WWE Network: 7 Hidden Gem PPVs You Must Watch

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

WWE Network: 7 Hidden Gem PPVs You Must Watch

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    The arrival of the WWE Network has made it possible for fans to relive some of the greatest pay-per-view events in company history.

    Fans flock to the big shows: the Royal Rumbles and WrestleManias, the SummerSlams and Survivor Series. They are, after all, the core events that help shape WWE's event schedule and make the company a major player in the PPV industry.

    Among all of those events are shows that garnered less attention but, in some cases, completely outshone their more popular and recognizable counterparts. They are the shows that have become underappreciated, at least for the most part, as the years have passed.

    These shows feature some of the greatest matches in the careers of the top stars in wrestling history. Steve Austin, The Rock, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and John Cena are just a few of the iconic figures to compete on these undervalued shows. 

    In celebration of the launch of the innovative network, here is a look back at a few hidden PPV gems from WWE that every fan should enjoy.

In Your House: Buried Alive

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    Date: October 20, 1996

    Setting: Market Square Arena in Indianapolis

    Broadcast Team: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler

    Match Card

    • Buried Alive Match: The Undertaker vs. Mankind
    • No. 1 Contender's Match: Sycho Sid vs. Vader
    • Intercontinental Championship Match: Marc Mero vs. Goldust
    • WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Owen Hart and British Bulldog vs. Smoking Gunns
    • Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley

    The October 1996 In Your House: Buried Alive pay-per-view featured a completely different tone than many of the shows that came before it. It was a darker, more serious and less family-friendly show that featured the latest chapter in the never-ending rivalry between two of WWE's most enigmatic characters. It also set up the main event for the following month's Survivor Series as well.

    The main event of the show was the first-ever Buried Alive match between Undertaker and Mankind. The two Superstars had been engaged in a rivalry that had lasted six months, which saw Mankind often get the better of his enemy.

    With the winner being the man who could bury his opponent alive in a gravesite set up inside the arena, it was safe to say that the competitors would stop at nothing to vanquish each other. 

    Who would leave victorious to enjoy the oxygen above ground, while the loser struggled to breathe under the weight of cold, damp earth?

    Sycho Sid and Vader battled for the right to challenge Shawn Michaels for the WWE title at Survivor Series. The match was a hard-hitting battle that was much better than fans could have expected.

    In the night's opening contest, 1996 King of the Ring "Stone Cold" Steve Austin took on the man who was supposed to win that tournament, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, in a rare battle between heels. With Austin riding a wave of momentum in preparation for a match against Bret Hart at Survivor Series, would Helmsley be able to slow the Texan down, or would he become just another victim of the dreaded Stunner?

    This was a very interesting look at a WWE that was clearly in a transitioning period for both the company and wrestling as a whole.

One Night Only

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    Date: September 20, 1997

    Setting: NEC Arena in Birmingham, England

    Broadcast Team: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler

    Match Card

    • European Championship Match: "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith vs. Shawn Michaels 
    • WWE Championship Match: The Undertaker vs. Bret Hart
    • Vader vs. Owen Hart
    • The Legion of Doom vs. The Godwinns
    • Flash Funk vs. The Patriot
    • WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The Headbangers vs. Savio Vega and Miguel Perez Jr.
    • Tiger Ali Singh vs. Leif Cassidy
    • Dude Love vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley

    The British Bulldog was an overwhelming fan favorite as he entered his home country for a major European title defense against Shawn Michaels. "The Heartbreak Kid," on the other hand, was as over as a heel as he had ever been, and the fans in England wanted nothing more than to see him get what was coming to him. 

    The war between them would be an emotionally charged one that was the last really good match of the Bulldog's career. 

    The night's co-headliner featured Bret Hart defending the WWE title against The Undertaker in a rematch of their bout at SummerSlam. They improved upon that match significantly. Like Bulldog, Hart wrestled his last great match for the promotion he called home for more than a decade.

    The war between Mick Foley and Hunter Hearst Helmsley continued as Foley donned the tie-dye of Dude Love and battled the Connecticut blue blood. The match was as competitive as their other bouts and a phenomenal way to kick off the evening's festivities.

    An underrated match between Vader and Owen Hart only accented the overall quality of the show. 

Fully Loaded 2000

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    Date: July 23, 2000

    Setting: Reunion Arena in Dallas

    Broadcast Team: Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler

    Match Card

    • WWE Championship Match: The Rock vs. Chris Benoit
    • Last Man Standing Match: Chris Jericho vs. Triple H
    • The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle
    • Steel Cage Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Rikishi vs. Val Venis
    • Tag Team Championship Match: APA vs. Edge and Christian
    • European Championship Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Perry Saturn
    • Al Snow vs. Tazz
    • Mixed Tag Match: The Hardy Boyz and Lita vs. Test, Albert and Trish Stratus

    At Fully Loaded 2000, WWE attempted to elevate three of its top young stars in a single night by programming them against established top stars in a triple main event.

    Kurt Angle was first up as he took on The Undertaker. The match was far less competitive than the two that followed it and nowhere near as good.

    Chris Jericho would take on Triple H in a Last Man Standing match that was both the most violent bout of the night, as well as the show's best. Both men bled in what was the best match of Jericho's first year with the company.

    Jericho's fellow Canadian Chris Benoit challenged The Rock for the WWE title in the first pay-per-view main event of his stint with the company. He was the complete opposite of the Great One; as a technician who ferociously pounded his opponents into the ground, he never appeared out of place while sharing the ring with the flashier, more charismatic Rock.

    The Hardy Boyz, Test, Albert, Lita and Trish Stratus nearly stole the show right out of the gate, and Rikishi and Val Venis delivered a spectacular steel cage match for the intercontinental title to really round out the card.

No Way Out 2001

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    Date: February 25, 2001

    Setting: Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas

    Broadcast Team: Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler

    Match Card

    • WWE Championship Match: The Rock vs. Kurt Angle
    • Triple Threat Tables Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: The Undertaker and Kane vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz
    • Jerry "the King" Lawler vs. Steven Richards
    • The Stages of Hell: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Triple H
    • Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley vs. Trish Stratus
    • Fatal 4-Way for the Intercontinental Championship: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. X-Pac
    • Hardcore Championship Match: The Big Show vs. Raven

    No Way Out 2001 is not just one of the hidden gems that are available for your viewing pleasure on the WWE Network; it is one of the greatest pay-per-view events in company history.

    Headlined by a double main event, a four-way bout featuring four incredibly talented individuals and the blowoff of one of the most entertaining feuds in the company, the show had something for every fan.

    In the epic conclusion of a feud that stretched across three years, Triple H and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin clashed in the first-ever Three Stages of Hell match. The first fall of the bout would be a basic wrestling match that favored The Game, while the second would be a street fight, which was up the Texas Rattlesnake's alley.

    The third fall, if necessary, would be a steel cage match.

    With WrestleMania X7 about a month away, both men needed a big win if they wanted to enter the show with any sort of momentum.

    Speaking of momentum, The Rock had one last chance to capture the WWE title before the biggest show of the year when he met Kurt Angle in the night's main event. 

    The match was outstanding as neither man wanted to be outperformed by the tremendous Austin vs. HHH match. Near-falls and interference helped heighten the drama of the bout and keep fans on the edge of their seats.

    Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley brought their rivalry to a close in one of the best and wildest women's matches in WWE history.

No Mercy 2001

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    Date: October 21, 2001

    Setting: Savvis Center in St. Louis, Mo.

    Broadcast Team: Jim Ross and Paul Heyman

    Match Card

    • WWE Championship Match: Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
    • WCW Championship Match: The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
    • The Undertaker vs. Booker T
    • WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Big Show and Tajiri vs. The Dudley Boyz
    • Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Edge vs. Christian
    • Lingerie Match: Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler
    • Kane vs. Test
    • WCW Tag Team Championship Match: Hardy Boyz vs. The Hurricane and Lance Storm

    Held during the much maligned Invasion storyline, the 2001 No Mercy pay-per-view overcame some head-scratching booking decisions to become one of the more underrated shows of the year.

    Hardcore champion Rob Van Dam was arguably the hottest star in the sport heading into the show. Despite his allegiance to the Alliance, he was one of two challengers to that faction's leader, WWE champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

    Would "Mr. Monday Night" upset order within the Alliance? Would Kurt Angle regain the title that was stolen from him when William Regal betrayed WWE and sided with the enemy? Or would Stone Cold overcome significant odds to retain his title?

    The Rock entered the show as WCW champion and was facing significant opposition...from his own WWE teammate Chris Jericho.

    Jericho had grown tired of critics who questioned his ability to win the big one and set to change that perception of him. To do that, he would have to defeat the most popular star in the sport.

    Edge and Christian battled over the intercontinental title, Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson competed in the first-ever Lingerie match, and Undertaker met Booker T in other notable bouts.

Vengeance 2003

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    Date: July 27, 2003

    Setting: Pepsi Center in Denver

    Broadcast Team: Michael Cole and Tazz

    Match Card

    • WWE Championship Match: Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show
    • Zach Gowen vs. Vince McMahon
    • The Undertaker vs. John Cena
    • Stephanie McMahon vs. Sable
    • WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio vs. The World's Greatest Tag Team
    • APA Invitational Bar Room Brawl
    • Indecent Proposal Match: Billy Gunn vs. Jamie Noble
    • United States Championship Tournament Final: Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

    To say that 2003 was not one of WWE's better years would be an understatement.

    Trying everything to replace some of the star power it lost with The Rock and Steve Austin, the company brought in the likes of Hulk Hogan, Scott Steiner, Goldberg and Kevin Nash to try and fill the sizable void. That none of those four men were necessarily the best workers in the world meant that the quality of the action between the ropes suffered a significant drop.

    Raw's Bad Blood pay-per-view in June was considerably terrible, and with names such as Vince McMahon, Zach Gowen, Sable, Big Show and an APA Invitational Bar Room Brawl slated for July's SmackDown-only Vengeance event, there were doubts and concerns surrounding the quality of the show.

    Those doubts and concerns would prove to be unfounded, as the Superstars of the blue brand put on their work boots and delivered an outstanding product.

    In his first pay-per-view match since undergoing neck surgery, Kurt Angle returned to the ring to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE title in a triple threat match that also involved Big Show. Would it be a storybook ending for Angle's triumphant return, or would Lesnar once again have his childhood hero's number?

    The answers to those questions would come in a very well-wrestled bout.

    The inspiring story of Zach Gowen culminated in a match against Vince McMahon that was better than it had any right to be, thanks in large part to a very hot crowd. Speaking of McMahon, Stephanie took on her father's latest mistress Sable in a wild catfight.

    The World's Greatest Tag Team defended the WWE tag titles against Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman in a barnburner of a match. Would Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas be able to retain their titles against a team that previously had great success in WCW?

    This was an underrated show from a period in time when the WWE product was largely below average.

Judgment Day 2005

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    Date: May 22, 2005

    Setting: Target Center in Minneapolis

    Broadcast Team: Michael Cole and Tazz

    Match Card

    • "I Quit" Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena vs. JBL
    • Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
    • United States Championship Match: Heidenreich vs. Orlando Jordan
    • Booker T vs. Kurt Angle
    • Cruiserweight Championship Match: Paul London vs. Chavo Guerrero
    • Big Show vs. Carlito
    • WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Hardcore Holly and Charlie Haas vs. MNM

    After a rather mediocre performance against John Bradshaw Layfield at WrestleMania 21, there were still plenty of questions surrounding John Cena and whether or not he was ready to be WWE champion. To answer those questions and prove his doubters wrong, he would have to deliver the performance of his career against the same man he took the heavyweight title from him one month earlier.

    As he has done so many times throughout his Hall of Fame-worthy career, Cena rose to the occasion, delivering an outstanding, insanely bloody performance against Layfield in an "I Quit" match.

    The match was a defining one early in Cena's main event run. Had he failed to produce against JBL, the questions would have gotten significantly louder, and the company may have pulled the plug on Cena before he ever had the opportunity mature into the spot of champion.

    The rest of the card, though not flashy, featured solid wrestling.

    Fresh off a tag team split, the villainous Eddie Guerrero took on Rey Mysterio in an excellent one-on-one contest. Booker T competed in his best match in nearly a year as he took on Kurt Angle, who drew the former WCW champion's ire by expressing his desire to have "bestiality sex" with Booker's wife Sharmell in one of the stranger storylines of the year.

    Cruiserweight champion Paul London continued to be one of the most underrated stars on the roster, delivering a fine performance in a match against former champion Chavo Guerrero.

    Speaking of champions, hot new tag team champions MNM defended their titles against the makeshift duo of tag team veterans Hardcore Holly and Charlie Haas.

    Despite being treated like the "B" show, SmackDown continued to crank out entertaining pay-per-views that focused heavily on in-ring action and left the complicated storylines (most of them, anyway) to Monday Night Raw.