Bill Goldberg pins Scott Hall in WCW
One of the best things about the introduction of the WWE Network is that fans will now have easy access to a lot of wrestling history at their fingertips, starting with an archive of every WWE, WCW, and ECW pay-per-view event. For younger fans this is a big deal, especially for stuff they're unfamiliar with.
Personally, I was a huge WCW fan. So if you're wondering what PPVs to watch, here are some of the best to start out with. Note that this is not a ranked list, just some of the best shows in chronological order.
Let's get on with it!
What: The first PPV after Turner Broadcasting (now parent company of Bleacher Report) bought Jim Crockett Promotions, the company that became WCW.
Why: The three PPV events that JCP put on were a mixed bag, but Starrcade '88 was a really good show and arguably the best pro wrestling PPV event in general up to that point. Aside from The Russian Assassins vs. Junkyard Dog and Ivan Koloff, there are no bad matches on the card, and multiple very good to great ones.
Key Matches: Rick Steiner's TV title win over Mike Rotunda is one of the first great moments in WCW history. Barry Windham vs. Bam Bam Bigelow is a great bout with an absolutely fantastic performance by Windham when he was at his absolute peak. If you want to know why he was a great wrestler, this is a fine place to start. The Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger main event is one of the very best matches of their long-running feud, if not the very best, and shows Luger was actually a heck of an underrated wrestler.
What: The first WCW PPV of 1989, their greatest in-ring year.
Why: An excellent show main evented by one of the greatest matches of all time.
Key Matches: While the show gets off to a slow start with Michael Hayes vs. Russian Assassin, it picks up quickly. Keep an eye on Sting vs. Butch Reed; while criticized at the time, it ages well as a showcase of Sting's athleticism. The last four matches are all title matches and all at least good. Barry Windham vs Lex Luger for the U.S. title is fantastic, a wonderful match that gets better every time I watch it, while the Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat main event for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship is literally one of the greatest matches of all time. Arguably the best match of the most famous iteration of their feud, it's a fast-paced, physical battle enhanced by the always hot Chicago crowd.
What: The greatest PPV of all time.
Why: The greatest PPV of all time.
Key Matches: Most of them. The first few matches, including the opening two-ring battle royal, are fun but nothing special. Everything that follows is pretty special. Jim Cornette takes on Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) in a Tuxedo Match, which is the greatest manager match in wrestling history. The Steiner Brothers team for the first time against the Varsity Club in a wild Texas Tornado tag team match that's all action.
It gets even better for the last four matches. Sting vs. The Great Muta is like two superheroes flying around. Lex Luger gives his finest performance in an incredible match with Ricky Steamboat. WarGames makes an appearance in fine form with The Midnight Express, The Road Warriors, and Steve Williams against the Samoan Swat Team and The Fabulous Freebirds. In the main event, Ric Flair has a crazy brawl with Terry Funk that's unlike any other Flair match you've seen, and they're joined afterwards by Sting and Muta for a long brawl that goes all over the Baltimore Arena.
Also: Ric Flair's closing interview covered in Muta's green mist and his own blood is one of his best.
I first saw this show when renting the home video version while home sick from school, and the memory sticks with me to this day. An untouchable, unforgettable card.
What: WCW's first PPV of 1990, featuring a last-minute main event change when Sting blew out his knee.
Why: A very good show made great by two of the best WCW matches ever.
Key Matches: Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger is their greatest match together, a near-40 minute epic booked on the fly when Sting blew his knee out a couple weeks earlier. On the undercard, The Rock 'n' Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express is the best televised match of the the greatest tag team feud in wrestling history, full of action, comedy, and great double-team moves.
Also: The WrestleWar rap. "HEY HOMEBOY!" That is all.
What: The first WCW PPV of 1991.
Why: A very good undercard with another WarGames, one of the best WCW matches ever as the main event.
Key Matches: Bobby Eaton vs. Brad Armstrong, the Japanese women's tag team match, Dustin Rhodes vs. Buddy Landel, Terrance Taylor vs. Tom Zenk, Stan Hansen vs. Vader, and Lex Luger vs. Dan Spivey are all very good. WarGames, with The Four Horsemen (though Larry Zbyszko steps in for an injured Arn Anderson) vs. Sting, Brian Pillman, and The Steiner Brothers, is indeed a bloody war, frequently cited as the best WarGames.
Also: You can't see it, but the dark match features Eddie Guerrero.
What: WrestleWar again!
Why: Arguably the best PPV of...well, maybe it's tied with 1989 for WCW's best in-ring year. An iffy undercard turns into a great show with three excellent matches in the end.
Key Matches: The Steiner Brothers vs. Tatsumi Fujinami and Takayuki Iizuka is borderline unprofessional on the Steiners' part with how they treat Iizuka, but it's still an excellent match that's a must-see for fans of the Steiners or that kind of suplex-heavy, hard-hitting style. Brian Pillman vs. Tom Zenk is a nice, Americanized twist on the New Japan Pro Wrestling junior heavyweight style. The main event, Sting's Squadron vs. The Dangerous Alliance in WarGames, is likely the best match in the history of the gimmick, an amazing, bloody brawl with incredible drama.
What: The first WCW PPV of 1993.
Why: Easily WCW's best PPV of a year that quickly fell off a cliff afterwards.
Key Matches: Too Cold Scorpio vs. Chris Benoit is the best junior heavyweight match in WCW until the launch of the cruiserweight division in 1996. The Rock 'n' Roll Express vs. The Heavenly Bodies is an excellent tag team match that's basically a renewal of the Rock 'n' Roll Express vs. Midnight Express feud with Tom Prichard in Bobby Eaton's place. Cactus Jack vs. Paul Orndorff is a very good brawl. The main event, Sting vs. Vader in a Strap match, is arguably the best match of their amazing feud and is easily the best Strap match you'll ever seen.
Also: The above mini-movie was produced to promote this show. In theory. Plus, you should check out Great American Bash '92 and Starrcade '92 for the previous two Sting-Vader matches.
What...seriously, what: It's hard to separate these two shows, as two of the best matches on both are part of continuous feuds.
Why: Two of WCW's best PPVs came back to back.
Key matches: Both shows feature great brawls between Dustin Rhodes and Bunkhouse Buck as well as The Nasty Boys vs. Cactus Jack and a partner (first Maxx Payne, then Kevin Sullivan). Other quality matches at Spring Stampede include Lord Steven (William) Regal vs. Brian Pillman is a nice technical match, Vader vs. The Boss (Big Bossman) in one of the best super heavyweight matches ever, and the beginning of the final chapter in the Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat feud. Slamboree adds Terry Funk vs. Tully Blanchard in yet another crazy brawl, the first match in the underrated Regal vs. Larry Zbyszko feud, and another quality Sting vs. Vader match.
What: 11 years after the first time it happened, Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper headlines a PPV.
Why: It's the best show of the Eric Bischoff era.
Key Matches: Every match is at least fun. Lex Luger vs. The Giant (Big Show) and The Outsiders vs. The Faces of Fear are both pleasant surprises that people had low expectations for going in. Ultimo Dragon vs. Dean Malenko and Jushin Liger vs. Rey Mysterio are both great cruiserweight matches. Piper vs. Hogan is a very satisfying main event and everything else is at least good.
What: A great show in a terrible year.
Why: WCW's last great PPV.
Key Matches: Juventud Guerrera vs. Blitzkrieg and Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Kidman provide great cruiserweight action with an insane finish in the former match. Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Hak (Sandman) is easily the best match in the history of WCW's hardcore division. Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko vs. Raven and Perry Saturn is the last great WCW tag team match, though the finish is uncomfortable to watch now. Scott Steiner vs. Booker T is one of the better matches in the latter part of Steiner's career. The main event, Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan vs. Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page, is a pleasant surprise, one of the best Hogan WCW main events, and the finish was a huge surprise at the time.