Welcome to the third edition of the Professional 3 here on 411mania.com! I'm Jon Harder and trust me when I say; I've truly enjoyed putting together the first few columns thus far. After viewing the comments, I've seen that I've invoked more positive than outright negative feedback and that, as a columnist, means a lot to me. Keep on bringing the positive vibes to the P3, as I hope my unique views inspire you to think outside the box.
Sadly this week, the wrestling business lost one of its greatest ambassadors in William Moody, better known as Paul Bearer. As a wrestling manager to Leon St. Giovanni
on the independent circuit, Paul Bearer's work has been an influence, especially to guys like me. The greatest footnote to Paul Bearer's career, besides thriving in World Class as Percy Pringle the 3rd in the 1980s, was the amazing ability that poured out of him. Most importantly, Paul Bearer proved that he was the greatest fan favorite manager in the history of the wrestling business, even more so than Arnold Skaaland in the 1970s and early 1980s. His influence will be greatly missed.
On a positive note, this week on the Hardway Podcast
, I interviewed DJ Hyde
, owner of CZW. If you want to hear someone go on a great rant on how much passion one man has for his product, then this is the listen for you. Also, I announced that at WrestleCon, former WWE developmental talent and 1/2 of the NYWC Tag Team champions Bill Carr will be at the Hardway Podcast table on April 6 to do a live interview with myself and Good News Hughes
. It definitely will be a fun time, especially with WrestleMania weekend looming overhead the tri-state area.
WrestleMania is definitely the inspiration behind this week's Professional 3. Over the past 29 years, this one particular event has overtaken the majority of the combatants' aspirations in the game. Almost every single person in this sport wants their "WrestleMania moment" on that grandest stage. Everyone dreams of slamming Andre the Giant in front of 93000 fans or dropping their finishing maneuver to win the World championship or even ending the Undertaker's streak. WrestleMania is a life long's ambition. To make it to WrestleMania is a wrestler's dream. But, when it comes to the card itself, you have to place the pieces in the right places to make the perfect show. Whether it's a booking committee or a booker in general, the Showcase of the Immortals needs to be PITCH PERFECT in its delivery. If not, then, in a lot of fans' minds, it will be a flop. It's all about match placement. And that is where's the Professional 3 comes into play. My column this week is based around the best opening matches in WrestleMania history. The opener truly jumpstarts the show. Some people might not understand the concept of how important an opener is. If the first match kills the crowd, it will be take a Hell of a lot to build them back up again, If you have a hot crowd and a hell of an opener, then the audience will have become emotionally invested into the show instead of zoning out and calming down off the emotional frenzy of the awesome National Anthem and video package. The opening match means everything to a major event. With that said, here is this week's column...
THE PROFESSIONAL 3: The Top WrestleMania Opening Contests
#1 - The Rockers vs Haku and the Barbarian at WrestleMania 7
WrestleMania 7 is primarily known for 3 things: The start of the Undertaker's streak by defeating "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, the Ultimate Warrior ending the career of Macho King Randy Savage, and Hulk Hogan winning the WWF championship for a third time, defeating Sgt. Slaughter. However, this opening tag team contest told a fantastic story to fire up the insanely hot crowd in Los Angeles. Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty showed why they were tag team specialists with excellent double team maneuvers, yet the two representatives of the Heenan Family held their own with power moves and vast experience. The combined love of the pretty boy Rockers and the immense hatred of Bobby "the Brain" Heenan made this an easy opening contest for the Stars and Stripes WrestleMania and quite possibly, the best tag team opener in WrestleMania history.
#2 - Money in the Bank - WrestleMania 23
With WrestleMania making its return to Detroit, 20 years after Hogan/Andre in the Pontiac Silverdome, Ford Field knew they were going to get an amazing show with the WWE "All Grown Up". They got it in the 3rd Annual Money in the Bank ladder match. Established in 2005 at WrestleMania 21, the Money in the Bank stole the show at both WrestleManias prior. However, with the 2007 installment, you can arguably say that this one match was LOADED with star-power. Combined with the interweaving stories going into WrestleMania 23, this match had show-stealer written all over it. And indeed, show-stealing it was. Edge, who was the annoying pest going into the match, by browbeating EVERYBODY, ultimately got his comeuppance by Jeff Hardy, who was doing interviews prior to the show stating that he wanted to make an impact. Finlay, who was afraid to heights, utilized his leprechaun (later son) Hornswoggle to climb for him. King Booker sacrificed his possible championship dreams for his Queen, who was used for bait to possibly be nailed with a Twist of Fate by Matt Hardy. Randy Orton was still a few months off from finding his niche as a sadistic head-punting maniac. Finally, CM Punk, a scrappy underdog from ECW, and Mr. Kennedy, who was far and away "the Fastest Rising Star on Smackdown" fought it out in the end to determine who would be a guaranteed World championship match. Bottom line, this match had a little bit of everything and most importantly, was one of the most phenomenal openers in WrestleMania history.
#3 - Bret Hart vs Owen Hart - WrestleMania 10
Should I say more? It was the 10th WrestleMania. It was held in Madison Square Garden, the place where WrestleMania began. Bret Hart, who later in the night would go on to win the WWF championship from Yokozuna, wrestled his baby brother, Owen in the opening contest, due to losing the coin-flip on Raw, which was caused by the duel-victory from the 1994 Royal Rumble with Lex Luger. Owen, who turned his back on Bret after months of pent-up jealousy, needed a spark to make his name as synonymous with his older brother. WrestleMania 10 was a special moment of time and place for both brothers as they put on a wrestling clinic in the first match on the card. A dazzling display of holds and counter holds were on the marquee between these two products of Stu Hart's Dungeon. Folks, a boatload of wrestling fans state that this particular contest is the greatest opener in WrestleMania history. This is one match that can be a considered a MUST-SEE viewing for any fan that loves this industry.
HONORABLE MENTION: The WrestleMania 4 Battle Royal
I had to add this. Any match that adds Sam Houston, Dangerous Danny Davis, the Bolsheviks, and Hillbilly Jim gets an automatic view on my part. The WrestleMania 4 Battle Royal, in which the winner would receive a HUGE trophy, opened up the show in Atlantic City. A fun viewing for all different types of wrestling fans alike. NOTE: This was the match that actually turned Bret Hart into a popular athlete on the mainstream scene. Bottom line, an enjoyable contest to kick off the LONG WrestleMania 4 WWF Championship tournament.
The opening match sets the pace for a big event. WrestleMania is the most viewed wrestling pay-per-view of the year. If you can make an impact on the first match of a wrestling extravaganza, then you can make it anywhere in wrestling. I can't wait for WrestleMania in MetLife Stadium this year. More importantly, I'm stoked to see what match kicks things off. It could really set the pace for the most important show in wrestling history.
Jon Harder firstname.lastname@example.org @TheJonHarder