Over time, there have been some WrestleMania matches that almost happened. But for whatever reason, they never did. The Greatest Matches Never, if you will.
Plenty of lists have been compiled throughout the years, detailing the greatest matches in WrestleMania history. Heck, there are even lists containing the worst matches in the show’s history, and yes, TWM has one of those too (clicky click here to read away). Those lists are all well and good, but if you’re familiar with my Accentuate the Positives series, you know that one of my favorite things about pro wrestling, and the aspect I believe makes being a fan so much fun, is playing the “what if” game. You could call it daydreaming, fantasy booking, or delusions of grandeur, but the mystery surrounding the genre we all love is one of the key factors in making it all so appealing. Here is my list of WrestleMania’s greatest matches never.
But this mystery isn’t isolated in future what ifs. Wrestling fans often look back on the past and wonder “what if” certain situations had played out differently. Like, what if Vince had purchased a few bigger name contracts with the purchase of WCW to help fuel the invasion? What if Magnum TA had never been injured? What if WCW had won the war? And so on, and so on. It’s this exercise, of looking back and prognosticating the past (how’s that for an alliterative oxymoron?), coupled with the best of lists that inevitably appear during this time of the year that leads us to today’s topic…
What are the greatest WrestleMania matches that never happened? Believe it or not, I’ve been mulling this list over for a year. In the build-up to WrestleMania 31, I wrote a 6 part series, compiling the “30th Anniversary Card” for WrestleMania for Brian Fritz’s BetweenTheRopes.com. Through the process of researching and creating the series, I noticed that there were plenty of matches that could have been marquee Mania matches (I’m firing on all cylinders with the alliteration today!) that, for whatever reason, were left off the table.
I decided then that this could be a fun article to create, looking at what could have been, and I hope you feel the same way. So, I present to you, WrestleMania’s Top 10 Matches Never. Let’s ease into this with number 10…
10. Chris Jericho vs. Mickey Rourke (WrestleMania XXV)
In late 2008, director/producer Darren Aronofsky released his critical and commercial hit film The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke as an aging pro wrestler named Randy “The Ram” Robinson. The film garnered mainstream attention and caught the eye of wrestling fans everywhere. One of those eyes caught was Vince McMahon, who saw the mainstream publicity the film was receiving and decided to tap into that same source. Trailers for the film and red carpet appearances by the film’s stars were shown on WWE television and it became widely apparent that some kind of deal had been made between Rourke and McMahon.
It started at the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards when Rourke, on the red carpet for the event, told Chris Jericho he “better get in shape” because he was coming after the first ever undisputed champion. Jericho responded on Raw to Rourke’s comments and a war of words was started between the two, including an appearance by both men on Larry King Live, where Jericho stayed in character during the interview.
The internet, both wrestling sites and hollywood sites, anticipated a meeting between the two men. Rourke had trained under Afa Anoa’i of the Wild Samoans and the famed Anoa’i wrestling family, and it was widely assumed that he knew enough and was capable of having a decent match with someone like Jericho, who could wrestle the proverbial broom stick to a 4 star match. Then, the match was made… Chris Jericho would face Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat in a 3 on 1 match while Rourke watched from the front row. Rourke did enter the ring after the match and threw a couple of punches, but the big one on one match between Jericho and Randy “The Ram” never took place.
So, what happened? Well, there are a few different stories about what exactly happened. Jericho said in an interview that Rourke’s agents thought him being scheduled to work Mania would hurt his Oscar chances. Apparently the match was already penciled in but wasn’t to be made official until after the Oscars. Then Rourke called Jericho out at the SAG awards and the agents essentially freaked and pulled the match. Jericho was then penciled in to face Piper, Snuka, and Greg Valentine until Jericho pushed to get Steamboat to replace Valentine in the match (thankfully). Rourke claimed in an interview with The Guardian that his agents thought he should focus on movies since he was supposed to be making his big comeback and that the insurance company that worked with Iron Man 2 said Rourke could not wrestle. Either way, the match didn’t happen, leaving wrestling fans to wonder what could have happened if a professionally trained celebrity had wrestled on the biggest show of the year. But, hey, at least we know how well Snookie can work in the ring…
9. Demolition vs. The Legion of Doom (WrestleMania VII)
The common lore of the creation of Demolition is that they were Vince’s response to the Road Warriors, who had amassed a fan following and championship collection throughout the NWA and AWA. They were big dudes who painted their faces and were known more for their punches and kicks than their finesse in the ring. Despite the claim of being a “knockoff” team, Ax and Smash quickly got over with the fans. The fact that they had an amazing theme by Rick Derringer (the same man who performed Hogan’s Real American theme) may or may not have helped them out a lot in getting over. Oh, and they also held the WWF Tag Team Titles for a record 487 days, no big deal though.
So, when the Road Warriors came into the Federation (re-christened as “The Legion of Doom”) it seemed like a readymade feud between the two face-painted teams was about to be put in motion. Only… it wasn’t, not really anyway. The two teams had a mini-feud in the fall of 1990, culminating in a 6-man-tag featuring Demolition (which by this point had added Crush to the team) taking on LOD and then WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior on the October 13th edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event. The match lasted just shy of 5 minutes and led to a Survivor Series match, featuring the same 6 men, with LOD also joined by The Texas Tornado and Demolition adding Mr. Perfect to the mix. The match was fairly mild and pretty much led to nothing between the two teams.
So, what happened? Well a shellfish allergy and/or a bad back seemingly put a damper on the career of Bill Eadie, AKA Demolition Ax. The company brought in Brian Adams as Crush to take the place of Ax, which definitely hurt the team’s popularity. Adams wasn’t a bad fit really, but changing a popular tag team like this would kill anyone’s momentum (See: Leif Cassidy). The big money was in the original Demolition facing LOD, and it just couldn’t happen. The WWF tried to get what they could out of the program, but it just wasn’t able to stretch it to WrestleMania VII. It was probably best for LOD, who proceeded to run through the division to the Tag Team Championship. Still, the fact that the match never happened is a huge bummer, especially since I always preferred Demolition over LOD… yeah, I’m one of “those” fans.
8. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania 13)
Full disclosure here, my favorite WrestleMania match ever is the Iron Man match between Bret and Shawn at Mania 12. So, it seemed appropriate that the two men would have their epic rematch a year later, since the two never wrestled each other after 12 and Hart never got his rematch. It seemed destined for Hart to face Michaels again, after Shawn won the title back at the 1997 Royal Rumble and Stone Cold cheated to eliminate Hart from the Rumble. It looked as though Hart would get his revenge on Stone Cold at the Final Four In Your House PPV, and then go on to have that epic rematch.
Except, a smile was lost and a title was vacated and a new main event was made for the show, which involved neither man. Bret was transitioned into continuing his feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin in a match that has since cemented its place among the greatest of all time at Mania. Shawn, was at home. The main event, and title match, saw Undertaker notch win number 6 into his streak (which wasn’t really a thing at this point) over defending champion Sycho Sid.
So, what happened? I guess that depends on who you ask. Bret and Shawn were on good terms coming out of their WrestleMania 12 match, with the belief at that point being that they’d face each other again the next year. Bret told Shawn he’d “work the boys” following his Mania loss, acting mad and frustrated over Shawn’s title win, all with the hope of building up a strong program for next year’s show. It’s possible the two worked themselves into a shoot or that they were just too different to get along, but either way legitimate bad blood built between the two. The Hitman claims that Shawn faked the knee injury to avoid dropping the title to Hart at WrestleMania 13. Shawn claims the first doctor he spoke to said he’d never wrestle again, while a second opinion gave Shawn the go ahead to continue, claiming he’d still eventually need a knee replacement, but there wasn’t any reason to stop wrestling. The timing of the injury was just an unfortunate coincidence according to Michaels. Regardless, the match never happened and it added a lot of fuel to the fire to the longstanding, real life rivalry between the two that didn’t get settled until 2010.
7. The Rock vs. Mankind/Mick Foley (WrestleMania 2000)
During the span between Survivor Series 1998 and Mid-February 1999, The Rock and Mick Foley, in his Mankind guise, entered into a very entertaining, and sometimes scary violent, feud for the WWF Title. This was all a matter of “passing the time” until Rock would face Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XV. Fast forward a year later and Austin is out with a severe neck injury, Rock and Mankind have become best friends, and the 16th show of shows was given the “2000” moniker because we as humans just couldn’t deal with the fact that all 4 numbers changed in the year at one time.
So, without its biggest star, the company had to figure out what to do for the main event of WrestleMania. In the summer of 1999, a mysterious “higher power” appeared on television. All the “dirt sheets” pointed towards the mystery man being Mankind, who would be turning heel after having turned face following the events of 98’s Survivor Series. This would make Mankind the top heel in the promotion and allow him the opportunity to challenge for the WWF Title sooner rather than later.
This is where we got our first roadblock leading up to this match that never was. Mick was looking to retire from in-ring competition soon, and allegedly had no desire to be a heel on the way out the door. So, Vince McMahon assumed the role of the higher power in a move that made zero sense for anyone who was foolish enough to look for logic in 1999 WWF storylines.
No problem, though, as Rock and Mick could still main event Mania without either man turning heel. In fact, at the Royal Rumble in 2000, Mick was in a match for the WWF Title against Triple H while Rock seemed to be the odds on favorite for winning that year’s Rumble match. Problem solved. Mick wins the title from Triple H, Rock wins the Rumble, and now the two bitter-enemies-turned-best-friends would have a nice long build to WrestleMania, built upon two men who had the upmost respect for one another who were going to “go there” one more time, refueling their vicious rivalry that concluded just one year prior and Mick would finally get to main event the biggest show of the year.
And it didn’t happen. Mick lost to Trips in the main event and although Rock won the Rumble match, the finish was disputed and he ended up losing his number one contendership at the No Way Out PPV to The Big Show. Also at No Way Out, Mick Foley (as Cactus Jack now) lost a Hell in a Cell match to Triple H, failing to win the title and losing his career per a pre-match stipulation. Through a mess of convoluted confusion, the main event of WrestleMania 2000 was set as the first ever Fatal 4 Way main event where Triple H defended the title against The Big Show, The Rock, and Mick Foley who was back for one night only, just a few weeks after “retiring.” Oh, and there was a McMahon in every corner, which is why most people bought the PPV, I’m sure…
So, what happened? Honestly, I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m not sure why they felt the need to muck up the main event of the show, but they sure did. In fact, most of the entire show was a mess. So, I have no good explanation for why we didn’t get this match, but I sure wish we did. Seeing the two revisit their feud after becoming such good pals on television would’ve been excellent programming. The sad thing is, there was another main event Vince and company could’ve went with here that would’ve also been fun, but they ditched that idea too. But, more on that later on…
6. Dolph Ziggler vs. ANYONE! (WrestleManias 25-32)
The most shocking fact I discovered during my “30th Anniversary Card” article series was that Dolph Ziggler has never been in a one on one match, ever, at WrestleMania. Think about that, a guy that is almost universally accepted as being one of the best bumpers in the business, who always goes above and beyond in the ring, who can always rise to the occasion to steal the show, has never had a one on one match at the biggest show of the year. Follow me, as we take a walk down Mania lane and revisit the sad history of Ziggler at WrestleMania.
His first appearance on the show was WrestleMania 25 where he served as a lumberjack in a dark match that saw The Colons defeat Miz and Morrison to unify the tag titles. The next year, Ziggler was in the final Money in the Bank Ladder Match to be held at Mania, which was won by Jack Swagger. At WrestleMania 27, Ziggler lost a 6 person mixed tag match, featuring the aforementioned Snookie. The next year, Ziggler picked up his first (and thus far ONLY win) at Mania, when The Miz pinned Zack Ryder to give “Team Johnny” the win. Ziggler was lying in the entrance way while his team won. At WrestleMania 29, Ziggler and Big E lost to Team Hell No for the WWE Tag Titles. This match featured the fewest opponents Ziggler had faced at the show. The next year didn’t get any better, as Ziggler lost in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30. And now, last year and this year both, he’s in a multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title. He lost last year, we’ll see how he does this year.
This is ridiculous. There’s absolutely no excuse for Ziggler to seemingly be such an afterthought when it comes to WrestleMania. Any one of those years, Ziggler could’ve been in a regular, one on one match. In fact it wouldn’t be that hard at all this year, to shuffle Kevin Owens and Ziggler out of the IC Ladder match, and replace them with Ryback and Kalisto, and suddenly it’s a US Title Ladder match instead. Or just switch out Ryback and Ziggler and let Ziggler and Kalisto go nuts in Dallas.
So, what happened? This seems to be a problem that’s plagued WWE for years. The “creative” team seems to not have the ability to focus on more than just a few guys at a time. If they’re not in a title picture, they don’t get much attention. Ziggler has been an afterthought for far too long, but all the typing in the world from myself won’t make a singles match happen. That’s sad. Let’s move on.
5. Hulk Hogan vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania X-8)
In my opinion, at this point in time, the two biggest names in the history of wrestling were Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. People will point to The Rock, but Rock never seemed, in my opinion at least, to reach the heights of Stone Cold during his in-ring career. It’s because of this, that I think some serious money was left on the table with this potential match-up.The match-up is self explanatory, really. The two defining names of the two biggest eras in wrestling colliding at the biggest show of the year is a no-brainer.
So, what happened? Politics and money would be my guess. I’m not really sure though. Hogan put Rock over in the match that actually occurred, so it’s not like Hogan was unwilling to lose at Mania. Perhaps Rock was a better salesman than Austin when it came to pitching the match idea? It’s all speculation, but could you imagine how much fun seeing these two square off would’ve been? Hogan’s name comes up a bit during this half of the list, by the way…
4. Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper (WrestleMania I)
These two propelled the WWF into the mainstream during the “Rock and Wrestling” era. They only had one, nationally televised, one on one match, which aired on MTV as part of the War to Settle the Score which was itself the launching pad for WrestleMania. Many could argue that without Piper to be the “bad guy” Hogan wouldn’t have been quite the babyface character he was. This makes sense, really, as this argument doesn’t say Hogan wouldn’t be a household name without Piper, but that he wouldn’t have been the same babyface. Piper allowed viewers to see the polar opposite of their red and yellow hero and gave Hogan someone to play off of who could more than hold his own against the ultimate good guy.
Main eventing the first Mania with a tag team match is a bit of a downer, even if it did contain WWE’s first wrestling celebrity (which in and of itself helped separate Mania from all other “supercards”). The real meat was in Hogan vs. Piper, two dynamic personalities who seemed born to be paired against each other. The two could really play off one another nicely, and Piper had the masterful heel art of being able to talk himself atop a mountain without ever leaving his feet. In other words, Hogan could send Piper running to the back and Piper could sell it on the mic like he’d ran Hogan off instead. The 80’s crowd was the perfect audience for a Hogan vs. Piper collision.
So, what happened? Politics. During his entire first run in the WWF, from 1984 through 1996, Roddy Piper only lost clean one time, at WrestleMania VIII, to Bret Hart. Piper had no intention of losing a high profile match of this caliber. Piper mentioned in his autobiography that he didn’t want his stock to drop, in the event that he might go elsewhere from the WWF at some point. He wouldn’t lose clean to Hogan at the first Mania. On the flip side, Hogan wasn’t losing period, both because Hogan wasn’t much on losing in his career and it didn’t make much sense to have the babyface lose on the biggest show ever. So, a compromise was made. A tag match was set, where Hogan could face Piper and get a pinfall victory (over Paul Orndorff) without Piper taking a loss. Plus, it opened the door for a celebrity (Mr. T) to be in the mix, which made everyone involved happy… or at least satisfied.
3. The Rock vs. Triple H (WrestleMania 2000)
WrestleMania 2000 rears its ugly head again. The Fatal 4 Way was probably one of the biggest “meh” main events in the show’s history. It’s interesting to look back on the history between Triple H and The Rock, which started when the two were midcarders leading DX and The Nation of Domination respectively and continued on until the men were feuding over the WWE Championship. The two had one of the best rivalries of all time and many excellent matches, but not one of them took place at WrestleMania.
Having this match highlight WrestleMania in the year 2000 would have been the perfect timing. With Stone Cold on the shelf for much of the year, Triple H and Rock were the two top guys in the company. It only makes sense to have the two square off at Mania. The history between them, the bad blood that had grown, and heck, Triple H had just retired Rock’s good buddy Mick Foley. It didn’t just make good business sense, it was personal!
So, what happened? As I said with the Rock/Foley missed opportunity, I have no idea. It’s kinda weird to see that there wasn’t just one, but two alternatives to the main event we got, but we still got stuck with a mess of a 4 way. Honestly, a triple threat between Rock, Foley, and Triple H would’ve made more sense than a 4 way. I guess they either just really wanted Big Show in the main event or were dead set in having a McMahon in every corner. I bet I know which theory is correct.
2. Undertaker vs. Sting (WrestleManias 24-31)
With Sting’s retirement confirmed, this match is officially in the “never will” category. There was never one specific WrestleMania where this match would’ve been nailed down to, so this match could’ve technically happened during any WrestleMania, but I narrowed it to 24-31. This was the time when the “talk” of the potential showdown was significant among fans.
In a perfect world, this match would’ve happened sooner rather than later on the list, so that both guys would be in better shape to really go all out. I don’t think I have to say much about how great this match-up would’ve been. These two men were the cornerstones of their respective companies during the Monday Night War. They both had become larger than life characters who represented a generation of pro wrestling that featured a metamorphic change from cartoon to edgey, and they changed right along as well.
So, what happened? Well, obviously prior to the purchase of WCW, the match was a virtual impossibility. Afterwards, it appeared as if Sting was done with wrestling until he signed with TNA in 2006. It was Sting’s loyalty to TNA that played perhaps the biggest role in this match not taking place. Sting had a young crop of wrestlers to work with and didn’t hesitate to help put them over. It’s also possible that WWE never offered Sting a deal that was competitive enough with TNA’s deal. Not only did TNA pay good money to keep Sting under contract but they had a pretty easy schedule to work as well. WWE was probably not willing to match or exceed the deal for someone at the age of Sting. It sucks, but it makes sense. Sting and Taker never had their WrestleMania match because of simple logistics. And now Sting has retired, so it’ll never happen.
1. Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair (WrestleMania VIII)
This is the only match on this list that was actually announced on WWE television, complete with its own graphic, only to be changed in the lead up to the show. In 1991, WWF was handed the NWA World Champion and the biggest match in wrestling to date on a silver platter… and they royally screwed it up. They did the same thing 10 years later when they were handed the entire WCW promotion, but I digress. Ric Flair came into the Federation with the big gold belt in tow, calling himself the “real world’s champion” in the world that Hogan ruled. It was basically a foolproof way to lead to a WrestleMania match between Hogan and Flair.
And that’s exactly what was announced. Following Ric Flair’s WWF Title win in the 1992 Royal Rumble match, president Jack Tunney declared Hulk Hogan the number one contender to Flair’s title. The main event of WrestleMania VIII was the highly anticipated Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair. So, on April 5, 1992, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ric Flair defended his title against… Randy Savage. Hogan main evented the show, but it was against Sid Justice.
So, what happened? From everything I’ve gathered, no one could agree on a finish. Hogan and Flair main evented several house shows, all of which had wonky non-finishes. I watched one of these matches from MSG on the old WWE 24/7 service several years back and there’s no way the finish to that match could be a Mania main event finish. What’s odd is that they were able to get far enough along in the process to announcing the match on television only to change it later. I’m not sure who pumped the breaks on the whole thing, but they were indeed pumped, leaving us all to set and wonder how WWF managed to screw it up. It’s especially crazy when you consider that WCW managed to pull this match off just a few of weeks into Hogan’s run there.
So, there you have it folks. There’s the missed opportunities, blown angles, and bad timing that come together in an almost poetic way to form the greatest matches that never happened at WrestleMania. So, as you watch Mania this year, feel free to reminisce about this article and ask yourself, “what matches could have been at this year’s Mania?” other than a one-on-one match for Dolph Ziggler, of course.