Everyone has a chance to check out WWE Network for free this week. Easier for folks in the U.S than internationally, but there are ways to get it done. In any case I wanted to offer some suggestions on what I am looking forward to re-living as I was alive for a majority of the stuff that can be found on WWE Network. This is not a list of the 10 best events, but they are events that are both rare in some cases and have significance to events that would come later. I didn’t include any Wrestlemania cards, based on the fact even casual fans I felt had seen them all at this stage. If not, obviously for many, Wrestlemania XVII is considered by most the best Wrestlemania of all-time. Here is my list of 10 events I look forward to checking out again:
The Wrestling Classic (1985): This was technically the WWF’s first ever pay-per-view from Chicago. It was a strange event that had a tournament called the wrestling classic. What was missing was any sort of reward of significance to win this tournament. What it did offer was some strange and unusual pairings even by today’s standards but unheard of in 1985. In addition to the tournament it featured a World Title match with Hogan and Piper. The matches were not the greatest, but it does kind of foreshadow what would come later for Wrestlemania 4 which would be a tournament for the vacant WWF title. What the two have in common is Randy Savage in the finals of both events.
The Big Event (1986): This event in Toronto was kind of the unofficial test to see if Wrestlemania 3 really could go in the Pontiac Silverdome the following spring. On a late and cold summer night over 50,000 gave a pretty clear answer of yes to that idea. The event was hyped all summer long locally here in Canada. It pre-dated Summerslam so this was the biggest event of the summer in 1986 in Ontario, Canada. On the top of this card was Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff It also featured Andre the Giant working under a mask as the Giant Machine. Jake “the Snake” Roberts and Ricky ‘the Dragon” Steamboat in a “Snake Pit” match that local authorities stepped in and banned WWE from having the Snake and Alligator (Dragon) at ringside.
Royal Rumble (1992): This event features the first ever Royal Rumble to determine the WWF Champion. It also features Ric Flair setting the record for the longest time in a rumble to that point. It would see him capture his first ever WWF Championship. It was a night of first-time accomplishments as on the same show “Rowdy” Roddy Piper won his only ever title in WWF taking the Intercontinental Championship from the Mountie. What I remember it for most though is the best ever performance in a night on commentary by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. He was fantastic this entire show and made the Flair victory in the Rumble come off like a million bucks.
Saturday Night’s Main Event #12 (1987) : You have likely seen countless clips of this show over the years. It is where Elizabeth brings out Hulk Hogan to save Randy Savage who was being attacked by both the Honky Tonk Man and the Hart Foundation. It featured for a brief moment all of the current WWF Champions in the ring at the same time. They would all defend those titles on this show as well. Those matches many will have trouble recalling what they will recall is a hand shake between Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage that created the Mega-Powers and would lead to a year long story in which Savage would win the WWF Championship in Wrestlemania IV and eventually the Mega-Powers would explode at Wrestlemania V.
The Royal Rumble (1988): It is in my bio for Between the Ropes, as it was an event held here in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. I would say this was the first of two WWE Pay-Per-Views in my hometown but that would be a lie. You see the first ever Royal Rumble was in fact not a pay-per-view at all. It was a special produced for the USA Network. It features the contract signing of Andre vs. Hogan Wrestlemania III re-match which would take place on broadcast television in prime time on the Main Event on NBC. There was a battle between the Jumping Bomb Angels vs. Glamour Girls for the WWE Women’s Tag-Team Championships. What happened to those titles I have no idea they faded into the abyss. In addition the Royal Rumble match itself that was the brain child of Pat Patterson. Vince McMahon hated the idea and flat out rejected it. In a meeting with NBC executives about this upcoming special, they did not like the WWE’s ideas. Patterson asked Vince if he could pitch his idea that would become the Royal Rumble match and Vince said go ahead. NBC loved the concept and thus the match was green lighted with Vince telling Patterson now it has his headache to figure out. He would end up with Hacksaw Jim Duggan winning the event that originally featured 20 superstars.
King of the Ring (1993): It was the first ever King of the Ring tournament and I admit my memory made this event better that it turns out to be in reality. Still it was fun watching Bret Hart capture the crown and the start of his feuding with Jerry Lawler as a result. If not for this event who knows if a guy like Stone Cold would have got to utter his famous Austin 3:16 line. It also had its low moments like King Mabel and “The One” Billy Gunn but warts and all I miss the King of the Ring. As these choices indicate I am a big fan of tournaments of some kind. The traditional sports fan in me just likes the concept and structure of these types of events.
Summerslam 2002: Shawn Michaels lost to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and basically disappeared into obscurity with a back injury and he would fade away into retirement more or less. His return in 2002 would also be at the time The Rock was about to leave and WWE was in need of a star. A bitter feud with Triple H who turned on Michaels after it appeared that both were going to give D-X another go. Instead Hunter beat the hell out of Michaels setting up his first match in 4 years. People legitimately were unsure if HBK even should be in a ring at all and that made the pain he would endure in this match really strike a cord with fans. Almost lost on this card was Brock Lesnar taking the ball from The Rock and winning the Championship. Triple H and HBK stole the show as only they could.
WWE in Your House 10 Mind Games (1996): This match is much talked about by many fans from this era. It was a match between Shawn Michaels and Mankind for the WWF Championship. There were other things on this show but it is remembered for this single match. It showed that Michaels was indeed tough and not just a pretty boy. It also showed that Mankind was a capable player on a main event stage something the WWF would take advantage of in the future.
Survivor Series (1998): Another vacant WWF Championship and another tournament to determine a winner sounds right down my alley. It would end up featuring one of the more memorable turns in WWE history with The Rock turning into “The Corporate Champion” and would lay the foundation for his Wrestlemania XV match with Austin. He would end up turning on Mankind who had thought he was the chosen one but in fact was not. Classic early stages of the attitude era stuff on this card.
Summerslam (1992): It was significant for a number of things first and foremost the location as it was in London, England. It would be shown on tape delay back in North America which in the early days of the internet was not nearly as big a deal as it would be today. It also may be the only pay-per-view in history that involved an intercontinental title defence in the Main Event aside form Warrior and Hogan in which both titles were on the line. This was only for the Intercontinental Championship between Bret Hart the defending champion and the British Bulldog. It also featured a match with the Ultimate Warrior and WWE Champion Randy Savage the first since Warrior had retired Savage at Wrestlemania VII. It was a cool environment with U.K fans getting a rare chance to see a pay-per-view show on their home soil.
That is my list of 10 things that I am inclined to go check out this week. Your list might be totally different from mine. Everyone has their favourite events and this is as much a history lesson for younger fans to get to know events from my past that were big at the time. Let us know what you plan on watching if your test driving the network this week for free.