15 Best WWE PPVs Ever (2024)


The best WWE PPVs ever remind us how great wrestling can be.

The best WWE PPVs are more than great wrestling cards. For fans, they are the milestone moments that chart the evolution of not just storylines and feuds but our fandom for this often silly (and sometimes worse) business. They’re not only filled with great matches, hot crowds, and all-time moments, but those special, often indefinable qualities that can put a smile on your face just by thinking of them.

For that reason, we’re looking back at the very best PPVs in WWE history. Just keep in mind that we’re only looking at WWE PPVs (and PLEs) for this list. That means no PPVs produced by other promotions and no NXT shows. Those shows are more than worthy of their own lists.

15. WrestleMania X

Much like another event we’ll soon talk about, WrestleMania X is best remembered for its two five-star matches. Say what you will about the validity of that particular rating system, but having two of those matches on the same card is usually a good sign that you have an all-time great event on your hands. It doesn’t hurt that the two five-star matches on this card represent the platonic idea of that rating. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart will likely forever be the greatest opening match (and brother vs. brother match) ever, and Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon’s ladder match really did change the industry for decades to come.

Don’t sleep on the rest of this card, though. The running storyline of Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger and Bret Hart is compelling enough to elevate every match in that series, and the rest of the card is, at the very least, watchable. This was a rare example of WWE making the most of a largely depleted roster at the time.


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14. WrestleMania XL: Night 2

Judging WrestleMania 40 is a battle of recency bias vs. the desire to recognize greatness in its time rather than in retrospect. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that no other WWE PPV from the last 4-5 years was in serious contention for a spot on this list. If nothing else, WrestleMania 40: Night 2 made fans from multiple generations feel like those golden years were back, no matter when they think those golden years actually were.

This WrestleMania could have easily been a disaster defined by the shame brought by Vince McMahon’s decades’ worth of heinous actions behind the scenes and the charges that were finally brought against him. Yet, for one night, at least, Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns, and a small army of returning stars paid off a years-long feud in a way that reminded us all of how great wrestling can be when it all comes together. Much of the rest of the card is certainly good, but that mythical match gave the biggest show of the year that undeniable main event moment it lacked for so long.

13. WWE Survivor Series 2002

2002 turned out to be an unlikely banner year for WWE. The failure of the Invasion angle forced the company to reckon with the burden of having a roster full of stars left over from the industry’s greatest hot period and the new people they wanted to push moving forward. They didn’t always get it right (*cough* Hogan’s championship run *cough*), but magic happened when they found a balance between those eras.

Survivor Series 2002 is one of the most notable examples of that ideal balance. Its first-ever (and still the very best) Elimination Chamber match highlighted the company’s emerging talent while giving Shawn Michaels the much-deserved feel-good win that solidified the validity of this legendary comeback. The undercard not only included a triple threat tag match that represents one of WWE’s only genuine attempts at growing their tag division, but an all-too-rare for that era notable women’s match between Trish and Victoria. And while “Big Show beats Brock Lesnar” reads like an odd result in retrospect, that elaborate storyline of a match more than paid off in the long run.

12. WWE SummerSlam 2013

It’s funny to look at the wrestlers on this card and realize how many of these matches would have been just as big (if not bigger) deals almost 10 years later. 2013 was this strange time when WWE was blessed with obvious talent but didn’t always know what to do with them. That’s evident in this PPV’s incredible main event between John Cena and Daniel Bryan. Fans saw those two tear the house down and opened their hearts and eyes to a bright new day. Yet, the show ended with heartbroken masses suddenly forced to reckon with Randy Orton as champion once again. The fabled “Yes Movement” reached necessary new heights on that day.

Equally impressive is the sometimes-overlooked showdown between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. An apparent clash of styles ended up working thanks to both wrestlers’ ability to incorporate their characters into a truly violent showdown for the ages. Those two (five-star) matches help make this one of those SummerSlams that were far better than that year’s WrestleMania.


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11. WrestleMania III

It’s easy enough to criticize WrestleMania III in retrospect. The card is a bit too large and filled with matches that don’t exactly meet modern in-ring standards. It would be fun (if possibly disheartening) to see what younger fans would think of this show if they tried to watch it from start to finish.

However, this remains the standard for what a great WrestleMania (or any other WWE PPV for that matter) should be. Highlighted by the energy-filled blowoff between two mega stars and filled with storylines and talent exhibitions rather than largely random match-ups, WrestleMania III raised the expectations of a new generation of mainstream fans in ways that proved to be difficult to surpass or sometimes meet. That’s especially true of the incredible Intercontinental Championship match between Macho Man and Ricky Steamboat. It wasn’t the first match of its kind, but it was the one many wrestlers and bookers that followed would “chase” for years to come.

10. Royal Rumble 1992

If we’re talking about the best top-to-bottom Royal Rumble card, that honor would probably have to go to Royal Rumble 2001. Royal Rumble 1992 isn’t quite a one-match show, but it’s not far off. However, that one match happens to be the greatest Royal Rumble match in the history of what has become WWE’s second-biggest annual event. When you look at how bad (or forgettable) some of those Royal Rumble matches have been in subsequent years, it’s hard not to give a little weight to the one that got that legendary concept right.

Yes, the WWE roster was absolutely stacked at this time as evidenced by the Royal Rumble match filled with Hall of Fame legends. However, the thing that elevates that match over so many otherwise good and great Royal Rumbles is its storytelling. Anchored by the saga of the heel Ric Flair continuously surviving seemingly impossible odds (and bolstered by Bobby Heenan’s all-time great announcing performance), this Royal Rumble match managed to weave so many ongoing feuds in and out of each other while creating new ones along the way. It’s what every Royal Rumble match aspires to be and few are.

9. WWE Backlash 2000

WWE had a problem in early 2000. They had assembled, up until that point, what may be the greatest roster of talent any wrestling organization had ever boasted. Unfortunately, they hadn’t figured out what to do with that roster by WrestleMania 2000, a bloated event filled with multi-man matches that felt more like a victory lap than a proper WrestleMania. Thankfully, the company would right the ship by the time Backlash rolled around.

Backlash 2000 is widely considered to be 2000’s “real” WrestleMania. The main event between The Rock and Triple H (complete with the ear-shattering return of Stone Cold Steve Austin) is what should have ended WrestleMania 2000, and the undercard was largely designed to emphasize the considerable talents of WWE’s youngest stars. This event kicked off a largely uninterrupted streak of incredible PPVs that WWE would ride for nearly a year.


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8. WrestleMania XXIV

While WrestleMania 24 has always been well-regarded, the event has only grown in acclaim in recent years. It’s not hard to see why. The lesser matches on this card fail to rise above (Chavo vs. Kane is a real slog), but the major contests exhibit that unique big-match WrestleMania feel. Randy Orton, John Cena, and Triple H put on an underrated triple-threat showcase, The Undertaker and Edge offered an ideal balance of main event spectacle and in-ring technique, and even The Big Show and Floyd Mayweather got something special out of the dreaded celebrity match spot.

However, this event is defined by the emotional power of Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair. Yes, it probably should have been the main event, and yes, Ric Flair’s subsequent actions have diminished its impact somewhat. But for one glorious moment, we watched two of the best to ever do it tell an all-time great in-ring story capped off by a perfect ending.

7. WrestleMania 30

I doubt a company will ever truly replicate what happened to Daniel Bryan during WrestleMania 30. In the internet age when everyone considered themselves to be knowledgeable about the inner workings of the company, WWE had nearly everyone doubting that anything good would happen to the outsider who became beloved as a genuine underdog in a broken system. Instead, Bryan showed why he was the face of the company across two incredible matches against institutional stars that he wasn’t “supposed to beat.” It was an almost impossible blend of pro wrestling storytelling and real-life drama.

Impressively, those matches also bookended what proved to be an incredible night of wrestling. John Cena/Bray Wyatt and Undertaker/Brock Lesnar arguably suffered from the wrong results, but both were the right matches with the latter offering WrestleMania’s most shocking moment ever. Elsewhere, everyone from Cesaro to AJ Lee got the most out of a hot crowd that was emotionally invested in nearly everything that happened. This event also marked the historic WrestleMania debut of The Shield.

6. WWE In Your House: Canadian Stampede

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of the best-booked feuds in WWE history, and this event saw the culmination of that rivalry. After WWE spent months making Hart a villain in the United States and the biggest babyface in Canada, they headed to The Great White North to have the united Hart family face off against Stone Cold’s ragtag team of “patriots” and foes. It fostered a competitive atmosphere typically not seen outside of the biggest showdowns between sports’ greatest rivals. Thankfully, the multi-man main event more than lived up to the hype.

What people tend to forget, though, is how great the rest of this card was. Undertaker and Vader had one of the best matches of the former’s championship reign, while Triple H and Mankind demonstrated the chemistry that would later lead to future classics. Even The Great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku got 10 minutes to put on an AJPW-style barnburner. It’s arguably a perfect (if short) wrestling card.


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5. Money in the Bank 2011

With his now famous pipe bomb promo, CM Punk generated a level of genuine widespread interest in WWE that the company hadn’t been able to manufacture for far too long. It didn’t just blur the lines of reality; it spoke to the frustrations of fans everywhere who were tired of settling for a lesser version of the thing they loved. When CM Punk entered Chicago at Money in the Bank 2011 to take on John Cena, the fans in attendance were certainly rooting for their hometown hero. However, that sustained roar you hear throughout the match represents far deeper feelings that were expressed, weaponized, and, ultimately, vindicated during one of the company’s best main events ever.

Despite what its popular reputation suggests, this is so much more than a one-match card. Randy Orton and Christian continued their underappreciated feud, Mark Henry advanced one of the greatest late-career revivals ever, and we got two excellent Money in the Bank ladder matches. It’s an untarnished bright spot for an otherwise strange time for the company.

4. WrestleMania XIX

You don’t have to look hard to find WrestleMania 19’s lowlights. Triple H vs. Booker T was a largely forgettable World Heavyweight Championship match with awful booking, and The Undertaker vs. Big Show and A-Train was the calamitous consequence of a series of unfortunate events. Yet, this is still the second-best WrestleMania ever when you look back at the rest of the card.

Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho put on a Savage vs. Steamboat match for a new generation (maybe better). Trish Stratus, Victoria, and Jazz pushed WWE women’s wrestling forward through sheer force of will. The Rock and Stone Cold ended one of the biggest blockbuster rivalries ever, and, against considerable odds, the reprehensible Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon had a 20-minute match that earned its runtime. It’s all capped by a WWE Championship bout between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle that, botched ending aside, was the right match with the right people at the perfect time. Few other WrestleManias have ever been as obviously great.

3. ECW One Night Stand 2005

It’s not just that Paul Heyman convinced WWE to run what was essentially a tribute show to ECW, Heyman’s revolutionary promotion that reshaped the wrestling industry in the 1990s. That’s impressive, but what’s really impressive is that Heyman convinced WWE to run what was pretty close to a proper ECW show. Veteran ECW acts packed the card, unbelievably inebriated WWE stars watched from box seats, and everything was booked just as you would have a dream ECW card booked (even if the reality of those events sometimes differed).

Of course, the thing that makes this a truly all-time great event is the crowd. 2,500 diehard ECW fans crammed into the Hammerstein Ballroom and exhibited a cult-like fervor that was simply electric. It culminated in WWE paying a king’s ransom to allow ECW legend The Sandman to come out through the fevered (and, also, quite drunk) crowd to “Enter Sandman” one more time. It’s a show both remarkably of its time and truly timeless.

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2. SummerSlam 2002

For all the talk about “passing the torch” in wrestling, we rarely ever see it done properly. Either the young star flames out, the old star wants their spot back, or the whole thing is done in the wrong time, place, and way. Yet, when Brock Lesnar took on The Rock at Summerslam 2002 after spending the summer being billed as “the next big thing,” few doubted he was just that. It was an incredible main event that solidified a star in a way that has often been attempted but rarely replicated.

When most people think of this event, they think of that impossibly great showdown between Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Four years after everyone had written off Michaels’ career as “finished,” he and his best friend put on the rare WWE Street Fight that lived up to the blood feud build up. Oh, and both of those matches put the lid on a card stacked with Hall of Fame in-ring talent giving it their absolute all against each other. Only a handful of cards in wrestling history of have had the work rate, big moments, and impactful long-term booking to match this event.

1. WrestleMania X-Seven

In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, James Stewart famously says, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Well, the legend of WrestleMania 17 and its often-cited status as the best wrestling PPV ever has certainly taken on a life of its own. The funny thing is that the facts of the event still hold up to its almost impossible reputation.

A couple of weeks after WWE purchased WCW and ended the Monday Night Wars, they effectively capped off the end of the Attitude Era with this WrestleMania that somehow felt bigger than WrestleMania. Nearly 70,000 fans packed into the iconic Houston Astrodome to watch The Rock and Stone Cold say farewell to a special time via their best match ever and one of the great “big fight” main events in WrestleMania history. The star power they’ve cultivated for themselves since then only makes it feel that much more special.

Yet, multiple matches on this show could have slid into that main event spot with few going home disappointed. TLC II remains the best match of its kind, The Undertaker and Triple H put on an old-school clinic with Attitude Era twists, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit confirmed they were among the very best, and even Shane and Vince McMahon made the match that had no business being so good. When a gimmick battle royale filled with over-the-hill workers and a Hardcore Title match are firing on all cylinders, you know you have a magical night in wrestling.

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15 Best WWE PPVs Ever (2024)
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