WWE TLC 2012: Power Ranking WWE's 10 Greatest New York City PPVs of All Time
With the TLC pay-per-view set to give Brooklyn's Barclays Center its wrestling christening on Sunday night, it brought back memories of the many fantastic WWE events that have taken place in New York City. The vast majority of them have been staged at Madison Square Garden, but perhaps the Barclays Center will become an iconic WWE venue one day as well.
The TLC card is shaping up to be a good one with matches like John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Team Hell No vs. The Shield, Big Show vs. Sheamus and many others, but it will take a gargantuan effort for it to be considered one of the Big Apple's greatest WWE pay-per-views.
New York has always been considered WWE's home base, even as it has expanded into a global empire. The company's roots are in NYC and nobody is ever going to forget that. With that in mind, the WWE has held several of its top-level events in New York City over the years, so it's difficult to rank them accurately.
Even so, I gave it my best effort in whittling things down to the 10 greatest WWE pay-per-views to ever take place in the Big Apple.
10. SummerSlam 1988
Along with WrestleMania, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble, SummerSlam is one of the premier events on the WWE calendar. Not surprisingly, it all started at Madison Square Garden in 1988 as the inaugural summer classic was staged in midtown Manhattan.
While the in-ring action was somewhat of a mixed bag, the pure pageantry of the event lands it a spot on the list. There were several memorable moments, but the one that has truly stood the test of time was a 31-second match for the Intercontinental Championship.
The Honky Tonk Man had held the title for a record 454 consecutive days and challenged anyone to take him on. His challenge was met in spectacular fashion as The Ultimate Warrior ran to the ring, hit Honky Tonk with his signature offense and pinned him before the Elvis impersonator could even remove his jumpsuit.
Also, the main event between The Mega Powers, Hulk Hogan and Randy "Macho Man" Savage, and The Mega Bucks, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant, had plenty of historical significance as well. Hogan and Savage forged one of the most dominant alliances of all time as they came out on top, but things would ultimately explode between them and erode into a feud.
With all of that and plenty more, SummerSlam 1988 certainly got things off to a great start for one of the WWE's biggest events.
9. Survivor Series 2002
Although Survivor Series 2002 was an event that was a bit short when it came to top-level matches, the mere fact that it featured the first ever Elimination Chamber match allows it to register at No. 9 on this list. Not only was that particular match great, but it resulted in one of the best endings to a pay-per-view over the past decade.
The first Elimination Chamber bout in WWE history was for the World Heavyweight Championship and featured a cavalcade of stars in Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, Booker T and Kane. All of them either are or will be WWE Hall of Famers down the line, so it was among the most star-studded matches in recent memory.
The action was intense and highly entertaining as the contest lasted for nearly 40 minutes. Ultimately, it ended with Michaels hitting his best friend, Triple H, with Sweet Chin Music to win his first and only World Heavyweight Championship.
The fact that it was one of HBK's first matches in nearly five years made it feel even more special.
Fans were also treated to high-octane matches such as Los Guerreros vs. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit vs. Edge and Rey Mysterio for the Tag Team Championships in an elimination match. Additionally, the WWE Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Big Show was nothing to write home about, but it did feature Paul Heyman turning on his long-time protege.
On top of all that, Scott Steiner made his return to WWE and received one of the loudest pops you'll ever hear.
Survivor Series 2002 may not have provided the best overall card that New York City has ever seen, but there were plenty of memorable moments.
8. ECW One Night Stand 2006
ECW One Night Stand was an event that WWE held on four occasions with the first two taking place at Hammerstein Ballroom in the Big Apple. The 2006 edition of One Night Stand comes in at No. 8 and it will certainly always be remembered by ECW fans as a very special night.
There was plenty of great action, but the main event between Rob Van Dam and John Cena was something to behold.
RVD decided to cash in his Money in the Bank contract ahead of time, so Cena's WWE Championship was on the line. Not only was the match itself fantastic, but it was staged in front of a raucous crowd that was decidedly against the WWE's poster boy.
The fans made life miserable for Cena as they threw catcalls in his direction and booed mercilessly. There was even an infamous sign in the crowd that read "If Cena wins, we riot." We'll never know what would have actually happened had Cena won since RVD came out on top, but based on the way the fans reacted throughout the night, there might have been quite the melee.
The match itself came to an end when Edge interfered by spearing Cena through a table.
RVD then hit Cena with a frog splash and Paul Heyman delivered the count as the referee was knocked out. It was a fitting end to the event as an ECW original stood tall over a WWE guy.
Add in an extreme rules match between Rey Mysterio and Sabu, as well as a six-person tag match that saw Edge, Mick Foley and Lita defeat Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty, and there is no question that ECW One Night Stand 2006 was one of the WWE's best NYC events.
7. WrestleMania XX
In retrospect, many fans consider WrestleMania XX to be a disappointment when considering how great it could have been. But it was still a massive event with enough big moments to land at No. 7 in the countdown. The card was stacked with 12 matches and even though only a handful of them lived up to their full potential, it was WrestleMania that bears mentioning.
The main thing working against WrestleMania XX is the fact that many remember it for the awful match between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg.
That match should have been one of the best on the card, but since it was well known that both men were leaving the WWE afterwards, there was plenty of negative energy surrounding. Neither Lesnar nor Goldberg performed well and the match was considered a flop.
Aside from that, though, Eddie Guerrero beat Kurt Angle in a spectacular match to retain the WWE Championship. And in the main event, Chris Benoit beat Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a triple-threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The show closed with Guerrero and Benoit embracing while holding their titles. While it's still memorable, it has since been tainted by Benoit's murder-suicide in 2007.
Additionally, the show opened by providing the fans with John Cena's first big WrestleMania moment as he beat Big Show for the United States Championship. Also, Christian beat Chris Jericho in an entertaining bout and The Undertaker took out his brother, Kane.
All told, it was an event that showcased the WWE's depth, but it fell a bit short of expectations.
Any time WrestleMania is held in the Garden, though, it's impossible for the show to fall flat. When you consider the fact that the WWE has transitioned to larger venues for WrestleMania, the 2004 edition could very well represent the last one to ever be held in New York City itself.
That alone makes it special.
6. Survivor Series 1996
Since Survivor Series 1996 took place right before the explosion of the Attitude Era, it is often lost in the shuffle when mentioning great pay-per-views. That particular event, however, certainly helped set the stage for the most successful time period in wrestling history. It was a pivotal point in the respective careers of the WWE's two biggest Attitude Era stars.
Without question, the match of the night was a battle for the WWE Championship No. 1 contendership between Bret Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Just a few months prior, Austin's major push began as he won the King of the Ring tournament. His match against Hart at Survivor Series was the biggest of his WWE career to that point, and both men delivered. Hart won the match in spectacular fashion as he turned Austin's Million Dollar Dream into a pinning combination to pick up the victory.
It was only the beginning of the Austin vs. Hart rivalry, though, as Austin last eliminated Hart to win the 1997 Royal Rumble. They went on to face each other in the famous submission match at WrestleMania 13 that turned Austin face down.
Survivor Series 1996 also marked the debut of The Rock.
He was initially known as Rocky Maivia and he made a major impact as he eliminated both Crush and Goldust in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match and was the sole survivor of the match. He would change a lot over the next year or two, but it was the start of an incredible career.
On top of that, there was an entertaining match between The Undertaker and Mankind on the card. In the main event, Sycho Sid surprisingly defeated Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship. That match was notable because, despite his status as a heel, Sid was cheered by the New York crowd when he won the title.
It shouldn't have come as a shock, though, as NYC fans are anything but conventional.
5. ECW One Night Stand 2005
As good as ECW One Night Stand 2006 was, the original event in 2005 was extremely special because it was the first of its kind and it had a true ECW flavor that simply can't be manufactured. The first One Night Stand was also held in Hammerstein Ballroom and while it didn't have title stakes like the following year's show did, it was a much better representation of ECW.
Each and every match on the card had ECW roots and there wasn't a ton of WWE involvement.
The original One Night Stand was essentially a one-off pay-per-view that didn't receive storyline attention on WWE programming. The ECW guys were basically just told to go out there and perform, and that was something that they had no issue accomplishing.
All of the matches were great for one reason or another with Lance Storm vs. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero and The Dudley Boyz vs. Sandman and Tommy Dreamer getting special recognition. Perhaps the main highlights of the night, however, were the segments that came in between matches. There was a video package that paid tribute to former ECW stars who had passed away, there was an invasion from Raw superstars and there was a fantastic promo from Paul Heyman as well.
At the time, it seemed like One Night Stand would be a one-time event, so the fans and performers made it as special as they possibly could. Because it was so well-received, though, there would be three more One Night Stand pay-per-views after it.
All of them were good, but none approached the same energy level as the first one.
One Night Stand 2005 was as modest as a WWE pay-per-view could possibly be and there were only 2,500 fans at the small venue, but that is what made it so special. It didn't need any of the bells and whistles that WWE is known for. It was all about the fans and the ideals of ECW, so it was a truly amazing event.
4. WrestleMania I
If it wasn't for WrestleMania I, there would be no chance that the WWE and the wrestling business in general would be as popular as it is today.
Staging such a huge event was a major risk for Vince McMahon and his company may have gone under had he not been able to pull it off. But WrestleMania was an absolute success, and it is still going strong nearly 28 years later.
Comparing the WrestleMania I card to the others over the course of WWE history makes it look like a poor event. While the actual wrestling wasn't the greatest, WrestleMania I was more about the pomp and circumstance surrounding the show than anything else. It was meant to mix the worlds of professional wrestling and Hollywood, and it did that with great success as the WWE skyrocketed afterwards.
There is no doubt that WrestleMania I is best known for the main event that pitted Hulk Hogan and action star Mr. T against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff. Also, Muhammad Ali served as a special enforcer. Mr. T proved to be a good athlete and acquitted himself well, but the match was meant to entertain the fans based on the interactions rather than with great technical skills.
The rest of the card was hit-and-miss as well, but the $15,000 body slam match between Andre the Giant ad Big John Studd was good fun, with Andre throwing money into the crowd after the match and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan hilariously trying to salvage some of the cash.
WrestleMania I was a spectacle and the fact that it took place at Madison Square Garden made it even better.
While the WWE has since placed more emphasis on wrestling and storyline significance at WrestleMania over the years, McMahon still utilizes many of the same ideals that worked in the first one, such as celebrity involvement.
WrestleMania is a slice of Americana and it all started in New York City.
3. Royal Rumble 2000
The Royal Rumble has always been my favorite event on the WWE calendar and the 2000 edition of the pay-per-view was among the most entertaining ever.
The Rumble match itself was fairly basic, but it's always enjoyable to watch. Royal Rumble 2000 also played host to my favorite normal match on a Royal Rumble card, as Triple H took on Cactus Jack in a street fight for the WWE Championship.
The Triple H vs. Cactus Jack match was a brutal affair as there was a ton of animosity over the course of their feud. There were weapons galore, including a barbed wire 2x4 and thumbtacks. Triple H won the match by hitting Cactus Jack with a Pedigree on the thumbtacks, but in typical Cactus Jack fashion, he got the better of Triple H as he attacked him following the bout.
Although the Rumble match itself was fairly predictable, it was great to see The Rock win it.
Almost every top star in WWE history has won the Royal Rumble, so it was fitting that The Great One added that to his resume. He last eliminated Big Show to prevail and close the show on a high note. Another great moment came earlier in the match when Rikishi, Scotty Too Hotty and Grand Master Sexay were all in the ring at once. They performed their dance routine before Rikishi eliminated Too Cool.
While the Rumble match and Triple H vs. Cactus Jack stole the show, there were a couple other entertaining matches as well. The tables match between The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz was good fun as always. We even got a Miss Rumble bikini contest that was won by Mae Young as she hilariously flashed the fans and the judges.
The 2000 Royal Rumble exemplified the Attitude Era in many ways and that alone made it a fantastic show. Essentially every pay-per-view during that time period was good for one reason or another, but the New York atmosphere truly made this one special.
2. SummerSlam 1998
SummerSlam 1998 took place at the height of WWE's popularity and the show delivered in front of the NYC faithful at Madison Square Garden.
The entire card was solid, but there is no doubt that the final two matches in particular made it great. The Rock and Triple H did battle in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship, while the main event saw "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Undertaker go one-on-one for the WWE Championship.
I believe that Triple H and The Rock stole the show as they put on one of my favorite ladder matches of all time.
Neither Triple H nor The Rock had reached the pinnacle of the company yet, but both of them were rising stars who would go on to be considered two of the greatest WWE superstars ever. In a lot of ways, this particular match probably convinced the WWE brass that both men were ready for the big time, as The Rock went on to win the WWE Championship at Survivor Series and Triple H won it the following year.
The Austin vs. Undertaker match wasn't quite as captivating, but it was still a great brawl just as it was every time they faced off. They battled from start to finish and provided several memorable moments as they fought through the crowd. Taker hit Austin with a big leg drop on the announce table. Austin ultimately won the match by hitting Taker with a low blow. After the match, Taker handed Austin the belt as a sign of respect.
Along with those matches, The New Age Outlaws beat Mankind in a handicap, no disqualification match that provided some fun spots.
Ken Shamrock beat Owen Hart in a unique lion's den match that was supposed to mimic an MMA bout. Even the opening match between D'Lo Brown and Val Venis for the European Championship was action-packed.
Not were only there two top-notch matches in this particular crowd, but as was always the case during the Attitude Era, there was plenty of entertainment throughout the night. The WWE always delivered in 1998 and SummerSlam was one of the best events that year.
1. WrestleMania X
It may have taken place during a time period in which professional wrestling was in a recession, but WrestleMania X remains my favorite to this very day.
WrestleMania X took place at Madison Square Garden on March 20, 1994 and it was an event that should be required viewing for any wrestling fan. It was sandwiched between two successful eras, but it was a fantastic show in its own right.
Most importantly, WrestleMania X featured two of my favorite matches of all time. The main one was a ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship. While it wasn't the first ladder match in WWE, it was the one that made the ladder match concept popular. HBK has always been my favorite wrestler and I consider his performance in that match to be impeccable.
The show opened with an unbelievable encounter between Bret Hart and Owen Hart. Bret had tried to avoid having a match with Owen, but they finally met at WrestleMania X. It was a back-and-forth affair and the brothers obviously had unmatched chemistry in the ring. Owen shockingly came out on top as he rolled up Bret in one of the biggest WrestleMania upsets ever.
The match itself was the best WrestleMania opener of all time and perhaps the best pay-per-view opener ever.
If that wasn't enough, there were also two WWE Championship matches. Both Bret Hart and Lex Luger won the 1994 Royal Rumble as their feet touched at the same time. Because of that, they were each given a shot at the title. Hart had to face Owen in order to compensate for fatigue as Yokozuna defended his title against Luger earlier in the night. Yoko won by disqualification and that set up a main event of Hart vs. Yokozuna.
Hart won the match with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as the special guest referee and became WWE Champion once again.
The show closed with a jealous Owen looking on and vowing to make Bret pay. From top to bottom, WrestleMania X was an incredible event and the fact that it featured two five-star matches makes it the greatest WWE pay-per-view in New York City history.