WWE Network: 12 PPV Events Fans Must Watch After Network's Launch
Once the WWE Network launches on Feb. 24, marriages may be strained, personal hygiene may be abandoned and social interaction may dwindle as fans immerse themselves in the treasure trove of pay-per-views available.
The extensive archive will offer fans nostalgia and excitement in excess. Of all the ECW, WWE and WCW PPVs that fans can stream, there are 12 that feature such electric energy, outstanding undercards and classic matches that they beg to be watched.
In some cases, these are shows that will educate fans on wrestling history.
Others will bring up memories and have fans journey back to the primes of Hall of Famers. Great matches, both renowned and underrated, get events on this list. Star ratings from Wrestling Observer, via ProFightDB.com, help fans go straight to the classics.
From the night where Ricky Steamboat knocked off Ric Flair to the one where CM Punk left the WWE with its championship, here are the 12 pay-per-views most deserving of being devoured first on the WWE Network.
Chi-Town Rumble 1989
The Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat classic main event is reason enough to revisit this WCW pay-per-view, but the strong undercard is not something to skip.
The Road Warriors in their destructive prime were an enthralling sight. Fans who have only seen them as The Legion of Doom would be wise to check out their WCW work. On this night, they battled Steve Williams and Kevin Sullivan.
Lex Luger won the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship from Barry Windham in an excellent match.
Mike Rotunda vs. Rick Steiner and Sting vs. Butch Reed are solid offerings, but the real hidden treasure is the Loser Leaves NWA match pitting two teams who called themselves Midnight Express against each other. Jim Cornette's rivalry with Paul Heyman (then Paul E. Dangerously) provides a compelling energy, while Bobby Eaton and the other wrestlers provide the wrestling foundation for the bout.
As for the main event, Steamboat and Flair deliver one of the best matches in wrestling history. WWE fans often point to Steamboat vs. Randy Savage as an example of a near-perfect match, but Steamboat and Flair had a chemistry together that remains unparalleled.
It's a matchup of the playboy against the family man and good against evil, a clash that earned a five-star rating.
A series of underappreciated and lesser-known matches comprise the undercard; the main event is a five-star classic.
Just about everything worked for WCW at WrestleWar 1991. Lex Luger vs. Dan Spivey and Bobby Eaton vs. Brad Armstrong were both excellent. The tag team match between Itsuki Yamazaki and Mami Kitamura vs. Miki Hand and Miss A is a great introduction to the high quality of female Japanese wrestling.
Stan Hansen, Vader, Ron Simmons and Dustin Rhodes are among the other stars featured on the card.
After all that, WrestleWar '91 delivered a classic.
The WarGames match that capped the night off was a dramatic, intense and star-studded clash that is worth revisiting several times over. The team of Barry Windham, Ric Flair, Larry Zbysko and Sid Vicious battled Brian Pillman, Sting and The Steiner Brothers.
The amount of star power combined with the excitement those men cooked up in the two cages makes this a must-watch pay-per-view on its own.
Royal Rumble 1992
Ric Flair's Royal Rumble victory in 1992 remains the most beloved Rumble match ever.
The famous post-win promo, Bobby Heenan's stellar commentary and the WWE championship awaiting the winner of this match make this bout one of the best hours of WWE action. The field that sought to become the last man standing featured a bevy of Hall of Famers including Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, Ted DiBiase, Roddy Piper and Sgt. Slaughter.
Aside from Jim Neidhart and Owen Hart taking on The Orient Express, the rest of the undercard doesn't offer anything memorable even with Piper and The Legion of Doom involved.
Still, fans who haven't seen this Royal Rumble have to discover what everyone has been talking about. For those who have already watched it, there will be no need to convince them to travel back to Jan. 19, 1992.
Ignore the fact that Starrcade 1995 fizzled toward the end; there is so much fantastic wrestling beforehand that it's still a pay-per-view that should be among the first watched once the WWE Network launches.
Begin first with Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit, a stellar showing of mat wrestling and all-around skill. Wrestling Observer gave that bout four stars.
Sting taking on Kensuke Sasaki and Koji Kanemoto vs. Alex Wright are both excellent, as well. In between a pair of duds lies the event's true classic—Eddie Guerrero vs. Shinjiro Otani (4.25 stars). This was at a time when WCW's cruiserweight division carried the product in terms of in-ring quality.
Ric Flair and Randy Savage headlined this show, but it was lesser known names and wrestlers of immense talent that entertained the audience up until that main event.
This pay-per-view is a great example of why the WWE Network is going to deliver such a rich experience. Fans who have never heard of Sasaki or Kanemoto or have only seen clips of Liger in action will be transported back to some fine examples of their work.
This is again a case of big names clashing in a main event (Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan) that disappoints while the overall show is loaded with stirring in-ring work.
Dean Malenko and Ultimo Dragon's opening bout (4.5 stars) is enough reason to check Starrcade 1996 out. Malenko's mat excellence pairs perfectly with Ultimo Dragon's dynamic athletic ability. Both men had underwhelming WWE runs but produced a number of classics for WCW.
Before the show got bogged down with the nWo storyline, Justin Liger and Rey Mysterio worked magic together.
The additional reasons to revisit this pay-per-view include an overbooked, but well-worked bout between Chris Benoit and Jeff Jarrett, a tremendous pop for Eddie Guerrero and a glimpse of the greatness of Akira Hokuto.
Her title bout against Madusa is far from her greatest work, but it will be a fine appetizer for those unfamiliar with her work.
ECW Barely Legal 1997
Excitement buzzed as ECW produced its first pay-per-view.
Aside from the excellent matches and ECW-specific wrestlers, the reason to watch Barely Legal is to experience that buzz, that crackling energy born from an upstart promotion entering into the pay-per-view battle against WCW and WWE.
Rob Van Dam and Lance Storm delivered a good match. Taz and Sabu always produced something intriguing together. Seeing The Dudley Boyz in their pre-WWE days is interesting, as well.
The two matches that make this a must-watch, though, are the six-man tag match (4.5 stars) and the Three-Way Dance which earned four stars from Wrestling Observer.
In the former, bWo Japan battled Gran Hamada, The Great Sasuke and Masato Yakushiji in a high-flying, fast-paced match that was like watching some combination of acrobats and samurai. In the latter, Terry Funk, Sandman and Stevie Richards went at it in a memorable bout.
ECW, WCW and WWE pay-per-views all had a distinct feel to them, each of which fans should sample and savor.
Like an album that delivers from start to finish, ECW's Heatwave '98 entertained throughout the entire pay-per-view. Broken tables, passion and stars who peaked in ECW are among the many reasons to tune in.
Masato Tanaka and Mike Awesome's chemistry is among the best ECW had to offer. Their match this night (four stars) was a prime example of that, a hard-fought battle that on its own is worth seeking out this show.
In addition, Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible worked an excellent opening match, Lance Storm and Chris Candido impressed and Rob Van Dam and Sabu battled for the tag team title. Aside from Tanaka vs. Awesome, the show's gem is Bam Bam Bigelow taking on Taz, which garnered 3.75 stars from Wrestling Observer.
Those warriors enthralled in a Falls Count Anywhere match for the FTW Heavyweight Championship.
When Ric Flair and Chris Jericho are involved in one of the two least entertaining matches, you know you have a great pay-per-view on your hands.
The match card is teeming with intriguing showdowns, even before Brock Lesnar's memorable title win over The Rock. Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio (3.75 stars) and Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit (3.5 stars) are both underrated bouts that will be a joy to discover or rediscover.
Add an Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero battle and The Rock vs. Lesnar and there's already plenty of reason to load this show up.
The classic that is the jewel of SummerSlam 2002 is Shawn Michaels' first match after a four-year layoff. There is an infectious excitement in the crowd in seeing Michaels return and "The Show Stopper" delivered in a big way.
His Street Fight with Triple H (4.25 stars) remains one of SummerSlam's best, combining brutality and drama, skill and showmanship to produce excellence.
Fans are likely to watch a bunch of WrestleManias once the WWE Network is up and running, but "The Showcase of the Immortals" from 2003 is so overloaded with greatness that it has to be on every fan's list.
Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho stole the show early with a classic bout. The "young lion looking to knock off the pride leader" storyline elevated the excellent ring work those two men produced.
WrestleMania XIX also features a good match between Triple H and Booker T, Hulk Hogan walloping Vince McMahon in a Street Fight and the third installment of The Rock vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania. Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar capped it all off with one of their many classic contests together.
Lesnar's famous botched Shooting Star Press is what many folks remember about that match, but their great chemistry, guts and skill made for one of the best bouts in the event's history. Both Lesnar vs. Angle and Michaels vs. Jericho earned a 4.25 star rating from Wrestling Observer.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, you'd be wise to see why John Powell of Slam! Sports said of the show, "It will surely go down as one of the best WrestleManias ever."
One Night Stand 2005
The merging of the remnants of a rebel promotion and wrestling's front-runner created magic.
One has to witness the electricity that the crowd in the Hammerstein Ballroom created at the first One Night Stand pay-per-view. Every move of every match felt so much more significant because of that energy.
The wrestlers more than did their part, as well.
One Night Stand 2005 began with Lance Storm and Chris Jericho delivering an outstanding opener. The fact that those two men have been wrestling together since learning the craft in Alberta, Canada showed in their stellar chemistry.
Sabu, Rhyno, Rey Mysterio and Super Crazy followed with some solid bouts.
The next three matches were all show-stealers in their own right. Masato Tanaka and Mike Awesome had one of their best bouts together, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero excelled as foes and The Dudley Boyz fought The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer.
The star ratings for those matches are good, 4.25, 3.25 and 3.25 respectively, but the concept of the show and the passion of the crowd watching it elevates this to must-watch status.
No Mercy 2008
Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels' ladder match was so incredible, it's easy to forgot how good the rest of No Mercy 2008 was.
Fans who pop open this pay-per-view to see the best match and the climax of the best feud of 2008 will also be treated to a compelling battle between Big Show and The Undertaker, as well as Triple H and Jeff Hardy's standout WWE title bout.
The rest of the undercard ranges from nothing special to fine, but the show ends with such a run of excellence that it calls out to be rewatched. That runs starts with a battle of big men and ends with a match that earned 4.5 stars and remains one of the best ladder matches of all time.
Money in the Bank 2011
It hasn't been that long since Money in the Bank 2011 sucked in and hypnotized WWE fans, but it's too good not to revisit.
It began with a Money in the Bank ladder match that saw Daniel Bryan emerge as the winner and Wrestling Observer dole out four stars. Skip over Kelly Kelly vs. Brie Bella and Big Show vs. Mark Henry to get to the next Money in the Bank ladder match.
Alberto Del Rio outlasted The Miz, Rey Mystero and others in a match (3.75 stars) that was nearly as exciting as the opener.
Christian and Randy Orton put on one of their many classic bouts of 2011, as well. It's not quite as intense as their SummerSlam clash that year, but it's far more than just an appetizer for the main event between CM Punk and John Cena.
The Chicago fans response to Punk's entrance is a magic moment that should be experienced again. What followed was the first WWE match to get a five-star rating in over a decade.
One of the most complete WWE shows in recent memory will no doubt get a ton of play on the WWE Network. Punk, Cena, Christian, Orton and the ladder match participants will make it more than worth it to spend three hours reliving it all.