManias in history.
Jericho vs. Edge had a great World Heavyweight Championship match, but they could have done better, and the crowd was still reeling from the Hart vs. McMahon contest.
Cena and Batista had a hard-fought contest with some excellent near falls. This night, however, was all about Shawn Michaels.
A year after having one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history, HBK and Taker delivered another match that some say was better than their previous bout. In the end, the Streak remained intact, and it was a heartfelt goodbye for one of the greatest wrestlers ever.
One of the most important factors in determining the success of a pay-per-view is its flow. No Mercy 2008 is a great example of that.
As the night went on, the matches got progressively better, which is exactly how a show should go. Unlike WrestleMania XXVI, the crowd was into every match, with the three main events once again being the highlight of the show.
The Undertaker vs. Big Show was the first of three, which Show won with a knockout punch. While the other matches were not so hot, this was the exception. A great big man battle ended with a surprising loss for the Deadman.
Next up was a great WWE championship match with Triple H and Jeff Hardy. This one was straight-up storytelling and psychology, with Hardy hitting the high-flying moves at the end even after Trips countered them early on. Trips picked up the win that night, but Hardy would finally gain the title at the Armageddon PPV.
Finally was the main event, a culmination of one of the best feuds of the decade: Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels in a ladder match. Both men gave it their all, and the suspense was sky high until the last second, when Y2J pulled out the victory. It was an excellent ending to a fantastic feud between a current and future Hall-of-Famer.
WrestleMania XX is an event that felt like the big shows of the 80s: There were matches you wanted to see, but you would have to sit through plenty of filler contests on the way.
Highlights of the early part of the card included Christian vs. Chris Jericho and Evolution vs. The Rock and Mick Foley. For the Great One, it would be his last match in the WWE until he returned to the ring at Survivor Series this past year.
The infamous Goldberg vs. Lesnar contest followed after a couple more filler matches, and it probably ranks as one of the worst WrestleMania matches ever. Big thanks to Stone Cold for making it watchable.
The final highlights of the show came in the form of the two title matches and the return of the Undertaker. Although the Deadman's re-emergence was an excellent entrance, his match was not much of anything. Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle put on a WM worthy title match, and Eddie won with a sweet little roll-up.
Finally, the best WrestleMania triple threat match took place, with Chris Benoit prevailing against Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Of course, it has been erased from the company's memory, but the image of Eddie and Chris celebrating at the end of the show was an emotional moment.
Nonetheless, the decision to make this show five hours long takes this down the list, along with the large amount of filler matches.
For the first and only time, the Royal Rumble match was for the WWE Championship. With any occurrence in the late 80s and early 90s, Hulk Hogan is immediately deemed the favorite. But on this night, he would not gain the title he so often held.
Ric Flair would last over an hour in the Rumble match and win the title. It was his first in the WWE after being successful in almost every other promotion around. It was an amazing moment for one of the best wrestlers in the business.
Although the focus of the show was on the Rumble match, there were still a couple of good matches on the undercard. The Intercontinental and Tag Team titles were defended, and the opening contest of Jim Neidhart and Owen Hart vs. Kato and Tanaka was a great way to start off the show.
But in the end, it was all about the Nature Boy.
WrestleMania 21 is an intriguing pay-per-view that could have been so much more. If the show ended after the HBK-Angle match, this could be in the top five.
However, it was the last three matches that drag this ranking down. The whole Big Show-Akebono sumo idea was a dud, and while the two title matches were significant in that Batista and Cena both rose to the top at the same time, the matches themselves were not so great.
The undercard, on the other hand, was fantastic.
The opening contest was Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero, and you know great things will happen when they are in the ring together. It was followed by the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match, which is still the best in my mind alongside WrestleMania 23.
The Undertaker and Randy Orton had a great match, and after the women's championship, Angle and HBK went at it for almost a half hour.
If the main events were better, we would be talking about this PPV as one of the elite WrestleManias. It still is one of the best, but it could have been that much more.
This PPV will forever be known as the show that debuted Tables, Ladders and Chairs. But the card itself was pretty damn good as well.
The TLC contest was brutal and fast-paced, turning it into one of the best stipulation matches in the company. All six men put their bodies on the line, and they would do it again eight months later at WrestleMania.
The match that proceeded it was yet another great Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit bout. This time, it was two out of three falls, and those guys could wrestle all damn day.
The main event was not too shabby either. This was a triple threat match between The Rock, Kurt Angle and Triple H. The Great One had the title, and Angle and the Game had Stephanie in between them. A bit of a different storyline, but it still played out to be a great triple threat contest.
In terms of buildup, WrestleMania 23 is up there with one of the best. If the card followed through fully, this would also be much higher on the list.
Yes, both championship matches were more than good, but the timing and placement of them was a bit suspicious. Specifically, the Undertaker vs. Batista contest took place way too early in the night and should have been given another five minutes.
Nonetheless, they made the best of the time given and had a great championship match.
The main event of Cena vs. Michaels was good, but it was overshadowed by their free Raw match three weeks later. When matches on your weekly television show are better than main events on your biggest PPV of the year, everything is backwards.
The opening contest was probably the best Money in the Bank ladder match ever, won by Mr. Kennedy. Of course, we all know how that ended up.
Throw in celebrity involvement with Donald Trump and a solid U.S. Championship match, and you get a show which is in the upper echelon of WrestleManias.
The Royal Rumble match itself is one of the best in history. Tons of star power was featured, with the focus on Kane, Undertaker, the Rock and Stone Cold. It was the night that Kane would eliminate 11 guys and come up just short of the win.
The undercard, however, is what gets this show on the list.
After a decent tag team title match opened the PPV, one of the better ladder matches in history followed, with Chris Jericho taking on Chris Benoit. Y2J would go on to win the hard-fought contest, which featured the use of the Walls of Jericho on top of the ladder.
There was also a good WWE title match between Kurt Angle and Triple H. Stone Cold would cost the Game the match, and that would lead to a Three Stages of Hell match at the next PPV.
Not only did this show feature the first major ladder match, but it also showcased the best opening match in the history of pay-per-views.
Bret Hart would compete for the WWE Championship later on that night, but it would not stop him from fighting his brother in the first bout of the show. Owen had turned on Bret and was looking to be the better brother, and Bret was ready to battle.
After 20 minutes of excellent action, Owen would persevere with a victory roll. Not all was lost for Bret, as he would beat Yokozuna for the title to end the show.
In between was HBK vs. Razor Ramon in one of the best ladder matches you will ever see. When we think of the legendary Shawn Michaels, it is matches like these that we point to that display his amazing talent and charisma.
While he would not win the match, he started to create the moniker of Mr. WrestleMania and would go on to an amazing career.
Speaking of HBK, he had a pretty good night here too.
Inside the first ever Elimination Chamber match, Shawn Michaels would defeat former best friend Triple H, fighting through five other guys, a horrible outfit and a terrible haircut.
The first Elimination Chamber still stands as the one with the most talent. It featured The Game, HBK and Jericho for starters. The supporting cast was not so bad either, with Kane, Booker T and Rob Van Dam rounding out the crew.
Everyone remembers this show for the Chamber, but what about the undercard? It was extremely strong and featured a couple of great tag team matches. Also, the Big Show won the championship from Brock Lesnar after Paul Heyman stupidly decided that he had a better chance of success with the Big Show than with the Next Big Thing.
Although he would drop the title at the next PPV, this match would help HBK come back to work full-time. Interestingly, it would be the last time Shawn would win a major championship.
This was the last WrestleMania held inside an arena, but it still had a big-time feel. More time was spent on in-ring action, and entrances were much more elaborate, like they should be.
This was also the first time that John Cena had the majority of the crowd against him. The fans in Chicago were heel-happy, and they gave Triple H all the love that night. In the end, it was a good main event, and Cena retained once again.
The World Heavyweight Championship match was excellent, but since it was only given 10 minutes, it could have been so much better. The undercard is where the story was on this night.
Shawn Michaels had a surprisingly excellent no holds barred match against Vince McMahon. The Money in the Bank match was great as always.
But in the end, Edge and Mick Foley stole the show with a hardcore match and a table lit on fire. Now that is one way to end a hell of a contest.
All of these factors put it into the top 10 best pay-per-views in the past 25 years.
The focus of the card featured the three men in the picture taking on three new wrestlers in the main event scene. The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle, Triple H vs. Chris Jericho in a Last Man Standing match and The Rock vs. Chris Benoit for the title were the main events.
But before we get to that, know this one fact: On this night, Rikishi hit a crossbody on Val Venis off the top of a steel cage. It that does not blow your mind, I don't know what will.
Anyway, Taker vs. Angle was somewhat of a dud since they were playing up the angle (no pun intended) backstage throughout the show. But the other two main events delivered in a HUGE way.
Jericho and Trips had the best Last Man Standing match ever. The Game was a hated heel that was so good at dealing out punishment. Jericho got a huge boost after this match, and these two told a great story with that stipulation.
The actual main event of Rock vs. Benoit was great as well. Benoit had Shane McMahon in his corner, who was obviously not over the events of Backlash earlier in the year. At one point, it seemed Chris won the title, but the match was restarted.
This is an excellent PPV that is not really remembered since it was the last of its kind. Definitely check it out if you have not seen it before.
Although this happened pretty recently, it can still be ranked as one of the best in the past two-plus decades due to an excellent undercard and an incredible payoff in the main event from the angle of the year.
Punk became a superstar with his apparent departure from the WWE and the promos before the show. The match itself lasted about 33 minutes, and it showed that Cena is a great wrestler when he does not fall into predictable patterns. The crowd was the hottest of the year and was hanging on every single move.
The undercard was great as well, with two excellent MITB matches. The World Heavyweight Championship match was excellent also, even though Christian and Orton were fighting for the third PPV in a row. Christian won the title on a disqualification, a unique stipulation in that match.
Like Punk is to Cena, Christian seemed to bring out the best in Orton during their series of matches. Everyone brought their A-game on this night, and it delivered with the best PPV since 2008.
This is another event with great match sequence, flow, and action. As hated as Floyd Mayweather Jr. is, there is no denying that his match against the Big Show was pretty damn entertaining.
After another solid MITB ladder match, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair had their career threatening match. It was the most emotional moment of the year, with Flair getting an amazing sendoff at a time when we all thought he was done with wrestling for good.
Along with the celebrity match, the two title matches were solid as well. Actually, the triple threat match was solid, and the World Heavyweight Championship main event was excellent. Edge and Taker showed awesome chemistry on that night, and it provided for a great end to a big-time PPV.
Just as important was the presentation of the show. WrestleMania should have a big-time feel, and the great pyrotechnics setup delivered that atmosphere. With the show returning to an outdoor Florida stadium this year, these extraordinary displays will hopefully return again.
Unless the WWE changes their stance, it does not seem that we will have a pay-per-view in England for the time being. It is a real shame, because Wembley Stadium provided for quite an amazing environment.
Something else we will not be seeing anytime soon is the Intercontinental Championship main-eventing a show. In one of the greatest IC matches of all-time, the British Bulldog was able to defeat Bret Hart in front of 80,000 of his hometown fans.
Many of the great shows are made by the atmosphere, and this was one of the best of all time. On top of that great main event was the rematch between Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior. Their retirement match occurred over a year prior, and this was the first time these two would be back in a ring against one another.
Those two matches alone are enough to make a great show. Throw in 80,000 people in Wembley Stadium and a couple of other solid contests, and you have one of the best pay-per-views of all time.
Welcome to the top five! Kicking off this portion of the list, surprisingly, is a "B-level" PPV.
For years, No Way Out was the bridge between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. While it is usually just used as a stepping stone, the 2001 edition delivered one of the best shows of the decade.
The highlight of this show was the BRUTAL three stages of hell match between Triple H and Stone Cold. Forty-five minutes of aggression ensued between these two, who had no love lost for the entire year prior. It was the culmination of a feud that had to end now before Austin moved on to the championship match at WrestleMania.
The ending was perfect. Trips got the win, but only because he fell onto Austin. It kept both men looking extremely strong heading into the biggest show of the year.
Another hidden gem was the main event of the night, featuring the Rock winning the WWE Championship from Kurt Angle. The two guys were able to keep the fans entertained and into the contest, even after the excellent match from Trips and Austin.
Other matches on the card were an excellent fatal four-way contest for the Intercontinental Title and a surprisingly good match from Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. Even the tag title table match was entertaining throughout.
It had all the elements of a great PPV, and the show delivered more than anyone could have imagined.
Well, the Undertaker's match on this night sucked, but there was a pillow fight to make up for it!
Although Triple H had an OK match with Booker T for the World Heavyweight Championship, just about everything else on the card was awesome. In particular, this was the year Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels went at it for bragging rights.
Shawn won and returned to the WWE full-time, but it can be argued that Jericho stole the match on this night.
Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon does not sound so great, but they turned it into quite the spectacle with blood and interference.
The final two matches of the night were gold as well. The Rock and Stone Cold squared off in their third and final WrestleMania match, with the Brahma Bull finally getting the upper hand. It would be the last wrestling match for Stone Cold, and he got the floor as the Rock left quickly after his win.
Finally was the dream technical match between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. Yes, chances are it will only be remembered for the failed shooting star press, but everything else about it was WrestleMania caliber.
Not enough people talk about this as a great WrestleMania. It deserves this recognition as being one of the best ever.
Not many people talk or remember this show, but it is one of the best pay-per-views ever put on by the WWE.
Hence the name, the show took place in Calgary, Alberta, and the fans went absolutely nuts for the Hart Foundation. The main event was a 10-man tag team match featuring them against Stone Cold, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and the Legion of Doom.
The crowd was absolutely insane all night, and they were fully behind their hometown heroes in the main event. It was a continuation of the Hart-Austin feud, as the great submission match at WrestleMania 13 had already taken place.
If you have not seen this match, do it now. The entire PPV is excellent, even though there were only four matches. HHH and Mankind went at it and brawled throughout the majority of the show. An excellent contest with The Great Sasuke vs. Taka Michinoku was followed by a surprisingly entertaining WWF Championship match between Taker and Vader.
This is a great show that deserves its recognition as being in the top three pay-per-views every produced by the company.
Every single match on this show was solid, and some much better than that. The crowd was psyched, a legend returned, and a torch was passed. Everything you would want from a pay-per-view was delivered in the form of SummerSlam 2002.
The opening match was Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio. If that type of talent is kicking off the show, things are gonna get pretty good. Matches that followed are all ones a fan would want to see: Flair vs. Jericho, Edge vs. Guerrero and RVD vs. Benoit. While Jericho and Flair could have done better, the other two were great contests.
After a solid tag team contest and a match from Taker, it was the in-ring return of Shawn Michaels. And man, did he deliver. No one could have ever seen a match like the one he gave against Triple H. It was truly an amazing moment, and it helped Triple H get even more heat when he attacked HBK with the sledgehammer after the contest.
Finally was the passing of the torch between the Rock and Brock Lesnar. The fans were firmly on Lesnar's side, even though he was technically the bad guy. The Rock played up the boos during the match and gave Lesnar all he could handle. In the end, Brock was just too much, and the young star got his big moment.
Without a doubt, this is almost the greatest PPV by the WWE in the past 25 years. And I say almost because this one is left .....
This was the height of the World Wrestling Federation, and it is capped off with the best PPV from the company in the past two-plus decades.
The main event of Rock vs. Austin was in the making for a long time, and it was the match everyone wanted to see. It is very rare that two legends of the business are in their prime at the exact same time. We had the pleasure of watching these two battle in their best match against one another.
TLC II. Who would have thought they could get better from their first battle? Well, it did, and it was brutal. It basically turned into a nine-person tag team match with Lita, Spike and Rhyno, but that only added to the mayhem.
WrestleMania X-7 was also the first encounter between the Undertaker and Triple H. The only reason these two wrestled each other is because they had nothing else to do. It resulted in an all-out brawl and a really fun contest.
Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit put on a great match, and they would continue to do so, specifically at the 2003 Royal Rumble. Vince vs. Shane was surprisingly entertaining, while Jericho vs. Regal was a good way to get the night started. Even the hardcore match with Kane, the Big Show and Raven was an entertaining contest.
Ladies and gentlemen, it does not get better than WrestleMania X-7 in the WWE.
Check out my power-rankings of all the Undertaker's WrestleMania matches at this link.