Ranking the Greatest WWE PPVs of the Last Decade

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2020

Ranking the Greatest WWE PPVs of the Last Decade

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The decade that was the 2010s saw WWE pay-per-views take on less meaning than ever before.

    Far too often, they felt like unmotivated cash-grabs rather than must-see culminations of high-profile storylines and feuds. They were there just to be there, with little emphasis put on the matches or moments within. It was a dangerous trend and one that remains in position to this day.

    With that said, WWE still occasionally managed to deliver events that inspired excitement.

    They were events that featured shocking conclusions, long-awaited coronations and in-ring action far beyond the typical Raw and SmackDown fare. They were WrestleManias that lived up to their taglines, Extreme Rules and TLC events that were not just excuses for Superstars to crash through tables and history-making shows that proved a revolution had given way to an evolution.

    Looking back at the tumultuous 2010s in terms of WWE pay-per-views, these are the 10 that stood head and shoulders above the rest, reminding fans of what the company can produce when it is motivated and determined to entertain.

10. Royal Rumble (January 28, 2018)

1 of 10

    As a whole, the first pay-per-view event of 2018 does not measure up to the others on this countdown.

    What it does, though, is make up for the lack of superb in-ring product with unforgettable moments that remain among the most significant in the careers of those involved.

    Shinsuke Nakamura scored the biggest win of his WWE tenure, fending off Roman Reigns to win the men's Rumble match, much to the delight of a Philadelphia fanbase that wanted nothing to do with the idea of The Big Dog winning his second Royal Rumble in three years in the city.

    From there, Asuka etched her name in the history books by winning the first women's Royal Rumble, eliminating Nikki Bella after a dramatic exchange in the bout's closing moments.

    As much as those victories meant to the participants, it was Ronda Rousey's historic arrival that stole the show and elevated it into the top 10 of this list.

    Throw in a better-than-expected Handicap match for the WWE Championship in which AJ Styles successfully defended against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, and you have a show that was equal parts entertaining and transformative.

    It was, after all, the event that sparked the revolution that culminated in the first all-female pay-per-view later that year and the first women's main event in WrestleMania history 14 months later.


    Match Card

    Handicap match for the WWE Championship: AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.

    Best 2-Out-of-3 Falls for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos defeated Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin.

    Shinsuke Nakamura won the men's Royal Rumble.

    Raw Tag Team Championship match: The Bar defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan.

    Triple Threat match for the Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar defeated Kane and Braun Strowman.

    Asuka won the women's Royal Rumble.

9. TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (December 16, 2012)

2 of 10

    The number of genuinely good TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-views can be counted on a single hand, and even then, that may be generous. The show, at the end of the calendar and featuring gimmick matches rarely driven by emotional storylines in need of such a payoff, is more often a dud than anything. But the 2012 event proved an anomaly.

    In the night's most memorable bout, newcomers The Shield rose to the occasion when WWE needed them the most. Originally slated to be WWE champion CM Punk vs. Ryback for the title in a TLC Match, an injury forced Punk to the sidelines and Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose into action.

    The Hounds of Justice stole the show, delivering a near-flawless performance in the event's namesake match, defeating the aforementioned Ryback, Kane and Daniel Bryan.

    John Cena and Dolph Ziggler didn't stand a chance of matching that bout in terms of overall quality, but they still delivered a damn fun ladder match with a shocking ending that saw AJ Lee betray the babyface and form an alliance with Ziggler that would be prominent on WWE TV for the next eight months.

    An overlooked United States Championship defense by Cesaro against R-Truth helped enhance the card.

    For a show that typically sees stars and creative sleepwalking their way through it in order to wrap up everything in time for the holidays, this was a rare instance of WWE providing a show that propelled storylines and gave fans a reason to be optimistic entering the new year.


    Match Card

    Tables match: Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow defeated Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio.

    United States Championship match: Cesaro defeated R-Truth.

    Intercontinental Championship match: Kofi Kingston defeated Wade Barrett.

    Tables, Ladders and Chairs match: The Shield defeated Ryback, Daniel Bryan and Kane.

    Divas Championship match: Eve Torres defeated Naomi.

    Chairs match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Big Show defeated Sheamus.

    Alberto Del Rio, The Miz and Brooklyn Brawler defeated 3MB.

    Ladder match for the Money in the Bank briefcase: Dolph Ziggler defeated John Cena.

8.WrestleMania 31 (March 29, 2015)

3 of 10

    WrestleMania 31 will be forever remembered for its shocking conclusion, a masterfully executed moment that made a star of Seth Rollins and proved that the most predictable company in the industry still had it within itself to deliver the unexpected when motivated to.

    Rollins' momentous night, though, began with an underrated match against Randy Orton. The Viper delivered a jaw-dropping RKO out of a Stomp attempt by The Architect, popping the crowd in the process.

    That contest, along with the Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship that kicked off the show, helped set the bar for the remainder of the broadcast.

    Sting made his first in-ring appearance for WWE, losing a No Disqualification match to Triple H that both masked the aging performers' weaknesses and provided a welcome bit of nostalgia in the form of appearances from D-Generation X and the New World Order.

    John Cena became the first Superstar to defeat Rusev, who rode to the ring in a tank, while The Undertaker returned to form with a win over Bray Wyatt.

    Still, it is Rollins crushing the dreams of a valiant Roman Reigns and costing him the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Brock Lesnar that remains the moment most indelibly etched in the minds of fans, and rightly so. On wrestling's grandest stage, WWE delivered a star-studded show that lived up to the hype and grandeur of The Showcase of the Immortals.


    Match Card

    Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship: Daniel Bryan defeated Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Bad News Barrett, Stardust and R-Truth.

    Randy Orton defeated Seth Rollins.

    No Disqualification match: Triple H defeated Sting.

    AJ Lee and Paige defeated The Bella Twins.

    United States Championship match: John Cena defeated Rusev.

    The Undertaker defeated Bray Wyatt.

    Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship: Seth Rollins defeated Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.

7. WrestleMania XXVIII (April 1, 2012)

4 of 10

    WrestleMania XXVIII made the biggest show of the year feel like a can't-miss spectacle. It was destination programming for fans young and old as the two biggest stars of the past 20 years collided in a match billed as "Once in a Lifetime."

    The Rock and John Cena, engaged in a bitter professional rivalry that turned personal quickly, clashed like two titans in the night's main event. Accompanied by glitz, glamour, musical performances and A-list sports celebrities seated front row, they delivered a match that somehow lived up to the unprecedented hype surrounding it. Even if the rest of the card was mediocre at best, the show likely would have made this list for Rock vs. Cena alone.

    It was far from average, though.

    If having the eyes of the wrestling world focused squarely on you was not enough for The Great One and The Franchise, there was the 5-star classic on the undercard that saw The Undertaker and Triple H settle their differences inside Hell in a Cell. With Shawn Michaels as guest referee and four years' worth of history building to the clash, it was a masterclass in drama and storytelling—the likes of which we have not seen since.

    CM Punk's WWE Championship defense against an antagonistic Chris Jericho and the start of the YES! Movement by way of Daniel Bryan's 18-second loss to Sheamus in the opening match helped solidify the 2012 event as one of the finest in the long and illustrious history of WrestleMania.


    Match Card

    World Heavyweight Championship match: Sheamus defeated Daniel Bryan.

    Kane defeated Randy Orton.

    Intercontinental Championship match: Big Show defeated Cody Rhodes.

    Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos defeated Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.

    Hell in a Cell match: The Undertaker defeated Triple H.

    David Otunga, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and The Miz defeated Booker T, Kofi Kingston, The Great Khali, R-Truth, Santino Marella and Zack Ryder.

    WWE Championship match: CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho.

    The Rock defeated John Cena.

6. Extreme Rules (April 29, 2012)

5 of 10

    Like TLC every December, WWE's Extreme Rules pay-per-view can be hit-and-miss.

    Rarely does it feature the sort of rivalries intense enough to warrant a specialty match of any kind, let alone some of the ones the creative team dreams up for WrestleMania. In 2012, though, WWE struck while the proverbial iron was hot. Coming off a monumental edition of the Showcase of the Immortals, it wrapped up rivalries while providing a box office main event.

    Taunted and harassed by Chris Jericho's claims about his sister and her previous addictions, WWE champion CM Punk unleashed hell on Y2J in a Chicago Street Fight. Punk endured a tremendous beating in the match but launched Jericho into a steel chair and delivered Go To Sleep for the pinfall victory.

    Even better was the Best 2-Out-of-3 Falls match that made stars of both Daniel Bryan and Sheamus just weeks after an underwhelming and disappointing 18-second match at WrestleMania. They beat the hell out of each other in a physical battle for the top prize on SmackDown. The Celtic Warrior earned the win and solidified himself as the new face of the blue brand.

    The match will forever be defined, however, by the John Cena-Brock Lesnar main event that reintroduced The Beast to the WWE Universe. Lesnar, in his first pay-per-view main event in eight years, obliterated Cena. Bloodied him, battered him and appeared on his way to an exclamation point of a victory.

    But his hubris got the best of him, and he ran right into the business end of a steel chain to the face. The Attitude Adjustment followed, and Cena earned an improbable victory.

    Those three matches and a fun brawl between Randy Orton and Kane in the night's opener earned the event a spot on this countdown.


    Match Card

    Falls Count Anywhere match: Randy Orton defeated Kane.

    Brodus Clay defeated Dolph Ziggler.

    Tables match for the Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes defeated The Big Show.

    Best 2-Out-of-3 Falls match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus defeated Daniel Bryan.

    Ryback defeated Aaron Relic and Jay Hatton.

    Chicago Street Fight for the WWE Championship: CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho.

    Divas Championship match: Layla defeated Nikki Bella.

    Extreme Rules match: John Cena defeated Brock Lesnar.

5. WrestleMania 35 (April 7, 2019)

6 of 10

    Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins wasted little time making headlines at the top of WrestleMania 35, as The Architect survived a relentless pre-match beating to deliver a perfectly timed low blow and score the pinfall victory after a series of Stomps.

    Rollins' crowd-pleasing victory jumpstarted what was an undeniably overlong event—which stretched well into the wee hours of the Monday morning—but was rarely boring. A solid match between AJ Styles and Randy Orton set the bar from an in-ring perspective, while The IIconics' Women's Tag Team Championship win reminded fans of the emotion an event of that enormity brings with it.

    Speaking of emotion, it was the two major title changes that happened later in the broadcast that will forever define that particular spectacular.

    First was Kofi Kingston's WWE title win over Daniel Bryan. An improbable possibility just two months earlier, Kingston seized an opportunity presented to him via an injury to Mustafa Ali and rose to the occasion. He fed off a red-hot WWE Universe at Elimination Chamber and parlayed it into a legitimate push that culminated with his win at WrestleMania.

    Surrounded by friends and his children, his post-match celebration is the sort thing that will make highlight reels for years to come. It was a feel-good moment for one of the workhorses of WWE over the last decade.

    And if that was not enough to catapult the 2019 show ahead of others on this list, there was the historic Triple Threat Winner Takes All Match for the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships. For the first time ever, women headlined The Showcase of the Immortals, as Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch sought to prove themselves as the best in their field.

    A physical match came to a head when Lynch rolled through Rousey's Piper's Pit attempt and became the first woman to pin The Baddest Woman on the Planet's shoulders to the mat.

    Her celebration, much like Kingston's, was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication but also a beacon of hope for the women who one day hope to see themselves in the same position.

    Seven hours of wrestling in one go is too much, but at least it provided unforgettable moments and a few hints at the change that would engulf WWE in the weeks and months to come.


    Match Card

    Universal Championship match: Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar.

    AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton.

    Fatal 4-Way match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Usos defeated Ricochet and Aleister Black, Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura and The Bar.

    Falls Count Anywhere match: Shane McMahon defeated The Miz.

    Fatal 4-Way for the Women's Tag Team Championship: The IIconics defeated Sasha Banks and Bayley, Nia Jax and Tamina and Beth Phoenix and Natalya.

    WWE Championship match: Kofi Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan.

    United States Championship match: Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio.

    Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre.

    No Holds Barred match: Triple H defeated Batista.

    Baron Corbin defeated Kurt Angle.

    Intercontinental Championship match: Finn Balor defeated Bobby Lashley.

    Triple Threat match for the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships: Becky Lynch defeated Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair.

4. WWE Evolution (October 28, 2018)

7 of 10

    The rise of The Four Horsewomen of NXT. The signing of Ronda Rousey. The devotion of WWE management to women's wrestling.

    Those three ingredients came together on October 28, 2018, as WWE produced its first (and to date, only) all-female pay-per-view: Evolution. The spectacular, emanating from Long Island, New York, and featuring talent from both past and present, the show was a celebration of women's wrestling.

    Trish Stratus and Lita, the trailblazers who helped carry wrestling out of the "bra and panties" era and into one in which physicality and athleticism were encouraged, appropriately kicked off the show. Alundra Blayze and Ivory appeared in the 20-woman Battle Royal, getting their fair share of the spotlight. Beth Phoenix called the show from the commentary position, joined by the first female commentator in WWE history, Renee Young.

    The show's quality, though, was determined by the two main events.

    First, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch waged war in a Last Woman Standing match, which proved to be a Match of the Year candidate. A physical war that left both battered and bruised, it saw Lynch powerbomb Flair from the top rope and through a table on the arena floor, earning her the hard-fought victory.

    Moments later, Nikki Bella proved more of a challenge than Rousey could have imagined. In a competitive main event that proved why Bella may be more underrated than overexposed and why Rousey may rank alongside Kurt Angle when it comes to the greatest rookies in WWE history, the match kept fans engaged up until Ronda's armbreaker finisher secured her the win.

    Did WWE beat us over the head with the constant reminders of the history the show was making as it happened? Absolutely. But the women turned in extraordinary performances for the most part and helped ensure the first Evolution lived up to their own lofty expectations.


    Match Card

    Trish Stratus and Lita defeated Alicia Fox and Mickie James.

    Nia Jax won a 20-Woman Battle Royal.

    Mae Young Classic Finals: Toni Storm defeated Io Shirai.

    Sasha Banks, Bayley and Natalya defeated The Riott Squad.

    NXT Women's Championship match: Shayna Baszler defeated Kairi Sane.

    Last Woman Standing match for the SmackDown Women's Championship: Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair.

    Raw Women's Championship match: Ronda Rousey defeated Nikki Bella.

3. WrestleMania XXX (April 6, 2014)

8 of 10

    Or as it is better known, The Daniel Bryan Show.

    For two years, Daniel Bryan scratched and clawed his way to the top of WWE. He overcame uneven booking, the high comedy of Team Hell No and WWE Creative second-guessing itself as frequently as a high school student before prom to become the biggest and most beloved babyface in wrestling.

    After the ups and downs, start-and-stop pushes and insistence both on- and off-screen that he was not championship material, he entered WrestleMania XXX ready to accept the crown as WWE's top star.

    He did just that, defeating Triple H in a show-stealing match to start the show and then conquering Batista and Randy Orton in the night's main event despite a shoulder injury. His celebration, with the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships held high overhead, was the culmination of a life devoted to the sport of professional wrestling. To achieve what he did on the stage that he did was previously inconceivable for someone of his size and background.

    Yet there he was, the triumphant hero in the land of giants.

    Giants were also at the forefront of the night's other most memorable moment.

    The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar squared off in what most expected to be the latest entry into The Deadman's undefeated WrestleMania streak.

    It was anything but.

    Concussed, The Phenom found himself tossed around the squared circle by The Beast Incarnate. As the match built, fans still expected Undertaker to pick up the win, even as things were clearly not going according to plan.

    Then it happened.

    Lesnar delivered an F-5 that brought an end to two decades of unrivaled dominance on the grand stage. The stunned silence of the fans made the moment so much more haunting. Social media discussed the possibility of a botched count, but contrary to their hopes, it was very real.

    Those two momentous occasions, coupled with the gathering of icons Hulk Hogan, The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at the top of the show, helped make WrestleMania XXX one of the most unforgettable shows WWE has ever produced.


    Match Card

    Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H.

    The Shield defeated The New Age Outlaws and Kane.

    Cesaro won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

    John Cena defeated Bray Wyatt.

    Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker.

    Vickie Guerrero Invitational match for the Divas Championship: AJ Lee defeated Aksana, Alicia Fox, Brie Bella, Cameron, Emma, Eva Marie, Layla, Naomi, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae and Tamina Snuka.

    Triple Threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan defeated Batista and Randy Orton.

2. Money in the Bank (July 17, 2011)

9 of 10

    CM Punk's infamous "pipe bomb" promo on the June 27, 2011, episode of WWE Raw made the Chicago native the hottest star in the industry. He found himself invited to late night television shows, radio appearances and talk shows. After years spent trying anything he could to reach the top of the industry, all he had to do was speak his mind.

    Momentum on his side, he arrived in his hometown for a hotly anticipated showdown with WWE champion John Cena. The uncertainty surrounding his contractual status with the company had left many wondering whether Punk would win the match or go out on his back, doing the job in what may have been his last match with the company.

    Arriving to the squared circle amid one of the loudest ovations for any Superstar to ever set foot in the Allstate Arena, fans could not help but hope they were not witnessing the end of something special before it could get started.

    They were not.

    Punk defeated Cena in a 5-star classic and rushed out of the arena with the WWE title, stopping to blow Vince McMahon a kiss before absconding with his top championship.

    The match, the emotion and the angle that followed helped put an exclamation point on a show that also featured the rise of Daniel Bryan by way of his Money in the Bank ladder match win and Alberto Del Rio's victory in the Raw brand's namesake contest.


    Match Card:

    SmackDown Money in the Bank match: Daniel Bryan defeated Cody Rhodes, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Kane, Sin Cara and Wade Barrett.

    Divas Championship match: Kelly Kelly defeated Brie Bella.

    Mark Henry defeated Big Show.

    Raw Money in the Bank match: Alberto Del Rio defeated The Miz, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Evan Bourne and Alex Riley.

    World Heavyweight Championship match: Christian defeated Randy Orton.

    WWE Championship match: CM Punk defeated John Cena.

1. SummerSlam (August 18, 2013)

10 of 10

    Prior to the 2013 SummerSlam event, only one WWE show had ever produced two consensus 5-star classics in a single night: WrestleMania X, which featured Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart and the iconic ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels.

    No one expected WWE's 25th summertime spectacular to achieve the same, but it did, producing two Match of the Year candidates at a time when the product was under scrutiny for creative inconsistencies and the dogged determination of the writing team to revert to the same old, same old far too often.

    In a No Disqualification match, CM Punk silenced any and all critics with what might well be the finest performance of his career. He took everything thrown at him by the hulking Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, and appeared to be on his way to victory until Paul Heyman interfered.

    Lesnar capitalized and picked up the win but not before recognizing the war of attrition he had just found himself in. To this day, The Beast has yet to deliver the sort of inspired performance he did against Punk.

    That 5-star classic gave way to the WWE Championship encounter between titleholder John Cena and handpicked challenger Daniel Bryan. Nursing a torn triceps that needed medical attention, Cena proved his toughness once again as he fought through the pain to deliver the quality of match Bryan deserved in what was shaping up to be the Bearded Wonder's big moment.

    A back-and-forth battle concluded with Bryan launching himself across the ring and laying out Cena with a running knee for the win. His celebration would be cut short, however, when Randy Orton and Triple H conspired to steal the title from him by way of the Money in the Bank briefcase. That angle would propel all involved and provide the company with months of storytelling.

    And if two 5-star, Match of the Year, all-decade bouts aren't enough for you, Christian and Alberto Del Rio delivered a fantastic wrestling match for the World Heavyweight Championship to really hammer home the point that SummerSlam 2013 was the best PPV of the decade and one of the finest ever produced by Vince McMahon and Co.


    Match Card

    Ring of Fire match: Bray Wyatt defeated Kane.

    Cody Rhodes defeated Damien Sandow.

    World Heavyweight Championship match: Alberto Del Rio defeated Christian.

    Natalya defeated Brie Bella.

    No Disqualification match: Brock Lesnar defeated CM Punk.

    Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn defeated Big E and AJ Lee.

    WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena.