WrestleMania has been littered with incredible matches and dream encounters since it was born in 1985. The stars have often aligned to bring together the biggest stars in wrestling at the perfect time.
But on a number of occasions, we have seen a number of near misses in terms of matches that could have been. Be it ego, booking or contracts, sometimes the matches that were expected to go down at ‘The Show Of Shows’ just didn’t quite make it over the finish line.
Josh Chapman looks at ten of the most famous examples and the stories behind what stopped them getting into the ring.
Which of these do you wish we had seen on the biggest stage? Which are you happy were consigned to the WrestleMania dustbin. Let us know on Twitter at @HO_Wrestling.
The Honky Tonk Man vs. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage – WrestleManiaIV
The ‘Macho Man’ would leave the fourth edition of the annual extravaganza as the newly crowned WWF Champion, but apparently that was not the original plan.
Honky Tonk Man, in the prime of his career and run as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, was scheduled to drop the gold to Randy Savage.
The story then goes that Honky refused to drop the title to Savage and as a result, Vince McMahon changed his original plans to put the top strap onto Ted DiBiase and instead make Randy the new face of the then WWF.
Ultimately, the Honky Tonk Man would see his historic 454-day reign ended in just 31 seconds by the Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam later that same year.
In a shoot interview years later, Honky claimed that to this day he has never been forgiven by DiBiase for the role he played in denying the Million Dollar Man his alleged run as World Champion.
Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania VIII
It appeared that the stars had aligned as a bitter contract dispute saw Ric Flair head north and put the two biggest names in the business under the same roof at the same time.
Hogan had ruled the WWF in the 1980’s, and Flair likewise in WCW, so once Vince McMahon had Flair working under his banner the dream match seemed inevitable.
Nature Boy would win the WWE Championship after outlasting 29 other men in a ’60 minute man’ performance in the 1992 Royal Rumble match and right away, Hogan was the obvious choice to challenge him at WrestleMania.
However, with live show attendances at an all-time low, Vince would book Hogan and Flair as the non-televised main events on the house show circuit and with attendances not improving, he would ultimately pull the plug on the dream match.
Flair would instead face Randy Savage whilst Hulkamania would run wild against, erm, Sid Justice.
Thankfully, WCW didn’t pass up on the opportunity when presented to them two years later at the 1994 edition of Bash At The Beach. What could have been though.
Razor Ramon vs. Goldust – WrestleManiaXII
The Bad Guy and the Bizarre One were feuding for the Intercontinental Championship heading into WrestleMania XII.
Goldust defeated Razon Ramon at that year’s Royal Rumble to win the strap and they were on a collision course for a rematch for the company’s workhorse title in a Miami Street Fight that would be beamed back to the Arrowhead Pond.
Scott Hall however would give notice on his impending jump to WCW that summer and the planned rematch for WrestleMania was cancelled after Ramon was coincidentally suspended for 30 days over a failed drugs test just prior to the show of shows.
The result of the fallout would see Goldust instead face ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper in the original cinematic match, a Hollywood Backlot Brawl filmed in the backlot of Universal Studios.
A 16-minute instant classic between them would take place with Goldust finishing the match defeated and stripped down to just women’s lingerie whilst Hall would jump ship, become an Outsider, and a founding member of the New World Order.
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart – WrestleMania XIII
We all remember the iconic images of their original encounter the year previous.
Shawn Michaels sailing down from the rafters, the iconic sixty-minute Iron-Man match, and the boyhood dream coming true after Sweet Chin Music in sudden death overtime.
It was the obvious choice to give us the second instalment of the all-time classic between the two biggest stars in the company the following year.
However, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Heartbreak Kid’s demons were starting to take hold as he struggled to captain the faltering ship as more of Vince’s biggest stars headed south for the guaranteed contracts of Ted Turner, Eric Bischoff, and World Championship Wrestling.
This led to backstage politics between Shawn and Bret causing off-screen rivalries, punch ups, and eventually Michaels surrendering the title as a result of “losing his smile” and taking time off to nurse a knee injury with rumours rife he refused to put the Hitman over.
Hart would instead defeat ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin a submission match, one of the all-time classic ‘Mania matches, that strapped the rocket to Austin’s back and after accusations of Bret enjoying some “sunny days” by the returning Shawn that summer, they would eventually clash in late 1997 at the Survivor Series in Montreal.
If memory serves us right, that one went off without a hitch…
Kurt Angle vs. Sting – WrestleManiaX-8
According to former WWE writer Dave Lagana, this dream match was considered a guarantee by WWE officials and plans were in place for the storyline to be built-up and booked for Toronto.
The franchise player of WCW was understandably concerned with how he would be treated after seeing the booking of the likes of Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page after jumping ship during Vince’s 2001 buyout of his biggest rival.
And it was completely understandable why Sting felt like this, after all on the same card he was scheduled to face Angle, Booker T lost to Edge in a rivalry over a Japanese shampoo commercial and DDP was seen briefly in a throw away European Championship match with Christian.
And that wasn’t a good thing.
Stinger’s decision to stay sidelined and sit out the remainder of his guaranteed TimeWarner contract would see Kurt instead find himself on the mid-card in a singles match against Kane.
We would finally get to see Sting in a WrestleMania match in 2015, where he would be the last in a long line of WCW legends to feel the full force of Triple H’s golden shovel.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania X-8
Another originally planned match for the Skydome that never happened was the two biggest stars ever created by Vince McMahon until that point finally finding themselves in the same ring together.
Austin has been open and honest in the years that followed he was never as big on the match happening as Hogan was, fearing the two styles would clash in a big way.
Other reports have claimed that ‘Stone Cold’ was against Hulkamania returning to the WWE altogether with the stories of his backstage politicking in now defunct WCW making their way across the divide.
Speaking on Jim Ross’s podcast in 2014, the Texas Rattlesnake said:
“I guarantee you, if my head had been at a little different place, then by all rights, a [match] should have happened.
“Physically and mentally where I was at, I could go. I think Hogan probably would have been a step or two behind that.
“That wasn’t acceptable to me, and I didn’t want to slow myself down. I say that with all due respect to Hulk Hogan because he had a hellacious run. That was my thought process back in the day. I didn’t think we could deliver.”
When WrestleMania did finally roll around that year, Hogan would steal the show in the Legend vs Icon match with The Rock whilst Austin would make light work of Hollywood’s NWO partner Scott Hall.
In fact, the only time these two would end up in a ring together would be in the build-up to WMX-8 when long-time rivals ‘Stone Cold’ and The Rock teamed up to face the NWO in a 3-on-2 handicap match on Raw.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 22
A WrestleMania dream match that was snatched away from us in the cruellest of circumstances.
Eddie Guerrero was in the midst of one of the hottest streaks of his career. A heel turn, a near year long rivalry with Rey Mysterio, and pencilled into captain SmackDown to victory at the Survivor Series before dethroning Batista as the World Heavyweight Champion.
This would then see Eddie go on and rule the blue brand whilst Shawn Michaels would win the 2006 Royal Rumble (sorry, Rey) and challenge Latino Heat on the grandest stage of them all in a battle between two recovered addicts who had found god and rebuilt their lives and careers. Mirror imagery at its absolute finest.
However, this guaranteed 5 star classic would never happen as a result of the tragic loss of Eddie on the 13th November 2005 through acute heart failure which instead would lead us to Rey Mysterio and one of the greatest underdog stories ever told by WWE.
It wasn’t all bad though for HBK, he would instead put on a brutal street fight with Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself in Chicago before re-uniting DX with Triple H that summer. The less said about Backlash and ‘God’ the better.
The Undertaker vs. Drew McIntyre – WrestleMania 26
Returning to the main roster after a spell in development, Drew McIntyre was immediately thrust into the spotlight as Mr McMahon’s ‘Chosen One’ on SmackDown.
The next step in his planned mega push under the boss’s watchful eye was a singles match with the greatest performer in WrestleMania history in Phoenix.
Instead, a retiring Shawn Michaels would throw a spanner into the works as he would bow out with defeat to The Deadman in one of the, if not the, greatest main events in WrestleMania history.
Drew would instead enter the Money In The Bank ladder match as both the match favourite and Intercontinental Champion.
But in a booking catastrophe, he would be left to look up from the mat as Jack Swagger stunned the world by taking the briefcase.
McIntyre revealed in a series of interviews last year that by his own admission he wasn’t ready for such a high-profile match so early on in his career.
He would eventually get to be in the ring with Undertaker as a part of a tag match at 2019 Extreme Rules which would also feature Roman Reigns and Shane McMahon, but only after his well-documented road to redemption and his rebirth as a true superstar in WWE.
CM Punk vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 30
This is the one planned ‘Mania match that never happened which I’m sure we can all agree we’re low key happy not to have seen for positive reasons.
The ‘Miracle on Bourbon Street’ with Daniel Bryan gave us brief respite from the Authority and showed that occasionally, WWE does listen to the fans.
CM Punk was growing more frustrated with the company and their over reliance on part-time performers such as Brock Lesnar and Batista.
The ‘Summer of Punk’ would led us into an initial rivalry between the two, which for some reason would have Kevin Nash, R-Truth, and The Miz thrown in, before Punk himself would capture the big one once again at Survivor Series and go on a 434 day title run which would end at the hands of a part-time performer in The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble.
The next twelve months would see the self-proclaimed ‘Best In The World’ fed to The Undertaker, take a sabbatical, feud with Paul Heyman, and eventually walk out on the company prior to the Raw after the 2014 Royal Rumble, never to be seen again in a WWE ring.
Meanwhile, “Vince’s Dofus son-in-law” (Pipebomb!) would go on and revolutionise the company as NXT grew into the phenomenon we all know and love today.
Roman Reigns vs. Goldberg – WrestleMania 36
Can you believe it is just little over twelve months ago since COVID-19 turned the world as we know it upside down? Because let’s be honest, it feels a lot longer.
With WrestleMania moved behind closed doors at the Performance Centre as a result of the pandemic, last minute changes to accommodate the revamped show were being forced upon creative at every turn.
One of those changes saw Roman Reigns forced to isolate to protect himself after his leukaemia battle of 2018 saw his immune system weakened, thus taking him out of his planned Universal Championship match against Goldberg.
The storyline had already begun between the two prior to the empty arena era and it seemed the two masters of the spear were on a collision course at Raymond James Stadium, the originally planned WrestleMania venue.
It was also no secret prior to the outbreak that Reigns was unhappy that it would be the powerhouse he was scheduled to dethrone and not The Fiend, but this was surely not the change or improvement wanted by any party.
Let me be brutally honest, the only real winner of this entire situation was Braun Strowman – and only even marginally for him.