Every month, I am faced with that eternal question: Should I buy this month’s WWE pay per view? I know what you are thinking, Lasher you are a rich public school teacher, can’t you afford the expense every month? However, we are not rolling in the dough as we were in the past. Lousy furlough days.
The choice comes down to what the WWE is offering. Some are no-brainers (WrestleMania, Royal Rumble or Summerslam) and some are my favorite fun gimmick shows (Money in the Bank). However, most months it might simply be one great match or event that makes me want to buy it.
Here we are in June. June pay per views used to be great (King of the Ring) but have been quite poor recently (Capital Punishment, No Way Out). The name, Payback, reminded me of a bad Mel Gibson movie and not of a show I was excited to see. But it all changed because of one thing. This show would be occurring in Chicago.
Chicago is the greatest wrestling city in the world. I am sure others (New York, Toronto and Philadelphia) could stake a claim but no area seems to love their wrestling more than Chicago. The fans treat pro wrestling with the respect we wished every community did.
As such these fans have witnessed some of the most memorable events in WWE history. We cannot ignore the crowd reactions of this great wrestling city have impacted the very famous pay per view moments that occurred here.
With that in mind, I present my list of top five WWE PPV’s in the great city of Chicago:
Honorable Mention: Judgment Day 1998
Ok, I cheated already. I had to throw in a quick honorable mention to this show. This show holds a special place in my heart. I didn’t see the show live but its impact was felt the next night. On the show, the main event was Undertaker vs. Kane. Stone Cold had to make one of them the champion or be fired by Vince McMahon. Sure enough Stone Cold didn’t follow through and Vince said, for the first time ever, “You’re fired!” The great Chicago crowd pelted debris on Vince at this shocking moment.
The reason this event was memorable to me was I read about this shocking event and proceeded to watch my first Raw ever the next night. So thank you Chicago, your shock to Judgment Day’s events were a deciding factor in me becoming a fan in the first place.
5. Backlash 2001
This event had the tough assignment of following WrestleMania X-Seven, arguably the greatest PPV of them all. However, 2001 was one of the deepest times for the WWE roster and the shows were always of high quality. The Chicago crowd gained the advantage of the very interesting storyline, Stone Cold as a heel. His excellent tag match with Triple H versus the Brothers of Destruction was the strong main event for this quality show.
Shane McMahon and Big Show also put on a good Last Man Standing Match but the most memorable match was a Submission Match between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. I will always remember the classics these two put on in 2001. Can you imagine a 30-minute match today with nothing but Submissions? I doubt it would occur.
Watch the Chicago fans getting into this match near the end. It is a technical classic that ends in a 3 to 3 tie after 30 minutes. The crowd roared with approval as it was forced to continue and I loved their reaction to Benoit forcing Angle to tap. Another great match in a great feud.
4. WrestleMania 13 (1997)
Ok, it might be shocking to see this show so low. However, most of the event was really bad. I mean Rocky Maivia versus The Sultan? Three tag matches on the main card? We had Sycho Sid in the main event? Scary.
However, around all of that garbage is the match. It is Stone Cold versus Bret Hart. I never had the chance to see it live but watching it later and watching the crowd reaction is worthy of its place as Stone Cold’s all-time favorite match. It starts with a brutal fight in the crowd and leads to a very back and forth contest. The psychology of the match is one of the best of all time.
But the finish is what defines the match. Bret Hart put on the Sharpshooter on an unbelievably bloody Stone Cold. I have never seen a crowd turn on a wrestler as quickly as they did on Bret. The iconic image of a bloody Stone Cold refusing to give up defines the coming Attitude Era and the crowd of Chicago helped start the “good guy” Stone Cold with their cheers.
3. WrestleMania 22 (2006)
This is the last WrestleMania in a smaller arena and I think the WWE lost a lot in sound after this year’s event. The Chicago crowd makes this good show one of my favorite to watch at WrestleMania season. While the build to the Mickie James and Trish Stratus was strong, the crowd stepped in up a level in their support for crazy Mickie. I will always remember Jim Ross commenting on the craziness of the crowd during that match.
My other favorite moments from the show are Mick Foley vs. Edge. What a brutal match that was and how the crowd responded to it. The use of barbwire on Edge, Mick Foley and Lita really got the crowd into the night. But the ending, Edge spearing Mick Foley through a table that was on fire was a famous moment and how the crowd reacted makes it a special event in WWE history.
The main event was interesting one with Triple H and John Cena (we even had a mobster CM Punk) but it was the Chicago crowd that made the main event. They made the decision to boo John Cena throughout and cheer the villainous Triple H. It was one of the earliest occasions of Cena hate and made this special event seem more important. Triple did the job that night and the crowd booed Cena out of the building.
2. Extreme Rules (2012)
I will admit it: I ordered this event because it was in Chicago. I had enjoyed some of the build but it was coming off the heels of the expensive WrestleMania. But I am glad I did, it was not only better then WrestleMania, it was the best show of 2012.
Sheamus and Daniel Bryan had a brilliant match. The crowd was firmly behind Bryan and had the “Yes” and “No” Chants going loudly throughout the match. While Sheamus did eventually win two falls to one, it was a long match that made both guys look strong. It was the classic match that was stolen from us at WrestleMania 28 and the Chicago crowd loved seeing it here.
CM Punk and Chris Jericho put on a fun show for the Chicago crowd but the main event was the real surprise for me. John Cena and Brock Lesnar put on a brutal match. I loved how Lesnar busted Cena open at the start of the match with a vicious elbow. It helped get the Chicago crowd into this match early as Cena had to checked for blood loss on two occasions. We don’t get to see this sort of match too often and the crowd was appreciative. The Chicago crowd actually applauded John Cena for his impressive effort after the match. Who would have thought that ever would have occurred after the events of 2011?
1. WWE Money in the Bank (2011)
My favorite WWE pay per view of all time for a variety of reasons. The build to the main event sold me on this event well before it started. I knew the Chicago crowd would be invested, CM Punk’s “final” match in his hometown? It was going to be epic. They exceeded my already high expectations.
The first reason is the stellar undercard. The Raw Money in the Bank was a lot of fun but the Smackdown one was the most impressive. It was full of young talents like Justin Gabriel, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett working extremely well. But this was the coming out party for Daniel Bryan and the Chicago crowd really appreciated his effort and knew of his success in other promotions.
Randy Orton and Christian put on another good match in their great feud. But my favorite part was after their match. Randy Orton went crazy and the fans loved it. They demanded more Orton crazy antics and he delivered to the approval of the rabid fans.
But the main event is what makes this event number one in Chicago history. The entrance alone deserves a place in WWE history. I don’t think I have ever heard a louder cheer then CM Punk got from the Chicago fans. You know it is loud when you couldn’t hear the announce team. In honestly, they shouldn’t have talked and simply listened. It was a special hometown feel that is rarely replicated in WWE history. Even CM Punk looked a little choked up.
The match itself was a back and forth 5-star classic. It was the best in-ring work that John Cena had done up to that point. He really cared and wanted to put on a good show for the hostile Chicago crowd. The match was full of near falls and some famous plot twists throughout. The best part was during this 33-minute match; the crowd was invested the entire time. They cheered everything Punk did and booed everything Cena did. It was amazing.
As the match ended with CM Punk’s GTS, the crowd went wild. That iconic shot of Punk leaving through the crowd blowing Vince a kiss is one to never be forgotten. I remember that show ending and turning to my brother and saying, “This is the best pay per view I have seen”. My feelings remain the same to this day and Chicago fans are to thank for a lot of that.
So there you have it. Chicago has a special place in WWE history. A lot of these matches and events rank among the most famous in sports entertainment. It was the right combination of feuds, wrestlers and Chicago crowd that made in memorable. Let us hope Chicago can help pull another great show with Payback on Sunday. If I am watching, it will because of you Chicago WWE fans. You make any show memorable.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear about favorite Chicago WWE moments.