Everyday from March 1 until WWE Wrestlemania 33 on April 2, Fightful will be bringing you the Countdown To WWE Wrestlemania 33. Each day, you will be getting a top 10 list or an event preview or statistics/figures from past ‘Mania events and everything in between.
In today’s column, we will be taking a look at the Top 10 Opening Matches In ‘Mania History, because we are going to be kicking off this series with what kicks off each and every Wrestlemania, the opening match of the pay-per-view.
#10: John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. Finlay - Belfast Brawl (WWE Wrestlemania 24)
For those who remember the atrocious storyline about who Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son was, well it turned out to be Hornswoggle. After the big reveal, it would turn out that Hornswoggle was actually Finlay’s son, for reasons unknown to wrestling fans to this day. If anything positive happened with this storyline, it was the match between JBL and Finlay at WWE Wrestlemania 24. A Belfast Brawl is essentially a hardcore match and both future WWE Hall Of Fame members simply destroyed each other for the ten minutes they were in the ring. JBL would defend the honor of Vince McMahon by defeating Finlay with his patented Clothesline From Hell.
#9: Shawn Michaels (Champion) vs. Tatanka - WWE Intercontinental Title Match (WWE Wrestlemania 9)
By all accounts, WWE Wrestlemania 9 is one of the worst ‘Mania’s of all time. The saving grace of the show was a tag team match between the Steiner Brothers and The Headshrinkers, but the opening match wasn't half bad either. It saw WWE Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels defend the gold against Tatanka. Their was also a feud at the time between their managers, Sherri Martel for Tatanka and Luna Vachon for Shawn Michaels. The match itself went for nearly 20 minutes and Michaels fought the whole time with a serious shoulder injury that happened a few weeks before the event. Tatanka also entered the match with an undefeated streak that had been going on for well over a year now--it would last for nearly six more months. Tatanka won the match by count out, which means that even though Michaels lost, he retained the WWE Intercontinental Title.
#8: Chris Jericho (Champion) vs. William Regal - WWE Intercontinental Title Match (WWE Wrestlemania 17)
A lot of wacky storylines have culminated at Wrestlemania over the years, but this may be the only feud in history that started with one wrestler (Chris Jericho) taking a piss in the coffee cup of another (William Regal). In case you were wondering, yes, Regal did drink it. The match was actually a technical masterpiece--probably one of Regal’s finest matches during his multiple WWE runs. Jericho’s entrance was actually messed up as well, because the Astrodome was so large that it couldn’t be darkened all the way for the traditional entrance. There would be no pee in this match or even a cup of coffee, just a high quality wrestling match then ended when Jericho pinned Regal after landing the Lionsault.
#7: Big Show (Champion) vs. John Cena - WWE United States Title Match (WWE Wrestlemania 20)
For those who were always wondering where the push of John Cena began, well you can say that spark started at WWE Wrestlemania 20. Cena was deep into his “Thuganomics” character at this point in time, while Show was still a monster who was at the top of his game. The match wasn’t a technical marvel in any sense of the word, but it was the match that launched one man's career and that man turned out to be one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history. In the end, Cena nailed Show with his chain before nailing him with the FU (now known as the Attitude Adjustment) to win his first WWE title.
#6: 20 Man Battle Royal (WWE Wrestlemania 4)
The 20 men competing in this match were Sam Houston, Sika, Jim Neidhart, B. Brian Blair, Raymond Rougeau, Jim Brunzell, George Steele, Ron Bass, Hillbilly Jim, Danny Davis, Jim Powers, Nikolai Volkoff, Ken Patera, Boris Zhukov, Jacques Rougeau, Harley Race, Paul Roma, Junkyard Dog, Bret Hart and Bad News Brown. The match would be won in the end by Bad News Brown, after he double crossed Bret hart and threw him out of the ring for the final elimination. One of the earlier iconic ‘Mania moments happened at this match as Bret would attack Bad News Brown after the match, then smash the trophy he got for winning the battle royal. The angle was supposed to start a Bret hart singles push, which would fail many times over the years until Hart defeated Roddy Piper at WWE Wrestlemania 8.
#5: The Shield vs. Randy Orton, Big Show & Sheamus (WWE Wrestlemania 29)
Much like we discussed earlier with John Cena and WWE Wrestlemania 20, WWE Wrestlemania 29 would be where all three members of The Shield would become made men. The Shield won this match, defeating a trio of wrestlers who had a plethora of WWE Title reigns over the years. This match would also essentially start a year-plus run for The Shield where they would be having amazing six man tag matches with the likes of the Wyatt Family and Evolution, amongst other teams. There was a ton of action in this match from bell to bell, but The Shield would walk away victorious and would team together at a Wrestlemania just one more time.
#4: Edge (Champion) vs. Alberto Del Rio - WWE World Heavyweight Title Match (WWE Wrestlemania 27)
This match would be historical for a few reasons, maybe the biggest being that it would be the final match in the pro wrestling career of WWE Hall Of Fame member Edge. Edge would announce his retirement a week after this match due to the effects of a neck injury suffered throughout his time in the business. This match was non-stop action from bell to bell and it was also the first time a WWE Title Match had ever kicked off a Wrestlemania. The match also featured Christian, Brodus Clay and Ricardo Rodriguez getting physically involved at ringside. Edge would leave with the WWE World Heavyweight Title that night, the final night of his pro wrestling career.
#3: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (WWE Wrestlemania 21)
Outside of being the final Wrestlemania appearance for Eddie Guerrero, who would pass away less than a year later, it was also the first time that two wrestlers who were the current WWE Tag Team Champions fought each other at ‘Mania. This match feautred Mysterio having to fix his mask multiple times in the match, not because of anything Guerrero did, but because it malfunctioned throughout the bout. Mysterio would win the match and the loss would help prompt Guerrero to one of the best heel runs in his pro wrestling career.
#2: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WWE Wrestlemania 10)
Although the overall Owen Hart main event level heel run didn’t work out the way most expected, it did get a great start at WWE Wrestlemania 10. This match marked the first time two real brothers fought each other at a Wrestlemania event. It was also notable as being one of two matches for Bret that night; he would defeat Yokozuna in the main event to win the WWE Heavyweight Title. Owen won the initial battle between the members of the Hart Family, countering a victory roll with a roll up of his own to get the three count.
#1: Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE Wrestlemania 30)
The Daniel Bryan fans pretty much had their dreams fulfilled in a single night at WWE Wrestlemania 30 and it began with the opening match of the card. Bryan would even take out longtime female nemesis Stephanie McMahon with a suicide dive on the arena floor. Bryan would eventually defeat Triple H with a running knee strike, a win that granted him the right to compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Title later in the evening. In that main event, Bryan would defeat both Randy Orton and Batista to capture the gold, a one night journey that began with the opening match.