Wrestling might differ from other forms of entertainment in a lot of ways, but one thing that it has in common with every other medium is spoilers. Whether it be publications like the Wrestling Observer Newsletter or the multitude of websites, Reddit threads or YouTube videos these days, the secrecy of wrestling has constantly been under threat. Whilst this sometimes leads to huge surprises being given away early, it can also lead to plans being revealed before they are set in stone. As a result, sometimes wrestling fans are expecting a big match to happen, only for it to fade into the ether and never be heard from again. Wrestling history is filled with “dream matches” that were planned, but never happened, – Flair vs Hogan at WrestleMania VIII, Lesnar vs Austin on Raw in 2002 etc. – but sometimes plans get made for matches so ridiculous that some fans might have been happy that they got left on the shelf.
Whether it be disastrous title changes, shocking returns or big celebrity involvements, the following 15 matches don’t all sound bad on paper, but they sure as hell are surprising. Let’s take a look, shall we?
15 CM Punk Vs Kevin Nash – Night Of Champions 2011
Oh, The Summer of Punk. What could have been.
At SummerSlam 2011, CM Punk defeated John Cena to unify his and Cena’s WWE Championships, becoming the undisputed top dog in the company. This was off the back of Punk’s huge title win at Money in the Bank, after which he supposedly “left” the WWE, taking the title with him. The angle was hot, the wrestler was over and the fans ate it up like crazy. And then Kevin Nash arrived. Lumbering through the crowd looking one of those tree monsters from Lord of the Rings (only a lot less terrifying), Nash got in the ring, powerbombed Punk and allowed Alberto Del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, ending Punk’s unified reign almost as soon as it had begun. Fantastic.
I won’t go into too much detail as to why Nash got involved in this match (I don’t think I fully understand it, to be honest), but all you need to know is that, on the next Pay-Per-View, Night of Champions, Punk and Nash were actually advertised to go one on one in a grudge match. Punk, one of the hottest young stars in the WWE at the time, was scheduled to face Kevin Nash, a 52-year-old man with a history of injury issues. I must be asleep, because that’s one hell of a dream match! Oh, wait, I meant nightmare. My bad. Rather unsurprisingly, Nash was pulled from this match (probably due to injuries) and replaced by Triple H, who had a pretty decent no-DQ match with Punk at the event. Had Punk gone onto fight Nash at the PPV, I can only imagine how disastrous the result would have been and that it would have only made The Straight Edge Superstar even more angry with WWE that he already was. If that was actually possible.
14 Dean Ambrose vs Mick Foley – SummerSlam 2012
Two crazy people who give names to inanimate objects and use the same finisher. Makes sense to me.
In November 2012, The Shield debuted on WWE TV in a huge way. The trio of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns changed the landscape of WWE forever when they interrupted a WWE Championship match at Survivor Series, establishing themselves as major players in the company. Fast forward a few years and all three men are former world champions and are among some of the top stars in the company. However, perhaps things might have gone a little different had this match been allowed to take place.
Before he was put together with Rollins and Reigns, Dean Ambrose was engaged in a pretty bitter online feud with WWE Hall of Famer and Santa Claus enthusiast, Mick Foley. The two traded verbal barbs over the internet and Ambrose even got in Foley’s face at the WrestleMania XXVIII Axxess event, blaming him for introducing a generation of wrestlers to the world of dangerous, hardcore-based wrestling. I mean, come on Dean, they tell you not to try it at home before every single show. What more do you want? Despite the significant build-up, this match was not meant to be, as Foley was informed that, due to a backlog of previous injuries, he could never safely wrestle again. The plans were scrapped and Ambrose would instead debut later that year in a much, much more grandiose style. So, I guess it’s a good thing that Mick Foley hurt himself so badly he could never wrestle again. Well, unless you’re Mick Foley, I guess.
13 Vince McMahon vs Mick Foley – WrestleMania X-Seven
More Foley action now, only this time against someone completely different from Dean Ambrose.
During late 2000 and early 2001, Vince McMahon went through a little bit of a crazy phase. By crazy phase, I mean that he put his wife, Linda, in a medically induced coma, having an affair with Trish Stratus and making her bark like a dog on all-fours on live TV. Vince McMahon does not think in the same way as normal human beings. Vince’s action caught the attention of his son, Shane, who battled his father in a Street Fight at WrestleMania X-Seven in an attempt to beat some sense into his dear old dad. Beat him he did and he did so in one of the most unexpectedly-brilliant matches in WWE history. Seriously, Vince McMahon is one of the most consistent performers in WrestleMania history.
McMahon might have ended up fighting somebody very different at Mania X-Seven had original plans gone ahead. Along with Vince, Shane, Stephanie, Linda and Trish Stratus, Mick Foley was also somehow part of this feud and even served as guest referee for the Shane vs Vince match. Foley played the role of WWE’s on-screen commissioner in late-2000, something Vince McMahon didn’t approve of, but Linda, who was WWE’s kayfabe CEO at the time, did. When he put his wife out of action, McMahon was able to fire Foley, which, obviously, he didn’t approve of.
According to Foley himself, an idea was pitched to have The Hardcore Legend battle the owner of the WWE in a hardcore match at Mania. However, as was the case with the planned Ambrose match, Foley had been told that his wrestling career was over due to his previous injuries and had to decline the match. As it transpired, Foley did actually return to the ring a number of times after this match took place, so it’s clear that his early diagnoses were less than accurate. Foley once claimed in an interview that he severely regretted not having this match, but was happy to have been involved in the feud in some way. Also, let’s be honest, Shane vs Vince was so awesome, I’m glad that it went ahead. A man kicks a trash can into the face of his own father, it doesn’t get much better than that.
12 The Rock vs Randy Savage – WrestleMania XX/21
This match not happening is why I believe there is no God. Can you imagine the promos?
Dwayne Johnson and Randy Poffo – also known as The Rock and “Macho Man” Randy Savage respectively – are two of the most popular and iconic wrestlers of all time. Both had a presentation style completely unlike anyone else; Rock was brash and outlandish, capable of laying the verbal SmackDown on anybody, whilst Savage was captivating in his promos, as his husky voice grabbed your attention from start to finish and his passion and love for the business both shone through brighter than his neon ring gear. Both had a multitude of catchphrases, iconic moves and a backlog of legendary matches to their name, so can you imagine if these two ever met, face-to-face in the ring? Well, as it turns out, they almost did.
Reportedly, The Rock was very interested in taking on the Macho Man on The Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania. Probably due to his success with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8, The People’s Champion requested to take on Savage at both WrestleMania XX in 2004 and 21 in 2005, but the idea was shot down both times. Savage hadn’t been seen in the WWE for a decade by 2004, so his return would have been a huge moment and The Rock was beginning to appear less and less on WWE TV to pursue his acting career, so this match would have been a true spectacle and would have likely gone down as one of the great WrestleMania moments. However, as they so often do, the best laid plans of mice and Great Ones went astray and now, thanks to Macho Man’s tragic passing in 2011, we will never know which one of these legends would have come out on top. That makes me very sad.
11 The Brothers of Destruction vs Heidenreich and Snitsky – WrestleMania 21
If you think this match sounds bad, you just wait until you hear what the planned finish was.
The Brothers of Destruction, The Undertaker and Kane, are one of WWE’s most formidable units. Whether feuding or united, these satanic siblings have fought in every conceivable match type in the WWE and have even held the Tag Team Championships on a number of occasions. As for Snitsky and Heidenreich, well, my mother always said, if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all. Sadly, I feel I need to give some background on this two, so sorry, mother. Both were hulking big men with slightly questionable pasts; Snitsky is perhaps best for causing Lita’s kayfabe miscarriage during an angle with Kane in the mid-2000s, whilst Heidenreich read weird poetry and supposedly sodomised Michael Cole. So, just a couple of average guys, really.
These two average guys might have gone onto something slightly above average had original plans gone ahead. The two goliaths were very nearly put together as a tag team to take on The Undertaker and Kane at WrestleMania 21, something that would have seen their stock rise faster than Michael Cole’s heartbeat when he hears Heidenreich is nearby. Whilst it would have been good for WWE to try and elevate some fresh talent, there is no way Heidenreich and Snitsky would have been able to put on a good match here. Sadly (for the two wrestlers, not for the audience), this idea never came to be and Kane ended up competing in the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match, whilst The Undertaker had one of his best Mania matches ever against Randy Orton. As for Heidenreich and Snitsky, they ended up in a preshow battle royal. Not quite the same as fighting The Brothers of Destruction, but I’m sure they still had fun.
10 The Undertaker vs Abyss – WrestleMania XXVII
AKA, The Undertaker vs The Undertaker.
When you make 25 appearances at WrestleMania in 27 years, there’s going to be plenty of rumours flying around about you. This is very much the case with The Undertaker, who’s already appeared on this list for a planned WrestleMania match that didn’t go ahead and is once again rearing his dead head. Multiple men were supposedly meant to take on Taker but didn’t; Kurt Angle was supposedly once considered to be the one to break the streak, as was Wade Barrett during his Nexus days and we’ve all heard the rumours surrounding the mystical Undertaker vs Sting match that never took place. Seriously, the amount of fan posters for that match. Wrestling fans really liked the idea of two old people in leather coats having a fight.
Perhaps the most interesting plan for The Deadman at WrestleMania involved a wrestler who, to many WWE fans, was a complete unknown. Christopher Parks, also known as Abyss, is widely regarded as one of the faces of TNA (now known as GFW). He has performed pretty consistently for the promotion since 2002, winning numerous championships (including world titles) and playing a role in many memorable angles, even as recently as 2016, when he played a big part in The Broken Hardys storyline. Abyss’ character is that of a sadistic, gothic psychopath, complete with a mask and love for thumbtacks. Think Mankind crossed with Kane, with maybe a little bit of Undertaker thrown in for good measure.
9 Batista vs Muhammad Hassan for the World Heavyweight Championship – SummerSlam 2005
Oh, Muhammad Hassan, you really drew the short straw, didn’t you.
Muhammad Hassan will forever live in infamy as one of wrestling’s most controversial and poorly-timed characters. Hassan, portrayed by wrestler Marc Copani between 2004 and 2005, was an Arab-American who was tired of all the racial and religious persecution he and his people were suffering in American in the wake of 9/11. Whilst his point was valid and reflect the concerns of many Arab-Americans at the time, there were a whole host of issues with the Hassan character. Firstly, Copani was in no way Arabic – he was actually Italian by heritage – so WWE were already walking on eggshells with the gimmick. Secondly, despite Hassan bringing real issues about real persecution suffered by tens of thousands of Americans, WWE cast him as the heel. That’s the right, the who was making really valid points about racism towards Arabs, was meant to be the bad guy. Just writing that down makes me uncomfortable.
Hassan’s controversial gimmick caught a lot of attention, a lot of it bad. However, Vince McMahon clearly subscribes to the philosophy that “all publicity is good publicity”, as he had big, big plans for the character. According to reports, Hassan was supposed to defeat The Undertaker in a No. 1 Contender’s match at The Great American Bash 2005 to go on to SummerSlam that year and challenge Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship. Not only that, but the original plans called for Hassan to defeat The Animal and hold the gold, making Copani the youngest world champion in WWE history at just 24-years-old. However, the Hassan character’s questionable actions soon caught up with him.
On an episode of SmackDown before the Great American Bash, Hassan orchestrated a beatdown of The Undertaker using an army of balaclava-clad men, that he called to the ring by praying. The Hassan character had made allusions to terrorism before this moment, but this was as close to WWE saying “look, he’s an actual terrorist” as they could have possible gotten without saying those words. As if this wasn’t bad enough, this episode of SmackDown aired on the very same day as the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London, which only made this incredibly bad situation even worse. Amidst a huge public backlash, all plans for the Hassan character was scrapped and he lost in humiliating fashion to The Undertaker at The Great American Bash, being powerbombed through the stage and never appearing on WWE TV again. But can you just imagine what would have happened if WWE put the world title on Hassan? And can you believe how close they came to actually doing it? If this doesn’t convince you Vince McMahon is crazy, nothing ever will.
8 Steve Austin vs Chyna for the WWE Championship – SummerSlam 1999
She might have been The Ninth Wonder of the World, but she was almost the first female WWE Champion.
Chyna was somewhat of a phenomenon in the WWE during the Attitude Era. Originally debuting as the bodyguard of Triple H, Joanie Laurer (known as Chyna in the WWE) stood head and shoulders above every other female on the WWE roster in more ways than one. She was a muscly powerhouse in a world of scantily-clad sex symbols, making her the most legitimately threatening female in WWE by a country mile. Because of this, Chyna was often seen competing in matches against male wrestlers and actually held her own against some of WWE’s toughest performers. Her intimidating figure and huge presence on-screen made her one of the biggest stars in the company at the time, male or female, and there truly has never been anyone like her since.
Chyna set numerous records during her time in WWE and, with them, set a new standard for female performers within the company. She was the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble match (something she did twice), the first woman to compete in the King of the Ring tournament and the first (and so far only) female competitor to win a men's single championship in the WWE, when she defeated Jeff Jarrett to become Intercontinental Champion in 1999. Had original plans gone ahead, however, we might be talking about Chyna in a very different way.
According to Vince Russo, former WWE Head Writer and president of the “Things-on-a-Pole match” fan club, he pitched an idea in 1999 to have Chyna wrestle and defeat Steve Austin for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 1999. Whilst this might seem crazy to anyone who knows wrestling, the idea was very close to taking shape, with Chyna even winning a No. 1 Contender’s match on Raw. However, the plan was eventually scrapped in favour of Austin defending the title against Triple H and Mankind in a triple threat. It’s insane to think how close WWE came to having a female world champion, as this would have truly reshaped the landscape of not just WWE, but wrestling as a whole. Thinking about it now, I actually would have liked to have seen how Chyna did as world champion, but we will never know how it would have gone down. The chances of WWE putting their top belt on a woman these days are slim-to-none, so I suppose we’ll have to wait for the Tenth Wonder of the World to come along to see how this would have played out.
7 CM Punk vs Steve Austin – 2012
One’s straight edge, the other loves to drink. These two were made to fight one another.
2012 was a pretty good year to be called CM Punk. The Straight Edge Superstar held the title for the entire calendar year, defending it in great matches against Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho and John Cena and some other matches against Ryback. Punk’s popularity grew and grew over the course of the year and he truly showed how versatile he could be, switching from Face to Heel over the course of 2012 and performing extremely well as both. Whilst he might have had some great matches during 2012, Punk almost had a match that, in the grand scheme of wrestling, would have been one of the biggest match-ups of all time.
By 2012, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had been retired from pro wrestling for nearly ten years. He’d hung up his boots at WrestleMania XIX and had only appeared sporadically as an on-screen figure, never stepping into the ring. This almost changed in 2012, as reports indicate that Austin was approached with the idea of getting back in the ring to battle CM Punk. It looked like this was plan was going to be put into action when, during a promotional video for the video game, WWE ’13, Punk and Austin got into an argument, seemingly sowing the seeds for an in-ring confrontation. However, whether it was due to Austin’s age, physical condition or the fact that he just didn’t want to do this match, it never went ahead, but can you picture it? The two biggest anti-authority figures in wrestling history standing face-to-face in the squared-circle, ready to do battle? Vince McMahon would have had to have been put in protective custody, there’s no way he’d have been safe with those two on the loose.
6 John Cena vs Jay-Z In A Rap Battle – WrestleMania XIX
It’s time for the celebrity portion of the list. Yay!
Before he became the goody two-shoes, all-American icon that he is today, John Cena used to be a rapper. Incorporating his real life love of hip-hop and freestyle rap skills into his character, Cena was “The Doctor of Thuganomics” during his early WWE career, wearing bucket hats and chains, dissing his opponents through his lyrics and releasing a Platinum-selling rap album. Wait, what?
Seeing an opportunity to grab some of that sweet, sweet mainstream attention, WWE pitched the idea of putting Cena up against one of the world’s biggest hip-hop artists in a battle rap. Cena issued an open challenge on an episode of SmackDown to any famous rapper to take him on in a war of words at WrestleMania XIX and it was heavily hinted that hip-hop megastar and Mr. Beyonce, Jay-Z, was going to take Cena on. However, this never came to be and Cena instead performed a diss rap on Jay-Z. I’m actually quite upset this never went ahead; Cena was thoroughly entertaining in his rapper phase and this would have been a celebrity doing what they were actually famous for in WWE, not a celebrity in a wrestling match. Sadly, most of the rest of the entries on this list are just that, so brace yourself everyone.
5 Chris Jericho vs Mickey Rourke – WrestleMania XXV
This storyline was really, really weird.
Mickey Rourke, the man who looks like he’d be about three times as wide if you ironed him, starred in the excellent 2008 movie, The Wrestler. The film, which starred Rourke as a down-and-out indie wrestler who used to be big, shone a spotlight on the industry like no film had ever done before and was so accurate in its portrayal of life in the wrestling business that, upon seeing it, Roddy Piper started to cry, as it reminded him of how tough his life had been in the business. Whilst that is pretty cool, what made me cry was the terrible angle WWE tried to create out of this.
During an interview with Larry King, Rourke got into an argument with then-heel, Chris Jericho. If the rumour mill is to be believed, this was intended to set up a match between Jericho and Rourke at the upcoming WrestleMania XXV, tying into the success of The Wrestler. For whatever reason, Rourke never got into the ring with Jericho, who ended up taking on Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat and Jimmy Snuka in a three-on-one handicap match that proved exactly why retired wrestlers should stay retired unless their name is Ricky Steamboat. Rourke did get a measure of revenge on Jericho when he got into the ring after this abomination of a match and punched Y2J in the face, but this was as close to seeing Rourke vs Jericho as we got. I’d like to say I’m glad about that, but let’s be honest, anything would have been better than seeing Chris Jericho beat up two old people and Ricky Steamboat. Seriously, Steamboat was awesome.
4 Big Show vs Shaquille O’Neal – WrestleMania 33
Oh, Big Show, you got into such great shape for this match. Bless you.
Big Show and basketball star, Shaquille O’Neal, have had a pretty long rivalry in the WWE. The two have gotten physical on numerous occasions, including once on Raw in 2009 and most recently during Shaq’s debut match, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Shaq and Show got into it during the Battle Royal, distracting each other to the point where they were both eliminated by the other wrestlers in the match. Between Shaq, Floyd Mayweather and Akebono, Big Show really hasn’t had the best of luck with celebrities at WrestleMania, has he.
The reason Shaq and Show were thrown together in this match was to set up a clash for the following year’s show, pitting the NBA legend against the World’s Largest Athlete one-on-one. Shaq had never had a one-on-one match before, but is a lifelong fan of wrestling and Big Show is a pretty safe worker, so there’s no reason this bout couldn’t have gone ahead. The match failed to materialise, however, but the reasons why aren’t overly clear; Big Show claimed that Shaq wouldn’t get himself into shape for the match, whereas Shaq himself put the blame on WWE. Whatever the reason was, we never got to see these two goliaths collide, which is quite sad, because it could have been Big Show’s last chance to have a high profile WrestleMania match. Cheer up, Show, I’m sure we can find some other tall celebrities for you to lose to at WrestleMania. I’m 6’ 3” and consider myself a celebrity, I’ll take you on if you want. My people will be in touch.
3 Triple H vs Mike Tyson in a boxing match – WrestleMania X-Seven
You can tell this match didn’t happen, because Triple H still has both of his ears.
Mike Tyson has his own special place in the history of WWE. Perhaps the second most famous and recognisable boxer of all time behind Muhammed Ali, Tyson appeared in the wrestling world for the first time in 1998, during his suspension from boxing. He was made a member of D-Generation X and was drafted in to act as a special outside enforcer for DX’s Shawn Michaels, as he defended his WWE Championship against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV. Tyson’s involvement in this feud helped shine a spotlight on WWE in a big way and helped turn the tide against WCW in the Monday Night Wars. This led Tyson to be inducted into the Celebrity Wing of WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2012, an honour he was awarded by DX. So, Mike Tyson is in the Hall of Fame, but The British Bulldog, Miss Elizabeth and Owen Hart aren’t. Deep breaths, everyone, deep breaths.
According to an article on WWE.com, the idea was once pitched for Tyson to return to WWE in 2001 and do battle with one of his former DX buddies. In the article, Triple H himself claims that it was once discussed that he take on Tyson in a boxing match at WrestleMania X-Seven, although he wasn’t entirely sure how strictly the match would have adhered to boxing rules. The match would have featured both WWE referee, Earl Hebner, and legendary boxing referee turned TV personality, Mills Lane, and would have gone for six rounds. However, the plans were scrapped due to financial restrictions and Triple H instead took on The Undertaker in what was a pretty damn awesome match. Would this match have been good had it gone ahead? Who knows. Would it have been hilarious to see Triple H, the current COO of WWE, going toe-to-toe with Iron Mike? Yes, yes it would.
2 The Wyatt Family vs John Cena, Big Show and Justin Bieber – SummerSlam 2014
Yes, as if the world couldn’t get any crazier, pop star Justin Bieber almost made his WWE debut at 2014’s Biggest Party of the Summer. The Canadian singer, who is friends with boxer and one-time WWE competitor, Floyd Mayweather, was once considered to be a part of WWE’s second biggest show of the year in a multi-man match featuring five of the company’s biggest stars. The story, according to former WWE writer, Kevin Eck, would have seen Bieber appear on Raw, get into an argument with John Cena and then be forced to team with him (and Big Show) to take on Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper at SummerSlam. If you think that sounds insane, you’d be right, but it gets even worse.
According to Eck, who published a blog entry on this proposed match, Bieber not only would have got to share ring time with some of WWE’s hottest stars, but he would have been the one to win the match for his team, pinning Bray Wyatt. What? No, seriously, what? As if Bray Wyatt’s character wasn’t in enough jeopardy in 2014, WWE had the nerve to consider doing this to him? This is why I get anxious when I watch wrestling. Thankfully, plans never came to be and John Cena instead took on Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2014 (a match WWE were more than willing to cancel to instead have Justin frickin’ Bieber on their show!), Bray took on Chris Jericho and Big Show didn’t have a match. I would say I feel sorry for Show, but having no match at all was still a million times better than that what could have been. I honestly mean that.
1 Ryback vs The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania XXX
Just read the title of this entry one more time. It’s insane, right?
WrestleMania XXX and the days surrounding it are both sweet and sour for fans of The Ultimate Warrior. The night before the show, Jim Hellwig, the man who played The Warrior, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame after over a decade away from WWE. Despite the two being on, shall we say, “rocky” terms for more than ten years, bridges were mended and The Warrior took his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. After appearing as a part of the Hall of Fame class on the night of Mania itself, Warrior appeared on the following night’s Raw to address his fans. He gave a rousing speech about how his legacy would always live on through his fans and how he was eternally grateful for their support. It was an incredible moment, made all the more so when, less than 24 hours after this speech, Warrior suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 54. It was a huge shock to the WWE Universe, who had only just gotten the chance to reconnect with the Warrior, only to see his die less than a day after his big comeback. Whilst this story is spooky enough, things might have (somehow) gotten even weirder had the supposed original plans for Warrior’s return gone through.
My source on this is Ryback himself, so take this with a Big Guy-sized pinch of salt, but apparently, Warrior’s return was supposed to include a lot more than just a speech on Raw. On a recent episode of Ryback’s podcast, Conversation with the Big Guy, the former Intercontinental Champion (yes, I’d forgotten about that reign too) stated than an early draft of the WrestleMania XXX card had him pencilled in to face The Ultimate Warrior in a match. As if that wasn’t enough, according to the podcast, Ryback would have actually gone along with this match! The similarities between the two are pretty clear – both men are big and muscly, both men use the Gorilla Press and both men are known for their high energy personas – but there’s absolutely no way this match could have gone ahead, considering what happened to Warrior in real life. Whilst this match would have been memorable for sure, it’s probably for the best that Warrior got his last moment in WWE to be a heartfelt speech, rather than a thoroughly disappointing match.