There's nothing that can impact a show positively or negatively quite like the opening match. From the moment the first bell rings, fans will be able to tell if what they're watching is going to be worth their money of if they'd just wasted their time. It's either something that'll have the boys in the back thinking 'man we really got to step up our game to try and beat that' or 'alright well at least we know our match won't be that bad'. While the majority of people will tune in for whatever the main event match will be, the majority can also tune out thanks to the opening contest.
The first contest on the card has taken an interesting turn over the course of WrestleMania history. In the early years, it was strictly used as a way to get perennial mid carders an easy win on the biggest show of the year. It was a spot for guys like Tito Santana, KoKo B. Ware, Rick Martel, and so on. Since then, it's grown into one of the most coveted spots on the card, playing host to multiple world title matches, a variety of mid card title shots, and even a couple of Money in the Bank ladder matches. It's gone from being a spot no one wanted to one that everyone envies.
For these rankings I went back and watched the opening of each WrestleMania (can't say I'm not dedicated to you people) and gave each match a rating from 1 to 10. Obviously these rankings will reflect what I like in wrestling, so you may disagree with some of the choices but I think we can all agree on the worst and best, it's that middle ground where things get murky. That's the fun of doing lists like this though, so if you feel like I grossly misplaced one of your favorites or highly overrated what you found to be a stinker, feel free to let me know! Without further ado, let's get this started with what was surely the worst opening contest in WrestleMania's history.
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31 Tag Team Battle Royal - WrestleMania XIV
This match isn't just the worst opening match in WrestleMania history, it may be the worst match not involving a celebrity or Vince McMahon period. First of all, the rules of the match are simply ridiculous, fifteen teams start in the ring - so 30 guys in the ring at once - and once one member of a team is eliminated, the other one has to just leave the ring and head to the back. With too many bodies in the ring and the confusing rules, even the announcers had no idea what was happening in the early goings, often missing eliminations completely. Not to mention that not once, but twice, a wrestler came into the ring while not in the match and eliminated another team only to go unmentioned until about five minutes later. Thankfully the returning L.O.D. 2000 put us all out of our misery by winning this trainwreck of a match.
30 Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus - WrestleMania XXVIII
While this contest did lead to the start of the Yes! Movement, the match itself can't be given a grade above anything other than the trainwreck from WrestleMania XIV. We all know the story I'm sure. Daniel Bryan was the defending World Heavyweight Champion going up against Royal Rumble winner Sheamus, only for their contest to come to an abrupt halt thanks to a kiss from AJ Lee. Daniel Bryan went from being one of the luckiest men alive kissing AJ to kissing Sheamus' boot and losing his title in a mere 18 seconds. The worst part really is that we know what these two were capable of together, robbing the fans of what could've been another WrestleMania classic.
29 ShowMiz vs. R Truth and John Morrison - WrestleMania XXVI
From a pure talent level, the fans deserved so much more than what they got from the opening contest at WrestleMania XXVI. Morrison has always been a joy to watch in the ring, along with Truth and Miz being more than capable performers, so fans had high hopes for this matchup. Unfortunately, the story for this was all about making Big Show look unstoppable (boy doesn't that sound familiar). This match was essentially a four minute squash for the tag titles that didn't do anyone any favors, with Big Show emerging as the only wrestler involved that looked like he belonged on WrestleMania.
28 Paul Orndorff vs. Don Muraco - WrestleMania II
These two competitors had bodies that defined wrestling in the early to mid eighties and wrestled like it too. The pair traded body slams to a huge pop from the crowd, showcasing what a different time this was. After exhausting themselves with those huge bodyslams, a five minute rest hold was needed before moving onto the "big finish." The two combatants took turns hammering each other in the face while tumbling to the outside, resulting in a double countout in about five seconds. The two kept fighting on the outside after the bell, but by this point everyone was ready for the next contest.
27 20 Man Battle Royal - WrestleMania IV
WrestleMania IV was built entirely around the tournament for the vacated WEF Championship, so what better way to start off the show than a 20 man over the top rope battle royal? The idea was bad enough, but the execution was truly mind boggling considering that the only two stars in there that anyone remotely cared about were Bret Hart and The Junkyard Dog. Those two composed half of the final four with the remaining spots being filled by Bad News Brown and Paul Roma, and you thought the final four at the Royal Rumble was bad? The fans were completely behind JYD at this point in the matchup, so naturally it came down to Bret Hart and Bad News Brown to decide the victor. The crowd was dead, the match was sloppy, and no one cared.
26 Four Team Elimination Match - WrestleMania 13
In this contest, The Godwinns, The Headbangers, The New Blackjacks, and Lafon and Furnas (who???) battled it out to determine who would be number one contenders for the tag titles the next night on Raw. Multi team tag matches are hard enough to make watchable but this one seemed like it didn't even try. The New Blackjacks and the two French guys were eliminated when Bradshaw decked a referee, getting his team eliminated while the French team was counted out at the same time, I guess? It was never fully explained what happened as the announcer said they were counted out, but the commentators said they were disqualified which is too bad because they were certainly the most entertaining part of the match. The Headbangers won with a seated senton in case anyone cares, which I'm sure you don't.
25 Six-Man Tag - WrestleMania XII
This match was pretty sad to watch and not just because half of the competitors have since passed away, but because seeing Yokozuna and Jake Roberts in the state they're in at this point is just rough. Those two favorites from my childhood teamed up with Ahmed Johnson to take on Vader, Owen Hart, and the British Bulldog which on paper is a very solid lineup. Unfortunately, the match was hampered by the decision to showcase Vader going up against Yokozuna. By now, Yoko could barely move, let alone wrestle, so seeing these two monsters go toe to toe wasn't nearly as impressive as the creative team was surely hoping. Owen, Bulldog, and Johnson were enough to save the match from being a total disaster, but not enough to save it from being awful.
24 Tito Santana vs. The Executioner - WrestleMania I
Back in the day that this match took place, there wasn't much more you could ask from an opener. Putting Tito Santana against 'The Executioner' Buddy Rose guarantees you'll have a decent enough match up but neither guy seemed all that interested in being there. Between Tito more or less squashing The Executioner to rest holds that might still be going on to this day, there really wasn't anything to write home about during this contest.
23 The Allied Powers vs. Blu Brothers - WrestleMania XI
Just looking at who was involved in this match, I bet you can guess who won. It was all Luger and Bulldog in this match up with the Blu Brothers only advantage coming when their manager Uncle Zebekiah (also known as Zeb Colter/Dutch Mantell) got his dirty little hands involved. This whole contest was just showcasing the power of Bulldog and Luger by going against two giant twins like The Blu Brothers. The Blus tried to pull some twin magic following Luger's patented forearm but that proved unsuccessful as the match ended about thirty seconds later anyway. From the beginning, it was obvious that the sole purpose of the match was to put over Bulldog and Luger but that didn't make it any less painful to watch.
22 Kane & Big Show vs. Carlito & Chris Masters - WrestleMania 22
The battle of the team whose well was tapped too dry vs. two guys who WWE barely scrapped the surface with wasn't much of a contest at all. Carlito and Masters came out of this match looking like a complete joke as Kane and Show dominated from the opening bell until the match was over. While Carlito and Masters did get a little offense in, it was solely thanks to them removing the cover on the turnbuckle to gain the advantage against Big Show for all of thirty seconds. Outside of that, however, it was all Big Show and Kane as they steamrolled the "what could have been" team.
21 John Cena vs. Big Show - WrestleMania XX
Trust me, I miss John Cena as much as all of you secretly do but this match is what kicked off all the hatred for the face that runs the place. The first 90% of the contest was nothing but Big Show just dominating Cena, hitting him with anything and everything that Show had in his arsenal. Of course, that wouldn't be enough to keep Cena down for the count as he would come battling back with his now signature no selling of the beat down he just took to take the US Title from Big Show. It was a standard John Cena match and even though it's his first major match that followed that formula, it didn't make it any easier to watch.
20 El Matador vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania VIII
With the two competitors that were involved in this match, expectations were rather high going into the contest. Unfortunately, Santana was a little too old to keep up with a young Shawn Michaels and boy did it show. There were two headlock spots in the early going of the match up that lasted about five minutes combined and killed any momentum the two had built up with a decently hot start. Rest holds made up roughly 90% of the match, making it feel like the contest would never end, but the parts where the two went full pedal to the medal were exciting enough to make it to the top 20.
19 Can Am Connection vs. Muraco & Bob Orton - WrestleMania III
Two young and exciting talents, Rick Martel and Tom Zenk, did their best to drag the tired old bodies of Don Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton to a decent match and they nearly pulled it off. The whole contest was about showcasing the two youngsters while Orton and Muraco took turns gasping for air on the mat. Martel and Zenk were very exciting with a lot of double team moves that kept the fans guessing and waiting to see what the pair would pull off next. However, a terrible finish where Muraco caught a crossbody attempt only to trip over one of his opponents leading to a pinfall really hurt this contest, keeping it rather low on the list.
18 Finlay vs. JBL - WrestleMania XXIV
Practice makes perfect for JBL as he played the role of a merciless bully to perfection in this match. This "Belfast Brawl" match certainly lived up to the second part of the title as the two used every weapon imaginable to try and put the other away. There were chairs, tables, stairs, and an appearance by the shillelagh while the two put a beating on each other. They were all spots that we've seen multiple times, keeping the excitement level rather low, but JBL bullying Hornswoggle kept it pretty fun to watch.
17 King Haku vs. Hercules - WrestleMania V
Two of the most powerful men in the entire company kicked off WrestleMania V with each guy getting his power spots in over the other. Hercules got off to a hot start after fending off a sneak attack by Haku and proceeded to suplex and slam the king all over the ring. Haku took control thanks to his helper on the outside Bobby "The Brain" Heenan but that wouldn't last long as Hercules took back over with a great powerslam. Once againm the finish is a big negative, considering that the whole match was power move after power move, you'd expect something really impressive to finish off one of the powerhouses. Instead, it was a standard back suplex that put Haku away for the three.
16 William Regal vs. RVD - WrestleMania X8
Two great talents were done an injustice here by not being given nearly enough time to work. Both men went for their finishers straight away and pulled out all their big guns in the first couple minutes. You could tell they were rushed and trying to fit as much into their limited time slot as possible, which certainly hurt the overall flow and quality of the contest. The pair went balls to the wall pretty much the entire match, which helped a bit, but the lack of storytelling and no time to build up to the finish hurt the contest greatly.
15 Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly vs. Billy Gunn - WrestleMania XV
This was exactly what you would expect from a triple threat match for the Hardcore Title with the action going straight to the outside. There were a plethora of weapons on display from chairs to hockey sticks to Al Snow's infamous Head prop. Snow was the star of the contest after taking control with the aforementioned hockey stick and beating the ever loving hell out of the other two with a broom handle. Snow was looking like the safe bet to take home the broken gold, but was put through a table and then hit with a Fame-Ass-er on top of a chair to knock him out. Holly took advantage of the situation after blasting Gunn with a chair to pick up the win in what I'd hesitate to call a wrestling match, though it was a fun brawl.
14 Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy - WrestleMania XIX
Matt Hardy and his compatriot Shannon Moore were textbook heels in this contest, building up solid sympathy for the ultimate underdog Rey Mysterio. Mysterio did his usual thing of getting beat up for the majority of the match while every one of his comeback attempts was thwarted by Hardy or due to outside interference by Moore. Finally Rey was able to get a head of steam going, only for Hardy to end a series of reversals with a rope assisted pin for the win.
13 William Regal vs. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania X-Seven
To be honest, when I started this match, I was fully expecting to have at least a top five contender considering who was involved. However, there was something missing in this match that's hard to describe, as both guys played their roles perfectly with Regal being the evil heel relentlessly working over Jericho's shoulder while Chris showed great resiliency to take the beating and keep on fighting, before picking up the win with a Lionsault. The match was just too formulaic as both guys were clearly going from spot to spot without adding additional style, leading to a bout that was far more boring than it should have been.
12 KoKo B. Ware vs. Rick Martel - WrestleMania VI
It was the battle of The Arrogance Fragrance and Frankie the Bird to get us started back at WrestleMania VI. Martel got it started with a cheap shot to take control but KoKo performed a beautiful cross body and two very nice drop kicks to take the lead in the match. The contest slowed down greatly during the middle portion with Martel putting on endless rest holds to Ware until KoKo was able to fight back with the crowd firmly in his corner. KoKo went back to the well, attempting the same crossbody from earlier only for Martel to have learned his lesson and pull of a reversal leading to the boston crab for the submission victory. Two very underrated workers had a very solid match that was only bogged down by the rest holds in the middle, as everything else worked very well.
11 Money In The Bank Ladder Match - WrestleMania 23
This match was all about two guys, neither of which proved to be the winner of course. The first half of the match belonged to Edge, as The Rated R Superstar went on a spear frenzy taking out every other competitor in the match as he looked to secure his second straight Money in the Bank briefcase. His effort was cut short by The Hardys, however when Matt laid Edge on a ladder set up between the ring apron and the barricade while Jeff climbed to the top of a ladder in the ring to come crashing down through Edge and the ladder, it knocked both men out of the contest. Then it was Orton's turn to take the lead delivering thunderous RKOs to all the combatants and coming inches away from the case. It would be Mr. Kennedy's time to rise to the main event scene though, as he was the man to finally get his hands on the elusive briefcase. Fun match but a lack of crazy spots (outside of Hardy and Edge of course) that you'd expect from a MITB match hurt it in the rankings.
10 The Godfather & D'Lo Brown vs. Bull Buchanan & Big Boss Man - WrestleMania 2000
We kick off the top ten with a match I certainly wasn't expecting to make it this high after the introductions. Two entrants into this year's Hall of Fame faced off in a surprisingly entertaining contest. Both teams showed great chemistry with each other with the two pimps facing off against two policemen, with Bull Buchanan shockingly looking like a major star throughout the bout. Bull pulled off a lot of very impressive maneuvers including reversing being whipped into the corner by straight leaping to the top rope and jumping off back towards his opponent with a cross body with great fluidity. The Godfather was hugely over with the pop he got from performing his "Ho Train" move, actually getting one of the biggest pops out of all 31 matches. Bull and Boss Man pulled off the victory with a very impressive top rope leg drop from Buchanan to cap off a very fun and energetic contest.
9 Tatanka vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania IX
This match has a special spot in my heart since it's the first contest I ever remember watching, but even going back and watching it now, it holds up. Tatanka was never the greatest worker, relying almost solely on chops to deal damage, but luckily for him he was going up against Shawn Michaels in his prime. Shawn made everything Tatanka threw at him look incredibly painful and convincing, while getting in some good offense of his own. The finish hurt the ranking from being even higher as Michaels was counted out, but the ref waited for Tatanka to hit his finisher before calling for the bell. Kind of confusing ending, but a very well worked and fun match anyway.
8 Seven Man Ladder Match - WrestleMania 31
This match had a whole lot of talent and each member went all out to try and make sure that they were the talking point coming away from it. Multiple high spots and bowling pin moves in the beginning and a vicious power bomb from Harper that put Ambrose through a ladder on the outside were the most memorable parts of the match, but everything else all worked together to create a solid contest from start to nearly the finish. Looking back now, the finish with Bryan constantly using his head as a weapon to secure the gold may not have been the best move, considering his history with concussions, as well as him being the overwhelming favorite to win hurt the match overall.
7 The Rockers vs. Barbarian & Haku - WrestleMania VII
Back around WrestleMania VII, there was no hotter act in the tag division, or perhaps even the company as a whole, than The Rockers. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jennetty were on top of their game at this point, working together as a perfect tag team going up against two guys that played off of them perfectly. The matchup of speed and agility against raw power isn't always a recipe for success but with these four it worked very well. The Rockers got out to a hot start before the big brutes took control with their overwhelming strength. Jannetty was the focus of the bad guys' aggression, suffering a vicious and relentless beatdown before getting the hot tag to Michaels who cleaned house. A missile dropkick by Marty lead to a top rope cross body by Shawn to put Haku away for the one two three, in a very energetic match that had the crowd going mental for The Rockers.
6 The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton, & Sheamus - WrestleMania 29
I mean, it's a three on three match involving The Shield, so of course it's going to be good. The best thing about all of The Shield's major matches was that everyone got a chance to look strong at some point or another. First it would be Sheamus' turn, then The Shield would take over before Orton got a hot tag and dominated the match and so on. Adding to the fun of the match was Big Show's growing resentment over his teammates inability to trust him, refusing to tag Show into the contest. Finally it came to a head when Orton stole a tag, leading him to getting speared by Reigns and covered by Ambrose while Show just stood on the ring apron without a care in the world.
5 Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio - WrestleMania XXVII
Here we are, the cream of the crop getting started with the only world title match to kick off a WrestleMania. Del Rio was at his best in this matchup, playing the cocky heel who dares people to try and put him into his place so he can kick their teeth in and rip their arm off. In what turned out to be the last match in Edge's historic career, both men pulled out all the stops to try and steal the show. ADR was a vicious heel with his relentless attacks on the shoulder of Edge, leading to a few false finishes involving the cross arm breaker but Edge wasn't about to go out like that. Edge was as resilient as a babyface could possibly be, taking all the punishment one could imagine before landing a spear to pick up the win and go home with his title.
4 Money In The Bank Ladder Match - WrestleMania XXV
Once again, WrestleMania kicked off with a Money in the Bank ladder match but this one was certainly the better of the two. Throwing both Kofi Kingston and Shelton Benjamin into a match like this guarantees that there will be a few crazy spots and they did not disappoint. With Kofi flying up the ladder that was being held in place by Mark Henry and Shelton climbing up a ladder that was leaned against the ring on the outside, across another ladder laid across the top rope, to the main ladder to stop a fellow competitor from winning, there were jaw dropping moments aplenty in this contest. CM Punk emerged as the victor in this incredibly entertaining matchup that left the fans with their jaws on the floor.
3 Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero - WrestleMania 21
Just by taking a cursory glance at the two men involved in this match put my expectations for the match sky high and the tag team champions did not disappoint. The best matches are always between two guys that know each other extremely well, being able to predict exactly what the other wrestler is going to do at any given moment. There was classic mat wrestling early on, some high flying action sprinkled in the middle, and a great closing sequence that saw counter after counter between the two men who were pretty much brothers. The action rarely ceased with both competitors going full force against each other to try and prove that they were the superior half of the tag team. While Mysterio ended up picking up the victory with a hurricanrana, both men came out of the match looking like winners.
2 Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXX
This contest was based solely around engaging the crowd and telling a masterful story. For the majority of the year leading up to this, Triple H was doing everything in his power to hold back Daniel Bryan, not willing to give him a chance to lead the company unless he could get through The Game himself. Hunter focused on the banged up shoulder of Bryan, which Daniel sold masterfully throughout the contest, showing off his likability with his unwillingness to quit. Bryan took assault after assault from HHH but refused to back down, withstanding all the punishment Hunter could give but bouncing back to give some of his own. As we all know, Bryan picked up the win with his flying knee, officially kicking off "Yes"lemania.
1 Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart - WrestleMania X
There's no need to debate the best opening match in WrestleMania history, as this match is number one by a wide margin. The precision and flow of this contest has truly never been matched as the chemistry between the two brothers was on full display. The brother vs. brother match goes down as not only the best match to open a WrestleMania but might be the single greatest match the company has ever put on. Just like Mysterio and Guerrero, the knowledge that each wrestler had about the other led to a lot of incredible spots when one would be able to predict what the other would do before one brother even knew he was going to do it. The match was back and forth from the beginning to the end, with both Bret and Owen getting times to show off while the other was taking a beating. The ending sequence was beautiful, with counter following counter following counter ending with Owen stopping Bret's victory roll attempt to finally show his brother that he wasn't the runt of the litter any longer.
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