Mike Reviews Every WrestleMania Opening Match (XXVI to XXX)

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Back with some more Opening Matches from WrestleMania, and we’ve got at least one all-time classic for you today, so buckle in!

WrestleMania XXVI

Opening Match
Unified Tag Titles
Champs: Show-Miz (Big Show and Miz) Vs John Morrison and R-Truth

They had unified the Raw and Smackdown tag belts into one Title, with Big Show first holding them Chris Jericho and now with The Miz. Miz and Morrison used to be a tag team, but now they have alternate partners and that was the main story of this match coming in. Miz was also the US Champ at the time, as they were giving him a pretty decent push all the way up to him winning the WWE Title, at which point they started booking him like a chump for some reason.

They don’t get a lot of time here, but it’s a decent match for the most part, with Truth and Morrison getting a shine on Miz before Big Show comes in for some power moves on Truth. Morrison does the hot tag on Miz following that, looking good in the process, but Big Show saves Miz from Starship Pain and then flings Truth into the ring post. Big Show punches Morrison out soon after and that’s three.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: SHOW-MIZ
RATING: *1/2

This was too short to be rated any higher, but there was nothing wrong with it and all four guys looked good for the most part. Truth would turn on Morrison in the post-Mania season of 2011 and would end up tagging with Miz by the time the end of that year rolled around. Miz and Big Show would eventually split, with Miz getting a new lackey in the form of Alex Riley and eventually winning the WWE Title after cashing in Money in the Bank on Randy Orton in the autumn of 2010

WrestleMania XXVII

Opening Match
World Title
Champ: Edge w/ Christian Vs Alberto Del Rio w/ Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay

Brodus was Alberto’s NXT rookie at the time, so he’s brought him to Mania in order to be his muscle. Alberto had won the Royal Rumble after coming in with a solid push in 2010 and was getting over but never really “felt” like a true Main Event guy to me. He was a solid upper mid-carder, but it always felt like that was his ceiling in WWE, although they tried him in Main Events on a few occasions. Edge was mere weeks away from his initial retirement from wrestling and at the time everyone thought this would be his last WrestleMania.

Oh man, I forgot that they were doing this horrible Heel play by play announcer gimmick with Michael Cole at the time, meaning he’s sitting in a protective box called “The Cole Mine” so that Jerry Lawler can’t get at him. This character was excruciating, especially as he was still supposed to be the leader announcer whilst cheerleading for all the Heels and just being incredibly annoying.

Edge has a bandaged arm here from a Del Rio attack, which Del Rio of course targets. Edge sells that well and Del Rio’s offence looks good, so the match is good as a result. The crowd gets behind Edge whilst he sells for Del Rio and pops when he dodges a Del Rio attack and follows up with a TOPE CON HILO. The fact Edge was doing that with a knackered neck is all kinds of impressive, and terrifying. Del Rio goes back to the arm back inside, with the goal being to lock in a cross arm breaker for the win, but Edge manages to keep fighting it off.

Del Rio does finally manage to apply it, but Edge is able to get to the ropes quickly to break the hold. I like how Edge didn’t sit in the hold for ages before saving himself, as an arm bar is an instant tap out in MMA an fans recognise it as such, so if it gets locked in you need to tap quickly or get out of it quickly in order not to strain believability too much. Christian and Brodus end up fighting outside the ring as we head into the closing stretch, with some nicely executed near falls being done. Brodus tries to help his boss but Christian takes him out with a DDT off the apron and that leads to Edge putting Del Rio away with a Spear for three.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: EDGE
RATING: ***1/4

This was a very good opener, with solid wrestling from both men and an invested crowd who were into the story being told. Edge sold his arm consistently and it was nice to see E&C reunited in order to back one another up. Christian would end up stepping in for Edge when it was time for a rematch with Del Rio and that led to Christian winning the World Title in an emotional moment.

Edge and Christian destroy Del Rio’s car following the match to really get him peeved.

WrestleMania XXVIII

Opening Match
World Title
Champ: Daniel Bryan w/ AJ Lee Vs Sheamus

Bryan had won the Title towards the tail end of 2011 after cashing in Money in the Bank, and had gone from a babyface to an arrogant Heel who kept yelling “YES” like Diego Sanchez whenever he won a match. AJ had done an excellent job as the sweet innocent girlfriend that Bryan treated like crap, whilst Sheamus had won the Royal Rumble after turning face in the summer of 2011.

Bryan actually gets a great reaction despite being a Heel and some fans are even chanting “YES” for him, but he stops to kiss AJ before the match starts and that allows Sheamus to Brogue Kick him to win the Title in just 18 seconds.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SHEAMUS
RATING: N/A

This was of course very controversial with the online contingent back in the day, with a mixture of people being annoyed that they were denied what promised to be a good match and people who felt that Bryan deserved a better end to his run as Champ. However, a funny thing happened in that fans chanted a lot for Bryan the next night on Raw and it eventually led to him getting a groundswell of support all the way to being one of the most popular wrestlers in the whole company. WWE of course probably didn’t plan for that to happen, but sometimes things don’t go how you expect them to. This, despite being only 18 seconds, is still a very historically significant match in the history of WWE as a result.

WrestleMania XXIX

Opening Match
The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) Vs Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus

The Shield had debuted back at Survivor Series and were currently still yet to be pinned or submitted in a tag situation. The story coming into the match is whether the babyfaces will be able to work together in order to deal with The Shield’s unified effort. Standard wrestling storytelling at the end of the day.

The babyface trio gets to shine on The Shield to start, with the action being decent. They keep the story of the three not really working together well though, with Big Show having to tag himself in at one stage so that he can clobber Ambrose. This surprisingly leads to Big Show off all people getting cut off as the babyface in peril, with The Shield swarming him and working him over in their usual style. Big Show actually sells that well, it’s just an odd visual to see the biggest guy in the match be the one that is getting worked over in the Heel corner.

Eventually it’s hot tag Sheamus and he runs wild on The Shield, making sure to remove Rollins’ Boss Man vest so that he can batter him with forearm blows unimpeded. Things break down following that, with Rollins banging his head off the barricades on a TOPE SUICIDA attempt, although he appears okay and his intended target Orton was clipped enough that he can believably sell it. The Shield try to finish off Sheamus the Triple Bomb, but Big Show makes the rescue, only for Orton to pinch the second hot tag.

Orton runs wild and looks good doing so, but Big Show doesn’t look happy that Orton has stolen his thunder in this manner. Rollins takes an RKO OUTTA NOWHERE, but Reigns catches Orton with a Spear and Big Show decides he can’t be bothered to break up the pin, meaning that The Shield wins.

WINNERS: THE SHIELD
RATING: **3/4

This was a fun opener, with solid action and a consistent story being told of the babyfaces just not being able to get it together and it eventually costing them. The Shield would continue to get a strong push up until getting broken up in the Spring of 2014. Big Show, Sheamus and Orton would all go through a number of Face/Heel turns, with all three of them being alligned with Triple H at different points.

Big Show clobbers both his partners post-match, which I think was a Heel turn, or at the very least a tease of one. You can understand how it’s hard to keep track of that stuff in regards to Big Show sometimes

WrestleMania XXX

Opening Match
Winner gets in the Main Event
Triple H w/ Stephanie McMahon Vs Daniel Bryan

So we mentioned how getting squashed by Sheamus at Mania XXVIII actually led to Bryan getting even more over? Well he rode the momentum from that all the way to winning the WWE Title from John Cena at SummerSlam 2013 (After stints teaming with Kane and feuding with The Shield of course). However, Bryan was screwed out of the belt mere minutes after winning it when Triple H went Heel on him and helped Randy Orton cash in Money in the Bank. Bryan would go on to lose that feud and WWE pivoted to Orton Vs Batista for Mania, whilst Bryan feuded with Bryan Wyatt going into the Royal Rumble.

The fans would just not let it go however, to the point that Batista eventually had to go Heel after yje company had tried really hard to push him as a conquering hero at the Royal Rumble. Bryan eventually got a match with Triple H by holding Raw hostage with his “YES Movement”, with an added stipulation that if he won then he would get into the Main Event later on. Triple H decided that if a job was worth doing then it was worth doing yourself, so he tweaked the stip so that HE would get a Title shot if he won also.

As if Triple H riffing on Shao Khan for his entrance wasn’t great enough, when Daniel Bryan comes down to the ring and turns WrestleMania into YESsleMania this match reaches the next level before the bell even rings. When it does though the two men have a fantastic gutsy babyface Vs overbearing Heel match, with Stephanie McMahon adding a lot on the outside as an insufferable Heel valet. In a lot of ways this was the last great straight wrestling match that Triple H had before the many years of working at an elite level finally did a big enough number on his general health that he needed to resort to more smoke and mirrors.

There’s no need for such things as that here though, as Triple H carries his end of things in a normal match perfectly, as does Bryan at his, and the result is one of the best opening matches in Mania history. Bryan is so great as a babyface, selling his injured shoulder and timing his comebacks perfectly, whilst Triple H is fantastic as a cold and calculating Heel, bumping around to make Bryan look good and then physically dissecting him in a ruthless manner once he gets on top in the bout. Stephanie makes her presence known as well by taunting Bryan whenever he’s on the defensive and just generally being a wicked rotten cow. She adds a lot to the match in all honesty.

I love the finishing sequence to the match as well, with Triple H just straight dropping vicious knees on Bryan at one point, only for Bryan to weather the storm and win it clean as a sheet to earn a spot in the main event. He even gets to kick out of the Pedigree as well, as Triple H does absolutely everything he can to make Bryan look like a star. Say what you want about Triple H when it came to the likes of Rob Van Dam and Booker T (And what he did back then was unforgiveable) but when it comes to Bryan you can only give him the fullest of credit for doing the right thing when the time called for it.

WINNER: DANIEL BRYAN
RATING: *****

This is such a great match that I kind of wish Triple H had hung the boots up once it was over, because he was never going to top this with any of his other Mania matches going forward and it would have been a fantastic performance to go out on. I’ll certainly remember this as the last time Triple H was truly Triple H, although I know some on here really like his match with Jon Moxley from 2016. This was as much his great performance as it was Bryan’s, and both men deserve huge credit for delivering such an amazing match. I would happily give this The Full Monty rating, as I don’t honestly know how it could have been better.

An all-time classic to close us out on but there were plenty of memorable moments and decent wrestling here. Next week I think I’ll give Mania 27 a full review because I’ve been meaning to for a while and I genuinely think it’s overly maligned sometimes.