It’s the end of another year, which means it’s a good time to look back on the year that was. For those of us in the WWE Universe, there’s a lot to reflect on in a year that was good at times, but also very frustrating for a lot of fans.
Since TLC, WWE’s last pay-per-view of the year, took place this past Sunday, I thought it would be a good time to rank every WWE PPV of the year. It’s a column I wrote last year here on The Comeback, so I want to keep that tradition going because I know there are fans out there that will have their own opinion on what was the best or worst of the year.
This is for main roster PPVs only. NXT Takeover shows do not count because they are a different brand. For the record, I think all five of those NXT Takeover shows were better than any main roster PPV. It was an incredible year for NXT.
For each show, I’ll let know you know when and where it took place as well as the best and worst matches on every one of them. I’ve reviewed every PPV on my site as well as doing columns on them here at The Comeback, so I feel like I have a good grasp on this. Let’s get to it with the countdown from 15 to 1.
15. Crown Jewel
— WWE (@WWE) November 2, 2018
When/Where: November 2 at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Best Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
Worst Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
Crown Jewel is one of the worst PPVs in WWE history. I don’t think that’s a bold statement. It’s true. This show sucked. A lot of people skipped this one due to WWE’s insistence on running the show even though some US Senators suggested that they cancel it due to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. WWE ran the show because they have a long-term contract with the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority.
The WWE World Cup tournament was a complete farce with Shane McMahon winning, even though he wasn’t in the original tournament. Brock Lesnar winning the Universal Title again was lame because it felt like the right time to crown Braun Strowman, but that didn’t happen. Hulk Hogan also returned from his WWE suspension after three years to deliver a meaningless promo.
In the main event, Shawn Michaels wrestled for the first time in eight years with Triple H against The Undertaker. They are all well past their prime and it showed. It was boring, hardly the classic that WWE made it out to be, and Triple H tore a pectoral muscle during the match.
When/Where: May 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Best Match: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz
Worst Match: Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair
Backlash was a forgettable event that followed WrestleMania. Since Brock Lesnar was still the absentee Universal Champion, that title was not on the line, so we got a boring main event of Roman Reigns beating Samoa Joe. It felt like a Raw TV match rather than a championship match.
The most anticipated match on the card was AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a WrestleMania rematch, but that didn’t live up to the hype at all. There was one great match, though, which was Seth Rollins beating The Miz in about 20 minutes in the opener. It’s a notch below a match of the year contender that is worth checking out again.
There are years where the post-WrestleMania PPV is a good show due to WrestleMania being a big deal and following up on that. This was not one of those years.
13. Extreme Rules
— Seth Rollins (@WWERollins) July 16, 2018
When/Where: July 15 at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Best Match: AJ Styles vs. Rusev
Worst Match: Carmella vs. Asuka
You may remember this as the night where the fans didn’t seem to care about Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler having a 30-minute Ironman Match. Instead of paying attention to the match, the fans counted down the clock as if it was a Royal Rumble. I don’t know why. It was stupid. Needless to say, I don’t expect WWE to do an Ironman match again any time soon.
The most notable thing that happened on this show was Bobby Lashley beating Roman Reigns clean, which was rare. There wasn’t much of a follow up to that since Reigns got his win back and became the Universal Champion one month later. There wasn’t anything that bad at Extreme Rules. It was just boring.
12. Elimination Chamber
When/Where: February 25 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Best Match: Men’s Elimination Chamber won by Roman Reigns
Worst Match: Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt
This was the last Raw brand WWE pay-per-view of the year and the phrase ‘making history’ comes to mind because it featured the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber match. The ladies did a good job with Alexa Bliss predictably getting the win to set up her WrestleMania loss against Nia Jax, who lost to Asuka on this show.
The men’s Elimination Chamber match was the best of the night even with the most predictable outcome ever, as Roman Reigns outlasted everybody to win. Reigns pinned Braun Strowman in the end, which is rare because Strowman doesn’t get beat that often.
Another notable segment on the show was Ronda Rousey’s contract signing, which set up her debut match at WrestleMania with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
11. Super Show-Down
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) October 6, 2018
When/Where: October 6 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia.
Best Match(es): AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe, Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander
Worst Match: Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz (because it only went two minutes)
The selling point for this stadium show in Australia was that it was the “Last Time Ever” we would see Triple H face The Undertaker. Of course, they ended up wrestling in a tag team match a few weeks later, but going into this match, WWE spent two months billing it as their last match. Yes WWE fans, sometimes they lie to us. It’s not really shocking, but I guess their defense could be that it is the last singles match. Anyway, it was fine with Triple H going over thanks to Shawn Michaels helping him, which set up the Crown Jewel tag team match.
The in-ring action was good for most of Super Show-Down with AJ Styles surviving against Samoa Joe again while Buddy Murphy won the Cruiserweight Title in front of his fellow Australians in an exciting match.
John Cena took part in a tag team match where most people wanted to talk about his new hairstyle. Cena barely did anything in the match other than getting a hot tag and getting the win for his team.
10. Greatest Royal Rumble
When/Where: April 27 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Best Match: Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor
Worst Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal
The first WWE cash grab show of 2018 was Greatest Royal Rumble featuring a 50-man Royal Rumble match. The most memorable thing about that event was Titus O’Neil running to the ring, slipping on the mat outside the ring, and sliding under the ring. Everybody laughed, they replayed it a bunch of times, and when O’Neil went into the ring, he was so mad about it that he hit everybody with hard punches. To O’Neil’s credit, he laughed it off after the show and had fun with it.
It was an extremely long show with a run time just short of five hours. I think four hours would have been fine, but when you go for that fifth hour, it gets tough to sit through. The 50-man Rumble was memorable for the O’Neil spot, Daniel Bryan lasting a record 76 minutes in the match, and Braun Strowman getting the win after 77 minutes in the longest Rumble match ever.
I think that Ladder Match for the IC Title is forgotten as one of the better matches of the year. They did a great job in telling an interesting story with Rollins finding a way to retain the title.
botch alert pic.twitter.com/CVyEz1K8b6
— WrestlinGifs (@WrestlinGifs) April 27, 2018
What was Jinder Mahal selling in that botched spot above? Awkward.
When/Where: March 11 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Best Match: WWE Championship Six-Pack Challenge: AJ Styles vs. John Cena vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
Worst Match: Natalya and Carmella vs. Becky Lynch and Naomi
Fastlane was the last brand exclusive PPV of the year because starting with WrestleMania, WWE decided that Raw and Smackdown matches will be on every show. This was a Smackdown only show. I didn’t like that decision because I think brand exclusive PPVs help both shows, but WWE made the call in part because of slow ticket sales for shows like Elimination Chamber and Fastlane.
The main event was chaotic fun. The Raw roster got to do the Elimination Chamber match (John Cena was in both matches), so Smackdown’s wrestlers had a one fall match and they put on an entertaining show. I don’t think the result surprised anybody because it set up AJ Styles walking into WrestleMania as the WWE Champion.
The rest of the card was solid. I don’t think anybody was that bad, so even though I listed the women’s tag as the worst match, it was merely because everything else was better. A sleeper good match was the opener with Shinsuke Nakamura beating Rusev. They have solid chemistry together.
8. Survivor Series
When/Where: November 18 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Best Match(es): Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan, Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair
Worst Match: AOP vs. The Bar
The concept of Survivor Series isn’t great because there is the lack of a true Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry in WWE these days. Raw winning 6-0 on the main card meant nothing in terms of storylines. The two Survivor Series matches were just average at best and not as good as past years.
This year’s Survivor Series provided some fun moments including one of Brock Lesnar’s best matches in the last three years against Daniel Bryan. Even though it was heel vs. heel, it was one of the better PPV main events this year.
Another memorable match was Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey with Flair getting frustrated over being unable to beat Rousey, so she beat her up with weapons leading to a DQ finish. It sets them up for a huge rematch at some point in 2019.
One of the worst match finishes of the year also happened at this show with Drake Maverick peeing his pants leading to AOP beating The Bar. Awful, but I’m pretty sure WWE’s 73-year-old Chairman Vince McMahon thought it was hilarious, so that’s what really matters.
7. WrestleMania 34
When/Where: April 8 at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Best Match(es): Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, Seth Rollins vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor, Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
Worst Match(es): The Undertaker vs. John Cena, Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
You might be looking at this thinking I’m being too hard on WrestleMania by putting it “only” 7th, but that’s where it belongs. Every year, there’s an anticipation for the matches on this show, but more often than not, they fail to live up to expectations and the show is hurt by running too long.
There were three great matches that you can see above that I can’t really separate as the one best match. The Rousey mixed tag team match was better than expected, probably because they had over one month to practice the match. Still, I was surprisingly entertained by it. The IC Title match that opened the show was outstanding with Seth Rollins getting his big moment. Charlotte vs. Asuka lived up to the hype, while a match like AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura did not.
What hurt WrestleMania this year was a poor main event with Brock Lesnar beating Roman Reigns again in front of a crowd that rejected the match. That outcome was a surprise too. The Undertaker vs. John Cena was boring and it was like watching an Undertaker squash match win from WWF Superstars in 1993. Cena barely did anything. Braun Strowman teaming up with Nicholas the kid (son of referee John Cone) to win the Tag Team Titles hurt the tag team division on Raw big time. Could any of those things be considered WrestleMania moments? I guess so, but I wouldn’t call them good.
WrestleMania is hurt by the fact that it runs seven hours if you watch the entire Kickoff Show as well. I doubt WWE shortens it next year, but they should because it would be a better show.
When/Where: August 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Best Match(es): Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe
Worst Match: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens
The main story here was that Roman Reigns finally beat Brock Lesnar after about three years. Reigns became the Universal Champion while Braun Strowman was at ringside teasing a Money in the Bank cash-in, which never happened because Lesnar beat up Strowman. Reigns capitalized on that to beat Lesnar. It was notable that WWE cut away from the celebration because they didn’t want to show the crowd booing Reigns. I give WWE credit for actually booking it well, even though it was another example of the fans rejecting what WWE was doing.
When looking back on this show, another key moment was after the Smackdown Women’s Championship match. Charlotte Flair won the title, but her friend Becky Lynch wasn’t in a congratulatory mood and she beat up Flair. It was a heel turn for Lynch, yet the crowd cheered her for her actions. In the weeks and months that followed, Lynch’s popularity grew even though the original plan was for her to turn heel.
SummerSlam also marked the first title victory for Ronda Rousey as the Raw Women’s Champion. She easily beat Alexa Bliss to win the title. It would be a surprise if Rousey lost the title before WrestleMania next year, so it will be a long reign for her.
The best matches on the show included Seth Rollins winning back the Intercontinental Championship in an entertaining opening match, Samoa Joe beating AJ Styles by disqualification in an intense match, and The Miz cheating to beat Daniel Bryan. It was a pretty good SummerSlam this year.
5. Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (TLC)
When/Where: December 16 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
Best Match(es): Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch in a TLC match, Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles
Worst Match: R-Truth and Carmella vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox
The last PPV was a good show with a historic main event – the first ever women’s TLC Match. The trio of Asuka, Flair, and Lynch should have gone on last, and I’m glad that they did. It was a wild brawl with big bumps all over the place, a scary bump for Flair while on a table, and in the end, Asuka won in controversial fashion due to an appearance from Ronda Rousey costing Flair and Lynch. It was a memorable moment that sets up Rousey vs. Flair and Lynch in big matches in 2019.
Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles reminded us why they are two of the best in-ring performers of this era by having a technical wrestling masterpiece. I thought Bryan worked well in his heel role. The Smackdown Tag Team Title match was also very good with The Bar retaining the titles. The top three matches were all from Smackdown, again showing that the blue brand is superior.
There was some disappointment with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins not living up to the hype while Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton had a boring chairs match. Most of the card was pretty good though, so I think TLC ended the year on a high note.
4. Money in the Bank
— WWE (@WWE) June 18, 2018
When/Where: June 17 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
Best Match(es): Women’s Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match won by Alexa Bliss, Men’s Money in the Bank won by Braun Strowman, AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a Last Man Standing Match
Worst Match(es): Carmella vs. Asuka, Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn
Money in the Bank is one of my favorite shows of the year. In my opinion, it has replaced Survivor Series in the “big four” due to how important it is. Just because Survivor Series is older does not mean it is a bigger, more important show.
I thought both Money in the Bank matches were well done. The women’s match was pretty wide open and I didn’t know who was going to win, so Alexa Bliss getting the contract was cool. It was also clever how she ended up cashing in the contract later in the show to win back the Raw Women’s Title.
Most people will remember the massive bump that Kevin Owens took off a ladder in the men’s match, but I watched it again recently and it was a well booked match. Strowman was the focus of it, and when it looked like he might lose, he made the big superhero comeback and got the win. His reign as contract holder wasn’t booked well at all and he failed to win the Universal Title, but as a match, it was entertaining.
The bad matches hurt the show in terms of being a top three event of 2018, but I think the major matches delivered for the most part.
3. Hell in a Cell
When/Where: September 16 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Best Match(es): Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
Worst Match(es): Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse, Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss
This is one of the best shows of the year because there wasn’t anything that was that bad on it. Even the two matches listed as the worst were solid, but they had sloppy endings.
The outstanding tag team match with Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler beating Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to keep the Raw Tag Team Titles really stood out. It’s rare for a title match to go nearly 25 minutes on a WWE PPV, but they made the most of their time to have a classic match. It was a nice throwback to tag team wrestling at its best.
Another memorable moment was when Becky Lynch beat Charlotte Flair to win the Smackdown Women’s Title for the second time and it was the first time in two years that Lynch had won the belt. Fans treated Lynch like a huge star when she won it, and it was around this time when WWE seemed to give up on Lynch as a heel and just let her be herself because the fans wanted to cheer her.
If the main event was better, this might have been the PPV of the year. I just can’t do that because it was so disappointing to see Brock Lesnar back as a surprise to get back in the Universal Title scene. Lesnar attacked Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman leading to a No Contest finish, which is not what we expect in a Hell in a Cell match.
2. Royal Rumble
When/Where: January 28 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Best Match(es): Men’s Royal Rumble won by Shinsuke Nakamura, Women’s Royal Rumble won by Asuka
Worst Match: The Bar – Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan
The Royal Rumble might be my favorite show of the year. It’s such a fun match to watch and this year we got two Rumble matches in one night due to the history making Royal Rumble. Yes WWE, we know that the women of the company were “making history” because people like Stephanie McMahon said it every time she was near a microphone.
I enjoyed both Royal Rumble matches. I think the guys did a better job of telling a story with Shinsuke Nakamura outlasting everybody and beating Roman Reigns at the end, much to the delight of the crowd. The comedy was kept to a minimum and it was more about telling the story of an entertaining match that really put over Nakamura. I think the right guy won.
The same can be said of the women’s Royal Rumble where the right person won because Asuka was undefeated going into the match. She got the win by beating the Bella Twins in the final three, which was silly because the Bellas are just part timers. I thought some of the full time wrestlers should have been in there at the end.
The ending is what a lot of people will remember. With Asuka standing in the ring along with Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss, Ronda Rousey made her official WWE debut as a surprise. Rousey got in the ring, got in the face of the women and pointed at the WrestleMania sign. It created a huge buzz for WWE with the announcement (after the show) that Rousey would be a regular WWE superstar after that.
When/Where: October 28 at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York
Best Match: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing Match
Worst Match: Battle Royal won by Nia Jax
This was the best year for women’s wrestling in WWE history. I think the fact that the best PPV of the year was the women’s only Evolution show makes that statement even truer. This felt like a NXT Takeover style event with the way the lighting was and the different feel of the show. It was a great night of wrestling action from top to bottom.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair had a standout performance in the Last Woman Standing Match for the Smackdown Women’s Title. That leg drop through the table that you see above is just one of the memorable moments from that match. They busted their asses to deliver a classic battle that we’ll remember forever. I think it’s the best women’s match on WWE’s main roster in history of the company. The only one I might put ahead of it is Bayley vs. Sasha Banks from a NXT Takeover in Brooklyn in August 2015. This one is special, though.
The Mae Young Classic finals match was entertaining with Toni Storm proving she’s going to be a huge star in the years ahead. The NXT Title match had a creative finish and the opening tag team match with Trish Stratus and Lita teaming up against Mickie James and Alicia Fox was fun too. It would have been better if Alexa Bliss was cleared to wrestle instead of Fox.
There wasn’t a bad match on this card. Even the battle royal that I listed as the worst was entertaining, and it was better than most battle royals I watched this year.
Ronda Rousey won in the main event over Nikki Bella. It was better than I thought it would be, but looking back on it now, I think Lynch vs. Flair should have went on last. End on a high note with the best match. They got it right at TLC earlier this week.
I think it was a pretty good year in terms of WWE PPVs. If I had to rate it out of 10, I’d probably go with a 6.5 or 7 out of 10. I think if you wanted to re-watch anything from the top eight on this list, then you’ll enjoy the show again. The current WWE roster is very talented, so as long as they get time to have a memorable match they are usually going to deliver. I think that’s why you see names like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and others leading the way in terms of the best matches on the show. They are outstanding professional wrestlers that keep getting better. Just give them a chance. That’s all they ask and it’s what we, the fans, want to see.
Everything I wrote about above is available on WWE Network if you want to check it out. The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 27. Thanks for reading, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.