The Best Opening Matches in WWE Pay-Per-View History

“If you can’t go on last, go on first”

The opening match of any wrestling show is arguably the most important of the whole night, while the main event is almost always the biggest, most important match of the show that everyone will be talking about the next day, the opening match is what sets the tone for the show going forward and often decides whether or not any given individual will keep watching the show the whole way through. As such, there have been plenty of absolute barn-burners and all-time classic matches that held the prestigious spot of being the first thing the live audience got to see.

To be clear here, I am not counting pre-show or dark matches in this list as these are usually put on before the full crowd has even entered the building and a large portion of the home viewing audience haven’t switched on. I’m instead referring to the first match to take place on the main portion of a WWE Pay-Per-View. This also means NXT Takeovers don’t count because let’s be honest, that wouldn’t be fair.

With that clarification made, let’s take a look at the best of these show openers.

10 – Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler – Bragging Rights 2010

Trust me, this isn’t the last time Daniel Bryan is going to appear on this list.

While the concept of Bragging Rights was one that would eventually bleed over into the annual Survivor Series event – and be much better off for it – looking back at the history of the two incarnations of the event, there was only ever one great match between the two of them and this was it.

Although the IWC (myself included) have all gotten a bit bored with Dolph Ziggler as a wrestler, there was once a time where he was one of the only bright stars in a sea of boring characters and dull wrestling matches. In fact, with the exception of CM Punk, it’s arguable that Bryan & Ziggler were the only two “internet darlings” in the company at the time so naturally, a clash between the two of them was always going to be something special.

What this match is, is two brilliant wrestlers that have flamboyant and exciting wrestling styles going at each other in a match that very rarely lets up to catch its breath. There are some slightly wonky elements, with Vickie Guerrero’s presence at ringside occasionally causing a break in the action and a weird non-finish where Ziggler got a three-count because the referee didn’t see Bryan’s foot on the rope, only for the decision to be waived off and the match continued.

Luckily, none of those issues stopped the match from having a healthy serving of quick back-and-forth action and near falls to ramp up the excitement and get the crowd on their feet for a show that, in the grand scheme of things, really wasn’t much to write home about.

9 – Brock Lesnar(c) vs Seth Rollins –   Wrestlemania 35
(Universal Championship)

This was more of a great moment than a match, however, a bell did ring, so it counts.

Wrestlemania 35 was a show full of crowd please, triumphant moments for the babyfaces and it made sure to spread them evenly throughout the show, this meant that when the show was just starting, we already had ourselves an exciting moment. After the US National Anthem played and Hulk Hogan was…there, Paul Heyman stormed to the ring and declared that if Brock Lesnar wasn’t going to be in the main event, then he was going to have his match now and get an early night.

It’s easy to forget now, but at this point, just about everyone was fully behind Seth Rollins as a babyface who was ready to slay the beast and finally take the Universal Championship away from Lesnar. WWE managed to not only pull it off brilliantly but do it in perhaps the most exciting way possible, with Lesnar beating down Rollins before he made a sudden comeback to pin the beast and win the title in just two and a half minutes.

Paralleling the moment from Wrestlemania 31 where he swiped the WWE Championship from under Brock Lesnar’s nose, Wrestlemania 35 opened up with Rollins swinging world title gold above his head in a moment that had me on my feet with excitement at home.

8 – The Miz(c) vs Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor – Wrestlemania 34
(Intercontinental Championship)

Triple threat matches on WWE PPVs can be a bit hit and miss depending on the participants involved. These kinds of matches need to be fast-paced and varied in their action, so when you’ve got a bunch of slow, lumbering guys in there it just doesn’t work, luckily, the three men in this match were quite the opposite. Rollins & Balor were allowed to completely let loose here, flying all over the place, keeping the excitement flowing the whole time.

The Miz couldn’t keep up with the pace of the other two, but he didn’t need to. Instead, The Miz was the perfect person to provide much more grounded action, stopping the whole thing from spiralling out of control with non-stop dives. The action between the three men had a nice sense of flow, with each combination of men in the ring had a slightly different feel to their fighting style.

There was a nice helping of storytelling in there too as The Miz attempted to renounce his evil ways (even if it didn’t last) sparing us from any interference by The Miztourage. As well as Balor & Rollins being so determined to one-up each other that at several occasions it almost allowed The Miz to slip away with the win. That didn’t happen though as eventually Seth Rollins came out the victor and spent the rest of 2018 in what I believe – from an in-ring standpoint at least – was the best year of his career so far.

7 – The Usos(c) vs The Wyatt Family – Battleground 2014
(WWE Tag Team Championships)
(2 out of 3 Falls)

A match that has been largely forgotten by time here and I can’t exactly say I blame people for that, I sure as shit can’t remember a single other thing that happened at Battleground 2014.

Looking back at 2014 today feels like looking into an alternate dimension, it’s all the wrestlers we know and love today, but not quite as we know them; case in point, The Usos. By mid-2014 I was fully into the world of WWE and I very vividly remember not giving much of a shit about The Usos. Their “tribal chanting” thing sat on the wrong side of goofy to me and, in all honesty, I didn’t see their appeal as wrestlers at all. This was the match that woke me up to the fact that these guys might actually be the amazing tag team we’ve seen over the past few years.

Pretty much everything I love about modern tag-team wrestling features in this match, the early stages where one team isolates the other didn’t last too long and once the match descended into chaos, it ebbed and flowed in such a way that allowed for natural peaks and troughs in the action that aligned with my energy levels as a viewer. The 2 out of 3 falls stipulation did wonders for the pace, allowing the action to slow all the way down at certain points before slowly building the energy and excitement up again.

I highlighted The Uso’s performance, but Harper & Rowan’s contributions to the match cannot be understated either. I know it’s common knowledge now, but at the time I didn’t realise how brilliant of a wrestler Luke Harper could be and Erick Rowan served his purpose as a slower big-guy too. The chemistry between the two teams was near-flawless and it’s one of those situations where everything came together to create a match that had just about all you could want from pure tag team wrestling.

6 – Bad News Barrett(c) vs Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan vs R-Truth vs Luke Harper vs Stardust – Wrestlemania 31
(Intercontinental Championship)
(Ladder)

Wrestlemania needs more of these, I mean, what else is the Cruiserweight title for these days?

Multi-man ladder matches are always pretty solid bets to get a crowd excited, but this one went above and beyond in terms of pure entertainment value. Everyone in this match served their own unique role that contributed to the break-neck pace of this match. You had Barrett coming in as the heel champion, Ambrose as the hungry challenger that isn’t afraid to get violent, Ziggler a face-technician that can bump like no-one else, Bryan who was making his big return and was beloved by everyone, Truth who was the comedy, Harper who was an all-rounder that could fill any role he needed to in the match and Stardust…who…well, let’s not talk about that.

When you’ve got such a huge variety of characters & wrestling styles colliding like this it’s always going to be an interesting watch and the action in this match was constant. There was very little room to breathe, but the amount of variety of people constantly coming in and out of the ring meant that it constantly felt like the match was being refreshed and doing something different. Just about everyone got a moment where they almost won the match and they were scattered through the match in just the right way to keep the tension rolling over with every single spot.

Speaking of spots, there’s just about every kind of ladder match spot you could want. We had people doing dives onto people and ladders; ladders would be sung around and smack people in the face; there was a big dive onto a sea of people and there was even a brutal looking powerbomb from the ring, to the outside, through a ladder. The finish was extremely crowd-pleasing, with Ziggler & Bryan fighting it out on the top until one of them fell to their doom and it kicked off Wrestlemania 31 with a massively crowd-pleasing win in the form of Daniel Bryan claiming his first reign with the Intercontinental Championship.

5 – Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt – Royal Rumble 2014

While this match is generally remembered as a great one, I think the feud surrounding it is incredibly strange. This feud happened slap-bang in the middle of Bryan’s ascension to the top of WWE and was very much during the phase where WWE was trying everything they could to make sure it didn’t happen. After Bryan suffered yet another disappointing loss to Randy Orton, he found himself under attack from The Wyatt Family. For some reason, CM Punk decided he’d help out and they got the win…so feud over right? Well, apparently not as Wyatt continued their assault, focusing on Bryan as CM Punk had to deal with The Shield.

This led to a 3 on 1 match at TLC where Bryan got destroyed and eventually a slightly interesting, but also slightly bungled, storyline developed where Bryan seemed to join the Wyatt Family. While the moment where Bryan finally broke free from Wyatt was fantastic and led to arguably the best “Yes!” chant in history, it was a bit weird how the entire thing just consisted of Bryan & Bray losing to The Usos for 3 weeks.

Regardless of that, it brought us to this match. A match that was fantastic.  Bray’s style at the time was less of the slow & brutal that we see with The Fiend nowadays, instead, being a lot more frantic and fast-paced; he would still take his time when he got the opportunity to pick his opponent apart, but there was a much greater feeling of urgency to things. This played perfectly for Bryan’s style which was also pretty fast but focussed more on being plucky than being heavy-handed.

On top of the action being top-notch, they hit on some great story beats referencing the entirety of their rivalry up until that point. It had so many of those little touches that we only ever expect to see in NXT Takeover matches these days. Not only did this match help the rise of Bryan’s popularity amongst the fanbase, but it also put Bray Wyatt on the map in terms of the fans seeing him as a brilliant wrestler that could hang with all of their indie darlings.

4 – The New Day(c) vs The Usos – Hell in a Cell 2017
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Hell in a Cell)

Easily one of the best feuds of the past five years, this match was just one of the series of incredible bouts these two teams put on throughout 2017 and into early 2018 and this was arguably the best of the bunch.

By this point in 2017, The New Day and The Usos had wrestled each other on TV & PPV countless times and at face value, it would seem like that’s a recipe for disaster. Normally in WWE, when a feud lasts as long as this one did, people get bored of it and their later matches are met with indifference regardless of how good they actually are (see the Reigns vs Corbin feud from late 2019/early 2020 for proof of this). So, these two teams had to find a way to get p[eople to turn their heads and care about the fact that they’re fighting on PPV for the 4th time in the past year. Luckily, they were absolutely up to the task.

Up until this point in their feud, the two teams had done a great job of making each match feel slightly different in terms of its flow and rhythm, while still keeping up incredible action that got fans onto their feet. After rocking pre-shows and midcards for the better part of 6 months, these two teams were finally rewarded for their stellar work by getting the opportunity to create absolute magic, climaxing their now legendary feud in a Tag Team Hell in a Cell match for the ages.

Needless the say the action was damn-near flawless. Every movement in the match felt like it had so much thought and purpose behind it from the competitors. I often decry weapons matches as being boring, but the two teams here put the tools at their disposal to good use, scattering weapons in as exclamation points for the match, but never making them the focal point. Every inch of the cell was used to full effect and we saw some genuinely new and innovative spots like The New Day trapping one of the Usos in the corner of the cell by building a mini-prison out of kendo sticks. The Hell in a Cell stipulation is one that I think had been extremely played out at this point, but these guys did a fantastic job of finding fresh and interesting things to do with it.

The drama was also through the roof. From the moment the bell rang and the two teams start absolutely wailing on each other, there was so much intensity that absolutely did the epic scale of their feud justice. There were some truly ludicrous kickouts (in a good way) and the final segment where Xavier Woods tried his damndest to fend off both Usos while handcuffed is just brilliant and forged a sense of respect between the two teams that has lasted for years after the fact. Not to mention cemented both of these teams as two of the best tag teams on the planet.

3 – Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio – Summerslam 2002

See? I have watched wrestling outside of the past decade. Admittedly, it would’ve been hard to justify missing out what is undoubtedly an all-time classic Summerslam match.

Rey Mysterio had been in WWE for less than a month at this point and while the majority of the audience at the time knew who he was from his time at the forefront of WCW’s Cruiserweight Division, this was his first major opportunity to make a huge impact on the WWE and show that he was here to stay and hadn’t missed a beat since the WCW days. So, if you’ve got a highly-skilled technical wrestler who needs an opportunity to look great showing off everything they can do, who do you put them with? How about the greatest technical wrestler of the generation? Enter Kurt Angle.

Angle was coming off the back of an excellent feud with The Rock and The Undertaker going into Summerslam 2002 where he had often found himself the butt of the joke. He still got ample opportunity to look like a legitimate competitor, but the match at Vengeance treated him more like a third wheel, where his character elements are what really made him shine. So, this felt like a bit of a reset for his character, a newcomer had just shown up and handed him a loss and it was going to be his job to teach Mysterio a serious lesson, using his entire arsenal of fantastic wrestling.

It was a very simple story but it’s all the match needed. Mysterio was looking to prove himself against one of the best, while Angle was looking to protect his position in the company against a newcomer. What they put together in the match can only be described as a technical masterpiece. I used the term “back-and-forth” in my reviews a lot but this match really was the epitome of the term, as outside of Mysterio’s flurry at the beginning, neither man spent more than 90 seconds or so getting in offence at any single point in the match. There were constant counters, reversals and all kinds of interesting escapes that showed the full spectrum of what both men were capable of in the ring.

While it’s arguable that Mysterio should’ve won as he was the debuting superstar, as we can now say with the power of hindsight, the loss didn’t affect Mysterio’s star power at all in the long-run and the sheer quality of the match was enough to convince all of the fans who were still unconvinced that Mysterio was a top-tier competitor.

2 – Bret Hart vs Owen Hart – Wrestlemania 10

Even though Wrestlemania 10 ended with Bret Hart toppling Yokozuna to become WWF Champion, the moment that was ultimately be most remembered from that night is his loss in the opening contest to his brother Owen.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this match at the time of Wrestlemania 10. Things had been slowly building since the previous November, where Owen became distracted after accidentally knocking his brother off of the Apron in a Survivor Series elimination tag match, causing him to get eliminated. Owen would continuously ask his brother to face him in a match, but Bret kept refusing, not wanting to fight his brother. Eventually, Owen took matters into his own hands and attacked Bret at the Royal Rumble 1994 after the duo lost to The Quebecers.

After both Lex Luger and Bret Hart were declared joint winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble, a coin was tossed and it was determined that Luger would get his match with Yokozuna first at Wrestlemania 10, with Bret fighting the champion later in the night. In order to make it fair, Bret was forced to wrestle another match earlier on in the night and Owen was selected as his opponent.

As you’d imagine from wrestlers the calibre of Bret and Owen, two wrestlers who quite literally grew up training together, this match was virtually flawless. While it doesn’t look as flashy or as exciting as the kind of “masterpiece” matches we’ve come to expect today, I didn’t feel any less invested in this match than I do any NXT title bout. The psychology of the match is simple but incredibly effective as both of the brothers seem to have an answer for just about everything the other can throw at them. It’s so clear that they know each other in the ring better than any other wrestler ever possibly could.

The sly brutality of Owen as he maliciously targets Bret’s injured leg is just wonderfully horrible, made all the better by the way he seems to showboat after every little advantage he gets over Bret. He knows that no-one thinks he’ll be able to beat Bret and he’s relishing every moment he can show people how wrong they are. Then, he only went and bloody won the thing. Catching Bret out and rolling him after following Bret’s attempt at a Hurricanrana, Owen walked away with the shocking win, putting Bret on the back foot for his title match later in the night and triggering a feud with Bret that extended into the summer and brought us some equally brilliant matches.

Wrestlemania 10 is remembered fondly as a Mania with several iconic moments, but when it comes to pure-wrestling, nothing else that happened on the night could top this match.

1 – Daniel Bryan vs Triple H – Wrestlemania 30

Who would’ve guessed that a Triple H match would’ve been the one to top this list?

As I’ve covered before, Wrestlemania 30 is the best incarnation of the show of shows to happen over the past decade (and is also my personal favourite Wrestlemania) and a huge part of that is down to this fantastic opening contest. The story of the rise of Daniel Bryan going into Wrestlemania 30 is still one that’s relatively fresh in the minds of WWE fans the world over and this match was where we would finally see whether or not WWE were serious about giving the fans what they wanted.

Every second of this match was meticulously crafted to milk every last drop of drama and intensity out of the storyline. From the moment the bell rings, the crowd are a huge factor of what makes this match so brilliant. The sight of the crowd going nuts as Triple H and Bryan stare each other down in so incredibly emotional knowing everything that went into it and they are on tenterhooks for absolutely every moment of this match.

The opening few minutes of this match are absolutely fire as Bryan comes out of the gate with the kind of babyface intensity that makes him the most lovable babyface ever before the pace switches and there’s a good 8 minutes or so of Triple H dominating the match and doing everything in his power to put Bryan away. That would normally be boring, but a combination of pacing, variety and Bryan’s selling ability made it gripping stuff to watch. Bryan scattered in a couple of hope spots throughout to keep things ticking over too. The moments where Triple H drops Bryan down on the announce table, or the ring apron, or even locks in the Yes! Lock plays the live crowd and everyone watching at home into the hands of the drama of the match. Even watching it back now I still feel that pit of despair, with the thought that maybe Triple H really is going to win and all our dreams will be crushed.

Once Bryan breaks free of the beat down, the match moves at a mile a minute. Once again, the intensity shoots through the ceiling and the whole match becomes a fever-pitch, back-and-forth contest that doesn’t let up for a moment. Every strike from both men feels weighty and impactful, both in the physical and dramatical sense of the phrase. Even on a rewatch I find myself falling for every near fall and every kickout, remembering the desperation in every fan’s mind at the time, just praying that Daniel Bryan got his time to shine.

The sheer explosion of emotion from both the crowd and Bryan himself when he blindsides Triple H with the Running Knee and gets the pin is absolutely euphoric and makes this a match that I was always connect with emotionally and was the perfect opener for the biggest show of the year.

WWE Wrestlemania 35: Every Match Ranked

Well! That sure was something. It did get exhausting at points, but I really enjoyed this Wrestlemania, it didn’t have any of those deflating losses that draw down a lot of other Manias of late and I think it was structured in just the right way to make it very hard to get bored.

Not everything was great of course, but coming away from the show I feel that the bad was heavily outweighed by the good, and this was certainly the best Wrestlemania we’ve had since 31 as far as I’m concerned.

“But Ryan”, I hear you ask, “Where can we find an arbitrary and subjective ranking of all sixteen matches on the card?” What an oddly specific question, however, you’re in luck, as that’s exactly what I have for you right here, let’s get into it, shall we?

16 – Triple H def. Batista
(No Holds Barred)

I don’t think this is going to surprise anyone, is it?

I’ve said it so many times before, so I’m not going into detail on it again, but a slow-paced weapons based match with nothing but high spot after high spot is my least favourite kind of match, and that’s exactly what this match was.

There were a couple of cool looking spots, like Triple H pulling out Batista’s nose ring with some tweezers and a good old fashioned table break, but there was a whole lot of nothing between all of it. Batista ended up getting in very little offence, and the one time he did get close to win, there was absolutely no drama in it because there was no chance Triple H was losing this one.

I don’t think anyone was expecting anything that great from this match, which is good because we didn’t get it, (aside from a ridiculously over the top Triple H entrance of course). By the same token though, nothing stupid or nonsensical happened during the match, so I guess that’s a good thing that this is a bad as it got.

15 – Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle
(Kurt Angle’s Final Match)

I told you so.

This match was fairly similar to Triple H vs Batista in that it was fairly slow and boring, except I enjoyed this just a little bit more, since there was actually some decent back and forth between the two men, and they aren’t just ambling about trying to set up a spot that ends up not looking all that impressive.

I know people are going to be pissed off about it, but like I said in my predictions I think Corbin winning was the right choice. No-one would’ve benefitted in any way from Angle winning, and while I doubt anything big is on the horizon for Corbin, at least he’s going to be on Raw every Monday for the next while and stands a chance of getting something out of winning.

Not to mention, it’s not like this has sullied Angle’s legacy. For one thing, if anything had done that is was the awful matches he’s been having on Raw and Smackdown for the past month, and for another, when people think back on Angle’s career, they’re not going to be thinking about this match. They’ll be thinking about all the awesome stuff he did from ’99 through ’06, and losing to a dude in a dress shirt isn’t going to spoil that.

…much.

14 – Braun Strowman wins the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
(Kickoff Show)

Thank God for that.

While I’m happy about the result, this may have been the most boring ARMBAR to date, and that includes the one where the final two were Jinder and Mojo. Several people were eliminated within seconds of the bell ringing, no-one really got much of a chance to show off their stuff aside from Braun and the comedy stuff wasn’t all that funny.

Andrade eliminating himself has got to be one of the worst eliminations in the history of the ARMBAR and doesn’t protect him, it makes him look like a total idiot. I’ll admit I laughed when one of the SNL guys (don’t know his name, don’t care enough to look it up) brought out his “therapist”, but everything after that was super predictable, and I never really found myself actually enjoying what I was watching.

13 – Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins def. The Revival(c)
(Raw Tag Team Championships)
(Kickoff Show)

Oh for fu-

I’m trying not to hold the result against this match too hard, but seriously? If WWE are still trying to convince The Revival to stay they’re doing an awful job of it, having them lose to a guy who’s the whole gimmick is that he always loses is the kind of pit I never thought I’d see The Revival in, but here we are. Even if they win the titles back on Raw, it doesn’t matter, the damage is done.

The match was fine but didn’t really have much excitement to it, The Revival very much wrestled like they knew they were going to lose and decided they didn’t give a shit anymore. It was still solid but lacked the polish that we’ve come to expect from The Revival, and even Ryder seemed like he was phoning it in a little bit.

The finish was fine (and honestly, the only finish this match ever could’ve had), but it didn’t really surprise me, it just caused me to sigh. It wasn’t anything awful but was exactly the kind of match you think of when you think “pre-show tag match”, so it wasn’t anything great either.

12 – Samoa Joe(c) def. Rey Mysterio
(United States Championship)

Finally.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the result of this match, but given that it went under a minute, it’s hard to put it any higher up.

Samoa Joe winning was absolutely the right result, the United States Championship needs a dominant champion like Joe to pull it out of the ditch it’s been in for the past year, and this was the perfect start. If you ask me, have him squash guys while defending the title week in and week out on Smackdown, while having slightly longer matches on PPVs, and that US title will have it’s prestige back in no time.

As for the match itself, it’s understandable that it went this short, since the number of matches required at least one or two to be squashes, and Rey’s recent injury may have made it a necessity, but I hope we get a full-length match later down the line, because I think it could be really good.

11 – Roman Reigns def. Drew Mcintyre

WWE just doesn’t seem to understand Drew’s strengths.

Drew is the kind of guy that is best when he’s running around murdering dudes and a breakneck pace, this match should’ve been somewhat in the style of Lesnar vs Goldberg from a couple of years ago, where it’s about 10 minutes of them going back and forth hitting each other with big hard-hitting moves until one of them couldn’t stand anymore.

Instead, we had Drew holding Reigns to the mat and “wearing him down” for the whole thing until it was time for Reigns to make his comeback. It had just enough to keep me somewhat engaged, with some tense spots on the ropes and some well-timed kick outs which Reigns is great at, but I feel it could’ve been so much more.

I was somewhat surprised that Reigns got a pretty mixed reaction on his entrance after how he’s been in recent months. Maybe it was just casual fans who don’t know what’s been going on and still think booing Reigns is the default, but really I think it’s time that we just cheer the guy. I get you’d rather see other guys get the spots he does, but he’s a pretty good wrestler these days and by all accounts, he’s an amazing person in real life, so let’s just stop relentlessly booing him for no reason now, yeah?

I’m sure my words have fallen on deaf ears, but I tried.

10 – The IIconics def. Sasha Banks & Bayley(c), Nia Jax & Tamina, Natalya & Beth Phoenix
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

IIIIIIIIIIIIIICONIC!

Have your Kofimanias and Becky chants all you want, this is the win that made me the happiest all night.  The IIconics are just so entertaining at what they do and are up there with the best in terms of wrestling ability so I’m over the moon to see them get these spots, hopefully, this reign lasts more than 2 days.

That said, the match itself was fairly underwhelming, maybe it was because we’d already had a very good 4 way tag match on the show, or maybe it’s hard to make an exciting match when 75% of the participants aren’t known for high spots or taking risks, but something about this just didn’t click for me. It thought everything was fairly standard and vanilla, with the match moving at a fairly predictable pace, and attempts at bigger spots leading more to confusion than anything else.

The only thing I really enjoyed about it was the way in which The IIconics one, taking advantage of being the right place at the right time and nothing more. Granted, 4 ways tend to have a base level of excitement that they will always be (hence why this match is as high as it is), but it really didn’t do much to go beyond it.

The IIconics won though, so who cares how good the match was?

9 – Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley(c)
(Intercontinental Championship)

Demon Finn needs more Wrestlemania entrances because that looked cool as fuck.

This match was just a glorified squash, so I can’t put it too high, but I think it was much more entertaining than the US title squash earlier in the night. This had a small about of back and forth to keep the momentum of the match going for the full 4 minutes, and it also had some pretty impressive spots to boot.

Lashley’s apron spear looked brutal, and I wish more of his offence was in that style because he could be a really entertaining wrestler if he did that more often. On the flip side, we saw a rare display of power from Finn Balor because that Powerbomb to Lashley was such a good feat of strength. Things like that are what you need to give The Demon more mystique because that really made it feel like Finn is stronger when he’s the Demon.

Once again though, I really don’t want to see this match anymore. This is clearly as good as it’s ever going to get, now it’s time to let Finn run and have great matches with everyone on whichever show he lands on post-shakeup.

8 – Tony Nese def. Buddy Murphey(c)
(Cruiserweight Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

So not only are they forced onto the kickoff show, they’re forced to open the kickoff show when there’s all of about 26 in the arena, great.

Ultimately, I think the middle of the list is the best place for this match, because while it didn’t have anything amazing in it, it was an extremely solid match, with several enjoyable moments throughout. Nese’s baseball slide to the outside, where he took Murphey’s legs out from under him at the same time was a very satisfying thing to watch, and generally the chemistry the two of them had made for a match that I had no problems sitting through.

Nese winning was actually quite the surprise to me, mostly it’s my own fault for not knowing what Nese’s finisher looked like, but also I didn’t really expect him to win, I always got the feeling that WWE loves Buddy Murphy (because he’s great) and that this thing was gonna last a little while longer, however I can’t argue with the decision and I do now wanna watch 205 Live this week to see where this all goes next; so it’s mission accomplished really.

7 – Carmella won the Women’s Wrestlemania Battle Royal

Well, this was a surprise.

Not so much the result, but the fact that the match was actually pretty damn enjoyable, it really seemed like everything was working against it. It has Asuka being dumped in it after losing her title, Lacey Evans not even being in the thing, and all of 16 competitors it really seemed like this thing was doomed to suck.

It wasn’t anything special to start off with, but once the field cleared a bit and we were down to a few competitors, things got pretty fun. There were many of the battle royal spots we’ve come to expect, and I really liked that they gave both Sonya Deville and Sarah Logan some time to shine because I think they’re both wonderful people, and damn good wrestlers to boot.

Surprisingly, because of the way it went down, I don’t actually have a problem with Asuka not winning. I’d rather it was Sarah Logan than Carmella sure and it seemed they’d already forgotten about that win by the time she showed up later on in the night, but the match itself was a nice little bit of fun on the pre-show, which is really what the pre-show matches should be for.

6 – AJ Styles def. Randy Orton

Well, that was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be.

I don’t have any complaints about this match, it wasn’t anything super exciting, but everything was perfectly solid the whole way through. It was slow enough to cool down the crowd after the excitement of the opening, but not so slow as to be boring, and it was just a really well-rounded match with 15 minutes of perfectly enjoyable wrestling. We even got an RKO kick out, which hasn’t happened in what feels like years.

I think its place on the card has got a lot to do with it. If this match had happened in 6th or 7th hour, then I imagine I would’ve crapped all over it for being boring but as it is, it got a really good spot on the card and made the most of it, so I really don’t have anything to complain about.

I think AJ was the right choice in winner too, granted I don’t think either man is going to be doing anything major right after Mania – they’ll probably both be in Money in the Bank but I doubt either of them will win it –  but AJ has been losing a lot since losing the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan, so this was the best way I can think of for AJ to re-establish himself to hopefully have a solid mini-feud with whoever gets called up on Tuesday evening, which should be fun.

5 – Shane Mcmahon def. The Miz
(Falls Count Anywhere)

How does Shane keep doing this?

Seriously, I don’t understand it, by all rights a singles match involving a 49-year-old Shane Mcmahon at Wrestlemania should be awful, but with the exception of his Undertaker match, they’ve all been rather good year in and year out. This year’s match relied a little more on spectacle than the past couple, but I think that was more to the matches benefit than anything else. It started out a bit plodding, but once business started to pick up, I found myself enjoying it quite a lot.

George Mizanin will forever be a meme that will go down in wrestling history, alongside that little girl who hates The Miz and anytime Brock Lesnar pulls a roided out face. Once that was out of the way though, I actually quite liked the slower, more hard-hitting pace that this match had; it had the same style as Triple H vs Batista, but it felt to me like everything flowed better and the match was never at a standstill while we were waiting for a spot to be set up. On top of that, the actual spots themselves looked much more impressive, the finish is the obvious one, but the spot where Miz smashed Shane in the face and he went sailing over the railing onto the floor below looked so painful and was really satisfying to watch.

Normally I’d be furious that Shane won, but the way the finish played out in this match meant it made total sense. Total, random luck is the only way Shane should ever win a match where he’s not being helped and the fact that Miz did what he did instead of playing it safe is both a brilliant illustration of how this face turn has changed his character (as heel Miz would often tout the merits of how safe his wrestling style was) and added an extra layer of intensity to the feud, since it really felt like Miz was putting hurting Shane in front of winning the match.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but after watching this match, I really hope this feud isn’t over, I want to see more out of this.

4 – The Usos(c) def. Aleister Black & Ricochet, The Bar, Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

The flipside of the 4 way tag matches on this show,  we got a much better one when the men went at it.

Generally, I think this match was structured a lot better than the women’s one, with a feeling out process at the start before we jumped it all descended into total chaos, it gave the match a natural progression, instead of immediately becoming a clusterfuck.

Once things did start to breakdown though, the action was generally just much more entertaining to watch, with everyone getting a chance to shine as chaos reigned. The Bar continues to be one of the best tag teams out there, as they went absolutely mental spinning Ricochet exactly 42 trillion times and Sheamus turning Black’s ribcage to dust. Black & Ricochet got a whole bunch of stuff scattered through the whole match, as one of them was the legal man for very nearly the whole thing, and when everyone was hitting their finishers at the end I was having an absolute blast.

I wouldn’t have chosen The Usos to retain if I were making the decisions, but it’s definitely not a bad choice, The Usos have lowkey been the best tag team in the world for a couple of years now, and letting them have brilliant matches for the titles month after month will be a great way to showcase that fact, so bring it on I say.

3 – Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar(c)
(Universal Championship)

You have no idea how happy I am that I get to type that header because I was so worried.

Despite making Seth my prediction, the closer and closer it got to the show the more convinced I was that Brock was going to retain, so when Heyman came out and declared that Seth vs Brock would be opening show, it was music to my ears.

It was exactly what it needed to be too, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure an extended match would’ve been great, but this got me twice as excited in a quarter the time and I loved it. Everything from the post-match beatdown to the low blow, to the triple Curb Stomp, was booked to absolute perfection, and the only reason it’s not number 1 is because it only lasted 2 minutes.

I would’ve been annoyed that Seth won because of a low blow, but A) It’s Brock Lesnar, he’s taken a low blow in almost every match for the past few years and won anyway, and B) Brock took the first cheap shot by attacking Seth before the bell, so the low blow felt more like karmic justice than Seth cheating.

Hopefully, Brock shows up on Raw, F-5’s everything that moves and then disappears off to get destroyed by Daniel Cormier while Seth puts on match of the year candidates with absolutely everyone while defending that title.

I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to open the show if I tried, and Seth Rollins once again manages to create one my all-time favourite wrestling moments, A freaking plus.

2 – Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey(c), Charlotte Flair(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship)
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Well, that sure was eventful.

People around the internet seem to be having pretty mixed reactions to this match, some say it was a massive disappointment that is the result of awful booking, while others say that it was an enjoyable match that was dragged down by everyone watching being exhausted and a slightly botched finish. I fall into the second camp.

Sure, this match wasn’t quite what it was hyped up to be, but it was still a great match that I had plenty of fun watching. It is worth mentioning the length of the show though, as much as it doesn’t bother me I am admittedly in the minority there as it was clear that the crowd were just too exhausted by hour 7 that there was no way they were ever going to be able to give this the reaction it deserved.

That said, WWE didn’t exactly help them to get excited. If the match had gotten an extra five minutes or so, they could’ve spent some time building up to a big climactic finish, and the crowd would’ve sensed that and reacted to it. Instead, we got a sudden roll-up win that was ever so slightly botched by Rousey making it look like it wasn’t the planned finished (the current report from Meltzer is that it was the planned finish, but Rousey lifted her shoulders when she wasn’t supposed to).

However, focusing on the positives, there was a lot to like in this match. For one thing, it really did have that big fight feel and spectacle that you’d expect from the main event of Wrestlemania, and when they were staring each other down at the start I really could feel the excitement in the air. There was also plenty of great psychology throughout the whole thing, with Becky and Ronda constantly going for the arms of their opponents while Charlotte spent an extended period of time working over Ronda’s leg which was great.

The table spot looked quite brutal if you ask me, and was in fact enhanced by the fact that the table didn’t break as it gave it what felt like a harder impact. Becky and Ronda staring down before the final exchange was a great moment too, and it did genuinely feel like the climax to this almost year-long story.

Would’ve I have liked it to be a bit different? Absolutely, that’s mainly why I’ve dropped it to second, but am I upset by what we got? Not in the slightest, I thought that this was a really good end to one of the better Wrestlemanias of the modern era, that said, it wasn’t the pinnacle of the night…

1 – Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan(c)
(WWE Championship)

Come on, was it ever going to be anything else?

You take a competitor as hungry for success as Kofi, a story that was built organically by the fan’s love for Kofi, a heel champion as hated as Daniel Bryan, and a WWE Champion that does everything he can in the ring to make his opponent look amazing and also happens to be one of the best wrestlers in the world, and this match is exactly what you’d expect the result to look like.

This match took the fundamentals of a WWE world championship match and performed them to perfection. There was a constant back and forth between the two men, and they were constantly speeding up and slowing down the pace of the match as it was necessary for that moment in the story, because the story is exactly what this match was all about.

The idea of Kofi’s struggle was central to this entire performance, with Bryan constantly there to beat Kofi down time and time again just like he had been week after week since Elimination Chamber. That moment when Bryan was stomping on Kofi’s face only for Kofi to do the same thing to Bryan minutes later is perhaps the best way to illustrate this. Every single move in the match seemed to feed back into the story, building the emotional weight constantly until it was all able to come out at the finish.

Speaking of the finish, man what an emotional moment, after watching Kofi overcome every struggle that was thrown his way for his whole life in order to finally reach the pinnacle of his career and watching Big E and Woods be able to celebrate with him was just magical. I’m stealing this quote from many many people online, but this is why we put up with all the shit in WWE because when a story like this comes together in just the right way, it’s something truly unrivalled in terms of emotion and entertainment.

Even if Kofi loses the title on Tuesday it wouldn’t matter, because this is a moment that will forever stand in the history of Wrestlemania, and that’s something very few people will ever achieve.

So that was Wrestlemania 35! Overall I think it was a really enjoyable show, probably my favourite since 31, so I’m feeling very satisfied with all the wrestling over this past weekend indeed. As always thank you very much for taking the time to read an article as long as this one and please share it around on social media if you enjoyed. Follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo for live thoughts of wrestling and check back here every week for new opinions on both gaming and wrestling. I’ll see you soon.