This is it folks.
We only have seven matches left on our journey and it might be our most interesting selection of matches yet. We have five titles being defended, the WrestleMania debut of two future world champions and a certified WrestleMania classic. We also have one of the worst WrestleMania matches of all time. Take a guess on which match I’m talking about!
WrestleMania XXVI; Unified Tag Team Championship Match: ShoMiz (c) (The Big Show and Miz) over John Morrison and R-Truth in 3:28
Three minutes? Wow. I remember watching this, making some snacks and coming back to see Show hit the WMD on Morrison. This was the first time the tag belts had been defended on the PPV portion of WrestleMania since 22 back in 2006. I’ll give all four guys credit, they work at a quick pace and get all their spots in. Big Show is a perfect tag wrestler for a heel team since he can use his reach to tag in from anywhere and I enjoyed him using his strength to pull Miz out from Starship Pain to the outside with ease. I feel bad for the two teams, it could have been a good match is they has been given about five more minutes. I still give them praise for working hard and at a good pace, but the short time they’re given kills any potential this match has.
WrestleMania XXVII; World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge (c) w/Christian over Alberto Del Rio w/Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay in 11:09
Crap in a hat, we’re on Cole Mine Era with Cole and Lawler bickering and Josh Matthews somehow being the best commentator of the night. Those are nine words you’ll never hear again! The WHC opening WrestleMania surely has to be the lowest point for the belt at WrestleMania, right? *Hears ominous music, chooses to ignore it*. I think this match suffered from The Rock’s promo opening the show and taking the crowd’s energy usually reserved for the opening match. The reaction to Del Rio is downright mild and while Edge gets a good pop, it’s not the reaction you’d expect. While the crowd may not be behind the match right away, they work their asses off to get the crowd into it. Del Rio is great working the arm throughout the match and Edge does a good job selling it. Brodus and Christian play their roles well with Brodus killing Christian with a Fallaway Slam on the outside and Christian hitting a sweet Tornado DDT off the apron. I’ll give everybody credit, they had a tough card dealt to them with a drained crowd, but they worked hard and had the crowd on their feet at the end. Farwell Edge, you had a great run of WrestleMania matches.
WrestleMania XXVIII; World Heavyweight Championship Match: Sheamus over Daniel Bryan (c) w/AJ Lee in 0:18
I knew I should have paid attention to the ominous music. Everybody has expressed their anger and rage over Bryan getting the screws taken to him by losing the belt so quick. You can pretty much bury the WHC being a legitimate title after this moment, not even putting the belt on Cena could fix this. While the belt had some great moments, the credibility of the belt was ruined. Awful on every level.
WrestleMania 29: The Shield over Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus in 10:35
First off, Big Show’s heel turn is completely justified in my mind. Orton and Sheamus ignore him at the beginning of the match, refusing to tag him in until Show just tags himself in. After taking out all three members with a spear and being the fresh man, Orton tags himself in since he’s a glory hog. While I know many people make fun of Show, the big guy puts on a master class of facial expressions and body language after this happens. The big guy has the chance to intervene and prevent The Shield from winning, but he’s like “screw you guys” and just watches it all go down. This match is nothing amazing, but it keeps the story that it’s going to take a team, not a group of individuals to take down The Shield. That’s what made Raw worth watching seeing all the different combinations of wrestlers trying and failing to bring down the group. Ambrose trying to engage in a chop duel with Show was great and the match told a solid story.
WrestleMania XXX: Daniel Bryan over Triple H w/Stephanie McMahon in 25:17
Well, after sitting through the Reigns vs Triple H match, this is a refreshing change of pace when it comes to Triple H matches. Plus it doesn’t feel like this match was forced to get Triple H on the card like a certain match that take place a year later. And the year before. And two years later. And probably nest year. And what this match would have been if Triple H would have been if he had worked with MMA PhIl. I’ll also say that his entrance was fantastic and it actually made sense unlike the Terminator entrance a year later and the weird entrance that we got this year. My cynical take on our future overlord aside, this is a fantastic match from bell-to-bell. The opening video package is probably the best one they’ve ever done (Come at me X7 fanboys) and the psychology of Triple H just trying to destroy that arm is fantastic. Considering Bryan’s fast paced style is something that Triple H has never worked with, it combines for a great match with a fantastic crowd. Stephanie is fantastic at ringside, the only downside if the commentary is just piss awful. While it’ll never top Bret/Owen on its best day, this match is a worthy number two on the greatest opening matches list. Compared to the main event last night which was a giant number two.
WrestleMania Press Play Button; Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Daniel Bryan over Bad News Barrett (c), Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Stardust, and R-Trurth in 13:47
Optimism. Everybody thought that Bryan being Intercontinental Champion plus Cena holding the US would be enough to support Roman through his growing pains as champion? Yep, that worked out well. While this match does recycle spots from previous and better ladder matches, there are some moments that I really liked. Bryan putting Harper in a ladder-assisted Tree of Woe and kicking him is great, Barrett using a ladder rung as a weapon and Harper killing Ambrose with a powerbomb through the ladder. While this match is good, there’s something off about it that I can’t put my finger on. Despite everybody being good workers, the match just lacks chemistry in my book. Maybe it was the build-up being bad, but it just falls flat in my book.
WrestleMania Star; Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Zack Ryder over Kevin Owens (c), Sami Zayn, The Miz, Stardust, Sin Cara and Dolph Ziggler in 15:24
Ziggler looks absolutely awful, the guy looks like he’s in the middle of a perpetual midlife crisis that’ll never end. The presence of Owens and Miz, two fantastic heels is what makes this match better than the previous year’s ladder match. Plus, the built-in rivalry of Owens/Zayn and the underdog story of Zack Ryder is worlds above “EVERYBODY IS STEALING THE IC BELT” from last year. I do like that everybody has special attire for Mania, and Owens standing in the ring while everybody goes to the outside right away was great. Owens and Zayn doing their usual grab each-other and exchange punches is always a welcomed sight, especially after they locked eyes initially. The big spots in this match are great, they don’t’ feel recycled like last year and Sami Zayn diving through the ladder and hitting Owens with a diving Tornado DDT might be the highlight of the match. The highlight for me was Stardust busting out the polka-dot ladder and busting out the old Terry Funk ladder spot. Plus, Miz taking his sweet time and being a complete ass before grabbing the belt to only have Ryder knock him off is a great finish. Overall, a great match and probably the best ladder match since Mania 23 in my mind.
There we go, we covered thirty-two opening matches in little over a month. It was a mixed bag of good, bad, fantastic and downright ugly matches but it was worth it. As a kid, you really don’t care about the first match, you’re there for Hogan but as you grow older you come to appreciate the opener. Some great talent cut their WrestleMania teeth opening the show and put on some great matches.
The Opening the Mania Awards:
Best Match: Bret Hart vs Owen Hart at WrestleMania X (Second place: Triple H vs Bryan at WrestleMania XXX)
Worst Match: Multi-Man Tag at WrestleMania 13 (Second place: Allied Powers vs The Blu Brothers at WrestleMania XI)
Opening Match that Surprised Me: The Rockers vs Haku and Barbarian at WrestleMania VII (Second Place: Eddie vs Rey at WrestleMania 22)
Mr. Opening Match: Shawn Michaels
Facts about Opening Matches:
Title Changes: Six (XV, X8, XX, XXVIII, Play Button, Star)
Longest Match: Daniel Bryan vs Triple H at WrestleMania XXX (25:17)
Shortest Match: Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII (0:18)
Highest Star Rating by Meltzer: Bret Hart vs Owen Hart at WrestleMania X (****3/4)
Lowest Star Rating by Meltzer: TIE! Multi-Man Match at WrestleMania 13 and Tag Team Battle Royal at WrestleMania XIV (-*1.2)
Deaths: The Executioner (Buddy Rose), Bad News Brown, Junkyard Dog, Hercules, Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Yokozuna, Hawk, The Big Bossman and Eddie Guerrero