WrestleMania is typically sold on its main event (or multiple headlining matches as of late), but for every John Cena vs. The Rock match and Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar saga that caps off the “Showcase of the Immortals,” there have been multiple great opening contests that are just as impactful. Over the years, we’ve seen heated fights between the Hart brothers, death-defying ladder matches involving some of the biggest stars, and other great WWE opening matches that have set the tone for their respective shows.
Below is a breakdown of 10 of the best WrestleMania opening matches, as well as a direct link to the shows on which they took place on the WWE Network on Peacock. There’s a lot to unpack in a short amount of time, so let’s jerk that curtain and get the show started.
Seth Rollins Vs. Finn Balor Vs. The Miz (WrestleMania 34)
WWE didn’t waste any time getting WrestleMania 34 going with a triple threat match that saw The Miz defend his Intercontinental Championship against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. This instant classic gave the event a nice pace and provided for some great moments from each of the competitors over the course of 15 minutes. With multiple near-falls, shifts in momentum, and a strong sampling of each wrestler’s respective movesets, everyone came out of this one looking like a winner, especially Seth Rollins, who became a Grand Slam Champion with his first IC Title victory.
AJ Styles Vs. Shane McMahon (WrestleMania 33)
Say what you will about Shane McMahon, but the fourth-generation wrestling figure knows how to put on a show with a death defying stunt, especially whenever he steps into the ring at WrestleMania. This was the case at WrestleMania 33, where the part-time wrestler squared-off against AJ Styles in an opening match that was way better than anyone expected. On top of the typical Shane O’Mac moves like the “Coast-to-Coast” and “Leap of Faith,” McMahon also pulled out a shooting star press in his attempt to defeat Styles, but it just wasn’t enough to best the “Phenomenal One.”
WrestleMania 32 Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
WrestleMania 32 was a slog of a show, and honestly felt like it would never end, especially the second half with multiple matches more than 25 minutes in length. But, it didn’t start out that way. No, the show started with one of the best ladder matches in recent memory with an amazing spectacle that saw Zack Ryder win his first Intercontinental Championship against Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Sami Zayn, Sin Cara, and Stardust. In just 15 minutes, each of the competitors had their moment to shine with some painful bumps and countless offensive maneuvers involving the steel ladders.
WrestleMania 31 Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
WWE caught lightning in a bottle with the Intercontinental Championship ladder match that opened WrestleMania 31, a seven-man affair that saw Daniel Bryan defeat Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, R-Truth, and Stardust to capture his first IC strap and first title since being forced to vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Championship the previous year. The fast-paced match did a great job of setting the tone for the show as a whole and also gave several of the company’s biggest fan-favorites an opportunity to work together and make history.
Daniel Bryan Vs. Triple H (WrestleMania 30)
WrestleMania 30 was mostly built around Daniel Bryan’s quest to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and defeat The Authority, and he did both of those in the same night. In order for Bryan, who was the hottest thing in professional wrestling at the time, to get into the main event match for all the gold, he first had to defeat Triple H in a singles match. This technical and back-and-forth match was hotly anticipated for months (Triple H cost Bryan the title at SummerSlam 2013), and told a tremendous wrestling story that set up the final chapter later that night.
The Shield Vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus And Big Show (WrestleMania 29)
Five months after debuting at Survivor Series 2012, The Shield was given the opportunity to prove itself on the biggest stage: WrestleMania 29. A couple of years before the group’s members would become main event talent, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns went up against Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show in a moment that felt like WWE’s version of the NWO invasion in WCW 17 years earlier. The unified front that was The Shield used their opponents’ lack of communication against them and proved they were an unstoppable force that was here to stay.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania 25)
Before Money in the Bank was given its own show, the match was held at WrestleMania each year, with one of the best being the eight-man ladder match that kicked off the 25th annual big event. The match, which saw CM Punk beat out a selection of the best up-and-coming and established stars, did a great job of getting the crowd into the show and provided some of the night’s biggest moments, like Shelton Benjamin diving from atop a ladder onto the rest of competitors down below. It was everything you’d want in an opener and more.
Rey Mysterio Vs. Eddie Guerrero (WrestleMania 21)
Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero met in the WrestleMania 21 opening match, which would be the latter’s final appearance at the “Granddaddy of them All” prior to his death in November 2006. The two tag-team partners put on a fast-paced and highly technical showing that felt a lot like their iconic encounter at Halloween Havoc 1996, and showed that they were still two of the best.
John Cena Vs. Big Show (WrestleMania 20)
It is only fitting that John Cena, one of the greatest of all time, would make his WrestleMania debut in the world’s most famous arena: Madison Square Garden. Cena’s WrestleMania 20 opening match against United States Champion, Big Show, was one of the rising star’s biggest moments and showed the world that he was more than a flavor of the week. From the opening freestyle promo, to the Patrick Ewing Knicks jersey, to his strength in the ring, this one had it all.
Owen Hart Vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania 10)
WrestleMania 10 started off with one of the best matches of the night, year, and decade with the one-on-one fight between brothers Bret and Owen Hart, who put on a 20-minute clinic in front of a full house at Madison Square Garden. This bitter back-and-forth was the most personal of the matches on the card that night and arguably the best (if not tied with Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels). The way the wrestlers played into their sibling rivalry was nothing short of masterful, and both came out looking better than before.
How will the opening matches at the two-night WrestleMania 38 compare to these? You’ll have to watch the big show yourself on April 2 and 3, but only if you have a Peacock Premium subscription.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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