Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 2000s

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Ten things, in order, numbered.  You get the idea.

Today I'll be talking about the ten greatest PPVs of that bygone decade known as the "aughts."  2000-2009.  Wrestling was HUGE at the start of the decade, and by the end...not quite so much.  But the 2000s saw some major changes in the industry, as the WWF swallowed up both of its major competitors (only to see a pair of smaller ones pop up in their place).  The company also took on a more modern edge at the turn of the century, blending their storyline-driven content with a much stronger in-ring emphasis, aided by numerous talent acquisitions like Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and The Radicalz.  The WWF's PPV quality boomed during the first two years of the decade but fell again starting in 2002.  Unfortunately with no real competition Vince McMahon was less motivated to put out a consistently strong product, thus most of the entries on this list are from the first half of the decade.  So let's get to the list.....

10. No Way Out 2006

Our first entry is from one of WWE's worst recent in-ring years; a rare 2006 PPV that was solidly engaging from top to bottom.  The Smackdown brand's No Way Out was headlined by a fairly epic Kurt Angle-Undertaker bout for the World Title that ranged all over the ringside area and climaxed with Taker snaring Angle in a triangle choke, which Angle countered with a match-ending rollup.  The semi-main event pitted Rumble winner Rey Mysterio against Randy Orton, with the latter gaining a cheap pinfall to steal Rey's WrestleMania title shot.  The third-best match saw US Champion Booker T defend against Chris Benoit, in one of their better WWE outings.  Benoit would capture the US Title with the Crossface.  The three undercard bouts were middling, but the lion's share of this show was alotted to the three big matchups and the result was a streamlined PPV that easily outclassed everything else on WWE's 2006 calendar.

9. Backlash 2000

2000 was a year when the WWF's B PPVs were by and large far superior to the Big Five shows.  Case in point, Backlash.  Making excellent use of the influx of new roster additions, the company presented a loaded show with a spectacular variety of bouts.  From the Edge/Christian-X-Pac/Road Dogg Tag Title opener to the dizzyingly paced Dean Malenko-Scotty 2 Hotty Light Heavyweight match, to the unruly Hardcore Title 6-Way, to the hilariously entertaining Eddie Guerrero-Essa Rios European Title match, the undercard provided plenty to enjoy.  But the final two bouts solidified Backlash as a truly great show.  Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho delivered one of their best singles matches together for the Intercontinental Title, one that could've main evented a PPV had it gone another five minutes.  Then Triple H and The Rock continued their epic feud with an excellent sports-entertainment showing.  While not a technical masterpiece like the I-C match, HHH-Rock served as a fine WWF-style main event to further this rivalry and cap off a pretty incredible night of wrestling.

8. WrestleMania XX

One of the most star-studded WrestleManias was the twentieth edition, emanating from Madison Square Garden.  Of the twelve featured matches, only four really captured the imagination, but as with 'Mania X, the good stuff on this show was so strong it far outweighed the rest.  Two undercard matches - Chris Jericho vs Christian and Evolution vs. The Rock n' Sock Connection - were tremendously entertaining in very different ways, but the real strengths of WrestleMania XX lay in its co-main events.  First was the WWE Title match between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle, a blistering 21-minute affair that ended with Guerrero loosening his boot, causing it to slip off his foot and allowing him to escape an ankle lock before rolling Angle into a small package for the pin.  The main event of this show stands as probably my favorite WWE match of all time: World Champion Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit.  A near-perfect mix of drama, brutality, blood, and airtight wrestling.  These three delivered a simply breathtaking main event culminating in Benoit tapping out the dominant heel Champion before celebrating with his best friend Eddie Guerrero.  WrestleMania XX did have some throwaway matches (two 4-way Tag Title bouts, a brief Undertaker-Kane match, and an abysmal Goldberg-Brock Lesnar fiasco) but the good matches were so good (I consider the two Title matches the two best bouts of 2004) I have to include this show in the list.

7. Vengeance 2005

Another wonderfully streamlined WWE show from the middle of the decade was the '05 edition of Vengeance, featuring only six matches, the last three of which were good-to-great.  After a strong opening Intercontinental Title match between Carlito and Shelton Benjamin there were a couple forgettable offerings (Victoria vs. Christy Hemme and Edge vs. Kane), but the final two-thirds of the show was fantastic.  First Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle had a rematch from WrestleMania 21 that nearly equaled its predecessor, then John Cena defended the WWE Title against Chris Jericho and Christian in a blistering Triple Threat.  Finally we got a violently strong Hell in a Cell match as World Champ Batista finally settled his score with "Triple Haitch."  This was another one of those rare B PPVs that outdid every other WWE show that year, with multiple excellent bouts and very little fat to trim.

6. ROH Driven 2007

In 2007 Ring of Honor threw its hat in the PPV ring, and while its inaugural offering, Respect is Earned, didn't rock my socks off, the second PPV Driven sure did.  This show featured a couple short throwaway matches but aside from those, Driven featured mostly nonstop action, with No Remorse Corps vs. Delirious & The Resilience serving as a hot opening six-man, Claudio Castagnoli vs. Matt Sydal as a fast-paced followup, The Briscoe Brothers vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico as a fantastic Tag Title match, and the Bryan Danielson-Nigel McGuinness main event going down as probably my favorite Ring of Honor match of all time.  Danielson and McGuinness delivered a good dozen classics over the years, but this rugged scientific masterpiece tops them all for me.  After 24 blazing minutes a bloody Danielson locked in Cattle Mutilation to get the submission.  This show put to shame every other 2007 PPV and for my money was the best PPV of the half-decade.

5. Fully Loaded 2000

Yet another B PPV that stole the year was the 2000 edition of WWF's Fully Loaded, which featured a "Triple Main Event" (even though one third of said main event didn't earn that billing) and showcased the company's three newest top talents (Angle, Benoit and Jericho).  But first the undercard, which featured numerous solid bouts, starting with a blazing six-person tag pitting The Hardy Boyz & Lita against T&A & Trish Stratus.  Other undercard highlights included Eddie Guerrero vs. Perry Saturn for the European Title and a shockingly good Val Venis-Rikishi I-C Title cage match where Rikishi famously splashed Venis off the top of the steel structure.  The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle bout was a disappointing seven-minute squash, but the other two main event matches were spectacular.  Triple H and Chris Jericho had a brutal, epic Last Man Standing match that proved to the company Jericho could deliver in a top spot, and in the main event WWF Champion The Rock defended against Chris Benoit in a tremendously exciting technical match.  The one-two punch of the final pair of bouts elevated this PPV above every other show in the year 2000.

4. King of the Ring 2001

For my money the greatest King of the Ring PPV (by far) took place in 2001, as villainous WWF Champ Steve Austin faced Chrises Benoit and Jericho in a Triple Threat, delivering a fairly excellent 28-minute match.  But the show stealer was the monstrously violent showdown between Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon which saw Angle suplex Shane through two panes of glass and Angle Slam him off the top rope.  Elsewhere on the card we got three short but satisfying tournament matches culminating in Edge capturing the KOTR crown, plus a furiously paced Light Heavyweight Title match between Jeff Hardy and X-Pac.  Were it not for the absolutely stellar WrestleMania card in 2001 this easily would've been the PPV of the year.

3. SummerSlam 2002

2002 saw a significant dropoff in both PPV quality and ratings, but WWE rallied with that year's SummerSlam, a stacked, varied show with nary a wasted moment.  Setting the tone was the spectacular Kurt Angle-Rey Mysterio opener, which may have only gone nine minutes but for me stole the show with its breathtaking action.  Other undercard highlights included a splendid Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero match, a solid Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho outing, and a decent Undertaker vs. Test fight.  But the final two bouts solidified this SummerSlam as the finest in the series, as Triple H faced the returning Shawn Michaels in an epic Street Fight that kicked off the second leg of HBK's legendary career, and The Rock defended the WWE Title against fearsome wunderkind Brock Lesnar, in a stunning display of athleticism.  At a time when the WWE product was on very shaky ground, SummerSlam 2002 reaffirmed that the company could still put on an incredible show when motivated to do so.

The final two entries on this list are really #1 and #1A.  I've placed them in this order based on my own personal preference, but they're both A+ PPVs.

2. WrestleMania X-Seven

The culmination of The Attitude Era was WrestleMania 17, where The Rock and Steve Austin delivered a main event for the ages, battling for 28 blood-soaked minutes before Austin sold out to Vince McMahon and became the new heel Champion.  The undercard included a wild Triple H-Undertaker brawl, a dazzling scientific Kurt Angle-Chris Benoit showcase, a gleefully over-the-top Vince vs. Shane fight, a silly but highly entertaining Raven-Big Show-Kane Hardcore Triple Threat, and of course an absolute car wreck of a TLC match as Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz took the Ladder Match concept to staggeringly dangerous new heights.  WrestleMania X-Seven instantly became the definitive edition of the annual spectacular, where everyone on the card had a purpose, several matches delivered huge, and all kinds of memorable moments took place.

1. WrestleMania XIX

For me though the best PPV of the 2000s, the best-ever WrestleMania, and the best-ever WWE PPV was the absolutely STACKED WrestleMania 19.  Featuring, it could be argued, FIVE main event matches, this show turned out even better than anyone could've reasonably expected.  The four undercard bouts were rather abbreviated but included a scorching three-way Tag Title match between Haas & Benjamin, Los Guerreros and Benoit & Rhyno and a short but fun Matt Hardy-Rey Mysterio Cruiserweight Title match.  The extended main event portion of the show kicked off with the amazing Shawn Michaels-Chris Jericho clinic, and continued with a very underrated Triple H-Booker T World Title showdown, a violent, unreasonably entertaining Hulk Hogan-Vince McMahon Street Fight, an emotional, fitting swan song for Steve Austin against The Rock, and a startling display of technical wizardry from Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, which climaxed with Lesnar nearly killing himself on a botched Shooting Star Press but still managing to capture the WWE Title.  WrestleMania 19 is everything a wrestling fan could want out of a WWE supercard, with something for everyone and two Match of the Year candidates.  For my money WWE has yet to top this show.

That's my list folks.  Thanks for reading, and comment below with your picks!  Join us on Facebook, MeWe and Twitter!

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