The Best WWE PPVs Of The Year: NXT And Women Dominate 2018
By GameSpot Staff on
Every month, WWE puts on at least one PPV or major event. However, between NXT, special events overseas,WWE's ill-advised deal with Saudi Arabia, and the random televised shows--like Starrcade--the WWE Network produces more PPV-esque content than anyone realizes.
This was a crazy year in WWE, filled with some incredible highs and some pretty terrible lows. But when it comes to the best WWE events of the year, what makes the cut? GameSpot's wrestling fans, Mat Elfring, Chris E. Hayner, and Kevin Wong, came together to figure out what tops the list for WWE in 2018 and put together the 10 best PPVs.
They looked at the overall card, the highlights of each show, the talent involved, and the amount of beach balls popped by security at each event in order to figure out what WWE event stands tall above the rest. Aside from the best PPV of the year, we've also figured out nine more WWE events that stood tall above the rest, and we've taken WWE PPVs, major WWE Network events, and NXT Takeover's into consideration when putting this together.
So here are the 10 best WWE PPVs of 2018, presented in no particular order, except for the best one of the year, which will be at the end.
Other entertainment galleries to check out:
2018's Survivor Series was set up to fail. WWE spent to much time building up its ill-advised Saudi Arabia show, Crown Jewel--and completely ignoring the all-women's show Evolution--so when Survivor Series finally rolled around, all anyone cared about was Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey. Sadly, because Lynch suffered a real-life injury that occured on Raw. By the time Charlotte was chosen as Lynch's successor, there was really nothing to look forward to on the Survivor Series card. However, at least Becky Lynch's invasion of Raw, prior to this PPV, gave us one of the best moments of the year.
However, aside from a couple of stinkers on the card--one of which gave us Drake Maverick peeing himself--the show was pretty fantastic. Sure, even though the commentary team really tried to sell the Raw vs. Smackdown storyline--which never stuck--the in-ring storytelling is where things mattered. Rewatch Rollins vs. Nakamura, Murphy vs. Ali, Bryan vs. Lesnar, or Rousey vs. Charlotte and watch how good the in-match builds are as well as the aftermatch--mainly for Charlotte beating Rousey within an inch of her life. The wrestlers has to carry this show on their collective backs with their ability because the traditional Survivor Series storylines simply weren't there. The fact, that overall, this turned out to be an incredibly entertaining and good PPV is a testament to the talent on this roster. -- Mat Elfring
NXT Takeover: Chicago II
Like many Takeover events in 2018, Chicago II was highlighted by a vicious battle between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa--the feud that ruled over NXT this year. This particular bout was a Chicago Street Fight that pushed each man to their limit, with Ciampa gaining the victory. The card also features a fantastic bout between The Undisputed Era and Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, plus an excellent showdown between two up-and-comers in NXT, Velveteen Dream and Ricochet. This show, like all Takeovers, is the perfect example of what makes NXT so special. The wrestling is top notch, mixed with characters fans love to rally behind. -- Chris E. Hayner
What makes this Royal Rumble stand out are the number of good choices that were made. First and foremost, WWE decided to hold the first ever Women's Royal Rumble on the show--and featured it in the main event. The women's revolution has led to a lot of firsts for the female superstars in WWE, and this was easily the most exciting one yet.
What's more, WWE embraced the future in its winners for both Royal Rumble matches--Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura. All too often, WWE likes to rely on its older hands, like having Randy Orton win the match in 2017. It's about time they look forward with their winners. Unfortunately, neither of the winners walked away from WrestleMania 34 with the titles they were competing for and WWE has yet to elevate either Asuka or Nakamura to the main event.
The rest of the Royal Rumble card wasn't too special, but this was clearly a two-match show and those two matched delivered more than we could have expected. -- Chris E. Hayner
NXT Takeover: New Orleans
It was possibly the biggest NXT Takeover of all time, taking place the night before WrestleMania 34. I dare you to watch this and WrestleMania and think that WWE's annual granddaddy of them all was the better show. It's not. In fact, it's not even close to the quality of Takeover: New Orleans. Headlined by one of many groundbreaking Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa matches that took place throughout 2018, the show also features a six-man ladder match for the NXT North American Championship, a triple threat Tag Team Championships match featuring The Undisputed Era, The Authors of Pain, and Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong. This show also features Shayna Baszler's first championship win, when she submitted Ember Moon for the NXT Women's Championship. From top-to-bottom, this was a fantastic show that blew Mania out of the water. -- Chris E. Hayner
The annual March PPV is rarely good. The main feuds are already set in stone, and there aren't going to be any sudden twists or swerves in the storyline; those get saved and held over for Wrestlemania, which takes place less than a month later. But this year's Fastlane managed to be a lot of fun. Rather than trying trying to wow us with narrative advancements, WWE buckled down and delivered a solid, athletic wrestling show, from top to bottom.
The main event was also the show's highlight: AJ Styles took on and defeated John Cena, Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler in a six-pack challenge for the WWE Championship. Other standout matches included Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev, and Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode for the United States Championship. Fastlane was also the event where Asuka, 2018 Royal Rumble winner, made the decision we hoped she would, and challenged Charlotte Flair to a championship match at Wrestlemania 34. -- Kevin Wong
NXT Takeover: Wargames II
NXT's Wargames II was one of those very rare instances where every single match on the card could have been the main event for a PPV. Well, except for the whole Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno match, as that came together last minute and the match lasted mere seconds. However, right after that was Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler, which was fantastic, and there is a reason a bout between these two is mentioned twice on this list, as they are a couple of the best performers in WWE this year. Both Tomasso and Ciampa appeared on the card, but not fighting each other in two incredibly exceptional matches during the evening. Gargano took on former champ Aleister Black in a hard-hitting, brutal bout, while Ciampa defended his title against Velveteen Dream--a personal favorite of mine.
The whole show closed out with the titular Wargames match, which in itself is a gimmick match with a laundry list of rules. However, it was the perfect close to the evening with a match full of high and lows, making the bout very fitting of that main event spot, if you completely forget about the name of this PPV for a moment. Overall, the card was small, the storylines were built up exceptionally well, and it is how WWE should book its PPVs each month. Less is more, and NXT proves that time and time again. -- Mat Elfring
Wrestlemania is supposed to WWE's premiere event, but it doesn't always feel like that. And while part of the focus, for me, was all the times that the camera cut to John Cena in the crowd, looking back, this was actually a really fun show. Because this was early in the year, you've probably forgotten about a few huge moments during the night. First, Asuka's winning streak was broken by Charlotte. Ronda Rousey had her first match, teaming with Kurt Angle to take on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and the match was a ton of fun. Also, Braun Strowman won the Raw Tag Team Championships and his partner was a 10-year-old boy he picked from the audience.
It was also the return of Daniel Bryan, and he did not disappoint, even though it wasn't a solo contest. This evening also marked the start of Shinsuke Nakamura hitting AJ Styles in the groin, which would be a continuing trend for most of the year. The weakest part of the night was the main event, with yet another Lesnar/Reigns match for the Universal Championship. It was actually one of the better Wrestlemania events offering up tons of surprises and plenty of memorable moments. -- Mat Elfring
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV
The fourth and final--for now-- Brooklyn Takeover saw Tomasso Ciampa retain the NXT Championship against Johnny Gargano, as the feuding duo somehow found new ways to brutalize each other in a Last Man Standing match. This show also features the first title win for Ricochet, who defeated Adam Cole in a fantastic bout for the NXT North American Championship. This is also the show that saw Kairi Sane regain the NXT Women's Championship after defeating the practically unbeatable Shayna Baszler. -- Chris E. Hayner
Money In The Bank
Moving forward, WWE plans to make the Money in the Bank a "major" PPV, on the same level of prestige as Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, and Summerslam. And this year's Money in the Bank was a perfect way to begin that rebranding.
There were a couple of missteps on the card. Asuka lost to Carmella via a James Ellsworth distraction, which did neither woman any favors. There was a lifeless Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley match that wasn't very compelling. But the best matches on the card more than made up for them. Both Money in the Bank matches delivered, and the women's match led to a same night cash-in Ronda Rousey took on Nia Jax in her second match with the company, and Rousey added new moves to her repertoire, like a flying knee, a flying crossbody, and a judo throw that took Jax off her feet.
The highlight of the evening was AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a Last Man Standing match. Finally, the two of men lived up to their NJPW encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 10; This match was 30 minutes of pure, physical storytelling, and it was one of the best WWE matches all year. -- Kevin Wong
Best of the Year: Evolution
In 2018, WWE made gigantic strives to try an elevate the women's division as much as possible, which all culminated in October's all-women's PPV, Evolution. Since we started reviewing the PPVs earlier this year, Evolution scored the highest between the two reviewers scoring the show an average of 7.8 for all its matches. And yes, the 6-woman tag match between The Riott Squad and Natalya, Sasha Banks, & Bayley was the quintessential pee break/filler for the evening, but when you look at what transpired before this match and after it, you understand why this Sunday Night Raw match was on the card.
Prior to that, there was the Mae Young Classic finals between Toni Storm and Io Shirai, which Chris E. Hayner said, "They threw out the best they had for this match and it was the exact kind of match I love." And Mat Elfring said, "This match was a gateway drug to indie wrestling. It felt like something you'd seem more in NJPW or ROH rather than a WWE event."
Then after the filler match, there were two of WWE's best matches of the year. First, it was Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Bazsler for the NXT Women's Championship, which gave the average WWE viewer just an idea of how great NXT is, week after week. Following that was the Last Woman Standing match between Becky Lynch and Charlotte for the Smackdown Women's Championship, which was undoubtedly the best WWE match of the year. Even the Ronda Rousey match against Nikki Bella was a lot of fun
It is easily the strongest main roster WWE PPV of the year, and while NXT tends to put on a brilliant PPV product, this is the only WWE show which highlighted the main roster, superstars from the past, NXT, and stars who have yet to make a name within WWE with the Mae Young Classic. It is a total package for what WWE's women's division has become the past two years, which all culminates with this moment. -- Mat Elfring