With Triple H now the head of creative, the future of WWE pay-per-views (or premium live events) looks bright. The company has been criticized over the last few years for having very unbalanced pay-per-view events in terms of quality. The highs are usually legacy-building moments, while the lows are often so bad they are impossible to forget.
Ten years ago, AJ Styles was in TNA, The Shield made their WWE debut, and Theory was in middle school. There have been many big moments and great pay-per-view events in the decade since 2012. This list will examine the best WWE pay-per-view every year for the last ten years.
10 2012 – TLC
The last pay-per-view of 2012 was also the best of the entire year. TLC 2012 featured the pay-per-view debut of The Shield, and it was booked to perfection. Their TLC match against Daniel Bryan, Kane & Ryback was the highlight of the evening and is, in retrospect, a big reason why the three men from The Shield, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Jon Moxley, are still on top of the world of wrestling in 2022.
The rest of the card was also great. John Cena and Dolph Ziggler put on a great match in the main event as the two competed for the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank contract. The Chairs match between Sheamus and Big Show was also arguably the best match either star competed in the entire year.
9 2013 – SummerSlam
After WrestleMania 29 was one of the most predictable pay-per-view events in WWE history, the company course corrected at SummerSlam 2013. The card was absolutely loaded. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena was one of the standouts of the entire night and Cena’s best performance all year. A Money In the Bank cash in by Randy Orton helped solidify the crazy turns of the main event.
CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar was a dream match with a great build-up. It was a dream match that delivered in every aspect and made a legitimate case for the best match of the entire show. The Ring of Fire match between Bray Wyatt and Kane was the only snoozefest of the entire seven-match card and nothing else in 2013 even came close to SummerSlam.
8 2014 – WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania 30 was so great that it’s in the conversation of “greatest.” WrestleMania of all time.” The build-up to Daniel Bryan’s insane performance at WrestleMania 30 was over a year in the making. It seemed the WWE had missed the mark on what fans wanted WrestleMania 29 so bad that there was no chance Bryan could leave as champion.
The main event proved why it was the last match of the night when Bryan defeated Batista and Randy Orton in a stellar match. Brock Lesnar breaking Undertaker’s streak was the biggest bummer of the night, although it did mean ‘Mania 30 made history. The rest of the card was also great. The John Cena and Bray Wyatt storyline was on its own planet in all the best ways and even the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal was entertaining.
7 2015 – WrestleMania 31
The WrestleMania 31 card felt like it lacked stakes. Of course, everyone was excited to see Sting’s first WrestleMania match, but overall, it seemed like a regular WWE pay-per-view on paper. It ended up being the best night of the entire year. The Ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship was show-stealing.
Orton and Rollins put on a show. Although the match itself was not great, seeing D-Generation X and the nWo in the ring together was great nostalgia. Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar was not the main event any fan wanted, but Rollins interrupting and committing the Heist of the Century made it an event fans will never forget.
6 2016 – Survivor Series
By 2016 the idea of ”brand supremacy” hardly held any water. Most fans watch the Survivor Series Elimination Tag match just to see an interesting blend of stars if nothing else. The Survivor Series Elimination Tag match was absolutely solid in 2016.
With Bray Wyatt, The Shield, and Chris Jericho, the match featured a ton of star power and entertained for over an hour. The rest of the card was solid with Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg being the most polarizing match of the evening.
5 2017 – Royal Rumble
This will always be remembered as the Rumble where everyone rooted against Roman Reigns. This was in the middle of the forced Roman push and fans were certain the WWE would do the unthinkable and book him to win the Rumble. Randy Orton ended up eliminating him in the end giving fans some hope for their desires.
The Rumble was outshined by both title matches. The Universal Championship match between Reigns and Kevin Owens was far better than anyone expected. Kevin Owens really shined in this match. AJ Styles and John Cena stole the entire show in the Alamodome. Charlotte vs. Bayley was also a solid undercard match.
4 2018 – Evolution
The history of the WWE women’s division has been so spotty that, at one point, the idea of a women-only pay-per-view event seemed impossible. Not only did Evolution create the impossible, but it was also a great show overall.
Ronda Rousey main eventing her first pay-per-view since leaving the UFC against Nikki Bella for the Raw Women’s Title was perfect booking. The opening match was also perfect, featuring legends who paved the way for Evolution, Trish Stratus, Lita, and Mickie James.
3 2019 – WrestleMania 35
The rise of Kofi Kingston is what makes WrestleMania 35 one of the best of the entire year. Although the show ran way too long and featured a few duds like Shane McMahon vs. The Miz and the Corbin vs. Kurt Angle nightmare, the high points helped carry the show.
The ten-year build-up to Kofi earning the WWE Championship deserved the main event spot. Still, it was exciting to witness the first women’s match to ever main event the show. The triple threat match for both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships was great and holds its own against many WrestleMania main card events.
2 2020 – Royal Rumble
2020 was a year of a global pandemic and a time of huge uncertainty. For wrestling fans, it seemed there might not ever be another show with a live audience. The 2020 Royal Rumble proved all notions wrong and ignited the entire world of wrestling.
The presence of a live audience and Edge to the WWE made this night one to remember. The rest of the card was also solid with Asuka and Becky Lynch having the best match of their entire feud.
1 2021 – Money In The Bank
Overall, 2021 was a pretty lackluster year. The change from “pay-per-view” events to “premium live events” started taking its toll on the content. It seemed the purpose of the events was “watch time” instead of “number of viewers” and it reflected in the bookings every year.
A high point for the WWE in 2021 was Money in the Bank. The Money in the Bank Ladder Match stands out since the least likely person won, Big E. In a time of hopelessness and uncertainty, Big E was the winner fans needed. Edge and Roman also put on a show in the best match Roman competed in the entire year.