With WrestleMania XXIX quickly approaching, WWE fans everywhere are eagerly anticipating the Super Bowl of wrestling. It makes sense that a lot of the focus is on the main-event matches as they are what ultimately drive interest, but the start of the card can often be just as important as the end of it.
WrestleMania's main card is set to start at 7 p.m. ET from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Other WWE pay-per-views begin at 8 p.m. ET, but due to the immense importance of WrestleMania, the WWE goes for an extra hour. If you add in the one-hour pre-show prior to the event, fans will be able to catch five hours of wrestling on April 7.
With that in mind, the WWE really needs to set the tone early in order to ensure that WrestleMania XXIX is a success. Here are the three matches capable of carrying the load and batting in the leadoff spot at WrestleMania.
3. Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston
On the surface, it seems as though the Tag Team Championship match between Team Hell No and Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston is thrown together, but it has the potential to be a highly entertaining bout.
Daniel Bryan and Ziggler are guys who have led off many cards in the past, so they know what it takes to warm up the crowd. They will have to share the stage with Kane and Langston, who will slow down the pace of the match a bit, but they bring a different dimension as well.
Bryan actually opened last year's WrestleMania by defending his World Heavyweight Championship against Sheamus. As most probably remember, Bryan lost his concentration early in the match, ate a Brogue Kick and lost the title in 18 seconds. Despite the fact that the match barely even happened, it actually succeeded in getting the crowd excited because it was so sudden and unexpected.
The odds of something similar happening this year aren't good, but Bryan is the type of guy who knows how to push the fans' buttons and get them to be loud. There are also a lot of possibilities when it comes to this match in the form of a title change, Team Hell No breaking up or even Ziggler and Langston parting ways.
Team Hell No vs. Ziggler and Langston is definitely on the shortlist in terms of openers.
2. Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
Fans have been waiting for Fandango to make his in-ring debut for weeks and even months, so it would be quite fitting to open WrestleMania XXIX with Fandango's match against Chris Jericho.
Fandango may not be the greatest in-ring worker in the company or a main-event guy, but there is a certain level of intrigue attached to him right now. A lot of fans have never even seen him wrestle as Johnny Curtis, so Fandango is going to draw some attention.
In addition, Jericho is still among the best technical wrestlers in the business, so he is precisely the type of guy who is made to open a big card. Jericho has been more of a main-event performer over the years, but when he first started wrestling for WCW, he often wrestled in the first match of pay-per-views and stole the show. Y2J hasn't been used very well since returning, so it is a given that he will do everything in his power to impress at WrestleMania.
There is no wrong or right way to book the card when it comes to the opening match, but Jericho and Fandango figure to engage in a singles match that lasts at least 10 minutes. If the action is fast, furious and entertaining, the fans will be engaged from the onset and the likelihood of them responding to the following matches increases. That may be the best way to utilize a guy like Jericho at this juncture.
1. Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
Over the past couple of years it has become commonplace for the WWE to lead off WrestleMania with the World Heavyweight Championship match. Edge defeated Alberto Del Rio in the opener two years ago and Sheamus took out Daniel Bryan last year.
If the WWE intends to make it a tradition of sorts, then Del Rio and Jack Swagger could very well kick things off at WrestleMania XXIX. Not only would it ensure the stakes will be high from the start, but it also should be a well-wrestled matchup.
The Del Rio vs. Swagger feud has actually been built more thoroughly than any of the others on the card. Once Swagger won the Elimination Chamber match to become No. 1 contender, he immediately began a rivalry with the world champion. The angle is based on Swagger and Zeb Colter wanting to rid the United States of foreigners such as Del Rio, and while the feud has been hit or miss at times, at least the WWE is committed to it.
Arguably the best part about Del Rio vs. Swagger is the unpredictability involved. Del Rio is probably the favorite, but his title reign has gotten a bit stale, so Swagger could conceivably win. Also, Dolph Ziggler is still in possession of the Money in the Bank briefcase, which means he is a threat to cash in.
With so many moving parts to hold the fans' interest, Del Rio vs. Swagger is the ideal WrestleMania XXIX opener.