In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, WWE has released a massive amount of free content on their WWE Network streaming service. Past pay-per-views like Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover are just some of the great shows now available. Whether you’re a fan new to wrestling or a returning veteran, there’s plenty of great stuff to watch — here are our picks of the bunch.
The Best Free Documentaries On WWE Network
The Monday Night War is a 20-episode documentary that tells the story of rival wrestling companies WWE and WCW, and explores how wrestling evolved during the 90s and early 2000s. While it is produced by WWE (the victor of the so-called ‘Monday Night Wars’) it is a fairly balanced and detailed look at wrestling’s turgid history.
From Mick Foley to Sting, the series looks at every player in the rivalry and how they shaped WWE’s eventual ascension to power. Wrestling can be a dirty business, and this series goes into great detail about just how dirty it can be. It’s well worth a watch.
WWE Ruthless Aggression is a follow-up to The Monday Night War that charts the next era of WWE’s history — the era of ‘Ruthless Aggression’. This period in the 2000s saw the rise of modern wrestlers like John Cena and Batista, as well as the arrival of Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, the Evolution stable and more.
Of all eras, this is the one that’s had the most influence on modern day WWE, and the series makes for fascinating viewing. It’s currently five episodes in with more arriving in spring.
Paul Heyman isn’t a household name for mainstream wrestling, but he is an integral part of WWE’s (and wrestling’s) history. Heyman rose from being an indie wrestling promoter to one of the most influential creative forces on WWE’s roster.
This documentary details just how far Heyman’s influence reached, as well as the impact his creative decisions and booking had (and still have) on WWE today. Importantly, it illuminates many facts and secrets about the wrestling industry that people aren’t often let in on.
There was a time when WWE had faith in CM Punk, and he wasn’t just a boogeyman that fans taunted other wrestlers with. Best in the World is a fascinating time capsule for that reason. It charts the early days of CM Punk’s career all the way up to his greatest successes in WWE.
Because it was produced in 2013, the documentary was released while Punk was still with the company and still had a passion for wrestling. It’s a fantastic warts-and-all look at Punk, his philosophy and how he clawed and bit his way into WWE. In hindsight, it makes for an even more interesting look at Punk’s impressive, long-gone career.
The biggest irony of WWE is that while wrestling might be a ‘fake’ sport, the best parts of it are real. In the wrestling ring, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were bitter enemies. This reflected their real-life reality. It all came to a head one night in Montreal when Bret Hart was lied to about his upcoming title loss to Shawn Michaels.
The ‘Montreal Screwjob’, as it became known, is one of wrestling’s biggest and most enduring scandals. This fascinating documentary charts the series of events that led to the Screwjob and how Michaels and Hart became pawns in a political game. It’s great stuff, and shines a spotlight on WWE’s long, messy history.
The Best Free PPVs On WWE Network
Of course, if you’re just looking to catch up on some great wrestling, there’s plenty of fantastic pay-per-views from across the decades available for your viewing pleasure, too.
Wrestlemania III is one of WWE’s most historic events. While Wrestlemania began two years earlier, this was the show that cemented WWE’s place in mainstream American culture. This was largely thanks to Hulk Hogan (who is persona non grata these days, and rightfully so) and André the Giant. The main event of Wrestlemania III saw these literal giants of wrestling clash in a bout that remains historically significant.
The rest of the card is a veritable smorgasbord of wrestling greats including Ricky Steamboat, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Iron Sheik, Harley Race and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. While some of the action may seem naff now, it’s always great to revisit the halcyon days of wrestling past and discover just how different the art was back then.
The Royal Rumble is one of WWE’s best shows of the year, and a great entry point for new wrestling fans. In the main event of every show, 30 men and 30 women enter their respective Rumbles where surprise wrestlers are invited to the ring every 90 seconds to fight for a future shot at a WWE championship of their choice.
2001’s show was particularly iconic, and featured the ascent of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as he put on a killer show, facing down tough opponents like Kane and The Rock. The 2001 Royal Rumble marked Austin’s journey to wrestling royalty, and cemented him as a fan favourite.
Other Royal Rumble highlight years include 2010, which saw the return of Edge and CM Punk’s iconic sermon on the mount and 2005, the year when Batista and John Cena accidentally eliminated each other at the same time.
Money in the Bank 2011 is WWE’s best pay-per-view of the modern era because of one single match — CM Punk vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship. It was the first WWE match in a decade that was critically lauded for its intensity, storyline and physicality, and remained that way for nearly a full decade after.
Storytelling is crucial in wrestling, and Money in the Bank 2011 delivered that in spades. CM Punk’s edgy, authority-defying ways blended with his real world personality to create one of wrestling’s best rivalries with the “company face” John Cena opposing him at every turn. If you want to check out one thing on this list, watch this match.
Wrestlemania XXX is arguably the most significant Wrestlemania of the modern era of WWE. This was the year that the Undertaker’s prolific and long-running streak came to an end at the hands of “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. It also took place at the height of the fan-led “Yes!” movement that threw support behind underdog Daniel Bryan.
Many of WWE’s modern storylines (including Bryan’s retirement and return to the ring) came about because of this Wrestlemania, and it remains one of the most significant to modern day storylines. Recent Wrestlemanias have had a hard time measuring up to this iconic spectacle.
NXT TakeOver is a storied pay-per-view filled with incredible matches from veteran indie wrestlers. This 2014 special features some of the greatest wrestlers currently active, and the best matches that WWE has put on in an age.
In the main event, friends-turned-rivals Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa put on a total wrestling masterclass while Aleister Black and Andrade Cien Almas shared a similarly hot-blooded bout. Also on the card is an intense match between Shayna Baszler and Ember Moon that should be considered one of the best women’s bouts in recent NXT history.
While casual wrestling fans may not be as familiar with the faces on the NXT TakeOver: New Orleans card, it’s still well worth a look to see what wrestling is all about.
To access the content, you’ll need to sign up for a free account here. The content is free now, but there was no end date given for this new tier — so if there’s something that catches your eye, get in quick.