Wrestlemania. Starcade. The Great American Bash. Summerslam. These names hold meaning and memories for fans because they are constants annually. Supercards and pay-per-views have always repeated the same names to create a sense of tradition and for branding. However, some pay-per-views titles only occurred once, for one reason or another. The following list is the top five best one-time only pay-per-views that were aired by different promotions.
5. Chi-Town Rumble (NWA)
This was the NWA’s best one-time only event producing a solid card that is headlined by one of the greatest matches in wrestling history – the first in Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat’s trilogy and the match where Steamboat won his only World Championship. The card also featured a few entertaining tag team matches, notably The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette against journeymen Jack Victory and Randy Rose and their manager Paul E. Dangerously in a loser-leaves-town match. It also holds the best match that Lex Luger and Barry Windham every had against each other on a pay-per-view or supercard. Overall, this was an enjoyable and fan-friendly card as mostly babyfaces went over.
4. Invasion (WWE)
While the WCW/ECW invasion angle was one of the worst booked and most disappointing angles of all-time, the PPV titled Invasion still works as there was still hope at this point that the angle could become something good. Despite WWE not having the top stars from WCW signed, as they were still sitting at home under Time Warner contracts, the main event still feels big with Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, both former WCW World Champions, Rhyno, a former ECW World Champion, and The Dudley Boyz, former ECW World Tag Team Champions took on Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, and Kane. The ending of the event, with the Steve Austin turn which precipitated the downfall of the angle, still serves as an intriguing surprise. The undercard follows the invasion theme with WWE stars taking on ECW or WCW counterparts. Some matches are filler only, but Rob Van Dam versus Jeff Hardy for the Hardcore Championship and X-Pac against Billy Kidman stand out.
3. The Wrestling Classic (WWE)
The Wrestling Classic was a one-time only 1985 event, the first after Wrestlemania I, that featured sixteen-man single-elimination tournament and a World Championship match between champion Hulk Hogan and challenger “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. The tournament had a lot of barely passable matches, but also had some really great ones as well. The Randy Savage matches against Ricky Steamboat, Dynamite Kid, and JYD are all enjoyable, and the Hogan/Piper match is one of Hogan’s best matches during his ’80s title reign. This event served as a precursor to two different historical events as well. First, this idea is adapted later and turned into the King of the Ring. Second, this exact tournament format is used for Wrestlemania IV when by-that-point babyface Randy Savage battled his way, much like this event, through stiff competition to win his first World Heavyweight Championship.
2. One Night Only (WWE)
This UK only pay-per-view holds up well even by today’s standards. HHH takes on Dude Love in the opener in a decent match, then there is some undercard filler that isn’t great, but the last three matches of the card might be the best top three matches of any card on this list as Vader takes on Owen Hart, Bret Hart wrestles The Undertaker in an excellently worked bout, and Shawn Michaels, putting himself there as a heel in front of the British crowd, attempts to take the European Championship off hometown hero, Davey Boy Smith. This is perhaps Smith’s best performance in any match outside of his Summerslam 92 match in Wembley Stadium against Bret. The ending of this event is quite memorable with the UK crowd apoplectic by the end.
1. Barely Legal (ECW)
This was ECW’s first pay-per-view and one of their most well-rounded overall. In hindsight, this card is stacked. The tag team champs, The Dudleys, take on The Eliminators, a young Perry Saturn and his partner John Kronus. Rob Van Dam wrestles Lance Storm. There is a brilliant six-man tag match of Japanese talent that features Japanese legend The Great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku and Dick Togo. Shane Douglas wrestles Pitbull #2 for the ECW Television Title. Taz fights Sabu in a grudge match to end their rivalry. The double main event features a #1 contenders match with the winner of Terry Funk, Sandman, and Stevie Richards wrestling ECW World Champion Raven immediately after. There are no bad matches on the card, and the six-man tag, RVD/Storm, Sabu/Taz, and main event matches are all still entertaining and fresh after nearly twenty years. This PPV put ECW on the map and revolutionized the wrestling business as it went into the hardcore and “attitude” eras.