WWE – Best Main Events Of The Decade 2010-2020 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 371 minutes approx.
Okay folks, I hope you have your tubs of salt ready because you are going to need them, as the WWE once again going into hyperbole mode to stretch the dictionary definition of the word “Best” to new lengths of incredulity with this latest compilation release.
Maybe I was a bit too cynical with that introduction, but in my defence, history is on my side regarding WWE collections with this arbitrarily applied proclamation of supremacy in it titling. Granted, this is a subjective interpretation and opinions will vary but even the most loyal and ardent WWE fan has to realise that sometimes not all that glistens is gold.
The purpose of this set is self-explanatory – the WWE PPV archives have been surveyed dating from 2010 to 2020 and a selection of what is considered the “best” of the main event matches from this 10-year period have been singled out for inclusion. Of course, the rationale is that the main event is always the best match on the card since it is – in theory – the one that sells the tickets/PPV buys/Network subscriptions but this has been demonstrably untrue since time immemorial.
Anyway, contained within is what WWE feel represent the apex of their PPV cards over the past decade and we are free to agree or disagree, as long as we cough up for this 2-disc set. Admittedly, there are a couple of bona fide corkers here, whilst others are featured purely for their history making importance. The rest, I am sure most people have forgotten about and don’t even get me started on the 2020 entry.
Since there are actually only 12 matches in total – no host or anything in between the bouts, just a brief montage intro – let’s go through each one individually.
Wrestlemania XXVI – March 28th 2010 – Streak vs. Career – The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Having stolen the show a year earlier and eclipsed the main event of Triple H vs. Randy Orton in a snoozefest that struggled to follow it, this rematch was given an extra layer of intrigue when HBK vowed to retire if he didn’t beat Taker and end the streak. Such stipulations are used frequently to garner interest in a match but most fans don’t buy into them since they are usually reneged on soon after.
In this case, it genuinely added a sense of wonder as HBK was hitting his third wind as a performer and fans weren’t ready for him to end his career, so there was a wonder if Taker might not beat someone two years in a row. Well, we all know he did but HBK wouldn’t go down without a fight, pushing Taker’s button every step of the way right up until the final Tombstone. It started out a bit patchy as the fans were torn as whom to support by the end the drama was unbearable.
Money In The Bank 2011 – July 17th 2011 – WWE Title Match – John Cena (c) vs. CM Punk
Following CM Punk’s now legendary Pipe Bomb promo on RAW when he tore into the WWE, Vince McMahon, Triple H, John Cena, the fans, and a host of others in a shoot style tirade (which sadly didn’t bring about change as everything he said is still true nine years later!), this title match was booked but with an interesting caveat – Punk’s WWE contract was to genuinely expire the night of the PPV, so if he won the title from Cena, it would be in the hands of an ex-employee!
Thus, the Summer Of Punk was born at least in WWE, ROH ran the same angle back in 2005 when Punk signed his WWE contract whilst still ROH champion (he even signed his WWE contract on the belt!). Cena, who was already being booed by the fans was even more hated here since this was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago! Coupled with the idea of Vince actually putting the top belt on someone leaving the company, this was an electric match, even with the McBooking near the end.
Summerslam 2012 – August 19th 2012 – No DQ Match – Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
I genuinely have no recollection of this match or the parent feud, of which this was the rubber match with Lesnar and Triple H having a victory each. A quick bit of research reminds me that this started at Wrestlemania 28 where Triple H would retire if he lost to Lesnar. He won and they had a rematch in a cage which Lesnar won so the decider was this No DQ match.
Not much to it, which Lesnar doing his thing and HHH doing his but in slow motion – and this was before Brock got really lazy and would rely on just suplexes and F5s. Way too long for what it was and not really deserving of being the main event but a look at the rest of the card and hardly anything else was either.
Wrestlemania 29 – April 7th 2013 – WWE Title Match – The Rock (c) vs. John Cena
The rematch from the “Once In A Lifetime” bout from the previous year was the first time the same match headlined Wrestlemania two years running, which is quite sad when you think about it. Rock ended CM Punk’s year-and-a-half title run at the 2013 Royal Rumble just to add some spice to this match but it also meant the result was inevitable since Rock wasn’t going to be a regular fixture for WWE with his Hollywood career riding high, and Cena would get the belt back again!
Rock tore his abdomen muscles and suffered a hernia during this match which not only harmed its quality but also presumably gave his Hollywood agent a heart attack. I think it is universally agreed the first match was better but I imagine the title change is why it was chosen for this set.
Payback 2014 – June 1st 2014 – No DQ Elimination Match – The Shield vs. Evolution
Ah, the infamous “Bluetista” match. Big Dave drew attention – and much derision – to himself by wearing an all blue ensemble which would have looked fine if he didn’t also include the gaudy sleeves. After all this time, this is what most fans tend to remember about this bout, the second of two clashes between these factions.
With Daniel Bryan unable to defend the WWE Title due to injury, it was the “star power” of this match which made it the main event for a second show running, this time in what was the most well behaved No DQ elimination match, since they adhered to normal tag rules for the first half before running wild for the second.
In an interest twist, they saved all the eliminations until the last few minutes which was different and made the victory a decisive one – except the next night on RAW they had Seth Rollins turn heel on Reigns and Ambrose to end The Shield just as their face run was hotting up, and we all know how that worked out.
Wrestlemania 31 – March 29th 2015 – WWE Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Having proved a popular winner of the 2015 Royal Rumble, all signs pointed to Roman being crowned the new champion, as it was clear he was Vince’s latest anointed one. The part-time Lesnar had held the title to ransom via infrequent appearances so it was up to Reigns to be the hero to slay the Beast.
Yet, for some reason Vince was hesitant to pull the trigger on Roman and felt there was more money in him chasing the title than being “the man” so he had Seth Rollins cash in his MITB briefcase during the match to steal the title from under Roman’s nose by pinning him and not Lesnar. Prior to this, the match was basically all Superman Punches, suplexes, Spears and F5s with a bit of blood from Brock. Historical but not that great.
Extreme Rules 2016 – May 22nd 2016 – WWE Title Extreme Rules Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
Roman did eventually get the belt at the 2015 Survivor Series, then lost it, regained it then lost it again in the 2016 Royal Rumble, only to win it back again at Wrestlemania 32. His first challenger was AJ Styles, who was still a babyface but with the arrival of Gallows and Anderson as heels to WWE, AJ was caught up in a tweener position, except against Reigns because everyone hated him.
This was a rematch from an overbooked BS match the month before, the stip allowing for all sorts of shenanigans to turn this into a farce to get Reigns cheered (it didn’t) and to further the Styles storyline. Psychologically, the match was flawed – usually the one getting all the offence in is the one who eats the pin, yet AJ was bumping like a madman for Roman and barely getting any retaliation in, at least until the run ins started near the end. So, with no evident danger of Roman losing, how were the fan supposed get behind him?
A hard worked match but not a great or even memorable one.
Hell In A Cell 2016 – October 30th 2016 – WWE Women’s Title Hell In A cell Match – Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte
Just a year earlier Bayley and Sasha Banks made history when their 30-minute Iron (wo)Man match headline NXT Takeover: Respect, the first woman’s match to do so. On the main roster, after a lot of back and forth discussion, Sasha made history again when she and Charlotte not only had the first women’s HIAC match but they also headlined a WWE PPV.
The booking was interesting since it was in Sasha’s hometown of Boston and we all know about Vince’s predilection for embarrassing wrestlers on their home turf. This was no exception, starting off with a big injury angle to gain sympathy for Sasha (which worked) then having Charlotte win the match (which didn’t); you can actually feel the buzz of the crowd die the moment the three count is made.
Good match all told that still feels historical, though a couple of unfortunate spots with uncooperative tables derailed things a bit but the ladies gave it their all, especially Sasha who was bumping for everyone in Boston.
Summerslam 2017 – August 20th 2017 – Universal Title Fatal Four Way Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman
Another match I had forgotten, along with the fact that Lesnar vowed to quit WWE if he failed to retain the title here. Way to give away the finish in advance, though nobody would have noticed if Brock left since he was barely around anyway! The backstory for this match was that Lesnar had already defeated Roman and Joe in title defences whilst Strowman was (still) feuding with Roman and kept interfering in his matches so he was added too.
More weird booking as Lesnar was taken out halfway through the match which is a babyface spot not a heel one, whilst Strowman was being cheered despite being a heel but he was feuding with Reigns, who at that point probably couldn’t even be cheered against Donald Trump! A patchy but fun brawl, the big shock was Roman doing the job but again, it’s another match that has been lost among thousands over the past decade.
Survivor Series 2018 – November 18th 2018 – Champion vs. Champion – Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
The previous year they did the Champion vs. Champion deal when AJ Styles was WWE champ on SD. He was champ again in 2018 but Vince didn’t want AJ losing to Lesnar for a second year in a row and Brock would be less likely to put the smaller AJ over, so they did a last minute title switch on SD, putting the newly turned Bryan in to the spot instead.
So we have a heel vs. heel match in a battle of the brand champions, but the fans got behind Bryan anyway. A match of two halves, the first was all Lesnar with his usual stuff before a ref bump allowed Bryan to cheat and take over, making for a more exciting match until the inevitable. Not a classic by any means by better than it had any right o be thanks to Bryan’s veteran instincts in how to work around Lesnar’s laziness.
Wrestlemania 35 – April 7th 2019 – Winner Take All Triple Threat Women’s Title Match – Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Arguably the most historic inclusion of this set as the first women’s match to headline Wrestlemania, yet it was only a year ago and feels like it was longer ago, exposing how quickly things move on in wrestling and how time flies too. The debate is still on as to whether it was the paradigm shift for WWE and wrestling in general it should have been, but it does seem to have been forgotten quite quickly.
Originally meaning to be Rousey vs. Charlotte, it was changed when Becky was injured ahead of facing Rousey at Survivor Series 2018, and Charlotte took her place. Then Becky caught fire and had to replace Charlotte as Ronda’s WM opponent but Vince still wanted Charlotte to have this main event honour, so he injected her into the match then had her defeat Asuka for the SD Women’s title and put both women’s belts on the line, when fans just wanted Becky vs. Ronda.
Good match with the right winner, but going on at 12.30am after a 7-hour plus show before a tired crowd rendered this an anti-climax to what should have been a major watershed moment in WWE and wrestling.
Wrestlemania 36 – April 5th 2020 – WWE Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
So now we are up to date. This match is either proof this compilation was released way too soon or the company knew that since COVID had restricted their tapings to the WWE Performance Centre, that there weren’t going to be any memorable main events to add to the list. With the other two PPV main events not applicable for inclusion, they could have gone with the Boneyard Match but that only closed night one of this year’s Wrestlemania, making this the de facto headlining match of the whole event.
Chronologically, it makes sense (for now) to close this set with this match but to say it means we end with a whimper and not a bang is an understatement. Oh yes, usual Brock match – suplexes, F5, Drew hits his finisher, new champ, whatever.
I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but this release does something the WWE won’t like and that is badly expose the staleness and lack of advancement of both the creative and the talent over the past decade. Of the 12 matches presented here, five feature Brock Lesnar and four with Roman Reigns (three solo, one with The Shield), illustrating the dearth of movement in the main event scene, worse still with Lesnar being champion in four of his five matches.
Vince McMahon is notorious for putting all his eggs into one basket when it comes to his chosen top stars and it shows here – CM Punk held the WWE Title for a year and half yet only features once? This is because he hardly ever headlined PPVs as champ, instead the top slot went to Cena’s pointless comedy matches, showing a huge lack of faith in Punk as a drawing champion after 6 years of Cena on top.
Of course, had this been a selection of matches curated from the years 2000-2009, they would be 50% Triple H matches and 50% Cena matches, so maybe we got off a little lightly there on the repetition front. But this till doesn’t alter the fact that this set makes it clear hardly anything changed over the past decade, and we’re only starting to see some very gradual forward movement now but only because of the COVID pandemic keeping the usual suspects like Reigns and Lesnar at home.
Maybe I’m too jaded for my own good, but aside from a few entries here, I wouldn’t say this release represents the best of the WWE over the past ten years, let alone the main events (surely at least one MTIB ladder match or Elimination Chamber match qualified?) but it’s a cute gimmick to get hardcore fans to part with their money. Not that WWE need it – thanks to saving on production costs for the TV tapings and PPVs and not having to hire arenas and turn a profit, as well as travelling expenses reduced, WWE just reported their most profitable quarter ever! Yay COVID!
Anyway, if your memory of some of these matches is as foggy as mine or you simply love Lesnar and Reigns, this set is for you!
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black