In honor of WWE Network providing a colossal library of World Wrestling Entertainment, World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling pay-per-views as well as streaming upcoming pay-per-views as part of the $10 a month subscription, I’ve watched every PPV that took place in Philadelphia and ranked the Top 10 greatest matches.
Forewarning, Ring of Honor fans: Only events which you could purchase by remote or by calling your local cable provider were counted, so exit out of that BuzzFeed tab and type my address in your inevitable hostile response email, because the countdown begins now.
10. Brian Pillman vs. Lex Luger-Halloween Havoc 1989
The arrogant “Total Package” defended the U.S. Championship against Flyin’ Brian in perhaps the best match of Luger’s career. A classic battle between strength and speed, the herculean titleholder struggled to keep the scrappy challenger grounded. Luger’s offense is limited, but his heat is so strong, the crowd reacts to every pec flex. It’s funny seeing Luger jaw-jack with the fans while trapped in a wristlock.
9. Team 3D vs. Beer Money –Lockdown 2009
I see you, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. A street fight inside a steel cage seems contradictory, but this is where families are made up and the rules don’t matter. Team 3D entered through the crowd, portraying hometown heroes from their ECW days, so they brawled with Beer Money up and down the bleachers. The blood, the tables, the historical impact –Team 3D became the only team to win ECW, WCW, WWE, NWA, IWGP and TNA Tag Team Championships thanks to this match. And yes, I’m biased because it happened at the Liacouras Center.
8. Brian Pillman vs. Ricky Steamboat – Halloween Havoc 1992
Pillman’s life was cut short in 1997, but luckily, he left this gem. Three years later after No. 10, he assumes the cocky villain role against perennial fan favorite Steamboat. I’m not sure why WWE skipped this match for Pillman’s “Loose Cannon” DVD – it’s fast-paced and tells a great story of “The Dragon” fending off every dirty trick Pillman pulls. That story made all the better due to Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura narrating the action in legitimate sports fashion, which is sorely missed today.
7. Terry Funk & Great Muta vs. Ric Flair and Sting – Halloween Havoc 1989
A tag team match of such epic proportions could only be contained inside the electrified cage known as the Thunderdome. The only way to win is if Flair and Sting’s corner man Ole Anderson or Funk and Muta’s corner man Gary Hart throws in the towel. Oh, and Bruno Sammartino is the referee. If you ever wanted to see Sting swing like Tarzan and Funk Funk hang to the cage like monkey bars, check out what the Punjabi Prison should have been.
6. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk – Night of Champions 2009
One of the most underrated feuds in wrestling history, the beloved daredevil and the “Straight Edge Superstar” competed for the World Heavyweight Championship. The chemistry between these two atypical headliners never failed to entertain as the crowd rallied behind Hardy with every strike and subsequent smirk by Punk. Although they would raise the bar even higher with a TLC match the next month, this traditional bout sent fans home happy as the “Rainbow Haired Warrior” delivered a Swanton Bomb to recapture his title.
5. Christian vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. CM Punk vs. Rob Van Dam – Money in the Bank 2013
Returning to WWE after a six-year absence, RVD gained the most cheers even while sharing a ring with Punk and Bryan. Unfortunately, everybody ganged up on him once the bell rang.
In a goosebump moment for ROH fans, Punk and Bryan cleared the ring for a brief face off.
This wasn’t just a human demolition derby – the company’s top two storylines for the rest of the year sprung amid the wreckage: Paul Heyman betrayed his client Punk by slamming a ladder into his skull and Orton retrieved the magical briefcase, leading him to become The Authority’s chosen champion.
4. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock – WrestleMania XV
In the first match of their “Mania” trilogy, the two biggest stars of the Attitude Era pounded each other all over the arena, even colliding into the giant “WrestleMania” entrance sign. The match included three referees knocked out, run-ins by Vince McMahon and Mankind, countless chair shots, but did the people love it. If good ole J.R. overcame his second spell of Bell’s palsy to commentate this war, you know it’s must-see. Plus, nobody sells a Stunner like The Rock.
3. The Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, and Masato Yakushiji vs. Taka Michinoku, Terry Boy and Dick Togo – Barely Legal 1997.
Don’t blink. This nonstop melee featuring the best of Japan’s Michinoku Pro Wrestling organization leaves fans wondering how humans can absorb such physicality without a gurney ride home. Everyone except for Michinoku was virtually unknown to me, but the ECW faithfuls remained vocal, so I trusted their instincts. If all you remember about Michinoku was his comedic stint in Kaientai, you’ll be shocked at his performance. Shocked, indeed.
2. 2004 Royal Rumble
This would have landed No. 1, but I’m one of those people still unable to enjoy a Chris Benoit match. I realize we should separate the person from the performer, but my conscience won’t let me celebrate his entering at No. 1 and winning the whole match. I attended that show, too, but the memory will always be tainted, like a good song that reminds you of your ex. If you can stomach his presence, this “Rumble” deserves acclaim for featuring Goldberg, Kurt Angle, RVD, John Cena, Scott Steiner, Chris Jericho and a couple surprises.
1. Hardcore Holly vs. Brock Lesnar – Royal Rumble 2004
1. Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind– In Your House: Mind Games 1996
Mick Foley claimed this as the best match of his career until “Backlash 2004,” and it’s easy to see why. The deranged Mankind fought the “Heartbreak Kid,” utilizing every part of the ringside area with some innovative yet sickening moves. This match has it all: brawling, submissions, high flying, psychology. Michaels even snaps out of character at one point for a missed spot, but Mankind takes him down with a variation of the Tazmission turned into a Mandible Claw. Despite Michaels retaining the WWE Championship due to disqualification, the surprise ending only adds to the spectacle.
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.