Friday, July 27, 2018

Top Ten Things: July PPV Matches

Welcome to another edition of's Top Ten Things, where I assemble a list of ten something-or-others and what-have-yous and decide what order they should go in.

Today I have a list of the ten greatest July PPV matches of all time.  The July PPV wasn't invented until 1988, when the NWA created a Great American Bash special headlined by Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger for the World Title.  For years the NWA/WCW was alone in presenting a PPV event in July, but in 1995 the WWF jumped in, filling the monthly gaps in their PPV schedule with a series of In Your House shows.  In 20 years nary a July has gone by without a PPV event.  While none of the Big Four shows have ever taken place during this month, the annual B-shows have supplied some real classics, some of which I'll talk about,

10. Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys - GAB '90 - 7/7/90

In 1990 the Midnight Express delivered some of the best matches of their career, and some of the best matches that year.  After dethroning US Tag Champs Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk at Capitol Combat, the Midnights defended against hot new babyface team The Southern Boys (Tracey Smothers and Steve Armstrong) at the Great American Bash.  The result was a blazing 18-minute tag team clinic that saw the Midnights retain.  In a rather poor in-ring year for the NWA, the US Tag division stood above the rest.

9. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn - Battleground - 7/24/16

These former best friends-turned hated rivals clashed one last time at the 2016 Battleground, in a match intended to put their epic feud to bed forever.  And what a battle it was.  Zayn and Owens know each other so well and have worked together so long they'd be hard-pressed to have a bad match, but this bout pulled out all the stops and ratcheted up the drama.  After a brief feeling-out process the big moves appeared fairly early in the match, with Zayn nearly killing himself on an errant springboard moonsault.  Owens then attacked Zayn's vulnerable right arm before Zayn staged a late-match comeback, complete with multiple brutal-looking half-nelson suplexes.  After several unsuccessful attempts to hit the Helluva Kick, Zayn finally nailed the move, picked Owens up almost with a look of regret, and hit a second for the win.  This match easily stole the show and proved one of WWE's best bouts of the year, while giving Zayn a much-need big win.

8. Jeff Hardy vs. Rob Van Dam - Invasion - 7/21/01

The Invasion PPV should've been the start of the greatest angle in wrestling history.  Unfortunately the WWF misfired at almost every turn, burying just about every non-WWF guy in the process.  The one import that caught fire though was Rob Van Dam, who for about six months was pushed to the moon, beginning with this Hardcore Title match against Jeff Hardy.  The two daredevils traded breathtaking high spots in a match that ranged all over the arena, before Van Dam snared his first taste of WWF gold.  The Invasion show may have been a disappointment but this match delivered huge.

7. Shawn Michaels/Ahmed Johnson/Sid Vicious vs. Vader/British Bulldog/Owen Hart - IYH9 - 7/21/96

During the summer of 1996 WWF Champion Shawn Michaels was embroiled in a feud with Camp Cornette, led by the monstrous Vader.  Cornette's stable was quite a heel superteam, and Shawn had to assemble his own trio to combat them.  Originally the lineup was to be Shawn teaming with Ahmed and the Ultimate Warrior.  But due to a contract dispute, Warrior was suddenly out of the company and Shawn recruited his old bodyguard Sid Vicious instead.  The resulting match was a wild six-man brawl with quick action and rapid tags that seemed to never slow down for a minute.  In the end Vader would score an upset pin on the Champion after 24 minutes, ending an incredibly fun main event and earning him a Title shot at Summerslam. 

6. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho - Fully Loaded - 7/23/00

In a year when the WWF was firing on all cylinders, Triple H was at the time arguably the top in-ring main event talent, having graduated from a rebellious degenerate to a prodigious ring general.  His feud with WWF newcomer Chris Jericho started that April, when a fast-count by the referee cost Triple H the WWF Title, before the decision was overturned.  Jericho and Triple H would collide at Fully Loaded (one of the best top-to-bottom PPVs I've ever seen) in a Last Man Standing match.  What with WWE's currently safer, less violent style, the LSM gimmick today is far less exciting than it was in 2000.  These two wrestlers threw everything they had at each other, and like Triple H had done six months earlier against Cactus Jack, Jericho proved he could hang with the top WWF stars in a main event match.

5. Hart Foundation vs. Austin/Shamrock/Goldust/LOD - Canadian Stampede - 7/6/97

Despite sagging ratings in the summer of 1997, the WWF was putting on some creatively amazing shows, highlighted by the unlikely US vs. Canada feud.  A few months earlier Bret Hart formed a new Hart Foundation stable with his brother Owen, brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart, and family friend Brian Pillman.  The fivesome declared war on the American wrestling fans and became heels in the US but heroes everywhere else.  Leading the charge for the American wrestlers was Bret's hated rival Steve Austin, who assembled his own team including Ken Shamrock, Goldust and the Road Warriors.  The ensuing melee occurred in Calgary at the In Your House PPV, Canadian Stampede.  The Harts were greeted as hometown idols against the invading American scoundrels.  After nearly 25 minutes of riotous nonstop battle, Owen Hart scored the pin for his team, on Steve Austin. 

4. The Rock vs. Chris Benoit - Fully Loaded - 7/23/00

The aforementioned Fully Loaded 2000 featured two excellent main events, the second of which pitted WWF Champion The Rock against former WCW Champion Chris Benoit.  Benoit and three other ex-WCW stars took the WWF by storm in January, calling themselves The Radicalz, and almost immediately made an impact, with Benoit and Eddie Guerrero both winning WWF gold within months.  Benoit then moved into a semi-main event role by challenging The Rock.  The match was a spectacular back and forth affair, with Benoit's mat wrestling keeping The Rock off-balance for much of the bout.  With the help of Shane McMahon, Benoit appeared to win the match and the Title after about fifteen minutes before WWF Commissioner Mick Foley ordered a restart, ultimately ending with The Rock scoring the clean win.

3. Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk - GAB '89 - 7/23/89

1989 is considered by many to be the best year in NWA history.  Champion Ric Flair led the charge with a fantastic feud against Ricky Steamboat, before being attacked by former Champ Terry Funk and turning babyface in the process.  Thus began a brutal blood feud that lasted over six months.  Their first match took place at The Great American Bash PPV, which was considered the best show of 1989.  This bloody, unruly brawl spilled all over the arena and saw both men take unbearable sums of punishment before Flair scored a quick pin.  But after the match The Great Muta assisted Funk in savagely double-teaming Flair, until the Champion's former rival Sting made the save.  These four men would feud deep into the fall months and deliver numerous classics.  Flair vs. Funk would go down as the best match of the best PPV of the best year in NWA antiquity.

2. AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada - NJPW Dominion - 7/5/15

The main event of the superb Dominion 2015 PPV saw AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada, both masters of their craft, in a heavily-anticipated rematch for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.  Okada was unfairly dethroned by Styles in 2014 and failed to regain the Title on multiple occasions, leading to a brief career tailspin.  But after regaining some focus, Okada finally challenged Styles to a rematch, and the result was spectacular.  After Styles' Bullet Club cohorts were ejected for interference, this match settled into a wonderful example of Styles-Okada storytelling.  Both guys threw every one of their signature moves at each other, and the match culminated in one of the most amazing closing stretches I can recall.  The counters and reversals on display were truly incredible.  After twenty-six minutes Okada finally regained the World Title, capping off one of the more emotional Championship quests in recent years.

1. John Cena vs. CM Punk - Money in the Bank - 7/17/11

This was the climax of the WWE's Summer of Punk angle, following the infamous "Pipe Bomb" promo.  After months of lackluster angles and PPVs, Punk's new "disgruntled employee" persona galvanized the fanbase and led to this now legendary PPV and match.  Punk's shocking hometown victory over John Cena leading to him "leaving WWE with the Title" is likely the one bout he'll be most remembered for.  From the white-hot Chicago crowd to the brilliant surrounding angle (which was then horribly botched in every way possible but that's another discussion), to the epic 34-minute running time, this match was a career-defining moment for CM Punk.  It's also quite possible that John Cena became Punk's greatest rival, as they would have three more epic MOTY contenders over the next two years.  This is one of the best matches of the current decade.

And that's it for this installment - comment below with some of your picks, and check back for more Top Ten Things, here at!  Join us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (@EnuffaDotCom)!

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