The year 2021 is has provided a lot of ups and downs for the WWE Universe while we live in unique times. With that in mind, what WWE PPV was the best of the year?
It’s been a weird two years for many reasons, mainly blamed on the global pandemic that the entire world has been dealing with. This is a WWE-focused column though, so let’s go over why it’s been such a unique year for WWE. Keep in mind this is only about the Raw/Smackdown PPVs this year and not NXT Takeover events. Here are some reasons:
* For the first time since 1994, there is no December PPV event. That’s because the next WWE PPV is called Day One taking place on Saturday, January 1 aka New Year’s Day. They will use the month of December’s TV shows to promote Day One as best as they can. It’s just weird not having a main roster PPV in December. There is an NXT WarGames special in two weeks, but that’s not a Raw/Smackdown show.
* Five of the PPVs that took place this year took at the WWE Thunderdome with no fans while six of them were done with fans in attendance. That’s because it was July 2021 when WWE started to go back on the road with fans in the buildings. They also held WrestleMania 37 in April with about half a crowd spaced out at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
* The WWE PPV business model changed again, at least for those of you in the United States. Since the United States is the company’s biggest market, it was a significant move when WWE Network was changed to Peacock streaming service, which is run by NBC Universal. That move happened in March, so wrestling fans had to watch April’s WrestleMania event on WrestleMania. As you might expect, there have been issues with Peacock with a lot of fans complaining that they miss the original WWE Network in the US.
* It was the first year where WWE did a two-night WrestleMania event with fans. WrestleMania 36 in 2020 was also a two-night, but that one had no fans in attendance. WWE will be doing two-night WrestleMania again next April 2022 in Dallas.
* Roman Reigns was in the main event of 8 of the 11 PPVs this year (I am counting two-night WrestleMania). Reigns didn’t main event the first two PPVs of the year, but then he main evented 8 of the next 9. They were all wins for Reigns, of course. The three PPVs that Reigns didn’t main event were Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell.
I think it was a good year for WWE PPVs. If you’re a regular reader here on TJRWrestling then you know that I provide a score out of 10 for every PPV.
The average out of 10 this year was: 7.5. If you don’t like number grades, that’s a solid B or a B+ as a letter grade too.
Is that too high? Too low? Am I too nice? I don’t know, but I think WWE deserves a lot of credit for giving their big PPV matches more time this year. If you think of the biggest and best matches of the year, a lot of them got 20 minutes or at least 15 minutes to tell a story. They really didn’t overload PPVs with matches either. Some of them had like six matches over three hours, so everybody got a chance to put on a good match. Yes, some matches were short on some shows, but for the most part, I think WWE did a lot better in terms of giving their talent a chance to put on meaningful matches on PPV.
Here’s a closer look at every PPV this year ranking them worst to best with my star ratings for the best/worst maches, as well as my thoughts on every show.
11. Fastlane (March 21)
Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Best Matches: Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan (****1/4 out of five)
No Holds Barred Match: Drew McIntyre defeated Sheamus (****)
Seth Rollins defeated Shinsuke Nakamura (***1/4)
Worst Matches: Alexa Bliss defeated Randy Orton (No rating due to voodoo bullshit)
Braun Strowman vs. Elias (*)
Big E defeated Apollo Crews (*1/2)
From My Review: It was just an average (or slightly above) pay-per-view with two great matches in McIntyre-Sheamus and Reigns-Bryan while Rollins/Nakamura was just good. The other matches were just average or worse. The first hour was bad. I’d skip that part instead of watching it again. I do recommend checking out McIntyre vs. Sheamus and Reigns vs. Bryan because they really were excellent matches that saved the show from being really bad. I’m also patting myself on the back for nailing the Reigns/Bryan finish perfectly in our preview. I got several things right, but that one made me happy because it was a ref bump involved with it. I thought it would have been a better show overall, but some of the booking hurt. (Read My Review)
10. Hell in a Cell (June 20)
Rating: 7 out of 10.
Best Matches: Bobby Lashley beat Drew McIntyre in a Hell in a Cell Match (****)
Bianca Belair defeated Bayley in a Hell in a Cell Match (***3/4)
Seth Rollins defeated Cesaro (***3/4)
Worst Matches: Alexa Bliss defeated Shayna Baszler (**)
Natalya defeated Mandy Rose on the Kickoff Show (**1/2)
From My Review: A really good night for the heels. They got a lot of wins except for Bianca Belair beating Bayley, which was the most obvious result of the night. I think some of the finishes hurt some matches, but overall everybody worked hard. There were five matches that got 12 minutes or more and only one match over 20 minutes. I don’t think anything went too long or too short. I also don’t think there was any match that was so outstanding that you need to go out of your way to see.
Hell in a Cell was a solid show because the matches got time. I just don’t think it was that memorable. I’m glad this was the last PPV without fans. I’m so ready for fans to be back. (Read My Review)
9. Extreme Rules (September 26)
Rating: 7 out of 10.
Best Matches: Roman Reigns defeated “Demon” Finn Balor (****)
The Usos defeated The Street Profits (***3/4)
Bianca Belair defeated Becky Lynch by disqualification (***1/2)
Worst Matches: No matches below three stars.
From My Review: It was a show with good in-ring action all night long although there wasn’t anything major that happened. I don’t know if the average WWE fan would love a show like this, but if you appreciate good action then there was plenty to like here. I thought Reigns/Balor was the best match while the first two tag team matches were pretty good too. There were six matches all between 11 and 20 minutes, so everything got a solid amount of time.
In terms of the results, I don’t think there was anything that was a surprise. Most of the winners were what we expected. Some of the finishes were different and I’m sure they upset some fans, but I get that WWE had to try to come up with creative ways to finish the matches. (Read My Review)
8. Elimination Chamber (February 21)
Rating: 7.25 out of 10.
Best Matches: Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match: Daniel Bryan defeated Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Jey Uso, King Corbin (****)
Raw Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre defeated Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus (***3/4)
Riddle defeated John Morrison and Bobby Lashley (***1/4)
Worst Matches: The Miz defeated Drew McIntyre (No Rating) – The Miz cashed in Money in the Bank to win the WWE Title in 0:32.
Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan (*) – This was a 1:32 match after Bryan won an Elimination Chamber Match.
From My Review: I thought it was a very good show that sets up several things for WrestleMania while also giving us some twists along the way. The Miz leaving with the WWE Title was certainly a possibility and that’s what happened. There was a shocking ending when The Miz beat Drew McIntyre, who was in a grueling Elimination Chamber match and was also beaten up by Bobby Lashley.
There were only six matches on the show and two of them were done in under two minutes. The two Elimination Chamber matches were both great although I wouldn’t say either of them were among the best Elimination Chamber matches ever. Daniel Bryan and Drew McIntyre both did an excellent job as the winners while guys like Cesaro, AJ Styles and Sheamus had strong showings as well. I’m also happy for Riddle finally getting the US Title too. (Read My Review)
7. Survivor Series (November 21)
Best Matches: Roman Reigns defeated Big E (****)
Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair (***3/4)
Survivor Series Elimination Match: Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens & Austin Theory) defeated Team SmackDown (Drew McIntyre, Jeff Hardy, King Xavier Woods, Sheamus & Happy Corbin) (***1/2)
Worst Matches: 25-Man Battle Royal Won By Omos (**)
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Damian Priest by Disqualification (**3/4)
From My Review: The match quality was pretty good for the most part with the Roman Reigns/Big E match standing out as the best of the night. I also liked the Lynch/Charlotte match, the men’s elimination tag team match and RK-Bro/Usos was solid. The women’s tag team match wasn’t that good, so that hurts the show.
What also hurts a show like this is there are no titles on the line, so the results don’t matter that much. There wasn’t anything that exciting or that surprising, which is why my rating is just above a 7 out of 10 because I wanted to see more and then it just ended there. I guess fans are going to be mad that there was no appearance from The Rock. Even a short video from Rock thanking the fans would have been cool. In WWE’s defense, it’s not like WWE said he would be there and lied. (Read My Review)
6. SummerSlam (August 21)
Rating: 7.25 out of 10.
Best Matches: Edge defeated Seth Rollins (****1/4)
Roman Reigns defeated John Cena (****)
Charlotte Flair defeated Rhea Ripley & Nikki A.S.H. (***1/2)
Worst Matches: Alexa Bliss defeated Eva Marie (1/2*)
Bobby Lashley defeated Goldberg (*3/4)
Big E defeated Baron Corbin (**)
I could include Becky Lynch over Bianca Belair in 27 seconds in the worst matches, but it was more of an angle than anything.
From My Review: I thought it was a pretty good SummerSlam overall, but not necessarily great from top to bottom. Some of the bad matches were kept short while the longer ones were the better matches. The Edge/Rollins match was the best of the night while Reigns/Cena delivered a quality main event match.
The returns of Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar might not sit well with some fans. I say that about Lynch because her return hurt Bianca Belair a lot with how Lynch beat her. I don’t think that was the best way to bring back Lynch, but the fans did love seeing her. I just hope Belair can bounce back. As for Lesnar, he’s got a love/hate relationship with some fans for sure. I’m a Brock fan that will always like the guy, but I understand people being sick of him since he’s another part-timer in the spotlight.
I thought the Las Vegas crowd was pretty good for the most part. At times, the 50,000 people sounded loud and at other times you could tell it was quiet. For the most part, I think it was strong, though. I just think going over four hours was too much. It felt too long to me, but writing as much as I do over four hours during a very busy weekend could play a part in me feeling like the show was too long too. I can admit that. (Read My Review)
5. WrestleMania Backlash (May 16)
Rating: 7.75 out of 10.
Best Matches: Roman Reigns defeated Cesaro (****1/2)
Bobby Lashley defeated Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman (****)
Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio defeated Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode (***1/2)
Worst Matches: Damian Priest defeated The Miz due to f’n zombie bullshit (-*)
Sheamus vs. Ricochet (**1/2)
From My Review: I thought it was a very good show because they had six matches where five of them got a lot of time (over 14 minutes) and the main event went nearly 30 minutes. Roman Reigns and Cesaro did a tremendous job in having a competitive Universal Title match with Roman winning clean. It was very similar to the Reigns/Daniel Bryan match on Smackdown a few weeks ago. I enjoyed the WWE Title match with Lashley/Strowman/McIntyre as well. All action. Drew McIntyre really stood out to me in that match.
The zombie lumberjack match between Damian Priest and The Miz didn’t help either guy. I thought it was absolutely terrible. I understand that it was done to promote the “Army of the Dead” movie starring Batista. I just think it was painfully bad to watch and I feel bad for the wrestlers that were involved with it. (Read My Review)
The top four received scores of 8 out of 10 and above. It’s hard to put them in order, but I’ll do the best I can.
4. Royal Rumble (January 31)
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Best Matches: Men’s Royal Rumble Match won by Edge (****1/4)
Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing Match (****)
Women’s Royal Rumble Match won by Bianca Belair (***3/4)
Worst Matches: Drew McIntyre defeated Bill Goldberg (**)
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler defeated Charlotte Flair and Asuka (**1/2)
Sasha Banks defeated Carmella (**3/4)
From My Review: This was a great PPV with both Royal Rumble matches booked well in a way that I’m sure made the late, great Pat Patterson proud. It’s tough to do those kinds of matches without a crowd, yet there were so many interesting stories throughout. The big thing is picking the right winners for the Rumble matches and I think they did that. Edge got some help from his best friend Christian, who was a nice surprise. It’s a cool story to see Edge win at 47 years old from the #1 spot in the match and he was able to beat Randy Orton in the end after Orton faked a knee injury for nearly one hour. Then there’s Bianca Belair who survived so many eliminations from the #3 spot to find a way to win. Even though Rhea Ripley didn’t win, she looked like another winner too. There were so many people that were booked well in both Rumble matches. I really enjoyed both matches a lot. I’d favor the men’s match a bit more than the women’s match, but both were awesome.
The Universal Title match between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens was terrific. Owens was relentless in attacks, yet Reigns managed to find a way to win again. Lost of table spots in that match too. It looked like a hard-hitting fight as it should have been. There were a few nervous moments when Drew McIntyre faced Goldberg, and it looked like Goldberg might win. Thankfully, WWE was smart enough to not put a title on Goldberg again and McIntyre ended up looking like a bigger star by beating a legend in convincing fashion.
This Royal Rumble was a lot of fun to watch and write about. It was just under four hours. I don’t think it was too long at all. It felt just right to me. Once again, the Royal Rumble PPV delivers the goods. (Read My Review)
3. Crown Jewel (October 21)
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Best Matches: Edge defeated Seth Rollins in a Hell in a Cell Match (*****)
Big E defeated Drew McIntyre (****)
Becky Lynch defeated Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks (***3/4)
Roman Reigns defeated Brock Lesnar (***3/4)
Worst Matches: Zelina Vega defeated Doudrop (**)
RK-Bro defeated AJ Styles & Omos (**3/4)
From My Review: It was a great show for the most part with the top matches all getting a lot of time and delivering in terms of having awesome matches. A lot of the finishes made sense. The best match was definitely Edge vs. Rollins with a five-star Hell in a Cell match. After that, I think it was pretty close between the Big E/McIntyre match, the triple threat with Becky/Sasha/Bianca and then Reigns/Lesnar too. I’m also happy for Xavier Woods as much as anybody on the card.
This was also the best WWE show in Saudi Arabia since they started doing them a few years ago. No doubt about that, really. I thought the fans were great for most of the night. There were some down parts, but for a four-hour show they did a pretty good job of reacting to everything well. It had a big show feel to it, there was a lot of hype and most of the matches delivered. There really wasn’t anything that bad. (Read My Review)
2. WrestleMania 37 (April 10 & April 11)
Rating: 8.25 out of 10 (Original rating was 8 out of 10. I am bumping it up here.)
Best Matches: Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan and Edge (****1/2) – Night 2
Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins (****1/4) – Night 1
Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks (****) – Night 1
Bobby Lashley defeated Drew McIntyre (****) – Night 1
Damian Priest & Bad Bunny defeated The Miz & John Morrison (***3/4) – Night 1
Kevin Owens defeated Sami Zayn (***3/4) – Night 2
Worst Matches: Randy Orton defeated “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (*1/2) – Night 2
Women’s Tag Team Turmoil Won By Natalya & Tamina (*3/4) – Night 1
Apollo Crews defeated Big E in a Nigerian Drum Fight (**1/2) – Night 2
AJ Styles & Omos defeated The New Day (**1/2) – Night 1
From My Review: NIGHT ONE – I enjoyed WrestleMania Night 1. It’s hard to pick my favorite match because there were a few really stood out to me, but if I have to pick one then probably Cesaro beating Rollins. With that said, I think they should have got more than 12 minutes for that match. I thought Lashley beating McIntyre was a terrific match between two big guys that are great athletes and told an interesting story. Bad Bunny was very impressive in his match and it was one of the better celebrity performances I’ve ever seen in a wrestling match. Credit Miz/Morrison and Priest for doing their parts well too. I thought Bianca Belair/Sasha Banks had a pretty good. I think they could have used more dramatic moments like nearfalls or near submissions to make it look like Sasha might win because it was just too obvious Bianca was going to win, which she did. It’s still a match and I’m proud of both women for getting the chance to main event.
There wasn’t anything that bad on the show either. The Women’s Tag Team Turmoil was lacking in terms of excitement and crowd reaction, but it was a way to get more people on the show. They booked the Omos in-ring debut in a way that made him look like a big star because of how New Day reacted to him and sold for him. It’s a story that worked well. It’s not always about putting on a classic match. I thought Braun Strowman’s win over Shane McMahon was actually booked well and ended with Shane taking a big bump as usual.
NIGHT TWO – I thought Reigns/Edge/Bryan was clearly the match of the night and also the best match of the two-night WrestleMania. I think Owens/Zayn was next best even though it was short at 10 minutes. Sheamus and Riddle had a good showing as usual and I really liked the finish. They did a lot in the time given. I’m a little surprised by three straight matches with titles and if you consider Rhea Ripley then that’s three straight heels winning titles. There are a lot of heel champions on Raw/Smackdown right now. I got some predictions wrong because I thought more babyfaces were going to win since it’s the first show with fans in one year and instead there were a lot more heel wins than I thought there would be.
It was so great having two nights of shows with a loud Tampa Bay crowd at WrestleMania. (Read My Review)
1. Money in the Bank (July 18)
Rating: 8.75 out of 10 (Original rating was 8.5 out of 10. I am bumping it up here.)
Best Matches: Men’s Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match won by Big E (****1/2)
Roman Reigns defeated Edge (****1/4)
Charlotte Flair defeated Rhea Ripley (****)
The Usos defeated Rey & Dominik Mysterio (***1/2)
Worst Matches: Bobby Lashley defeated Kofi Kingston (*1/2)
From My Review: This was an awesome show. The last three matches really stood out to me and helped make this the best WWE PPV of the year so far. The Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match was my favorite of the show and seeing Big E made me feel genuinely happy. That match was put together so well with some memorable endings and the right finish. The Roman Reigns/Edge match wasn’t a technical wrestling classic, but it was a very good main event match even with a referee bump and Seth Rollins interference. I also thought Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley did a tremendous job in their match. The crowd didn’t seem interested early as they chanted for Becky Lynch (no sign of her on the show), but then Flair/Ripley worked so hard and had such good match that the fans treated it like a big deal. Love to see that.
John Cena’s return to end the night was incredible. That truly was one of the loudest ovations I’ve ever heard. I know it was rumored for a while, but until it happens, you just never know, right? Cena vs. Reigns at SummerSlam will be a huge match for sure. I like both guys a lot and I think you can tell that WWE fans have missed Cena based on that reaction he got. That’s one of those reactions you should probably watch again just to take in how loud it was.
Shoutout to the crowd in Fort Worth, Texas for some loud reactions all night long. We all missed hearing fans at wrestling shows. Houston was great on Friday too. Fort Worth was awesome tonight. It made the show better for sure. (READ MY REVIEW)
That’s a wrap on WWE PPVs in 2021. I think it was a great year for match quality in WWE in terms of their PPV matches. Where some of these shows were lacking is they didn’t run many big angles or have that many huge moments.
To the negative fans out there that think it has been a terrible year for WWE in terms of shows, I really don’t think that’s right at all. I’m not saying it’s great. I am just saying in terms of match quality, it was a pretty strong year and a reflection of how talented the roster is, even with 80+ wrestlers being released this year.
I think the better shows like Money in the Bank had those memorable moments (John Cena’s return) to go with three four-star plus level matches and then SummerSlam was really good with a lot of matches that were fun plus the Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar return moments.
Some events had great wrestling from top to bottom, but what do we really remember? I think WWE has to get better at making some bigger moments happen at PPV events because that’s what people want.
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