With WrestleKingdom 13 in the books and the fantastic match that kicked off that show, I got to thinking about my favorite PPV opening matches over the last 35 years or so. I eventually narrowed it down to 25, and in a fairly agonizing process, managed to pick my favorites. Like a killer opening song on an album, a great opening match can instantly grab your attention and set the tone for the rest of the evening. It gets the live crowd excited, which in turn lends more energy to the rest of the PPV. The quality of the opening bout can leave almost as big an impression as that of the main event; if a show starts well and ends well you tend to remember it as a damn fine show (I do anyway), even if the stuff in the middle isn't so hot. At the very least a great opening match makes me want to watch the show a second time. Most PPVs tend to feature shorter bouts to kick things off, but every so often the first match either steals the show outright or comes pretty damn close. Here are ten such examples.....
10. AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon - WrestleMania 33
The main card of the 2017 edition of WrestleMania kicked off with a match I wasn't at all happy about. AJ Styles, by far the most accomplished star in the company over the previous 14 months, was saddled fighting Vince's son instead of tearing it up with someone of his caliber. But I'll be damned if it wasn't incredibly entertaining. AJ was amazing as usual, and Shane had his working shoes on just trying to keep up. Many of the spots were over-the-top, including Shane countering AJ's 450 splash into a triangle choke, Shane missing a Shooting Star Press, AJ trying the Van Terminator but running into a trash can, and Shane doing his own Van Terminator. AJ finally took the win after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, capping off what was shockingly the best match of the night. This match proved that AJ Styles could have a good match with anyone, and also earned AJ the company's permanent stamp of approval.
9. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler - Bragging Rights 2010
Probably D-Bryan's first true standout match in WWE was this sleeper hit to kick off the second and final Bragging Rights PPV. By far the best match on the show, this US Champ vs. IC Champ bout allowed Bryan to show off his technical prowess against an opponent who could hang with him move-for-move. This see-saw match went a thrilling 16 minutes, including a false finish where Ziggler seemed to have won the match but Bryan's foot was on the rope, before Bryan tapped Ziggler out with the LeBell Lock. The pair followed it up with an equally good rematch the next night on RAW. At year's end, WWE cited this as one of the best matches of 2010, ranking it second (I believe) only to Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. This was the first instance of the company openly showing appreciation for Bryan's abilities.
8. Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Thunder Liger - SuperBrawl II
The second SuperBrawl PPV, the best in the series, had the show stolen by this groundbreaking opening contest for the newly minted WCW Light Heavyweight Title. This 17-minute bout was full of great false finishes and big high spots, demonstrating this wonderful alternative to the norm known as cruiserweight wrestling and showcasing a style of wrestling North American fans weren't yet accustomed to. Pillman won with a bridging leg cradle after Liger missed a top-rope splash, regaining the short-lived championship. While Jr.-style wrestling wouldn't catch on for a few more years, this match served as one of the templates.