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Editors' Choice: 12 overlooked PPV matches you need to discover on WWE Network
When WWE Network launches on Feb. 24, each and every WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-view will be available at the push of a button on your remote or a tap on your iPhone screen. Sure, many fans will instantly scroll to relive the glory of Hogan-Andre at WrestleMania III, or watch history be made as Austin coins “3:16” for the very first time, but here at WWE.com we like to dig a bit deeper.
To get you started, the WWE.com editors hand selected a dozen contests that might have flown under your radar. Discover an emotional WrestleMania III bout with no titles on the line, an Austin-Rock face-off from before their main event days and an ECW whirlwind that has absolutely nothing to do with barbed wire. You’ll thank us later.
Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle: SummerSlam 2002
The best athletes have a way of making things look easy. Spend enough time watching Kelly Slater slice through the break on YouTube and you might convince yourself that you, too, could become a world-class surfer if you only had the time. Same goes for Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle, two professional wrestlers capable of such flawless technique that they make the impossible — say a reversal of a modified victory roll into a German Suplex — look like something that humans are objectively capable of doing.
Therein lies their brilliance, because it’s practically impossible for anyone to do what these men do. Need convincing? Got 10 minutes? Rewatch their opener from SummerSlam 2002, an unsung mat classic that whizzes by with the speed and intent of a bullet from a gun.
The bout’s appeal — apart from the fact that it pitted the greatest highflier in sports-entertainment history against an honest to God Olympic Gold Medalist — can be found in its simple conceit. Angle wanted to snap Rey’s ankle while Rey was prepared to use every clever reversal he could think up to avoid said ankle snapping.
The relentless cat-and-mouse game brought out the best in both competitors as Angle displayed the grind-your-face-in-the-mat viciousness of the worst kind of amateur wrestling bully while Mysterio — appropriately outfitted in all silver — bounced around like a fleshy pinball.
The bout’s finish, which sees Angle reverse an attempted top rope Frankensteiner into an ankle lock, isn’t as pretty as it could have been. Still, it left both Superstars looking better than when they came in. Angle walked away as an even more serious threat to everyone on the roster while Mysterio hobbled off a gutsy contender even in defeat.
By the time you caught your breath, they were already gone, on their way to another classic. — RYAN MURPHY
Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Super Crazy & Kid Kash: Massacre on 34th Street
South Philly’s ECW Arena might have been iconic in its grittiness, but Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom was Extreme at its New York finest. In the cold winter of 2000, the same building that played host to the first episode of Raw was quickly establishing itself as ECW’s new home base. The organization’s popularity was riding an all-time high going into December’s Massacre on 34th Street, and somewhere among the sea of faithful in the ornate mezzanine, I was there to experience it.
By the turn of the millennium, many of ECW’s top stars had jumped to WCW or WWE, giving supporting players an opportunity to shine. Boy wonder Mikey Whipwreck dyed his hair a blazing crimson and became a fearless firecracker under the guidance of The Sinister Minister, and the demonic preacher paired the newly unpredictable Whipwreck with Yoshihiro Tajiri. Together, this colorful trio was packed full of personality and became one of the ECW's hottest attractions during its final months. Already exhausted from a card that included Rhyno snapping Spike Dudley in two, us fans couldn’t look away from Mikey and Tajiri battling the unique pairing of Super Crazy and Kid Kash.
Together, these four competitors had little in common, save for their utter disregard for their own wellbeing. Through a barrage of steel chairs and moonsaults, each man showed he was more demented than the next. But the bout also featured plenty of finesse. Early on, The Insane Luchador and Tajiri squared off in a thrilling sequence that was more fluid than any production of Swan Lake at Lincoln Center 30 blocks north. And that versatility was quintessential ECW.
The melee ended when The Japanese Buzzsaw lived up to his nickname by slicing through a table with a ferocious double stomp. Tajiri crashed through the wood and onto a pile of steel chairs below that had been laid across a prone Super Crazy.
There might not have been any barbed wire and neither team held ECW’s Tag Titles, but it didn’t matter. The only thing up for grabs was the adulation of the tough-to-please rowdy New York City fans. And you can be sure we gave it to them. — ZACH LINDER
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock – Intercontinental Championship Match: D-Generation X: In Your House
As much as we all heap deserved praise on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock’s incredible trilogy of WrestleMania clashes — including The Texas Rattlesnake’s final match at WrestleMania XIX—we don’t give enough credit to their first one-on-one encounter at D-Generation X: In Your House on Dec. 7, 1997, when they battled over the Intercontinental Championship. At the time, The Attitude Era was in its infancy, Austin was cementing his status as WWE’s resident hellraiser and The Great One was just beginning to emit some serious sparks in his quest to become “The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment.”
With the help of his Nation of Domination cohorts, The Rock absconded with Austin’s Intercontinental Title on the Nov. 17, 1997, edition of Raw, forcing “Stone Cold” to both challenge for and defend his own championship at DX: In Your House. Rolling to the ring in style behind the wheel of an “Austin 3:16” pickup truck, The Texas Rattlesnake immediately found himself on the receiving end of a three-on-one assault as The Nation of Domination’s Faarooq, Kama Mustafa (The Godfather before he found his calling in the railroad industry) and D’Lo Brown swarmed Austin before the bell.
Ultimately, though, after incapacitating D’Lo with a “Stone Cold” Stunner on the roof of his truck and leaving Faarooq and Mustafa in a heap at ringside, Austin prevented The Rock from stealing a win with a set of brass knuckles, nailed The Brahma Bull in the gut with a swift kick and hit the Stunner for the three-count. The Springfield, Mass., crowd went nuts, and teenage WWE Universe members around the world irritated their elderly neighbors with raucous “Austin!” chants and the messiest of root beer toasts … or maybe that was just me.
With unmatched chemistry between the ropes in this chaotic and fateful encounter, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock were clearly destined to one day share the spotlight as the dual standard-bearers of The Attitude Era. — JAMES WORTMAN
Jeff Jarrett vs. X-Pac – Hair vs. Hair Match: SummerSlam 1998
I have seen many a bout in my WWE tenure, but I always gravitate back to a contest that both professionally and personally meant a lot to me. That match in question took place at SummerSlam 1998 in my “home,” Madison Square Garden, with X-Pac taking on “Double J” Jeff Jarrett.
There is a backstory to this match. During a live telecast of Sunday Night Heat, Jarrett and his accomplices, Southern Justice, targeted me as their next victim to have his head shaved, for no good reason! Jarrett also shaved my mustache off as well. Talk about a public indignity! I was at my lowest of lows backstage when X-Pac sat down to not only console me, but also to invite me to join him at ringside for his SummerSlam face-off against Jarrett. It was a Hair vs. Hair Match, and I vowed to be fiercely loyal to the DX member by being in his corner.
I remember how highly competitive the match was, with the stakes being what they were. After all was said and done, Jarrett got a taste of his own medicine by receiving a guitar shot from X-Pac, and the referee administering the three count. That medicine became a double dose, when I had an opportunity to participate in the chopping of Double J’s locks.
With the advent of WWE Network, this match and its aftermath will hopefully prove to be an interesting and entertaining watch for all of you. — HOWARD FINKEL
Kane vs. Big Show vs. Raven – Triple Threat Hardcore Championship Match: WrestleMania X-Seven
The sheer weight of a WrestleMania match makes a fan feel like they’re witnessing something important. As a result, you sometimes pick the match apart so much, you forget to just enjoy the show. So for me, the greatest WrestleMania moment of all time was among the most obvious: It’s when Kane — in his original, Michael Myers mask and flame-brushed singlet, muscles heaving and hair matted in his face — squeezes his colossal frame into a golf cart and puts the pedal to the metal in the gloriously preposterous Hardcore Championship Match from WrestleMania X-Seven.
Hardly Steamboat-Savage, I know, but that’s kind of the point. This match didn’t aspire to be a masterpiece and, let’s be honest, these three didn’t so much grace The Grandest Stage as trash it with impunity. The product, though, was oddly magnificent as a result. The action lasts in the ring for all of fifteen seconds before Kane and Big Show play Godzilla and lay waste to the back while Raven flits about, getting his shots in where he can. The champion is tossed through a window, Big Show is plowed through some drywall and Kane drops a big boot on both of them through the stage itself to claim the title, though the last thing anyone remembers about this match is who won the damn thing.
There were bigger matches on the card that evening. Hell, there werebettermatches on the card that evening, and there were certainly more historic ones. But this three-way dance for The Attitude Era’s most outrageous championship was everything you’d want it to be: unpredictable, hilarious and, most important of all, a hell of a lot of fun. It even had Paul Heyman on commentary, calling what was basically a depraved piece of ECW fan-fiction. This match lacked decorum, grace and civility in all forms, and its big moments announced themselves with the subtlety of cannon fire. It wasn’t your typical WrestleMania grandeur, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthy of the showcase. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Bobby Eaton vs. Arn Anderson, SuperBrawl I
In my early days as a wrestling fan, announcers seemed to hammer home the fact that “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton was a fantastic wrestler. My young mind couldn’t get why they harped on that, when there were flashier, more charismatic competitors who seemed to be just as good as the taciturn Eaton, if not better. My eyes were opened and my mind was changed while watching SuperBrawl I.
After his Midnight Express cohorts, Stan Lane and Jim Cornette, left WCW, Eaton wasn’t expected to hack it as a singles wrestler, let alone contend for a title. But the unassuming Alabama native excelled as a solo performer, earning a WCW Television Title Match against the crafty Arn Anderson at the inaugural SuperBrawl in 1991.
The Enforcer underestimated his challenger early in the bout, but quickly found out what he was in for when Eaton tagged him with a straight right hand. After Anderson checked to make sure his teeth were still there, the two showed why they were perhaps the best wrestlers in WCW as they traded complicated holds on the mat.
However, the championship battle became extremely heated very quickly. Anderson shoved “Beautiful” Bobby off the top rope, sending him crashing into the mat. He then focused his attack on Eaton’s left knee, hoping to keep the challenger from taking flight. The Enforcer viciously stomped on it, wrenched it and slammed it into the ring post and ring apron.
Eaton battled back in spurts, hobbling on his one good leg to rock Anderson with a few rights or a suplex before collapsing to the mat in pain. Anderson, out of desperation, hit his patented spinebuster, but it wasn’t enough. Eaton slammed Anderson, willed himself to the top rope and hit his Alabama Jam legdrop, despite the attempted interference of Four Horsemen member Barry Windham.
After pinning Anderson, Eaton leapt to his feet, the pain exiting his body for a moment as the crowd exploded in elation. As for me, I learned from this hard-fought match that wrestling wasn’t always about being the flashiest grappler, but about getting the job done. And “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton got the job done every time he stepped in the ring. — BOBBY MELOK
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Nasty Boys – NWA United States Tag Team Championship Match: Halloween Havoc 1990
For the longest time, I simply never “got” The Nasty Boys. To me, Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags were all armpits, Mohawks and missing teeth. Then I saw The Nasties vs. Rick & Scott Steiner at Halloween Havoc 1990 and my attitude changed completely. Many viewings later, the match remains as charmingly cyclonic as ever, and it’s one I ardently believe more people should see. I appreciate slow-building, technical wrestling — the sort of fare that rewards the patient fan — but I also dig ruffians beating the tar out of each other, and this match has that in spades.
It’s The Steiner Bros. at their early ’90s, fluorescent-singlet best. Two All-American grapplers, who’d steamrolled through whatever team was put in front of them, pitted against two husky, street-smart newcomers who were light on technique. There is no collar-and-elbow tie-up to be found. Instead, all four heavyweights just brawl from the word “go.” Within the very first minute, Sags rains a steel chair down upon Scott Steiner’s head, causing an elderly woman in the front row to shake her fist furiously at the Nasty Boy’s rule breaking.
There were high-angle suplexes galore, stiff Steiner-lines and enough bang-bang collisions to make even “Cowboy” Bill Watts attempt a grin. Three minutes in, The Steiners hit their Diving Bulldog, a move that’d eventually be considered their finisher. Helping matters is the Chicago audience — an infamously tough crowd that cut its teeth on bare-knuckle fighters like Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher — and the “discretionary officiating” (as Jim Ross put it) of referee Mike Adkins. As The Steiners and The Nasties fought each other hammer and tongs, the energy inside the UIC Pavilion swelled commensurately. By the time Scott Steiner landed the Frankensteiner for the win, the excitement hit a fever pitch.
This match might not be a technical classic, but it sure is fun to watch. — JOHN CLAPP
Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis – Hair vs. Hair Farewell Match: WrestleMania III
An overlooked bout on a WrestleMania III card that included Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWE Title and the technical masterpiece that was Randy Savage/Ricky Steamboat, Piper vs. Adonis tends to get lost in the shuffle of history. Sure, the end of this Hair vs. Hair Match may have been a little hokey, but the bout itself was impressive — and undoubtedly entertaining — on a number of levels.
First and foremost, you had Roddy Piper, who was leaving WWE, competing in his “farewell” match with every single one of the 93,173 fans in attendance at the third annual Show of Shows firmly behind him. In peak physical condition, and clearly at the top of his game, Hot Rod delivered a compelling performance on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
On the other side of the ring, you had Adrian Adonis, flanked by the one-and-only Jimmy Hart, entering the arena to a wall of boos. Although he was billed at 298 pounds, The Adorable One could flat-out move, as evidenced by his best Ric Flair impersonation when he went sailing over the turnbuckle early on in the bout.
Listen to the crowd when Piper first gets his hands on Jimmy Hart at ringside. Or when Roddy tosses Adonis and Hart over the top rope a little later on. The Pontiac Silverdome erupts. The sound is almost unfathomable, and it really helps place WWE in the context of history at that moment. By the third Show of Shows, WWE was, simply, a phenomenon.
Gorilla Monsoon put it best after Piper chased a freshly-clipped Adonis from the ring: “Look at Roddy — he’s having a good time!” And that’s exactly what this match was — a good time, from start to finish. — ALEX GIANNINI
Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm – ECW Television Championship Match: Guilty as Charged 1999
ECW faithful may remember that Lance Storm vs. Rob Van Dam was a last-minute addition to ECW’s first pay-per-view, Barely Legal on April 13, 1997. However, the match Rob and Lance had for the ECW World Television Championship at Guilty as Charged 1999 is the far more memorable contest. This was the type of match I most enjoyed calling, because it was primarily pure wrestling with just a smattering — or splattering — of extreme.
With the hyperactive whistle-blower Bill Alfonso in Rob’s corner and Dawn Marie in Lance’s, this athletic exhibition descended into a mixed-gender melee when Fonzie targeted Dawn Marie at ringside to force Lance to break his single leg crab submission on Van Dam. The native of Calgary … dramatic pause … Alberta, Canada matched Mr. Pay-Per-View move for move and made me sound like the Micro Machines pitchman on commentary. The near 20-minute classic saw both men plaster one another — and the referee — with a steel chair, which was all legal in ECW. However, in the end, the matchup reverted back to a wrestling clinic and ended with The Whole Dam Show retaining his title with a textbook Bridging German Suplex.
I know for a fact the talent exhibited by both Lance and Rob in this match led to them both receiving overtures from WCW and WWE. To nobody’s surprise, especially mine, both Extreme athletes went on to have successful runs in WWE. More impressively, 15 years later, they still look almost exactly like they did the night of this match 15 years ago. Now that’s worthy of an “Oh my God!” — JOEY STYLES
Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Liger – WCW Light Heavyweight Championship Match: SuperBrawl II
Not every classic battle in the sports-entertainment pantheon was waged for a World Title. Not every immortal contest started — or ended — an era, redefined the professional wrestling landscape or took place before a sold-out arena of tens of thousands. Sometimes, must-see matches are lost to the pages of history, and sometimes, greatness has a way of sneaking up on you.
Such was the case when Brian Pillman and Jushin Liger battled at SuperBrawl II on Feb. 29, 1992, for the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship. Five-thousand lucky fans at Milwaukee’s MECCA Arena watched the first match on the card in awe as “Flyin’” Brian and “Thunder” brought the house down with a technical, hard-hitting, high-flying wrestling clinic.
Although both competitors were well-known for their aerial prowess, Pillman looked to grapple with his dangerous, decorated foe and keep the fight on the mat. It didn’t take long, however, for the intensity to ratchet up and the action to spill all over the ring, the concrete floor and up on the ropes, as the two threw everything they had at each other: reversals, moonsaults, clotheslines, headkicks, suplexes, cross bodies, flips, submission maneuvers and so much more. And, the dropkicks. Oh, the dropkicks. When it comes to dropkick quantity and quality, no match touches this one.
In the end, Pillman pinned Liger with a unique leg rolling, bridging clutch hold to regain the WCW Light Heavyweight Title in a whirlwind Japanese style-inspired masterpiece that was years ahead of its time.
To add even more awesomeness, on commentary was Jesse Ventura, who — when not shoehorning in references to his role in the film “Predator” — declared it “the greatest aerial match I’ve ever seen in my career.” And he’s right. Drop whatever you’re doing and watch this match. — JAKE GRATE
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy – World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match: Extreme Rules 2009
One of the greatest pay-per-view matches of all time was an epic Ladder Match, pitting World Heavyweight Champion Edge against the incomparable Jeff Hardy at Extreme Rules in 2009.
Edge and Hardy were two Superstars who had competed in more Ladder Matches than anyone in WWE, but had never competed one-on-on against each other in that brutal contest. Hardy himself had predicted that “people would talk about [that] match forever, long after [they were both] gone.”
So, how could such a monumental showdown end up being overshadowed in the annals of pay-per-view history? Maybe it had something to do with the fact that neither competitor walked out of New Orleans that night with the title.
The contest was an instant classic. The fearless warriors collided with the rungs in the heat of battle as if the treacherous object was a third participant in the match. Ladders were used as innovative weapons of every conceivable type from battering ram to chopping block, from launching point to involuntary landing pad. Bodies dropped to the canvas just when it looked like championship glory was in their grasp. Slugfests took place on the top of one ladder, only to have it topple over on the merciless rungs of another ladder below. Metal twisted and broke in every direction.
Hardy would ultimately emerge victorious. But before he could fully bask in the glory of being crowned the new World Heavyweight Champion, CM Punk crushed his dreams by cashing in the contract he had wielded since winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania. With a double dose of GTS, The Second City Saint easily put away the exhausted, newly-crowned titleholder.
While an incredible moment for Punk, it would instantly turn the earth-shattering Ladder Match into a footnote in the epic story of The Best in the World. — MICHAEL BURDICK
The Darkside vs. The Royals – Elimination Match: Survivor Series 1995
Nevermind the tradition of uncommon allies teaming under a unified, and often hit-or-miss, namesake. Survivor Series, at its core, is about gang warfare and vengeance — reasons why WWE's second longest running pay-per-view event has fixed placement in my ring-shaped heart.
In 1995, The Undertaker returned to action after having his face crushed beneath the thigh of the quarter-ton King Mabel. Best yet: The Phenom now resembled The Phantom of the Opera with his ghastly yet gnarly protective mask. He straight spooked his opposition ... admittedly, more so than affable associates Savio Vega, Fatu and Henry O. Godwinn, who (bafflingly) comprised The Undertaker's Darkside. Emperor Palpatine may have assembled a squad more appropriate of this name, but it mattered not as The Deadman unleashed awesome hell upon Jerry Lawler, demented dentist Isaac Yankem and a pre-DX Hunter Hearst Helmsley (who fell to a chokeslam from the apron, over the top rope and to the mat).
The rarity of a masked Undertaker, his clean sweep of The Royals and his clash with a jive, hot-stepping 500-pounder in gold lamé, to me, make this match a hidden gem in the crown of WWE Network. — CRAIG TELLO