SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
It has been a wild and wacky start to 2016, and we can say the Road to WrestleMania has officially begun. I will attend WrestleMania in person this year for the 14th time, but this week we return to my new column that highlights five great non-WrestleMania shows to watch on the WWE Network. For all of you who are frustrated with current programming or for those who are looking for a trip down memory lane on the Network, here are five shows you must watch.
(5) The Main Event: February 5, 1988
One of the main problems with the WWE Network is that it is often difficult to understand the context that surrounds the build to the pay-per-views. If you are a fan that did not live through the early WrestleManias and are looking to watch Wrestlemania IV, it is absolutely necessary to watch The Main Event from February 1988. It is located in the section with the Saturday Night ‘s Main Event shows. This was the highest-rated show in wrestling history drawing 33 million viewers. To give you an idea how mind-boggling that number was, the average viewership for Raw is between three and four million.
This show featured the infamous WWF Championship re-match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. The ending had a shocking twist that led to the end of the Hulkster’s legendary four-year run as the World Champion. Andre may have had the shortest championship run in history because Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase immediately bought the belt from the Giant. This led to the vacant World Championship and the 14-man tournament at WrestleMania 4. This is a show that every wrestling fan needs to see.
(4) WCW Halloween Havoc 1997
WCW was not known for the greatest pay-per-views. This event, at the height of the company’s popularity, featured some of the greatest feuds in their history. The main event was a championship match between Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper in a steel cage. In a grudge match, Randy Savage fought Diamond Dallas Paige in another battle in what was the Feud of the Year. Arn Anderson had just retired, and Curt Hennig had replaced him in the Four Horsemen only to betray them to join the NWO. It set up a dream match between Hennig and Ric Flair at the Havoc. Best of all, however, was the show-stealing classic between Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. This event is worth watching based on that match alone, but the stacked card make it one of the best events in WCW history.
(3) No Way Out 2004
There was a time when WWE had a genuine brand split when Raw and Smackdown felt like two separate shows with the rosters rarely crossing paths. For a couple years, each had their own pay-per-views, and this was one of the best single brand shows because it featured one of the best matches and greatest moments in the company’s history. The undercard was weak, but you can see a young John Cena facing off against Kurt Angle and Big Show to determine the challenger for the championship at WrestleMania.
This show was all about the main event, which saw Brock Lesnar defend his WWE Championship against Eddie Guerrero. It was an athletic and emotional showcase that showcased each superstar in their prime. Eddie won his first World Championship, and it was a spectacular celebration that followed. It was the highlight of Guerrero’s career and one of the best championship matches of all time.
(2) King of the Ring 1996
It is often said that tournaments do not draw in wrestling. Truth be told, a well-booked show can be entertaining and make a star. This is the ultimate example. The back-story behind this show is legendary. Triple H was originally scheduled to win the tournament, but after the infamous Kliq Curtain Call at Madison Square Garden that broke kayfabe, it was rebooked for a heel Steve Austin to win. The rest is history. Stone Cold cut the legendary improvised “Austin 3:16” promo, and he went on to revolutionize the industry. This was the official beginning of the Attitude Era.
(1) Survivor Series Deadly Game 1998
Speaking of great tournaments, the best booked show of Vince Russo’s tenure in WWF creative was the Survivor Series “Deadly Game” tournament in 1998. The WWF Championship was again vacant after Vince McMahon had fired Austin. I hope that the Network adds a section on classic storylines and sequentially displays the episodes that lead to a classic match or show.
The series of events that led to the Series featured some of the best storytelling, logical twists and character development in company history. You must see this show because not only is it proof that at one point, Vince Russo was a great booker, it is one of the greatest wrestling shows of its time.
Please send questions, comments and feedback to my new Facebook Fan Page Facebook.com/showstoppershawnvalentino.