17 Matches from the PG Era to Watch on the WWE Network
With the WWE Network, you can go back and watch any of your favorite matches and moments from the last three decades on demand. It could be a match you haven’t seen since it originally aired, or a match you’ve never seen before and have been dying to watch for the longest time.
Having started watching wrestling in April 2008, I’ve been having an absolute blast with the WWE Network since purchasing it late last month, checking out a multitude of matches from The Attitude Era and beyond. In addition to watching matches I’ve never been exposed to before, I also now have access to some of my favorite matches that have happened in the last six years.
As much flak as the so-called PG Era of WWE has received, there’s no doubting that countless excellent matches have taken place since the change in rating. For viewers who tuned out at the start of the PG Era (or even those who are willing to relive it, such as myself), here are 17 breathtaking bouts that you won’t regret watching on the WWE Network.
Please note that the following list is chronological.
John Cena vs. Edge in a Last Man Standing Match (Backlash 2009)
As great as their rivalry was over the course of 2006, Cena and Edge also had a fun feud for what it was worth over the World Heavyweight Championship in early 2009. After Cena won the world title in a Triple Threat at WrestleMania 25, they met in a rematch at the last Backlash under Last Man Standing rules. They brawled all over the arena before Big Show famously sent Cena spiraling through the spotlight on the stage.
Edge vs. Chris Jericho in a Steel Cage Match (Extreme Rules 2010)
The feud between Edge and Jericho on the road to WrestleMania 26 is often overlooked. While it wasn't as good when it wasn't over the World Heavyweight Championship, they still had great matches. In this stellar Steel Cage match, Edge Speared Jericho into next week, ending the match and rivalry as the victor.
The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan (Night of Champions 2010)
I, personally, loved the rivalry between Miz and Bryan in 2010 and their United States Championship match from Night of Champions is a guilty pleasure of mine. Miz proved he is a much better in-ring worker than he is often given credit for and Bryan solidified himself as more than just a flash in the pan by forcing The Awesome One to tap out and capture the star-spangled prize.
Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler (Royal Rumble 2011)
Did you know Edge and Ziggler were once traveling buddies? Well, now you know! That's what made this match that much more meaningful to both of them. Everyone in attendance knew Ziggler wasn't walking away with the world title, but they suspended their disbelief for just a moment when Ziggler scored a very close two count on Edge.
CM Punk vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match (Extreme Rules 2011)
The rivalry between Punk and Orton was nothing to write home about since Orton dominated almost all of it, but their matches are highly underrated. They nearly stole the show at WrestleMania 27 and followed it up with an excellent Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules, where The Viper once again emerged victorious.
Triple H vs. Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell Match (WrestleMania 28)
Had I not already put so many matches from the year 2012 on this list, this match would've made it. Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal match not known for its mat wrestling, but its raw emotion and suspense. Everyone involved, including special guest referee Shawn Michaels, played their parts to perfection and almost convinced viewers that "the streak" could come to an end that night.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight (Extreme Rules 2012)
Punk and Jericho had several solid matches before this point, but none as great as this encounter. They brawled into the Chicago crowd and Punk was finally able to exact revenge on the man who degraded his family. Two matches from the same pay-per-view were already listed, hence why this bout failed to crack the list. In other words, just watch the pay-per-view in its entirety.
John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler in a Ladder Match (TLC 2012)
Yes, there was a point where Ziggler was actually credible and was headlining pay-per-views with top stars, Cena being one of them. Cena gave Ziggler his best WWE match to date and had a heck of a performance himself. You'll see several Ladder matches on this list, but this one is also worth a watch.
Undertaker vs. CM Punk (WrestleMania 29)
Not many people look back fondly on WrestleMania 29 due to its sheer predictability, but at least this match was the saving grace of the show. Granted, the buildup was lackluster, but the match itself definitely delivered and continued the strong streak of fantastic Undertaker matches at 'Mania.
The Shield vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust (Battleground 2013)
Similar to WrestleMania 29, I don't think many fans are scurrying to go back and watch 2013's Battleground event in its entirety on the WWE Network. However, do check out this awesome tag team match pitting Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns against Cody Rhodes and Goldust. It raised the bar for tag team wrestling and was the first glimpse at the great team that would become the Rhodes brothers.
Undertaker vs. Edge in a Hell in a Cell Match (SummerSlam 2008)
SummerSlam 2008 was the first WWE pay-per-view held under the new PG rating, so this match barely makes the cut. That installment is remembered as one of the best events in the last decade, as it featured a stacked card from top to bottom.
Headlining the show was Edge vs. Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. It was the culmination of a near-yearlong rivalry that started when Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on ‘Taker in May 2007 and later banished him from the WWE.
Then-SmackDown general manager Vickie Guerrero reinstated Undertaker in July 2008 and put him in one final match against Edge at SummerSlam. Although the PG Era was officially upon us at this point, that didn’t stop these two ruthless rivals from going all-out in their Hell in a Cell match.
The match may have been contested inside Satan’s Structure, but Edge’s Spear to ‘Taker through the cell wall took their brawl to the outside. They also made great use of the commentary tables, ladders and chairs that surrounded the ring before ‘Taker ultimately took out Edge with a Tombstone Piledriver for the victory.
Don’t turn it off there, though. Bear witness to The Deadman delivering a chokeslam to Edge off a ladder through the ring mat…straight to the depths of hell!
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match (No Mercy 2008)
Along with Edge vs. Undertaker, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels was undoubtedly one of the best feuds of 2008 and easily one of the best feuds in WWE history. Jericho has gone on record several times in the past in saying that he and HBK were given a lot of say in what happened during the course of their feud, which doesn’t come as any surprise given its critical acclaim.
After feuding for the better part of that year, Jericho and Michaels were set to do battle one last time at the No Mercy pay-per-view. This time, they would compete in a Ladder match with the World Heavyweight Championship up for grabs.
These two are masters of the Ladder match, so it was no shocker that they delivered on all cylinders and had an amazing matchup. Even interference from Jericho’s protege Lance Cade didn’t slow Michaels down, who came oh so close to capturing the “Big Gold Belt” that night in Portland.
Jericho and Michaels fought atop the ladder for possession of the strap, but it was Y2J who prevailed with the title in tow. He may not have lost the championship that night, but he surely did lose a tooth or two.
Regardless, it was all worth it in the end, as this match served as a very fitting end to an unforgettable rivalry.
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 25)
If this isn’t at the top of (or leading) your list as one of the best matches in WrestleMania history, then shame on you. One would have never thought it had taken place during the PG Era unlike their past classics, but it did in early April 2009.
For weeks, HBK obsessed over ending the undefeated streak of Undertaker at WrestleMania, earning the right to face him on the grand stage at the 25th anniversary. In their home state of Texas, HBK and ‘Taker fought like their lives were at stake, kicking out of each other’s signature maneuvers at every turn.
The Houston crowd was absolutely enthralled with what was unfolding right before their very eyes, and who wouldn’t be? They knew that night they were witnessing history.
On what was an otherwise flat ‘Mania, HBK and Undertaker stole the show with ease. The Deadman may have had his hand raised that night, but as history would soon teach us, their feud was far from over.
I didn’t feel it was necessary to list their epic rematch at WrestleMania 26, but definitely go out of your way to re-watch that work of art as well.
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy in a Ladder Match (Extreme Rules 2009)
I’ll admit the year of 2009 wasn’t the best for WWE, as the WWE Championship picture consisted mostly of four faces: John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista. The SmackDown side of things, however, was a completely different story.
After taking care of the thorn in his side that was his brother Matt, Jeff Hardy reset his sights on the World Heavyweight Championship in summer 2009. He failed to win back the belt from Edge at Judgement Day, but was granted a rematch at the inaugural Extreme Rules in a Ladder match.
Hardy and Edge were no strangers to the stipulation, as they both competed in the first few Triangle Ladder and TLC matches during The Attitude Era. Thus, it was a foregone conclusion that this match would be a good one.
They worked in several innovative spots that made this match stand out above all the other Ladder matches that preceded this one. Both were sent spiraling through steel structures scattered throughout ringside at various points in the contest, but it was Hardy who reigned supreme as the world champion.
This bout is also worth watching for the post-match angle that saw CM Punk cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Hardy to win the title mere minutes later. It marked the beginning of Punk’s much-needed heel run and his fantastic feud with The Charismatic Enigma.
Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (The Bash 2009)
Why the title of The Great American Bash was shortened to simply The Bash is beyond me and the final installment of the pay-per-view in 2009 was rather forgettable. However, it featured this gem of a match between two familiar foes in Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio.
At first, the feud between Jericho and Mysterio was solely over the Intercontinental Championship, but it grew to be much more than just that over time. Jericho called Mysterio a “coward” for being masked and challenged him to a Mask vs. Title match at The Bash.
Their last few encounters were all excellent, but this one in particular stood out as the best of the series. The chemistry that these two had together was inexplicable and their matches basically spoke for themselves.
No one thought The Master of the 619 would lose his signature mask that night, but the suspenseful near-falls made viewers think twice. In the end, Mysterio revealed he was wearing a second mask underneath his first one, outsmarting Jericho and winning back the prestigious prize in the process.
CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy in a TLC Match (SummerSlam 2009)
CM Punk and Jeff Hardy traded several wins over the course of summer 2009, but all of their previous encounters paled in comparison to their TLC match at the SummerSlam pay-per-view. After winning back the World Heavyweight Championship one month prior at Night of Champions, Hardy was putting his gold up for grabs against Punk one last time in a match he helped created.
Despite being at a distinct disadvantage, Punk showed no signs of fear during the contest, taking Hardy to his absolute limit. The two brought the best out of each other during their feud, but it was this awesome matchup that truly epitomized just how chaotic TLC matches can really be.
Of course, the most memorable moment from the match saw Hardy deliver a Swanton Bomb to Punk off a 20-foot-high ladder through a commentary table. Regardless, Punk made it to his feet first and was able to ascend the ladder and reclaim possession of the belt.
Stick around after the match concludes to witness the return of Undertaker, who laid the newly crowned champ out with a chokeslam to close the show.
CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio (Over the Limit 2010)
Another hidden gem on the SmackDown brand came during spring 2010. CM Punk and Rey Mysterio feuded on the road to WrestleMania 26, but the rivalry raged on long after The Show of Shows.
With Mysterio emerging victorious at ‘Mania and Punk winning the rematch at Extreme Rules, it came time for a rubber match at the inaugural Over the Limit pay-per-view. This time around, the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
If Punk won, Mysterio would be forced to join the Straight Edge Society. If Mysterio won, however, Punk would have to shave his head (he was the only member of the group at the time to still have hair).
Their ‘Mania match ran too short and their Extreme Rules encounter was overshadowed, but the third time was the charm at Over the Limit. Aside from a cut Punk sustained early on that caused the contest to be put on hold briefly, they had an excellent match that showed just how well they work together.
Despite best efforts from Luke Gallows and Serena to aid Punk to victory, Mysterio scored the deciding pinfall to be named the victor. He took pride in shaving the head of The Straight Edge Savior, who was tied to the bottom rope after attempting to escape afterward.
The look on Punk’s face as he was getting his head buzzed was simply priceless.
Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler (Bragging Rights 2010)
This match came at a time when midcard titles actually meant something and were defended on a regular basis. It pitted Intercontinental champion Dolph Ziggler (representing SmackDown) against United States champion Daniel Bryan (representing Raw) in a battle for brand supremacy.
It received hardly any buildup going into the event, but it didn’t matter. Although it marked the first time these two stepped in the ring against each other, fans knew they were in for a treat.
Unsurprisingly, Bryan vs. Ziggler served as the opener to the Bragging Rights pay-per-view. However, because it set the bar so high in the starting slot, none of the proceeding matches were able to follow it.
It was nonstop action from bell-to-bell, with both Bryan and Ziggler pulling everything out of their arsenal to put the other away. Ziggler’s manager Vickie Guerrero even attempted to intervene at one point, but it was Bryan who walked away victorious after forcing the bleached-blonde Superstar to submit.
The two have met in one-on-one competition a handful of times since then, but a proper feud between the two has yet to occur.
Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio in a Ladder Match (Extreme Rules 2011)
Originally, Edge was scheduled to defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio in a Ladder match at 2011′s Extreme Rules event. However, due to Edge’s abrupt retirement, Christian earned the right to contend for the vacant title against the man who took credit for ending the career of the Rated-R Superstar.
Christian and Del Rio had shown in the past that they were capable of having very good matches, but never on the grand stage of a pay-per-view. Christian, having had experience in Ladder matches, thrived in the environment and Del Rio didn’t look out of place, either.
The entire match was very well constructed. Del Rio was looking to finally fulfill his “destiny” by becoming the world champion while Christian wanted to make his best friend Edge proud by winning the belt he relinquished only a few weeks earlier.
Del Rio came close to gaining possession of the “Big Gold Belt” after interference from Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay, but a ringside distraction from Edge allowed Christian to capitalize, ascend the ladder and win his very first World Heavyweight Championship.
Granted, his reign lasted all of two days (more on that in a minute), but the sight of him clutching the world title atop the ladder as Edge looked on from outside the ring was a moment that will never be forgotten.
Randy Orton vs. Christian (Over the Limit 2011)
Mere days after winning the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules, Christian dropped the strap to Randy Orton in an impromptu match on SmackDown. As distraught as Christian was by the loss, he was determined to regain the gold when he invoked his automatic rematch clause at Over the Limit.
Leading up to the event, Orton and Christian earned one another’s respect by aligning against Sheamus and Mark Henry. Since their initial match on the May 6 edition of SmackDown was so excellent, many viewers didn’t think they could top it. Orton and Christian took that as a challenge.
Their match was filled with reversals, exciting action and a ton of suspense. By the end, it seemed almost impossible for either of them to put the other away, but they refused to give up until they were deemed the victor.
In a beautiful-looking spot, Randy Orton reversed Christian’s Killswitch attempt into a backdrop bottom and followed up with an RKO once Captain Charisma landed on his feet. Christian’s loss on this show planted the seeds for his eventual heel turn as well as one of the greatest rivalries to occur on the blue brand in recent memory.
John Cena vs. CM Punk (Money in the Bank 2011)
Was there ever any doubt that this match would make the list?
As great as the rivalry between Randy Orton and Christian was on the SmackDown brand, CM Punk vs. John Cena was the major focal point of the WWE during summer 2011. Punk announced in late June that his contract with the company was coming to an end and that he would leave Money in the Bank with the WWE Championship in tow.
The “pipebomb” he dropped on the June 27 Raw made the match all the more intriguing. Punk and Cena have had some classic matches in the last five years, but none had the same kind of environment that this one did in Punk’s hometown of Chicago.
Punk and Cena put on an absolute clinic for nearly 30 minutes, hitting each other with everything in their respective arsenals. Members of the WWE Universe sat on the edge of their seats to witness these two modern-day icons battle it out, awaiting any kind of interference or screwy finish that Vince McMahon hinted at days prior.
Sure enough, McMahon and John Laurinaitis emerged from the back, bolting toward the ring to aid Cena in retaining the WWE title. However, Cena wanted nothing of it, laying out Laurinaitis with a right hand ringside before making his way back into the ring, where he was met with a GTS from Punk.
Three seconds later, Punk was crowned the new champion, quickly making his way through the crowd and out the door, never to be seen or heard from again…that is, until eight days later. But that’s another story for another day.
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match (Extreme Rules 2012)
Although the feud between Sheamus and then-World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan heading into WrestleMania 28 was lackluster, many people assumed the match itself would make up for it. Needless to say, those same people were disappointed and flustered to learn that the match lasted a mere 18 seconds when Sheamus hit Bryan with a swift Brogue kick to claim the world title in record time.
A rematch was scheduled to take place at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, this time under 2-out-of-3 Falls rules. Bryan and Sheamus had been robbed of their opportunity to steal the show in the past, but this was their chance to prove to everyone just how well they can work together in the ring.
As expected, the two had a tremendous match that saw Bryan more aggressive than ever before and Sheamus coming out of it looking better than he did going in. Bryan got himself disqualified in the first fall, only to score the second fall after forcing Sheamus to pass out while applying the “Yes!” Lock.
The Celtic Warrior nailed Bryan with a Brogue kick to pick up the third and final fall to retain his world title. This match solidified both competitors as threats inside in the squared circle and mainstays on the main event scene.
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar in an Extreme Rules Match (Extreme Rules 2012)
Not only did the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in 2012 feature stellar matches for the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships, respectively, it also featured a brutal brawl pitting John Cena and Brock Lesnar. Lesnar had only just returned to WWE a few weeks prior and Cena was looking to exact revenge on him for all the pain he had been forced to endure up to that point.
Given his UFC background, Lesnar shined in the Extreme Rules environment, going straight after the arm of Cena right from the get-go. The Next Big Thing diabolically dissected Cena throughout the bout, forcing him to bleed profusely following a few stiff shots to the head.
Despite that, Cena retaliated and hit an Attitude Adjustment on the steel steps out of nowhere to secure the three count. As infuriating as it was to see Lesnar lose his first match back, he put up a strong enough fight to warrant the loss.
In today’s PG Era, this is about as physical and as extreme you’ll see a match get, so anyone with a fascination for blood or brutality will love watching this match.
CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (Over the Limit 2012)
One night removed from the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, Daniel Bryan became the new No. 1 contender to CM Punk’s WWE Championship. The feud was barely built up going into Over the Limit, but the match they would have at the event would force fans to forget all about that.
Bryan and Punk proved early on in 2012 that they were capable of having great matches together, so when they clashed with the WWE title on the line, fans knew it was going to be a barnburner of a bout. They weakened each other with innovative submission holds early on before breaking out their signature maneuvers down the stretch.
The momentum shifted between the two individuals with no clear winner in sight. It wasn’t until Punk reversed Bryan’s patented “Yes!” Lock into a pinfall of his own that he finally picked up the victory.
Punk and Bryan went on to have more awesome matches together, but none of them were ever able to top his near-30 minute classic.
Ryback and Team Hell No vs. The Shield in a TLC Match (WWE TLC 2012)
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns made their shocking WWE debut in the main event of 2012′s Survivor Series pay-per-view, costing Ryback the WWE Championship. Collectively known as The Shield, they ran roughshod on the Raw roster in the weeks that followed before being announced for the TLC event, where they were set to do battle against Ryback, Daniel Bryan and Kane in six-man tag team action.
With this being The Shield’s debut match in WWE, fans were unsure what to expect from them in the ring. Not only that, but this was the first Tables, Ladders & Chairs match to be contested without anything on the line and to be decided via pinfall or submission, so that certainly changed the complexion of this matchup.
Despite that, these six individuals blew the roof off the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn with their death-defying maneuvers and insane risk-taking. Everyone involved played their role to perfection and put on a fairly late Match of the Year candidate.
The rogue trio scored the victory after dividing and conquering their opponents, proving to be superior on their first night inside the squared circle. After only one match, The Shield proved they were here to stay in WWE.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar in a No Disqualification Match (SummerSlam 2013)
Following his return at June’s Payback pay-per-view, CM Punk informed Paul Heyman that his managerial services were no longer necessary. Infuriated by this development, Heyman had his other client Brock Lesnar attack Punk, and thus a rivalry was born.
Punk was out for revenge on Heyman, but knew he had to go through Lesnar first. So, he challenge The Beast Incarnate to a match at SummerSlam. Heyman accepted on his behalf.
The idea of this match happening had been fantasized by members of the WWE Universe for years and now it was finally coming to fruition. A no-disqualification stipulation was added during the SummerSlam pre-show, making the match that much more intriguing.
Despite the difference in size between the two competitors, they have such similar styles in terms of mixed martial arts backgrounds and things of that nature. The intense action even spilled over to ringside at one point with Punk delivering a flying elbow to Lesnar through the commentating table.
Punk had The Beast locked in the Anaconda Vise and was on the verge of victory right when Heyman made his presence felt by interfering. For the first time ever, Punk finally got his hands on Heyman and locked him in the hold as well.
However, because Punk’s personal disdain for his former friend got the best of him, this allowed Lesnar to capitalize with an emphatic F5 onto Punk for the victory.
John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (SummerSlam 2013)
After being handpicked by John Cena himself to contend for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, Daniel Bryan was put under a lot of pressure. Could he finally win “the big one”? Could he defeat the face of the company and as a result become the face of the company?
When the bell rang at the biggest party of the summer, all the critics were silenced. Bryan and Cena had only one match against each other prior to this night (which also occurred in the month of August), so it was a relatively fresh match we were witnessing.
Throughout the bout, Bryan was made to look like Cena’s equal. He battled through everything that Cena dished out and refused to give up. To Cena’s credit, he was working through a nasty elbow injury at the time, so the fact he was competing at the level he was let alone competing at all was astonishing and admirable.
Fans were curious as to how Bryan would be able to defeat Cena, seeing how The Champ rarely ever lost cleanly. However, Bryan managed to do just that: he connected with a knee to the skull of Cena (a finisher he debuted in this match) to pick up the clean pinfall.
The Staples Center erupted for the title change as Bryan celebrated the monumental victory. Granted, he had his title taken from him mere moments later at the hands of Triple H and Randy Orton (who conspired together prior to the event), but the important thing is that Bryan solidified his status as a main event player in the eyes of the fans with a clean win over Cena.
This was the final pay-per-view to my memory that delivered on all fronts, so here’s hoping WrestleMania 30 will feature some memorable moments as well. Of course, there are countless other matches I failed to mention here for sake of space, but feel free to drop a comment below with any other matches from the PG Era you would suggest one to watch.
Read the original version of this article on Wrestling Rambles here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and “like” his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.