By RJ Marceau
After another weekend of great wrestling, I decided to rank all wrestling main events I have attended live. I know someone will be offended that I include NXT TakeOvers as pay-per-views, oh well. I have attended 18 PPV shows since 2005 and below I will rank the main event matches from worst to best. I decided to use the star rating to help paint an easier picture. Anything over 4*s I will say are good to great matches worth taking time to watch if you have never seen them before.
MITB/Royal Rumble Matches
I decided to add these as a separate list with no real breakdown because I felt comparing a singles match to a MITB match was just stupid.
I didn’t star any of these matches but take my judgment by my order. The 2018 Royal Rumble is the only one I would recommend viewing if you have not seen it.
14. SummerSlam 2015 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY: Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (**3/4)
The worst match definitely was harder than picking the best match. This match was a complete bore to me. Brock and 'Taker have little to no chemistry and it was the apex of Suplex City. The match was slow paced and ended with the screwy finish with 'Taker tapping out to the Kimura but the referee didn’t see it. The ref continues the match and 'Taker hit Brock with a low blow and he passes out in the triangle choke with 'Taker winning. The crowd seemed pissed and watching it back the match just wasn’t good.
13. WrestleMania 33 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL: Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker (***)
So…. I had half of this written out and I totally forgot about this match. I had rewatched it and had put down comments and still didn’t put it in. This match being the main event was scary and the match was decent at best. The Undertaker was well beyond his best years and Roman is no ring general. Undertaker losing again at WrestleMania was just dumb and has done nothing for Roman;s career. If you ask me, it was one of if not the worst WrestleMania main event I have seen since being a fan.
12. Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA: Sheamus © vs. Roman Reigns in a TLC Match for the WWE Championship (***)
This match on paper wasn’t desirable and the match itself reflected my prior worries. This match had decent spots but Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns for the title intrigued nobody. I have never been a big interference fan and the League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio and Rusev) came down to help Sheamus win. Reigns tried his best to overcome the odds but the night ended on a sour note with Sheamus retaining.
11. SummerSlam 2006 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA: Edge © vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship (***)
As a kid I didn’t really care about the in ring action so this match was more of a letdown rewatching it. This was a decent match but as a main event on a “Big 4” PPV it wasn’t good. A slow back and forth battle with Edge winning in such a lackluster finish. No near falls, no back and forth with the crowd. Just Lita distracting the ref, Edge hitting Cena with the brass knuckles and pinning him 1-2-3. I was pretty disappointed rewatching because this match wasn’t good.
10. Backlash 2009 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI: John Cena © vs. Edge in a Last Man Standing match for the World Heavyweight Championship (***1/4)
Similar to their match at SummerSlam '06, this match was also slowly paced. The stipulation added some more action and I loved the spot of Cena hitting the AA on Edge and sending him into the crowd. The match ending with Big Show choke slamming Cena through the light stage prop always gets a pop from me but was a cheap finish to a decent match.
9. Hell in A Cell 2016 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA: Sasha Banks © vs. Charlotte Flair in a Hell in a Cell match for the Raw Women’s Championship (***1/4)
Graham was sitting next to me during this match and watching it live I didn’t think the match terrible but I HATED the finish. So badly I got up and stormed out of the venue. Rewatching the match it had some decent spots with Sasha throwing her body around to pop the crowd. I could’ve done without the 5 minute stretcher spot after Sasha was powerbombed half way up the cell through the announce table. The finish was still terrible when Charlotte tried to throw Sasha through the table (twice) then hit Natural Selection for the win. It was two botched spots with a lackluster end but I think the majority of the match was good to save this from being lower on this list.
8. WrestleMania 35 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ: Ronda Rousey © vs. Charlotte Flair © vs. Becky Lynch for the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships (***1/2)
I was super excited for this match even with the goofy buildup they had for this encounter. The match itself fell flat for what I was expecting. The match seemed rushed with some sloppy moves and a questionable ending. The WWE has done their best to try and avoid the botched pinfall but that is what will be remembered about this match. Becky winning was a big moment but the match left a lot to be desired.
7. Extreme Rules 2016 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ: Roman Reigns © vs. AJ Styles in a Extreme Rules match for the WWE Championship (***3/4)
I thoroughly enjoyed this match watching live and rewatching it was still good. I enjoyed the chemistry that Roman and AJ had in their series of matches. The Club and The Usos getting involved didn’t do much for me but the match had some good nearfalls at the end. Seth Rollins returning from injury even though not part of this match also helps give this match a little higher boast.
6. NXT TakeOver: Orlando at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL: Bobby Roode © vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Championship (****)
Before I go into the actual match I want to point out how over Shinsuke was in NXT and it’s sad to see how he has been treated on the main roster. These guys conducted a better match then I remember and love how Roode focused on Shinsuke’s knee to weaken the Kinshasa. The ending had a great nearfall with Nakamura hitting the Kinshasa but Roode kicked out. Roode winning after hitting the Glorious DDT seemed flat but the match as a whole was good.
5. AEW Double or Nothing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV: Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega (****)
I knew going into this show I was looking forward to the Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks the most but was excited to see Kenny Omega live. These two contested a hard hitting encounter with some great spots. I feel like it didn’t get to a second gear like there first encounter did but overall was a good match with Jericho going over. Jon Moxley debuting was a great post-match surprise but overall the match will hold up for being a good first main event for AEW.
4. Armageddon 2005 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI: The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton in a Hell in a Cell match (****1/2)
This match was amazing back in 2005 and I enjoyed it just as much this time around. This feud lasted on and off for a year and it wasn’t stale at the end. Randy had the upper hand with his dad Bob Orton at No Mercy ending with them burning a casket that they placed The Undertaker in. Undertaker returned two months later at Survivor Series after Randy was the sole survivor for Team SmackDown. This match was hard hitting with both men getting busted open, Undertaker getting revenge on Bob Orton and 'Taker winning the feud. This was peak Undertaker in the ring and Orton held his own with the Deadman.
3. NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia, PA: Andrade “Cien” Almas © vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship (*****)
When this match had happened in 2018 I had never seen a better match live in my life. This match had amazing back and forth wrestling with both guys hitting big moves. The crowd was invested the whole match and Gargano sold perfectly. I don’t love interference but Zelina Vega’s small interference helped even the odds with Candace LeRae attacking her. The finish with the DDT from the top rope seemed slightly flat but the crowd had invested in Gargano finally winning the big one. This match also let Almas finally shine and show what he is capable of doing in the ring. At the time, this was the best match in NXT history.
2. NXT TakeOver: New York at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 falls for the NXT Championship (*****1/4)
Talk about an amazing match that I was totally invested in. This match had me on the edge of my seat leading into the last fall. My one gripe with this match and why I put it at No. 2 was the amount of nearfalls. Cole and Gargano put on an instant classic but Cole hit him with everything even the kitchen sink but came up short. With the amount of offense Cole hit especially with the interference it really dampered the finish because I knew Gargano would win. Gargano winning was a great moment to an amazing match between two great competitors.
1. NXT TakeOver: XXV at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT: Johnny Gargano © vs. Adam Cole for the NXT Championship (*****1/2)
I know this might raise some eyebrows because their first encounter was amazing but from bell to bell this match had me on the edge of my seat. This match had so many back and forth sequences that none of this match dragged at all which is surprising for a 30+ minute match. They told a great story and I loved how Cole focused on the knee which eventually was the reason he could hit the Panama Sunrise and his shining wizard finisher for the win. I expect these two to have a trilogy match at the next TakeOver in Toronto in August which should be another instant classic.
Let me know what you think of my list! Tweet me @RJ_Marceau to discuss this list or wrestling in general.