Thunder’s Take: Top Ten WrestleMania Opening Matches
What’s just as important to a WrestleMania card as the final match of the night? To me, it’s the very first. Starting the show on the right note can make or break one’s reaction to the overall card. In this column, I’ve decided to take a look back at what I feel are the top ten matches to ever open a WrestleMania event. If nothing else, I hope you enjoy the flashbacks!
10.) WM17: Chris Jericho def. William Regal to retain the IC Championship(7:08)
^Two top technical artists opened what is arguably the greatest overall WrestleMania in history, and the Houston crowd was hot for it. Some of Regal’s best work was during his days in WCW performing on WCW Saturday Night, and the same can be argued for Jericho’s time as a Cruiserweight. How fitting is it that in the same month WCW was purchased by WWE that two guys who built their names in the buried company would be opening WWE’s biggest show of the year? The match was short, but it wasn’t short on action and excitement.
9.) WM28: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship(:18)
^I’ll admit it now; I was furious about the booking of this match. Fortunately for Daniel Bryan, his popularity soared after he dropped the World Title. He would challenge three times for the WWE Championship and form a fun tag team with Kane. Sheamus went on to have a solid run as World Champion, and now he can compete without the World Title and remain a top face in the company. Luckily for us, the duo would have an outstanding rematch at Extreme Rules in the two out of three falls fashion. Despite the match only lasting eighteen seconds, the outcome made a large impact on the WWE in 2012.
8.) WM4: Bad News Brown wins 20 Man Battle Royal(last eliminated Bret Hart 10:40)
^The battle royal kicked off a sixteen match show, and twenty performers not slated to compete in the fourteen man tournament that evening(including five tag teams) were given their chance to shine. Bad News Brown might not have seen any major success during his time in WWE, but he was booked to come out on top at the start of the big event at Trump Plaza.
7.) WM8: Shawn Michaels def. El Matador(10:38)
^This would be HBK’s first single match at a WrestleMania, and I think you’ll agree with me that it was the start of something special. Tito Santana had taken on the El Matador gimmick to accommodate the WWF’s changing times; it didn’t really change much about him at all. The match was solid, but it wasn’t anything over three stars. Michaels was able to pick up the win after a superkick and the back suplex finisher of his. It’s interesting to note that HBK would actually have a losing singles match record at WrestleMania over the course of his career, despite his nickname of Mr. WrestleMania.
6.) WM15: Hardcore Holly def. Billy Gunn and Al Snow(wins the Hardcore Championship 7:06)
^The epitome of the attitude era was showcased in this opening brawl at the 1999 grand event. Hardcore Holly was a guy that hadn’t done much in his career pre attitude era, and becoming arguably the top guy in the hardcore division meant a lot during this time period. Al Snow was another key piece of the hardcore division, and Snow along with Gunn and Holly put on a very entertaining opening brawl. What better way to kick off WrestleMania than with a brutal hardcore match?
5.) WM25: CM Punk wins MITB(14:24)
^This was actually Punk’s second time winning the briefcase, but it was the first time MITB had opened WrestleMania. The 25th Anniversary of the big event took place in Houston, and this match got the crowd more than fired up. Punk was able to win and cash in to become World Heavyweight Champion in the summer against Jeff Hardy. The duo would have a rivalry going into the early fall before Hardy left the company. Punk’s victory might have led to a nice World Title run, but his run as the leader of the Straight Edge Society through 2010 is what would put him over as a top villain going into 2011. Bigger things were yet to come for CM Punk.
4.) WM20: John Cena def. The Big Show for the US Championship(9:14)
^Cena cheated to win this match, but it didn’t matter. The MSG crowd was on Cena’s side during this one, and winning the United States Title one year prior to capturing the WWE Championship was the launch of something huge for him. Not many fans could’ve guessed that Cena would go on to compete in a main event match at every WrestleMania for the next eight years, nor would they guess that he’s been the top star in WWE since capturing his first WWE Championship exactly one year after this match took place. Cena and Show told a decent story in this match, and it wouldn’t be the last time they met on the grand stage(triple threat at WM25 with Edge).
3.) WM27: Edge def. Alberto Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight Championship(11:09)
^Nobody aside from possibly a select few individuals knew that this would be Edge’s last match. The World Heavyweight Championship had never been defended in the opening match of WrestleMania before, and these two delivered an excellent matchup to get the Atlanta crowd hyped. Del Rio had won the Royal Rumble match and was on his way to doing very big things, but the Rated R Superstar would retain the gold on this night and relinquish it less than two weeks later. Fortunately for Del Rio, he would go on to hold the WWE Championship instead on two separate occasions later in the year.
2.) WM21: Rey Mysterio defeated Eddie Guerrero(12:39)
^These two wrestled on and off during their time in WCW, but their most featured rivalries would come during their time in WWE. The two always had a very unique chemistry, and their matches never failed to entertain. WrestleMania 21 was a stacked card as well, and starting the show with a former WWE Champion in Guerrero and a future World Champion in Mysterio(he would win the title at WM22) created a great buzz with the crowd that evening. It’s a shame that this would be the last WrestleMania match ever for Eddie Guerrero.
1.) WM10: Owen Hart def. Bret Hart(20:21)
^Bret and Owen had an unmatched chemistry in the ring, and they had one of the best rivalries in the history of WWE. Their match at WrestleMania 10 was actually their first one on one encounter in WWE, and it was literally a five star classic. Bret and Owen went back and forth and told an unmatched story. Their contest at WM10 was a better wrestling match than arguably every WrestleMania main event up until that point. Opening the tenth anniversary of the big event with a five star encounter was the perfect choice. Owen defeating Bret was a nice surprise, and it was even more ironic that this would be the only time Owen defeated Bret before the older brother captured the WWE Championship at the end of the same night. Owen would go on to win the King of the Ring and fail to capture the WWE Championship from his older brother during his chase throughout 1994. Nobody could’ve set the bar higher than these two in terms of kicking off the big event, and it will be a tough feat for anyone to overcome.
Agree? Disagree? What would your list look like? Leave your thoughts below! Thanks for reading!
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