Defending champions Corinthians and Fluminense both fielded reserve teams as they clashed in front of a modest 15,000 crowd at the Pacaembu in Sao Paulo, with Leandro Eusebio giving "Flu" a 1-0 win.
South American champions Santos also sent a reserve side to Bahia, drawing 0-0, while Vasco da Gama hosted Gremio with a "mixed" team of regulars and reserves but still managed a 2-1 win.
Corinthians, Fluminense, Santos and Vasco have all reached the quarter-finals of the South American Libertadores Cup and face second leg ties this week.
Corinthians and Vasco meet each other, while Fluminense and Santos host Argentine pair Boca Juniors and Velez Sarsfield respectively, both facing 1-0 deficits from the first leg.
A further problem was that the championship kicked off only one week after the end of the country's various season-opening state championships, meaning that the teams and supporters barely had time for a breather.
Only around 8,000 fans saw Botafogo beat Sao Paulo 4-2 in Rio de Janeiro with all the goals coming in the second half including a hat-trick by Botafogo substitute German Herrera.
The game turned on an astonishing save by Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson from Luis Fabiano when Sao Paulo were 2-1 ahead.
There were even smaller crowds at Ponte Preta, where Atletico Mineiro made off with a 1-0 win, and Figueirense, who warmed up for the championship by sacking coach Branco last Monday, kicked off with a 2-1 win over promoted Nautico.
Former South Africa coach Santana retorted: "You all saw what happened. I'm not going to say anything except that sentiment and commitment were lacking."
Palmeiras, led by former Portugal and Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, also drew 1-1, at home to Portuguesa.