10 Best PPVs Of 2018

The very best wrestling shows of the year, from WWE to NXT to New Japan, and beyond.

As you'll see from our extensive honourable mentions section, there was a lot of excellent wrestling this year.

One of the best things clear from our list is the sense of diversity. Great shows came from a variety of promotions all around the world, with both mainstream and independent stars showcasing their abilities on a variety of platforms.

Of course, a great wrestling show isn't always just about the in-ring action. Sometimes an event revolves as much around what it represents, as we saw on several occasions this year. In other cases, an end of year contender can come out of nowhere, slapping together an awesome card and letting the wrestlers do their thing.

Variety is part of what makes the industry so great, and with that in mind, let's take a look at our (many) honourable mentions:

  • NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia - the site of WWE's first 5-star match since 2011

  • wXw 16 Carat Gold Day 2 - one of the year's best crowd reactions, as Ilja Dragunov shocked everybody, returning to win the title.

  • EVOLVE 102 - a real highlight of WrestleMania weekend, featuring a particular highlight in the form of Riddle vs. Ospreay.

  • OTT ScrapperMania IV - An Irish supershow, featuring homegrown boy Jordan Devlin vs. Zack Sabre Jr., a Riddle/Ospreay rematch, and a couple of New Japan's biggest stars.

  • WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Day 2 - a mini-TakeOver in its own right, featuring an emotional tag title win for Moustache Mountain.

  • NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco - a strong card from top to bottom, main evented by warring stablemates Kenny Omega and Cody (but also the sad site of Hiromu Takahashi's serious injury.)

  • PWG Battle of Los Angeles Day 2 - a series of hard-hitting tournament matches, followed by an exciting six-man tag team showcase.

  • PWG Battle of Los Angeles Day 3 - thought by many to feature the greatest final in BOLA history.

  • PROGRESS Chapter 76: Hello Wembley! - a landmark show for UK wrestling, and one fittingly full of big matches and moments.

  • NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed - title changes, grudge matches, and a 5-star tag team main event. What's not to enjoy?

  • Dragon Gate Fantastic Gate 2018 Day 1 - a strong show overall, chiefly remembered for an excellent main event featuring PAC.


10. NXT TakeOver: Chicago II


WWE


Where: Allstate Arena - Rosemont, Illinois

What: The aftershock following the earthquake that was TakeOver: New Orleans (or perhaps its darker sequel) but also a damn good show in its own right. Also one of the more conservatively booked TakeOver events, in terms of results rather than action.

The Good: Things got off to an excellent start with one of 2018's real sleeper hits - the Undisputed Era vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch in a fast and frantic opener. Ricochet and Velveteen Dream brought psychology and athleticism in equal measure, while Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano delivered another untouchable main event - this time with the opposite result.

The Bad: The two singles title matches on the show weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly paled in comparison to the rest of the card - particularly Aleister Black vs. Lars Sullivan, with the two men not really on the same page at times.

Star of the Show: Tommaso Ciampa. One of 2018's biggest and best heels avenged his New Orleans loss in unscrupulous fashion here, making for a completely unsatisfying end to the show. In a good way, of course.


9. NJPW Sakura Genesis


NJPW


Where: Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) - Tokyo, Japan

What: New Japan's triumphant return to home soil after a big US show the week before, and the completion of its post-Wrestle Kingdom arc. A gruelling and rewarding show in equal measure, more classic novel than Hollywood blockbuster.

The Good: The whole show was largely very good, but Sakura Genesis was dominated by its two major title matches - old enemies Ospreay and Scurll clashing in a 5-star Junior Heavyweight title bout, and new foes Okada and Zack Sabre Jr. meeting in the main event. Both bouts were excellent, in very different ways.

The Bad: Unlike most other shows on this list, there did appear to be quite a lot of filler on the card. Well-wrestled filler, naturally, but it's hard to get away from the feeling that New Japan could have put together a few more marquee matches.

Star of the Show: Will Ospreay. The Aerial Assassin may have won the Junior Heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom, but he needed to topple his trickiest nemesis in one-on-one action here. He did so, but had to pay a heavy price, crumpling his neck and busting his head open during a Spanish fly off the apron.


8. IMPACT Slammiversary XVI


Impact Wrestling


Where: Rebel Entertainment Complex - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What: IMPACT's real redemption show (despite it being the title of their preceding PPV), and one of the biggest variety events of 2018. Despite a definite skew towards hardcore stipulations - of which there were three - Slammiversary also provided high-flying, over-the-top gimmickry, and straightforward wrestling.

The Good: As mentioned, the sheer variety of the card meant that it was hard to look away for fear of missing something. Pentagon Jr. and Sami Callihan grabbed the headlines with a wonderfully violent mask vs. hair match, while Moose stepped up to the plate in a great main event opposite Austin Aries. LAX and the OGz delivered the wildest brawl of the night, a '5150 street fight' for the tag titles.

The Bad: If you're not a fan of hardcore wrestling, you probably didn't enjoy this show that much. Likewise, if elaborate old school gimmicks aren't your thing, it'd probably be best to look away for Su Yung vs. Madison Rayne.

Star of the Show: Sami Callihan. Few wrestlers play the maniac heel with such ease as Callihan, who gave as good as he got for the majority of his bloody bout with Pentagon. He also sold the loss in wonderful fashion, making for a fitting scene of comeuppance.


7. WWE Evolution


WWE


Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - Uniondale, New York

What: The first ever WWE all-women's pay per view, and in my opinion, the company's best main roster show of 2018. A landmark moment on many levels, as well as an effective combination of crowd-pleasing moments and real intensity.

The Good: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair was utterly fantastic, an instant contender for WWE's main roster Match of the Year, and the crown jewel of the show (no pun intended). Ronda Rousey continued to impress, defeating Nikki Bella in the main event, while Kairi Sane, Shayna Baszler, Toni Storm, and Io Shirai brought the workrate in a pair of excellent bouts.

The Bad: The opener divided opinion. Many were simply delighted to see Trish Stratus and Lita back - understandably so - but their tag match was hindered by a few timing issues and general sloppiness. Nia Jax was a strange choice to win the no. 1 contender battle royal, especially eliminating up-and-coming crowd favourite Ember Moon in the final two.

Star of the Show: Becky Lynch. WWE's hottest star of 2018 continued to ride her wave of popularity here, providing intensity and expertise in the awesome Last Woman Standing match.


6. ALL IN


All In/Twitter


Where: Sears Centre - Hoffman Estates, Illinois

What: One of the biggest wrestling stories of 2018, a historic moment for the independent scene, and potentially even a sign of greater things to come. If Woodstock was a wrestling show, it'd probably have looked something like this.

The Good: In an odd way, the card wasn't the most important thing here, but rather the passion and enthusiasm of everyone involved - from wrestlers to fans, and so on. Still, if we're talking about match quality, Kenny Omega and Pentagon delivered the goods, as did Kazuchika Okada and Marty Scurll (the latter bout providing one of the best near falls of 2018).

The Bad: The main event was drastically cut due to timing issues, shortening a match that was well on its way to greatness. Elsewhere, Joey Ryan's return from the dead was admittedly hilarious, but may have taken the gravitas out of an incredibly bone-crunching match between Hangman Page and Joey Janela. It certainly divided opinion online...

Star of the Show: Cody Rhodes. Although his match with Nick Aldis wasn't the showiest of the night, the sight of Dusty Rhodes' son hoisting the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship was one of the moments of 2018.


5. Wrestle Kingdom 12


NJPW


Where: Tokyo Dome - Tokyo, Japan

What: New Japan's annual January 4th show, and the biggest night of their calendar year. A show virtually guaranteed to deliver, if recent history is anything to go by. This could also be seen as the moment NJPW's quest for a global audience kicked into a higher gear, with several Western stars featured prominently - including a certain Chris Jericho.

The Good: Chris Jericho proved that, despite his age, he was still more than capable of putting on a 5-star match with the right opponent. The 4-way Junior Heavyweight title match brought a little carnage and innovation that is sometimes missing in New Japan's typically conservative booking, while Hirooki Goto and Minoru Suzuki gave us one of the stiffest matches of the year in a brutal hair vs. hair contest.

The Bad: Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito certainly put on a great main event, but the LIJ leader's loss couldn't help but end Wrestle Kingdom on a deflating note. Still, the decision to keep the title around the Rainmaker's waist would make total sense six months later. Elsewhere, Jay White unfortunately failed to impress against Hiroshi Tanahashi - but has since improved leaps and bounds.

Star of the Show: Kenny Omega. Tasked with putting on a memorable match with fellow Canadian Y2J, Omega showed a worldwide audience exactly what he can do - turning a name value no-DQ brawl into a Match of the Year candidate.


4. NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4


WWE


Where: Barclays Center - New York City, New York

What: A multi-pronged attack from NXT's various divisions, with all four title matches delivering in some respect. Also did well to stay in the memory after a huge SummerSlam weekend. By Monday morning, Ronda Rousey would be Raw Women's Champion, and Becky Lynch would be reborn - but TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 shone brightest in terms of pure quality.

The Good: Take your pick from Moustache Mountain and Undisputed Era's intense rubber match, Ricochet and Adam Cole's all-round classic, Kairi Sane's feelgood title win, and Gargano vs. Ciampa part three. In terms of balanced cards, this was one of the strongest of the year, with thrilling action throughout.

The Bad: Unfortunately for Velveteen Dream and EC3, their clash of personalities didn't shine quite as brightly as the other matches on the card. Additionally, Gargano and Ciampa's third bout was probably the weakest of their trilogy - although that doesn't really tell the whole story, given the overall quality of the series.

Star of the Show: Adam Cole. Ricochet may have triumphantly beaten Cole for his North American title at this show, but the Undisputed Era leader reminded us all of his ability as an elite-level worker - a fact often forgotten amidst his incredible charisma.


3. NXT TakeOver: WarGames II


WWE


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, California

What: A particularly intense event, even by NXT's lofty standards. The last three matches all hit hard, but managed to stand entirely separate from one another too. With only four matches announced prior to the show, WarGames showed a tremendous amount of confidence in those involved. It'd prove to be fully justified.

The Good: This show's closing stretch was up there with any event of 2018, with all three final matches delivering in a big way. Gargano and Black served up a slick, hard-hitting display; Ciampa and Velveteen Dream paced their NXT Championship bout to perfection; and the WarGames finale saw both teams incorporate tactics and brutality in equal measure. Also, Ricochet did a double moonsault off the top of the cage - which is worth a mention of its own for obvious reasons.

The Bad: Shayna Baszler's screwy win over Kairi Sane frustrated many, and while I personally didn't mind it too much, it was one of the show's only divisive points. Another was the length of the WarGames match, with many feeling it went too long - although again, I didn't see the issue as much as a few others seemed to.

Star of the Show: Velveteen Dream. NXT's hottest young prospect had the crowd willing him to victory - and while they weren't quite successful, he proved that he could surpass expectations in the biggest match of his career so far.


2. NJPW Dominion


NJPW


Where: Osaka-jo Hall - Osaka, Japan

What: With a main event stretching over an hour in length, you may be fooled into thinking that this was the Omega and Okada show, featuring the rest of the roster as special guests. However, Dominion was a deceptively deep show packed with quality, and even though Okada/Omega IV (rightly) received a huge chunk of time, there was lots to enjoy beyond it.

The Good: The fourth instalment of Okada and Omega's generation-defining rivalry was truly epic - and had to be, given the complexities of their rivalry leading up to Dominion. But this wasn't a one-match show by any stretch of the imagination, as bouts such as Naito vs. Jericho, Ospreay vs. Takahashi, and LIJ vs. The Young Bucks proved.

The Bad: Truthfully, the main event isn't for everyone given its length (clocking in at almost 1 hour, 5 minutes). This was also a more traditional New Japan show in the sense that it built from weaker matches to an explosive conclusion, and although no match could be defined as 'bad', its format does make for a challenging watch.

Star of the Show: Kenny Omega. This was Kenny's moment, finally toppling the company ace and winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Predictably, he utterly thrived in the spotlight, telling his half of a compelling and immaculate story.


1. NXT TakeOver: New Orleans


WWE


Where: Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, Louisiana

What: The greatest TakeOver ever, the most impressive WWE show of the year, and quite simply, the best wrestling event of 2018. On a WrestleMania weekend jam-packed with cards from all manner of promotions, NXT still shone brightest - and came pretty close to perfection in the process. The brand was at the peak of its powers here. (So far, anyway...)

The Good: Every match on this card delivered without exception, including the three that weren't awarded that elusive 5-star Meltzer rating. The main event was real Match of the Year stuff, while the opening ladder match brought carnage and excitement in abundance. Andrade Almas vs. Aleister Black would have been match of the night on the vast majority of shows, and the women's title match was a well-exectued passing of the torch - making both wrestlers look strong regardless of the result. We even had a shocking heel turn, as Roderick Strong betrayed Pete Dunne to side with the Undisputed Era midway through the night.

The Bad: Nothing.

Star of the Show: Johnny Gargano. He may have since turned heel, but Gargano was the ultimate white hot babyface here (with a despicable heel to play off, of course). His performance was simultaneously brave, vulnerable, vengeful, and ultimately heroic.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]