32 WrestleMania’s, 32 Opening Matches
The Showcase of the Immortals
The Greatest Wrestling Event of All Time!
The Grandest Stage of Them All
The Show of Shows
Whatever the tag line of the event is, you know when it’s WrestleMania. As a young wrestling fan, the night before WrestleMania could only be compared to going to bed on Christmas Eve. You try to sleep, but it’s just impossible especially when you’re a Hulkamaniac worried if it’s truly the last time you’ll see the red and yellow. You stare at the clock all day, make sure that dad is calling the cable company to order the card an hour before the show and when you heard the opening guitar riff…you get chills. All you want to see is that opening match, you don’t care about who they hired to sing the National Anthem, you’re salivating thinking of the first match.
The opening match of WrestleMania has seen some all-time classics, underrated gems and matches so awful you wonder why they booked it. With the 32nd edition a month away, I’ve decided to look back on 31 opening matches and give my thoughts on each match.
WrestleMania: Tito Santana over The Executioner in 4:50
I know many people would have put Valentine and Santana together and blown off the feud that night, but I can understand why they didn’t. The WWE was still making a good majority of its money from live events and the Valentine/Santana feud was headlining the B cards. Blow the feud off at Mania and lose having Santana chase Valentine, which is much more profitable than Valentine challenging for the belt. I do feel bad for Buddy Rose being stuck in a mask and muscle shirt since he was a great worker in Portland and even in a short run against Backlund. As for the match, it’s nothing special but Tito was over with the fans and that helps the match. I’d watch if you have a few minutes to kill while surfing the network. Worth the curiosity watch in my opinion. Sadly, Tito would lose at every WrestleMania he appeared barring a dark match victory of Papa Shango and The Executioner would never execute again.
WrestleMania 2: Paul Orndorff and Don Muraco w/Mr. Fuji wrestle to a double count out at 4:10.
On paper, this has potential to be a pretty good match. Muraco and Orndorff are good workers and you have a built-in reason for this happening. Muraco assisted in Bundy’s attack on Hogan and Orndorff was one of the many friends of Hogan that would turn on him. Orndorff has the sad distinction of headlining and then opening a WrestleMania along with Daniel Bryan and Bret Hart. The matches those two men had the next year would be fantastic and this is not. First, watch the match on mute since we’re treated to wonderful commentary team of Vince McMahon and Susan St. James. The crowd is into it, they try hard but the lousy finish and limited time they had killed any potential it had. The bullsh#t chants from the crowd are justified and a draw finish in the opening match was a bad omen for the event.
WrestleMania III: The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel and Tom Zenk over Bob Orton and Don Muraco w/Mr. Fuji in 5:37
The shots of the crowd with the catchy theme will always give me chills, even when I’m a cynical old man. I always liked the Muraco/Orton team and the two veteran heels match up well the up and coming Can-Am Connection. The two teams work at a brisk pace and deliver a fun little tag match that showcase the Can-Ams. I can see why many people thought the Can-Am’s would be the to take the belts from The Hart Foundation until Tom Zenk did what Tom Zenk does. While Muraco received a nice push being paired up with Billy Graham, I wish they had kept the two together. They would have been solid challengers to Strike Force after they took the belts from The Hart Foundation. Muraco taking the Flair turnbuckle bump got a laugh from me so don’t fast forward through it when you load up WrestleMania III. It’s probably the best opening match we’d see until Rockers vs Haku and Barbarian at WrestleMania VII.
WrestleMania IV: Bad News Brown won a twenty-man royal eliminating Bret Hart at 10:40
It’s kind of weird, most of the talent in this match were guys that had seen a significant push in the previous year. Patera was brought back after a prison stint and given a big push going against Heenan, the Bees were the number two face team in the company, JYD and Race had a WrestleMania match that was given significant hype and The Hart Foundation had been tag champs. A year later the Bees would be gone along with Race, Patera, JYD, Bass and Steele would all be out of the company. It’s tough to review since it’s a battle royal but the commentary team of Ventura/Monsoon/Eucker make it a decent watch. The crowd is dead for most of it, Sam Houston took the best bump and Bret breaking the trophy got a good pop.
WrestleMania V: Hercules over King Haku w/Bobby Heenan in 6:57
I imagine you would not want to cross King Haku, he seems like the type of king to personally carry out his executions. This was a continuation of the angle were Heenan sold Hercules to Ted DiBiase with the idea of Hercules being Ted’s slave. I do like how Trump is smiling as Heenan demands that the fans stand and bow to King Haku. Heenan is great as always and the match itself is nothing special. Hercules was over with the crowd and it’s at least a better crowd than last years. I’m happy they didn’t come back to Trump Plaza for a third year in a row, but I can see why Vince took that sweet sweet Trump money for two years.
Well, there you have it. The first series of opening matches in the 32-year history of WrestleMania and it’s a mixed bag. The best match is definitely Can-Am/Muraco and Orton and the worst match is sadly Muraco/Orndorff. It still doesn’t help that we were treated to the Vince McMahon and Susan St. James, it makes me yearn for JBL/Cole/Saxton. Next week, things get a lot better and we hit the goldmine of opening matches.