Not unlike many sports, both the winner and loser in a pro wrestling match need some sort of name value in order for the bout to mean anything in the long term. Even the greatest wrestler in the world could fade into obscurity if he or she never battled anyone of note, as evidenced by the many “before they were famous” style compilations of future legends wrestling in front of significantly smaller crowds than what they’d later become accustomed to. Once a wrestler becomes a superstar, the people they beat only grows in significance, with having the right opponent often serving as the difference maker in deciding whether a match was a forgettable squash or a memorable classic.
For those reasons and several others, plenty of wrestlers have at one point or another hoped desperately to get paired with someone they either thought would boost their career or at least create some classic matches with. In some cases, it was a move of generosity and a more famous superstar wanted to bring a friend to the main event. Speaking of the main event, the stars with the tenacity to dictate their own careers were usually near the top of the card and a couple repeat appearances on this list will make it clear it takes a certain type of character to constantly nag the higher ups about the direction of one’s own career. Keep reading to discover 15 pairs of wrestlers you never knew begged their bosses for the chance to work together.
15 Goldust and Cody Rhodes
Dustin Rhodes had it tough being the eldest son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, but the atmosphere Cody Rhodes faced upon entering WWE was even worse, since he was also the brother of Goldust. Despite his famous brother, and their famous father, making it difficult for Cody to stand on his own, he never showed any resentment to the two in public or in private. However, he was very open about wanting to show some public resentment towards his brother, apparently begging for the opportunity for a Rhodes Brother WrestleMania showdown for several years. Goldust was even more adamant about wanting to face his brother on the Grandest Stage of Them All, especially during the times Goldust was unemployed and watching Cody start his career on television. Unfortunately, the match never panned out, at least not at Mania. The Rhodes brothers did wrestle a few times on house shows and at Fastlane 2015, but ultimately their time as a tag team was more memorable, winning the WWE Tag Team Championships twice.
14 John Cena and Big E
Big E is so natural in his role as the goofy enforcer of The New Day it can be easy for fans to forget he was once a far more traditional powerhouse, dominating Seth Rollins en route to a reign as the second NXT Champion in late 2012. Less than a year later, he was on the main roster and winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship, a respectable rise, though one that hardly matched that of John Cena. Big E was in luck, though, because he and Cena have long been friends behind the scenes and specifically at the gym, where the two spend long hours building that powerhouse frame we were talking about. According to The Wrestling Observer, the friendship inspired Cena to heavily push for Big E to win the IC belt and start a big push, allegedly with the end game of Cena vs. Big E somewhere down the line. More than three years later, the match has yet to happen on a major scale, so it turns out there may be limits to the powers of the Cenation after all.
13 JBL and Chavo Guerrero, Jr.
The sudden and unexpected death of Eddie Guerrero will forever be one of the darkest days in history, having left the entire WWE Universe in mourning. Though millions of fans were devastated by the loss of Eddie Guerrero, few were suffering quite as harshly as Eddie’s nephew, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., one of Eddie’s closest companions throughout both of their entire lives and the person who discovered Eddie’s body. Chavo’s wrestling career had been linked with Eddie’s since he debuted in WCW, occasionally bringing Chavo into the spotlight, but whenever the two were apart, Chavo fell to a level well beneath Eddie’s place in the main event. Despite this, immediately following Eddie’s death, former WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield went to management and demanded he wrestle Chavo on one of Eddie’s tribute shows and, in an even bigger honor, he wanted Chavo to win the match. JBL was only a few months removed from his landmark title reign and the match remains one of the highest profile victories of Chavo’s career, most certainly a bittersweet moment with the circumstances in mind.
12 Hulk Hogan and The Butcher
Depending on a wrestler’s standing in the company they work for, the word “beg” can have a pretty loose definition. In some cases, wrestlers really needed to do some convincing to get their bosses to let them do what they wanted, while in others, it was practically in their contract that management had to let them do whatever they wanted no matter what. Such a contract is exceedingly rare, but it apparently existed for Hulk Hogan during his time in WCW. For this reason, and absolutely only this reason, the biggest WCW Pay-Per-View of 1994 was headlined by Hogan defending the WCW World Championship against his best friend, Ed “The Butcher” Leslie. While this remains the most egregious display of Hogan’s influence, he had apparently been demanding his bosses let him work with Leslie pretty much from the start of his career—according to Jerry Lawler, a young Terry Boulder would only work for him if his “brother” Eddie Boulder got hired, as well.
11 Matt Hardy and Edge
Real life and wrestling should never blend, and things tend to get extremely touchy when they do. One of the harshest examples in recent history has got to be the Edge/Lita/Matt Hardy love triangle that nearly shattered Hardy’s career in 2005. Hardy and Lita had been dating for approximately five years when Lita cheated on Matt with his best friend, fellow superstar Edge. Matt complained about it on the Internet and got fired, only to get rehired a couple months later following a massive fan campaign. Though it made sense for Matt to immediately target Edge upon his return, both Edge and Lita have admitted to a level of discomfort that makes it surprising the angle ran at all. The only reason it did was Matt’s strong insistence that it was what the fans wanted, laying out the feud in the terms of his return to the company.
10 Goldberg and Brock Lesnar
The only thing more shocking than Bill Goldberg returning at the 2016 Survivor Series from a 12-year hiatus to squash “The Beast Incarnate” Brock Lesnar in under 90 seconds is that the whole thing was apparently Brock’s idea. Lesnar and Goldberg are both in a position where they only need to wrestle if they want to, so on the one hand, maybe it isn’t too surprising things worked out they way they did. Lesnar and Goldberg have long professed to be good friends who weren’t entirely happy with how their first encounter at WrestleMania XX panned out. Goldberg often commented Brock was one of the only people he’d want to return to wrestle and once the idea started to look like it might become a reality, Brock started pitching ideas to make sure it lasted as long as possible. Once the match was okayed, Brock suggested he lose, merely to ensure there would be a rematch somewhere down the line.
9 Andre The Giant and Bret Hart
On certain occasions, Bret Hart has been accused of having something of a big ego, but even the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be was humbled when he found himself the incredible presence of Andre The Giant. The Eighth Wonder of the World and the first WWE Hall of Famer, Andre was a superstar before the term existed, traveling around the globe and fast becoming the hottest attraction in wrestling wherever he went all throughout the 1970s and early 80s. Andre was significantly slowing down in the ring by the time Bret was starting to have any thoughts of a solo career in WWE, but that didn’t stop them from locking up a few times during a 1989 tour of Europe, as per Andre’s request. Bret said he was a little nervous going into the match, worried Andre only asked to face him due to some unexplained heat between the two. In hindsight, though, Bret acknowledged the honor for what it was and claimed Andre was a consummate professional, including during their matches together.
8 Bret Hart and Owen Hart
Arguably the greatest real life family feud to spill itself into wrestling, the once seemingly never-ending battles between Bret Hart and Owen Hart allegedly almost didn’t happen. Originally, the plan was for Owen to merely be a pawn in what Vince McMahon thought was the real money feud, Bret Hart against his and Owen’s other brother, Bruce Hart. The idea was for Bruce to be a big bully resentful over his little brothers’ successes, which makes sense on paper, but is flawed for a number of reasons. First, Bruce’s advanced age also meant he was slower and less exciting in the ring than his younger brothers. Also, by Bret’s admission, Bruce simply wasn’t ever as good as Owen in the first place. Worst of all, Bruce’s passion for the business was pretty much gone and he told Bret if things went according to the plan, he would’ve quit the business entirely and become a fireman. With all of these thoughts in mind, Bret begged Vince to let him feud Owen instead of Bruce, and 1994 WWE was saved.
7 Bret Hart and Steve Austin
Not one to confine himself solely to family, Bret Hart has managed to pay the kindness shown to him by Andre The Giant forward on more than one occasion, also playing a huge role in the early success of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in WWE. In fact, Bret had been lobbying for a match with Austin long before he even signed with the company, reportedly suggesting management hire Austin while he was still competing for WCW. The bout finally came to fruition for the first time at the 1996 Survivor Series after Bret had taken an eight month hiatus from wrestling, with a feud against Austin said to be one of the conditions of his return. Despite all the begging for the initial encounter, Hart and Austin were still shocked to learn they’d engage in a rematch at WrestleMania 13. Regardless of their surprise, the two silenced all doubts by creating an even greater match than their first, forever defining the character of “Stone Cold” in the process.
6 Steve Austin and The Rock
There’s always a risk involved in supporting young talents. If that young talent becomes the most electrifying man in the history of sports entertainment, though, it’s safe to say the risk paid off in a major way. Such was the case with a scrappy young blue chipper named Rocky Maivia, who after changing his name to The Rock became the youngest WWE Champion of his era at 26 years old (a feat that would since be surpassed twice). Despite his rapid and meteoric rise to the top of WWE, The Rock was still reasonably untested on the main event level when he won the belt and therefore longer tenured veterans were uneasy at the idea of him headline WrestleMania XV against Steve Austin. In classic Stone Cold fashion, Austin flipped their critics the bird and made it clear he wanted The Rock as his opponent and there was nothing anyone else could do about it. Three of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history later and it’s safe to say that’s all they’ve got to say about that.
5 Steve Austin and Eddie Guerrero
One minor detail left out of all the coverage WWE gave to Steve Austin’s infamous 2002 walkout is that Austin had been on the verge of a rather long-term program with Eddie Guerrero when he decided to leave the company. While it was a refusal to job to Brock Lesnar on a meaningless Raw that made Austin give up entirely, he had been upset with the writers for quite some time at that point, specifically over their inability to create anything new for him to do onscreen. In order to freshen things up, Austin specifically requested to work with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, having the two gradually transitioned into his feud with Ric Flair. Prior to Austin’s departure, Eddie’s involvement actually almost started to happen, with a few segments between the two allegedly leading to a match at King of the Ring. Unfortunately, Austin’s walkout meant we didn’t even get that match, let alone an entire series of them with Benoit possibly getting involved down the line.
4 Ric Flair and Barry Windham
There’s no use in recapping the many failings of WCW in 1991, so to put it succinctly, we’ll just say Executive Vice President Jim Herd had no idea how to run a wrestling company. The biggest piece of evidence to this theory is that Herd wanted to phase out Ric Flair only slightly removed from his all-time peak, instead focusing on wrestling hunchbacks and gladiators. Flair saw the writing on the wall and wanted to leave the company, but there was a small snag in that he was the reigning WCW World Champion at the time. Not wanting to leave on a meaningless down note, Flair rejected the plan to drop the title to Lex Luger, instead demanding he get one last chance to work with Barry Windham and give him the belt. Herd rejected this idea and the meaningless down note turned into a black hole, as Flair decided if he couldn’t drop the championship to the person he wanted to, he might as well keep it when he went to WWE.
3 The Undertaker and Ric Flair
What can possibly compare to 16 reigns as the heavyweight champion of the world? How about the most impressive undefeated streak in the history of WrestleMania? Well, The Undertaker wasn’t quite there in 2002 when he requested Flair become number 10 in The Streak at WrestleMania X8, but it apparently was significant enough that Vince McMahon gave The Deadman what he wanted. At the time, Flair hadn’t given much thought to the idea of resuming a wrestling role, having expected mostly to stay out of the ring as the Co-Owner of WWE until a match with Vince McMahon at the 2002 Royal Rumble made fans and Flair alike realize he still had more to give in the ring. While Flair admitted he wished The Undertaker match could’ve taken place when he was in his 30s, he was nonetheless honored at the opportunity to shine in the spotlight once again.
2 Shawn Michaels and Diesel
By now it probably goes without saying that most of the superstars on this list share some level of friendship or respect with the people they begged to work with and no two people took this thought into consideration when picking their opponents more regularly than Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash. Along with Razor Ramon, the two were the most visible members of The Kliq, a group infamous for abusing their backstage influence to ensure they’d mostly wrestle each other at major events from 1994 to 1996, leaving the rest of the WWE roster out of the spotlight by refusing to interact with them. Michaels was worst of all when it came to this practice, to such a degree Diesel’s entire WWE tenure can be traced back to HBK begging Vince McMahon to hire Nash to portray his bodyguard. After Michaels got his friend a job, he also started demanding they remain entrenched in one another’s careers until Diesel left for WCW in 1996.
1 Dawn Marie and Lance Storm
Most of the wrestlers on this list bold enough to go to management and beg for the chance to work with someone got what they were looking for, or at least came close to it, largely due to their own high profiles in the wrestling industry. For an example of what can happen if smaller scale performers start making demands, look no further than the case of Lance Storm and Dawn Marie. Dawn debuted as Storm’s valet in ECW, fading into obscurity when he left for WCW and not making much of a name for herself when she appeared in WWE after those companies went out of business. Storm was pretty listless by the time Dawn showed up in WWE, as well, dancing away the pain of getting called boring. To fix both of their problems, Storm and Marie repeatedly went to management and asked if their tandem could be reunited, only to get turned down each time. The two would finally get their wish at ECW One Night Stand, albeit just barely, and with the unfortunate side effect that it wound up being the last WWE appearance of either superstar.