Best wrestling pay-per-views of the year

Off the Top Rope: Royal Rumble aftermath (4:50)

Jonathan Coachman recaps Raw following WWE's Royal Rumble match, which was won by Triple H. (4:50)

The WWE put on several fantastic pay-per-view-level events across all of its brands this year, especially towards the tail end of 2016. With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it seemed to be the perfect time to look back and recognize some of the best wrestling shows we've seen.

With that in mind, we polled the WWE on ESPN staff to give their picks for best pay-per-view of the year, along with an explanation for why each show qualifies -- and the results speak for themselves

The most popular of the bunch might surprise you, simply because of the brand name attached to it.

NXT TakeOver: Dallas

The fact that NXT TakeOver: Dallas upstaged Wrestlemania 32 tells you all you need to know. On a stacked five-match card, we got four classics (three of them title matches) in Asuka vs. Bayley, Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival vs. American Alpha and Samoa Joe vs. Finn Bálor. The NXT TakeOvers have long been setting a standard the WWE main roster pay-per-views have a tough time matching. -- Nic Atkin

NXT TakeOver: Dallas was the perfect show. During WrestleMania weekend, every wrestling company in America converged on Dallas, but none of them managed to put on a show that was as good as this from top-to-bottom. Everything from American Alpha finally capturing the tag team championships, to Austin Aries' NXT debut, to Asuka's victory -- it was all handled perfectly. Not only are there no bad matches on this card, but my match of the year (Nakamura vs. Zayn) is on this card. If you haven't seen it yet, please watch it. NXT TakeOver: Dallas will make you fall in love with pro wrestling all over again. -- "Stat Guy" Greg Hyde

Extreme rules

There was great action from start to finish, but this pay-per-view will be remembered for the return of Seth Rollins. After another unpopular win by Roman Reigns, who speared AJ Styles to win and seemingly close the show, Rollins made a beeline to the ring and pedigreed Reigns. Outside of Goldberg's demolition of Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, this was the best ending to a pay-per-view in 2016. Nearly the entire card at Extreme Rules delivered, which was much-needed after lackluster WrestleMania and Payback shows in the preceding months. The Miz put on a fantastic show in beating Zayn, Cesaro and Kevin Owens in a Fatal 4-Way for the Intercontinental championship, and Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho's "asylum match," while lacking grace and athleticism, was a brutal confrontation. -- Matt Wilansky

Money in the Bank

The pay-per-view that serves as the buildup to Summerslam did not disappoint in 2016, carrying three matches that could've been the main event though, as it turned out, none of them actually were. Styles vs. John Cena ended in controversy after a ref bump and interference from The Club and resulted in a Styles victory, which continued Styles' ascent up the WWE ladder following his January debut. The Money in the Bank match was next, featuring favorites Owens and Ambrose. After 22 minutes of action, it was Ambrose knocking Owens from the ladder and grabbing the briefcase, who'd already planted the seeds for a possible cash-in on one of his former Shield brethren who would fight in the main event in previous weeks. Rollins vs. Reigns did not disappoint as Rollins regained his title after vacating due to injury in November, but he wouldn't leave with the WWE world championship as Ambrose indeed cashed in; in the process, that match and the show as a whole set the course for the second half of 2016. -- Andrew Davis

NXT TakeOver: Toronto

From a match quality and atmospheric perspective, NXT TakeOver: Toronto shined. Kicking off the event by having Canadian countrymen Bobby Roode and Tye Dillinger thrilling the crowd got the show started on the right foot (and the "10" chants Dillinger got that night continue on at WWE events around the world -- most of which he isn't even at!). From there, we witnessed one of the best tag team matches of the year, as #DIY and The Revival tore the house down, culminating with the feel-good NXT tag team championship victory for Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. The night was capped off with the second of a series of intense battles between Samoa Joe and Nakamura for the NXT championship. The main event ended unpredictably, as Joe took home the gold for a second time. Great matches, a great crowd, excitement and the element of surprise; this event had it all. -- Sean Coyle

Royal Rumble

Let's take you back to the very beginning of the year, to a time before the brand split. Orlando played host to a pay-per-view that, in retrospect, successfully laid the groundwork for a lot of the biggest moments of a big year in the WWE. Before the titular match, we got a great, but now somewhat overlooked, "last man standing" match for the Intercontinental championship between Ambrose and Owens. Both would become world champions by year's end. Charlotte defended her then-Divas championship against Becky Lynch in a strong showing of their own. Both would be women's champions by the end of 2016. Kalisto beat Alberto Del Rio in the best match of their series to become United States champion, and The New Day kept their record-breaking tag team title reign. But this card, as always, lived and died with the Royal Rumble match itself. Styles' debut shocked and excited, and ultimately laid the groundwork for his eventual rivalry with Reigns and a lot of the other things he accomplished in 2016. Zayn made his proper WWE debut and reignited his feud with Owens, which led to a series of incredible matches. And the late stages of the match were a star-making moment for Ambrose who, despite falling short and losing out on the match and the title to Triple H, got some of the biggest reactions he's ever received. From there on out in 2016, including a one-on-one with the WWE world champion at Roadblock in March, Ambrose was a main eventer, plain and simple. -- Tim Fiorvanti