We are less than a month away from WrestleMania 28, and as always there is huge hype surrounding the top few matches on the card. But spare a thought for the match that takes place first on the card, whose job is to get the show off to a good start and psyche up the crowd.
What follows is a collection of the best of those opening matches, and what’s interesting is how many participants went on from opening the show, to main eventing it a few years later.
10. WrestleMania 15
Hardcore Title Match: Billy Gunn vs. Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly
This match marked the first time that the Hardcore Title was defended at a Wrestlemania event. Prior to this match, Gunn was part of the Intercontinental Title programme, while his partner Road Dogg was the one known for Hardcore. For some reason, they switched divisions and Gunn defended here. Although not as fondly remembered as other Hardcore matches from around this time, like their trip to the Mississippi River a month earlier, it was seven minutes of crowd pleasing fun from when Al Snow was at his best. The finish came when Billy Gunn put Al through a table and connected with the Fame Asser, only to have Hardcore Holly run in and steal the win.
9. WrestleMania 27
World Heavyweight Title Match: Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio
In a rare decision by the WWE, last years Wrestlemania had one of the World Title matches as the opening contest. Del Rio had earned the title shot by winning the Royal Rumble 3 months previously and was accompanied to the ring by Ricardo Rodriquez and a pre-Funkasaurus Brodus Clay. Edge on the other hand had Christian in his. Although we didn’t know it at the time, this match was much more important than we realised, because it turned out to be Edge’s last match as an active competitor before his abrupt retirement just a week later. It wasn’t Edge’s greatest match but that was probably due to the injury that he knew more about than anyone else. Edge picked up the win and post match he and Christian added insult to injury by destroying Alberto Del Rio’s car.
8. WrestleMania 8
Shawn Michaels vs. Tito Santana
It was just months before this that Shawn Michaels had turned on his partner Marty Jannetty and put him through the barbershop window. He added Sensational Sherri to his arm and marked the beginning of his singles career in the WWE. This singles match from Wrestlemania 8 was the beginning of the evolution to, “Mr Wrestlemania,” that we would eventually see in his later career. Obviously his mach against the stereotypical “El Matador” Tito Santana was not a patch on his later matches at Wrestlemania against Kurt Angle, Undertaker, Ric Flair and more but it was a satisfying opener nonetheless.
7. WrestleMania 18
Intercontinental Title Match: RVD vs. William Regal
This was the second year in a row that William Regal ended up in the first match on the card and the second year in a row it was for the Intercontinental Title. It was also the second year in a row he put in a good showing at the biggest event of the year. His usual gimmick brass knuckles were stashed in his trunks, but when he tried to use them, RVD booted them out of his hand. A stiff shot from RVD left him bleeding moments later. Late on in the match, he got caught trying to use the knuckles again, allowing RVD to drop him with a kick and Five Star Frog Splash. Two years, two IC Title losses for William.
6. WrestleMania 19
Cruiserweight Title Match: Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio
Rey’s Wrestlemania debut also marked the debut of his comic book character costumes. This first year it was a Daredevil like costume he donned to face against Cruiserweight Champion Matt Hardy. According to Matt’s ingenious “Matt Facts” prior to the match we found out it was his FOURTH Wrestlemania. They also wondered how we did Wrestlemania without him. I think they’ll manage just fine this year. Matt had comically dropped weight to fit into the cruiserweight limits. It was a fast paced opener with numerous false finishes and Shannon Moore interference. Despite managing to hit a 619, the cheating tactics of Matt Hardy were too much for Mysterio.
5. WrestleMania 17
Intercontinental Title: Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Widely regarded as one of, if not the, best Wrestlemania card of all time, Wrestlemania 17 was pretty much quality from top to bottom. In Jericho’s book “Undisputed,” he commented on how short this match was, despite him being pretty much at the top of his game at the time. Even walking down the ramp itself must have cut a few minutes off the match, which ended up being about 7 minutes long. To their credit, Regal and Jericho filled the time accordingly and put on a good match, and after trading submission holds, it was the Lionsault that got Jericho the win.
4. WrestleMania 23
Money in the Bank Ladder Match
This years participants were Edge, Kennedy, King Booker, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Finlay and Orton and going into it almost anyone could have won (with the exception probably of Finlay and Matt.) The amount of big stars in this match gave it a real big match feeling. It was the usual high spot fest with some extreme moves and brilliant sequences. One fantastic segment came when Edge speared everyone in the match until CM Punk avoided one. CM Punk lifted a ladder as Finlay and Orton got up behind him, when Edge speared Punk, sending Punk to the mat and the ladder into Finlay and Orton. Edge went to the floor off a ladder. Jeff Hardy leg dropped Edge from a ladder through a ladder. Then everyone received an RKO, including CM Punk who received his from the top of a ladder! Even Hornswoggle got involved with a step ladder, and received a brutal move from Kennedy off the ladder. After all the carnage, it was Mr Kennedy who was left standing to become Wrestlemania 23’s Mr Money in the Bank
3. WrestleMania 21
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio
For Wrestlemania 21, the WWE went Hollywood with some fantastic movie inspired promotional packages for Wrestlemania. Star of WWE’s Pulp Fiction, Eddie Guererro faced off against his tag team partner Rey Mysterio in the opening match. This was the first match in the series of matches during which Eddie eventually turned heel because he grew frustrated having not been able to beat Rey Mysterio. And although this was Eddie Guerrero’s last Wrestlemania appearance, it was one to be proud of. Mysterio won with a Hurricanrana, and both men shook hands after the bell.
2. WrestleMania 25
Money in the Bank Ladder Match
This match involved Christian, Finlay, CM Punk, Kane, Mark Henry, MVP, Kofi and Shelton Benjamin. This one gets the nod over the earlier Money in the Bank match for the sheer innovation of some of the moves involved. Although lacking the star power of the match from Wrestlemania 23, and having three slower wrestlers in Henry, Kane and Finlay, the match contained some genuinely breathtaking moments. Kofi Kingston was the definite standout. Early in the match, Shelton and Christian tried to take him down with a ladder clothesline and he leaped over it completely then dropkicked it back into their faces. Everyone then performed their own dives to the outside, which ended with Shelton Benjamin taking an insane senton dive from a huge ladder in the entrance ramp on top of everyone else. With a ladder standing in the ring, Kofi jumped through the middle of the ladder to dropkick Finlay. Mark Henry then manoeuvred a closed ladder in the ring, which Kofi charged and climbed up like a bolt, before Henry moved it and slammed into another ladder in the corner. Even one or two slightly botched moves couldn’t ruin this match, which ended when CM Punk bested Christian and Kane atop the ladder in order to win his second consecutive Money in the Bank match.
1. WrestleMania 10
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
Not only the best opening match in Wrestlemania history, but of the best Wrestlemania matches of all time. This was a technical master class between the two talented Hart brothers. The story began at the previous Survivor Series where Owen blamed Bret for his elimination from the match. Fast forward to Royal Rumble 1994, and Owen turned on his brother and kicked his injured leg out from under him. Since Luger and Bret had both won the Royal Rumble, they were both receiving title shots at Wrestlemania. A coin toss was held to see who got to face the champion Yokozuna first which Luger won. This left Bret with two matches, the first being against his younger brother Owen. During the course of the match, Bret’s leg injury came up and his jealous younger brother began to work on the injury. Bret fought back with a Sharpshooter, but when he tried to win the match with a victory roll, Owen reversed it and pinned him. Bret would return later and win the title against Yokozuna but that match was nothing compared to this stunning opening contest.